I am writing this blog on the last day of training at the Data School. It has been an action-packed 4 months, and it feels like only yesterday that we were introducing one another on the first day. This is the first full-time job I’ve ever had, and as such I was a little apprehensive at first, but it’s safe to say I’ve been blown away by how enjoyable it’s been. I have learned so much in such a short space of time, and so on first thought it’s hard to recall all that we’ve done. As such, I want to summarise the key learnings from my time in training at the Data School.
The obvious place to start is with all the technical skills we have learned. Tableau and Alteryx are the bread and butter of the curriculum, starting with the two week crash course from Peter Goldsworthy, and then continuing with specialist sessions by the various coaches at the Data School and MIP. The best part was being able to put our learnings into action, thanks to the client project weeks as well as internal challenges, such as Dashboard week and Friday challenges. Looking back, it is hard to believe that 6 months ago I hadn’t even heard of Tableau and Alteryx, yet now I’m a certified user of both and have a lot of practical experience using both programs. We’ve also gotten a taste for Tableau Prep, PowerBI, SQL and H20 throughout the training period. Learning to use these products is all part of broadening our analytics skillset. All in all, the most exciting thing is that I still have a lot of room to improve my skills, and I look forward to doing so in the coming months.
The beauty of the Data School is that they focus just as much on soft skills as technical skills. After all, as fledgling consultants we need to be prepared for interacting with clients. Here are the key soft skills I learned:
Problem-solving – Coming from a psychological background, I had to adapt the thought process I used to solve problems. Something I found challenging was visualising the steps I needed to take in my mind to get from A to B. I defaulted to trial and error, but this was time-consuming. Slowly but surely I have gotten better at understanding what I need to do. Obviously, the countless challenges we have done have helped immensely, but simple things like taking a few minutes to think about the problem and documenting processes were also important.
Leadership – In the training period, everyone got a chance to be a team lead for a client project. Prior to coming to the Data School, I did not have much experience in being a leader and it was something that didn’t come naturally to me. As a project lead, I got the opportunity to be a mediator between the team and the client, as well as manage each team member’s work. At the end of the week, I was proud of how far I came in such a short space of time, and it was a great eye opener as to what I can still improve on going forward.
Agile methodology – This is the project management framework that is taught to us at the Data School. I was competely unaware of it prior to the training period, yet it is a very important skill to have for working in teams. The main aspects of it are the daily stand-up, in which each team member briefly describes their tasks, and the project retrospective, in which everyone comes up with a few things that went well and could improve for next time. During the client project weeks, I was able to practice these skills and gain an understanding of what should and shouldn’t be done within the structure of each meeting. It also helped me in general when communicating with team members, like making sure there was minimal overlap and clarifying things that needed to be uniform.
Presentation skills – As I’m sure you’re well aware, most people get nervous about presenting. Before coming to the Data School, I would always be very nervous before going up to present. The great thing about our training was that we got the opportunity to present a piece of work every Friday, whether it was in the form of a client project or an internal challenge. The sheer volume of practice has helped me immensely in overcoming those pre-presentation nerves, and I now feel a lot more relaxed before presenting. We also learned a framework for presenting to add clarity and create a story, which I will continue to practice on my placements.
Time-management – Time was a precious resource throughout our training, and so often we didn’t have as much time to work on things as we would have liked. As such, I had to learn how to prioritise the most important aspects of any given challenge. I noticed that I would spend too much time on the one-percenters, and so getting out of that habit was a big thing for me. Over time I have been able to break it by identifying the key components of the required task, and not fixing any of the little things until I have finished all of them.
Special Thanks To…
…all the amazing coaches at the Data School as well as everyone at MIP for their continual support. It has been an amazing experience to work in such a supportive environment; there’s always someone to talk to if you need any help.
And of course the team! Our team has a really diverse skillset, so I’ve learned a lot by seeing how they tackle challenges, and I’ve picked up countless tips and tricks along the way while seeing them present their work. As an added bonus, we all got along really well, and I will look back fondly at the times we played jenga and board games, stayed late to finish projects (feat. pizza), as well as the general chit chat during the working day.
It’s been an awesome 4 months, and I can’t wait to continue my journey on a client placement.