The ideas expressed in this article have been developed and tested over the past seven years. These ideas are based on real-world experiences that were not contemporaneous or intended to be linked together, but somehow it is now clear that they should be.
The stories referenced are all true and they all have underlying themes. To fully appreciate the depth of the insights that have been developed, the reader should explore the referenced stories that are contained within this article. These stories include direct examples and supporting evidence for the ideas and claims made in this article.
The referenced stories were written over time as the events unfolded. They were not written to satisfy any agenda(s). I wrote all the stories on my own volition. This article attempts to coalesce what I have learned as an Alteryx practitioner, a professional manager, and as a teacher of Alteryx.
My name is Ken Black and I work in the field of advanced analytics. My career spans over three and a half decades and has always been focused on computational activities and data-related topics.
My primary fields of expertise include environmental simulation modeling, statistically based process improvement methods, advanced analytic studies, machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) applications, and data visualization.
For the past six years I have been working in the automotive industry. My work has generally been data-driven studies related to the development of autonomous driving, the processing of streaming vehicle data, making financial improvements, and a range of other topics.
For some of my process-improvement work and all my automotive work, Alteryx has been the software I have used to compute results, to create custom data sources, and to complete proof of concept studies. During this time, I have also managed new college-hire employees that have allowed me to be a witness to employee skill improvements that have occurred due to the usage of Alteryx.
Additionally, over many years I have documented the impact that Alteryx has had on my own son Colton. Colton who now works as a full-time analyst using Alteryx to complete data-driven studies.
Starting in 2013, my Alteryx experimentation with young employees began. I was teamed with a young analyst that had just graduated with an M.S. degree in Business Analytics.
Over the course of two years, we worked together to solve some vexing process-improvement projects that featured large data sources and challenging timelines. When I left the company in early 2015, my parting words to him were: “Continue your studies in Alteryx. Alteryx will form the basis of your future work.”
Today that employee continues to work in Alteryx and has advanced his career based on these skills combined with his natural talents. This was the first time I saw how Alteryx could easily empower a person that is naturally skilled in mathematics and statistics. Based on that success, I decided to continue my experiment.
In 2015, my second Alteryx experiment occurred almost by accident. Two new college employees were assigned to me because they were eager to learn about processing travel-related data. During one weekend, I met with one of the employees to teach him about how I was using Alteryx to process and visually comprehend the data.
This experience taught me how easy it was for me to teach how the suite of tools in Alteryx is able to streamline the data processing pipeline and reduce the development time for complicated data processing tasks. This work was documented in a series of articles/video blogs (1, 2, and 3) that captured the Alteryx learning process as it unfolded.
The most important insight I developed from this experience was to see how easy it was to take a talented young professional and teach him how to achieve more rapid problem-solving results by using the powerful tool set available in Alteryx.
It was about a year later in 2016 when I was given four new-college employees to manage. During some initial project work, I decided to do a little Alteryx experimentation on them. Once again, I was taught how Alteryx quickly transformed their abilities to allow them to properly process a difficult to use, large data source (1), much to the delight of the business clients.
At roughly the same time, my multi-year experiment began with teaching my own son how to use Alteryx. As he worked his way through a difficult and highly ranked business analytics program, I was able to compliment his learning by showing him how Alteryx could be used to perform the operations he was having to do in SQL, JMP, Excel, and R.
The experiences we shared were captured in a series of articles (1, 2, 3, 4). These experiences taught me how effective Alteryx is when it comes to comprehending and relating to data. I am happy to report that my son is now using his Alteryx skills as a full-time analyst performing advanced analytics projects.
Based on the years of testing and teaching discussed above, I believe I can pinpoint why Alteryx makes young employees better equipped and more efficient in performing data-drive studies. In the following paragraphs I refer to my coworkers as Alteryx students.
First, all the employees I trained were new college graduates. They were educated in computer programming, mathematics and a wide variety of other analytical techniques. In other words, these employees were perfectly positioned to learn and comprehend how Alteryx functions in data-driven studies.
Since the students were new in their careers, they did not necessarily have a large toolbox of analytical solution techniques at their disposal. This made the offering of a diverse Alteryx tool set a perfect gift. The Alteryx tools gave the students easy access to a big collection of powerful problem-solving techniques.
Since the young employees have been schooled in methods that are more time-consuming to complete, they were all astonished and delighted by how easy it was for them to solve challenging problems using Alteryx. One of the methods I used to train them involved what I affectionately call: “Solving the problem the hard way”.
By having them first solve the problem using the analytical techniques that they had been taught in college, I set the stage for a significant and meaningful Alteryx learning experience. After experiencing the struggles implicit in finding solutions with tools like SQL or R, the students quickly realized how much they enjoyed using Alteryx and how much faster they were in solving the problems.
Second, I was able to accelerate the students’ learning by instructing them with the examples that I had given them as well as showing them how to use Alteryx on their project-related work. By focusing on problems that they were familiar with, the Alteryx learning curve was shortened for the students. The immediate satisfaction they felt by solving their problems gave them motivation to learn more about Alteryx on their own time. This self-directed study also shortened the learning curve.
Finally, I knew that the training was successful based on one simple fact. Nearly every student that I have ever taught continued to use Alteryx as much as possible, even after my lessons were over.
There were many times the students asked me to help them get an extension to their trial license. There were even students that left our company to pursue full-time jobs that featured Alteryx development opportunities.
What this signifies to me is that the students understood that their careers would be enhanced and more enjoyable if they had Alteryx to work with. This final thought is the most compelling reason that I believe Alteryx enhances and accelerates the careers of young data analysts.
If you are a teacher in a college or university, I encourage you to do your own study on the use of Alteryx by incorporating its usage in your curriculum.
I guarantee you that your results will indicate that the students are excited to use Alteryx, they will comprehend the data better than ever, and they will become self-directed and push themselves to use Alteryx for more advanced studies, including predictive analytics and forecasting.
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