Simona, a recent DS2 graduate, took time out from her busy schedule to talk all things Data: the importance of writing blogs, and why if you’re thinking of applying to the Information Lab’s Data School, you should do your research. After a number of years in her native city of Milan, Simona decided to relocate to the bright lights of London, and here she found the perfect mix of training, friendship and the career path she’d always wanted.
What were you doing before you started at The Data School?
Before The Data School I lived in Milan where I worked in Management Consulting. I wasn’t really working with data like I am now, but I was doing little bits of analysis for clients – working mostly with tools like Excel and PowerPoint.
I was looking for a change in career so my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to move to London, and that’s when I found this opportunity at the Information Lab. I was looking into data analysis positions in particular and luckily I came across The Data School. When I went to university I studied mathematics because I love numbers and wanted to work with them, so the fact The Data School offered training in data analytics was perfect for me!
What made you want to join the course?
Well, I came across The Data School through social media. One of the previous Data Schoolers posted about a position with The Data School on a Facebook group, and my boyfriend saw the post and forwarded it on to me – so I was very lucky in that sense!
Everything was the perfect mix. The field, the training; I played with Tableau in the application process and really liked the tool. They mentioned Alteryx and because I had never heard of it before, I did some research and it seemed really interesting to me, you know, after Excel and everything. Then I realised that the training [at The Data School] was offered by the most expert people in the fields of Tableau and Alteryx.
What was your favourite thing about being part of DS2?
Hmm, well, there were eight people starting at the very same time. From my point of view, this was very nice. I didn’t know that many people, so it was a great opportunity to meet new people – and it was good because we were all pretty much at the same level. It became a pretty tight-knit group, so, you become friends with everyone, which was great. I also enjoyed the interaction with the Info Lab consultants—they were great, always so helpful and always there and available if you needed them.
I liked the atmosphere, the company, the training, the projects. So, all the people, and the stuff we were learning – I guess that covers most of it!
What were some of your biggest challenges?
It can be bit hard keeping a good work-life balance during the training. It’s really intense—sometimes we needed to stay late to work on a project, for example. Also, I always wanted to learn more so it was a balance of keeping control so you’re not in danger of running yourself into the ground.
The level of difficulty was a challenge. Eight hours with the same people every day can be hard to… sometimes!
What was the best bit of advice given to you by your Data School coaches?
If you’re learning something new, try to write a blog about it. It’s a great way to cement what you’ve learned and strengthen your knowledge on something.
Also, to take advantage of the communication tools you have at your disposal. We have an internal platform here we use to share things between all the members, ask questions, etc. If I have a question I can just write it there and someone will get back to me with an answer.
Blogging is a big part of your learning, how rewarding did you find that process?
At first, it was a bit challenging to understand what blogging means and why they were pushing us so hard in this direction. I wasn’t in the world of blogs before this. Then I started reading blogs and realised their value. We did it so much that the act of writing a blog become more or less automatic. It’s easier once you start. Now I’ve started my own blog, which I’ll continue to keep up. That’s something I wouldn’t have done before The Data School.
How has The Data School set you up for success / prepared you for your next placement?
Well, I would say they’ve given us great training – and while it’s impossible to learn and do everything in four months, the preparation was excellent. I feel very prepared.
Our weekly presentations were also a big help. They really helped us—I had very rarely done presentations in Italy. And it seems to be a bigger part of the culture here. So practicing them at The Data School has been really valuable. And I’m sure that will be the case for all of us.
For someone undecided about applying, what would you say to them?
If you like data visualisations, try Tableau public and see what you can do. If you’re tired with using Excel and you’re aware of all the problems with the tool, give Tableau and Alteryx a go. You won’t go back. Do your research and see how easy it is to use Tableau and Alteryx. Also the work environment is amazing here at The Data School and the culture is great. That should be a big consideration for anyone thinking of applying.
So, what’s next for you?
I started my placement six weeks ago. The first month I was with Ravi from DS1, and that was really good—he explained what he was doing, and now I’m working with Nicco [from DS1]. I am really enjoying the placement. Everyone is happy. Everything is going well, so I’m happy, too!