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Apprenticeship update: it’s within your Power BI

Data Fellowship, apprenticeship, laptop, books, notepad, pen

At the end of my last update, I mentioned the report for my portfolio.

It was taking me longer to complete than expected because of the work situation. Not much has changed on that front so far. I’m still trying to stay on top of my day-job as a database engineer, while working as a consultant for another team and completing my Data Fellowship apprenticeship. And there’s still no contractor to help.

Something might be happening about that last point though. On one hand, I’ve heard telephone interviews have been taking place recently so someone can be brought in; but on the other, it seems the intention is for them now to oversee server and database upgrades, rather than cover my role specifically while I do the consultancy thing. While I don’t see my situation changing immediately, maybe I’ll find out more soon.

The most important thing for me right now is to continue trying not to feel guilty about being unable to do everything. There’s only so much a person can deal with in a single day. Since my breakdown in June, I’ve started to put my own interests first more often and have been concentrating more on my apprenticeship. Instead of jumping on every single request sent to me, those questions and demands will have to wait if I’m already in the middle of something.

This change of mindset means more focus has been given to getting my first project report completed during August. There was a delay while I spent a week recovering from COVID-19 but I finally managed to send the draft to my apprenticeship coach. Thankfully, his feedback wasn’t too scary and no major updates are needed other than a few wording changes and formatting tweaks. I’m going to give myself a fortnight off from looking at it and then get the final document finished next month.

This is the first time in the apprenticeship that I’ve actually had to learn something new as previous training sessions have covered subjects I’m already familiar with.

I’ve also started working on my second project and it’s good to see the report writing flowing much easier this time around. Now that I feel more confident about knowing what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get through this one much quicker. I just need a little more experience with using Power BI so I can get the data analysis work done because it’s the first time I’ve used the software. The timing couldn’t be better because August’s training sessions were all about the tool.

I must admit that I don’t like it and the training has been a slog. Using Power BI just doesn’t feel intuitive to me. Every time I want to do something specific and have to search the internet for assistance, it seems the answer is to always ‘add a new column’ or ‘amend the data source’. It feels like these are workarounds and the software should really have inbuilt functionality for the simple thing I’m trying to do. If it can’t, then I might as well continue working with SQL queries and Excel formulas.

When my manager asked what I thought of Power BI, I flippantly told him it was for people who couldn’t be bothered to learn how to code (at least to the basic level we were taught in the training sessions). It was an off-the-cuff remark but I do get his point about it being useful for dashboards. I’ve got ideas for future projects for my portfolio which will require visualisations to be constantly updated with the latest data, and the software seems as though it could be exactly the thing I’ll need for this.

I’ve just got to persevere with it, play around with the tool a bit more and probably watch some additional tutorial videos too. This is the first time in the apprenticeship that I’ve actually had to learn something new as previous training sessions have covered subjects I’m already familiar with. I’m aware my dislike of Power BI could be coming from the shock of now having to put some effort into my learning, and my long-running disdain of Microsoft is likely clouding my opinion too.

This is something I’m doing for me. I’m not going to let the situation hold me back any longer or stop me from getting where I want to go.

In other news, last week I received a random email from the company that runs the apprenticeship. It was an invitation to apply for their Elevate scheme, ‘a leadership opportunity which offers the chance to build skills and put them into practice through leading and representing the community.’ I mentioned this to my coach during a call and he was surprised. He didn’t think my cohort had been on the apprenticeship long enough to be considered but he recommended I apply anyway.

The following morning, I received a response to say I’d been accepted onto the ‘Influence’ pathway. The ‘Engage’ option would possibly be easier for me as it’s all about building a community and content creation, but it felt right to go for something which would make me feel uncomfortable – and therefore provide a bigger opportunity to grow. Over the next six months, I’ll be improving my public speaking skills and taking part in industry events to both raise my profile and promote the benefit of apprenticeships.

Pete was concerned when I told him about my application. He’d seen how stressed I’d been back in June when I had far too much work on and he didn’t want me to put myself through something like that again. But this is something I’m doing for me. The situation at work is my employer’s problem, caused by not rehiring when staff resign and leaving others to fill in the gaps, and it’s their issue to fix. I’m not going to let it hold me back any longer or stop me from getting where I want to go.

There’s no training session in September and instead, we’ll be taking part in a Hackathon. It sounds like we’ll be spending the day in a room without windows while coming up with a solution to a data problem presented by someone from the business. This is either going to go really well, or incredibly badly. A lot of my apprehensions are to do with seeing which other apprentices I’ll end up being grouped with – but I’ll go into that in more detail in my update at the end of next month.

In the meantime, I’ll be concentrating on getting the draft for my second project report finished before finalising the document for the first. There’s also the Elevate onboarding session next week. And I’m sure there’ll be some more moaning about Power BI and Microsoft too.

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