SDS 195: Inspiration from the Founder of the R Ladies Organization - SuperDataScience - Big Data | Analytics Careers | Mentors | Success

SDS 195: Inspiration from the Founder of the R Ladies Organization

R Ladies Organization
Welcome to episode #195 of the Super Data Science Podcast. Here we go!

Each of us in the data science community should be gearing towards gender diversity in the field, no matter what our gender is.

In this episode of Super Data Science Podcast, we listen to Gabriela De Queiroz, founder of R-Ladies, dive into gender diversity, her data science career, deep learning, and many more.

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About Gabriela de Queiroz

Gabriela de Queiroz is the Founder of R-Ladies, a worldwide organization for promoting diversity in the R community. She is currently the Senior Developer Advocate at IBM. Aside from these, she is also passionate about sharing knowledge through mentoring and public speaking.


Gabriela has been trying to change how the game is played in the field of Data Science ever since 2012 when she started the community of R-Ladies. She recalls how very tiny group was originally but wasn’t really bothered by the small turnout.  She just wanted to talk to other women, share her knowledge, and also learn from them. Then, it eventually grew worldwide.

Right now, R-Ladies has now 130+ chapters over 40 countries and have held meetups which hosted more than 20,000 attendees. These women have been learning from and helping each other on their projects, careers, personal lives, etc. She never knew that R-Ladies would get big. It became more popular than what she anticipated.

Aside from holding the fort for the R-Ladies, Gabriela also enjoys mentoring through various platforms and giving talks outside to add value to the community. It’s important to have your own mentor. Take note of Gabriela’s pro tips on how to find a mentor and how to approach them. She stresses that it’s important that there’s a connection between you and your mentor.

Discover also how different are her careers are before she became the data scientist she is right now. She shares that she had a hard time looking for what she really wanted that’s why she explored. She worked as a music producer, a private tutor, and a statistician. But she’s never regretful because the skills she learned from her previous jobs stayed with her and have greatly helped honed her career right now.

Lastly, she lets us in on how it’s like to be working in IBM. To be moving to a large corporation is a whole new experience for her since she worked for startups previously. Listen in to know how she takes open source deep learning models and make them simple to be easily understood many. And, if you guys aren’t aware, Gabriela says that IBM is one of the open source contributors. Make sure to take note of that and utilize the resources.

And, if you’re still hungry for more knowledge from Gabriela after listening to this episode, then head on to DSGO 2018 this October 12-14 at San Diego, California and make sure to catch her!

In this episode you will learn:

  • Gabriela talks about her move from Rio de Janeiro to San Francisco for her career. (03:19)
  • How big is R-Ladies right now? (05:35)
  • How do you start an R-Ladies Group in your city if there is none yet? (10:10)
  • Giving back to the data science community doesn’t depend on how small or big your audience is. (13:47)
  • How important is a connection with your mentor? (21:55)
  • Gabriela’s career journey before being a data scientist. (29:01)
  • Learning from failed projects. (34:07)
  • Gabriela’s experience being the only data scientist in an industry. (38:40)
  • The important components of data science workflow/pipeline. (41:09)
  • Gabriela enjoys being a Developer and an Advocate at the same time inside a large corporation. (46:10)
  • IBM is one of the top open source contributors. (53:00)

Items mentioned in this podcast:

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Episode Transcript

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Full Podcast Transcript

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Kirill Eremenko: This is episode number 195 with founder of, Gabriela de Queiroz.
Kirill Eremenko: Welcome to the super data science podcast. My name is Kirill Eremenko, data science coach and life style entrepreneur. And each week we bring you inspired people and ideas to help you build your successful career in data science. Thanks for being here today, and now let's make the complex, simple.
Kirill Eremenko: Welcome back to the super data science podcast. Ladies and Gentleman, very excited to have you on the show. And today we've got a super exciting guest, Gabriela de Queiroz, joining us. Gabriela is best known for founding the organization which is called, which is an international organization for woman who are interested in learning R and getting to know each other, networking, finding mentors, and getting into the space of data science. It was founded in 2012 by our Gabriela, and since then has grown to a hundred chapters worldwide in 40 different countries, with tens of thousands of members. How cool is that?
Kirill Eremenko: And in this podcast, of course we dive in deep into the story of the, how it all came to be, what it stands for, what they're doing, what the future looks like for this organization. And in general we talk about women in data science and how this diversity gap is closing, and how more and more women are getting into this space.
Kirill Eremenko: In addition, Gabriela has of course had a very interesting career of her own in data science. She's worked both in development and in data science, she's worked in small start ups and large companies. For instance, right now Gabriela is working at IBM. Gabriela regularly presents on data science, just this year she's done 13 presentations and actually she's coming to data science go, and that will be her 14th, or 15th presentation, so we are very very excited about that. And that's another reason why I am so excited to bring this podcast to you today.
Kirill Eremenko: Without further ado, I bring to you, Gabriela de Queiroz, founder of
Kirill Eremenko: Welcome to the super data science podcast, ladies and gentleman, very excited to have you on the show, and today we've got a super interesting guest, Gabriela de Queiroz. Gabriela welcome to the show, how are you doing today?
G. de Queiroz: I'm doing great, what about yourself?
Kirill Eremenko: Awesome, awesome. I'm in a very fantastic mood, because I just found out that- we were just found out about that there's animals There's a rooster near here somewhere, there's a donkey, and we are trying to record a podcast with those will be fun, having all those interferences. This is gonna be fun.
Kirill Eremenko: Alright what about you Gabriela, you're in San Francisco, correct?
G. de Queiroz: Yeah I am in San Francisco, in the city. More precisely in the mission, so I'm where all the restaurants are located, and a lot of interests going on.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah, is that far from Union Square?
G. de Queiroz: It's not, in the separate city is pretty small, so you cannot walk, walk is a little far, but if you drive it's 15 minutes.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. But originally, where are you from originally?
G. de Queiroz: So I'm from Brazil, so I'm from Rio de Janeiro, and I moved here almost 6 years ago. So from Rio de Janeiro to San Francisco.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. And why did you move, what was the reason?
G. de Queiroz: So it was professional, things in Brazil were pretty bad, and I was looking for a change, so I came to San Francisco to do my second Masters. And here I am, I've never left so I don't think I'm going back to Brazil, at least to live.[crosstalk 00:04:33]
Kirill Eremenko: Mm-hmm (affirmative)- gotcha. When was your first and second Masters in?
G. de Queiroz: So my first one was in epidemiology, so it was like I got my Bachelor in statistics, and I was working with air pollution data and the effects of peoples health. So I said it's very natural for me to go to epidemiology, was like a statistics applied to public health. And when I moved here, I wanted to go back to statistics, so I did my second Masters in statistics.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay, wow, that's very exciting. And then you decided to stay?
G. de Queiroz: Then I decided to stay, and then I became a data scientist, because all the esthetician became a data scientist, so I was an esthetician before, and then I became a data scientist.
Kirill Eremenko: Fantastic, wonderful. And also, you are the founder of R-Ladies, a multi-location group of many chapters, for ladies in the R programming space.
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, so I have an interesting story behind R-Ladies, so if you don't know about R-Ladies and what it is, we are a world-wide organization to promote general diversity in the R community. So when I moved here, 6 years ago, I was amazed by how many resources we had. And so I learned so much, I was going to meet up- well in San Francisco there are a lot of meet-ups, so like every day, there are several meet-ups about anything that you can think of. It can be data science, it can be hiking, it can be, I don't know, Brazilian Music. So anyway, I was going to meet-ups almost everyday once I got here. And I learned a lot, I learned a lot for free. And then I got to a point where I was I'd be learning a lot for free, it's my time to give back to the community. And I was thinking of the things that I knew that I could teach other people, so I knew I was using R for a few years. And then that's how R-Ladies was born. But the idea also was I didn't want to create a general R group, my idea was to create a place where I could see myself in the audience, where I could feel safe, without any judgments, where I could ask questions, and learn and share with others.
G. de Queiroz: So that's how R-Ladies was born. And now we have a lot of chapters all over the world, I would say that we have over a hundred thirty chapters in 39 countries, which is amazing!
Kirill Eremenko: Wow, congratulations, that is amazing.
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, it is amazing. And it's not like about the numbers, but all the impact that it's having on people's professional life or personal life. So it's pretty rewarding to watch people growing, or to hear their stories. So yeah, it's been an amazing journey.
Kirill Eremenko: That is so cool. I'm just looking at your attendances, over 20 thousand women have attended these meet-ups. That is a huge number, and it's probably growing from there.
G. de Queiroz: Yeah so, that number, the way we calculate this number is we use the website. So the number is all the numbers of all the chapters that we have. We use a package that we developed, inside R-Ladies called meet-up R, so it's a R package that connects to the meet-up API. So all the data, we can get from using this package. We have created a few shiny apps using these API.
Kirill Eremenko: So using R programming, to analyze R-Ladies the group-
G. de Queiroz: Data, yeah.
Kirill Eremenko: Very cool, self fulfilling prophecy. Also, on the podcast before we had Lucy McGowen, she actually introduced us, and she's the head of a Ladies chapter, is that correct?
G. de Queiroz: Right, she's the organizer in Nashville.
Kirill Eremenko: Nashville, oh that's right. Okay, cool. So how does somebody become and organizer of an R-Ladies chapter?
G. de Queiroz: So the first step is just send us an email at [email protected] And then say that I'm interested in starting a chapter in my city, there is no chapter here in my city. And then we have a person, Laura, from Buenos Aires, who is responsible for all the new chapters. And we have a good aboarding process, so we provide all the resources that the person needs to start a new chapter. So that's pretty much it, you don't have to do anything other than sending us an email. Then after that it's just organizing the meet-ups.
Kirill Eremenko: And how many chapters are you seeing being organized per month or per year in recent times?
G. de Queiroz: So chapters are events,
Kirill Eremenko: Oh I gotcha, so a chapter can have multiple events though, okay.
G. de Queiroz: Exactly, so for example, in San Francisco, the chapter we have monthly events. So every month we have a tutorial, or a talk. A while back ago, we had Ara Ladell talking about auto mail and h2o. We had a talk by Hadley Recame, we had tutorial on diplearning.
Kirill Eremenko: But I mean like, how many new chapters are opening up per year? You said you have a grab on the process, just how quickly are you guys growing?
G. de Queiroz: Yeah that's a good question, I was doing this number for a talk that I gave last week.
Kirill Eremenko: By the way guys, Gabriela has given 13 talks just this year, it's crazy, congratulations Gabriela. That's a huge amount of talks, and yet this is your very first podcast, so I'm very humbled. It's now my goal to make sure you have a great experience so you give 13 podcasts next year.
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, so I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but I can tell you something funny or interesting. When we were applying for funding, we totally underestimated the number of chapters for a 3 year forcast. Because based off that we would need more money, or less money. And we were totally underestimated, we were totally off.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow, that's crazy. So you became more popular than you anticipated. It's a good problem to have isn't it?
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, yeah, it's good problem and then it brings a new challenge which is, how do you keep people engaged in the community. How do you make sure all the chapters are active, that they have everything that they need do keep moving. It's a different challenge.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah. Sounds like a very strong passion of yours, and at the same time, it probably does take a lot of time. What goes into your day-to-day to make sure that all these chapters world-wide are running smoothly and efficiently?
G. de Queiroz: It does require a lot of my work, but I have a team. We have a leadership team, which is 5 people. Which is myself, Ara Lindell from San Francisco, and 3 other people from London. So we are the leadership team, we are 5. And then we have other people helping us, Laura helping with onboarding. Bea helping on the website, and then we have Mia who is responsible for theaters. So we have quite a good team by now.
Kirill Eremenko: It's quite a big team.
G. de Queiroz: It does take- We had a call, we were ina call for over 2 hours, the leadership team talking about issues and things that we need to solve. Issues with local chapters, problems. So it takes some time.
Kirill Eremenko: Wow yeah. But its a great way, to give back, and you feel like a purpose, you feel like you're helping people. And the effort spent on something like that is always worthwhile, because you look back and say, wow, 20 thousand people, or people in different countries get more knowledge about our programming, and progress their skills and careers.
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, absolutely. And that's the reason I didn't give up through all the years, when I was doing R-Ladies by myself. I don't care about numbers, I care about changing peoples lives.
Kirill Eremenko: For our listeners on the podcast, both you and I can agree that it is worthwhile the effort of giving back to people. Tony Robins has a quote, "The secret to living, is giving". When you give back, and it doesn't always have to be money. Some people think they can only give back though charity, but you can give back in so many different ways. And especially if you give back with what you're passionate about, so if you're a data scientist or python, or organization or whatever your doing as a data scientist, you've learned to love it, and if you give back, you are going to double that effect because, as Ryan Delong says, When one teaches to learn, you're learning as your teaching right?
G. de Queiroz: Oh yeah.
Kirill Eremenko: And also, at the same time, you're helping somebody else, so you feel truly satisfied or filled. For the purpose of our listeners, where do you get started? How do you actually give back? Even on a small scale, even if you just have 5 people or even 1 person. How do you do that in the space of data science?
G. de Queiroz: It doesn't take a lot, even if it's a small school club, where we have two other friends, or another person, I always say that only 1 person watching, or sitting in the audience, that's enough. You don't have to expect a lot of people, one person is good enough. R-Ladies kind of happened that way. The first meet up here is San Francisco, only 8 people showed up. We don't have a lot of people showing up every event. We have around 20, maybe 15, so it's not a lot. It's kind of the same through all the years. That's okay, if there is something that you are passionate about, something that you care, something that you feel you want to give back, that's enough. It doesn't take much. So again, it can be like a very small school club, it can be a, there are so many things that you can do. It can be some blog post that you are doing, and you can have people to collaborate with you.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah, that's very true, and maybe go and present at one of the R-Ladies chapters, or maybe start a R-Ladies chapter, or start your own type of meet-up on Or as you said, even writing a blog post, which a few people see, that's already giving back and helping others.
G. de Queiroz: Exactly.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay, that's wonderful. What about mentorship? So mentorship is probably the next step from their once your more confident, now that you have something really sorted out in your life, whether it's something, how to build your career, or how to learn statistics, or how to present to people, or collect data. Some parts you've done so many times, you're very good at it, then you have a vision for it. Then you can start sharing it, and people learn. Because when you just share with people, they learn, and can implament it in their own way. But mentorship is more personalized where you actually help and guide people, and you help them with their questions and answers, you have enough experience to accommodate any kind of questions or most kind of questions they have at this phase. Would you agree? That that is what mentorship is all about?
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, exactly. You also learn a lot, because each person has a different background and a different goal, it can be technical, concept, or can you help me with my resume, or how can I become a data scientist, what are the resources that you recommend. It's broader. And I've been doing this for a while, first I was doing it more as formal, in two different data science boot camps. One is called Springboards, the other one is called galvanized. So I was a mentor in both schools for a while. And now, I do more formal mentorship, I have a few people that I mentor, and we have regular calls, not a formal agenda, more like a chat.
Kirill Eremenko: Nice, very nice. What's in it for you? That's a question that I think people who are looking for mentors, should start with that. What is in it for the person who is doing the mentorship. Why are you doing this? Are you learning anything yourself?
G. de Queiroz: Yeah, absolutely. I'm learning about what kind of projects they are working on. Sometimes they are developing some [inaudible 00:22:28] that I have no idea, and I ask them to guide me through, to explain what they are doing. And also coming from different backgrounds, there is a learning piece from that. People coming from different countries, I learn about the culture. People coming from different backgrounds than me I also learn.
Kirill Eremenko: Gotcha. So how would you recommend for our listeners or somebody who's looking for a mentor, where would you say for them to look for one, or for them to get started. Because I personally get a lot of messages from people saying, hey Karill, you talk about mentorship, how do I find a mentor, what do I do to find the right person for me, maybe I don't have something like that at work, or I don't know anyone off the top of my head, where would they get started?
G. de Queiroz: You can try to reach out to the person, but the problem is, if there is no connection at all, it's going to be hard for the mentor. As a person, we have a very busy, a full-time job, a very busy agenda. So it's not easy to send a code email, but I think you have to have some kind of connection. Either knowing someone who knows you or having someone to introduce you to this person. I don't have a very good answer for that one, but for me, you have to have some kind of connection.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay.
G. de Queiroz: It's hard to accept all the requests that we get, otherwise I would do this full time.
Kirill Eremenko: And it would be doing a disservice to the people right, because if you are mentoring 50 different people, then you aren't actually helping anybody, because your time is so spread out, and you are chaotically running around.
G. de Queiroz: Right, and I still need to learn the way that I'm giving back. It's also I'm learning on my job, so I can mentor people based on my previous experience.
Kirill Eremenko: Okay, but what about this, let's say, let's do a hypothetical scenario. Let's say that I am looking for a mentor, and obviously at the start, I don't have anything to say, I don't have a connectino with you. But then I go and I write a blog post, I record YouTube videos, I present it, and then when I message you I don't say I need a mentor, I say Gabriela I'm very passionate about data science and I wrote this blog post, and I've recorded 5 YouTube videos, and I've presented at these meet-ups, and I'm really passionate about the work that you do. Would you mind giving me some comments on this new blog post that I'm writing, I would love your opinion on that. How would you feel about that, as opposed to somebody coming up to you and saying, hey would you be my mentor?
G. de Queiroz: I think it's a bad approach, if I don't have several blog posts or YouTube video, I think it can be too much, but it's something to show me, I have my goal is, can you revise my blog post, so you have a going mind. Because some people they approach and they say, can you do my mentor.
Kirill Eremenko: Exactly
G. de Queiroz: And what are you looking for, I need to have more information. And unfortunately I don't have the time to research about you, so you have to tell me beforehand, I"m looking for this and this and this, and I think it would be great if I could take 10 minutes of your time or have a copy with you. It's a different approach.
Kirill Eremenko: Yeah, exactly, and when you start with a goal, it doesn't have to be, I want to have coffee with you, it can be like, will you help me out with this little thing, this tiny little thing, like baby step. I was watching this cool video, Marsha from IT shared it with me, and its about the power of persuasion. And there's six steps on how to persuade people, obviously ethically, and the art of communication, and how to connect with people to persuade the to help you or take up something that's going to be beneficial for them. One of the steps is people are much more likely to commit to something, if they have already made a small commitment in that space. And I think that steps called continuity. They are giving the example that if you come up to a person and say, hey can you put this driving safely big sign in your front lawn, so people drive safely, a few people will say yes. But if you beforehand ask the person, hey, can you put this little sticker on your window, drive safely, and then a week later, you ask them to put that big sign on their lawn, 4 times more people will say yes.
Kirill Eremenko: The whole concept here is, start your mentorship approach with a small tiny commitment that you ask, can you read my blog post, can you give me some feedback on this, and that's how you build that connection, that's how you go from there.
G. de Queiroz: Right. That's a great approach.
Kirill Eremenko: So hopefully that will be helpful for our listeners. Thank you so much for sharing on mentorship. I wanted to switch a little gear, and talk about your career. So we talked about giving back, and R-Ladies and mentorship, and meet-ups, and lots of very exciting things that people can and should take part in, but let's talk a little bit more about you. You've had a very exciting, very interesting career journey. You were talking about moving from one country to another, but on top of that, you've worked for different companies, you've done two masters I believe, and we talked about that already, and where did you go from there?
G. de Queiroz: When I was back in Brazil,

Kirill Eremenko
Kirill Eremenko

I’m a Data Scientist and Entrepreneur. I also teach Data Science Online and host the SDS podcast where I interview some of the most inspiring Data Scientists from all around the world. I am passionate about bringing Data Science and Analytics to the world!

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