How did you get involved with business intelligence and data visualization?
Many years ago, I was working for a software company and managed a team of developers that customized our product for select customers. As part of our custom solution, we extracted data into a database so that we could run reports. (I had not heard of business intelligence at that time.) While doing some research to train my staff, I discovered a publication that described cubes and I was intrigued. I was able to convince upper management that we should explore this technology and was put in charge of a new department to do research and development on adding business intelligence into our product offering. The company didn’t fare well in the long run as they got caught up in the dot-com boom-to-bust problems in 2000, but the R&D experience for a year and building out my first data warehouse set me up nicely for a career in consulting and I have been dedicated to business intelligence ever since.
You have been involved with the PASS organization for over 10 years and have spoken at many PASS events. What do you see as the most significant changes in the data industry over the last few years? And what advice would you give to fellow data professionals who are looking to stay ahead of those changes?
There are so many things that have changed, but the most significant changes in the work that I do is the power of the analytical tools for users and how quickly we can now create new solutions. When I was just starting in the field, we had to do so much work just to stand up an environment before we could begin to try out ideas, but now it’s easy to get something pulled together as a prototype to see if it’s worth building out for production. As another example, I have a relatively small client who does not have a lot of budget to put towards analytical tools. For years, we got by with a simple cube combined with some very complex reports to support his analytical requirements. Now we can use Power BI to do some very interesting analysis and experiment quickly and easily with different ways to look at the data. It’s hugely valuable to be able to try out ideas quickly.
You’ll be presenting “Getting Your Story Straight with Data Visualizations” at the conference, what are the top two things attendees will learn in your session?
The most important things that attendees will learn is how the choice of a visualization enhances or obscures the meaning of the underlying data and how to avoid common mistakes.
What are three interesting facts attendees may not know about you?
1. I must have always been destined to be an author. I won a storytelling contest when I was in the third grade.
2. I must have always been destined to teach. During summer vacation when I was around nine or 10, I would gather up the kids in the neighborhood (both older and younger) and teach math.
3. Perhaps I’m destined to go into space some day. I grew up in the midst of the space industry in Houston and went to school with astronauts’ kids, my best friend lived next door to Sally Ride, and my dad wrote the program that landed the Space Shuttle.
Stacia and her husband, Dean, love to travel and explore the great outdoors together.
Here they are at Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ.