Jon's DS13 Week 5 Recap

by Jonathan Allenby

This week was a bit of a milestone week for a number of reasons including the fact that it was our first client project and also the week where we all signed up to take the Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate exam! I think one of the trickiest things we encountered was how to properly distribute both working time and thinking time between the project and the rest of our studies.

Day 1

Normally, a client project week will begin with the Project Kick-Off, where you meet the client and gather the initial specifications and requirements for the project. However, as our client was Toronto Child & Family Network, and thus based in Toronto, we had our client meeting as the last thing in the day in order to accommodate the time difference.

Instead, we kicked our Monday off with a bit of Makeover Monday (Week 10), finding ways to re-visualise the data used for this interactive map in collaboration with Project Fistula.

Following this, as a group we were all taken through the process of signing up for the Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate exam! This was exciting as it’ll be the first step in gaining the various Tableau qualifications, but also scary as we were expected to take our exams either this week or the week after! We also spent some time going through the Prep guide for the exam which helped alleviate some of these fears.

Finally, we had our actual client project kick off meeting via a conference call between our cohort and the client, headed up this week by project leader Robert Headington. The client project kick-off is our first opportunity to get a idea of what we actually might want or need to produce by the end of the week. Following the call, the nerves definitely set in as the reality that we were producing work for an actual client set in.

Day 2

The heavy majority of Tuesday was dedicated to project time. More specifically, the majority of Tuesday was dedicated to becoming more and more horrified at the number of data preparation issues we were discovering. One of the big issues for this project was that the client had no access to Alteryx. This meant we were restricted to using other solutions, such as Tableau Prep Designer, Python, and (horror) Excel. During the day our success criteria become more solidified and we gradually began to get a better grasp on what might be achievable in this week. We also had our first 1-to-1 meeting with a head coach in order to discuss our time at the Data School and any concerns, ideas, or goals we had.

Day 3

For me, Day 3 began by passing my TDQA exam which was a good way to start. I then joined in with the rest of my cohort who were being bullied by Andy Kriebel and his despicably tricky table calculation exercises. The solutions all made sense once we were shown then however, and we also had the consolation prize of knowing that Andy was going to make DS12 do the same challenge.

Following this it was back to project work. For many of us, this day was MORE data prep. Initially this felt like we were way behind, and surely should all be working on actual visualisations, however DS12 reassured us with the knowledge that many client projects are essentially 90% data prep. We finished this day with the client Catch-Up. A short call with the client in order to discuss any issues with missing or confusing data, talk through the direction we were heading in, and check that there were no changes or additional requirements.

Day 4

Thursday began by getting a more in-depth look at parameters with Head Coach Carl. Despite wanting to get back to project work we learnt about some of the really cool things you can do with parameters, and also discovered some poor photograph choices made by Ravi.

I think by the end of day 4 I was perhaps the only one still having to restructure my data in order to visualize it exactly how I wanted. Hopefully this fact will be reassuring to anyone that is still doing data preparation nearing the end of their project as if you know the data well, know how it’s structured, and know how you want to visualize it then actually making the visualization really doesn’t take that long at all.

Day 5

A day of final touches and presentation practice. I think if we were to make one change today it would have been to have spent more time formally practicing our presentations with each other. However, led by Robert and the fact that we were all by now experts in our own little chunk of the project we were able to confidently talk through everything we produced and answer all the questions. For our first project I think it went amazingly well and that we (including the client) were all incredibly pleased by our work and ourselves by the end of it.