Welcome!

Well, the good news is I didn't start a podcast ...

It seems that every 4 years I get the itch to write a tech blog. Recently, I was getting ready to breath some life back into my long dormant static web blog when my friend informed me it’s 2021, blogs are out and newsletters are back in — time is a flat circle.

Now it’s the last few hours of 2020 and some of my friends have already begun subscribing to the empty URL where I have indicated there will one day be a newsletter. This seems like as good a reason as any to let go of my perfectionism and kick this thing off.

So … here we go!

Who’s Writing This Thing?

Whether you just wandered in from Twitter or if I’ve known you for years, I thought it would be good to start things off with some background about myself to give you an of idea where I’m coming from with this newsletter.

My parents are both biostatisticians so I grew up around discussions about how statistics isn’t magic. I went to UW-Madison where I majored in Astronomy and Math. I spent the first 7 years of my career working for the Hubble Space Telescope at STScI cutting my teeth as a self-taught software developer and writing data analysis pipelines. Following that I spent 4.5 years at a dark web information security startup. I was their first hire starting as an engineer, then VP of Engineering, and finally VP of Technical Products. Since 2019 I’ve been the Director of Data at HeathJoy, a Chicago-based healthcare startup, where I lead our Data Team. In my current role my projects span traditional analytics, data engineering, and data science as well as management across those fields (my opinions here are not the opinions of my employer etc.).

My career has always spanned data and software. I was always the engineer who cared the most about benchmarks and monitoring or I was the analyst who cared the most about software and automation. Throughout my career I’ve been deeply interested in the craft of writing quality software and producing data analysis that’s fundamentally sound. I tend to ask why we’re doing things which for better of worse has ended up with me leading new projects or teams. I’ve learned some things about how to build and work in changing organizations.

What’s the Plan?

I want to write about a mix of software, data, technology, math and science, and how to lead teams that work in those areas. This isn’t strictly a software newsletter but there will be some posts — wait no, issues — that focus pretty heavily on software development. But within that the emphasis will be less on tips and tricks and instead focus on the theme of building stable maintainable software. Overall though, there should be plenty of non-software topics.

So what exactly does that look like? Here are some drafts I have on the back burner:

  • What I learned doing Advent of Code 2020 with 5 of my friends

  • How I try to create reusable software project structures myself and the teams I lead

  • How to structure data team interactions with stakeholders

  • A long read about chess, deep learning, and sports

  • Some grumpy thoughts about deep learning in industry

  • Side projects to measure my home’s internet connection speed with a RaspberryPi, generate perfect picture hanging arrangements, and analyze my chess performance

  • General odds and ends about tech, data, and some bits of culture to round things out.

But, to quote the title of another substack I read I am absolutely going to bail on this in a month.

Odds and Ends

Around the Internet:

  • I've started using SpotMenu for Spotify on OSX to display current track information and as mini-controller in my menu bar. It's such an obvious tool, I'm amazed I've gone so long without it. It makes me little bit nostalgic for WinAmp.

  • After getting tired of my Solarized Dark color scheme as my terminal and editor color scheme I've switched over to Dracula (created by a fellow Brazilian!).

Current Reading:

  • Nature’s Metropolis: Deepening my love affair with Chicago after moving back here in 2017. This was the most recommended book in a McMansion Hell Twitter thread asking for Chicago book recs.

  • Death’s End: Wrapping up the Three Body Problem trilogy. My love/hate relationship with this series has tilted towards love as the themes have taken on a cosmological scale.

  • Regression And Other Stories: I’ve been looking for a text that balances theory and practice like this for a while. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it in the future.

Currently Listening:

On Doomsday!ever since the womb ‘til I'm back where my brother wentthat's what my tomb will say
Right above my government; Dumile
Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who's to say?

Rest in Power DOOM


Thanks for reading! You can catch me on twitter at @AlexVianaPro, on GitHub, or on LinkedIn. If you want to subscribe there’s probably a button on this page to do that. Thanks to my wonderful wife for helping me find all the typos.