Iron Viz Reflections: A Guest Blog Post by Kimly Scott


The following is a guest post from Kimly Scott. Kimly is a Tableau Public Ambassador and was one of this year’s Iron Viz finalists. She was the recipient of the Data Storyteller Extraordinaire Vizzie award for 2021 and 2022. Kimly uses Tableau Public and data visualisation to highlight and bring to light topics she is passionate about such as gender equality, diversity, women’s health and refugees. She is also one of the newest co-leads for the community project, Diversity in Data.

It has been a couple of weeks since I was live on the main stage at the Tableau Conference 2022, competing in the finals of Iron Viz. It has taken me some time to absorb everything and reflect on my experience. In this post I will share some reflections on my Iron Viz journey.

Iron Viz takes a boatload of work and sacrifice

I lost count of the number of hours I spent producing my feeder viz back in January for Iron Viz. From sourcing the data, including hand collecting the Archibald Prize winners, to formatting, trying out different layout options, and hand drawing most of the images. It was probably the most time I had spent on a viz to date. However, I was happy to spend the time working on my viz because after submitting my entry, I thought that would be the end of it, right?

Then I found out I had landed in the top 3! When I found out that I had gotten into the finals, I had no idea the amount of time and work and time I would need to invest on top of what I had already invested. When we received the data set for the finals, we had less than a month to come up with a story, build a viz, practice building that viz dozens of times in order to be able to build it live on stage within 20 minutes, and write a presentation.

Finding time was a challenge. Having two young children at home as well as my normal day job did not leave much time to work on my viz. Normally when I’m building a personal viz or a viz for a community project, I will work for an hour or two a few nights a week for as long as it takes to complete the viz, leisurely taking my time. But this was the Iron Viz finals! Let’s just say, there were many, many late nights and a lot of stress.

On top of the viz build, there were also promotions such as contributing to blog posts, preparing for and filming our intro videos (luckily we didn’t have to assemble them ourselves) that we had to invest time into as well.Fast forward to the Tableau Conference and again, we had countless hours of rehearsals, and late night practice sessions.

In addition to the time required to participate in Iron Viz, while I was able to bring my eldest daughter with me to Las Vegas, I had to organise a week of care for my youngest while I was away. It broke my heart to be away from my baby for so long and this was the hardest part of the Iron Viz process for me. I am very privileged though, that I had someone I could trust to care for her while I was away as I know not everyone has this option.

Nothing quite like Iron Viz to get over a fear of public speaking

The audience at Iron Viz was the biggest crowd I have ever spoken in front of. I was a bundle of nerves before going on stage.

Being an extremely shy and introverted person, I needed to be 100% prepared. The thought of having so many people looking at me fills me with copious amounts of dread. I had printed out my presentation, and although I had practiced it and had it memorised, I knew that once that spotlight hit me, I would freeze up.

But once I got on that stage, I felt the adrenaline and all those butterflies and knots in my stomach disappeared. I was able to focus on building my viz (although I finished a lot later than I was comfortable with, but that’s a story for another time) and I actually felt I delivered the best version of my speech.

For this shy, introverted person to get through all that in one piece - I thought, if I can do Iron Viz, I can do anything.

Staying true to myself

In an Iron Viz final, you are tempted to create something technically amazing -  something the crowd has never seen before, something to ‘WOW’ the crowd. I saw a comment on social media remarking that I should have received third place as my presentation was basic and that I was not in the finals for my skills in Tableau. I am the first to admit that I do not have the technical Tableau knowledge that most who make it to the finals do, but I don’t believe technical skill is all that’s needed to compete in (or even to win) Iron Viz.

If you have ever seen my vizzes on Tableau Public, you’ll notice that my vizzes are simple. Iron Viz judge, Taha Ebrahimi used the words “deceptively simple” to describe my work and I absolutely love that description. I use simple charts to convey my story - charts that everyone can understand.

My goal for this viz was to tell my story and make it compelling, but at the same time, make it simple enough for those not versed in data to understand. I dedicated this viz to my parents (eagle eyed viewers may have noticed some Khmer text within the footer of the viz. This reads “For Mum and Dad”), so I did not want to produce something that they could not understand.

Additionally, I wanted to make the viz as accessible as I could. This was important to me. During my 20 min build, I took the time to add ALT text to my images and clickable buttons and ensured all text was added as text boxes as opposed to background images. I chose high contrasting colours (someone commented on social media that my viz was the only viz they could read from the back of the room) and my containers could be navigated/opened using a keyboard. I have not seen anybody take the time to build in accessibility in an Iron Viz final, but spending the time and consideration for accessibility was one thing I did not want to compromise on.

I am so happy that I stayed true to myself when designing and building this viz  -  my style, my story. 

The little girl in the viz is me  -  Representation matters

Lastly and most importantly to me, representation matters.

When I was planning my viz, I had moments of hesitation about sharing my story . I thought, “what if it’s too personal?” or “what if people can’t relate and I don’t get any votes?” But ultimately, I decided that I wanted to share my story  and I’m glad I did. I wanted to speak to those under-represented and  I wanted to provide a human face to the data points and numbers we see.

Kimly’s final viz which shows the difference between Australia and Cambodia’s literacy rate. An image of a little girl holding a flashlight draws focus to the differences in literacy rates. The viz also shows the difference in government expenditure (Australia’s is higher), length of schooling (Australia’s is higher), life expectancy (Australia’s is higher), fertility rate (Cambodia’s is higher), and GDP per capita (Australia's is higher) between the two countries.

The overwhelming love I got for sharing my personal story absolutely filled my heart. After the show, I had so many people send me messages, or stop me in person to thank me for telling my story and to tell me how much my story resonated with them. 

To everyone who’s story echos with mine  - I see you, I hear you.

I had people tell me it was so great to see a woman on stage, and most importantly to me, an Asian woman -  the first in an Iron Viz final. I was also privileged to have Nina Nguyen, a fellow Asian-Australian as my sous-vizzer on stage. We underestimate how much it means to see people who look like us achieve things and I am so honoured that I was able to represent women, mothers, Australia and Cambodia on that stage.

As I said in my intro video, I have not seen anyone who looks like me on stage so if I can inspire even just one person by being up there, I’m beyond happy.


Iron Viz was a once in a lifetime experience and I learned a lot about myself during the process. I met and made many great friends. Special thanks to my sous-vizzer Nina and Will and CJ for being wonderful throughout the whole Iron Viz journey. Don’t forget to check out both Will and CJ’s incredible vizzes on Tableau Public.

For anyone hesitating about participating in Iron Viz or thinking, “I will never make it to the finals”, this was me. But you know what, I participated (this year was my 5th time entering the competition). I never thought it would happen, but I made it to the finals. It is so important and means so much to so many people to see the under-represented on stage - to see people who look like us (or look like you). My advice, put yourself out there - participate, enter and you will inspire others to do the same.

If you have any questions for me, or just want to chat, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@ScottKimly).


-- Photo credits: Caroline Yam, Nina Nguyen, Kimly Scott --

Kevin Flerlage, June 20, 2022

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