I Never Planned on Becoming a Data Analyst…

Pioneering a new approach for empowering organizations to see the story in their data

My grandmother used to tell me stories of accomplished women such as Margaret Hamilton who led a NASA mission to the Moon, encouraging me to pursue a field in tech or innovation, because that was what represented the future. Looking at data science as a whole today, technology advancements and emerging programs for women continue to offer exciting new prospects for education and career opportunities. Little did I know, I would pioneer a brand new approach to data visualization.

This is me in my role as a Data Analyst & Director of Customer Success at the 2018 RNL Conference for higher education.

Visuals as data communication tools

After high school, I pursued my undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology. Upon graduation, I went on to pursue a master’s in demography and population studies to further discover different aspects of populations within my local community using GIS and mapping. In my first internship, I became heavily involved in research and statistics that better illustrate the makeup of communities in my home state of Florida. The goal was to better articulate who are our residents, what they do, and where they are moving through dynamic site and heat maps with colorful legends designed to encourage understanding of these concepts. These insights would ultimately improve the quality of life for residents. This is where I first experienced how the visual side of analytics can serve as the main communication tool to a larger audience that was not well versed in reading and interpreting this type of research.

Working with the Department of Health (DOH) in Florida, I began to have this greater realization that there were answers to some of the key societal issues communities were facing within the actual data itself, and pulling these insights was limited to those who could understand such complex charts. When I first learned how to clean, maintain, and create captivating map visuals, I used GIS of infant health data to visualize and find insights for the FL DOH.

Traditional methods of data visualization. Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

One day I was taking a closer look at the data and realized that there was a huge discrepancy in one of the county’s numbers for their infant mortality rates. I followed an instinct and it turned out that this was an anomaly that was not previously spotted. I alerted my supervisor and, once addressed, more attention to this area helped significantly decrease these mortality rates in infants and children. I assisted in sharing insights that directly impacted policies to change people’s lives. All of the answers and solutions we needed were there, hidden like tiny needles in the haystack of the complex data file.

The next generation of visualization

After my first major insight discovery, I thought, “If one anomaly spotted on a map can make that large of a difference, what are the possibilities for data visualization in every industry?” What other insights were hidden in these mountains of data waiting to be found? I needed to further expand my knowledge beyond social sciences and capitalize on these analytics skills on a broader scale.

An anomaly (blue stack) shown within a complex set of e-commerce data using SynGlyphX software.

I joined a startup called SynGlyphX. This was a new technology that had a different approach to visualize data beyond “traditional” charts and graphs. Essentially, with “glyph” technology, a single glyph represents a row within a dataset, mapping variables visually to show characteristics in the x, y, and z-axis. Multiple dashboards and charts are immediately consolidated into a single interactive discovery environment for the user to explore their data on both a macro and micro level. The SynGlyphX team has been researching advanced instrumentation and new methods of analysis for years, applying these concepts to evaluate human function as it relates to human-computer interaction. They found that humans recognized and mapped images in their minds faster, and were able to draw natural conclusions with ease using colors and shapes. There was no doubt that these glyphs looked different than other tools on the market, and made me rethink the analytics skills I had grown and refined in the years prior.

An Interactive visualization of the 2020 California Wildfires that I developed using SynGlyphX.

The objective for SynGlyphX then became to get in touch with analysts at large organizations to help them synthesize their processes. As more data is generated daily and more roles within organizations are becoming reliant on data-driven decision-making (regardless of formal training), analysts must communicate anomalies in the clearest way possible, across multiple teams in different departments. The more we applied SynGlyphX to a variety of use cases, the better we were able to empower organizations to see the story their data was telling. I still use traditional methods occasionally, however, through glyph technology, much larger volumes of data are digestible at my fingertips.

I’m proud to lead client-facing development at SynGlyphX. When I speak at conferences, I advocate for our technology in hopes of inspiring others to find hidden insights to advance within industries like supply chain, logistics, business, and finance. I am excited about the future, equipping teams to problem solve and communicate data.

Presenting visuals illustrating ‘First in the World’ Grant Project findings for John Carroll University at the 2017 RNL Conference on student enrollment & retention data.

Looking back on this journey thus far, I am inspired to continue carving this path in the data science industry while learning from amazing colleagues and users along the way. I’m also anticipating the expansion of our industry and how that will yield new opportunities for professional women globally studying to pursue technology-related careers. Together, we will become the next generation of analysts, scientists, engineers, and innovators in every sector. Our data-driven future is truly counting on our insights, that have only yet to be uncovered.

Bio: Taylor Riggs is an experienced data analyst and customer success professional currently leading in multiple roles for a 3D data visualization SaaS called SynGlyphX. Working with clients across a wide range of industries, she’s the go to for clients happiness and success as they expand their toolkit into this unique style of data visualization and analysis.

Taylor Riggs is an experienced data analyst and customer success professional currently leading in multiple roles for a 3D data viz SaaS called SynGlyphX.

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