Friday, August 31, 2018

"Women are an untapped resource of IT talent" via

Tara O'Sullivan (CMO in Skillsoft*), writing in Computer Business Review this month, tells us that "Women are an untapped resource of IT talent" - for example, only 12.8% of the UK STEM workforce is female. No surprise there, but she offers four interesting ideas for addressing this situation in businesses. In an article entitled "Diversity and the Digital Skills Deficiency" she has a simple message - "get more people involved in tech".
Image source: Wikipedia.

Idea #1 - Invest in STEM training
It seems obvious to invest in STEM training, but more opportunity needs to be provided to women to re-skill in the workforce - to gain what O'Sullivan calls "career mobility". She further advises that every company should be "investing in STEM training throughout the work lifecycle and enabling better career mobility for all regardless of their gender, job title or location". This is not easy to achieve, may cost a lot of money, but is worth it to address IT skills shortages.

Idea #2 - Be proactive
Obvious again, but organisations need to change their attitude to "rally behind female talent". Women in senior positions can provide leadership to achieve this.

Idea #3 - Mind the Pay Gap
O'Sullivan quotes figures to show that men in high-tech companies earn 25% more than women in the UK. She recommends that countries should follow the example of Iceland where a law was passed in June 2017 making it the employer’s responsibility to prove that employees are being paid equally. 

Idea #4 - If I can’t see it, I can’t be it
O'Sullivan points out that we need to have more examples of women in Tech to "demonstrate the attraction of the career to women". At just 12.8% of the UK STEM workforce it will not be easy to find role models for this. On a recent visit to a company I was in an administration office where every single employee in the room was female. As O'Sullivan puts it - "the biggest untapped resource that they [businesseshave: their female employees".

In one of my classes last semester, 24 out of 80 registered students was female - that 30%. A bit better than the UK's STEM workforce (12.8%), but still a significant minority. I hope to see more female students in class this coming academic year. It is also our job as Colleges to make IT courses more attractive to women. Here's one of my former students (in an NCI ad) telling us how one of our IT courses (Data Analytics) changed her life:

* I left Skillsoft in September 2002 shortly after the company I worked for (SmartForce) was taken over by Skillsoft. I have never met Tara O'Sullivan

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How To... Perform Logarithmic Regression in Excel

In my statistics classes we cover the subjects of Simple and Multiple Linear Regression - they are techniques for making predictions using regression models. If you know the value of one (independent) variable, you can use a model to predict the value of another (dependent) variable. Often this is visualised on a scatter plot where one variable is plotted against the other. But what if the relationship between the two variables is not linear, for example - what if it is curved? Logarithmic Regression is another type of regression that can be used, and I will be introducing it as a topic in this year's upcoming classes.

In my new video below I show how to perform logarithmic regression in Excel using tree growth data. As trees get older, they grow taller, but the increase in height slows down after a few years to give a curved scatter plot. Can this be used to make predictions? Yes it can - see how:

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Marriage Registration of my Great-Great Grandparents James McCann and Catherine Walsh

Anne McCann.

Doing some more research into my family history I had to use the General Register Office (GRO) to find the marriage certificate for my great-great-grandparents James McCann (1842-1927) and Catherine Walsh (1843-1908). No known photographs of them exist, though I do have one of their only daughter Anne (1874-1952).

Below is a copy of their marriage register dated 26th June, 1869 - almost 150 years ago. It was through this document that I found out that James's father was called William, and Catherine's father was James Walsh - mothers names were not recorded. James was a "Labourer", no occupation is given for Catherine. Both their fathers were labourers. James lived in Gorey, while Catherine was from the townland of Moneycross which is just outside Gorey near Camolin where the wedding took place. It is clear that they could not write, as the document indicates that they should make a "mark".

Source: General Register Office.
I wonder what kind of a day it was on 26th June 1869, and what it was like for them. They had survived the Great Famine as children, which was not as bad in Co Wexford as it was in other counties. I wonder did they consider emigration the Canada or the USA, as hundreds of thousands of people their own age were doing at that time. They were  labourers - what made them stay? On their wedding day did they have a big party - were they madly in love or was it a marriage of convenience? They lived in Kilnahue outside Gorey, though James is recorded as living in Wexford Street in Gorey in the 1911 census - this was after Catherine had died (1908) and James had remarried. They are both buried in St Michael's Cemetery in Gorey. I would have loved to have met them.

Headstone of James McCann and Catherine Walsh.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Remembering John Paul II and Missing Francis I #Pope

His Holiness Pope Francis I arrives in Dublin this morning and I'm not going to see him. I don't have any tickets to his events, and to be honest I made no effort to get any. I had hoped that as part of the Blackrock Choir that we would be asked to participate in the main Mass on Sunday in some way - but it did not come to pass. I wish I was able to go to the Mass, but all the bother about long walks, roads and Luas closed, health & safety dictators ordering us about, and long waits put me off.

Pope John Paul II in Galway.
Image source: RTÉ.

Simca 1100 (ours was blue).
Image source: Living the life in Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher.

It was no bother on 30th September 1979 to travel all the way from Carnew to Galway for the Youth Mass with John Paul II. I was 19, and I travelled with my two brothers Joe (18) and Brian (15) in a small Simca 1100 car. We had our camping gear, and most of the boot space and half the back seat were taken up with a gas cooker and cylinder. We forgot to bring a regulator and could not use the cooker! Nevertheless we camped over night and headed off by foot to see the Pope the next day.

About 300,000 young people of Ireland attended this Mass in Galway Racecourse. We were all corralled into separate sections based on diocese - we were from the Diocese of Ferns. I remember a lot of rain, though Joe had cleverly brought along a sheet of black plastic to cover us - I'm certain there was cow shite on it! We were warmed up by Bishop Eamonn Casey and Fr Michael Cleary singing songs before the Pope arrived - if only we knew what they were up to after Mass every Sunday! We cheered at the top of our voices when the Pope's helicopter flew over the race course, and later when he said the magical words "Young People of Ireland, I Love You". After Mass we headed back to the camp site to start our journey home, but our little Simca broke down on the busy Galway-Dublin road and we spent a very uncomfortable night in the car. No mobile phones at that time to let our parents know where we were - I'm sure they were worried sick.

As a 19 year old this Mass was one of the highlights of my younger years - I had never been (nor since) at such a huge gig. Being uncomfortable didn't bother me in the slightest, but now 39 years later I am less tolerant. Instead on Sunday I will be celebrating my daughter's birthday!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Phew - First On-line Class Over! #vlog03

Video log of my thoughts after first ever on-line class last evening - I'm glad that's over!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Preparing for First On-line Class #vlog02

My second video log is about preparing for this evening's on-line Information Session and Sample Class (my first ever!) for the Higher Diploma in Data Analytics. I have recorded the vlog with my iPhone, so sound quality is not the best. One last practice session and I think I'm ready to go.

One thing I must remember is that while I have the Virtual Classroom running, others might be able to see it if they log on to my class. I had it running while creating this vlog and a colleague entered the class and saw me waving my iPhone around!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Video Log About Online Teaching Experience #vlog01

At the suggestion of a colleague I am starting a short series of video logs about my experiences in teaching a module online for the first time. This coming semester I will be teaching the Programming for Big Data module in the online Higher Diploma in Data Analytics. This semester will be my 33rd - all my previous classes have been in regular classrooms or computer laboratories. In my education career I have created content for delivery on floppy disks, CD-ROMs, over the Internet, and in the classroom - but never live online. So this will be a very new experience for me and I hope to share what works (or not) for my students and me throughout the semester.

Here's my first vlog effort:

Monday, August 13, 2018

Repeat Exams

In the autumn of 1979, I had to repeat two modules in 1st year Science in Trinity: Chemistry and Physics. Even though I had found 1st year difficult, I did not expect to fail the summer exams. I scraped through the repeats on the pass-by-compensation rule. Not having learned my lesson, I had to repeat two more much harder modules in 2nd year, and failed both again. I had to repeat the year during which I finally figured out this "College" thing.

We are not defined by our failures (or successes) - they are simply part of the way we learn. There is no shame in failing an exam and having to repeat it. If you need two efforts at passing an exam - so be it and move on. 

To all those students starting repeat exams today - good luck. You are not a failure.

Friday, August 10, 2018

YouTube Channel Analytics #16000000

A nice surprise awaited me when I got back to the office as I checked the analytics for my YouTube channel - it has passed the 16,000,000 views mark some time in the past few weeks. I still get a kick out of every milestone such as another million views. As always - I am totally flattered that so many people view my videos, here's the latest lifetime numbers:

Click/Tap Image to Enlarge.
The figure above of 43,107,239 minutes for Watch Time equates to just under 82 years! Most of the views still come from the United States (34%), but this proportion has been declining as other countries, especially India at 10%, increase the number of views. This time last year the USA was at 36%, and India was at 7.9%. Ireland accounts for just 1.3% (212,936 views) of the 16 million total.

One general trend that I have noticed is that views of my Statistics videos have been growing very well, while some of my older videos on things like Excel, have been declining. I take the approach with the Statistics videos to keep them simple and never deviate from a step-by-step methodology. I also note that the disastrous May/June period in 2015 (when I made changes to the metadata of each video) has now been wiped out. While the summer periods always record a big drop in views (as does Christmas), this summer has been the best since I set up the channel on 7th April, 2006. Hopefully the views will continue to grow, and that I can find the time to add more videos.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Back to Work

Image source: Mathematica.
Today is my first day back to the office after summer holidays - I spent most of the day deleting hundreds of emails. In the end there was not much for me to deal with and I got through the lot fairly easily. Summer is obviously a very quiet time in the College - it always amazes me how it can be so hectic at times, and so quiet at other times. Could there be a way of spreading and evening out the work a bit better? Courses are being run during the summer, and getting busier every year.

I spent most of the summer either in Vancouver or Wexford - much of it without connectivity (as I wrote two posts ago). Hence my lower than average output on this blog. However, I was affected slightly by a comment on one of my posts from this time last year: "Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?". I didn't at the time think it would affect me - but this summer I was slower to post. 

Hopefully I'll get back into action in the next few days. I have what I hope will be an interesting challenge in the upcoming semester - a module on Programming with R to be delivered online. I haven't taught programming for a good few years, and I've never delivered a class online - I'll be sure to recount experiences and lessons learned throughout the semester.