During our 16 weeks of training at Dataschool, we’re assigned 7 different weekly client projects, with the team leader rotating each week. These projects kick off at 9 AM on Monday, and the presentations take place by 3 PM on Friday. The timeline is brief and intense, especially since we also have training sessions sprinkled in throughout. 

In a perfect world, the team leader and coaches would receive the data a week before the project starts. However, the rest of the team would remain unaware of the data until the project launches on Monday. The team leader could then review the data beforehand to understand it and prepare questions, such as clarifications on field names or business-related inquiries. These questions would be discussed in the Monday morning meeting with the client, where the aim is to grasp the client’s requests and provide directions for the team. 

Unfortunately, things seldom go as planned. For instance, the data might not be ready until Wednesday morning (just 2 days before the project deadline). Additionally, there might be no schema available to understand the massive unstructured data lake, or certain clients could be too occupied for correspondence. So, how do we manage the unexpected as project leaders? We control what we can. 


  1. Understand the industry before the project kicks off.

Even without access to the data, you can research how the company operates, identify key success metrics, anticipate potential issues, learn industry jargon, understand the client base, and put yourself in their shoes. 


  1. Having multiple alternative plans is essential. 

One Plan B isn’t sufficient; we need multiple emergency plans. Consider various potential scenarios and know when and how to seek help—offline or online coaches, even senior team members. This way, both you and your team can maintain flexibility and direction. 


  1. Regardless of missing data, encourage your team to showcase their analysis concept. 

Visualize the concept using mock data and present it to the clients, sharing the thought process behind it. Often, this introduces a new perspective that the clients haven’t previously considered. 


  1. Remember not to overexert yourself. 

Understand your and your team’s capabilities. While working overtime might seem appealing, rest is equally crucial. Mental challenges demand clarity, and achieving this is difficult when exhausted. Acknowledge that rest is as vital as work itself. 


As ideal scenarios rarely occur, the best-laid plans might still falter. Leading a fast-paced, unpredictable client projects requires adaptability, preparation, and mindful decision-making. As we continue on our learning journey, let’s embrace these challenges as opportunities for growth. 

The Data School
Author: The Data School