Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

2015 Election: Tim Cerino

On the first day of my first programming job, my boss handed me 700 lines of spaghetti code written in PL/1 and asked me to "fix it." On paper, I was a Research Assistant at an Economic Policy think-tank. I had taken a few Computer Science classes and had coded for fun as a kid and in college. But at that moment I felt that I had entered the world of "real" coding. (Ultimately the "fix" was to completely discard the code and redo everything using proper testable modular code, but I digress...)

Fast-forward do the present: I am the founder of a consulting firm, Avery Analytics, focused on risk management and portfolio management using theory and methods from classical statistics and statistical machine learning. No small part of my time is spent on educating clients and potential clients about best practices for implementation, including training in R and Python.

Prior to this I completed a MA in Statistics at Columbia following 10 years working in the capital markets advising large financial institutions and corporations on issues of risk management, liquidity management, funding, and portfolio management. This involved everything from traditional consultative advisory work, corporate finance, balance sheet modeling, and asset structuring and pricing right through to complex monte carlo simulation.

Involvement with Software Carpentry

My first involvement with Software Carpentry was in 2012 while I was completing a MA in Statistics at Columbia. Having coded in one way or another over most of my career, I valued and appreciated SWC's systematic approach as well as the large body of empirical research that has been done regarding coding, languages, usability, and learning. Profound stuff that I wish I had known since the beginning of my career!

Since then I have been a helper, and instructor, and a lead instructor at a handful of bootcamps. I enjoy teaching and look forward to more bootcamps in the future. I have also begun to work with Data Carpentry. I am in the process of developing some lessons and hope to contribute further to this effort.

Overall I think the mission of Software Carpentry is valuable, influential, and much-needed in many fields.

Future Contribution

If elected to the Software Carpentry Steering Committee, I believe I can contribute in the following areas:

  • Finance Subcommittee and/or as Treasurer: As described above, I have past professional experience in finance and have studied public and nonprofit management at Columbia. Through this background I believe I can help contribute to SWC's ongoing financial security.
  • Data Carpentry: Most of my professional coding work has involved data management, restructuring, and wrangling. I am interested in this set of problems, in finding recurring problem types (design patterns?) and contributing to this curriculum.
  • Expansion into social sciences: Based on my background and current work, I believe I can help Software Carpentry expand its involvement into the social sciences. I recently lead a bootcamp at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Boston during which a number of participants mentioned other economics departments and organizations that could be interested in the future.
  • General: As indicated, I think Software Carpentry's mission is of value to many different fields. I feel fortunate to have been involved with Software Carpentry as a student and instructor and would be honored to contribute to the effort as a member of the Steering Committee.


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