Building a data team is like learning to ride a bike. Discover how to get there with minimal bumps and bruises.

Do you remember riding downhill with the wind in your face, your 7-year-old eyes watering like you just watched the opening to the movie UP? Then, all of a sudden, your wheels lock up and you flip head first over the handlebars and land right on the rocky asphalt.

Unfortunately, I have seen plenty of data teams experience similar pain, regret, anger, and humiliation due to lack of progress with their current data strategy—and often, this happens just as the speed was really starting to pick up. But that doesn’t mean they should throw in the towel! With scratches, some blood, and a whole lot of tears (metaphorically speaking) teams need to pick themselves back up and continue to move forward with their data journey. 

There is a faster and less painful path to building a fully capable data team. Let me share some hope with you using a few fun metaphorical lessons. When it comes to maturing your data capabilities, an experienced data consulting partner can help you not only avoid “serious injury,” but also help you achieve your goals in way less time.

3 Phases of Learning to Ride Your Data Bicycle

Step 1: Training wheels

I know, not the coolest way to start off this story. Yes, we all want to skip the learning phase and just start racing down the road with our friends. But remember, almost everyone learns to ride a bike with training wheels. Sure, you will want to skip them to hopefully look cool to the neighborhood kids. But that streamlined approach will not only be a lot costlier on the skin and psyche; it will also elongate the time it takes you to reach your goal.

Let’s step away from how we get to our goal for a second and just focus on the dream: actually riding a bike, feeling the wind in your hair, experiencing the joy of getting places in minutes not hours, and avoiding the constant falling, bumps, and bruises as much as possible.

An experienced data consultant can help you do just that!  A data consultant will act as your training wheels, minimizing the amount of things you need to think about and helping you focus. A good data consultant will guide you along your data journey by providing the necessary structure, skills, templates, momentum, and focus needed in order to learn while also meeting current job requirements and getting data deliverables out the door.

So often we find teams trying to learn, deploy, hire, and so much more while also trying to get their annual objectives accomplished. That is the equivalent of texting, chewing gum, and trying to ride your bike at the same time. You are just learning! Your team will learn best by leveraging the best practices provided by your data consultant and taking over the sprint work slowly rather than the all-at-once multitasking approach mentioned above. In this way, you keep the lights on while also making large leaps on the data capabilities maturity curve.

And, yes you can still fall when using training wheels, but these falls are mostly due to not paying attention, i.e. not prioritizing your focus and thus running into or over things. Just make sure you are working closely and communicating with your data consultant to avoid this one.

Want to skip the training wheels?

Hiring a single engineer may work. Or, it might be like hiring a grade school acquaintance to teach you how to ride a bike. This kid may not have the proper training and therefore may not be very good at coaching or might also lack the expertise on how to help you navigate your overall data process. His coaching could wind up like the scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall when Paul Rudd just keeps saying “You’re doing too much, do less, but do more” without really giving you any good tips on how to actually get better. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to help you achieve your data goals. So take our word for it: start slow. Hire an expert. You’ll be glad you did, because the next step is…

Step 2: Training Wheels Off

After you crush it in step one for a few weeks, we can remove the training wheels and just be there to coach, catch, and course correct your team members if they start to struggle. This follows the “I do, we do, you do” model of teaching, which provides the best way for on-the-job and contextual learning. We bring your team into our sprints and have you leverage our templates and properly configured tools, which allows you to incrementally add and update rather than trying to build from scratch right out the gate.

Co-development sessions and sprint tasks are great ways to quickly up-skill team members only when you have the ability to actually support their learning and provide a safe environment for failure. This is one of the biggest factors in data team success. 

Step 3: You’re doing it! You’re really doing it!

Once you have mastered how to ride, it’s time for us to let you pedal down the road. We let go, but we’re here cheering you on every time we see you ride by. We helped you learn the form and build the muscles needed to drive this thing. We helped you plot your journey, provided you with best practices, and recommended the top modern data stack components for your use case to ensure success is only a matter of your determination, not the bike you are riding. 

What’s Next?

You conquered that mountain and when you’re ready to learn the next hard thing, we will be there. Maybe that’s mountain biking, bmx, or unicycle riding. And when you are ready to move on to the next mode of transportation, we also have a driving school to help you  go even faster and farther (data lakes, data mesh, predictive analytics, streaming, etc.).

Let’s get you riding as soon as possible because you have places to go and things to achieve. And once we get you up and peddling down the road, we hope you come back for the next transportation lesson so we can help you soar even higher. And when you see other little .io’s and .com’s trying their darndest….please tell them your success story and let them know that Data Clymer is always here to help others learn to ride their data bicycle.  

For more information on how we can help you along your data journey, Contact Us anytime. Happy riding! 


Adam is a managing Cloud Data Consultant with expertise in training and education, technology implementations, data analytics, data strategy, solution architecture, financial modeling, marketing analytics, cloud architecture, and more. He makes sure that expectations are clear, next steps are defined, commitments are kept, and no one is left behind.