How Do You Learn Something New

Recently I made a bit of a career change. I’ve been working in the Sports Industry since I left college nearly 15 years ago and it was time for a new challenge. I haven’t left analysis or the sports industry behind entirely but it was time to get out of my comfort zone.

I was struck last week in a post by Simon Banoub which, when commenting on his recent career change out of sport wrote the following;

I’m also nervous about taking the role of the bloke who asks the stupid questions (probably for months) rather than the bloke who brings a level of industry knowledge to the table right from the get go.

My new role involves learning two new technologies, Tableau & Alteryx. Tableau I have been a user of for awhile but Alteryx was brand new to me.

I’ve always enjoyed learning new things – but it’s different (and easier) to add a bit to something you are already familiar with. Picking up extra knowledge in sports analysis on top of 10+ years experience is not the same as starting from scratch learning something entirely new.

Over the last 12 months I’ve been in a situation where I feel like, from a technical point of view, I was starting from scratch. So how have I gone about it.


Really not sure there is any substitute to this. It took me 10 years of experience to feel comfortable in my own shoes as an analyst. I never felt like I knew everything but there was a certain confidence that comes with having so much experience behind you.

So I don’t think this is any different. It’s going to take time, probably years, just to feel comfortable with new skills.

At the moment all the books I have on the go are about Data Visualisation. Lunch breaks are about finding tutorials on Tableau, Alteryx or Data Viz. Trying to find out what I don’t know or what I could do better.

There really is no substitute for time.

You gotta do it:

Anybody who has followed this blog for the last few years will know how often I’ve preached the fact that you just have to go and do the work. you can watch and read all the theory you want but until you try your hand in a real life scenario you have no idea what you do and don’t know.

It’s the real life questions that have really pushed me on. It can be easy to follow a tutorial along step x step. But real life always throws out questions that push your own understanding of a product or subject.

Be Willing to Fail

This very much follows on from the point above but it’s about being more than in the field. In order to truly improve you will need to be in situations where you might fail. This is massively uncomfortable but absolutely vital. Failure is relative of course.

Being in positions way outside my comfort zone forces me to over prepare. I want to be able to answer any question they could throw at me in a training session. Even though I know this is impossible the days before a training session I’ll be scribbling furiously in a notebook of all the new tips and tricks I’ve learned that week. They don’t come out as fluently or coherently as I’d like first time but I notice that the next session I feel much more comfortable.




Rob Carroll. Founder of The Video Performance Analyst. Always learning.