Tim Slade

MIDS 2020
Senior Research Programmer
RTI International

What was your favorite course and why?

I think the W200 (Python) course was my favorite. I was a largely self-taught coder before MIDS — W200 was my first formal course work in any sort of programming, and it was a lot of fun to be approaching the content in a structured and systematic way. Also, the assignments provided a lot of room for creativity and whimsy, so there were wonderful opportunities to get to know my classmates’ personalities, interests, and values through their work.

What one piece of advice would you give to prospective or current MIDS students?

Embrace your curiosity. Let it strongly inform the things you choose to work on. You will be forced to encounter, adopt, and master new techniques along the way — that’s the nature of working on difficult and intriguing tasks in the real world — and it is perfectly legitimate to let that drive your growth as a professional. If there are problems you find intriguing, but you’ll need to level up in Skill Area X to begin tackling them, that’s fine, too. Learn first, then engage. There are no metaphorical carts or horses here — but there CAN be a virtuous cycle of growth toward excellence.

Regardless of whether you let the work drive the professional growth or you pursue the professional growth to enable the work, once you’re IN the work, again, stay curious.

Let your curiosity drive your skepticism of the claims people make with and about data. Let it drive a playful approach to visualizing and communicating your results. Let it drive an expansive and creative imagination regarding which problems are tractable and how they can be engaged. Just be sure along the way to be guided by a commitment to ethical conduct.