Data Analyst Profile: Eric Clements

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Eric Clements is a Data Analyst III supporting Project Frontman at Ramsey Solutions. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in 2015 and is currently working toward his master’s degree at MTSU. Eric has been with the Analytics Team at Ramsey since December 2017. He has a passion for data visualizations and has recently been demonstrating one of our company’s Core Values in this area: Momentum Theorem.  Momentum Theorem is defined as “focused intensity over time, multiplied by God, creates unstoppable momentum.”

Eric’s focused intensity over the past several months has helped him improve his technical skills as an analyst and has significantly increased his impact and influence—both within his business unit and across the entire Analytics Team. Not only has his growth been noticed here at Ramsey but Eric has also been featured as a Weekly Makeover Monday favorite, as well as recognition from two Tableau Zen Masters: Sarah Bartlett and Simon Beaumont.

Get to know more about Eric and his path to becoming a data viz rock star through this Q&A.

Q: What initially drew you to analytics as a career path?

A: After re-evaluating my direction in college, I changed my major from mechanical engineering to computer information systems. My motivations for this change were 100% driven by greed: I was in college in the midst of the financial crisis. I’d always been a bit technically savvy, so I figured this path gave me a chance to get into a stable field when I got out of college. This was more of a calculated move than one driven by passion for the subject. And while maybe a “smart” move, decisions like this don’t really add to your motivation and excitement behind your career path. So, I drudged my way through C# and Visual Basic courses, questioning how I’d stay sane once I had to do this eight hours a day, five days a week for years on end.

That all sort of changed once I had my first Tableau course. Something about data visualization and analyzing data sets just triggered a creative spark in me that I hadn’t had up to that point in college. It really gave me a playground to flex some of my design and creative muscles. I was instantly hooked and knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living. My professor happened to be my advisor, and at the end of the course, I sat in her office and told her I wanted to build stuff in Tableau for a living. She politely told me there was a heck of a lot more to it than that—so I set out learning the other skills (like Excel, SQL and data structure) so I could realize my goals.

Q: Why did you choose to work at Ramsey Solutions?

A: My best friend, Jeremy Duke, had been employed at Ramsey Solutions for a while. We would often swap stories about what our work life was like, and there was a similar theme: Mine were always negative, and his were always positive. I realized that while I loved what I did, I didn’t much care for where I worked. As a Nashville native, I knew of and had heard about Dave Ramsey but didn’t know the full extent of his teachings or really the scope of what Ramsey Solutions did as a business. After digging in a little further and learning more about what Dave taught and the mission of the company, it was a pretty easy sell from Jeremy to get me to apply here—and I suppose the rest is history.

Q: You’ve recently been focusing on sharpening your data visualization skills. What has drawn you to this area of focus? What excited you about data visualization?

A: I think the artistic and design side of it is what’s made me focus on it more. The whole purpose of good design is to catch people’s attention and get them to look, and with data viz, if you can get people to look, then you can tell your story. I was an AP art student in high school and loved abstract and geometric styles of art (mostly because it was all I was good at). I really enjoyed it at the time but fell out of it quickly after high school. In a way, data viz has brought back that spark and helped me apply some of the natural artistic talent I have to an area that’s often stale and devoid of artistic expression. Like current trends in design, I love the way data viz can do more by doing less and have a beautiful simplicity about it. Often, you don’t have to create 30 different charts and a five-page write-up to get your point across or tell your story. A lot of the time, you can catch people’s attention and tell your story with one line of text and one visualization. 

Q: How have you been pushing yourself to grow in this area, and how has being part of the Analytics Team at Ramsey helped speed up that growth?

A: I think being a team member has helped promote growth in this area by allowing me to devote work time each week to focus on learning and growing. It’s comforting not feeling like I’m pressured or “breaking the rules” if I spend a bit more time than usual one week researching new trends or practicing new techniques—because my leadership knows it’ll pay off down the road. My leaders are also my harshest critics. They never really let me get a big head or reach a point where I’m comfortable or complacent with where I’m at, and they always push me to reach the next level.

The biggest driver for growing in this area has been joining the #datafam and #MakeoverMonday communities on Twitter. Literally the best in the business are there daily, writing blogs about new trends or techniques and finding ways to make the latest UI/UX and design trends applicable within the realm of data visualization. Makeover Monday in particular has really made me push the boundaries of finding new ways to use functionality in Tableau and how to combine Tableau with the power of Adobe Illustrator and PowerPoint to take viz to the next level. I’ve also been able to work with data I don’t commonly work with on a daily basis but that will still open doors in a way that’s applicable to my day-to-day work. I honestly believe that joining those communities has improved my design and technique more in just the last four months than I had in the previous two years before it.

Q: Learning new skills and honing existing skills are a key part of your field. How has your recent growth increased your impact and influence within your team and business unit?

A: We have a lot of extremely competitive people on the Analytics Team. I’ve noticed that a lot of them have been trying to step up their game and really be intentional about making better data viz after seeing some of my recent work. I’ve also had a lot of people come to me for my opinion on setting up a report or dashboard and which chart type or formatting style would be best for what they’re trying to accomplish. This has been great because I love walking through this with people and helping them get better, and I find that I typically learn a lot myself when going through these exercises.

Within my business unit, this has really helped me focus in on what I want to accomplish as an analyst. I’ve been having constant conversations with team members involved with our BU who touch data in some way—trying to get in their head space, seeing what decisions they’re trying to make and what their burning questions are. This sent me down a path of scoping out what a new, modern BI reporting suite would look like and how I would go about building it.

Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to level up their visualization game?

A: I’d say practice—but even more than that, get involved in the data viz community at large. At least in the Tableau space, it’s an extremely active and friendly community filled with people who want to help others grow and get better. Practice is great, but it’s hard to get motivated to go out on your own, track down data sets, and just start throwing together visualizations. I think this is what makes Makeover Monday so great because the data’s provided to you every week and there’s a certain level of accountability and competition involved with it. Beyond that, I’d highly recommend Pinterest for learning the current design and UI/UX trends, gathering great-looking color palettes, and just for inspiration boards in general. I’d also recommend getting familiar with creating images and objects within something like Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Powerpoint or another similar software. To really bring cutting-edge design and UI into Tableau right now, it must be brought in as custom images or shapes, and these programs are the best places to make them.

Here are a couple of Eric’s favorite visualizations he’s done for Tableau’s Makeover Monday:

For a look at some of Eric’s work, take a look at his profile on Tableau Public, or follow him on Twitter (@EC_DataViz).

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