Some quick points on why I think daily projects such as Dashboard Week can be massively useful to prepare you for client work.
Dashboard Week Day 4 was a little different than usual as I had a Shadow day, following fellow Dataschoolers Neil Lord @LordNeilLord and Dan Watt @MrDanWatt at one of the Clients. This meant I had to leave my fellow DS8ers behind in this hectic week, sorry guys!
These shadow days, however, are a great way to get to grips with what lies ahead after the first 4 months of Dataschool. Throughout this day I realised why project weeks such as Dashboard week help to prepare you for the real world.
Below a few pointers that explain my thought process and how I came to realise the above. First off, what is Dashboard Week.
1. Dashboard Week Explained
Our one and only Andy Kriebel hosts these so-called Dashboard Weeks and to be honest, it is hard to explain it better than the man himself: /andy-kriebel/dashboard-week/
I would summarise it as follows:
- Early morning topic brief
- Collect data
- Reshape it to explore the data
- Create a meaningful viz
- Blog about your workflow, recap your day and/or tips you picked up on
- Present your work the morning after
- Repeat (except for Friday where you present on the day twice…)
Basically, a project from start to end each day. Even though, we are only 4 (3 for me really..) days into dashboard week, a lot of the challenges we faced throughout these days were common daily features of being a Consulting Analyst for the Dataschool, the Information Lab.
2. Work Briefs
Long or short, daily or weekly, these meetings might seem bothersome, but keep you on track of your work deliverables. You will unlikely always work on one thing at the time and keeping track of projects is key.
Dashboard week briefs are only short (Andy: ‘go look at this blog post outlining the project, what are you guys waiting for?!’) but they do set you up for some pointers to create you daily goal and stepping stones towards these.
3. Define your Day
Following from point 2, give yourself easy reminders such as:
- goal: presenting X
- step 0: define goal
- step 1: collect data to meet the goal
- step 2: enhance data, only when necessary
- step 3: explore data, try and find an answer to your goal
- step 4: create visualisations (typically whilst doing step 3)
- step 5: put together a Dashboard, rephrase your goal into a title and use the vizzes to answer them
- step 6: blog about your work
- step 7: present your goal!
Don’t hesitate to step back at any point in time to look at your plan, it will help you stay on track and might get rid of unnecessary problems you created.
4. Time Management
After a Dashboard Week brief, we tend to dive into the data directly. However, setting yourself a set of goals following the brief will help you manage not to go off-track and getting lost in the data for hours (I think our DS is particularly good at this, myself in particular). On these days, and normal working days, you don’t always have the time to allow for such long periods of time for data exploration. In reality, you might look at it for a bit and move on to something else to later go back and try again.
Plan your day/week/month and only adjust when absolutely necessary.
5. Be Realistic
Knowing your own capabilities, given the time you have to complete a task, is key. If you set your goals to high it might end up biting you in the back. I often tend to talk myself into more and more ideas when I get excited about a piece of work, however, on a Dashboard week day you have to limit yourself. The goal is to stick to a day and present something meaningful in the morning, therefore you might want to prioritise to one particular thing in the data and present a quality piece rather than trying to capture it all.
I came across this during a meeting I sat in on on the day, where all such points were discussed (in a surprisingly fast pace), which allowed people to align their goals and get the most out of the project.
You might think, doh.. these points are trivial! Great if you are already one of these people doing this regularly, however, I’m not one of those people yet and surely there are other people out there just getting started like us or feel like they need to start doing this again.