Day one and done!

by Joe Macari

With the first day of Data School 7 completed I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on what got me and the others here… the application process.

It is important to note that you don’t really need to be a skilled Tableau user – but some experience would certainly help. I had been using Tableau for about a year at this point so had picked up a bit of knowledge already.

Firstly, if you are thinking of applying I would draw your attention initially to Makeover Monday. A well known project within the Tableau community that essentially does the hard graft for you (like a helicopter dropping you at the top of a mountain and you have to walk down). Scraping data together takes a lot of effort and is a barrier Eva Murray and Andy Kriebel (who run the project) help many overcome. Get yourself on twitter, if not already, and post up what you create for feedback from the community, look at what others create, pinch some stuff here and there and add your own razzle-dazzle to it!

So you have done a few MMs and you can put together a couple of charts, then stick in an application form, what are you waiting for?! Then its onto stage one of the application process…

Design your own viz on any data you want, use a MM data set or sit for hours (like I did) searching the internet for something that you are really interested in. Any viz you do is going to be judged around 4 things: Insights into the data, good storytelling, is the viz engaging and demonstrate best practices (best book for best practices here) so try and have this in mind when you are building dashboards.

I am a huge NFL fan so I wanted to do something around that but I also wanted it to be something that no-one else had looked at so I went for the NFL Draft (where teams select graduating college players) and you can find my viz here.

The best thing about this viz is that it is about my second or third iteration. Initially, I had a colleague at work look over it, then I sent it to Andy Kriebel, who is Head Coach at the DS and part of the interview team that decided whether or not I got accepted. The beauty of the Tableau community is that everyone wants you to succeed (GO COMMUNITY!!!).

Stage 1 done.

Stage 2 was a phone call with Andy (it was meant to be a Skype call but you can’t call from Skype to Skype for Business.. who knew?). We chatted through the viz and american football in general (he is a Philadelphia Pigeon’s fan but no one is perfect), there was an air of interview but really felt like speaking to a guy that had a passion for data, which if you want into the DS you really have to share.

Stage 2 done.

For stage 3 we were sent one of two datasets, for me this was looking at bicycle thefts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (I am convinced that this was for the whole of the UK but us Scots just ‘borrow’ other peoples bikes). I decided to design a story (a series of dashboards in Tableau) to investigate where these thefts were happening and what the outcome was, did the bad guy go to jail? I also thought it would be really useful if I could design something that police forces could use to see where the thefts were happening in their area or even compare to other forces. You can find my submission here.

I think the week before I started building this I watched one of Andy and Eva’s webinars looking at predictive analytics within Tableau so added some of those techniques, the forecasting on the front page and the cluster analysis (which is amazing by the way!).

Similar to stage 1, I sent this to Andy for feedback and I made the final few tweaks for what was coming next – the presentation and interview.

Picture this, a sunny afternoon in Central London, a lone Scotsman sits in a Cafe Nero sipping on a small latte, whispering to himself and pressing buttons on his watch whilst looking at notes in a notebook of square paper and clicking through some dashboards. And that whispering came with a lot of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. I don’t think I have ever been more nervous for any presentation.

I made my way to the building where the interview was being held and I was taken into the DS room where the DS6 lot were doing some lessons. Interviews were running a little late so I was sat in there for about an hour. Interview or not this was a great opportunity to learn some Tableau stuff (at one point they were going over some SQL which I used heavily in my previous employment) so I thought it would be a good idea to get involved. It was probably the best thing I done that day. First of all, it got my voice working. I didn’t want to go into my presentation stuttering or with a lump in my throat. Secondly, you also get a feel for the DS and you can get a sense of whether it would be an environment you would be comfortable in.

When it was my turn to present I was taken to a meeting room with 3 of the management from The Information Lab. It might be worth pointing out that I was one of the last to present and Tom Brown (Managing Director) said: ‘We have seen a lot of presentations today so you will need to entertain us’. Needless to say this did not settle any last minute nerves but as soon as I started my presentation I settled and it was fine to my surprise.

Finally, I sat with another 3 of the management team and we chatted about some of my prior experience and what it would be like in the DS.

And that was it, I got a phone call that evening letting me know I had been accepted and the very next day I handed in my notice.

I am a Mathematician by trade so English skills and writing don’t come easily to me (Suzie Dent will be freaking out if she made it this far no doubt) but I hope this have given you some insight into the process of gaining a place at the DS. Be sure that I will be keeping you up to date.

If you would like to get in touch please do not hesitate, you can reach me through my twitter account.

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