Coming from a journalism background, adapting to the world of data analysis has come with lots of challenges. The written word is my favourite way to communicate, to tell stories. But in the Data School storytelling happens visually and verbally. And there’s a whole bunch of logic and maths standing between you and the story.
Logic and precision
One of the most difficult things I have found in the data school is the need for precise step by step logic.
In journalism you don’t have to approach a story or a subject in the same way each time. You adapt your methods according to the resources and knowledge you have available and can access at that particular point in time and there’s a lot of flexibility in how you go about telling the story.
But to be able to prepare data in Alteryx for example, you need to know what you want the data to look like at the end and then figure out the step by step process you will need to achieve this. And there are formulas where a comma or a bracket could be the difference between victory and hours of frustration.
Figuring out an level of detail calculation in Tableau is also makes my head hurt. But I have found that there’s a way to help my brain make sense of this.
Write it down
Using what you know to develop your own learning style, I think is key to tackling these challenges.
I’ve found that whenever I’m given a complex calculation or data prep problem, the physical act of writing it down in my own words allows me to make some sense of it. To work through the problem.
Remembering to this in the Data School, can be difficult because there are people around you who will understand what’s going on in a calculation instantaneously. You can start to think if they can get it why can’t I? But the diversity of backgrounds in the Data School is one of it’s best features. Everyone has different strengths.
So I keep my journalistic habit of filing those notepads alive.
Presentations, teaching and demos challenge
Building self confidence has possibly been my biggest challenges to date. Presenting is a big part of the Data School and it can be pretty scary, if you’re a a bit of a perfectionist like me.
I’ve had sleepless nights and shaky hands over this stuff. But it’s also where I’ve had the biggest amount of help and support from TIL staff and other people in the current and former Data School groups. You just have to ask people for help around here, and someone will be happy to offer advice or talk things through with you.
At the end of the day you’re here to learn and its great to get so many opportunities to practice your presentations skills, because practice really is a confidence builder.
From journalist to data analyst is no easy transition and there’s still lots to work on, but having a job that helps you conquer your fears and learn new skills is pretty awesome, right?