PyDev of the Week: Julia Signell

This week we welcome Julia Signell (@JSignell) as our PyDev of the Week! She helps develop Holoviz, a browser-based data visualization open source package for Python and Conda. Julia is also a co-organizer for PyDataPHL.

Let’s spend some time getting to know Julia better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I am a software developer at Saturn Cloud and live in West Philadelphia. Growing up I always liked languages, logic, magic, and maps. I studied environmental engineering at Smith College focussing on hydrology and after that spent a while in some different hydrology labs before fully migrating to software development. Once I made the transition, I did a few different jobs at Anaconda including a stint on the Holoviz team (which was great!) and then started at Saturn Cloud last fall. In terms of hobbies, I try to be outside as much as possible, so I like tennis, skiing, basketball, hiking, kayaking, camping, fishing, gardening. Other than that I tend to go for homesteader activities like knitting, quilting, and baking. My dream is to own a sheep or two and spin my own wool.

Why did you start using Python?

I started using Python a few different times before it really stuck. One time I was making graphs of gas emissions over time in salt marshes. Another time I was trying to manage incoming data from an ecohydrology field station in rural Kenya and automate storage and access to that data. I started getting serious about data visualization when I was trying to analyze lightning data and make sense of the locations of lightning strikes relative to rainstorms.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

I only really work in Python and Javascript (well typescript). So Python is my favorite. But I do really like javascript’s ternary operator.

What projects are you working on now?

in my current role at Saturn Cloud, I’m mostly working in the Dask ecosystem, and in particular, I am starting work on a new version of dask-geopandas. Eventually, I’d like to get back to this idea that started kicking around a year or so ago about a specification for python visualization libraries. The idea is that if libraries could comply with a certain spec, it would make it easier for users to switch back and forth between different libraries and it’d make it easier for new tools to build off the generic API. Kind of like the numpy array protocol.

Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?

Oh. I have to say xarray. Labels on multidimensional arrays? It’s just such a good idea!

What do you like most about Holoviz?

Holoviz has a lot of ideas about APIs for creating visualizations, but doesn’t take responsibility for the rendering. I like that idea – building on what exists while imagining different ways of interacting with them.

How did you get into open source and what do you like about it?
I first contributed to open source at the Bokeh sprint at the SciPy conference. The atmosphere was really collaborative and fun. This is probably what everybody says, but when I think of what I like most about open source it has to be the community. By working on open source, I get to work with people from all over the place and keep working with them even as their jobs change. It’s a great place to learn and make friends.

Thanks for doing the interview, Julia!