new team members and a new program

Back in 2010, when I started storytelling with data while working at Google, I would happily travel and talk to any group that was open to learning how to communicate more effectively with data. Doing that over and over (and over and over) helped me hone my presentation skills, presence and style. It also demonstrated to me that the audience for this content is wide, diverse, and located in many different types of organizations all around the globe.

Over the years, as the SWD side project became my sole (perhaps soul?) project and an actual business, demand outpaced supply and budget size became—fortunately and unfortunately—a means to keep pace. While this helped us build a sustainable business, it didn’t necessarily allow us to serve the widest audience. Much of SWD content is free but our in-person workshops are where incredible progress is made.

I want what we teach at SWD to be within reach for all types of organizations. As you may have heard in podcast Episode 16, we recently conducted a search to expand our team. The response was amazing and we conducted a thorough hiring process through which we met a fantastic group of people. At the end of it, the SWD team was positively unanimous in the decision to offer roles to two outstanding and passionate data storytellers: Mike Cisneros and Alex Velez. I couldn’t be happier to welcome both to the team!


Mike Cisneros joins us from the federal contracting world, where he spent the better part of two decades analyzing and communicating complex data for public and private sector clients. In looking for other ways to express his interests, he discovered—and become deeply involved in—the worldwide community of public data visualization practitioners, gaining a reputation for combining unique design aesthetic with insightful, thought-provoking analysis. The quality of his creations and commitment to the greater data visualization community led to his selection for the Zen program at Tableau. Mike, believes everyone has the ability to communicate more clearly and we are incredibly excited for him to join the team and help others hone their data storytelling skills.


Alex Velez has a background in statistics, which she has put to use in a number of data engineering and analysis roles across the finance, insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Her broad exposure to various stages of the analytical world led over time to a profound realization: many everyday challenges can be overcome through better communication. Alex has developed this important skill through a lot of practice—both on the job in her analytical work and through motivating people by teaching energizing Zumba classes! While she no longer spends her time in a gym studio, we’re ecstatic that she’ll continue helping others in her new role with storytelling with data, sharing her learnings and passion for data visualization and effective, thoughtful communication.

With this welcome addition of two new talented data storytellers, we are now in a position to serve a greater audience, including those who may not have been able to access workshops due to limited budgets. Today, I’m pleased to announce a new program aimed at non-profits, educational institutions and other organizations where learning and development budget may be limited: SWD reach.

SWD reach is an application-based program that brings the in-person half-day workshop to organizations for a fraction of the cost. The application process for SWD reach is open now and we will accept applications through the end of July: learn more and complete the online application form.

Mike and Alex are joining a small but mighty team. Elizabeth has been busy in recent months delivering short presentations and custom workshops to organizations around the US (and soon the world!). Behind the scenes, Jody plays point with clients, keeps us on schedule, plans events like the upcoming Chicago public workshop, and manages our (growing) programs, including SWD reach. Randy wears many hats—in addition to being my incredible and supportive husband—he makes sure we have the right technology, systems, and processes; he pushes us to innovate and try new things; you may recognize his voice from the SWD podcast or his face and friendly banter from the recent live stream event. We also have a number of partners who play critical roles to support our growth.

Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased that today, we have the right team in place to truly inspire positive change through the stories we tell with data. With more people and new programs, I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to spread effective data storytelling more broadly.

Please join me in welcoming Mike and Alex to the SWD team!

SWD team at our Milwaukee offsite this week. From left: Randy, Alex, Elizabeth, Mike, Jody, and Cole.

SWD team at our Milwaukee offsite this week. From left: Randy, Alex, Elizabeth, Mike, Jody, and Cole.


#SWDchallenge: rebrand it!

Branding applied to data storytelling is much more than a specific font, logo or template color. Instead, thoughtfully incorporating aspects of an organization’s brand into the design of a graph can evoke a feeling or perhaps an emotional connection to the message the graph conveys. This month, readers were challenged to re-brand an example graph in a brand style of their choosing.

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more ways to learn

One of my goals with storytelling with data is that we continue to be accessible. The beauty of what can happen when we improve the way we communicate with data is positively endless. You’ll notice we continue to experiment with things like real-time captioning, embedded website transcription, podcast formats and this week, we’ll be trying something really new with a 1-hour (free!) live stream event that viewers can enjoy from anywhere in the world.

I also mentioned at the end of our latest podcast that we have (once again) expanded the SWD team (more on that to come) and I will travel to Europe in a few weeks to offer workshops in new cities. There is a lot going on and we will have even more exciting things to share with you soon.

And so, I want to do two things with this post. First, make you aware of the opportunities that are available and coming soon. Second, to thank you for coming on this journey with us. We’re going to try things—some will be successful, others perhaps not so much, but we will learn and iterate. None of this works without your support, feedback and desire to continue your own growth and development.

To that end, be sure to check out these upcoming events:

  • The first ever SWD live event will take place this Thursday, May 30th at 10am EST and will be broadcast around the world. This will be an interactive event where together, we’ll learn data visualization through critique. The event is free but you must register to attend.

  • The upcoming European workshops in Dublin (June 18), Copenhagen (June 25) and Zurich (June 27) offer in-person opportunities to learn, practice, and network with others interested in enhancing their data storytelling skills. Space is limited and you can register here.

Thanks for your continued support for all we do here at SWD!