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Boosting data confidence with bootcamps

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The Department for International Trade (DIT)’s Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) strategy wants to make better use of data. Our goal is to use data to get valuable and timely insights. We support this by ensuring that all colleagues have opportunities to develop their data capability and be ambitious about future ways of working with data. One of the ways our Data Infrastructure team support colleagues to do this is by running ‘Data Workspace bootcamps’.  

The name comes from our bespoke Data Workspace platform which functions as a data catalogue and analysis centre. It contains over 800 datasets and over a dozen analysis tools that anyone with up-to-date security training can use. Hundreds of people in the department already use it to search for and analyse data. However, bootcamps provide an opportunity to show other DIT colleagues how they can use it and help them gain the skills to do so.  

Designing this course was challenging because of the sheer amount of subject-matter we could have covered. The platform itself has a lot of datasets and functionality to explore. Most importantly, we wanted colleagues to be able to use our visualisation tool Amazon Web Services (AWS) QuickSight, and to manipulate and summarise data with Structured Query Language (SQL). By prioritising user needs, we ultimately reduced this to 5 weeks’ worth of learning objectives and built the content around those. This was further refined using feedback from the attendees of our pilot sessions and by trialling changes in smaller training sessions for individual teams. Thank you to everyone who acted as guinea pigs!   

We have delivered several virtual bootcamps but are now looking forward to running our first hybrid series later this month. Before each bootcamp series, colleagues are given access to all datasets needed during the sessions. We can then introduce new concepts, provide demonstrations and give attendees time to experiment with them during the session. In response to recent feedback, we are adding quizzes to each session to enable more interactivity. We are also creating optional ‘homework’ to give attendees an opportunity to reflect on the training throughout the week when they have capacity. 

The bootcamp course will continue to be iteratively improved. Having run it 4 times, we are confident that the structure we have developed provides a great basis for training colleagues who aren’t data specialists. 
The courses sessions are:  

  • Introduction to Data Workspace and QuickSight  
  • More QuickSight Functionality  
  • Introduction to SQL, Filters and Aggregation  
  • SQL Joins and Scalar Functions  
  • SQL Common Table Expressions and uploading your own data  
slide from a previous data workspace bootcamp session reading, the Data Workspace Bootcamp Session 1: Intro to Data Workspace and QuickSight, February 2022, by the Data team at the Department for International Trade
slide from a previous data workspace bootcamp session reading, Data Workspace Bootcamp Session 1: Intro to Data Workspace and QuickSight, February 2022, by the Data team at the Department for International Trade

The bootcamps have been very well received by DIT. For the last 2 quarters, we needed to run 2 series of bootcamps simultaneously and keep a waitlist of people. The feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. 100% of Bootcamp attendees feel confident building dashboards in QuickSight, and 70% of attendees feel confident finding and using data from Data Workspace. Attendees reported that they found it ‘really helpful’ and that it gave a ‘solid understanding around the basic of QuickSight and linking SQL’. It also showed them ‘the direction and the possibilities’ for using data in their work.  

Designing and delivering training for DIT colleagues that builds complex skills but still fits into their schedules was always going to be a challenge. We probably haven’t solved it perfectly yet. However, we are confident that we are helping those who wouldn’t consider data to be one of their strengths to build valuable skills.   

We are continuing to run quarterly bootcamps and smaller training sessions for individual teams. We also deliver other initiatives to help DIT staff solve problems and improve processes, like the recent Data Workspace Challenge. We will continue to collaborate across DIT with training and events like these in order to develop our data capability for the 21st Century.  

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