From Baking Bread to Avoiding Pies

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Author: Gert Kemps

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People sometimes ask me how I end up visualising data…

To be honest, it’s not straightforward story and the title might be a little misleading, it is however an interesting story! Almost Disney material. It all started about 7 years ago while I was making... bread!

Before I started my career in data visualisation I was a baker.

After leaving high school I’ve had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. In order to get things straight, my brother asked me if I could help him out with his bakery. As brave as I am and without any prior baking experience, I said yes. A few hours later I was actually baking bread, crazy! Looking back to that specific time in my life I can say that this was one of the best decisions I’ve made. During the few years I worked in my brother’s bakery I’ve learnt absolutely nothing in terms of technology (no surprise here). But the life lessons I’ve learned are countless! I learned that I can do a lot when mentored right. I learned to pick up a new skill and teach it to others after a few months. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries. Last but not least, I learned the true meaning of what hard work is. All thanks to my brother and his bakery.

So, back to the making bread part. Somewhere around June 2012 while making bread, I evaluating my life back then. Was I happy? Yes! Was I going to do this hard work for the rest of my life? Hmmm... With that doubt I started investigating what my options were. A few weeks later, I made up my mind. I was going to study again! Plot twist! I (re)started my student life in Mechelen, at the Thomas More University College. After 3 years I successfully obtained my professional bachelor in Information Management, option Business Intelligence. During those 3 years I’ve learned all the BI core concepts like SQL, data warehousing, SAS, etc. but I also had to work with tools called Qlikview and Tableau. That’s where I discovered my passion for visualizing data. I was able to visualize and tell the story behind the data!

After graduating in June 2015, I was ready to kickstart my career! Unfortunately it all started with a little detour as a SAS programmer.

Again, plot twist.

 
 

Luckily a guy named Bart form Ordina called me somewhere around the beginning of 2016. Bart asked me if I was interested to help him out with starting a data visualisation competence centre in the VisionWorks Unit. As brave as I am, and with little data visualisation experience, I once again said yes! Bart told me he had foreseen experts to deepen and expand my technical knowledge. Lucky for me, no detour anymore.

Fast forward till today. Apart from being a data visualisation consultant, I’m also competence centre lead for the data visualisation part of VisionWorks. One of many aspects of this role is to help out colleagues expanding their data visualisation knowledge. In order to do so, we frequently organise training sessions about data visualisation best practices. During that training I always mention why it’s often better to not use pie charts. While saying that out loud, I always think back to that time when I was baking bread. Next to my brother who was and still is making pies.

From baking bread to avoiding pies. Funny how things in life turn out.

Interested in becoming a consultant? Looking for a company that’s able to support you with that? Really want to kickstart your career without any detours? Feel free to contact me or Anthony Coppens. We’ll be happy to help you out!

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