What did I learn in the last 16 weeks at the Data School?

by Laura Scavino

Day Zero

I still remember that day when I got THAT phone call from Andy Kriebel, the Head Coach of the Data School: ‘Laura you got the job’, best phone call I have ever received. However, I have never felt so excited and overwhelmed at the same time; excited about the opportunity to do something I really loved but overwhelmed about the challenges I could encounter in the data science world. I felt completely new to the industry, the field, the work, the culture, everything basically. My main concern was mostly related to the fact that I don’t come from a scientific background, in fact I have a background in International Business Management with experience in Translation and Interpreting.

Day One

Initial thoughts of the Data School were very enthusiastic but still full of worries, as I wrote in the blog post First day at the Data School. Soon I realised that the cohort was very helpful and understanding so I never felt left behind during the training. The Data School is not only for people who knows coding and data science but it is truly for everyone: there is room for development for those who are willing to learn and roll up their sleeves. The most important thing to take into account is your mindset because the sentence: I don’t understand anything, won’t bring you anywhere unless you say it out loud. My advice is to ask questions all the times and always challenge yourself to go over the learning material through case studies, teaching week, dashboard week and other challenges in the community. The biggest shift into the overwhelmed mindset arrived when I realised that learning Tableau or Alteryx was exactly like learning a new language. During my studies I have been learning different languages and I started seeing learning Tableau and Alteryx as one of them. This mindset helped me seeing the scientific learning from a completely different perspective.

Work hard – play hard days

The Data School is one of those work places where every day is a learning opportunity. Do not think of the training as an easy walk-in job but like the more you put in during the training the more you can get out from it. A typical day at the Data School is split up by training sessions about Alteryx and Tableau as well as one week client projects, challenges, exams, blog writings, presentations, teaching, shadowing but also amazing conferences, events, socials and business trips. The training at the Data School is a bit like going back to University with the difference of putting straight away the theory into practice with real business problems from a variety of different clients every week. There is no doubt that the training is intense but I can assure you it is fun as well. After the all week of training and challenges, on Friday at 3 PM is presentation time. The cohort’s weekly presentations embraces all the efforts of the week: apply the learned material while delivering the client’s project. The weekly projects are a great way to track progress, build teamwork and master presentation skills. It is a very rewarding experience because at the end of the presentation you will receive the client’s feedback which most of the time is excited to use the dashboards created by the team members. The life at the Data School is also bringing together people, who at the end of the four-month training become friends.

Expectations against reality

From the 12 February to the 31 May I have been through the Data School training and the reality has far exceeded my expectations. I expected to be tough and it was tougher, I thought it would have been fun and it was even funnier. I learnt more than expected and now I feel way more confident in saying: I am a Data Scientist, do you need any help with Tableau or Alteryx? I became every day very enthusiast about the job and I started helping friends and acquaintances to get them closer to the Tableau Public community and Makeover Monday as well as company’s events such as User Groups and Woman in DataViz organised by Tableau at the Information Lab. I find inevitable to make people as excited as I am about Tableau. The truth relies on the fact that having fun while working makes you more productive.

Things I have learnt

During the training I have learnt a variety of new techniques and materials: from predictive models and spatial analytics to regular expressions and level of details calculations. I also learnt some soft skills such as how to manage a client project, how to deal with deliverable and multiple deadlines. I have also had the opportunity to gain the Qualified Associate Tableau qualification during the training and the Alteryx exam is lined up as well. I have also improved how to present confidently and provide a business insights through a dashboard while telling a story from data. As part of the training, I have also practised how to do Demos and teaching to the rest of the team. I have learnt the importance of time management and prioritising tasks during a one week or one day project. I have learnt how to work in a team, in which everybody contributes in a different way, providing ideas and feedback but also support and motivation at the same time.

Keep track of your learning

During the training so many different topics are being covered, I recommend using folders to save workflows and sticky notes to organise your notepads. I am very proud to have finished 3 notepads in just 16 weeks! The most important part of the learning is also going back to your notes, write a blog about it and try to use the new techniques as many times as possible until you learnt it and feel confident enough to use it. The other thing I learnt is to apply what I have just learnt from Workoutwednesdays during client projects, it really helps practising the techniques one more time.

What’s next

The four months training is just the beginning of the Data School experience at the Information Lab. Being a Data Analyst means also helping clients at their office sites as a consultant. This means that every member of the cohort will serve as an enabler to business to improve their Tableau and Alteryx skills through training while also making sense of their data through support and creation of dashboards for the client. The first long-term client project for me will be at JLL working for the Business Intelligence team in London and I am really looking forward to it.

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Great experience so far, highly recommend the Data School for any data enthusiastic in London, Apply here!


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