Over a week has already flown by at DSAU4! Our first week was filled with countless introductions, trips to scout out the food scene here in Pyrmont (priorities!) and intense sessions diving straight into Alteryx. After just three days, we were challenged to remake our original application now armed with new tools. Needless to say, there were many moments of “Man, if only I’d known this earlier!” This got me thinking about what other things I would have wanted to know before commencing this Data School journey. So here are some thoughts I would say to few-months-ago-me, or any others considering applying. There is nothing particularly novel, but they were, and still are, areas I would like to work on (mini goals, if you will), as we get deeper into the Data School.
1. Take advantage of the resources out there
Rewind back a few months ago, I had never even heard about Alteryx and Tableau. So I was amazed at how extensive the online community was, and how many resources I could turn to. (Admittedly, I am still discovering new resources every day and beginning to explore them all!) A good resource for those keen to get started with Tableau would be the starter kit. The Tableau Public gallery, community forums and challenges like #MakeoverMonday and Alteryx weekly challenges are also great for learning and getting inspired. See what others are doing, and have a go at reproducing and making your own visualisations!
Another invaluable source of knowledge (that I look forward to tapping into) is the coaches and team here at the Data School. Something that really struck me during the application process was how generous the team were with feedback and support. I could really sense that everyone wanted to see you do well, so don’t be nervous to seek help.
Practice, practice, practice! And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
2. Keep asking yourself the why and so what questions
While I was preparing my DSAU4 application, I was eager to demonstrate as many different techniques as could fit in a viz. So I spent a large portion of my preparation going through tutorials and past Data Schoolers’ blogs to try and reproduce what was out there. (As I just mentioned, I would highly recommend doing that!) However, if I were to do the process over, I would probably invest more of my efforts into thinking about how the data all fits together and whether it has been demonstrated in the most effective manner, rather than going down the rabbit hole of trying to do as much as possible.
As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. Even if you demonstrate the latest, trendiest tools, if it doesn’t make your data clearer, maybe it is best to leave it out.
3. Be flexible and open to critique
On that note, it can be very frustrating to spend a lot of time trying to perfect a certain chart or dashboard, and then receive criticism or realise there was a simpler, clearer way to display your data all along. I found myself being tempted to keep in elements that I had spent a lot of time figuring out, but turned out to not be very effective. I’ve been learning that, difficult though it may be, sometimes moving on is actually more important. At least now I have learnt something and have it up my sleeve for later!
Things don’t always go the way you expect, and that’s okay. But be sure to listen to feedback from others and keep looking for ways to improve.
As I mentioned at the start, these are all things I hope to continually improve on over the next four months at the Data School. I don’t expect it to be easy or come naturally, but I’m excited nonetheless. We’ll see how it all goes in the end (fingers crossed)!