This week: on data science portfolios, Python for feature films, optimizing for thinking, and interview questions.

Why have a data science portfolio and what it shows by Eugene Yan.

Yan opens by noting that many have written about how to build a data science portfolio, but not why; or at least, not any more deeply than “to get a job.” He lists several other reasons:

  • to learn and to practice
  • to help others with learning
  • because it’s fun!

And, what I think is the most interesting part of the post, the author describes how “portfolios demonstrate traits”—traits like the ability to learn, persistence, or curiosity. It’s the process of portfolio building that fosters these, and the process that helps to improve them.

Advice to my young self: to succeed in your career, forget side projects and focus on your job by Manuel Darcemont.

“I’ve always been suspicious of the idea of being attached to a company,” the author opens. He chose to spend time outside work reading, working on side projects, and otherwise generally working outside of work. This post reflects on the ways in which this was wrong.

When job searching, recruiters cared about the work he did at his current company—not his projects or meetups or community involvement. This isn’t to knock side projects in general, he writes, but focusing on them as a way to get a better job is an illusion.

My thoughts: I think this was an interesting perspective. For what it’s worth, the comments generally express disagreement with this post. I think that the value of side projects is generally overstated, but doing them for intrinsic satisfaction or for the sake of learning is still, to me, worthwhile.

Managers: what do you do when their teammate shares their grief? by Lara Hogan.

Hogan provides advice to managers whose teammates are experiencing grief. She suggests having a simple response ready—“that sounds incredibly tough”—and not jumping into problem solving mode. To me, her approach does a great job at bringing together emotional and professional support.

I love the idea of using “affirming body language.” I hadn’t heard that phrase before. Gently nod, make soft eye contact, and physically lean in, she suggests.

Near the end, she asks managers to consider what their role is. “As managers, we each have our own skills and perceptions of what our work is; you can’t be everything to everyone.” Reflect on your own expertise, she writes, then focus on providing that support as best you can.

Python for feature film by Dhruv Govil is a series of posts about how Python has been used to bring major films to life. This was a fascinating look into an industry I’m pretty unfamiliar with. Understanding what kinds of problems they face, and what tools help folks solve these problems, is so interesting.

Talking, Typing, Thinking: Software is not a desk job by Daniel Fone opens with the line:

tl;dr Developers over-optimise for the ergonomics of typing and not enough for the ergonomics of thinking.

The author claims (and I think I agree) that the most important activities for effective software development are talking, listening, writing, reading, and thinking, sorted in increasing order of importance. “The people I value working with aren’t accurate typists, they’re clear thinkists,” he writes.

Thoughts: I agree with the premise of those post, but left a little disappointed. I would have liked to see more on how the author “elevates thinking to core work” or otherwise optimizes for its ergonomics.

The 40 best questions to ask in an interview—how to go deeper than “what’s the culture like?" is an unexpectedly, actually good list of interview questions. Some of my favorites include:

  • What are the most recent examples of things the company has tried and failed at?
  • Has the company ever made a decision that prioritized its values over revenue?
  • How do you personally learn how to be more inclusive? What’s an example of a situation in which these learnings have changed the way you do your job?
  • How would your team describe you?
  • How do you cultivate and foster individual contributor growth on the team?
  • How does the team deal with two urgent projects with conflicting deadlines?

The questions have descriptions and added context, too. Really great.