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Driving R Adoption in Your Company With Meetups

August 5th, 2016 in

Are you trying to develop an R culture in your organization, provide learning resources, and upskill your colleagues? Organizing a meetup is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that goal. In this first post we will cover 6 steps for starting your first internal R meetup at your company.

One: Find R Evangelists

Before you invite the entire office, focus on getting some key influencers on board. Identify data science evangelists in your organization - the R experts, Tableau gurus, SQL masters - and reach out. These people will be critical in organizing a successful meetup within your organization. They are domain masters who can make educated suggestions for meetup content, guide new members, and help keep everything organized. You’ll need leaders and knowledgeable educators to help run these meetups - these are the people to do it.

Two: Identify Your Audience

Now that you have some R evangelists on your team, it’s time to identify your meetup audience. Where are R skills and training needed most critically in your organization? Are you trying to onboard new hires, upskill your current analytics team, or help other teams within the organization (Marketing, Finance, etc.) learn R. Maybe you are trying to convert your team from commercial products like SAS, SPSS, and STATA? Perhaps you simply want to provide a  resource for your summer interns. Your audience will depend on your organization, but it’s important to understand exactly who you are trying to reach since it’s critical for developing meetup content and timing.

Three: Have a Clear Agenda

Awesome! You’ve identified your audience and you have your evangelists onboard - now it’s time to begin planning your meetup content. Work with the R evangelists you recruited in step one to begin planning the content for your first few meetups. The content should directly address the needs of your audience. If your audience is comprised of SAS, SPSS, and STATA users, your meetup should focus specifically on switching users from one to the other. If your audience is made up of new R users, then make sure you plan a solid workshop introducing them to R. Here are 7 Tips For Getting Your Colleagues Hooked on R to help you get started.

Does your audience already have basic R experience? Create some content focused on more specialized topics like data visualization, statistical modeling or machine learning. Here are some great examples covering these more advanced topics:

Remember - not every meetup has to be a lecture. You can use your meetup time to hold Q&A sessions, host team competitions, and to show off everyone's latest R project. Keep your meetups interesting and unique to encourage participation and increase engagement. The content you plan should directly correlate to the skill level of your audience and your desired outcome for their learning.

Four: Decide Where & When You Will Meet

Many people brush aside the importance of picking a time and place, but this is critical to hosting a successful meetup. If you want to encourage participation your meetup needs to be accessible to your audience.

Place

So where should you meet? The cheapest and most likely option is to reserve a space in your company’s office. Go through the proper channel and reserve a room with plenty of seating for your team, a solid WiFi signal, and A/V capabilities. Also, food always draws a crowd - consider meeting somewhere you can all grab a bite.

Although finding a space in your office is probably the easiest option, don’t let that limit you. In fact, mixing it up and finding a space off site has it’s benefits as well. If you’re meeting in the morning, you and your team can meet at the local coffee shop near the office. Meeting after work? Go discuss your latest projects over a drink at the bar around the corner. Not every meeting has to be all business. Mixing in less formal offsites keeps members engaged in the community and excited to keep learning.

Time

People are busy. Really busy. If you want to run a successful meetup within your organization it’s important to consider their schedules and when they will have the time and energy to attend. Keep the duration of your meetup short and sweet. Most people have 30 minutes to spare, but asking them to give up over an hour at a time outside their normal working hours can get tricker. For example, you can also consider hosting a lunchtime meetup. Aim for more frequent, shorter meetings that participants can attend. This keeps your meetup engaging and makes it more accessible to people with busy schedules. It also helps you avoid long talks that can become boring for your attendees. Don’t worry about not having enough time to fit everything in. Q&A and conversations can continue after the meetup is over both in person and virtually, which brings us to the next step…

Five: Create a Resource Center

In order to run a successful meetup, you’ll need a dedicated place for people to look up information, communicate, share posts and more. Here are some key areas to consider:

  • Communication - Does your organization use Slack? Create a new channel and use it for any meetup-related discussions. You could also create a Whatsapp group. Whatever keeps the lines of communication open between you and your attendees. You can use it to ask questions, share articles and engage your team.

  • Record meetups - try to record your meetups and make them available to members who were unable to attend in person. Make these files easily accessible via a private Vimeo account or a file sharing service. This is particularly useful for teams spread out across different geographies and time zones.

  • Data, Code and R projects - It is really important to have a go-to place where attendees can access practice datasets, see example R scripts written by their colleagues, and share their R projects. A version control system like GitHub is an extremely useful place to store this information.

Six: Measure and Reward Progress

It is also important to document and highlight projects that come out of your meetup. Challenge members to create an initiative within their department using the R and data science skills they learned from your group. Have them document their process and give them an audience to share their project and insights. Not only does this give them an opportunity to share their knowledge, but it also serves as a reminder of the impact data science initiatives can have within the organization and inspire further change.

You just read 6 steps for building a better R culture at your organization. Look out for our next post on getting your R meetups to the next level by building learning tracks and managing the education process! Now it’s time to reach out to your audience and get the ball rolling! How do you nurture an R culture at your organization? Comment and share below!


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