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PODS Spotlight: Koji Shiromoto

Hi! I’m Koji, one of the PODS fellows this summer. Originally from Tokyo and New York, I’ve just finished my joint honours degree in Political Science and Economics.

I’ve always been a bit of a data geek – the sort of person who would track his favourite music or sports teams on spreadsheets – and being a visual learner, I’ve always tried to represent data in the most visually-appealing way possible. However, I’ve always relied on Google Sheets, which had its limitations. Additionally, I’ve always been enthusiastic about learning human languages – French, Japanese, German, and a bit of Italian – but I’ve always shied away from learning a programming language.

So in many ways, what PODS has taught me – a solid foundation in a programming language for data analysis and visualization – was exactly what I needed, and complemented my existing interests really well. (I’ve already started using these new tricks I learned, like visualization packages in R and web scraping, in my personal research projects about elections and public transit – because, as my friends can attest, I have really odd hobbies.) Not only were the instructor, TA, and course material excellent, it was a privilege to go through this experience with a truly brilliant, inquisitive, delightful, and kind-hearted cohort (whose blog posts you’ve been following throughout the summer!).

In addition to the bootcamp, I was assigned to intern at Plotly, a data-visualization firm in the Mile End. There, I was put with the documentation team – who write explanations for the packages that Plotly codes – and expanded the documentation pages for the ggplotly package. This meant creating example visualizations for each function in the set. It was an excellent opportunity to explore a wide variety of datasets (I was given considerable freedom about what I could use for the examples) and to expand the types of data-visualization I feel comfortable with, beyond just points and lines. It was also an excellent way to learn Plotly’s “Dash” package, a way of creating interactive dashboards, and Plotly’s many great interns helped me along the way.

In short, I’m never going to forget PODS, really – every visualization project and every map I make from now on will be the result of the skills and insights I gained over this summer. I’ve thought for a bit that I’d like to work in a journalistic publication that combined explanation with visualization (if you’re reading this, The Economist, please call me), and I’d like to think that, with PODS, I’m one step closer to that.


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