April 2020 Newsletter
Updated: May 20, 2020
To our friends, colleagues, and partners - Words feel inadequate to describe the COVID-19 pandemic moment that has encircled our world, our communities, and our lives. On behalf of the CANA Advisors team, we wish you and your families health, safety, and optimism during this uncertain time. We are a resilient human race, and we shall prevail. Yet, even during a time of national and world-wide crisis, silver linings trickle through. Working from home, now fondly hash tagged #WFH, has sprouted – nigh, it has vaulted – into our every day lexicon. For many, this new normal of working remotely has challenged them in good and not-so-good ways. Here, at CANA Advisors, we have been working remotely, or as we like to dub “virtually,” since our inception over ten years ago. Headquartered out of the Northern Virginia area, our team works virtually throughout the United States from San Diego, California to Hollis, Maine down to Albany, Georgia and back to Denver, Colorado! This quarterly issue has proven timely as we share CANA perspectives and professional development activities demonstrating the strengths and opportunities found in working “virtually.” We also highlight one of our incredible CANA team members – Ms. Kaitlyn Wark – a professional Data Scientist with young children, who is owning this #WFH moment. Finally, we want to take a moment to thank our country’s first line responders – doctors, nurses, aides, hospital administrators, police men & women, fire fighters, paramedics and every person stepping up to assist when needed – as well as our logistics backbone – the truck drivers, the railway conductors, the postal service, our third party logistics carriers, and every person who is stepping up to ensure much needed supplies and resources get to where they need to go. We salute you! ~Team CANA
Reflections on rstudio::conf 2020 RStudio February 2020 by Lucia Darrow
This January, several team members from CANA Advisors attended the RStudio Conference, both in person in San Francisco and remotely! At CANA, the R language is a part of our daily analytics practice, from quick turn analyses to high impact applications built in R Shiny. The RStudio Conference provides a great opportunity to learn about the latest trends in the language and connect with others in the community. Here are a few takeaways from CANA Senior Operations Research Analyst, Lucia Darrow, who attended the conference in San Francisco:
Virtual Attendance As a fully remote team, CANA Advisors is accustomed to making the most of virtual meetings and seminars to share knowledge and build community. This conference was the first time several teammates attended talks online simultaneously, coordinating to make sure we covered all the topic areas of interest. The conference organizers allowed virtual attendees to ask questions in the main queue and participate with talks as if they were in the room. It was awesome to feel as if the other R users on our team were attending the conference with me, catching the talks I wasn’t able to attend! In light of the postponement or virtual transition of many conferences scheduled for spring and summer 2020 due to COVID-19, creating the capability to attend and engage with virtual events becomes even more important.
Trends and Best Practices Two trends that seemed to be of growing interest amongst intermediate and advanced users are custom R packages and taking R into production. With a slew of new tools and packages to make package creation easier, the use of internal or project specific packages has increased drastically. Formalization of shiny applications into production grade apps was a continuing theme this year. New packages like golem show promise in making this process more attainable for R programmers lacking traditional web experience. At CANA, we are always looking for best practices to improve our R products and streamline the connection to other tools. I enjoyed several talks in the Programming track which elucidated topics like parallel computing and asynchronous processing with R. As R is a single-threaded language, these methods become increasingly important for processes with longer run time.
R Community and RLadies In keeping with their commitment to the open source community, RStudio announced their new status as a Public Benefit Corporation. Diversity and inclusivity were promoted throughout the conference, including a RLadies meetup event hosted by RLadies SF! This was a great opportunity to connect with other chapters and share tips and tricks for building local programming communities.
Interested in learning more? Many of these talks are available online. Check out https://resources.rstudio.com/rstudio-conf-2020 to experience the conference. To view CANA’s take on last year's 2019 RStudio Conference, check out Lucia’s previous blog post.
Lucia is a Senior Operations Research Analyst at CANA Advisors. To find more content on our favorite professional events, continue to visit our CANA Connection.
TEAM CANA MEMBER SHOWCASE Kaitlyn Wark | Data Science Analyst
CANA team member, Ms. Kaitlyn Wark, is a data science analyst for CANA Advisors. She develops predictive models and data analysis software that empower customers to make data-driven decisions. Kaitlyn has six years of analytics experience in the public and private sector and leverages domain expertise in education, housing, non-profit management, and insurance. She is a board member of Mentor Virginia.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou Kaitlyn specializes in transforming technically complicated analytics products into understandable, visually attractive applications for non-technical stakeholders. Since joining CANA, Kaitlyn has taken on the role of supporting our expanding data science practice. Previous to CANA, Kaitlyn was a Homeless Projects Evaluator at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). Kailtyn architected a data exploration and reporting application that allowed DBHDS leadership to quickly assess the overall performance of statewide housing programs and communicate areas of improvement to local housing programs. Equipped with evidence of the program’s impact, DBHDS successfully made the case for $9.2 million in continued funding for PSH programs to the General Assembly. In her role as Program Evaluation Officer, Kaitlyn developed The Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond’s first interactive dashboard, thereby enabling the Board to easily monitor the results of the Foundation’s social investment strategy and shift towards data-driven grant-making. Kaitlyn is passionate about applying software development best practices and design principles to data science software. In her non-profit and state government analyst roles, Kaitlyn championed the use of open-source statistical software to automate routine analysis and reporting tasks. Kailtyn also has experience deploying analytics software in a larger-scale production environment. She designed and deployed predictive models at Markel, a Fortune 500 insurance company, helping underwriters to more effectively and profitably manage their time pursuing new business. Kaitlyn introduced software development principles and successfully advocated for a test-driven development approach to the team’s data science workflow to increase the scalability and technical rigor of the analytics products they shipped. She contributed to a small team’s ambitious effort to develop software that scaled the development and deployment of customer churn models across multiple lines of business. This scaled approach reduced the time required to spin up a new customer retention model by 67%. Kaitlyn holds a Masters in Social Service Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Chicago. One thing we take pride in is our CANA Culture. As Kaitlyn says, "I love the camaraderie and can-do culture at CANA. All of my colleagues are excited by challenges and naturally curious, and that makes work fun." Working from home is a routine for every CANA member, and Kaitlyn's favorite part about WFH is "I love that I get to trade my commute time for breakfast with my kids and extra play time in the back yard before dinner. I also love that working from home puts me in charge of coffee selection and the brewing pace!" If you would like to learn more about Kaitlyn and how she and CANA Advisors can take your Data Science Analytics to the next level, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org! #teamCANA #canaadvisors #kaitlynwark
There Is No Perfect Way to Work Virtually, So Stop Looking for One and Start Working! Thoughts On Working Virtually in Today's World by Walt DeGrange
There is no, one right way to work virtually. This may not be a surprise to folks that were forced into this mode by the recent Corona Virus situation. Of course, you can do a Google search and get thousands of "Ten things to make working from home easier" or "Increase your productivity working from home."
You could literally spend the next ten years surfing these links, but I would argue that you would see marginal improvements at best and waste tons of time and money. So why do I know this, and what should you do?
First, I have been working virtually for six years. Over that time, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment, many hotel rooms, and a three-bedroom house with a dedicated office. I have worked virtually on the road from airports, coffee shops, co-working facilities, and baseball stadiums. So I have experience. The second question is, what should you do? My short answer is, "get to work!" Let us first explore the non-virtual workspace, better known as the office. Offices are basically factories for knowledge workers. Spaces are designed for efficiency with team members located close to each other. Conference rooms, bathrooms, and snack areas are centrally located to allow for quick use. Organizations design office space to increase productivity and minimize cost. Variation is the enemy of a well-designed office.
Your virtual workspace is designed by you. It can be a space designated as a home office, a lawn chair on your back deck, a couch in the family room, a kitchen table, or a seat at a baseball stadium. The sky is the limit, and the variation is infinite! That is both good and bad news. After all of those years, not having to think about the space where you work now, you have choices. To say this might be a little overwhelming is an understatement. Where do you start?
I would recommend just start with what you have. You have a kitchen table, use it. A dedicated room for a home office, use it. You just need to start working. As you work over the next few days and weeks, you will begin to make observations. Perhaps your kitchen chair is uncomfortable after one hour sitting in it. Put any observations you make on a list either on paper or electronically. After one month, review your list. Then develop a list of ideas to mitigate your negatively impactful comments. You can list buying something to make things better, and I also challenge you to list ways to fix things by not spending money. For example, that uncomfortable kitchen chair, obviously you could buy a pad for the chair or perhaps a new, more comfortable chair. You could also get up and walk around the room every 45 minutes and take a break or change locations completely.
Every person's experience working in the virtual environment is going to be different. There is no kit that organizations can send all of their team members to work efficiently virtually. Therefore sending all team members a standing desk is not going to create a great work environment for everyone. There is too much variation in team member's virtual spaces (i.e., house, coffee shop, co-working facility, etc.) to create a one size fits all solution. You must discover what works for you, and that takes time.
Interested in learning more? We will be talking more about working virtually in our upcoming free webinar series. Information is below. Walt is our Director of Analytics Capabilities at CANA Advisors. To find more content on working virtually, continue to visit our CANA Connection.
Connect with CANA ADVISORS in 2020 UPCOMING EVENTS
CANA Advisors invites you to join us again on April 16th for Part Three of our webinar series on Working Virtually. Part Three is a conversation on parenting and caregiving while working from home. Our team members will share their stories, challenges, and tips in their roles as caregivers and professionals. SIGN UP HERE
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