Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

We're joined by Nicolas Cajamarca to discuss how his Alteryx learnings have unlocked opportunities, and why he tells his user group, "If you really want to feel empowered and you really want to have that unleashed potential, go with Alteryx."







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Episode Transcription


Over the past, like, two years, it's been growing, the topic of digital transformation, data analytics. And I feel like last year was a time where I really set my goal to actually go forward with it and see how I can pivot my career to have more of a innovative and creative approach to maybe what's traditionally thought of as-- or expected of accounting. And so during my research, when I was trying to apply for jobs, I had seen Alteryx in the job descriptions, and I had no idea what it was. I thought it was just another accounting software that I needed to know. So I wrote it down and I figured, "Okay, I'm going to try to learn this before I graduate and I'm sure I'll have more marketability when I go into the job market." Just very casual outlook. But it wasn't until I actually did more research and I started talking to accountants in the field that I really began to see the potential that Alteryx has, not just for your career, but as a whole, when you're working with teams or trying to work with the community. I see that [music] potential is kind of locked up, and it's up to you to really go forward with it on your own.

MADDIE 01:13

[music] Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. Today our guest is Nicolas Cajamarca, a Seneca College student based in Toronto studying accounting and finance who created a club for his fellow students to learn what's capable with Alteryx.


[music] When I was introduced to Alteryx, I think it was mostly because it kind of connected to my own personal habits. Say, I like to watch Formula One. And actually I looked it up. And the week I joined the Alteryx community is the week that Alteryx made their appearance with McLaren.

MADDIE 01:47



[music] And that weekend I was like, "I have to learn Alteryx now." It was on my radar, but now I definitely want to be a part of this, right?

MADDIE 01:55

[music] Our host for this episode, Annie Mais, joins from the [SparkED?] team at Alteryx. She's focused on empowering learners at all levels to solve with data. You've probably heard Annie on a few episodes before. Annie and Nicolas will chat about what has motivated Nicolas to level up with Alteryx and how he's empowering his peers to do the same. Let's get started.

ANNIE 02:21

[music] Yeah, that's great. I'm curious, Nicolas, how much exposure did you have to data analytics prior to, now, your third year in University? How much exposure have you had to data analytics in general prior to this year?


I actually had none. So as I said, when I did my job research, I only had some sort of experience with Python, meddling with it to see if it's something that I could go into. But in the terms of scope, in the scope of an accountant, I figured that actually Alteryx suits me better and allows me to leverage that knowledge that I do have, so, yeah, I kind of went blind into it. And I can say that I actually had a unusual approach to data analytics. So between the time that I first heard of Alteryx and when I actually started the enrollment and to get my certification, I had-- for about six months was working with Tableau. And so during that time, I went from data visualization to then data analytics and automation processes with that. So that was kind of a unique approach, maybe not something typical you would think of, like a data analyst or other traditional computer science major would go through. But now I'm really learning the fundamentals and trying to branch out even further by going into, say, Python again or trying SQL, which I've been doing on my own, just self-taught. So that's been my journey so far.

ANNIE 03:52

I love that approach of starting maybe with another technology or another software that you have been exposed to and working backwards and seeing what else you can then do to manipulate data and numbers to get an output in something else that you're looking for. I think that's great. And as you're talking, Nicolas, I'm really thinking about how other students can learn from you about the career search part of your journey. Tell me a little bit about what motivated you to begin job searching in the way that you were. What kinds of things were you looking for or what was your approach? I really think it can help other students start to think about how they might approach their job search as well.


So when it comes to the job search, you're really trying to have a long-term focus. And I think with Alteryx, it really helps you keep on that track, because with Alteryx you're looking at your data sets kind of in a broad overview, and it really allows you to pinpoint detail so that you can go into it, right? And so when you're doing your job search, you need to kind of have the same attitude with it. You need to think in the broad term and the long-term scope of how you actually want to plan out your career. And I find that with the software itself, it kind of puts you in that managerial role where you're actually empowered with the capability of the tools. And so then you can actually leverage that knowledge that you do have and actually make a more impact. And that part of it itself is more motivating than anything of just, "Oh, I need another skill so I can have on my resume." Right? It's really empowering. And that's the whole point that I think Alteryx is really good at. That is my main suggestion, that if you really want to feel empowered and you really want to have that unleashed potential, you should go with Alteryx.

ANNIE 05:47

I love that, Nicolas. And even listening to what you had just mentioned, too, about the empowerment and unleashing your potential, it's very clear to me that you have leveraged some of the resources that Alteryx provides to get you started. And I know you mentioned you didn't have any-- really little data analytics experience prior to finding out about Alteryx. Can you walk me through what your approach was to learning the software?


Yeah. So I think I tried to maintain a structured format, and Alteryx really was good at that. The online videos and all the documentation was so helpful. It really allowed you to not have any hiccups when learning, and that especially is prevalent with other software where there's just a million things you need to go through and you're just endlessly in tutorial. But with the community that's on Alteryx, you have so many different sources. So I personally went through the training videos, but I also mainly focus on the use cases because the use cases really kind of change my approach-- as I mentioned, where I was thinking, like, "Okay, if I was a manager of company, how can I move my team forward?" So the use cases, when paired with the training videos and the in-software open examples, were incredibly helpful. And after I finished the training videos, I was like, "Okay, I actually want to get to hands-on work. I'm sick of learning just about theory and not having any actual ability to do work with it." So I focused intensely on the weekly challenges. And that puts you on another level, because you're really trying to-- logically, but you're also trying to be creative. And when you pair those two together, you're unstoppable. Right? So you feel like you can do anything after you finish your first challenge. And that just keeps you wanting to top yourself even more. Right? So that was my main approach. I think those three aspects, but I try to find everywhere that I think could help me. There's a section of Alteryx where you can ask questions and receive answers from the local members. And that's really helpful also, because you see that there's people out there that have a different approach to you, and being able to compare yourself and see where you went wrong or see where you could do even better is what really gets you to the next level. Right? And I think that was my approach that helped me succeed in getting my certification.

ANNIE 08:23

I love it. And just through the [SparkED?] program, I have the opportunity to hear from students relatively often about how they have onboarded themselves, how they have moved towards the learning journey to get towards course certification. You're actually the first one that I have talked to who has really celebrated the use cases, and I'm thinking of some of our users and listeners to this podcast. What might you say to them to encourage them to submit use cases?


I think use cases are a really good approach to step into somebody else's shoes. And just like with life, you only learn by putting yourself out there in a new position. Right? So same thing with use cases. If you're submitting one, it doesn't have to be this grand, life-changing different thing that's revolutionary, right. It can be as simple as something that's personal to you, but it's impactful. Right? And when you have that personal connection, any use case will be good. It'll help the listeners to kind of tailor their own approach and expand the whole community knowledge. And I think that that knowledge base that's collected on Alteryx community is really well done. I love it. I love going on there and just reading all the stories. It's really exciting to me.

ANNIE 09:43

That's awesome. And were you focusing mostly on the accounting-specific use cases, or did you find value in other use cases?


Yeah, I think I initially focused on accounting. I was initially insured in PwC's tax automated system. That was the main headline for me that really connected me, because I have experience in the theory and tax in my program. And I also wanted to find new ways to be efficient and have that empower myself. So I definitely focus on the business cases more, but I was also interested in seeing the Alteryx for good cases, and I especially heard more so about that on the previous podcast I listened to. So that was kind of different for me. I didn't think that Alteryx could be for nonprofit and for these cases that weren't just business focus and corporate-- exceeding value or trying to promote growth. Right? But it was in a different sense and that was really interesting to me. I didn't overlook it. I definitely tried to consider on equal sides, and I think that's a good approach to have. Right?

ANNIE 10:52

That's awesome. And that's exactly what we're trying to do through [SparkED?], is really demonstrate to all types of learners, in tax-- or in accounting, outside of accounting, across subject areas and different schools of business, that Alteryx is applicable to their area of study, their major, and their future career. And in switching gears a little bit - I've had the opportunity to talk to you before - you have done some pretty amazing work in empowering other students on your campus, and I know our listeners would love to hear about it. Can you walk me through what you have done over the last couple of months?


Yeah. So my club is called Business Intelligence Technologies, and I really wanted to have that broad scope where I can take people's inputs and see what they want to learn, but also give them an opportunity to teach others if they want to. But I primarily focused on Alteryx. And my whole point of the club was to get people involved with the fundamentals of data analytics so that they're better able to communicate with their teams in the future when they're working in organizations or they're going through their careers and they want to find a different way to enhance their potential. And that was the whole basis for the club. Right? So when I actually started to do workshops after my club launch and general meetings and informing people about Alteryx, I just tried to get right into it by showing firsthand how fast it is to actually apply the tools in the program to your own personal data sets. Right? So during my club's workshops, what I started to do is I grabbed a really interesting data set from Kaggle and I would show them the step-by-step process of, like, "What could you do with this data set," right? I tried to simulate an environment that puts them in a managerial role rather than just giving them assignment, "Okay, you have this problem. Solve A, B, C, and D," right. I try to make them think outside the box in a more creative approach and go, "Okay, you have this data set, and you're this person, you run this organization. What can you do with it?" So they feel empowered. Right? And when you give someone that decision-making problem, they want to reflect their character on their own solution for that problem. Right? So they try to make it as best as they can. And I find that that's the best way to do it. Right? You show them firsthand, you empower them with the opportunity to actually make change, and then you demonstrate it of your actual application of Alteryx and see the output. Right?


And then I also try to engage them with more data visualization, with that background, as I mentioned, that I think I have more experience in. And then you're really able to see just the students light up in their face, go, "Oh, yeah, we can do this. It's not out of the box." Right? And one interesting problem case I had implemented in my workshop is this data set that was all jumbled. It looked like there was no saving it. And when I presented it to students, I said, "What could you do with this data set?" And they're going to go, "Oh, this looks like a lost cause. I'm going home because there is no way to work with this data set. You can't do anything with it." And [I show?] Alteryx-- this is my favorite Alteryx tool, the regex function. And I applied some that, some transform, some selecting, sorting, and whatnot. And in under five minutes, it goes from being scrambled eggs mess data to a nice five-course meal where you have everything separated, you have all this potential. And then I visualize it and I show them all the hidden meeting that's behind that mess that they first saw. And that interaction where you're showing it firsthand is really powerful. And I think that was my kind of experience with the club and how I got people to more engage with it, by putting them in the front seat of a decision maker, rather than just like giving homework, as you would expect, like a professor would do or maybe a corporate training. Right? I really want to engage students.

ANNIE 15:00

That's amazing. And it actually sounds very similar to our user groups, and I know there is a Toronto-based user group. What I think I'm hearing from you, Nicolas, is just the power of having this networked community in one location that can learn from each other and help empower each other to work towards core certification. I forgot to ask earlier on, are you core certified already?


Yes, I got core certified-- I think it was August, and so it took me three months to get core certified. That's because I was also doing school and work at the same time. I think I could have done it a little bit earlier, but--

ANNIE 15:41

It's taken me a lot longer than three months, and I have yet to be core certified, but I'm working on it, so I definitely understand. And I guess, on that, what advice do you have for other students who might be thinking of starting something similar on their campus?


I think they should just go for it. You can't second-guess yourself because you don't learn anything by second-guessing yourself. Right? You need to just jump right into it and see all the feedback you can get. And with that, you can really tailor your approach to how your audience really wants to learn. And yeah, they shouldn't wait-- they should get right on it. If someone is listening to this today, I say get right into it. You cannot waste time with it because you only learn more by actually doing it. Right? That's what I would say.

ANNIE 16:29

That is true. And I'm thinking, too, as you're encouraging other students to get involved, how has all of this transformed how you are approaching your career search? I know all of this started with you kind of looking for jobs. You saw Alteryx as being a requirement for some. But how has this whole experience changed your approach to your future career?


Yeah, I think this really changes what you consider for your workplace, because you can have all the personal attitude, but if you have a workplace that doesn't support it or is not really aligned with you, then you're not going to be able to be successful. Right? So this has changed my attitude to really consider, "Okay. In this workplace culture, are they innovative? Are they adaptable? Do they appreciate the feedback that they get with how they're running things?" Right? And I understand there's a difference between a student's perspective to, say, a manager. When you're a manager, you're about value maximization, and when you're a student, you're about career aspiration. Right? So I think that that difference between attitude really comes into play here, and you really need to find an organization that is congruent with your own values. And Alteryx is a skill you value. And it's a purpose that you think is important for organizational upskilling that will really determine what you think is an organization that you really want to be a part of. Right?

ANNIE 18:02

Right. And I know that our listeners come from organizations all over the world that are doing pretty innovative and amazing things. And I'm wondering, Nicolas, what would be something that you think our community members could do to help support you and other students who are actively learning Alteryx?


I think that community members who have that experience in the workplace, they need to transition that value of that experience that they have in working with teams and maybe attempt an opportunity to actually get students to simulate that environment, because when you're a college student, you don't have any experience working in a team or trying to do different things that you'd only encounter in business. Right? And so I think that people who already have the certification and they've already had the use cases, no matter how minor it is, they can actually simulate that environment with students. And I think it'll be a really good approach to get more people involved and to change their attitude when it comes to data analytics, right, to see that it's open to everybody and that they really have that opportunity to kind of change their career projection. Right?

ANNIE 19:25

Right. Yeah. That's great advice. And we recently launched-- Nicolas, I'm not even sure if you know about the Alteryx job board that we have launched in the [SparkED?] space on the Alteryx community. But what we're hoping is that when learners obtain the skills that you're talking about, that you're helping empower other students with, that they can go to a active job board where our community members are actually posting roles that they know are open within their own organization so that they can start matching that early-in-career talent with the roles that need to be filled in their organizations. So that's something I can think of, as just a listener, something to take a look at. And I know we can link to that job board in the show notes. But other than that, Nicolas, I'm curious, from a career perspective, what's next for you? I know you have one more year of school, but what are you thinking for your own career?


So I think that until I graduate, I really want to just focus on this club and get as many people as involved. And so far, I have plans to actually get more professors involved. I think I had mentioned before that I actually showcased my club and the potential of Alteryx to one of my accounting professors, and they loved it. Right? And so I see that professors actually want to have more classroom engagement, and they're looking for opportunities to kind of get that feedback. And so for now, I'm trying to see that opportunity to get more educators involved, especially because I know that for accountants specifically, like for the CPA, they have a requirement for data analytics learning components coming up, I think [in?] 2022 or 2023. And so this is kind of an opportunity to merge the innovative space that employers are going through and bring it to schools. Right? So that's kind of the focus I want to have.


But in terms of career focus, I really want to have the opportunity to use Alteryx and to create that team environment where I'm actually able to lead others, because I personally love doing it. I love giving presentations to others and trying to uplift them and give them that new focus in their career. So I can definitely see myself in a leadership role where I am actually kind of teaching my own teams new software and new cool things and trainings and stuff. I would love to have something like that, I think.

ANNIE 21:54

Amazing. Well, Nicolas, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to share a little bit about your story, your journey, your aspirations, and I very much guarantee that we will have more listeners considering posting those use cases and thinking of ways that they can better connect with early-in-career professionals and even students looking for internships. So thank you so much.


Yeah. Thank you, Annie. Wow. That was really awesome to share my experience because everybody's talking about data analytics. No matter where you go, in the news you hear it, in social media, and I'm really excited to be a part of it. Right? I really want to get people involved, because it's such an exciting thing and a new transition for people's careers and yeah, I'm really hopeful for the future. Right?

ANNIE 22:39

[music] I am also very hopeful for the future, especially if you are part of it, Nicolas. So thank you.

MADDIE 22:47

[music] Thanks for listening. Our show notes are at, where you'll find links to join an Alteryx user group, check out use cases in your industry, or post your favorite workflow to the Gallery. Catch you next time. [music]


This episode was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ). Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @mikecusic for our album artwork.