After working in both the Healthcare and Sports industries, Ben Moss, of our second Data School class (DS2) saw an opportunity to grow his data visualisation skills. Sharing his experience, we sat down with Ben to talk fellow students, Data School coaches, transferable skills, (anti)social media, plus much more. But before we give away too many spoilers, we’ll let Ben take it from here!
You studied at Coventry University, could you explain how you were introduced to data analysis there?
“So I was studying a biomechanics sports science degree, which involved analysing the mechanics of movement. We’d monitor athletes’ movement tendencies; how they moved in the air, that kind of thing. And then we’d turn the data we collected into a map of their movements, and would feed this back to the performer. The process of being able to provide the performers with visual, tangible results was something I found very interesting.”
What appealed to you about joining the Data School?
“I think the chance to really progress your career over the two years was a big thing for me. At that stage in my life [after graduating University] I wanted to do data analysis in sports but I wasn’t sure if it was possible. It was a very saturated market, and so I wanted – almost needed – to develop my skills in other areas, and the Data School was a great place to do that. It was an opportunity to develop skills around data analysis, but also skills like presenting and communicating that come with a consulting role.”
What was your favourite thing about being a part of the DS2?
“For me it was the atmosphere in terms of helping each other learn. There were eight of us altogether, and if one of us had a problem and solved it we would share that solution among all of us. That was definitely a big factor in the learning process. It definitely helped my own personal learning massively.”
As the reverse of that, then – what was one of your biggest challenges?
“Hmm… Ok, so I’m a very independent worker. Naturally, I would formulate ideas in my own head, and I’m driven to work at them independently until the process or task was completed. So, initially, working as a group of eight – and working in pairs in particular, as we did a lot of that – was difficult. So I had to learn to change my personality to work in pairs, where your own ideas only account for 50% of the work. But the process helped develop my team-working skills in that sense. Being able to work in a professional, productive manner with anyone is a crucial part of data analysis – and any job for that matter!”
So, what started as one of your biggest challenges became a highlight by the end?
(laughs) “Yeah, I guess so!”
What was the best piece of advice given to you?
“It was from Simona – she had a really good work/life balance. As I moved to London from Leicester, I had no friends I knew here. So what I would do early on was go to work in the day, go home, and I’d be on my laptop all night and not really speak to anyone. Simona noticed that and, having the same initial experience herself, spoke to me about how she managed her work/life balance. It was really eye-opening for me actually, and combined with going out and doing social stuff with the Data School meant I didn’t feel isolated. That was very important for me.”
What was the blogging process like for you? A lot of previous interviewees have said that it was difficult given they had no previous experience.
“Yep, well I was one of them, and then some! I was very (anti) social media – I didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, my own blog, or anything. I didn’t see it for what it is; I thought it was just for contacting your friends and if I wanted to do that I’d text them or give them a ring. It wasn’t until I got to the Data School that I saw how good a platform it was to raise your profile, and a way of gauging how people react to your work.
In terms of the actual blogging process, though, I actually found it ok. I think it was important to have a strategy – regular, consistent posting is far better than being erratic with it, so I tried to regulate it as much as possible. But, given the intense workload, it was sometimes hard to fit in. So a word of advice would be to think of a series that gives you a clear target; that forces you to create content, in a way. For me, I did an ‘Excel to Alteryx’ series once a week, and treated it like any other piece of work so I knew I had a deadline to work to.”
Going back to social media; the Tableau & Alteryx community is an active one. What was your experience like as a part of that?
“They’re extremely quick to help. There would be times [on the Tableau and Alteryx forums] where you’d be in the middle of answering someone’s question when someone else would already be there ready to help. It’s a great sense of togetherness, and it’s so helpful for the learning and training aspects. We also had an internal platform for the community, where anyone could help you with your problems, which transferred really well to then dealing with any problems we had with clients.”
How did the Data School set you up for success?
“Obviously, the focus on Tableau and Alteryx is great – but client leaders would say to me, “we know you’re going to be good with the tools, but we’re looking for the soft skills, the communication, the presenting, etc.” So for me, it was learning those transferable skills that help beyond just the two-year contract. Tom also encouraged us to go out and present at external events as much as possible – I presented at the Midlands Tableau User Group, which was a great experience.”
Last one from us: for someone undecided about applying, what would you say to them?
“Apply! (laughs) But really; for me, my career wasn’t going in the right direction. The Data School let me widen my horizons with the number of different sectors they work with. If you’re umm-ing and err-ing about what you want to do, this is a great opportunity to widen your skillset. I think that was a key factor in my decision to apply for the role. I was worried about my future, to be honest – I was stuck in a dead-end job, doing admin tasks and not enjoying or applying myself. But my opportunity with the Data School completely turned that around and I’m very grateful for that.”