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Alter Everything

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

Alteryx ACE Emil Kos shares his tips for how to get the time you need to learn Alteryx, and how to keep track of your analytics wins in order to advance your career.







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Episode Transcription

MADDIE 00:00

Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. Today, we're joined by Emil Kos, Alteryx ACE and leader of the Poland Alteryx User Group. This episode is packed with tips for how to build your brand in the analytics world, how to jump in and be active on the Alteryx community, even if you're a beginner, and how to convince your manager to set aside time in your schedule so you can upskill with Alteryx. Let's get started.

EMIL 00:30

My name is Emil, and I am one of the Alteryx ACEs. I am big fan of Alteryx. I saw it a couple of years ago and it was a game changer for me. It took my life and career to the next level. Personally, I am a big fan of Magic: The Gathering, the game that I am playing for around 25 years now.

MADDIE 00:52

That's awesome.

EMIL 00:53

Besides that, I am a huge fan of the obstacle races. A few years ago, I finished a triathlon called Ironman. Unfortunately, due to Pandemic, I'm not moving so much as in the past. But hopefully, soon everything will be back normal and I will run and swim again.

MADDIE 01:14

That is so cool. When we had our intro call a couple of weeks ago, I believe you mentioned just casually that you're a runner. So this definitely takes it to the next level that I didn't realize during our first call. And did you say where you're from in the world or where you're located?

EMIL 01:30

No. I am based in Krakow in Poland. This is really beautiful city, so if you have a chance to visit it, I strongly recommend doing that.

MADDIE 01:39

Cool. So you mentioned that you're an ACE, and this is where I want to start our conversation because this is a really big deal for our listeners out there. Our ACE program is our community super user program. So these are people who are experts in Alteryx and they are very active on our community. And they help people a lot on the community by answering questions and writing blogs. And they're just really great thinkers. And I think that you're a really great addition to the program, and so congratulations on that. That is a really big deal.

EMIL 02:13

Thank you very much.

MADDIE 02:14

Yeah. And I think a lot of folks would love to hear how you got to this point. We've had a lot of Alteryx users in the past who have talked about how they got course certified in two weeks or three weeks, and that's super impressive. But for me, personally, it took me way longer to get course certified, and I've talked about this on the podcast as well. But I want to talk to you about what your experience was like learning Alteryx. And did you face any challenges?

EMIL 02:46

Yeah. I think my journey wasn't so extraordinary, especially at the beginning. It took me some time to understand some basic things like you need to keep the files in the same location all the time. I believe I broke two or three important workflows because of that. But at the beginning, in my opinion, everything takes time. You should take it easy if you will encounter some obstacles. I remember that I needed to spend a lot of time in making some kind of research on the Alteryx Community how to solve the problems.

EMIL 03:23

And probably I could save a lot of time if I would have proper training at the beginning. But this was, let's say, tough journey and that teached me a lot. What is really important is, in my opinion, that majority of the Alteryx users actually have pretty tough times at the beginning, especially if they are from business. If someone have a proper IT background, they know programming languages, probably their journey will be much easier. But I didn't have it back then, so it took me a little bit more time to be confluent in it.

MADDIE 03:59

Sure. And also, in that business setting, you mentioned that you wish that you had proper training. What would that proper training look like? We have trainings on the community. But I guess, from the business side of things, internally, from your team and from the support that you were getting from managers or anything like that, I'm curious if you can share what you wish you might have had when you were starting out.

EMIL 04:25

Yeah. This is a great question. I would start with the most important thing. I think I was lacking time. It was really hard to find time to properly upskill, so I needed to invest a lot of time after hours doing interactive lessons. We didn't have learning paths back then, if I remember correctly. But the interactive lessons were really good. They gave me, let's say, proficiency that allowed me to work further. But if someone would take me on the onboarding training, like two days training, and I would have sufficient amount of time to actually focus on that because that's not always the case. People very often are going to the online trainings and they cannot focus because they still get emails from colleagues around the world. So it's really hard to focus. But I think investment like that really pays off. If you will have sufficient amount of time to properly upskill, you will get there much faster than without that.

MADDIE 05:35

Yeah. I think that having the dedicated time to learn something new is really important. And I hope that we're moving in a direction as society that we are recognizing that people need time to learn these things and they need time to upskill and keep up with new technology. And hopefully, that's my impression. I obviously don't know what every organization thinks. But I feel like that is becoming a little bit more commonplace, which is really good to hear. However, for people who maybe they aren't getting that dedicated time and maybe they are expected to continue their work and their common day-to-day and take on new platforms and learn completely new skills. What are some tips that you have for folks listening who might be experiencing the challenges that you also went through?

EMIL 06:30

Yeah, I totally agree with that, Maddie. I think what is really important is that during the implementation process of Alteryx, the line managers, the directors, they don't put into consideration that this time, especially at the beginning, is really challenging because you still have your own responsibilities like you have mentioned. But at the same time, someone expect you to use the new software that you don't know yet. So it will be hard. And I can give a couple of tips. The most common ones, in my opinion, is that there should be an extra person maybe recruited to take care of some of the responsibilities. Maybe we can move some of the responsibilities from one person that is a main Alteryx developer, let's say, in the team to another person.

EMIL 07:27

So until that person will automate some of the projects, we can give them a brief and it will make their life much easier. Another option probably is getting a consultant on board, but it isn't necessary. It's just important that you need to keep in mind as line manager or as a leader that probably you need to help free up their time because without that it will be unfortunately very stressful and not sustainable in a long term. People will get really frustrated. They will actually not really enjoy the part of using Alteryx. And that's also really important. The best Alteryx users I know are really passionate about the tool. They really enjoy working with that. And a lot of people that I know, and I'm one of them, wouldn't go for a job without Alteryx.

MADDIE 08:23

It's hard to learn something new. So I totally get what you're saying, especially if it's a very robust and powerful platform like Alteryx when there's a lot of things to learn about it. There's infinite things that you can do with it. And so I think it could be daunting for some people. And it sounds like mentorship is a really valuable part of this journey. So I'm sure as a user group leader and now in ACE, you're in a great position to be that mentor for others looking to build their Alteryx knowledge. So can you share what you've seen in the field and maybe some ways you think that organization can help build this mentorship culture?

EMIL 09:03

Sure. Mentorship culture is very important. I think I was always lucky because I always have a feeling that I can ask other people questions, even if they were much more senior than me. I was thinking maybe I shouldn't do it. Maybe I shouldn't ping them on Skype or I shouldn't send them an email. But usually, I was doing that anyway. Sometimes I didn't have any responses, but very often I received an answer. I received some support from them. So I am thinking that majority of the people, they are very friendly to us. And especially Alteryx users, they are very passionate. And it always helped if you have one more senior person, at least, maybe in your team or in the organization that you can ask questions that you can learn from.

EMIL 09:58

I really enjoy if in the organizations there are some kind of place where people can share their successes, because especially at the beginning of the Alteryx implementation process, each success is very crucial. If you are building your first workflow, if you will share it to line managers, your directors, and you will show them value, you will get support along the way. Maybe you will find an additional, let's say, time to focus on Alteryx or maybe you will get additional licenses in your team.

EMIL 10:36

But I think this is really important that in mentorship, of course, you need to-- it's great if you have a person that you can ask any questions that you can learn from. At the same time, I think the other thing that is really important is sharing your successes with others. If you have a place to do, that's great. If not, maybe you can go to local user group. Like you mentioned, I am the Polish Alteryx User Group leader. I think this is a great opportunity to network with others, maybe find a mentor as well.

EMIL 11:10

Maybe in your organization you don't have a person that you can learn from. So you can use LinkedIn, find a person that match your skills or you think their skills will help you along your career. You can ask them for some kind of mentorship, maybe for an advice. People usually are very friendly. And if that person will not find the time for you, probably there is another person in the world that will be happy to assist you with your problems or your challenges or guard you during your career.

EMIL 11:42

So it's really beneficial to find a person like that. And you don't need to have only one mentor. Maybe you need a couple of them alongside your career because you might have challenges with, I don't know, with one technology during the three month period and then you need to swap something else. So probably you need to find another person that could help you along the way. So it's really good to be open-minded and really good to have a network of people that you can ask for help because why waste time if you can ask for help, someone that is more experienced in this area and can save you a lot of time.

MADDIE 12:23

Totally. I love the idea of using LinkedIn to find people that match your skills and using the community and attending user groups. I think that's a really great idea. And I also just want to emphasize what you said about asking questions. I totally agree with you about asking whoever you think might have the answer, even if they are higher up in the organization. The worst that's going to happen is that they might not have time and then they don't respond. I think that's fine. I don't think anybody would take that personally.

MADDIE 12:54

But the point is that it's really valuable to ask questions and it's really valuable to leverage other people and leverage their knowledge. And I agree with you about the Alteryx Community. I feel like Alteryx users are very willing to answer those questions. No question is too small. We've heard a lot of people say on the podcast when talking about the community. So yeah, I totally agree. And this kind of brings me to my next question, because in talking to you you seem very humble and I think that there is a great sweet spot of being humble yet proud of yourself. I mean, now you have the ACE badge on your community profile and that's something to be very proud of and should be shared with your network and friends. But in social situations, how has striking this balance of staying humble yet proud helped your career?

EMIL 13:51

So thank you for thinking that I'm humble. I think, in my opinion, this is a very valuable skill. Or skill isn't the best word. Characteristic, yes. Maybe it isn't great to be really humble in your work. That's why I have, let's say, some ways to help myself with that. It's really important. I have mentioned that it's really important to talk about your successes. I would recommend for people, whatever, if someone is humble or not, to have some kind of PowerPoint presentation that he maintains alongside his career. Like each month, it's good to have a short break, focus, okay. What I have done in the last month? What is my biggest success in that time? If I have automated a process, or maybe I delivered training, maybe I was a public speaker first time in a bigger audience. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate.

EMIL 14:55

I become an Alteryx ACE recently, so it was a huge deal for me. And that was a really big point in my career and I think that will help me a lot with getting new opportunities in networking and having better more interesting projects along the way. And, of course, I shared that with my network on LinkedIn. I also recommend everyone that would like to have a fulfilling career, it's good to share your successes with others. Maybe having a blog. Maybe using LinkedIn to share anything from time to time and keep it even short and simple, post one post per week, per two weeks, just saying what you are doing. Maybe you are doing some interesting project, or maybe currently you are doing a training in new technology.

EMIL 15:53

It's really good to be active. It's really good to share with others information like that. First of all, thanks to that, you build recognition, you build your brand. A lot of people that is learning a new skill are using social platforms to influence their network by giving them a feeling that they are an expert. Because if someone is producing content on different topic for, I don't know, for a year or two, people will recognize him as a expert in that area, even if he's at the beginning of the career.

EMIL 16:34

So if someone is thinking about, I don't know, certain technology or about certain field, I would strongly recommend finding some time to posts some things, some articles, some blog posts about it because that builds a credibility. And maybe sign up for this podcast because I think it's a pleasure for me and it's a great recognition to be here. So going out from your comfort zone and try new things and show yourself in new places like going to the INSPIRE Conference, that's also a great way to show yourself to others and build your brand like that.

MADDIE 17:19

Totally. And so would you say that posting on LinkedIn and reaching out to other people, being active on the community, it sounds like these were really maybe catalysts for you becoming an ACE. Is there anything else that you would recommend for people to do, maybe? Because you mentioned going out of your comfort zone. What's something that maybe you have done that's totally out of your comfort zone?

EMIL 17:45

I think the triathlon was the thing that was totally out of my comfort zone. We are changing the topic. But when I was training to that I wasn't a good swimmer. I needed to take some lessons and I didn't have a bike for 20 years or more. So I needed to actually practice and learn how to do it properly and how to do it fast. So I think very often I'm going out from the comfort zone, but I don't think much about it. It's just I am making a decision, okay, maybe it's a good idea to start delivering trainings for others. Maybe I will still have a feeling inside of me that maybe I'm not ready, but that's not true.

EMIL 18:32

If you will keep practicing and learning, you will never use those skills in practice actually because if you will still think that you-- for example, the data scientists, usually they invest a lot of time just to practice skills and they don't build models on the real data and that's a problem because if they will not have a professional experience, it's really hard to find a job. And if you have some basics and you think that you see interesting data and you can use it and try to create a model, that's a learning that you can-- like using CV that I have built a model in work, that can be a real game changer in my opinion.

MADDIE 19:24

First of all, with the triathlon going out of your comfort zone, I think that also speaks to the importance of feeding mind, body, soul, of just really trying to come at it from all angles of enriching your life. I think that everything has an effect on the other. So being healthy physically, I think, can really have an impact on your mental health and all different kinds of aspects of your being. It's not exactly the Alteryx topic, but I think it totally relates. And it also just speaks to learning a new skill, recognizing a vulnerability, and not being a good swimmer, which, by the way, I'm also not a good swimmer. So you're in good company.

MADDIE 20:05

But yeah, I think that's a really interesting call out. And it also speaks to a conversation that you and I had previously about just kind of like sustainability and mentorship culture, about how there can't be one mentor for everybody. Everybody needs to ask questions of a bunch of people. And if you are learning something, you might be a little uncomfortable with people asking you questions right away, but try and jump into it. You know what I mean? I think that everybody has something to offer. And the more that you answer questions and get on the community and solve somebody's workflow for them if they're having trouble, even if you don't feel like you're ready for it, there's nothing wrong with that practice. And I think that it just makes you better and it makes the community better.

EMIL 20:55

Yeah. Regarding jumping in and answering questions, I think a lot of ACEs, especially at the beginning of their, let's say, Alteryx Community journey where they jumped in and answered questions, they needed to make their research as well. Alteryx is really robust tool, like you have mentioned. There are so many tools inside, there are so many possibilities, and there are so many quite often better ways how to solve certain problems. So it is constantly a learning journey, even for the person that is actually answering those questions. So it is a learning journey for them as well, not only for the person that receives the answer from the more, let's say, proficient Alteryx user.

MADDIE 21:39

Exactly. And also just speaking to the culture, I don't think that any of our ACEs would be upset if somebody who's not an ACE jumped in and solved a question with fewer tools or just more efficiently than the ACE did. I think the ACE would be impressed and glad to have that learning experience. I don't think anybody would be upset about that.

EMIL 22:03

Yeah, I totally agree. I would be very happy to see how to solve the problem easier, so in the future I could do it more efficiently. But coming back to the topic that you have mentioned about the sustainable mentorship culture, I think very often I saw that plenty of times in my career, the person that is an expert in certain topic is very often overwhelmed. So what is important is, in my opinion, first of all, to recognize them and reward them somehow. Find also a way to help them along their mentorship experience.

EMIL 22:45

If they are answering a lot of questions to other people, maybe we can move some of their responsibilities to someone else, or maybe we can do it more efficiently. Maybe that person should provide some kind of training, or maybe they should host a session, invite other people, show them how to do it more efficiently and record it so if you have this question, this is a recording. I very often was doing that on the Alteryx Community. I know a lot of articles and materials that are very handy, so I can easily share them with someone if someone would ask me a question directly or on the community. So it's good to have an answer ready because that will save a lot of time in the long run.

MADDIE 23:31

Totally. Yeah. Like a frequently asked questions repository. I think that that's a really good idea. And even just recording a screen capture of exactly how to do it, I think is a really smart thing to do. And do you have any other tips for folks out there learning Alteryx or starting their careers?

EMIL 23:51

Yeah. Definitely. If someone is thinking about Alteryx seriously, I would strongly advise joining Alteryx Community, do some weekly challenges, get on the certification program, get the core advanced certified. Especially the core one is the game changer because it will ensure that you have sufficient skills to solve the most common Alteryx problems. It's really good to have some network of people to join the Alteryx User Groups through, I don't know, networking site of the organization.

EMIL 24:24

If you have some internal communities that you can join, that's also really good idea because you can see how you can potentially solve the problems that other people in the organization had. And every company have their own issues, so you will save a lot of time thanks to that. If you will get proficient with the tool, it's really cool to help others by answering their questions on the Alteryx Community. I think this is also a great learning experience, so this is like a big journey and Alteryx is really good tool to solve your analytical problem.

EMIL 25:01

What is really unique in this tool is that it can help you along your whole career. You will start, like me, as an Excel user that had problems with automating his work. But after some time, you can do some more advanced things, build Tableau dashboards, for example, later in the future, or maybe do some predictive analytics with data science tools, or read PDFs files thanks to the Intelligence Suite package. So there are amazing possibilities and Alteryx can help a lot with different problems along the way.

MADDIE 25:42

Awesome. Lots of great tips packed into there. It's just all good fun on the community, so.

EMIL 25:49

Yeah. What I would also mention, like working with Alteryx is actually really fun. I think this is the tool that brings me the most joy in my career. This is like a logic game very often. Sometimes, of course, you can have worse days because you aren't able to solve problem very quickly, or it will take you a lot of time to figure something out. But that is life and this is a learning experience as well. But definitely, Alteryx can firstly help you with a lot of your data problems. And secondly, it will be really pleasurable experience comparing to working with the same stuff with Excel all the time.

MADDIE 26:28

Yeah. So one of my cousins, he's a freshman in college right now and we're visiting and he had to finish this homework assignment and he was up super late at night trying to figure something out in spreadsheets. That was basically the homework assignment of how to solve it in spreadsheets, and he was like, "Hey, do you know how to do this?" And I was like, "Honestly, no, but I could do it in Alteryx." That was allowed for this assignment, but he had to do it in spreadsheets for the assignment. And it's frustrating when you are just stuck with one solution, but I've helped with Spark and other kinds of programs that we have for students to use Alteryx. They'll get there and it's there. We have the resources for people once they're ready, but yeah. And earlier, you mentioned INSPIRE. You did give a session, is that right? A virtual session?

EMIL 27:21

Yes, I have delivered a session and I strongly recommend watching it for people that are in the teams that just started with Alteryx. Or maybe in your organization there is a team that is starting and you can share that video with them. So basically, based on my experience, I have gathered a lot of tips what should be done at the beginning of the Alteryx implementation that will be especially important, in my opinion, for leaders. But not only for managers, for directors, but people that really like to inspire others, share the best practices, like to bring the change into the organization and you don't need to have a specific title to do so.

EMIL 28:10

So if you want to use Alteryx more effectively, if you think that maybe you need to standardize some of the workflows that you have in the team because you have three or four Alteryx users and everyone have different manners, let's say, of working with Alteryx. They have different folder structures. They have different ideas how the proper Alteryx workflow should look like. So I provided some teams how to standardize everything for them. And I think it can save a lot of time because I was there at the beginning of the Alteryx journey, and I think a lot of people are forgetting that the beginning of the Alteryx journey can be really challenging. So that's why I prepared this session to help all the people at the beginning of the journey to make their life easier and more pleasant, let's say.

MADDIE 29:02

That's awesome. I'm excited to tune into that session myself. So we'll make sure to link to that in our show notes at So what else can people expect from you, or where can they get in touch with you at if they want to chat with you more?

EMIL 29:22

You can find me on LinkedIn or on the official Alteryx Community. I'm also a co-owner of a company called Data Pal and you can find my details at our company page as well. Or you can visit our Alteryx Polish User Group and maybe even be a speaker and share your Alteryx successes. I would love to hear them. So I'm looking forward to connect with you and speak to you soon.

MADDIE 29:52

Thanks for listening. For links and resources mentioned in this episode, head over to our show notes at Catch you next time.

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