Data + Curiosity: How a Data Scientist turned Software Engineer Rich Iannone leverages graphic design to make beautiful documentation

In this episode of Data + Curiosity, Baseten Developer Advocate Jesse Mostipak talks with Rich Iannone about his path to data science, why he’s so passionate about data quality and data management, and how graphic design influences his documentation work. 

This post is an excerpt from the full interview and has been edited for length and clarity - be sure to watch the full interview below to learn more about:

  • Rich's path to data science through ad tech
  • The skills Rich used to get his first data science job and how his title changed over time
  • How the {pointblank} package was built to solve a business problem
  • Rich's path to R package development and advice for beginners
  • Designing delightful documentation
  • The joy of designing icons and tools like Sketch for icon creation
  • How Rich's interests in graphic design have influenced his software engineering skills
  • Rich's approach to writing documentation that also functions as a tutorial
  • Rich's favorite R packages and why {dplyr} is hard to beat
  • Where to find Rich online

[EMBED VIDEO] - might need to wait until it’s live on youtube

What was your path into data science?

RICH IANNONE: Oh, yeah, it was basically through ad  tech. I worked for this company that was really small, and they had no problem hiring me, even though I had no experience. And I was terrible. I mean, I didn't have enough experience. So it's basically, you know, like very junior level,  but they didn't seem to care.

I don't know why they weren't too picky. You know, I seemed like I could do the work. And I met the founders at a meetup. It felt like a startup, but it really wasn't a startup because they weren't trying to scale or do anything. They were just an ad tech business.

And they were satisfied with the clients they had and they were making money. And there's only a few people, so it just didn't feel like a startup at all. It just felt like, you know, we're doing some stuff. I had decent data engineering stuff, I just designed stuff with most of it. 

You’re a data scientist turned software engineer who has built a reputation for packages such as {pointblank}, which focus on data quality. Why are data quality and data management important to you?

RICH IANNONE: Data is always messed up in some way or another. I mean, going back to the game studio, it had really terrible data, so I had to develop a tool basically. That's what {pointblank} is. 

So, I developed {pointblank} and it was great, right away. Like I could see which things were bad. And I can tell people because – we actually had data engineers – you know, this is not good, this is good, and report it. This way they can get the rows which are bad and they can sort of see it.

What drives you to design so many of your own icons for your package documentation?

RICH IANNONE: Some of these things are so abstract and nobody has an icon for it. It's like a little thing you're going to do in a function, and nothing like that exists. And you don’t even know how to convey it at all. Like there's no iconography. There's nothing in the history of the world, maybe, that could have been drawn like this. This is such an obvious thing that people do all the time, but there's no icons for data people,or for inserting a row or adding a row. 

I had one the other day, adding something before an extension of a file name. There's definitely no file name-related icons except for like a picture of a file and some icon extension. But there's nothing like, you know – even a regex icon doesn't exist. Or like the YAML logo doesn't exist. So I just made my impromptu YAML logo for {pointblank}.

In closing

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this interview, how you’ve been using the {pointblank} package, and what you’re curious about! Let us know in the video comments [LINK] – we can’t wait to hear from you!