I used to write a recap post every year but I decided not to publish my 2020 post. While I had some successes in 2020, I didn’t think that anyone would want to hear about how my year went after being the difficult year that it was. Now, a year later I think we can all recognise that 2021 brought its own challenges and things didn’t exactly go as planned, or at least as we had hoped. COVID restrictions kept us locked down for the early part of the year in the UK and uncertainty continues to wreak havoc with many plans. Nevertheless, I’ve learned a lot over the past few years and I’m grateful for everything in my life and the lessons I’ve gained from these challenging times.

Here are some of my highlights from 2021 (in no particular order):

  • I started a new job at Red Hat! For a long time, I wanted to work in a data visualisation Centre of Excellence (COE). In my previous role as a consultant, I longed to help clients more with user enablement, data viz excellence, Tableau learning, and data leadership but the opportunities of this nature were few and far between. As my consulting work started to take me further and further away from the type of work that I love, I knew it was time for a change. I couldn’t be happier in my new role at Red Hat, working on a great team at the heart of a Tableau COE, helping to shape strategy, and enabling our community on a daily basis.
  • I spoke at 8 Tableau User Groups (TUG’s) – The new virtual world has created more opportunities for public speaking than I ever could have imagined! It’s great how the new-normal has opened up once-local, in-person TUG’s to anyone, regardless of where they are located in the world. At some point, I’ll do a viz of my virtual TUG travels! Last year, my TUG talks took me to Ireland, Chennai (India), Nashville, South Wales, the North West (UK), and the mighty Atlanta TUG, in addition to internal TUG’s at JPMC and Keyrus. Since joining Red Hat, I’ve also had the opportunity to host two internal TUG’s for our Tableau community, in addition to continuing on as a co-leader of the London TUG. I love speaking at and helping to lead TUG’s. It’s always a privilege to meet other community members and TUG leaders through the TUG network, whilst helping to inspire other Tableau users around the world. I look forward to speaking at, hosting, and joining more TUG’s as an attendee in 2022!
  • I gave two talks at Tableau Conference in November – Firstly, I was really excited to be asked to speak on a panel about data culture with other data professionals. This is a topic that I’m particularly passionate about and it was great to have the opportunity to share some of my experiences. Secondly, I had the chance to host a community-focused talk with fellow Tableau Public Ambassadors, Dzifa Amexo and Thi Ho. In this talk, I interviewed Dzifa and Thi about their personal experiences in the Tableau Community and together, we shared advice for anyone looking to get more involved. Given that we’re spread across three continents, I’m really proud of how we successfully planned and delivered this talk and it was great fun working with Dzifa and Thi, too.
  • I ran the #IronQuest project for the third year – In 2021, I hosted 7 #IronQuest rounds; more than ever before! Last year, Iron Quest received 222 viz submissions, of which 20 were recognised as Tableau Public’s ‘Viz of the Day’ (VOTD). I also had the privilege of collaborating on #IronQuest with multiple Tableau Community projects last year, including #DiversityinData, #Viz2Educate, and #SportsVizSunday. I’ll be posting a 2021 #IronQuest recap post in the next few days. Stay tuned!
  • I was selected to speak at the inaugural Outlier Conference in January – At the end of 2020, I applied to speak at the first-ever Outlier Conference; a flagship event hosted by the Data Visualization Society. I was honoured that my talk was selected and I had the opportunity to share some data viz lessons I’ve gathered from hosting the #IronQuest project. It was a joy to be a part of this event, which celebrated the global visualisation community, and the diversity within it. I can’t thank the Outlier events team enough for all of their hard work on putting this event together and making me feel welcome. You can find a recording of my talk here.
  • I published 20 posts on my blog, sarahlovesdata.co.uk, sharing a total of 36,000 words – At the beginning of 2021, I challenged myself to write at least one blog post every month and I’m happy to report I smashed this goal. While a portion of my blogs are dedicated to #IronQuest, I shared more knowledge via my blog this year to help people improve their Tableau skills and better leverage the Tableau Community, whether that be through community projects, Iron Viz, Tableau Conference, or by getting involved on the Community Forums. In 2021, I also had the opportunity to share a few guest blog posts on other sites, including Tableau Public. I really enjoy writing and hope to share many more posts this year.
  • I served my second term as a Tableau Zen Master – It was an incredible honour to be selected as a Tableau Zen Master in February 2020 but not long after joining the program, Covid hit and changed life as we knew it. Despite this, I have made a conscious effort to continue to contribute to and support the Tableau Community throughout the pandemic as much as possible. Launching initiatives like the #DataFamCommunityJam in 2020 helped me to get through the hard times and feel more connected with the community whilst being locked down. Into 2021, I’ve focused more on empowering and enabling others, sharing my knowledge and experiences with the community and collaborating with other community members on various initiatives. I continuously look for opportunities to give back to this wonderful community and I’m grateful for Tableau’s support and recognition along the way. This year, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with Tableau developers and share product feedback or usage insights as part of the Zen Master program. I love how Tableau continuously listens to the community and it’s an honour to be able to help shape the future of the product in this manner.
  • I organised an Iron Viz feedback initiative during the Iron Viz ‘Data+Joy‘ feeder. I don’t run Iron Quest while the Iron Viz feeder is on (this would be counter-intuitive since I want to encourage participants to enter the contest instead), so I decided to do something a bit different last year. I gathered together some friends from the community to provide a feedback network for Iron Viz feeder entrants. Together, we worked with over 20 participants to provide feedback on their feeder entries and helped them to refine their vizzes and maximise their chances of scoring highly in the contest. One of those participants was Lisa Trescott. Lisa was a first-time Iron Viz entrant and had published an impressive viz on Rupaul’s Drag Race Lip Syncs. Lisa went on to win Iron Viz in 2021 which was definitely one of my highlights of the year! I shared my thoughts about Lisa’s win in a recent guest blog post on Be Data Lit here.
  • I got involved with Braindates – Until 2021, Braindates were a feature only to be found at Tableau Conference. The Braindate concept allows you to schedule and/or join meetings with others, either on a 1-2-1 basis or in groups of up to six. Braindates are scheduled around a topic or a shared interest and anyone can ‘browse’ the Braindate listings and sign up to any Braindates which take their fancy. Last year, Tableau introduced both Community Braindates and Data Leadership Collaborative Braindates, with each hosting approximately one event every quarter. I’ve strived to get involved at as many Braindate events as possible by both hosting and joining Braindate discussions. It’s been a great way for me to meet more people, particularly those in the COE space. I really enjoyed the Data Leadership Collaborative Braindates and I can’t wait to learn more from similar discussions in 2022.
  • I became a Tableau Public Ambassador – After serving as a Tableau Social Ambassador for three years, I asked to move branches to Tableau Public. I use Tableau Public on a daily basis and given that #IronQuest is focused on Tableau Public visualisations, being a Tableau Public Ambassador is more closely aligned to what I do. It’s an honour to serve as an Ambassador and I can’t wait to find more ways to contribute to the Ambassador program in 2022!
  • I got more involved on the Tableau Community Forums in 2021, going from 1,500 to over 3,000 points. I’ve been getting more involved on the Tableau Community Forums since the beginning of 2020 and last year, I made a conscious effort to help others via the Forums even more. I believe the Forums are an untapped resource and they are a great way to not only help others with their Tableau challenges but broaden your own Tableau knowledge, too. While many people utilise and are supported by the Forums on a daily basis, many are hesitant to get involved. To help encourage more participation, I shared a blog post last year that explains exactly how you can get involved, phrase a question that stands a good chance of being answered, answer questions, or log a product idea.
  • I rediscovered a love of drawing and digital artAutumn Battani inspired me to learn Procreate after she shared a number of her drawings on Twitter. I used to love drawing but had never tried digital art previously. After Autumn gave me a run-through of the tool, I took the plunge and got involved at the beginning of the year, using tutorials on YouTube to help me learn the basics. Since then, I’ve shared over 20 creations on my Instagram account. In fact, the header image on this blog was created in Procreate! I’ve even used Procreate to design components of my Tableau vizzes. I love creating new art and I find drawing to be really relaxing. I look forward to doing more artwork in Procreate this year.

What’s next for 2022?

While 2021 was a productive and exciting year for me, I can’t wait to do more in 2022! This year, I intend to focus on learning at every opportunity whilst continuing to give back as much as I can to the community. I want to challenge myself more and refine my skills, particularly in areas including data leadership, UI/UX design, Figma, Tableau Prep and Python. I also intend to publish more Tableau Public vizzes, something I’ve missed over the last few years.

Thank you to all of the people who formed part of my year in 2021 and supported me in my journey. There are too many to mention but you know who you are and I appreciate you all. I can’t wait to see what 2022 holds.

Happy New Year. Wishing you a year full of happiness, success and prosperity.

Thanks for reading.