Geek of the Week: Slalom’s Gina Bremer finds ingredients for success through data visualization

Gina Bremer is hungry for data. It’s what feeds the stories she helps tell as a business intelligence consultant with Slalom. And as someone who comes from a restaurant family, her analogy for why data visualization matters just might make your mouth water.

“I equate having access to data with having access to a grocery store,” said Bremer, our latest Geek of the Week. “All the ingredients are there – but that is not enough. We need to know what we are trying to make, what ingredients we need to buy, how to prep each ingredient for use in our dish, and the best way to combine them to get a tasty outcome. It’s critical to know what to leave out (no chocolate in my minestrone please) and how to present it (I’d prefer not to eat straight from the pan at the dinner table). Data visualization is a ‘thing’ because it is going from raw pasta, ground beef, and some tomatoes to my Nonna’s spaghetti and meatballs.”

I do this job because I feel it was made for me. It wasn’t until I found data visualization and business intelligence that I found my perfect intersection of people, logic and creativity.

Bremer gained her food for thought after earning a degree in mathematics from the University of Washington. The Bellingham, Wash., native entered the world of analytics with experience as a Tableau developer, data visualization specialist, business intelligence analyst, data storyteller and trainer. She’s a Tableau Ambassador now and has presented at the Tableau Conference and Tapestry, and she runs user groups in Seattle and her hometown.

“The stories I help clients tell are centered around action. It’s not just about answering a business question (which is important) but also what they plan to do with the answer,” Bremer said. “For example, a dashboard may tell the story of the health of a complex development lifecycle and highlight the corrective actions that need to be taken due to shortages.”

Bremer is a dual U.S.-Italian citizen and moved to Italy after college to immerse herself in her family’s culture and work in the Italian Alps. Outside of work and family, she mentors through the Seattle-based non-profit ZGiRLS and she teaches Zumba, practices yoga, enjoys nature with her dog, skiing at Mt. Baker and traveling.

And if data wasn’t keeping her attention right now?

“I’d be in a small coastal town running a local café and fitness studio with dance cardio, yoga, strength training, and outdoor fitness excursions,” Bremer said. “Alternatively, I’d be an educator or event planner. I’d like to wear multiple hats in my career – as long each hat allows me to color-coordinate things.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Gina Bremer:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I tell stories with data and help others to do the same. I work with clients and partners to identify key metrics and data to report them in a story-driven way. A key piece of my job is designing and providing templates, tools, workshops, and trainings to enable others to share their own stories with data too.

I do this job because I feel it was made for me. I didn’t fit into a box in college. I changed my major four times (from chemical engineering to design to international relations to math), looking for something I was passionate about that was also a good fit for my skillset. It wasn’t until I found data visualization and business intelligence that I found my perfect intersection of people, logic and creativity.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Data isn’t just for the math geeks. While most people I have worked with in the field of business intelligence come from a STEM background, the best teams are comprised of people with technical educations as well as those with creative and business backgrounds.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find inspiration through innovation. I am fueled by new challenges that require coloring outside of the lines – and the excitement and energy that can bring to a team.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? I think I could live without a lot of modern technology. I’d like to be looking down a little less and up a little more. That being said, I’d have to say my phone. I rely on it to stay connected with those in my work and personal life, for apps that help me stay mindful and grounded, and for my constant stream of music.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? I am a bit of a nomad when it comes to work spaces. You can find me in a nearby coffee shop (where I am currently sitting) or more likely, in the biggest, comfiest chair in the building. You’ll rarely find me at a desk.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Get a puppy. I waited years for the “right time” and it doesn’t exist. Having a dog provides you a daily dose of love, encourages movement and fresh air, and makes it so that you can’t stay too late at the office.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows. A few years ago, I attempted a Mac… it lasted about a month.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Famous artists? Weird baby names? Something that I should know and may negatively impact my geek status?

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter, hands-down. I’d be able to explore new countries, cultures, and languages on a weekend whim (I’ve studied Italian, French, and Spanish so far), shred the fresh pow line at Baker in an hour break between meetings, have dinner with my family in Italy on Wednesday nights, and never have to sit in traffic again.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … I can’t give away all my ideas! Hint: it will have to do something with data storytelling, visualization, and teaching.

I once waited in line for … only the necessities. Life is too short to stand around.

Your role models: In my personal life, my grandmother. She is 79 and has always lived life to the fullest – and she still gets a season pass to ski with us every year! In my professional life, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, a master of creating and teaching data storytelling to the professional world.

Greatest game in history: “Settlers of Catan: Cities & Knights.” 5-6 player extension. As long as my brother and sister-in-law aren’t sitting together – our Sicilian blood can get a little feisty.

Best gadget ever: Soundproof Bluetooth Headphones – I have a soundtrack for my life.

First computer: A bright red Dell laptop (not including family computers).

Current phone: Google Pixel 2.

Favorite app: 10% Happier.

Favorite cause: ZGiRLS, a Seattle non-profit with a vision to create a world where girls and women live with ZERO limitations.

Most important technology of 2019: I don’t think the conversation should be about one technology, but how we leverage all of the emerging technologies to work towards better solutions for our most complicated problems.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Don’t let your accomplishments pass you by. Stop and celebrate. Big and small. (And use all of your PTO!)

Twitter: @gb_graphgiraffe


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