2019: Seasons of Reflection

Photo by Banter Snaps on Unsplash

Sarah Gibson
Sarah Gibson


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As 2019 comes to a close, I have spent a full year as a Research Software Engineer (RSE) at The Alan Turing Institute. A lot has changed over the last 12 months and I’ve come a long way - sometimes surprising myself!

Winter :snowflake:

In February, I gave my first professional talk at the UKRI Cloud Working Group workshop hosted by The Francis Crick Institute. It wasn’t the furthest I’ve travelled for a conference giving it’s next door to the British Library, but it was certainly good practice!

I gave a presentation on why reproducibility is important in scientific research and how Binder can be used to capture the computational environment so analyses can be reliably re-run. It involved live demonstrations of Binder launches, which was quite nerve-wracking!

Spring :tulip:

As we moved into spring, the workshops ramped up!

The Turing Way ran three workshops in March alone! Two for researchers who’d like to use Binder and one for RSEs who may want to run a BinderHub as a service for researchers. Preparing for the BinderHub workshop was particularly challenging as deploying one wasn’t something I’d been successful at yet! Thankfully, a breakthrough was made with enough time to write the workshop.

Next on the list was Collaborations Workshop 2019 hosted by the Software Sustainability Institute. This was a fascinating event for me to attend as it was the first time I interacted with open source/research/science concepts outside of Project Binder and The Turing Way. It was extra special as we officially launched the book part of The Turing Way at CW19, and I was invited to join the mybinder.org operating team as well!

In May, I attended the Microsoft Research Software Reactor Sprint and lead a team to develop the One-Click deployment BinderHub! You can read all about it in my blog post “Diving into Leadership to Build Push-Button Code”. Then the last event of spring was a Turing Way Book Dash :books::dash: during which I wrote an entire chapter :scream: on BinderHub!

Summer :sunny:

Thankfully, summer involved a lot less travelling and presenting. I was able to enjoy some of the good weather :sunglasses: However, the hard work didn’t stop! I was working away to produce the next round of workshops coming up in the autumn! I also began working on some very exciting plans for the Binder Federation!

Autumn :maple_leaf:

In autumn, I travelled again for some more workshops.

First off was a trip to Oslo to meet some of the Binder team in person! It was a wonderful experience to be in the same room as this team as we usually collaborate remotely. Erik and I worked together to enable HTTPS with cert-manager on the Turing’s private BinderHub, Hub23. Sometimes knowledge is more easily transferred from person to person, rather than through a screen.

Next was RSE Con UK where I was super busy presenting! I was asked to sit on the “RSE Worldwide” panel to discuss collaboration across borders and how we achieve this in the Binder team. And I ran my Zero-to-BinderHub workshop again, teaching more people how to deploy BinderHubs on Azure!

After an incredibly busy year, I also managed to take some time off in autumn and go travelling around the east coast of Australia. Though I still managed to find time to run an Open Source Dash for the Research Engineering team (this is an afternoon where we work together to contribute to open source projects)!

Horse Riding in Australia
I went horseback riding along Cape Tribulation beach in the Daintree Rainforest area of northern Queensland! The horse’s name is Basil :sparkling_heart:

Overall, I’m really proud of how my presenting skills and confidence in public speaking have improved over 2019. Giving workshops and lectures/teaching was never something I imagined I would enjoy or be terribly good at - and yet, I’ve completely surprised myself at how wrong I was! Though absolutely no-one who helped me achieve all of this will be the slightest bit surprised :wink::heart:

I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given this year to learn, grow and share my new knowledge and experiences. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

So I’m coming into 2020 like…

Johannes Radebe, Strictly Come Dancing, BBC 2019
Watch the full routine on YouTube