The first day

My first day at The Data School was exciting. It started with our first presentation. We were split into pairs and given 10 minutes to get to know each other and then introduce our partner to the rest of the group. Then we were asked to keep our notes and write a short bio for each other. After this we were given a laptop but not a cheap or even a middle range one. The Data School, as I’ve learnt since, doesn’t compromise on quality in general, and so we were given a top of the range computer to enable us to do our best.

We then received a long list of instructions to set up a range of accounts for various websites and applications. I have never set up so many online accounts in one go! My tip for Data Schoolers: create a file with login credentials to make things easier for you down the track. Overall, the first day was busy, but relatively easy. Unlike the following ones, which turned out to be busy and intense with fast paced learning in a number of areas.

The first week

During the first week we were introduced to Alteryx Designer, a data preparation, data blending and analytics tool. I quickly realized that this amazing software would become my new favourite, despite only scraping the surface of its capabilities. As it turns out, my relationship with Alteryx has become quite a serious one. My girlfriend started to worry about her position as I spent more time with Alteryx solving challenges at night rather than spending time with her. “I would never touch Excel again if need to do anything with data” I told her once and she replied she was worried that I would never touch her again either.

During the first week we also learnt a little about Tableau. But we didn’t start where you’d expect a group of beginners to start. We bypassed the introductory book and were given the intermediate one!

All of the teaching and training at The Data School is very practical. The trainers show us problems and explain how they can be solved. Then we have to follow how they develop the solution, learning hands on using our laptops. During the first week, or even now, I had to stay focused constantly as the trainers keep things moving fast. I found that if I missed just one step I’d feel lost completely. Although whenever I asked for an explanation or more help, I always got it.

Fridays are about projects

Every Friday at The Data School is a project day. We are given a project at 9am and have to present our solution at 3pm to the rest of the class to others via Zoom. No surprise that on Fridays no one wants to have a lunch break. Everyone is working hard on their project instead. The first week’s project was to enrich the dataset of one our application visualizations using our fresh Alteryx skills and create a makeover for that viz. It was fun.
By the end of the first week we all felt incredibly tired but we learned a great amount.

The third week

By the third week we had already finished Alteryx beginners and intermediate and Tableau intermediate and advanced. I feel overwhelmed. These weeks flew by so quickly and the training and teaching was intense. When I had the chance to catch up with some previous Data Schoolers, I asked them “Am I supposed to understand and remember everything we learn?”. It was reassuring to hear that everyone in previous cohorts had felt the same. They assured me that the course will eventually slow down, at least a little bit. The first weeks are designed to introduce a large number of new concepts, the foundations we need as data analysts. We will then work on, refining our understanding and skills over time. When we have deepened our knowledge of these tools, we will learn and develop new soft skills such as presentation, requirement elicitation and leading projects.

One of the things that I’ve learned over the past few weeks is just how amazing the other Data Schoolers are. I genuinely think my peers are very special people. Everyone is so smart in this room. Even when I work hard on a project and think my solution will be outstanding, I always realize that this is not a room full of regular people and in the best case, my solution can only be just as good as anyone else’s. This Friday I made a mistake and went out for lunch thinking I was doing well and I could afford a break. I will never make this mistake again.

Despite feeling overwhelmed and tired, I am also very excited to go back to ‘work’ on Mondays and learn more from amazing people with exceptional peers in a friendly environment.