The Data School experience has been an amazing way to start my working career. After studying maths for 4 years in order to gain a degree and masters I thought that my working life would be somewhat of a boring ordeal, solving problems that would only affect a very niche community and not being able to reach out to the wider world. The Data School has shown me that I was very wrong to think this way.
I feel that my experience with mathematics has helped me a huge amount with how to approach problem solving with data and the logical steps needed in order to ensure that what you are producing with the data is correct. The skills of how to use Tableau and Alteryx to tackle these problems taught by amazingly talented people with a wealth of experience from many different industry sectors, and hands on experience of using these tools developed by many different client and internal projects giving an insight into many different areas for where data is used. But amazingly being taught by some of the best in the business to a point of being able to claim being close to some of the most competent in the business wasn’t the more rewarding part of my Data School training experience….
What the Data School also provided was a unique experience to speak to all kinds of different people and push myself in how comfortable I am around people. I came out of university being a completely different person than I was as I started, a series of different events took me down a difficult journey with my mental health which ended up really affecting my social life and how I was able to be around people. I had been on quite the journey to get myself out of this hole in order to be a lot more functioning but a huge amount of issues still remained. The Data School was a huge aid in being able to take on some of the issues I was unable to do on my own. After a motivational talk from Tom, the founder of The Information Lab, I made a post on TIL’s internal communication platform asking what advice people, that all seemed so natural at speaking in front of many people, would have for someone, like myself, that did not find it easy or natural to do so but wanted to get better at it. The responses were amazing. To my surprise none of these people were truly comfortable doing this, but had done it enough that they didn’t let the nerves get to them. There was new advice, like have a conversation with someone random every day, to tested advice, such as the confidence will come with time, and many, many other pieces of advice in between. I became comfortable with being open about issues with my mental health during university, usually the response would be understanding but just let me get on in my ways, however the response from TIL was understanding but of tremendous support too.
Every Friday all Data Schoolers have to present a project, either an internal project from the week’s teaching or a client project worked on over the week. The regular presentations hit upon the advice given about confidence increasing each time, getting used to the pressure and planning involved with talking a piece of work through to many people watching. But there were many other opportunities that came about from being a part of TIL, and after my post that were encouraged for me to take, that really benefited this confidence too.
Firstly, members of the Core team are already assigned as ‘Mentors’, and speaking to my mentor was a huge help in feeling very welcomed in to the company and confident in knowing that there would always be someone to talk to if needed. Another opportunity was going to different events within the Tableau and Alteryx communities and speaking to people that I would have thought very scary to talk to, but when surrounded by people you know, including coaches that believe in you, doesn’t seem scary at all. This started to give confidence with general conversation. Teaching has also been something I have wanted to experience, and teaching was something I certainly got to experience through The Data School. Our first teaching experience was to a group of the public that wanted to learn either Tableau or Alteryx; I enjoyed the public teaching enough that I wanted to have another go at it. This time Andy put me up to teach DS12, the cohort of my peers only 2 month behind in terms of the training, which was very daunting but really rewarding to have been given that opportunity, which I hope I will get to do again. The Meet & Greets run for people interested in The Data School were also a brilliant experience, it was amazing to have the answers to so many questions that people had so they could get a better understanding of how The Data School is run and whether it is for them. I remember going to one myself and how useful it was to speak to Data Schoolers and ask them questions, so I felt really proud to be one of the people answering questions a few months later. The Meet & Greet also was a chance to try demoing; at the Meet & Greet in my last week of training I was able to run the Alteryx demo which was really daunting to start but by the end was something that I was really enjoying. I was then given the amazing opportunity to the walk through this demo the next day in front of senior members of a huge consulting firm, which was mind blowing to be given such an opportunity and very rewarding. After finishing the demo to the consulting firm I then reflected on how far I had come, I couldn’t believe that I had managed to give a demonstration in front of 20 people that manage 1000’s of employees and actually enjoyed it; the journey of confidence with public speaking and speaking in general has been one I have wanted to take for a while and I feel insanely lucky to have had TIL as a support through a very important part of this journey.
It was the afternoon after the demonstration that I started to write this reflective blog, which is perhaps why I have focused on this side of the training rather than a lot of the other skills gained along the way too. The training has been amazing, I feel that the Tableau and Alteryx skills learnt will help my career no end, but the people confidence gained through the training will help my life no end. I feel very very lucky to have joined TIL as my first job, I truly believe that The Data School is an unbelievable opportunity in itself which provides more and more opportunities through being a part of it. I am now really looking forward to going off to placement in order to test these newly learnt skills out, and to learn skills that only come from having the experience of working with different kinds of companies on different kinds of projects.
The Data School training has been an amazing experience, thank you to all those that make it possible and pass on their knowledge to those that are willing learn. I really hope this amazing experience continues as it has begun, and that I can represent what TIL is all about when it comes to my placements.