Tech Meetups: Working Remotely, Connecting Locally


Analytics is a rapidly evolving discipline. Staying up to date with the latest methods and software can be a daunting task to undertake alone. Local meetups provide access to a community of professionals with similar goals. In particular, Meetup.com is one site that supports self-organizing groups, which generate events based on a common interest. In the tech space, these can range from networking events to book clubs and hackathons. In the D.C. area alone, there are over 100 meetup groups related to analytics and data science.

In this post, three CANA team members, Lucia, Walt, and Jerome, discuss how they use meetups to learn, network, and give back to their communities.

Lucia Darrow | I use meetups primarily to learn. One of my favorite data science meetups in the Vancouver area hosts monthly briefs based on the online competition website Kaggle. Local teams present a Kaggle competition, share their approach, and then explain the methods of the highest-ranking teams. These presentations give me a chance to think about how to handle diverse problems, often with different data types than I work with in my day-to-day tasks. The combination of algorithms crafted by the winning teams are fascinating! One of my top takeaways is the relative success a simple method can have against these highly complex solutions.

Another way I use meetups is to connect with other women and gender minorities in tech, through groups like RLadies and PyLadies, that aim to give minorities a voice in tech communities. RLadies is an organization promoting gender diversity in the R community with meetup groups in 131 cities worldwide. You can check out a map of current locations here. For me, this group provides a bridge to the larger R community and connection to wide range of experienced R users.

Hadley Wickham speaking at an RLadies Meetup, August 2018

Walt DeGrange | One of the great things about living in the Research Triangle is the abundance of tech companies. SAS, RedHat, Lenovo, Cisco, IBM, and many more call the Triangle home. It also has three major universities with the University of North Carolina, Duke, and NC State and lots of smaller schools. Given this abundance of analytics, the area boasts many Meetup.com groups. There are groups for languages like Python, R, SAS, and Julia and techniques such as machine learning and AI. There are even groups specific to certain genders like the R-Ladies RTP.

In May 2018, the Research Triangle Analytics group ask me to speak. The venue was the SAS Training Center in Cary, NC. The facility was state-of-the-art and had more screens than I had ever seen in one room. I shared three stories from my past that focused on challenges in implementing analytics solutions. There was an excellent discussion after my presentation and several analysts shared their personal experiences.

"I love interacting with this diverse group of analytical professionals. The meetups give someone that works at home an opportunity to interact and share in person with other analysts. It also allows me to see what cutting edge in other industries. The cost of getting started is a little time to log into Meetup.com and search for analytics. As an additional bonus, many of the meetings are sponsored by organizations that supply pizza for the evening gatherings." - Walt DeGrange

Jerome Dixon I I use meetups to learn, network, and collaborate where it fits with like projects or technologies I’m interested in. My focus is machine learning, becoming a better programmer, and keeping up with the myriad of tools and techniques constantly getting introduced into the data science and technology space. One of the benefits to living in Richmond are the tech companies that sponsor meetups and examples of the use cases that they have actually put into production. I’ve seen amazing presentations by CapitalOne for how they use machine learning and hints into their data engineering infrastructure. I’ve sat through a very novel idea and use case for Tableau Server as basically an extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool by CarMax. Ippon has hosted some great meetups with how they are using Apache Spark as well as some best practices for their IT project management. Below picture is from NVIDIA’s Data Scientist, May Casterline, on the work they are doing with image processing, deep learning networks, and GPU dataframes. Leading edge technology!

And when I get stuck - PyRVA (python user group), RVA R User’s Group (R statistical programming language), RVA Linux User Group (Linux, Amazon Web Services), and Docker Richmond meetup group (for containerization). Great opportunities for both support and networking with Richmond’s local meetup community. I am very fortunate and grateful for the city I live. If you are lucky enough to be located in a great meetup community - please leverage!

*CANA Advisors is a veteran and woman owned leading logistics and analytics agency based out of Gainesville VA USA. For more information about CANA Advisors and its world class team visit canaadvisors.com

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