Sometimes stressful, sometimes painful, sometimes a late Thursday night chicken supreme pizza, but it was always fun. The training was definitely not what I had expected – but it was in a good way. The environment of like-minded and friendly individuals constantly challenged me to learn and improve. With each challenge and topic, I felt like I was being guided closer and closer to a real data analytics consultant.
What was in the Training?
1 Program. 2 Certifications.4 Months of extensive training.6 Types of software learnt. 8 Clients projects completed. Countless soft and hard skills learnt.
The program mainly followed a week by week basis. Each week usually had it’s own theme. It was often structured in a way such that either previous weeks built on top of each other. A slight mix-up was also possible if it was relevant for that weeks client project. The classes were a mixture of listening, following and doing. Listening imprints the knowledge to you. Following the coaches examples and explanation consolidates the knowledge. Doing the challenges and exercises allows you to master the skills and make it your own.
The three step process combined with the in-depth experience of the coaches helped me quickly learn many advanced techniques and software.
6 Types of Software
- Tableau – Visualisation, Data exploration
- Alteryx – Spatial, Data Prep, Predictive Modelling
- Prep – Data prep, Data exploration
- PowerBI – Visualisation, Data exploration
- SQL – Extract data from database, Write data back into
- Wherescape – Data modelling
8 Clients Projects
The projects we received simulated real situations in the workplace. The real industry experience was extremely valuable across the training period, as we were able utilise what we learnt. The ability to visualise the theoretical knowledge into an industry problem is an unique advantage. During uni, I only had this type of real industry experience once as part of the course.
Presentations Each Friday
These were often also always time-restricted and involved presenting to other people from the Data School or MIP. Presenting to a lot of people pushed me outside my comfort zone. This repetition helped instill more confidence and a better presentation style in me.
Learn what the Data School Learns
Data schoolers could be assigned to training Tableau developers in other companies. In light of this, there was a virtual training session presented by us about either Tableau or Alteryx. Developing and explaining a short training session for people who might have had no experience with the software was challenging. But it helped put into perspective what it’s like potentially training others. It also reinforced how we present towards end-users that lack technical knowledge.
In an ideal environment, a fair amount of consultants would be able to build impressive dashboards. However. a workplace can be quite chaotic. Sometimes as a consultant you will have to face adverse situations and heavy time constraints. The dashboard week simulated these situations. I won’t go into details due to already writing them in my previous blogs suggests. But from those blog, you could see it involved a lot of work and restrictions for a day or less.
What Did I Learn?
Apart from the numerous technical skills I acquired, there were numerous soft and workplace related skills embedded within the training. These were equally – if not more – as important as the hard skills. The value of the Data School truly shines through this. It is rare for any place to be able to train with a combination of hard and soft skills.
“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data”
Most companies, small or large will have data. However, making sense of that data is difficult. One of the important steps to changing data to useable information and insights is storytelling. Throughout the training period, the coaches have always put emphasis on the story. A great technical visualisation, without an actual use case for the corporate in mind is almost useless. If it can’t make them money there’s no inherent value for them.
Nowadays, I would just create several simple visualisations that can drilldown and interact with each other. As long as you have how it would be used for business cases and the end-users you can create a great story.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
Leonardo da Vinci
Building on from the last point. Previously, I thought that any spatial analysis should include a map. However, this is simply not the case. There have been plenty of situations where a bar is just actually better. A map doesn’t give an inherent sorting order and clarity a bar chart would have.
“It’s so hard to communicate because there are so many moving parts. There’s presentation and there’s interpretation
and they’re so dependent on each other it makes things very difficult.”
Presentations can be natural to some, while challenging to others. At the Data School we were always told to break it into parts. This is an example for when presenting a dashboard. Start with the context of the task and also potentially a personal touch. Then an introduction on what you are going to tell them. Afterwards, go through the core functionalities of the dashboard. Finally, walking them through how someone might use the dashboard and some interesting stories and insights you found.
I think deciding on the structure of your presentation is important. It provides a sense of clarity not only for the audience but also for you.
“The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority.”
The main approaches towards project management we learnt was Agile and Waterfall. We learnt about the considerations we should going into it. The project requirements gathering, how to effectively organise a scrum wall, distribution of tasks and the need to clarify ambiguities with clients quickly. I won’t go into too much depth into being the project leader cause I already have a blog on this.
Was it a Good Time?
Yes, the atmosphere throughout training was great. We are known as the ‘loudest’ cohort, always heard from one end of the office to the other. We were always either laughing, whining and talking about going on the bench. It definitely drove the efficiency down at times, but the energy was always at a high level.
The company culture has been great. The complimentary free wine every Friday (or everyday if you were Pat) definitely was enjoyable. Despite the COVID restrictions, the other cohorts still came in at times to check-up on us and help us when we needed.
Overall, I’m excited for the next chapter after training and hope have more fun with the friends I made along the way.