Helpful People: Ryan Petroff

It’s rare you get help from someone who asks for little in return. Ryan Petroff is one of those people.

I express my gratitude for the many times he has assisted me with my projects.

More than just a person to bounce ideas off of (though great at that), he was instrumental in my earliest days of programming.

Before I had even known that I wanted to pursue data science & automation, the gears had already been set in motion thanks to his help.

I was in university when I found myself in a pickle. I was doing an elective for a 3rd year Geography class, and had asked the professor the easiest way to make a Cartogram.

I am a fan of geographic visualizations, and this was one I wanted to create. The professor said that as a non-geography major, I shouldn’t worry about such difficult tasks. That this was above what I was capable of.

So naturally, I had to create one.

I knew I had the potential to pull off this project, but was without the basic technological literacy to get started.

That professor did not expect someone like Ryan Petroff. An educator who will not only help someone out of generosity, but also inspire them while doing so.

Ryan helped me from the ground up with this project. He helped point me in the right direction at every turn. He found the project amusing. A challenge, but one that could be tackled in a single night. I won’t lie, it was a long night. But one that left a lasting impression. For the first time, I had manipulated data with my own hands.

Fast forward a couple of years. I spoke with Ryan about my interest in ‘data science’. He answered my questions and helped provide me the level of knowledge required to secure a job teaching JavaScript and Python.

As I improved, Ryan would still help me with my projects. When facing an issue, he would often have a fix. But more importantly, he taught self-sufficiency. Each time Ryan helped resolve any issue, he’d walk me through the process used to find the answer from the beginning. During this process of dense skill acquisition, he taught me to think like a programmer, and how to think about code development.

His help in these matters inspired part of my philosophy of automation. Well-designed code frees people from unnecessary work. I have since developed several tools to make tedious tasks in my life disappear. I always consult Ryan when starting a new project.

Even now, as I teach students at the University of Toronto the ins-and-outs of data science, I still remember Ryan’s lessons. I do my best to teach my students the way that Ryan taught me.

So thank you, Ryan Petroff. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed.

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