#Carpentries25 Testimonial Series: Jean Baptiste Fankam Fankam

Recently badged Carpentries Instructor and Maintainer, Jean Baptiste Fankam Fankam, shares his journey at The Carpentries on our 25th Anniversary

In July 2023, The Carpentries turned 25 years! On July 24th we launched the #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, and if you wish to contribute to this testimonial series please find the instructions in the celebrations announcement and reach out to us. Also, be sure to register to receive communications about upcoming monthly regional events.

In our fourth testimonial contribution to this series, Carpentries Instructor and Lesson Maintainer, Jean Baptiste Fankam Fankam, shares his fast-progressing journey as a member of The Carpentries community.

Image of Jean Baptiste Fankam Fankam standing at the entrance of the Humphrey Raikes Building, and he is dressed in a lab coat and lab eye glasses.

Image Credit: Supplied by Jean Baptiste Fankam Fankam

As we celebrate The Carpentries 25th anniversary, I am thrilled to share how this incredible community has profoundly impacted my professional development, career, coding skills, and teaching experiences and in such a short space of time upon encountering it. As a new Carpentries Instructor and Maintainer, I am deeply grateful for the enriching opportunities and meaningful connections this organisation has provided me since April 2023.

After completing my PhD in Computational Materials Science in December 2021 at the University of Yaounde I, Cameroon, I wanted to know more about Command Line Interface (CLI), Unix shell, and the Python programming language. A computational materials scientist needs to use High-Performance Computing (HPC) and materials informatics (machine learning applied to materials science) to be recognised internationally.

This journey began for me recently, in 2023, when I was struggling with my new postdoctoral position at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had been learning Python and Unix shell from different platforms, but never systematically in order to feel confident that I had a solid foundation. I was constantly on the Internet looking for workshops or conferences that could teach me Unix shell or Python from scratch, and it was during that search that I came across a call to an online Carpentries Workshop on Unix shell and that is when everything truly started.

After the workshop I knew that the best way to learn even more about Unix shell is to be an Instructor, and so I attended an Instructor Training workshop in April and by the end of that month I had successfully completed the checkout process to qualify as a certified Capentries Instructor. The following month, in May 2023, I was also onboarded as a Carpentries Maintainer for the Ecology Lesson in the Data Carpentry: Social Sciences lesson programme.

I taught for the first time in June 2023, two Centrally-Organised workshops, in one week: a Software Carpentry workshop for the Helmholtz Information & Data Science Academy (HIDA) in Germany and a Data Carpentry workshop for Rhodes University in South Africa. I think the fact that I co-instructed a workshop for HIDA enhanced my chances to secure my upcoming 3 months research visit to Germany in 2024 with one of HIDA’s visiting programs. I also taught another Software Carpentry online workshop for the University of Florida, where my main challenge was the differing time zones. I had to sleep on campus in order to teach this workshop as campus had better Internet connection and was equipped with alternative power sources in the event of load shedding, a continuous problem in South Africa. Since then, I have taught in 4 other workshops, which has strengthened my teaching of Unix shell and Python.

Teaching Unix shell and Python was a challenging prospect, but The Carpentries supportive environment and the passion of its Instructors and Instructor Trainers reassured me that I was at the right place. This community’s commitment to inclusive and accessible education resonated with me, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Throughout this journey, I have been grateful for the support and the infectious enthusiasm of The African Capacity Development Manager, Dr. Angelique Trusler. Every time I join the monthly Africa Community Call which she hosts, and I engage with other members of The Carpentries community, I really feel a sense of belonging in this community. Through regular Instructor support and the mentorship programmes, I have honed my teaching skills and gained confidence in conveying complex concepts to diverse audiences. The emphasis on evidence-based teaching practices and creating inclusive learning environments has made me a more effective and empathetic educator.

Engaging with The Carpentries community has also offered benefits that extend beyond the workshops. Collaborating with fellow Instructors and Maintainers from different continents has exposed me to a wealth of ideas, perspectives, and best practices. The global nature of this community has broadened my horizons and provided me with a support network that is unrestricted by geographical boundaries.

Interacting with passionate learners from all walks of life has been incredibly rewarding. Witnessing their enthusiasm for coding and data skills has been inspiring, especially during our workshops in Africa. Empowering individuals with valuable digital literacy not only opens doors for their careers but also promotes the growth of their local communities.

The sense of camaraderie within the Carpentries community is truly unique. We are bound together by a shared vision of creating a world where all researchers can confidently use computational skills to advance knowledge. This vision unites us across continents and time zones, and it drives us to be the change we wish to see in the world of data-driven research.

Looking ahead, I am excited about the future of The Carpentries in Africa and beyond. As we continue to spotlight the contributions and impact of our community in Africa this month, I hope that our efforts will inspire more learners and educators to join us on this empowering journey.

Happy 25th anniversary to The Carpentries, and here’s to many more years of transforming lives through code, data and community!

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