Home

From Infantry Reservist to Data Analysts

Blake Smedley - May 11, 2021

My journey with the military began when I was 17, in 2011 with the Army reserves. That
November, my best mate and I decided to sign up as infantryman, planning to go through
Kapooka together over the summer break and see where the adventure would take us.

At the time, I never would have thought this journey would lead to opportunities in data
analytics. But here we are. So let me explain…


Following Kapooka, I loved my time in the reserves. I completed my infantry modules as
early as I could, going during the school holidays and putting my hand up for every training,
weekend and opportunity I could for the next 2 years. Eventually, however, I found myself
putting more time into my university studies and career development. Around the
beginning of 2015, I decided to transfer into standby reserves to pursue a career interstate
in the field of business and management.


Fast forward a few years to October 2020 when I received an email explaining the Army, in
collaboration with WithYouWithMe (WYWM), were looking for those with or without
technical experience, to build a new data team. I remember thinking, "Really? An
organisation that's willing to take someone like me, with very limited technology experience
and almost none in data analytics, train them up from scratch and get them working in the
field? Surely this is too good to be true?" Well, I was half right. That's exactly who they were
looking for. I was just wrong about it being too good to be true. I sent in my expression of
interest and the next thing I knew, I was enrolled in one of the best, most engaging training
courses I'd ever done.


Provided I had the will to learn, WYWM had the will to teach. As I would learn over the next
6 weeks of training and team building, this is exactly what WYWM sets out to achieve, and
they do a damn good job at it.


And so here I am. From an infantry reservist, to trainee data analyst.

Throughout the delivery of the course, you really feel WYWM’s commitment to their
learning mantra, "learn by doing". Lessons consist of easy-to-follow videos and
opportunities to follow along. Right from Module 1 of the Data Analytics Course, instructors
Ben and Jimmy (absolute legends) begin with a very brief overview of what you'll be doing,
saying only what needs to be said before allowing you to go straight in and get hands on
with Excel. The course material and lessons are delivered in such a practical and
straightforward manner that by the time you reach the next phase, you almost don’t even
realise you've just picked up something really useful and even a bit technical.

Without giving you any answers, you are visually guided through the course with clearly
explained, screen recorded demonstrations of how to use different data analysis
techniques. Put simply, each lesson follows a fairly simple formula:

  1. Briefly outline what's about to be taught
  2. Provide a demonstration and allow you to follow along
  3. Give you a scenario to practise the same techniques you just observed

This allowed me to learn data analytics at my own pace, with minimal confusion, and
eventually understand how to use slightly more advanced analytics methods as the course
progressed.

If I was ever stuck or interested in diving deeper into a particular topic, the WYWM team
was always available and happy for me to get in touch. Not only that, because I’d gotten to
know my classmates really well through the daily catch ups set up by our instructors every
morning, I felt comfortable reaching out to them at any time. This was one area where
WYWM really stood out compared to previous institutions I'd learned at.


No weird, artificial, awkward friendship making games, we just began by chatting casually in
the mornings before starting our lessons. Before I knew it, eventually questions like 'hey
mate, how was the weekend?' just made their way into our conversations. As someone with
a fair amount of experience in classrooms, I found this pretty exceptional for a course that
was entirely online, which more often than not struggle to generate this kind of culture.


Not only was WYWM able to make us feel like mates throughout the course, I reckon the
culture of our classroom was more closely-knit than most face-to-face courses I've done.

It was obvious right from the beginning that WYWM is so effective at achieving this because
they really live and breathe their values. Be fierce in chasing your dreams, transparent in
your behaviours and intentions and curious throughout your learning journey and life. It’s a
catchy tune, and it inspired me and my classmates to hold the same values as we learned
together.

It wasn’t WYWM's mission and values that made them stand out, rather it was their
commitment to fulfilling these through action. I felt they were genuinely committed to
helping me and other veterans learn skills relevant to today’s workforce and help us find
suitable jobs. I experienced first-hand the 4 steps they took to do this, from discovering my
skills and interests, training me up to be career ready, helping me find a relevant job
opportunity, and keeping in touch with me about further opportunities to learn and grow.


It’s still crazy to think where I’ve ended up from my start in the reserves as an infantryman,
and my journey hasn’t even finished. Around the corner is a data analytics team project I’ll
be starting with the same classmates I just studied with, to build a Data Hub for the
Australian Army. I feel ready to tackle the challenge, excited to see what other opportunities
lie ahead with my new skills and keen to see what else WYWM has in store for me down the
track.

Join our community

We have a Discord server where you’ll be able to chat with your instructors and cohort. Stay active in your learning!
Join discord