One or two things I wish I had learned in school, the beginning

TLDR? It was Orlando, FL 4 years ago.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to write about one or two things that I wish I had learned in school, mostly about helpful tools for data science. In fact, I juggled with the grand idea whenever I wrote about those tools individually on this blog.

It’s actually more like nine or ten things, but I think the title grabs the attention of the audience better as-is, and besides, I can make a corny joke afterwards saying it’s actually nine or ten, not one or two :)

To be precise, I’ve wanted to write a short reference book, using bookdown, that talks about those things, as hopefully it can be a good educational resource for many, especially for those close to me, future self included. It’s a daunting task, especially while working full time, but I had taken a small step while back by downloading the bookdown package and started poking around the sample files, albeit without making much progress, if at all.

I took another small yet meaningful next step this time the other day, when I talked to a group of students about those things in a seminar at a local university. What was great about this external speaking engagement was that it gave me a chance to think about the outline and the flow of the aforementioned (future) book. Sure there are things that I want to talk about, but as far as the natural outline/flow goes, it didn’t really exist until I started preparing for the seminar, and now I seem to have a (good) starting point.

I shared a series of events that led to my interests in sharing these things in the talk, but literally it all started in RStudio Conference in Orlando, FL 2017.

First, ever since I started using R at work (circa 2011), I always thought having a package up on CRAN was one of the coolest things a useR can do. Yet I didn’t know what to do then, and unlike nowadays, there didn’t exist many (friendly) step-by-step instructions on R packaging, like this, for example :). Then I took an R package development workshop by none other than Hadley in 2017 RStudio Conference and was blown away by how easy it was! I’m not very active on twitter, but my rare tweet (a self promoting one!) about the one year after 2017 RStudio Conference post garnered some interests thanks to the one and only retweet by, again, none other than Hadley :)

What to expect at and after attending @rstudio conference 2018: one year after attending @rstudio conference 2017. TL;DR summary: you'll end up doing cool things! I did, thanks to @xieyihui @hadleywickham :) #rstats #rstudioconf

— Jay's Notes (둥섭's 노오트) (@uncmbbtrivia) January 29, 2018

It was so easy I remember feeling almost embarrassed and excited at the same time. Feeling embarrassed, because I had always thought only those with many years of programming experience would develop packages, and that was not the case! Feeling excited, because I knew many around me didn’t know how to create R packages, let alone how easy it was, and I could share the how-to!

Secondly, during the conference, a professor from Wisconsin told me he arrived a day late because of the Carpentries workshop he was teaching. I didn’t know about the Carpentries then, and didn’t think much about it during the conference. Some time after the conference, I don’t remember now what prompted me, but I searched online and learned more about the Carepentries, and signed up for instructor training. One thing led to another, and I saw a local software carpentry workshop announcement at Emory (what are the odds of that!), and reached out to the host and got involved.

The Carpentries workshops would have been greatly helpful for me while I was in school, but I don’t think they existed back then. Well, now they do, and they provide awesome online lessons and workshops on skills and tools for (essentially) data science. Things that are going to be helpful in getting a job, as well as in transitioning into a new role after graduation and rocking the new role, be it in research labs or in industry.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years since the conference in Orlando, and they had this year’s conference a couple of weeks ago, albeit virtually. I’m sure this year’s conference will be the beginning of a meaningful and fruitful journey for many, like it was for me. Funny thing is, I didn’t start writing this post with a focus on Orlando per se, but I just saw that the next RStudio conference is in Orlando (!), and what a full circle! I can already see myself self-promoting this post leading up to the event next year :)