#Carpentries25 Testimonial Series: Jannetta Steyn

Current Executive Council member, Jannetta Steyn, shares her journey with The Carpentries.

In July 2023, The Carpentries turned 25 years! On July 24th we launched our #Carpentries25 anniversary celebrations which will continue for the remainder of the year with a series of monthly events and weekly activities highlighting the global and regional contributions and impact of The Carpentries community.

This #Carpentries25 Testimonial Series is one way we will celebrate this milestone. If you wish to contribute to this testimonial series please find the instructions in this announcement and reach out to us. Also, be sure to register to receive communications about upcoming monthly regional events.

In our first testimonial contribution below, Executive Council member Jannetta Steyn reflects on what being a member of The Carpentries community has entailed and how that has impacted her.

Image of Jannetta Steyn sitting at their desk and looking directly at the camera

Image Credit: Jannetta Steyn

Considering that The Carpentries is celebrating its 25th anniversary, I would really like to know why I only discovered it in 2019. I have always loved talking to, telling, and teaching people about the things I enjoy doing. The key part of that last sentence is probably “the things I enjoy doing”. I have taught at colleges before, but it was not quite as enjoyable as I would have liked it to be. The learners were not necessarily enthusiastic, and I had to teach them the stuff that was in the syllabus and not stuff that they would be using or stuff I was excited about.

Then, at the beginning of 2019 I joined the newly established research software engineering team at Newcastle University. One of the things we decided we should be doing, as a team, is to offer training to researchers and someone mentioned The Carpentries. I honestly did not know much about the organisation. I think I might have done an HPC workshop and that was the extent of my experience. I applied through the Open Instructor Training Program to do the Instructor Training and some months down the line I received an email saying I was accepted. I managed to get on a workshop at the end of March 2020, as we went into Covid lockdown.

I was so keen to apply what I’ve learnt but I did not really know what should happen next. This is where I came to really appreciate The Carpentries. I realised that with all the resources that The Carpentries has available, I could just do a thing myself and next thing you know I organised an online workshop for a group of colleagues that work for the university’s IT department. The only thing I could not secure was a second instructor, but I managed to convince three colleagues, a colleague’s husband, and my son, to be helpers. The workshop went really well. I thoroughly enjoyed instructing but the one thing I came to appreciate is that being the only instructor for five half days is really, really tiring. By Thursday I was struggling to talk straight - but I made it!

Towards the end of 2021 I also became certified as an Instructor Trainer. I am now the training lead on my team, organising and teaching at least one workshop per month. I still volunteer as an instructor where I can, and I try to teach on one or two instructor workshops per year.

In 2022 I became a fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute to work on the CarpentriesOffline project. This project has been a great deal of fun. We are looking at ways to deliver workshops when there is little or no Internet access. To this end we have created a solution to turn a Raspberry Pi computer or a laptop into a server that contains all the necessary software, learning materials and web services required for a workshop. We are also working on a mini high-performance computer to be able to deliver HPC workshops.

2022 turned out to be quite a busy year as I also managed to get a small grant from the RSE Society (UK) to develop an introductory lesson on the Internet of Things. I purchased several microcontrollers, sensors and a few other things required for the workshop and since September 2022 I have run the workshop three times. With comments like, “This is the most fun I have had all year,” I would dare to say that the lesson, even though it is still in development, is a remarkable success.

In 2023 I became a member of The Carpentries Executive Council where I serve on the financial and program sub-committees. I have received so much being part of The Carpentries that I’m hoping to be able to give something back by being involved in the strategic and organisational planning. My feeling though, is that I still receive significantly more than what I am able to give back.

The Carpentries has significantly influenced my career and it has given me an enthusiastic, supportive community which I can be part of. With every workshop I present and every meeting I attend I walk away energised, my head filled with new ideas and my network of friends and collaborators increased. I guess the fact that I have done so many things and got so deeply involved in such a short time (only three years) is a testimonial of how The Carpentries can enrich one’s life.

Thank you to all those involved in making The Carpentries the organisation it is today.

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