Reflecting on my time in DataSchool Training

by Matthew Armstrong

It’s our second to last day in training and we’ve been tasked with writing a blog reflecting on our 4 months in training. Rather poetically, on our second day we were asked to blog about our expectations coming into training, so it seems only right to how close I was with those initial expectations…

Expectation 1: Difficulty – “I’d be disappointed if the Data School process didn’t contain a fair few difficult challenges. We’re here to learn, and to become Tableau and Alteryx professionals. It’s not going to be easy…”.
Safe to say, I’ve not been disappointed. The variety and frequency of challenges throughout the 4 months has been nothing short of relentless. When one task is complete, 2 completely different ones spring up in its place, requiring you to engage completely different areas of your brain. With a lot of training/learning in the past, the monotony of the experience has caused me to burn out quickly, but not here, and for that, I’m really grateful!

Expectation 2: Failure (and hopefully some success) – “I’m more than expecting to have my fair share of failures during this process, how else will we learn…”
Given the pace and expectations of the work here, this was always bound to be the case (thankfully, with more success than I had originally thought). In response to this expectation in my original blog, Coach Andy gave me the following advice: “Remember to embrace the failures; those are the best learning opportunities”. I’ve tried to keep this in mind throughout training, asking and, more importantly, listening to feedback at every available opportunity. I can’t say I haven’t repeated some of the same mistakes from time to time, but overall, I’m happy with what I’ve learned from my less successful moments.

Expectation 3: Fun – “from all that I know about the Information Lab, and the wider Tableau & Alteryx communities, I expect it will be difficult not to enjoy the experience!”
Again, pretty much spot on. There are so many factors I could list that made the last 4 months as enjoyable as they were, but surprisingly, the one that stands out to me is Alteryx itself. I went into my DS experience without having ever opened Alteryx, and I instantly fell in love with it. A lot of people I talk to in the community mention the enjoyment they get from using Tableau and creating amazing Visualizations, but for me there’s no beating the satisfaction of finishing a difficult Alteryx weekly challenge. I dare say, Alteryx will be a must have for me in my future career.

Expectation 4: Opportunities galore –“both during training, and on placement, I’m expecting (and looking forward to) a near-constant stream of opportunities to develop both technically and professionally.”
Ok, so this one’s a bit complicated. Almost every day we’ve been presented with an opportunity, either internal or external to TIL, that I’ve really wanted to get involved in, and I plan on doing as much as I can post DS training. The operative word in that last sentence being “plan”. The sheer pace of the training has meant that I haven’t been able to make the most of the opportunities presented to me, for fear of it impacting my professional development. I’ve managed to dip my toe into a few, but one of the reliefs of leaving training is that I’ll finally be able to make the most of these opportunities during the next 2 years on placement, and hopefully further beyond!

Expectation 5: A HUGE network – “given the Information Lab’s presence in the data community (#datafam), I expect to meet plenty of new people, and learn a lot from their experiences in data.”
Similar to Expectation 4, this one surprised me slightly. It’s been really rewarding to have external speakers come in, various clients in the office for our projects, and talk with community members, I think the most important and rewarding network I’ve developed is the one inside TIL itself. The emphasis TIL puts on diversity when recruiting for the DS ensures a huge range of backgrounds and experiences, making the learning experience much richer. I’ve been amazed by the array of approaches and perspectives I’ve encountered both inside and outside of work.
But bizarrely, TIL can often seem like its own Bubble, the reason being that everyone is here for the same reason, a shared love of all things data. The Bubble can sometimes be daunting. With so many ultra-competent data Wizards buzzing around the office, it’s all too common for people to feel like an imposter, unable to live up to the ridiculously high standard.
My advice for dealing with this: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today”. It may seem obvious, but I see it being ignored all too often.
Personally, I’ve found the Bubble to be nothing short of inspirational. There’s been many a time when, close to burnout, I’ve found motivation from the accomplishments of others in the company. The attitude is infectious!

So I wasn’t too far off with my initial assessment… And, thankfully, there were a few more pleasant surprises than I had first anticipated.