Continuing on with our An interview with series, today we’re speaking to Pablo Saenz de Tejada from the DS1 cohort. Pablo, provided us with some great insights on his time at The Data School – the Tableau Conference in London, the breadth of the Tableau and Alteryx community and a Tableau tip from Andy Kriebel that he still uses every day with the tool!
We noticed your previous experience was regarding market research in Spain; what was it that drew you into moving to London and joining The Data School in particular?
Well, after 9 years in market research I was basically looking for a change. Initially, in terms of data analysis, market research companies were in a very good position because it was one of the main ways to analyse data. In the last 5, 10, 15 years, though, almost every company’s data gathering capabilities have increased dramatically. So I was a bit worried about staying in the market research industry because I thought that the future of data analysis wasn’t there, it was somewhere else.
And then I discovered Tableau around 5 months before I started with the Information Lab, I started playing with it a little bit and thought it was a really interesting, powerful tool. So, I started looking for jobs that involved the tool, and that’s how I came across The Data School. I initially thought it was an online only course, but after talking to Tom and Andy they told me it would be spending 2 years in London and, well, I applied and it was great! (laughs)
And the rest is history, as they say! So you’d had a little bit of experience with Tableau before you started the Data School?
I wouldn’t say that, exactly. Basically I thought the software was really interesting, I tried to understand it a little bit better but compared to the scope of the tool I still considered myself a beginner!
Would you be able to run through what an average week was like at the Data School?
It was quite varied – very few weeks were the same. Some weeks were next to 100% training, and that would be followed with weeks that had a heavy focus on client projects. So it was quite intense! But that’s what made it challenging, interesting and fun in the end, from my point of view. It was challenging trying to juggle all these things. There are always things you want to learn that you don’t have time at the school, so you’re learning them in your own time – it was more 24-hour thinking for me! But that’s what made it fun and that intensity is the most effective way to improve your learning.
What was one of the biggest challenges for you while you were at The Data School?
Good question. I think one of the biggest challenges was that I was the eldest of the DS1 – I’m 32 and the rest of the guys were between 22 and 27 – so I was initially worried that I didn’t want these guys to kick my ass basically! (laughs) So I knew that I would have to push myself more to the limit. I think that was one of the biggest ones; as well as learning and understanding that you can’t learn everything inside the four months. There are things you will have to leave for another moment – you have to prioritise your learning with your capabilities, in a way.
Leading on from that, then, what would you say was the most valuable lesson you took from your time at DS1?
I don’t think I have a concrete answer for that… the most valuable lesson for me was the entire experience – the people you meet, everything you learn, the job you’re doing. To say one in particular is difficult!
Was there a particular highlight for you, maybe?
The Tableau Conference in London was very memorable for me. It was our second week at the data school; Andy took us to the conference meetings. It was a great opportunity – to meet the Information Lab team, meet all these people from Tableau and build connections and network with them all. To get to do that so early I think really helped us settle into our roles.
How would you describe your experience as a part of the Tableau and Alteryx community?
It was great, it was very interesting to see how big and helpful the community is. We’re talking about two pieces of software… at first thought you wouldn’t imagine such an active community. So it’s quite surprising almost; whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or email people are happy to spend their free time trying to help you get something working properly. I’m not aware of any other software or community like that.
Could you name the best bit of advice given to you by your DS coaches?
Of course: it was in our 2nd or 3rd day, Andy Kriebel told us that “if you don’t know how to do something, just right click!” In Tableau, there are a lot of avenues for doing something, right-clicking gives you all the available options to keep doing what you’re doing or learn what you need to learn. It’s something I’ve done pretty much every day since he told us that!
How did The Data School prepare you for your placements?
After four months of training, you’re always going to be a little bit scared thinking whether you’ve done enough. So there was a level of uncertainty, but all the consultants would speak to us and say “Guys, you are much more prepared than you think. You are probably some of the best users in the UK right now”, and that was hard to believe after just four months of training.
But after starting your placement, and you start helping people in Tableau on the very first day you realise it’s true. Four months of training – when you’re being trained by the very best – is more like two years of training condensed into four months. It’s incredible.”
That’s quite an endorsement, then, for the coaches to hold you in good stead after such a short amount of time considering their experience
Yes, and it tells you a lot about the Information Lab as a whole as well. [DS1] were the very first ones, and after just four months of training they were confident that we could work for six months with a client, and do it comfortably. And that’s something that speaks volumes of the Information Lab, I think.
How have things gone since you left The Data School? What was your first consulting job since graduating?
Well, I finished my first placement a few weeks ago; it was six great months, I was there with Paul Chapman who is an important person in the Tableau community and he made the placement really easy and comfortable for the whole six months so that was great. I’ve now started my second placement – this Monday, actually! It is quite interesting, quite varied and it’s going to make for a very exciting six months. It’s also been good to have two placements now that are quite different – you get to keep flexing and testing different skills so it keeps you on your toes.
For someone undecided about applying, what would you say to them?
If you like working with data, if you’re curious and like to understand things – you shouldn’t hesitate to apply. Even better than the things you learn in Tableau and Alteryx and everything, the people from the Information Lab are an amazing group. I don’t think I have ever been as comfortable with any other company, than I have been at the Information Lab.