For National Coding Week in the UK, we asked members of our global team some questions that we think give a great insight into what really excites them and what they are looking to achieve.
This time we are speaking to David Starkey who is a Data Scientist here at IMS.
What got you interested in coding?
I avoided it with a passion at undergrad but quickly came to realise during my masters and PhD work that Excel can only get you so far when trying to measure the mass of a black hole!
Can you tell me what your greatest achievement is?
I did a marathon and survived being hit by a lorry at 50mph. Maybe professionally is completing my thesis and in terms of coding I think finally converting my old accretion disk mapping code from Fortran into Python. It was 20,000 lines long!
What is something you love about working at IMS?
I think my teammates are super smart, great fun to be around and critical to the business. I have learnt lots since joining the team often simply by studying their coding style in the scripts, packages and notebooks they have written. The best coding happens when you are comfortable and able to focus in your own environment so the remote aspect is critical. Combining this with great communication on teams and learning from others coding styles really enables great work and learning.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is looking to start their career in coding?
Don’t be discouraged or feel silly if you make a mistake. You have to start slow and can naturally wonder how you are ever going to go from getting a computer to conjure the phrase ‘hello world’ up on the screen to making fancy packages and programs that predict the future, identify who are the riskiest drivers or become self-aware and enslave humanity. It takes time.
There are lots of tools, courses example scripts and problems online that can give you a head start. Also I would say learn from other coders. Everyone learns to code from different starting points and in their own way. I get a real buzz when I read someone else’s code and discover how to do the same thing that used to take five lines of code in one. The trick is to acknowledge when you make these triumphs, however small, and not beat yourself up when you make a mistake.
What is one of the most important qualities you think a person should have when looking to start their career in coding?
I would say patience. No ones code ever works first time!
I think its also good to want to break problems down into nice small chunks rather than trying to tackle a mountain of work all at once.