Alter Everything

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

Rocky Wang, a recent graduate from Toronto, has just started a new career as an analyst! With inspiration from his mom, and a stacked tool kit powered by the Alteryx Community, Rocky shares his journey of leveraging Alteryx knowledge to land this new role.







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Episode Transcription

MADDIE 00:00

Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. This episode is a career change success story, powered not just by Alteryx, but by the Alteryx Community. Our guest, Rocky Wang, joins us from Toronto. He's an electrical engineering graduate from Western University who recently made the decision to pursue a career with data analytics at the forefront.

ROCKY 00:24

I basically did a lot of networking and talking to different people in different industries, trying to find something that makes the most sense for me given my background and something that I am genuinely curious about.

MADDIE 00:38

And our guest host is Will Machin from the Alteryx Community team.

WILL 00:41

Yeah, Rocky. Just to give everyone a little context, Rocky reached out on LinkedIn, and I said, "Absolutely, let's chat." And now he's on our podcast.

ROCKY 00:51

Yeah. Who would have thought this would happen? That's so crazy.

MADDIE 00:56

Throughout this episode, you'll hear how the Community fueled Rocky's new career. Let's get started.

WILL 01:04

So how would you describe yourself kind of in general? Do you consider yourself to be a super logical person? Are you really artistic or creative? Do you consider yourself to be a problem solver, a leader? How would you kind of-- if you had one of those archetypes to choose, what would it be? Or more than one?

ROCKY 01:24

I don't necessarily see myself as one specific type of person. I don't think I excel at anything really. I don't think I'm the best with numbers or I don't think I'm the most extroverted person, but I think I'm well rounded in a sense where I meet the requirements, the minimum requirements with each attribute, I guess, to perform well in the task I'm given. So I don't necessarily think I belong in one category.

WILL 01:55

You're like a Jack of all trades. You're like a Bard in the D&D party. You've got to be there because you can kind of work in whatever situation you need to be, then.

ROCKY 02:02

Yeah, I guess. That's a nice way of putting it. Yeah.

WILL 02:05

I think a lot of people feel that way, and I think it's one of the most versatile kind of archetypes to feel that you fit into because you really can do a little bit of everything, which just makes you supremely valuable to any organization that you're a part of. So with your initial career choice of engineering, you obviously went to school directly for that and everything. What kind of made you be drawn to analytics? Do you have any kind of regrets about had you found it sooner, you would have been already in the industry? Or do you think it was kind of a right place, right time thing, because you got to kind of see what it was like being an electrical engineer first and realize, "Oh, this isn't quite what I thought it was."

ROCKY 02:49

Yeah, I definitely think it's more of a right place at the right time kind of thing. I think that if I had gone into analytics directly, I would regretted not pursuing the engineering path and seeing where I could have taken it there. For me, going into engineering, that idea started when I was younger. So my family immigrated to Calgary, Alberta. It's a province in Canada for all the American listeners.

WILL 03:16

And it's cold.

ROCKY 03:17

Yeah, it gets pretty cold up there.

WILL 03:20

I have been to Calgary in the winter. It's a thing.

ROCKY 03:22

Oh, yeah. Yeah. For sure. And that province is-- it's a very industrial and it's a very technical province. Everything is based around oil and gas. So growing up, the people around me, the families, the parents around me, they were mostly engineers or they were in a trade of some sort. So I knew when I was going into University, I wanted to go into something that's more skill-based, if you will. But afterwards, I decided the-- well, the reason why I transitioned into analytics was because I really enjoyed the mathematics and the quantitative aspects of engineering, but I wanted to focus more on the quantitatives, but in a less scientific field, if you will.

WILL 04:11

Totally get that.

ROCKY 04:12

Yeah. I think that with engineering, everything is so black and white. The laws of nature are what it is, and it's never going to change. But when you're looking at a dataset for a group of people or when you're looking at a dataset for really anything else, there's so many different ways of interpreting it. There's no right or wrong. It's just what kind of analytics and what kind of insights can you gather from that information? And I enjoy that a lot more than the black and white of engineering.

WILL 04:43

I think that that's a really salient point right there, and that it makes sense a lot because you're initially drawn to something and you love aspects of it, but you realize, "Okay, the specifics are not what I'm passionate about, but I can still kind of do something with that instead." And I think it's really interesting that you were talking about kind of your surroundings and everything growing up. We've talked about this a little bit, but I know that your mom had kind of a pivot to an analytics type field, as well. How has your journey been different from hers along the way?

ROCKY 05:15

For sure. So my mom's journey was very different. She already had over 25 years of experience of working in the industry she was working in. I think it was 2012 or 2013 she lost her job. And she was unemployed for eight years. For the first few years, I think she was more so taking it easy, relaxing, as a chance to just live at home for a while and spend some time with family. But as time went on and she noticed that it was way too early for her to consider retirement, and she did not want to stay at home all day, so she decided to learn database administration. And she did that as a full-time career. Like studying, she did that, I'd say, more than 8 hours a day. She was super hard-working and super dedicated and she wanted to find something in this field and to continue her career.

ROCKY 06:20

And for me, myself, I'm already working fulltime. I had to be creative because I'd get home from work and I'd be so tired and I wouldn't want to do anything. So I started waking up earlier. And I was waking up at like 5:00 o'clock in the morning so I could get a couple of hours in and then go to work and then maybe do a little bit after work.

WILL 06:44

Wow. That's impressive.

ROCKY 06:46

Thanks. It was easy for me, though, because I knew that's what I wanted to do and I knew the direction I was going in. And I just didn't take that-- I didn't see it as a burden to get up early in the morning. I saw it more as an opportunity to get after what I want or to chase after what I want. And I did that--

WILL 07:05

That's awesome.

ROCKY 07:07

Thank you. Thank you very much. I did that for eight months starting in April of 2020.

WILL 07:13

Very cool. So, I mean, it kind of sounds like you both had a career shift, but your mom's experience was more like starting a second career, and yours was more of like a direct pivot kind of mid career, early career. Early career, I guess. So because of that, since you've had to kind of learn these skills while working, which kudos to you, that is very impressive, especially working a schedule like that-- by doing that, have you noticed any kind of specific overlaps between your engineering skills and your Alteryx learning or kind of vice versa. Like as you were learning all Alteryx and kind of some more analytics thinking, did that affect how you approached your current job as well?

ROCKY 07:58

For the sort of Alteryx data where you're taking these large datasets of information and you're trying to make meaning out of it, I didn't really have much of an opportunity to do that, which again, I think is why I was so drawn to Alteryx, because of the different weekly challenges and everything like that. I think that it gave me something to-- almost datasets to play with and to play around with. And I think my curiosity kind of just took it from there.

WILL 08:29

That's awesome. Yeah. I think it's really cool that there's not a direct overlap. But something you said really just kind of stuck out to me. And that's analyzing reports for specific equipment or machinery. And it's not a huge dataset, but it's still kind of the same mindset. So you're applying different skills to a different situation, but still kind of probably using some of the same approaches anyway, just to a different scale entirely.

ROCKY 08:56

Yeah, definitely. Like for equipment and machinery, there's specifications, there's tolerances, and certain criteria that we have to meet. And that kind of, again, goes back to that black and white analogy that I was using earlier. But with these datasets, it feels more live. There's so many different ways to look at it. It's up to your own creativity to kind of see what you can make out of the data.

WILL 09:24

Awesome. Yeah. And I think that makes a lot of sense. And it's interesting you a moment ago mentioned the weekly challenges and kind of the changes in different approaches and different kind of things there. That's a huge component of Community is our academy and certifications. We've talked about this previously, but the Community can be such a huge resource as you're learning Alteryx, specifically. What did you find most helpful about the Community?

ROCKY 09:53

What I've found the most helpful were the members. It sounds simple, but for example, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with some of the members in the community. Thanks to Will for organizing those. And they were both super knowledgeable, really open about their career path and what they did to get to where they are today. Those are just two examples of interactions that I had. But outside of that, even when you're scrolling through the forums, you're looking at the questions that different people posted. There's almost always a reply. And it's not like someone posted a question and then two months later you have an answer. People get back to each other really quickly. It's a really responsive tool and people are using it. So I think that's the best part.

WILL 10:45

That's really awesome to hear and something I totally agree with. There's a lot of different communities out there, and I think that we're really lucky in ours because our members are so responsive and helpful. So I think that's really fantastic. And don't want to toot our own horn too much here on Community, but I would guess that having such a good experience is probably something that's going to be good moving forward, as well, because it doesn't feel overwhelming. And I would hope that other people that are maybe considering making a change or learning a new skill look for these different types of communities where you can learn well like that from other people and practitioners, because then it's no longer just a textbook situation and you can hear these real stories. And I think that most people are really willing to share that, as well. Now, Rocky, one of the things that you have done within Community is you created basically a really comprehensive study guide for people. So for everyone listening, Rocky basically went from zero knowledge of Alteryx to course certified in the span of like 15 days, like two weeks, basically, while working another job and learning all of this kind of on the fly. So what kind of inspired you to create that certification guide and kind of document all of that and start to become more active in the community like that?

ROCKY 12:10

Yeah. For me, it was mostly just giving back to the community in a way, because I feel like the community helped me out a lot. Again, alluding to the conversations I had with the Alteryx ACEs and yourself, Will - there's Annie - everyone was so supportive and so helpful. And I thought that this would be the best way to pay it forward to people who might be new to this software. And I just thought it could help the next group of people. Hopefully it will start to chain and it will keep growing and growing.

WILL 12:48

I love that. I mean, as a Community manager, this is the type of thing that I think is absolutely phenomenal. And for everyone listening, we will link to-- there is a blog where Rocky kind of goes through his study guide. He gets so specific and into which weekly challenges were even helpful for him, which is awesome. And we will also link to a thread that we have where others can share kind of resources that helped them as well for getting course certified, because I think what's really important is all of the information is there, but a lot of people are going to take a different approach. And so not everyone's pathway is going to be the same. And guides like this are really, really great when they're created by people that are actually going through the process. So Rocky, what is your absolute just kind of dream job, either super specific or are there any kind of elements required? Are you looking to work eventually in nonprofit? Do you want to stay in kind of machining and electrical? Do you want to be able to be more creative? What do you see as your ideal position?

ROCKY 13:56

I want to eventually work in consulting. I really enjoy working with other people. And even in engineering, there's a lot of that group teamwork where you're helping clients solve their problems from a very technical point of view. And I would love to use the skills of data analytics, all these tools around me, to help transform organizations or help make a big impact in the world.

WILL 14:26

That's really cool. And it's also one of those things that-- right now organizational change is such a big thing. And if you have that kind of foundation, it's really going to be something that everyone's going to need as we continue to progress and everything. So that's really exciting. And one thing that I also want to bring up is you have some background with SQL and R and everything like that. Was that helpful for you when learning Alteryx, or was it something that was kind of a nice-to-have but not a need-to-have, you'd feel?

ROCKY 14:59

It's a nice-to-have. It's definitely not a need-to-have. The way Alteryx is set up and the learning paths and everything like that, it walks through the software in such a smooth manner. It's such a helpful resource for course certification or just simply learning the software for personal use or whatever the case may be.

WILL 15:21

And Rocky, the reason I ask that is one of the things that we've been talking about is the study guide. And I think for a lot of people that are looking to make a career pivot, especially if they don't have as related of a background, that Alteryx, even though it's code free, can be pretty intimidating because if you don't have that foundational kind of analytics background, it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. And so hearing you say SQL can be really helpful just as kind of an accessory tool I think is something that a lot of people may want to consider, because it can really help with getting into the right mindset for learning kind of analytics in general, not just a specific tool for analytics. And that can always help in the long run a huge amount for anyone looking to make a change like that. So yeah, that's awesome. And I wish I had a better background in that. But that is not where it is right now [laughter]. So within the Community as well - and you touched on this a little bit - Rocky got a chance to speak with a couple of our ACEs that were kind enough to chat with him for a little bit. And you said that was great. But one of the things that I really wanted to point out is that even just the helpfulness within the forums is really helpful. Were there any specific threads or anything like that that you used in the forums just from other people to help you in your learning process or studying or anything like that? Or was it more of just kind of like you would generally browse and go through and see what people thought?

ROCKY 16:47

I don't necessarily remember the specific case, but I do remember going through the forums for some of the weekly challenges. There would be certain parts where I'd get stuck, and that's totally normal for anyone who's new to a software or who's even been using a software for a long time. And essentially these large, complex problems, they can be broken down into step by step problems. And for me, it's really helpful to just look up-- when you get stuck on one step, it's just helpful to look at the solutions for that particular case. And every question I've had so far was already on the form. So people have been there. People have done that. So it was like instant feedback and it was great.

WILL 17:37

That's awesome. So before we wrap up in just a few minutes, there's one other thing that I do want to bring up. So we've talked about a lot of this kind of career pivot and making major changes and everything like that. And Rocky started this journey fairly recently, but you told me a little earlier, and I hope it's okay that we share with everyone-- Rocky has some big news. So I'm going to ask you to share that as well, because I think it's absolutely fantastic.

ROCKY 18:03

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I'm really happy and excited to say that I got a job offer. The role is specifically operations analyst and it's for a energy or electricity utilities company. So it's basically the best of both worlds because I can leverage my previous experience from school, my work experience, and I can also pursue data analytics and what I really enjoy and what I'm passionate about. So I'm tremendously excited. I'm extremely grateful for the people that have helped me along the way. Learning Alteryx, I definitely think it's an advantage when you're looking for jobs or looking for that career pivot and transition. A lot of the times back when I was applying for jobs, I would look up Alteryx and it be under the recommended or good to knows. And I look at those positions and I would apply to them because of the course certification. And I think that helped tremendously.

WILL 19:08

Yeah, definitely. I think that's huge. And for everyone listening as well, our SparkED area of the Community has a job board, so that's always a really strong place to look as well. And it's a really great place to kind of start getting more kind of info on making those pivots or kind of changing your thinking into more of an analytics mindset as well. So, Rocky, final question I think that I have for you is what are you most excited about in this kind of new career trajectory that you have? And that can either be just within your new role specifically or kind of down the line. What are you most looking forward to about this change?

ROCKY 19:49

There's so many different factors and so many different aspects to be excited about. For one, it's definitely a step closer to my goals and what I eventually want to do and the freedom to just explore, almost explore the world around me in such a different way. And I think that a large part of that is due to the company that I will be going to where it's very immersed with everyday life. And I'll get to look at life and look at the way things operate from a complete different perspective. And I just think that's really cool.

WILL 20:27

Yeah, I'd never thought about that. That's awesome to be able to take something that does affect kind of everyday life and look at it from an entirely different angle and probably just start to appreciate those kind of very mundane things a little more while also solving problems around them, too. Yeah, that's awesome.

ROCKY 20:48

Yeah. That's a perfect way to put it. Yeah.

WILL 20:51

Very cool. That is an excellent, excellent answer to that question. With that being said, I think it is about time for us to wrap up, probably. But I want to say huge congratulations to you. I'm super excited. The fact that you were able to do all of this in the span of like six to eight months from the very beginning of it is huge and I think shows a lot of dedication. But also it's something that proves to people you can make a change like that and have it be really successful. And hopefully Alteryx can help you along the way with that and our Community, especially. But congratulations. It is a very well deserved change. And thank you for coming on the podcast today. It's been awesome to have you and chat.

ROCKY 21:37

Hey, thanks so much. And I just want to say thanks for inviting me onto the podcast. I was actually really nervous coming in today, but knowing Will is equally as nervous as me made me a little less nervous, so.

WILL 21:51

Yeah, yeah--

ROCKY 21:52


WILL 21:52

--I definitely about [bleep] my pants a couple of times where I was like-- oh, I don't know if I can say that. But I did. We can bleep it if we need to. Just because I was kind of like, "This is not my natural element." But we made it work. It was basically just like hanging out like we have in the past, so. Congrats and hopefully we will be seeing you around more.

ROCKY 22:12

Definitely. And thank you so much, Will, for being here for the entire process and helping me facilitate-- linking me with the right people, pointing me to the right resources, and places like that. I think a big part of my success is because of you. And honestly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for doing that for me.

WILL 22:34

Absolutely. More than happy to. And that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. So with that, I think we'll wrap up, because otherwise worse things will be said about me. So I will let you go for now, but thank you so much again.

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