Reflections on Data School

by Marc Reid

The last three months have passed by very quickly, which is probably reflective of the amount and variety of tasks and learning over that time.

Some reflective thoughts on how best to approach the Data School and make the most of your time here:

Practice

It probably goes without saying that Makeover Monday and Workout Wednesday should be part of a weekly schedule.  If you have other data sources that are of particular interest to you (sports or whatever it may be), then bring these into Tableau / Alteryx to practice with too.

As I was starting with both Tableau and Alteryx for the first time 3 months ago, this was key for me, however, I did lean much more towards Tableau initially as this was more the focus in the initial weeks.  Looking back it would have been very beneficial to practice more with Alteryx at the same time instead of leaving it until later.  The weekly Alteryx challenges are the ideal place to start as well as the tutorials within Alteryx itself.

Ask Questions

Andy is clearly a great resource to have in the room, but only if you are extracting knowledge from his head.  So ask lots of questions and bring challenges to him that you are struggling with.

Convo is also a great place to get help and advice.

Also don’t forget to ask questions of your other 7 colleagues in the room.  It seems that, for most cohorts, that Data Schoolers come from a range of backgrounds with a variety of experiences to share, which can be a great help to everyone.

Don’t Panic

There are some quite hectic weeks at the Data School.  At times it can seem a bit overwhelming with the range of tasks, projects, blog posts, learning, research, etc.  But don’t worry, all the time you are learning and this will lead to the right results eventually.

Fail Fast

On occasion during my learning at the Data School I’ve made the mistake of going down the wrong path on a particular project (which is fine) and then sticking to that path with the belief that I could ‘solve’ whatever issues I was having by doing it the way I had originally thought of (not so fine).  As the sage @Neil advised, “fail fast” and then quickly move on to trying another way, and another until something clicks.  Don’t get locked into a limited way of thinking.

Get involved in the community

The Tableau community holds a somewhat legendary status at this point for good reason.  There are so many forums and meet-up groups you can attend such as the London TUG (Tableau User Group), Tiny Tableau Talks, Data+Visual, London Business Analytics Group and various others.  Many people also share great resources and advice on Twitter so it’s well worth following people active in the Tableau world.

Enjoy it!

As I said at the start, the time goes by quickly.  As well as the hard work, be sure to also have fun, meet as many of the great people that work at The Information Lab as possible and make the most of the experience.  (You also might want to start practising a karaoke song.  Just saying.)

Good luck!

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