Data School Cohort 8 Reflective Blog

by Robbin Vernooij

Reflecting back at 4 months of Data School – learning curve, blogs, personal development.

Our time at the Data School has come to an end, so it’s time to sit down and look back at the experience as a whole.


1. Learning Curve

For me the first few weeks had an incredibly steep learning curve for both Tableau and Alteryx software packages. Having a variety of core information lab consultants come in on top of the daily supervision and teachings of Andy Kriebel allow you to get to grips with both pieces of software in no-time.

Prior to starting the data school, non of our cohort had more than a few months of experience with Tableau. And as for all software, if you are not using it on a regular basis, it may seem like you need to force the software to do what you want to do. Having the opportunity to learn from the best, allows you to progress extremely fast. This was reflected in our end of the first week project, where we were able to shape and enhance our data beautifully for Tableau to visualise within minutes.

Going from never having used Alteryx before, to running batch macro’s on 100’s of files in one week blew my mind…

On top of the continues learning to become a expert in both pieces of software, comes the development of soft skills to become a data analyst. Being capable of quickly turning around data to insights without much prior knowledge is one of the key skills you acquire within no-time. Even though this is hard to teach as a ‘course’, the weekly client projects force you to ask the right questions and turn around results quickly.

Whilst the initial steep learning curve slowed down after ~2 months, the actual application of your knowledge and further development of your data analyst skills started to pick up rapidly. Being able to put all this initial knowledge into practice is very enjoyable for both myself and project clients who are excited about your work.

On top of the planned teaching curriculum, there is plenty of time to ask for particular topics to be taught. Whether its more in-depth table calculation usage (I now love table calcs as much as level of detail calculations), how to improve your presentation skills or finding out more about other types of software such as R.

Last but not least are the ability to teach what you have been taught. Whilst you might not think of this being a Data analysts job, it is incredibly important to be able to teach and explain what you do in as many different ways as possible. Why? Because you’ll be working with clients and explaining your work in a simple or in as much detail as possible is key for building up trust and enhance collaboration. On top of that, it’s likely that you need to give teaching sessions to further enhance the skills of the client, because what’s the point of creating a brilliant piece of work when no one will ever improve and update it once you leave?

Getting the opportunity to develop your teaching skills throughout the 4 months (teaching week, shadowing Alteryx training sessions at a client, etc) helped massively in preparation for the real world. I can’t wait!

Overall, these 4 months exceeded my expectations and I’m surprised how much we have achieved in such a short time personally and as a group.


2. Personal Development

Looking back at what I created before/at the start of the training and some of the recent work, I noticed such a change in best practices and particularly, speed! The time it takes to create workflows or dashboards has reduced significantly, where best practices are automatically applied as we have continuously received feedback throughout the 4 months. Thus it’s now engraved in our brains (let’s hope my folders don’t corrupt over time..).

Looking at my own Tableau Public Profile, created back in November 2017, It is exciting to see where I started and where I’m now. For instance, going from my initial attempt of a DS application (luckily improved prior to submission due to awesome feedback from Amanda Patist!), to its makeover after week 1 of DS, to a one hour project.




Likewise for Alteryx, although harder to visually explain, we went from multiple data file manipulation to API data extraction all the way to my final work on HTML table parsing in both Alteryx and R


3. Blogs

Writing blogs is a essential part of the training, although not obligatory, I noticed it worked particularly well for myself to enhance the understanding of certain subjects. Furthermore, it allows others to hopefully learn from this on top of being a nice portfolio of your DS adventures.

A list of my blogs written during DS can be found below. Interesting to see the variety of tips and tricks I picked up on.

  1. DS8 Day 1 –  tackling timestamp data in Tableau
  2.  5 Tips & Tricks – Tableau Server and an Avocado Tree

  3. 5 Miscellaneous Tips & Tricks for Images, Upload Error, References, Blogging and Free Databases

  4. Alteryx – 3 Tips that got me started

  5. Custom Colour Palettes in Tableau

  6. Running the First Project Week

  7. Easy access to folder paths in the command prompt (CMD) for Windows and Windows Server

  8. Tableau Calculations – why am I struggling so much?!

  9. First Look at Project Maestro – (The Tableau Prep Beta version)

  10. One RegEx tool to extract all Months and their abbreviations in Alteryx

  11. Quick and easy copy pasting parts of your data in Alteryx

  12. Dynamic Reference bands and colouring based on standard deviation in Tableau

  13. Custom Pin Drop Location Symbols in Tableau fixed on Long-Lat

  14. User Filters in Tableau Server – Part 2 (checkout Laura’s blog for Part 1)

  15. Editing Multiple Aliases in Tableau by Blending

  16. Tableau: a quick way to Sort by a Measure with multiple Dimensions in your View

  17. Principal Component Analysis, an Alteryx Example and a Penguin

  18. Tableau Modulo operator and its use in dividing your sheet into multiple grids

  19. How to Create a Blended Dual Axis in Tableau

  20. Dashboard Week Day 1: order your Pages with Discrete Fields in Tableau

  21. Dashboard Week Day 2: the challenge, predictive workflow and result

  22. Dashboard Week Day 3: API image extraction with Alteryx and assign multiple images as custom shapes in Tableau

  23. Dashboard Week Day 4: Dashboard Week in Practice

  24. Dashboard Week Day 5: where it all comes together

  25. Multiple Diverging Colour Legends for Measure Values in Tableau

  26. Time stamping your data in Tableau and Tableau Prep

  27. How to NOT break your Table Calc Labels in Tableau

  28. Web Scraping HTML Tables, an Alteryx workflow and R script example


That’s it for now. Feel free to contact me about any of the content on Linkedin or Twitter @RobbinVernooij

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