Why do you need a Python Club? (or R or something else)

It is like “The breakfast Club” but with Snake or an Alphabet letter

The minimal requirements

This article is for the person working in a middle size company at least, let’s say around 300 people. As everyone doing data analysis, you probably have your own preferred language, would it be python, Scala, R, or even vba, you always have to remember that you are not the only one. As you reach a certain amount of people inside a company, some department tend to appear:

  • Controlling
  • IT
  • Business Intelligence / Data Analysis
  • Marketing / Sales
  • HR

Putting aside HR, which would be the only department where I never witnessed that, but on every other one, there are some reports that needs to be built for their daily operation. Going into that direction, there are probably people taking care of those reports. These people will probably want to improve their way of doing it.

Not all of them will look for programming language but they will be probably interested into learning how to improve their report.

The reason

Having a company club to discuss cross-department problematic is always a good thing, never to be fear. It means that employees want to improve and not stick to their level; it can be frightening for some managers as some ideas will be share from outside the department and information will spread without the control of the managers, but at the end, is it a bad thing?

More problematic is the fact that employees may realize tasks that have been decided no feasible by managers or not prioritize by them. So Managers can feel their authority diminish from these group of co-workers. You can clearly avoid that by following some rules on your club that needs to be explain explicitly. Managers are rights to be concern that this not get out of hand, but the inner motivation should never be refrain as having worker wanting to progress is a blessing.

When creating an internal club, which could be about ‘advanced reporting’, you need to know who can join you as key figures. Persons that will legitimate the group and are seen as expert in their domain, does not have to be about reporting in our case. It is exactly what we need to avoid here, we have to bring really different profile to this group because, technical expert, business expert, BI expert and so on…

The benefit

As people will join to get knowledge on advanced report, you can derivate from that topic to go to broader topics and this is where everyone has to gain something. Discussing about cross department topics, in term of analysis, is the best way for you to learn different aspect and improve your current process. Things that we never considered being the key problematic of some other colleagues will show you the complete structure of the company and better understand the logic behind business decision (or not).

If you get really cody, you can create session to review code and work on specific projects together, make it look fun it will be your own internal Kaggle competition. As people can get more involved with data that they own. Be careful however, as I am always explaining to too excited colleagues, bad implementation or logic on Kaggle will get you down in the ranking, in your company other things are at stake (reputation, group existence, politics, etc…).

It is normal that people will get along depending affinity and this group will probably not live forever but if this works out well, you will learn so much and other colleague with you. Remember that this group is for colleagues that are self-driven, want to improve, they will probably see the same benefit than you.

This looks fun so why it does not already exist?
It is because it is not so easy to do, and I will give you the 3 key components (in my opinion) before trying to launch this kind of group.

  • Being in the company for more than a year
    It may sound stupid but just put yourself at the place of your colleagues, you are new and try to revolutionize. It shows that you are either someone too enthusiastic or a junior in mind.
    Never forget that you need to prove first that you manager your own project before doing extra project. Being in the company for more than a year will allow enable you to know enough people to launch this project.
  • Being in good relationship with mostly everyone
    As said before, there are some politics involved in every company, the bad thing to do is to launch that project to make you look good or short cut someone. Would be bad to launch that to be stabbed in the back at the first occasion.
  • Having a knowledge that is necessary for the group
    It could be anything, you will the one that takes note, you will organize the meetings, you will keep the people motivated and interested. Better would be to have some knowledge to pass on but it is not mandatory.

The rules

As I said earlier, there are some rules that you want to follow to make this group live as long as possible. I will give you the one that I found.

  1. Explain the concept to your boss and get the agreement to start this project with him / her.
    No point starting something that can be terminated by yourself.
  2. If you start this to be well seen in the company, it won’t work so you can stop now.
    Most managers will probably ignore what is coming out of this group or be jealous of it and try to destroy it. This group is about gaining knowledge, not promotion.
  3. Try to recruit people from different departments to make the group look as broad as possible in term of skills and expertise. It will reinforce the impression that everyone has something to learn from it.
  4. Be dedicated and hope for the best.
    You can try your best and the group ends after 2 meetings, or just do the minimum and everyone is happy. It depends of the person present and degree of motivation of the person in that group. So don’t stress but be serious about it.
  5. Do not start this group during working hours
    The best would be to at lunch or evening. Timing is hard to find but it doesn’t work if you put stress on top of normal workload.

Conclusion: 

Creating a Python Club, a R club or anything that required cross department is very complex to realize. It needs to be aligned with Management, without them getting involved (otherwise, you lose the flexibility require to make it fun), you need to get people involved; you need to sell the interest of this initiative without overselling it and disappoint people or infuriate the managers. Eventually, least but not last, you need other people to be involved in this so everyone is learning from it.

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