I’ve recently finished my second week at The Data School, and I thought I would take the time to share with any potential applicants some advice for their own application, a little about my background and why I decided to pursue this opportunity.

Why Data?

Prior to my application, I had been working as Assistant Accountant for 2 years while completing my accounting studies. I had also had 3 years of experience in an IT help desk roles. It is safe to say I did not have a large amount of data experience in a professional capacity.

However, I had a passion for it. I spent my free time looking at players and teams in sports that stood out statistically, either underperforming or overperforming their statistics. It started with some YouTube, a love of basketball, and the movie Moneyball. Combined with a friend suggesting that I put in an application in the next weeks, I decided to make an attempt at creating a visualisation that would help me get noticed.

My Application

To begin, I first had to decide upon a data set to use, and a story to explore. Given that there was no boundary set on what data set I could use, the possibilities seemed overwhelming. This is where I will share my first tip.

Pick a topic that interests you

For me, I decided to talk about the 2021-22 NBA MVP race. I love following the NBA, and I thought this would make working on the visualisation more enjoyable. There’s no reason that you can’t be successful picking a data set that doesn’t interest you, but you’ll find the work much more enjoyable and be more willing to engage with the data if you pick something that makes you naturally curious.

After picking my data set, and knowing what part of the data I wanted to talk about, I was left to investigate and create. Working through the data, it was fun for me to see how and why voters might have selected Jokic as the MVP. I rushed to get it finished, but in the process spent a lot of hours on the dashboard. As a result, I came to really understand the data that I was working on. I did this by asking a lot of why? This brings me to tip #2.

Ask a lot of why questions – and they become your story

If you ask this question a lot, you’ll be able to understand the overall story of your data. This is a large part of not just your dashboard, but your presentation. You aren’t just being judged on how pretty your dashboard is, but also the story you tell and how you present it. This framework will also help you to pick what types of charts to include, and what sort of insights you will try to gain. A chart should always be placed with deliberate intention to help you answer a why question and help you tell the story of the data, and create a great viz.

Submit as early as possible

The Data School has great coaches that put a lot of effort into the application process. If you’re able to submit it early enough, they’ll offer you feedback to help improve your viz, and potentially help you fix issues you’ve been trying to figure out or different ways to think about the viz. Submitting as early as possible will give you time to iterate on your visualisation and gain greater understanding into your data, making an overall better dashboard.

Brush up your presentation skills

The final piece of advice I have for you, is to brush up on your presentation skills. If you’ve spent a lot of time on your data viz, and asked a lot of why questions, you’ll have a great understanding of the data and the story you’re trying to tell. This should mean you’ll just have to focus on presenting that story. The best ways I found to prepare my five minute presentation, was just repetition. I would practice my presentation to my computer, in the mirror and also borrowed a friend for five minutes to present to them. This gives you supreme confidence in what you’re presenting, and will prepare you well for your interview.

The Data School’s approach is unique, and not something I’ve come across before. I found it fantastic both as a learning experience and recruitment process, as it gives you some practical experience and feedback as well as a taste of some of the work you’ll be undertaking. I hope that you’ll find it helpful, and wish you the best of luck on your application!


The Data School
Author: The Data School