IT Core Spotlight: Jon Renner

The IT Core Spotlight shines on Jon Renner this week. Jon is one of our newest hires, working in our Data Production group on historical USA census data.

Spotlight Date: April 10, 2015

jon-renner_imag0077Project: Historical Data Favorite Dev Tool: Unix command line Fun Fact: I am fluent in Chinese, and speak passable Japanese.

What brought you to your current professional field? What brought you to the MPC?

Up until about 2011, I was a graduate student studying East Asian history, living in Taiwan and going to school there. Around that time I realized I needed a career change, and after a long period of soul-searching I re-discovered my childhood interest in computers. I found a real passion for computer science and programming that I still have to this day, and spent the next 3 years teaching myself computer science, which was made easier thanks to the abundant resources online these days. Eventually, I ended up developing a mobile game in Java that was fairly successful! (for an independent developer). Coming to MPC gives me a great opportunity to combine my training in the humanities and social sciences with my programming skills. It’s a great fit!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve gotten to work on at the MPC?

I’ve only been here about a month, but my first project was a Python program that converts data from an Access database to a Postgres database. The interesting part was writing a comprehensive test suite that makes sure every single row of data is still correct after being imported, which was made challenging by some of the quirks and differences between the two database formats and the original un-ordered structure of the data.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the University of Minnesota?

I was a student here back in the early 2000s, and since that time I’ve loved the atmosphere on the campus. It’s really energizing to be in a place of learning every day. There’s great access to libraries and interesting lectures just a few minutes walk from my desk.

If you were a programming language, what would it be? Why?

Go - it’s not very complicated, and almost everyone seems to love it!

What new skill(s) are your currently trying to learn?

I’m currently brushing up on my Python, which was actually my first programming language, and am taking a Data Science Specialization course track on Coursera, which uses the R programming language to teach data science fundamentals. When I get time I would like to learn more programming languages, such as a functional language like Clojure or Haskell.

Dialogue & Discussion