The purpose of this post is to highlight aspects of my experience at the Data School before going into Dashboard Week to be as mentally prepared as possible.

I’ve written this to frame my expectations for the week and also to reflect on my time at the Data School so far.

For those of you that don’t know what Dashboard Week is, it is a week in our training where we are given a project to complete every day.

This is especially challenging as it entails..

  • Receiving a brief with a unknown project or data set
  • Completing the project / visualization
  • Presenting your work before the end of day

..every day for the entire week.

we also had a tight time frame for client projects but had the allotted time spread out over a few days which I think made the projects easier to digest. We we’re also able to work together as team of eight to refine and apply our learnings and were in contact with the client to tailor the deliverable for the end of the week.

I’m expecting this week to be a test of time management, communication and improving; the three topics I’ll be discussing in this blog.

Time management

After speaking to my mentor about the week, he assured me that the week was simply great for learning and development and that I should place emphasis on time management.

During the projects so far I was polishing up the project closer to the deadline as I would have liked.

A few of the adverse domino-effects of this are as follows;

  •  If I was focusing on completing the core deliverable I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time formatting and documenting – processes which always take more time than expected.
  • You can find out partway through a project that some tasks are more complex than anticipated and need a lot more time than previously though throwing a schedule  into disarray.
  • I wouldn’t be able to help other members of the team if they were struggling with something as I’d be preoccupied (luckily there has always been someone in my awesome team available and willing to help, or someone at The Information Lab willing to help at very short notice- this may have saved me once or twice)
  • It’s more stress than necessary. We’ve been taught to manage expectations but this should also be for ourselves personally

I appreciate some technical issues may unexpectedly arise and take time to resolve but I hope to be able to adapt and manage my time better if this happens.

So, for time management, what I would really like improve on, within reason, is to be able to create a timeframe and stick to it.

Communication

An issue I struggled with at the start of the programme was asking for help. This could be due to embarrassment that I have not picked up something straight away, fear of judgment or lacking courage to ask someone I didn’t know very well for help.

I have to admit, as rational as ‘just ask for help’ is – it was difficult for me to become comfortable to be able to do so.

Over time, and after a few conversations and nudges this fear dissipated. There’s a true community culture at the Information Lab where everyone is willing to help if they can and don’t judge you for it.

After getting over this ‘fear’, and after multiple posts convo (our internal messaging / conversation platform which everyone at the company sees and uses) I realized a crucial aspect of asking for help was knowing how to ask for it.

Buy this, I mean how to communicate the problem in the simplest way possible so someone would be able to understand what you’re working on and the nature of your problem. You have to take a step back, relay the context appropriately (too much detail complicates the issue for everyone) and then highlight the problem.

So, for communication, what I’d like to keep doing and improving is asking for help when needed and being able to phrase any question or issue in the most apt way.

Aside; a technique Carl Allchin told us about early in our teaching was ‘Rubber duck debugging’ where you would have an object, in this case a rubber duck, and explaining the problem to it. In some instances, just explaining and talking about the problem allows you to think about it from another perspective and potentially allow you to solve it there and then.

Improving

The context of ‘improving’ for this is post is continually learning and getting better.

Obviously there is a strong emphasis on learning whilst at the Data School as we are taught to develop a commanding use of Tableau and Alteryx.

However, another caveat within this is; continually get better.

Every few days we dive head first into a new technical topic or project and this pace of work can easily make you overwhelmed. However, the overall aura within the company is to learn, grow and be supportive of others.

In addition, there is no distinction on failing or succeeding (to some extent) which really complements the pace at which we learn at.

This means the pressure, even though it’s still there, is prevented from becoming too much.

Every day we’re learning and, by the end of it, are now able to do or understand more.

We’re placed in an environment where everyone is eager to improve. Since the mentality is as such, and there is a general understanding that people have different strengths and weaknesses you’re comfortable to identify your shortcomings and work accordingly (with help if you need) to address them.

As anyone whose ever completed a large project or built a dashboard knows, some pieces of work can always seem unfinished. They can be iterated further, formatted more, topics can be looked at in different ways and so forth. All of the work we do can be improved and changed but we have to appreciate our capabilities and work our best to the time allotted.

So, for ‘improving’ section, I hope to refine what I’ve learnt so far, manage stress and deadlines and hopefully learn more about myself and the way I work best.

In conclusion..

..I’m going into Dashboard Week prepared to fail (as much as I would not like to). I know the purpose of this week is to learn, and most importantly, continue to get better. I hope the challenge of how to handle a heavy week remotely doesn’t prove to be too difficult (we’re isolating at home so asking for help and showing work is trickier).

..In conclusion, I’m going into Dashboard Weekend appreciating it’s going to be tough but knowing it’s an opportunity to learn a lot. I know the purpose of this week is to apply what we’ve learnt and continue to get improve. I still hope the challenge of how to handle a heavy week doesn’t prove to be too much (especially as we’re isolating at home).

However, I can’t wait to see what DS19 builds and see the topics we’ll be covering.

I’ll report back after the week has concluded..

Thanks for reading,