Reflections on The Data School

by Joe Beaven

So today is our penultimate day at The Data School and we’ve been asked to reflect on our time in training. Overall, I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone by and it will be strange not coming into the office everyday with the rest of DS16 now that we are going our separate ways for placement.

In my first blog, Expectations of The Data School, I was already sure that I was going to learn a lot and that has proved to be the case. Mainly, my understanding of how various features (for example parameters and LoD’s) actually work has increased. This means that I now know how to build things from scratch with an idea of the target in my head, rather than knowing just a few hacks to get certain chart types.

I have really enjoyed getting into the data prep side of the work here and I can’t pick a favourite between Alteryx and Tableau. As well as just data manipulation, Alteryx features like apps, API’s, macros and web scraping have thrown up some really interesting use cases and its been great to demo these to clients. As an example, in last week’s internal project on predictive analytics, I allowed a user to select their location on a map to produce a forecast of if it would rain there today. This involved finding the nearest weather station to the selected point by calling an API to generate the latitude and longitude of that weather station (thanks to Brian Scally!). These kind of challenges have been really enjoyable to take on.

In my ‘Expectations’ blog I spoke about developing broader professional skills. Communicating with our clients on the weekly projects has been a big learning experience in terms of understanding specific requirements and becoming familiar with data recording specific to individual companies. I now feel more comfortable asking the ‘obvious’ (not obvious) questions and spotting potential data issues before they arise as well as outlining what can realistically be achieved to stakeholders. I am also now a lot more comfortable presenting my work thanks to these projects.

What surprised me about the data school?
So I’ve reflected back on my ‘Expectations’ blog but what wasn’t I expecting when I joined…

  • Jamie’s chat (terrible)
  • How open people here are to helping each other out
  • How well we’ve been able to handle the pressure for some of the more intense client projects
  • Managed to get a seat on the train some days

Final thoughts:
Overall, its been an amazing four months both for the learning and getting to know everyone in my cohort and people across the company. A special thanks, of course, to Andy and Carl who have always been patient with teaching and got us ready to go out as consultants – time to see what I’ve learnt!

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