Week One - Done and dusted

by Tom Pilgrem

Reflections on week one in the Data School

Well , well, well. What a great week! I’m still pinching myself to check I’m not in some sort of crazy dream. Every person you meet and talk to just hammers home further and further how great an opportunity the Data School is. I feel so fortunate to be in this position and to be learning from the best in the industry and working in a fantastic location. So what have we been up to?

Day One

On our first day we get set up with our new kit, top of the range laptops for all, and had some introductory talks from the core team. It was great to get a feel for how the company has grown over time and see how excited Tom, Andy and the others still are about Tableau and the potential for more growth in the company. Another great thing about The Information Lab is the open nature of communication. Nothing is private. There is no internal email. We use a social media platform called Convo which is great for accessing the minds of experts in every field imaginable, no matter where you are. There are no such things as stupid questions here, and a huge network of people are on hand to answer and help you work through any problems. We finished up the day with 45 minutes to create a viz using company data (sales, customers etc.) and present them to Andy and Tom at the end of the day, no pressure! It was a great way to learn about the companies history and learn some more about the customers and places we’ll likely be doing our placements at.

Day Two

Tuesday was all about the Tableau server. I blogged about it on the day so I won’t go into too much detail here. It was a fun intro and we learnt a lot about the capabilities of server. I was still finding my feet in London and exploring the area around the office. What a great place to work! I don’t think I could ever get tired of that view of St Pauls!

Day Three

Wednesday was an eye opening experience. Alteryx day! Andy has been away this week so instead of the usual order of learning Tableau first and then Alteryx, we learnt Alteryx first. None of us had used it before and I think I’m right in saying that we were all pretty amazed by the capabilities of it. I lost count of the number of ‘wows’ and gasps of breath as Chris showed us more and more of what we could do! I wrote in more detail on Wednesday so have a read of that post to see some more of what we were up to.

Day Four

More Alteryx on Thursday. This time with Andre de Vries. It was great to have some more time to learn Alteryx and go through some workshops and exercises. I think I’ll look back on these two days of the school as a career/life changing moment. Or at least I hope so! The kind of work you can do with Alteryx is simply not possible with other software. It is that good. It allows you to do so much more with your data. If you’re serious about your data, then you need Alteryx. The number of questions you can solve is mind-numbingly large. Andre introduced us to what our projects would be for Fridays presentations, and he took me through some of the spatial tools available to work with.

Day Five

Friday is presentation day at the Data School. Our project this week was to use Alteryx to bring in some supplementary data to support our original application to the school. My application was using police data for stolen bicycles in England and Wales. What was noticed in my viz was the seasonality of thefts of bikes, with a peak occurring in October, when students go back to uni. This, accompanied with disproportional high bike theft rate in university towns like Oxford and Cambridge led me to think there may be a link between students and bike thefts. I used this project as a chance to try out Alteryx spatial tools, and drew borders around universities to count the number of thefts at each university. The results were pretty interesting and I will blog in more depth about the process of how I built my workflow early next week. So keep your eyes peeled on here for more Alteryx based fun and games!

At 3 PM we all presented our findings to each other and the internet – it has been recorded and you can watch it yourself if you like. It was great to see how everyone used Alteryx in different ways and how we solved some of the same problems in different ways. This is another reason I like Alteryx, the ability to get from A to B in different ways, much more intuitive than other data cleansing tools.

Once the presentations were over, it was time to get to the pub! A great night meeting up with others from the company, and putting faces to names we have heard over and over again. What a great bunch of people this company is!


It’s been a brilliant week. There’s certainly no tipping your toe in the water at The Information Lab, just a leap into a very deep pond. A warm and inviting pond though. I’m excited to get back in the door on Monday and getting stuck into Tableau with Andy and the others. Keep an eye out on here for more blog posts from me and the rest of the team. If you want to contact me use the usual ways, twitter and Linkedin.