My Anaplan for All Journey & TA Experience with Correlation One

My Anaplan Journey Featured Image

Fun fact: Last year, after I completed Correlation One’s first Data Science for All training program, I was invited to apply to their first Anaplan for All training program. I learned that Anaplan had approached Correlation One about running a training program because there weren’t enough certified Anaplan Model Builders to work on the platform for their customers. At the time, I was quickly realizing that just about every data role seemed to require some amount of background or experience which I didn’t have. So even though I didn’t fully understand what Anaplan was, I went ahead and applied – it was an opportunity to stick around Correlation One and if there was so much demand for model builders, maybe my lack of previous experience would be overlooked by potential employers once I’d gotten certified.

My Anaplan for All Experience

I was accepted and participated in Cohort 1 of Anaplan for All with about 90 other DS4A alumni (incredibly talented people who’ve become good friends)!

The Anaplan for All program was challenging. Since it was Correlation One’s first time running the program, there wasn’t as much support as we probably needed (although it’s a free training program so I’m definitely not complaining – I am forever grateful to Correlation One for offering these amazing training programs for free and ultimately changing my life). Our cohort was divided into groups with a TA assigned to each. These TA’s would teach our groups each Saturday and we were expected to spend about 10 hours each week outside of class, learning on our own as we went through the Anaplan Academy Level 1, Level 2, and Anaplan Way courses.

As encouraging, kind, and helpful as our TAs were – they had only just completed the training right before the program began, so they didn’t have a ton of experience with the platform and in some instances seemed to feel just as lost as some of us were. Fortunately, the program also provided each student the opportunity to connect with an assigned mentor who had been working in Anaplan for a while. This was hugely beneficial because my mentor helped me see and understand the types of roles I could fit into once I’d earned my certification. It helped give me a clearer idea of what I was working towards in the program.

Admittedly, I struggled quite a bit during the program. I couldn’t really understand a lot of the concepts, a lot of the processes involved really confused me, and really Anaplan just felt like a super confusing version of Excel. By the end of the program, I did manage to earn my Model Builder certification but I wasn’t very confident in using the platform and I wasn’t really sure that getting hired as a model builder would be in the cards for me.

While the Anaplan academy training is wonderful, there are elements of it that can be a little difficult to grasp, and since it’s all recorded videos and text-based instructions unless you have someone present who understands the concepts and can help clarify them for you (ideally by explaining them in different ways instead of basically just repeating what the lesson said), it can be tricky to learn.

And Anaplan itself is an amazing platform but it really isn’t intuitive. Even if you have experience in data modeling or even just a lot of experience using tools like Excel or Google Sheets – it’s not a one-to-one comparison. — I imagine it’s a bit like if you were a mechanic, experienced with your typical diesel cars, and you were sat down in front of an electric car and asked to fix it. Yes, they’re both cars and they may have plenty of things in common – but they likely have a lot less in common than you’d expect.

Unfortunately, like many things, this isn’t something I immediately realized when I was participating in the Anaplan for All program. I internalized my struggles and got annoyed that I wasn’t naturally good at Anaplan. I got annoyed when I couldn’t solve all my problems through trial and error. And I got annoyed that I couldn’t mentally follow the processes involved in solving various problems in Anaplan. I managed to complete the program and get my certification – but it wasn’t without a LOT of challenges.

Being a TA for Anaplan For All

When I was invited to apply to be a TA for the Anaplan for All program, I started to really think about the issues I’d had when learning. I realized that I’d ultimately overcome a lot of my struggles by finding alternative ways to understand the concepts. I learned to follow the processes by drawing diagrams to track the flow of information through my models. I found ways to build formulas more mindfully (so I wouldn’t waste time trying to get a function to work when it wasn’t the correct function to use in the first place). I started to look for analogies to help understand (and explain) various Anaplan concepts.

I decided to build out a handful of tools and “cheat sheets” to help Anaplan beginners who might run into the same problems that I had. So far, I’ve started a small library of visual guides to Anaplan concepts, functions, etc., I took the “Formula Fridge Magnets” I created for myself and made them digital in a Google Slides presentation (ideally, I’d like to eventually turn it into a little app that’s a lot more user friendly), and I still have lots of other ideas for more cheatsheets, short explainer videos (the Anaplan community forums are great but unless people add screenshots to their questions and answers, it’s largely text-based so it can be difficult those of us who are more visual to understand), and maybe even a series of “Practice Problems” to help newbies get more comfortable on the platform.

And I love creating these things – I’m actually quickly realizing that not only do I enjoy using Anaplan, but I kind of really love to help others use it! Just a few months ago, when I started at Vuealta, I’d been thinking about taking the project management route and working towards managing teams using Anaplan but now I’m starting to think that maybe I’d like to become the Anaplan equivalent of a Developer Advocate or something like that – although that’s probably a ways off since I’m still fairly new to Anaplan myself. For now, I’m just enjoying helping Cohort 3 of Anaplan for All get started on their own Anaplan journeys and creating little tools, guides, etc. to help them along the way.

The other TAs are incredible people – we have 2 who are Master Anaplanners (Sarahjayne (SJ) Estrada and Kevin Cho), 4 (including myself) work at Vuealta (actually, Kndia (KD) Davis is one of the lead instructors – also a Cohort 1 alumni!), and a whole handful are Anaplan for All Cohort 1 alumni (including Shaneen Waiters and Raques McGill both of whom ALSO were in the Anaplan 2021 Virtual Summer Internship with me – which I’ll have to write about another time), AND the Anaplan representative helping to run the whole program is also an Anaplan for All Cohort 1 Alumni (who now works at Anaplan), the fantastic Kymberly Ayodeji! Of course, this isn’t a full list of all the program TAs, it’s just a small sampling of the incredible people I have the utmost pleasure to work with, in this role!

Every Saturday, while one of our lead instructors teaches about 3 hours worth of content to the cohort of fellows, all of us TAs answer fellows’ questions in a live chat channel on Slack. We also get assigned a different topic each week to spend about an hour on before and after the main lecture, to help fellows further understand. 

And during the week, we all host our own “Office Hours” (~5-7 hours) to help fellows out any time they get stuck while working on the activities in the training course. 

I was initially very nervous to be a TA but it’s been such a wonderful experience! I’ve been open and honest with the fellows about my personal struggles and experiences in general (like the fact that I have ADHD) and in my Anaplan journey (like the fact that it was a little harder for me to find an Anaplan role because I live in NM and needed to find a company that would hire me to work remotely) so that they know that, I’m always going to be honest with them based on whatever knowledge or experience I have and that even if they’re having a hard time understanding different concepts or they learn differently — there’s someone there who understands that experience and is willing to help. I don’t want to see anyone silently struggle through in the same way that I did.

And I’ve gotten SO much positive feedback in response! I’ve had students share with me that they also learn better visually or that they also have ADHD and were worried they might not be able to be successful because of it. I’ve also had students just tell me they appreciate knowing they can simply ask me to explain something in a different way because they didn’t understand the explanation in the training. Everyone is so kind and eager to learn and determined and it’s really just a fantastic [virtual] environment to be in!

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