Jon's DS13 Week 1 Recap

by Jonathan Allenby

I’ve now been at the Data School for a full week and I can honestly say this has been one of the best weeks of my life. Yes, it has been fraught with nerves, stress, impostor syndrome, and anxiety. However it has also been filled with excitement, encouragement, potential, new friends, and the confirmation that the Data School provides a better environment for growth and development than I could have possibly imagined. It also has Dad jokes for days and animated GIFs are considered a valid form of communication, so it really has done its all to make me feel at home.

To give you an idea of what the schedule for the first week of the DS13 has been like then just read on.

Day 1

Introductions! On day 1 you meet your fellow cohort members (cohortians?) and get to know each other a little bit. We also met some of the Data School coaches and leaders such as Andy and Tom, and were given the inside scoop into some of the background of the Data School and the Information Lab.

Also, if you like swag then the DS has got you covered. In the afternoon we each received a backpack with a laptop, mouse, portable charger, reusable coffee cup, notebook, and pens. For as long as we work at the Information Lab these are ours to keep!

We finished the day by doing a timed 60-minute Makeover Monday using the Makeover Monday W6.2019 data. Having attempted this challenge before and failing spectacular I knew how to keep my expectations for what I could achieve in check which was a big help.

Day 2

The work begins. Day 2 was spent getting an introduction to Tableau Prep and Alteryx Design, as well as an overview of the various Tableau and Alteryx products (there’s more than you might think). This all fell under the concept of ETL: Extraxt Transform Load, which are the tenants of data processing. Both Tableau Prep and Alteryx are shockingly easy to pick up and I’d advise anyone needing to manipulate data to do their best to get their hands on either. Oh how I wish I had had one for when I was sorting out my data for my DS applications!

Day 3

A full day of Alteryx with Ben Moss. Today we got to get more hands on with Alteryx and learnt most of the basics includes how formulas work, some key shortcuts, and how to document our work. We also were taught some valuable general rules of thumb for assigning data types in Alteryx:

  • Whole Numbers = INT64
  • Decimal Numbers = DOUBLE
  • Strings = V_STRinG

This day we were also introduced to the Alteryx Weekly Challenges, which I know for certain has peaked my (and some of my cohortian’s {yes, I’m forcing “cohortians” to become a thing}) interest.

Day 4

On day 4 we started with a visit from Claire in HR who took us through many of the details of the support available, who we can talk to, and generally how things work at the Data School. It is safe to say that the Data School the most active and comprehensive support network that I’ve ever seen. After this we finally got around to the headliner that is Tableau. Head Coach Carl took us through many of the basics of Tableau, but at a level that most of us had glazed over. By doing this he helped ensure we have a truly deep understanding of how Tableau works which is important as future leaders of industry (or so we’ve been told). An interesting fact we picked up is on the colour of your pills. First impressions would lead you to believe that green pills are measures and blue pills are dimensions. However, the truth is that green pills are continuous data whilst blue pills are discrete date – it is perfectly possible to have a blue measure!

Day 5

I think I can safely say that this day was the hardest and most stressful for not myself and my fellow cohortians. We were given the following task:

Using your first application:

1) Use Tableau Prep or Alteryx Designed to clean and add an additional data set.

2) Improve your dashboard/story with the new data.

3) Present your work at 1pm.

Upon reaching 11am and realizing how we were all struggling, the coaches took pity on us and gave us until our presentation time of 1pm to work on it. Despite only introducing a new bar chart to my viz I still felt a pang of pride in implementing the new data processing skills I picked up over the week.

It was also amazing just how much support we were offered by all the other cohorts that we were around, reinforcing the Data School’s selling point of “support”.

We finished the day by watching DS12 present a series of dashboards they’d spent the week making to a few members of a client company. This was scary for a number of reasons: their dashboards looked great, they were presenting to actual clients, and they all seemed so confident. However, at the end of the day we need to remember that they started at the Data School in the exact same position as my cohort have, and in two months’ time I imagine we’ll be scaring the fresh meat of DS14.

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