This week we welcome Brian Ray as our PyDev of the Week! Brian is the author / speaker for Python From Scratch Life Lessons from Pearson. He is the founders and the former chair of ChiPy, the Chicago Python users group. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Brian better!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
While pursuing a Liberal Art education I started consulting in computers. Prior to that, I could be found hacking away on my IBM PC JR at home and on the Apple Macintosh computers donated to Culver Military Academy boarding school in the early 90s. I took that knowledge for profit while enjoying a fruitful career in programming for the past 22 years. As a hobby, I have enjoyed the Arts, Culinary delights, home life in Chicago, and travel.
I have eaten my way across the globe especially in US and Asia. Any given day I may be found lugging my laptop across borders and always seem to find myself back in Chicago for the monthly Chicago Python User Group (ChiPy) meetings. I enjoy stopping in to other Python related meetups like to visit Don Sheu (and PuPPy – Seattle User Group) or to hear Python folks talk around the globe.
Why did you start using Python?
I started using Python to generate PostScript code to feed into high volume laser printers as well as to handle “Big Data” (before it was called that) for a direct mailing company in Chicago. Soon I found a very tiny community of Python Hackers in Chicago including names like Chris McAvoy, Ian Bicking, John Hunter, Adrian Holovarty, Aaron Swartz, Jason Huggins, Chris Webber, and many more… We formed ChiPy, Chicago Python User Group, over 14 years ago. I continued to use Python for just about everything.
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
I dream in PEP8.
What projects are you working on now?
I manage a Data Science team (who uses mostly Python) at Deloitte. I’m working on some open source projects regarding NLP and Machine Learning. I just finished a video series on Python.
I’ve bought a Bed and Breakfast in Chicago and plan on opening one in Asia. If you mention this blog, I’ll give you a discount on your stay, it’s called The Greenleaf House. We also use the space for Python tutorials.
Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?
I would always joke “future” is my favorite module, hence my Instagram handle “import_future”.
I use a lot of scientific computing modules, all the usual suspects: pandas, numpy, sklearn, bokeh, gensim, Tensorflow, PyTorch, nltk. I also like django, flask, requests, and such. Not a module, but I am impressed with the Jupyter efforts.
There are plenty core libraries I like as well. Many are under-appreciated like glob, csv, inspect, pdb, six …
What are the top 3 things you learned as the chair of a local Python Users Group?
1. There is no free beer
2. Our next meeting will be our best ever
3. It’s easy, fun, and safe place to share with like minds for all levels!
What advice do you have to others who want to start (or improve) their own group?
Start small. It’s not about how many heads are in the door. Quality over quantity. If I have a meeting with only two people in the room and they both walk away feeling like something was gained, learned, taught, and shared, then that was the best meeting ever. If I run a meeting with 180 people do your best to ensure the same quality.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Python is a good language and is suffering from being the most popular kid on the block at this moment. The important thing that made Python so valuable was community. In order to stay true to our Pythonic roots, as the language continues to gain popularity, we need to be constantly reinforcing the idea of community which provides: learned mentors, quality open source packages, availability of clubs, involvement in business, and recognition in the marketplace. Support your local user groups and the PSF. Do good things with the power Python gives you. Whitespace rules!
Thanks for doing the interview!