As of last week, I have completed my first client placement as a part of The Data School program. I thought I would write a blog to reflect on my experience as well as provide 5 tips to future Data Schoolers ahead of their first placement.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first placement. I was fortunate enough to work for a great company on an exciting, interesting, and challenging project. The work environment is quite different on placement compared to the 16-week training program that starts off your Data School journey. Instead of the quickfire weekly tasks/client projects with a new topic and new set of data each week, you now find yourself with a lot more time to delve into and develop your given project.

Which leads me into my first tip…


Spend time getting to know the company

Before even beginning to touch the data, the first move all Data Schoolers should focus on is getting to know the company. Learn about how the company works, what they do, and what their key KPI’s are. Then focus on your area within the business, as getting to understand how your area operates will help you immensely when looking at the data and developing dashboards.

Following on from this…


Spend time understanding the data

This wasn’t a luxury we had during the 16-week training program. Specifically for the client project weeks where you get introduced to the data on Monday and then present your findings on Friday. During those weeks, you likely have a maximum of 2 days to understand the data before creating your deliverables.

In these placements, spending a week or two understanding the data that you will be working with is very beneficial. Learn what the numbers mean, what the acronyms stand for, which dataset to use for each specific problem/report, and importantly, who the owner of these datasets is.

Which leads to tip number 3…


Engage with your stakeholders

This is where your week as project lead sets you up well. Keeping your stakeholders involved in the project and aware of your timeline and schedule including all updates is important in creating a successful final product.

Schedule regular meetings and check-ins with your stakeholders to keep them updated, and to ask questions most importantly. They’re the ones that know the area and the data best, so setting aside time with them is key, as you don’t want to get to a showcase and have your stakeholders point out that your numbers are incorrect. Always check your numbers and data with your stakeholders regularly throughout your sprints.


Complete documentation as you go

Documentation can be a tedious task, but consistently doing your documentation as you go lessens the burden. Setting aside time to complete documentation in your project schedule helps with this.

Why is this tip important? Because pairing your completed models with the proper documentation helps your stakeholders understand the foundation of the models and to use the models, which will result in quicker feedback and help you improve your model further.



Stay connected to your team and bosses post placement

I think this is a key aspect for all Data Schoolers. Build your professional connections. We have a great opportunity here in The Data School program to build a wide ranged network, to set us up for ample opportunities for the rest of our data careers (and beyond). Connect with your team, stakeholders, and bosses through Linked In to build your professional network.


There you have it! I hope these tips can serve you well on your first placement, and good luck!

Zack Hawkins
Author: Zack Hawkins