My first day at the Data School/Info Lab

by Jonatan Raphael-Amanrich
Photo by Tim Mossholder |Unsplash

Three months have passed since my successful application to the Data School and the day to discover the company, the team and my new colleagues has finally come. To be fully honest, I spent the time leading to this first day with mixed feelings of both eagerness to start my training, as well as a certain relief that I could enjoy part of the summer… as much as the pandemic situation allowed anyway.

The least I can say about my first day is that I was positively impressed. First things first the office is in a superb location, just a stone’s throw away from St Paul’s Cathedral. The premises seem fairly new and spread over two floor. They are composed of sets of desks and computers, a library full of data visualisation books (Even though I’ve been told by Andy that Andy’s book was the only relevant one), a kitchen with a coffee machine and a fridge filled to the brim with beers, and last but not least a ping-pong table.

Besides this quick visit of the premises we spent the morning with Craig, unwrapping our perks consisting of a nice new laptop with all its necessary accessories, a pretty heavy book by Stephen Few, and few other goodies like a reusable coffee cup and a diary. Craig guided us pretty smoothly through the setup of the plethora of software we are going to work with until lunch break.  Meanwhile we established a first contact with part of the core team, Andy and Luke, and we, members of the DS 25 cohort, started to introduce ourselves to one another.

After lunch, where we met few trainees from previous cohort, we came back to the training room to get an overview of the company by none other than the big boss himself, creator of the company and, most importantly, current holder of the tennis table champion’s crown… Tom. With Andy’s help, Tom laid out the organisation, the structure and the culture of the company. As a former student of Political Sciences one surprising word came to my mind: anarchy. Contrary to popular beliefs relating anarchy to chaos and disorganisation, its true meaning is a lack of hierarchy which fits really well with Tom’s description of the structure and organisation of the company.

Indeed, the company encourages full transparency via public communications through the use of a Business messaging tool (Convo) even at the senior level, meaning that every work related message can be seen and replied to by all the employees. Consequently, The use of internal emails is strongly discouraged. Anyone facing a work related issue is also invited to ask the question on convo, thus getting access to a large pool of employees with more or less technical expertise and creating a live archive of solved problems for future reference. In other words, you can get support from everyone at all times which also constitutes an invaluable advantage for the company’s clients as each consultant comes with the full network of the Information Lab.

Needless to say, I was particularly intrigued by a form of organisation that I had never experienced before and eager to see how it translates practically. Tom completed the presentation with the history of the company and the events leading to the birth of the Info Lab and later the Data School. Obviously, this wouldn’t have been whole without a few data. To remedy that, Tom gave us some insight into the evolution of the company’s financial health, number of employees and so forth. Andy then took the relay and provided us with tips and tricks in order to successfully complete our training. If I had to summarise Andy’s message in one sentence: ‘DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK’.

We finally ended the day with Jana and Liam, two former trainees from DS20 now working with clients. They too provided us some tips on how to complete the training smoothly and gave us a glimpse on what to expect during our placements. By and large, the afternoon had been very informative and everyone we met seemed easygoing, positive and willing to help. In sum, a really good first impression and day at the Info Lab. Now ready to get down to business and start the training, to be continued...

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Jonatan Raphael-Amanrich

Tue 31 Aug 2021