1. The Nervous Excitement of Approaching Real Customers


As the first real customer project, I stepped into the shoes of a project leader, the prospect of interacting with a real customer give me a mix of excitement and nervousness. Sure, we had some dummy projects in training, but this was different. This time was a real customer, a renowned urban engineering firm, and they were entrusting Data School Brisbane with a real project.


2. Meet the Real Customer, Know the Scope


Our client had real-world problems, deadlines, and expectations. Suddenly, the stakes felt higher. We weren’t just playing with data; we were shaping outcomes for a professional team and managing the expectations from first day till the last minute. Our mission for the project is transform QLD car crash data into actionable insights. The plan? Implement database solution instead of local data storage. Use Alteryx to build an automated workflow that produce tables for their reports. Moreover, beyond the mundane. Enter Tableau for creating a story and an analytical dashboard that would help our client. And the twist? It had to be faster than their usual process.


3. The Challenges we Faced


Time Crunch


Our project week collided with the “Learn What The Data School Learns” sessions. That meant each of us would be unavailable for an hour and a half. Not to mention we need to devote decent amount of time and energy before that. Time was our scarcest resource, and we had to wield it wisely. The way we overcome it is to have a tighter schedule each day and take less time for lunch.


Remote Work Situation


Life happens, even during projects. Some team members worked from home without notice. Especially when he is in charge of major task like Tableau dashboard development, coordinating became a juggling act. And then there was another teammate who moved houses which result in two days off work. It means whatever tasks he assigned or going to be assigned by me, he is unable to finish. However, we had to adapt and keep the ship steady. The solution for such challenge is I took more engagement as a project leader to do things, and also work extra hours after back to home.


4. Project Management Strategies


GitHub project



GitHub became our project hub, I used its project management features to assign tasks, track progress. Based on knowing my team member’s preferences and skill sets, I distributed workloads reasonably. In this project, no one drowned, and no one twiddled their thumbs. It was a delicate dance, but we found our rhythm. GitHub also maintain our artifacts of our journey. Complex problems got broken down as small puzzles for us to solve. Commit by commit, issue by issue, we built our story.


Daily Catch-Up


I established a ritual: morning and evening catch-up meetings. Other than this, there was an additional catch-up meeting with customer also, to make sure we are on the right track and fully understood his requirements. These brief huddles allowed us to sync up, share progress, and address roadblocks. It kept us aligned and motivated. Also, it helps to eliminate the negative impact for teammate who work from home.


Snapshot of deliverables







5. Conclusion: Lessons from the Trenches


Being a project leader involves more than just discussing and fretting; it requires vision, conflict management, and effective communication. Throughout the project’s development, I discovered that real-world projects are characterized by chaos, unpredictability, and excitement. This is precisely why I cherished every moment of the experience. Additionally, entire team members regarded it as the best project in DSAU23 cohort. Most importantly, our customer praised our efforts and expressed readiness to officially implement our work 🙂

Pujiang Zhang
Author: Pujiang Zhang

A recent graduate with a Master of Information Technology from the Queensland University of Technology with a literature background in digital media. My academic journey has fueled my passion for making informed decisions through data analysis, and I'm fascinated by the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and its societal impacts. Beyond the world of data, I find joy in activities like jogging and swimming. I also have a strong interstate in philosophy and history, dedicating my spare time to exploring the depths of these subjects.