My name is Jonathan, and I am very excited to be part of an amazing program and opportunity, The Data School Down Under, third cohort (DSAU3). I am here to document my experiences as a Trainee Data Analytics Consultant. I hope these posts provide readers with a guide of what to expect as a Data Schooler, or maybe even some content specific information.
My first blog contains a few “Take home lessons” I have learnt in the weeks leading up to, and the first week of my Data School experience. Here goes…
Be confident in your abilities
Leading up to my first week, I had the “new job jitters” big time. I was quite worried about how I would compare to the others, as there is no real experience or qualification requirements for this role, I had no idea what background everyone else came from, or how much experience they had.
What did stick with me (and helped with my nerves) was part of an email from Craig Dewar, our Head Coach;
“Relax, believe in your abilities (you made it this far after all), be confident, and most importantly, be yourself. In the end, you want this to be a good fit for you as much as we want you to be a good fit for us.”
By the end of day one, (maybe day two) I wasn’t worried anymore, and it really had nothing to do with my fellow DSAU3’s. I was actually just really enjoying myself, and was getting super excited about all the new things I was learning. My mind was only thinking about how I could use them for future problems and how I could have used them to make things easier in the past.
After two days I had gone from thinking, “Why am I here?” to thinking “This is why I’m here!”
Force yourself out of old habits
(Don’t worry, I still brush my teeth!)
Week one was mostly new content surrounding Alteryx. We covered heaps of content over the week, focusing on the 30-50 tools that can complete a large portion of most projects. At the end of the week, we were given an open task of creating and presenting our own workflow using one of the Data Sets from the job application process. My presentation used a Data set containing a log of all trips made by Undocked Vehicles in Austin Texas 2018-2019. (Shared bikes and Scooters using an app)
I had already used this data set before, so I was able to jump in fairly quickly, filter out some nonsensical outliers and format the data types. I also, had a pretty good idea where I was going with this workflow and was excited about the prospects of this new software.
Over the course of the day, however, two problems took up the bulk of my time;
- Manipulating the “Date+Time” field, in its original format, it wasn’t a recognizable date for Alteryx. I found myself parsing and picking out what I need using formulas like “Left()” and “Substring()”. Using these commands was time consuming and fiddly.
- Figuring out how to create poly-lines that made sense. I wanted to map the sequence of starting points of each un-docked vehicle, in doing this I used a number of filters, sorts and multi-row formulas. The tricky part came from ranking these sequences (and the associated vehicle) by the number of trips spent. Let’s say the most used vehicle had 32 trips. If the next highest had 28, there would be 3 entries of first vehicle ranked above the 2nd vehicle.
After presenting my work flow, a common phrase of feedback was “I would have done it like this”. My first problem could have easily be solved using a ToDate() formula and my second problem was solved in a single “Summarize” tool.
What I had done was, solve these problems the way I would in Excel, since they were similar problems I had solved before. I was not using Alteryx to its potential.
Is there a better way to solve this problem? Do I need to change my thinking?
Embrace the opportunities that force you outside of your comfort zone.
Those who know me well would be hesitant to call me an introvert, but adamantly against calling me an extrovert. I am comfortable having conversations, I am comfortable not having conversations, but presenting to a group of people? That I am not too comfortable doing.
My presentation by itself, taught me so much about Alteryx as a software, and myself as a Data Analyst. It gave me the opportunity to hear what I am doing well, what needed work and what was completely wrong. This presentation gave me concrete feedback, and I was able to make adjustments to my workflow, resulting in it being more readable and efficient. Therefore, I am convinced now that a workflow that is created to be presented or explained, is overall better functioning workflow. This logic can be applied to other jobs too.
I’m counting myself lucky that I have a fantastic collection of knowledgeable trainers, and a support group of Data Schoolers, who are trying to tackle the same problems I am. At this point I am very excited to see what I learn over the next week!