For my inaugural Data School blog post I want to reflect on the experience of being a newbie.

Like my fellow DSers I really wanted to be here on day 1. I delved into Tableau around my job, spent a lot of time on my application(s) to the School, and most importantly perhaps I really convinced myself that I could do it. Yet in spite of all that, as I sat around the table listening to Tom and Carl’s opening gambits, I couldn’t help but worry that I might be out of my depth. And not just on some things – all kinds of questions began to pop into my head:

  • Do I have sufficient design flair to create top visualisations in Tableau?
  • Am I (a History graduate) going to be able to master a technical tool like Alteryx?
  • How am I going to manage to write all these blogs and keep them somewhat interesting?
  • What is Tweeter?
  • [insert any number of paranoid thoughts]

Keep calm and look at the evidence

But then I remembered a critical piece of information: generations of Data Schoolers have sat in the same position and not only passed the tests but gone on to establish such a great rep for the School that we’re now multiplying like rabbits. So if everything is better than OK 99% of the time, I should have nothing to fear. As a data evangelist especially, I should be able to coolly consider the facts in front of me and act accordingly.

So reason wins the day… If only. I still oscillate between thinking: “OK, yeah, I got this” and “Oh man, I really don’t belong here”. That’s a fundamental aspect of human nature and we can’t avoid it: we just have to learn to live with it.

So, lessons learned

  • Never panic – being a newbie at anything will always be a daunting prospect. Considering the ‘historical data’ should help calm my nerves.
  • Accept that immediate emotional responses that are contradictory to the data are normal. Even when we try, we can’t behave totally rationally.
  • Recognise that this will be true for everyone, from friends and family to clients. Don’t immediately throw up your arms in despair if someone reacts in this way. Help guide them through the data to ease them past an initial emotional reaction.