#DataDiscussions with Elena Hristozova

Data Discussions with Elena Hristozova

In this week’s #DataDiscussions we had the pleasure to host Elena Hristozova.

Elena is a Higher Education professional based in the UK, passionate about delivering insight through data and Tableau. Elena is actively involved in the Midlands Tableau User Group and the Tableau community online, while she also collaborates with fellow HE professionals for the Visualising Higher Education blog.

You can find out more about Elena by following her blog hristozovae.wordpress.com


Question 1 - What is your job? How do you use Tableau as part of it?

Elena Hristozova: I currently work as a Planning Officer (Student Analytics) at the University of Nottingham in a small team of data analysts. Here I use large internal and external datasets that I then visualise in Tableau to try and support the strategic and operational processes across the university.

While most of the time I use Tableau to build comprehensive series of dashboards for our end-users, I sometimes use it just to explore datasets or to check that sections of my Alteryx workflows are indeed working as I am building them (I am still novice in Alteryx). Over the last 3-4 months I have been focusing on deploying Tableau Server within the organisation and I have seen this as an opportunity to try and improve the overall look and feel qualities of all dashboards produced by my department.



Question 2 - If you could give one piece of advice to a new Tableau starter what would it be?

Elena Hristozova:  Have an inquisitive mind:

  • if you see an inspiring visualisation, ask yourself ‘What makes it so great? Is it the design, the style, the chart, the layout?’ – when we see a beautiful dashboard or visualisation, we perceive it as a whole, but by thinking about the elements that make it so good, you will be more likely to focus on them next time you are working on a data visualisation project and make it a really good one.

  • if you see a new type of chart, not the ordinary one, ask yourself: ‘How does it work? How can I make one like that? Are there any requirements such as a specific data structure format’ – some charts are more complex than others and by trying to understand how to build them, you will get to understand how Tableau works, which in turn makes would make you more confident with the tool.

  • if you are trying to build something and your chart or calculation isn’t quite working, ask yourself: ‘Why is it not working? Is it the syntax, the aggregation, the data format, etc.?’ – and when you find the answer and make it work, try and understand why it didn’t work the first time.

  • if you are learning to make a new chart by following someone’s excellent blog post or video tutorial and you find that everything works as if by magic, ask yourself: ‘What is the magic actually about?’ – you may not fully understand a series of complex calculations straight away but at least try to understand the purpose each one of them serves as part of the overall chart.


Question 3 - Favourite viz you have made?

Elena Hristozova: ‘Destination: Europe’ – my first solo #dataviz project for #VisualisingHE. It’s my favourite because the subject is somewhat personal to me, and for the huge amount of learning that was the result of open and honest critique from the team: from basic aspects like font (or, rather, why comic sans wasn’t a great idea), through to more complex elements such as how to make a Sankey and learn the basics of GIMP. I used a lot of new approaches and I think the overall result was rather pleasing to the eye.

Data Discussions with Elena Hristozova

“Destination: Europe” by Elena Hristozova


Question 4 - If you could add a new feature to Tableau, what would it be?

Elena Hristozova: Transparency to the backgrounds of sheets and tooltips – I think it would make it extremely easy to make slick and impressive data visualisation designs, especially when trying to seamlessly blend the informative with the creative and contextual elements of a poster style piece of work.


Question 5 - What’s the best data book you’ve read recently?

Elena Hristozova: I must admit that I haven’t read any of the data viz books I own from start-to- end – I somehow prefer dipping in an out of them and covering them in themes, but if I have to pick a favourite one, it has to be Andy Kirk’s Data Visualisation, simply because it was my first one. I won it in a prize draw after watching one of his webinars in summer 2016 and it was at that time that I was starting to take an interest in both Tableau and visualising data beyond my day job requirements. This is why it has always felt like the book came at the right time for me, as it to encouraged me to grow and further develop this interest.


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