In case you missed it, I lived in Manchester for 5 years and somehow developed a proper Mancunian accent. Somehow I ended up on Nathan Rae’s podcast “Northology” in 2013, talking about Manchester Girl Geeks, a not-for-profit community group I co-founded a few years prior (they’re still going strong, 10 years later!). If you want to listen to 30 minutes of me being proper Northern, the recording is still online.
When I joined Flatiron Health in February 2014, I had no idea what to expect. I had just moved to New York City – my second ever trip to the US – with two suitcases, crashed on my friend’s couch, and walked into the office in the middle of a snowstorm (I got in late on my first day because I was left stranded by the MTA – pro move!). I was on a 1-year visa and didn’t even know whether it was going to get extended after the year was up, or whether the 20-person startup I had just joined after finishing my PhD in England was even going to last that long.
Almost 5 1/2 years later I’m now looking back onto many late nights at the office, countless meals with my work family, a few drinks (just a few, really!), late night karaoke, rafting and ski trips, pipeline breaks and product launches, both great and absolutely horrifying client calls, several rounds of funding, an acquisition (us buying a company twice our size), another acquisition (this time us getting acquired), almost a thousand new employees, many farewells, wonderful relationships, challenging relationships, my first intern, my first direct report, my first time as a team lead, and my first goodbye to a company that I still talk about as “we” even though I officially left almost a month ago. As I like to tell people who ask me about my time at Flatiron: It’s been a wild ride.
So… what’s next? Honestly, I don’t know. I want to continue doing “data stuff”, but as a non-traditional (as far as the word “traditional” applies to a fairly new field) data scientist who puts data empathy and interpretability before building ML models, it’s going to be an interesting challenge to find the right fit for me. For now, I’m still based in NYC, enjoying the summer, plotting some travel, and reflecting on the things I’ve learned over the past few years.
Hackathons are more than just t-shirts
I already showcased a gallery of Hackathon t-shirts I designed for our Flatiron Health hacks a few posts back. Of course, Hackathons are much more than just t-shirts, so earlier this year my fellow engineer Ovadia and I wrote up a 2-part series of blog posts about Hackathons.
- In Part 1, we wrote about “Why We Love Running Hackathons at Flatiron” and what you can get out of running hacks at your organization.
- Part 2 then provides more details on “How We Run Hackathons” for anyone who is considering running (or tweaking) their company Hackathons.
Let me know what you think and/or give me some Medium clappy-claps!
What the hell is ‘Crisis Driven Development’?
After a couple of major production fires on our analytics pipelines that required us to drop everything and push through several migrations, my fellow engineer Zach and I looked at each other and admitted that “this was terrible, but things are actually much better now” – and so, the term “Crisis Driven Development” was born. We shaped up our ideas around the concept enough to talk about it at an engineering all-hands at Flatiron Health, and followed up with a couple of blog posts.
Zach’s post (the first part of the saga) focuses on how to be in a good spot to actually keep pushing forward during production fires instead of rolling everything back, and emerge on the other side in a better state.
The second part that I wrote then takes a step back and thinks through what makes ‘Crisis Driven Development’ so successful, and how we can apply those principles to a regular development cycle instead of a crisis – a controlled burn, so to say. And while none of this is entirely new, I do like how it can introduce a slightly different way of interacting and working together than the go-to mode of agile sprints and tickets. Let me know what you think – feel free to comment here, on Medium, or hit me up on Twitter.
Hackers gonna hack… and wear t-shirts.
Within my first six months at Flatiron I started helping out, and then later running, our company Hackathons: two days every quarter where the entire team (engineers and non-engineers) is encouraged to get (even more) creative and spin up new product prototypes, try out technologies, liberally fix bugs, or dig deep into our data.
An important part of our Hackathon tradition, along with the Thursday night pizza, are the t-shirts, which I’ve been designing almost every time for the past two years. What started out as a necessity has now become one of my favorite parts about the Hackathon – I get to play around with design tools and see people wearing the shirts I designed almost every day! I’m quite pleased with them, so I thought I’d share them with the world. Here are some of the most recent t-shirts I put together for our Hackathons.
PyGotham 2015: When Python met the Cookie Monster
Thanks to the NYC Women in Machine Learning & Data Science meetup group, I was able to attend this year’s PyGotham conference on a weekend in late August. With PyGotham being a fairly young conference (it was started in 2011 as an “eclectic Py-centric tech conference”), I had not heard of it before and did not quite know what to expect – and I was positively surprised by the breadth of inspiring talks and the number of enthusiastic Pythonistas I met that weekend.
Day One started bright and early with a 9am keynote by Nick Coghlan of Red Hat, who gave an insightful talk about the challenges of making open source development sustainable. He pointed out that a number of open source projects were handed over to the community where contributors would be happy to add new exciting features, but maintenance and bug fixes were expected to be carried out by “magic internet pixies”. His mention of the importance of work-life balance for open source contributors in particular struck a note with me, since this is something that is often overlooked when talking about getting involved in the open source community.
After a short break to rearrange the rooms, the day continued with a series of thirty minute talks. As a data insights engineer, I was particularly interested in learning more about the tools of the trade, and potentially also hear about some relevant technologies and frameworks that I might not come in touch with on a daily basis. I attended a presentation by Jeff Uthaichai and Chris Becker, who gave an excellent introduction to Docker, a tool that supports software deployment by allowing users to create a “container” which contains an application along with all its dependencies. The main focus of the talk was a series of recorded demos that showed how easy (or not…) it is to deploy a Docker container to different cloud hosting services. After a short break, the morning session continued with a talk by another excellent speaker, Jeremiah Malina of ChatID, who demonstrated how to set up a real-time analytics services using InfluxDB, a distributed time series database, using an easy to understand example of counting site visits associated with a referral ID.
Of course, attending talks at conferences is only half of the fun – the other half is meeting new people with similar interests, and so I spent most of the breaks in the breakout area outside the conference rooms, filling up on coffee, snacking on cookies, chatting with other attendees, and swapping business cards. One of my highlights of the weekend was my attempt to roll around the breakout area on a self-balancing scooter – think small Segway without anything to hold on to! – which the team from SinglePlatform had brought along.
After lunch, I attended a non-Python talk, which happened to be one of my favorites of the day. Thomas Ballinger, also known as the “Terminal Whisperer”, gave us a whirlwind tour of everything you’ve never thought of doing with your terminal, but you wouldn’t want to miss now that you know how to do it – from replacing existing text and changing text colors to blinking text and advice on how to create blinking git commit messages, Thomas’ talk provided plenty of inspiration on how to make command line interfaces more user-friendly. My final talk of the day was Jarret Petrillo’s excellent introduction to building a data aggregation app in Flask, a Python web framework, or self-proclaimed “microframework”, that can be seen as a lightweight alternative to the popular Django framework.
Day Two of PyGotham started with an engaging keynote talk by Jessica McKellar, a former Director for the Python Software Foundation, who asked us to imagine the Python community as a company which faces issues of sustainability and accessibility. She highlighted a few problems, such as the difficulties of running Python on Windows computers, which basically prohibits its uptake in schools that make heavy use of Windows PCs, and will continue to do so in the near future. Jessica concluded her talk with a very specific call to action to address Python’s accessibility for beginners as a first step to improving the position of “Python, Inc”.
Jessica’s keynote was followed by talk on code reviews by Amy Hanlon, a Hacker School (now Recurse Center) graduate and software engineer at Venmo who I had known since she gave a brilliant demo on overwriting builtin Python functions with Harry Potter spells at a PyLadies meetup in 2014. Amy gave another excellent and insightful presentation, listing some guidelines for code authors and reviewers, and explaining how reducing the amount of ground work a reviewer needs to do (understanding the code, spotting bugs, …) frees up time to get more valuable feedback on your code. After an extended break, I managed to catch the end of Sven Kreiss’ talk on pysparkling, a Python implementation of Spark’s Resilient Distributed Dataset (RDD) interface, had some exciting conversations with attendees from as far as the Dominican Republic over lunch, and met fellow female Pythonistas at the PyLadies NYC mingling session.
The next talk turned out to be another highlight of the weekend: SQLAlchemy ORM as demonstrated through the power of cookies. Jason Myers presented a wonderfully humorous step-by-step demo of setting up a cookie ordering system with SQLAlchemy ORM, a SQL abstraction toolkit that allows users to interacts with relational data as objects by abstracting from the underlying database layer. Jason’s talk was followed by an interesting, though mildly worrying, presentation by Ashwini Oruganti, an Eventbrite engineer and director of the Python Software Foundation, who gave an introduction to HTTPS and pointed out some of the common security flaws in OpenSSL. The final session of this afternoon block was yet another excellent live demo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis of MongoDB, who walked us through the setup of an application using asynchronous node.js style “coroutines” in Python’s asyncio module.
And with that, my weekend at PyGotham came to a close – a great little conference full of passionate Pythonistas and enthusiastic newcomers, which I will happily attend again in 2016.
Check out my Storify collection of my tweets from the conference!
PEOPLES. After 5 1/2 years in Manchester, a few weeks in Barcelona, and four months in Germany (living with my parents… oh the glamour!) I’ve somehow ended up working in New York. Yes, I have a job. I pay taxes. I’ve signed a lease for an apartment. I pay bills. I tried to apply for a credit card and got rejected. I’m a proper adult now, me. Life has been pretty crazy as you can possibly imagine, but here’s some pictures to keep you entertained while I’m gearing up for another round of mightaswell.
With the completion of my PhD in September, my time in Manchester has most likely come to an end. While I’m still officially a resident, I’ve been moving around Germany (with a quick stint in Barcelona) for the past couple of months, visiting friends and family, and there’s some more holidays planned. I’m not quite certain what my next stop will be, and whether I’ll be continuing to write on mightaswell, start a new blog, or leave the writing and ranting to others.
For now, I’ll leave this site up as an archive of my five years in Mancland (I keep referring people to blog posts… quite handy!) and then I’ll see what I’ll do with it once I’ve got a fixed address again. Exciting times.
Chorlton Water Park to Dunham Massey along the Bridgewater Canal
“We were lucky this year – summer fell on a bank holiday”.
(someone on Twitter)
I was going to write an elaborate blog post about how we cycled down to Dunham Massey (a large country park south of Manchester) where we had a picnic in the gardens and saw deer and baby rabbits, but all you need to know is this: Start at Chorlton Water Park, carry on to Sale Water Park, keep going until you’re at the point where it says “Overflow River Channel” on the map snippet below. You’ll be going under a bridge, follow the bend of the path just up onto the “bridge” which turns out to be the canal. Then follow along the canal for about an hour or so until you get to the exit off the tow path that’s closest to Dunham Massey (GPS/Google Maps is your friend). The surface is quite good in most places except for some bumpy bits when you get closer to Dunham Massey, but I managed well with my fairly thin hybrid wheels. If you get off at the right spot, you’ll go under a bridge again and end up almost outside the park. Say hi to the baby rabbits.
[Photo by David Jones]
Upcoming exhibition: Typographic, Urban and Americana Art by Patrick Macauly
I don’t usually announce events on this blog, but I would like to recommend this exhibition to all of you:
Typographic, Urban and Americana Art by Patrick Macauly
Exhibition at 2022NQ, Manchester October 4th – 10th 2013. Opening night on 4th October by invitation only.
Patrick’s art combines typography, colour, and wood such as reclaimed timber into pieces which remind of deserted houses and factories and… tumbleweeds. Besides the beautiful art, Patrick and his wife Linda are also rather awesome people: I’ve known them since we did the “Beards of Manchester” calendar (Pat was our “Mr December”), and Linda has been a core member of Manchester Girl Geeks for quite a while – I can’t thank her enough for the time she dedicated to helping out at our workshops and “Digital Skills for Women” IT courses.
So, if you want to see lovely art and meet lovely people, get down to 2022NQ in October!
You must be logged in to post a comment.