Diedre Downing

Diedre is an international keynote presenter in data storytelling, a former adjunct lecturer at Hunter college, and an expert in adult learning theory and learning experience design.  

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“A well developed and thoughtfully interpreted data story can open a conversation about data to far more stakeholders.”

As StoryIQ’s Chief Learning Officer, Diedre leads a team that ensures StoryIQ courses are engaging, relevant and instantly useful.

Diedre was the keynote speaker at VizCon 2020, the world’s largest Data Storytelling conference. She has also shared her expertise on using data storytelling to building influence and drive action at the Global, Big Data Science Conference, Open Data Science Conference, and at multiple data science meetups worldwide. As a former program leader at the New York City Department of Education, Diedre led the creation and implementation of professional learning experiences impacting more than 100,000 New York City educators.

What they're saying

The Power and Promise of Data Storytelling

Data storytelling combines the statistical rigor of data analytics with the narrative engagement of storytelling. It plays a critical role in making data understandable, actionable, and impactful. From improved decision-making and accessibility to increased engagement, emotional impact, clarity, and focus, data storytelling transforms data into a narrative various stakeholders can understand, believe in, and support.

Professional Experience

Diedre has held the following positions

  • Chief Learning Officer, StoryIQ
  • Head of Learning Experiences, StoryIQ
  • Senior Manager, Online and Blended Learning – New York City Department of Education
  • Director, Digital Content and Instruction, New York City Department of Education
  • Math Teacher, Math Department Chair, New York City Department of Education
  • Mentor Teacher, Blended Learning Institute
  • Adjunct Lecturer, Hunter College, City University of New York


  • Master of Science for Teachers, Secondary Mathematic Education, Pace University

Diedre’s Recent Keynotes and Conference Talks

  • The Art (and Importance) of Data Data Storytelling, ODSC East 2020
  • The Essential Elements of Powerful Data Stories, Keynote, VizCon 2020
  • Bridging Data and Storytelling to Create Insight, Panel Session, VizCon 2020
  • “The Essential Role of the Analytics Translator”, The Global Big Data Conference, 2020

Interview with Diedre

My style is more of a guide or coach than a traditional instructor. We're all a team, we're all learning, and we are all helping each other out. I value everyone's experience and expertise in the room. When we solve a problem collectively, the answer is generally far more valuable and interesting than if you had just Googled it on your own. I see my role as helping each learner tap into how concepts and skills can be relevant and useful to their work and goals.
I fill my classes with short breakout groups to get learners talking about using the concepts from class in their work. I believe in the idea of learning by doing, so I make sure that there are plenty of opportunities to practice and get feedback. I genuinely love helping others learn. I want my class to be the best part of your day! I facilitate my classes with the energy and enthusiasm of a group fitness instructor. Get ready for plenty of virtual high fives and celebrations of learning in any session with me.
I spent the first 14+ years of my professional life in public education – teaching high school students, developing professional learning programs for educators, and supporting graduate students to become effective teachers. It doesn’t matter what group I taught; the need for the content to be instantly useful and relevant to their needs was necessary. I prioritize the practical over the conceptual and genuinely believe that hands-on practice is the way to cement a new skill. I treat every class as a learning experience for myself and am regularly amazed at the wisdom, knowledge, and instincts professionals bring to the sessions.
Teaching virtually is much different from teaching in person – but we've done a great job of restructuring our courses to create a dynamic virtual classroom. The switch to a virtual setting has made it easier for more people to take advantage of our classes. More often than not, I have learners from multiple continents engaging together. I love that we can all be in the same "room" together even though we are nowhere near each other geographically. The truth is, just being in-person isn't what makes a training session valuable. You need excellent class content, an approachable and knowledgeable instructor, and high-quality practice activities to have a great learning experience. At StoryIQ, all of our classes, whether in-person or virtual, have those necessary components.
The most significant benefit of in-person training is the ability of the learners to be fully present without the distraction of emails, messages, and the urge to do some online shopping that can occur virtually. In-person training allows us to get out from behind our screens and engage in activities and discussions that flow more freely and naturally than in a virtual setting. As a facilitator, I love the non-verbal cues I get from in-person learners that are much harder to pick up via video conferencing. I can adjust pace, go deeper into a concept, and quickly pivot support and guidance if needed during activities.
This question is like asking me to pick my favorite child! My dad likes to say he has a favorite son and a favorite daughter (I have one brother). I’m going to take that approach with this question. I have a favorite technical class and a less-technical class to teach. My favorite technical class to teach is Data to Insights. I struggled to complete efficient and effective analysis early in my career, often getting trapped in ‘analysis paralysis’. I love being able to help others avoid the mistakes I made while assisting them in learning the power of the 80/20 approach (or Pareto principle) to maximize time and value while solving a business problem with data. On the less technical side, I’d have to say my favorite class to teach is Data Storytelling for Business. Too often, people equate data storytelling with a highly produced presentation with cutting-edge visuals, causing many professionals to assume they don’t have the skill or time to become data storytellers. In Data Storytelling for Business, we focus on taking the work out of interpreting and communicating with data – a highly transferable skill regardless of your role and industry. I love being able to help everyone, regardless of data experience or seniority, become capable and effective data storytellers.
I love to cook. This past year I have focused on expanding my culinary skills. I spend far too much time watching cooking shows and doing recipe research. I have a hard time sitting still, so I spend a fair amount of time trying to get on the leaderboard of virtual group fitness classes or getting outdoors. I'm an avid skier in the winter and a beach bum in the summer. My secret skill is crocheting.

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