Data visualization is a field that weaves together a unique set of skills: data-driven thinking, design, and development. Unicorns (people with skills in all three disciplines) are rare, but seen in this field more than most. Learn to you develop unicorn skills and thinking.
(futuristic music) - Unicorn, I'm sure you've heard the term, referring to start-ups that reach a billion dollar valuation. So why on Earth, am I talking about it in my data visualization course? Well, we have a different meaning for that term in this context. A unicorn is a person who's very proficient at all four skills, that are put to use in data visualization. Analytics, communications, design sense and technical skills.
In no particular order, let's start with statistics and data analytics. I'm not a statistics expert by any means, but, I have some basic statistics and analytical skills, at least enough to get by in conversation with the real stats people. Now, a true unicorn, would probably have deep statistical understanding and knowledge about statistical methods and tools. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that their data scientists or can do predictive modeling in R, but it does mean they can probably do more, than simply calculate an average in Excel.
A unicorn also needs to be a good communicator. That means taking ideas, that are abstract and complicated, learning them, and translating them into simple speak. This is a rarer skill than you might realize. A true unicorn, would also have incredible design sense. She would be able to come up with creative concepts for visualization, execute on that creative vision, and create stunningly beautiful outputs with sublime use of color and typography, and that perfect je ne saia quoi, that would make people drool over the result.
This type of skill can be learned, but for the best of the best, it's often intuitive, second nature. Finally, a unicorn would have the technical skills to pull all of this off, without any outside help. Whether that means working deep in data analytics tools like R, and or generating complex and rich interactive experiences in D3, a unicorn probably has to have programming skills, not just the ability to work various software features.
Although, I will say, a really advanced tableau, or ESRI, or similar platform skills, might also fit in this context. So, unicorns have this incredible blend of skills. Now that I've defined it, I bet your wondering is this lesson going to teach me how to become a unicorn? Well, yes and no. I couldn't teach you how to become a unicorn in a short video. If it were that easy, then unicorns wouldn't be so rare, right. And it's important to mention that you don't need to be a unicorn, to have success in this field.
I'm a very strong communicator, a pretty good designer and programmer, but not at all advanced at data analysis. And I've built a pretty good career in data visualization, but, even though you don't need to be a unicorn, the more unicorn like you can become, the better off you'll be, because in a room full of data scientists, a tiny fraction will also be good designers. In a room full of designers, very few will have solid statistical knowledge. So, I can't teach you to become a unicorn.
But, I can point you in the right direction. First, if you don't have good communication skills, the ability to synthesize, summarize and report on information, that is the first thing you should improve. Good communication skills are table stakes for unicorns. You can get away with not being a great designer or data analysts, but communications is absolutely critical. Work on your communications, and storytelling skills first, and foremost. Next, if you can work of your design skills, I would put that second.
I only say this because it's the area where I think there's the least talent among the people who do this work. So it's your biggest opportunity to differentiate yourself. After design, I'd say think about the data and technical skills and work on the one that most interests you and, or the one where you're the weakest. If you're already a data scientist, then you'll probably focus on programming. Actually if you're a data scientist, you probably already are a programmer. But maybe you want to add D3 skills to your repertoire, or if you use R, but don't know Python yet, you know you get the drill.
Every skill you need to become a unicorn is learnable. And there are courses here on LinkedIn Learning for everyone of them, including my various courses on data visualization. So get to work, analyze your own skills, improve them, and lean toward unicorn-ism as far as you feel comfortable. It can do wonders for your career. Next, we'll talk to Shirley Wu, a proven unicorn with a great portfolio of work. We'll talk about how she got to where she is and her strategies for becoming more unicorn-like.