Why The Data School?
For 25 years I have owned and run my own businesses. As an SME owner, my role was diverse and challenging, but I always preferred to work on developing and implementing solutions to our most common business issues and challenges. All of my businesses incorporated unique IT solutions; programs, databases and comprehensive business systems that maximised the use and value of our business information and data.
When I decided to sell my businesses, I started the slightly daunting process of finding my first ever job working for someone else. I researched jobs and industries that might suit me and decided to look for work as an IT business analyst. Although I had experience in requirements gathering, stakeholder management, software and database development and others, I was not an expert in any of those similarly to a new graduate. It made it hard to find a job as every job advertisement required years of very particular experience.
During my job search, I stumbled across an ad for the Data School. I hadn’t been considering a role as a data analyst; I didn’t even fully appreciate that this was something I could do. But as I delved a bit deeper into the Data School and MIP, I discovered a world where my passion for using information and data could be of use.
It was hard to believe that this amazing opportunity, which I stumbled over while looking for something else, could be as good as it seemed. I became a bit concerned that maybe it was too good to be true – was I falling for a scam? But everything I read online spoke positively about the Data School (and I’m pleased to say that everything I’ve seen and experienced since confirms this!).
The Recruitment Process
The Data School has a unique recruitment process. They look beyond traditional candidate criteria and allow applicants to demonstrate their enthusiasm for and skills in data analysis and visualisation from the very start of the application process.
The first step was to submit a data visualisation. Initially I found it hard to choose a dataset and topic for my application, but I eventually chose a dataset including passenger details from the Titantic. It wasn’t something I had been particularly interested in before, but it didn’t take long before I was completely immersed in the data, learning how to analyse and visualise it in Tableau. I found it really useful to look at others’ public visualisations and found online tutorials helpful too.
I submitted my first draft and was surprised when I quickly received feedback from one of the Data School coaches. This job application was already so different from others, but the way that the coaches responded made me feel like the Data School really wanted me to succeed. Because of their encouragement, it wasn’t hard to find more time and energy to spend on my Viz.
When I was offered a zoom interview as part of the second stage of the application, I was very excited. During the interview I had to present my viz followed by a chat about why did I choose the data I presented and what made me to apply. When I subsequently made it to the third stage, and was asked to prepare a second Viz that I’d then present in person, I was over the moon.
I worked hard on my second Viz, using the provided dataset which was about commercial cruise ship locations that was large but not always complete. It didn’t take long before it was hard to think about anything else! As I put more time and energy into my second Viz, I become more excited by the data and the new skills I was learning.
When I visited the Data School to present my work, I was made to feel so welcome and encouraged. The nerves that I had been feeling disappeared quickly as I started to present my Viz. I was also asked a few questions about myself, and why I was interested in a role with the Data School.
As someone finding a new career in my 40s I had worried that I’d be considered less favourably than other candidates, but again I felt like everyone in the room wanted me to do my best and were considering me as a unique individual.
Suffice to say, that when I found out that I was being offered a place in the Data School I was overjoyed.
From now, that means making myself available for everything that is asked of me with as much energy and enthusiasm as I can.
My advice for future applicants
If you love data and using data to inform decisions and tell stories, then the Data School might be a good option for you too. My advice would be to dedicate your time and energy to doing your best throughout the application process, including taking on board any feedback you receive. That might include asking your friends and family whether your Vizzes make sense to someone else! Makeover Monday is also a good way to develop your skills.
Looking back on the last 2 months it’s hard to believe that I am now training to become a data analyst and consultant. I am genuinely excited about being a part of the Data School and MIP community and using the skills that I’m now developing to help others better use and understand data in their own businesses. It does still feel a little too good to be true!