"Anybody can learn to write code. There are a zillion learning sources on the internet. A zillion. What makes a good data scientist is critical and creative thinking as well as effective communication."
What has an undergrad, Honors, two MSCs, a PhD, and and postdoc in the sciences? We know, it reads like the start of a bad joke, but Taryn Morris' list of accomplishments is no laughing matter.
After spending 15 years in academia, Taryn transitioned into the world of data science consultancy, and has been pretty much kicking ass ever since; all while continuing to teach and mentor wherever she can. We did an airpunch when she agreed to come back to teach our Cape Town Data Science class of 2020, and that's not just because she also happens to be an airbender who could probably slice anything in half with her mad frisbee skills.
Taryn Morris, iXperience 2020 Data Science Head Teacher in Cape Town
What are you working on now?
Instead of having a specific focus, my work entails working on all kinds of different projects and problems. To me, this is the most exciting part of it, because I am constantly learning new skills or about different sectors.
One part of my work that I enjoy is the upskilling of in-house staff at the company’s we are work with to be able to read, run and even write code for themselves. Leaving someone new empowered and excited by data science on each project is a real win.
What do you enjoy most about the Data Science industry?
It is always advancing, so there is always something to learn and skills to grow.
I’ve always said if I won the lottery I would just go to school forever. So I suppose in a way data science is like winning the lottery :)
Why did you decide to get involved with teaching and how do you continue to keep things fresh?
I started my career in academia and teaching was the thing I enjoyed more than anything else. Despite transitioning out of academia, I still get to teach. It’s a win-win. Keeping things fresh is easy, data science is constantly advancing so there is always something new to learn and teach.
Taryn with her daughter
Last year was your first time with iX? What did you enjoy about it most, and what did you learn from the experience?
I enjoyed the student’s immense joy and pride at the end of the course at having produced brilliant and valuable pieces of work during their internships. The realisation that they could now “data science” was fantastic. I learnt everyone has different strengths, a good teacher should try to unearth these and let them bedazzle.
What are you most looking forward to about iXperience this summer? How do you envision it being different from last summer and what will you be switching up?
New people, new stories, new adventures. Anybody can learn to write code. There are a zillion learning sources on the internet. A zillion. What makes a good data scientist is critical and creative thinking as well as effective communication. This summer, I hope to integrate exercising these skills a little more into our classroom coding sessions.
How do you see the Data Science industry changing in the next year to five years? What skills will professionals need to hone?
There will be a lot more automation of data science and machine learning tasks. This is why it is critical for up and coming data scientists to focus on a broader range of skills other than coding.
What skills will iX students have after graduating from your class?
Students will be able to critically assess a problem, creatively construct a solution, elegantly code, and effectively communicate the valuable insights. We will be focusing on the whole package.
What’s one piece of advice that you have for the iX class of 2020?
Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know, or I’m struggling. Chances are five other people are feeling the same way. And there is ALWAYS help at hand. That, and try the sushi in the mall. It’s the best in Cape Town.
What would students be surprised to learn about you?
I represented South Africa for the SA Ultimate Frisbee Women’s team in the World Champs 2016 in London. I have also been to Antarctica!
What song do you know all the lyrics to?
Does Twinkle Twinkle count? Okay fine, Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby.