2016 Election: Anelda van der Walt

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

Who am I?

I have always been involved with, and am passionate about, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional projects. Over the last six years most of my work has focused on collaboratively providing support and training to researchers at various institutions across South Africa. Initially the support focussed specifically in areas of Next Generation Sequencing as I was employed by two national *omics platforms, but more recently I’ve participated in local eResearch initiatives. Through eResearch I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with researchers from a broad array of disciplines including life scientists, medical doctors, engineers, linguists, historians, and more. While I may not be the most computationally advanced person in this community, I have a knack for creating connections between those who need help and those who can help. I specifically love to work with people who are blissfully unaware of the power of technology, and upon exposure, blossoms into the greatest advocates and users with huge impact.

My exposure to researchers at all career stages from a wide array of institutions highlighted the dire state of computational adoption as well as the challenges associated with trying to adopt better practices. To help address this need I created a company, Talarify, at the end of 2014. Initially it focused on building sustainable computational capacity amongst NGS researchers in South Africa - specifically within research groups and not only individuals. In 2015 Talarify expanded its focus and joined forces with North-West University(NWU) to aid in development of the NWU eResearch Initiative together with IT, Libraries, and Research Support Office.

Formal education include an MSc in Bioinformatics from the South African National Bioinformatics Institute and undergraduate and honours in Genetics.

Software Carpentry and me

Software Carpentry has been on my radar for several years, but in November 2014 I was involved in running a local workshop for the first time. I’ve subsequently organised or co-organised 5 more workshops and one remote instructor training (thanks to Greg’s support and the enthusiastic help of our great local instructors and hosts). For more info about South African Software Carpentry Activities please read our recent blog post.

I’ve also been summarising Software Carpentry activities in blog format since January 2015 and briefly helped out with the Twitter account. I’ve submitted (small) pull requests to the Shell lesson, participated in the 2015 Instructor Retreat in London, and have been a massive local advocate for Software and Data Carpentry in South Africa across all organisations I engage with.

What can I offer?

It’s easy to see how South Africa and I can personally benefit from our continued and increased involvement in Software Carpentry, but what can I bring to you?

Through my work with NWU I am involved with national initiatives such as the Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy and the African Research Cloud which are great avenues for expanding the reach of Software Carpentry into South Africa and possibly even Africa. We’ve already had interest from researchers in Namibia and Mozambique to run workshops in their countries. I would love to help significantly expand the instructor base on our continent and could offer mentoring and advice to others who want to build Software Carpentry capacity in poorly resourced or isolated environments.

I also serve on the Silicon Cape Initiative subcommittee for Women in Technology. There are untapped opportunities here to help build communities to support our workshop participants, and to partner in offering workshops specifically for women and other underrepresented groups.

The Software Carpentry Community have provided me with inspiration, solutions, answers, and resources to empower others with, and I’d be honoured to help drive this organisation and its community forward into 2016.

You can find me at @aneldavdw or anelda-AT-talarify-DOT-co-DOT-za.

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