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How I Work: Jason Barbour, organizer of the Data Works MD meetup and president of Erias Ventures

This is Baltimore's "How I Work" series, where we take a look at the tools and tips the region's startup founders and technologists use to get through the day.

Jason Barbour started organizing a data science meetup in the Baltimore area in 2013. (Courtesy photo)

This is Baltimore’s new “How I Work” series, where we’ll take a look at the tools and tips the region’s startup founders and creative leaders use to get through the day. If you’d like to be a part of this series, e-mail us.

Jason Barbour is the organizer of the local meetup Data Works MD. He is also a software engineer and president of Erias Ventures.

The meetup was launched in 2013, and focuses on data science, analytics and data products.

“I originally started the meetup with a desire to bring quality data science related talks to Maryland,” Barbour said. “D.C. has a number of great groups and meetups, but it is often difficult for folks in Baltimore and the surrounding areas to get there. I figured this was a good opportunity to bring attention to the work being done in Maryland.”

Over more than 90 events, the meetup gained the support of organizations, companies and universities in the region.

“I’m a big fan of groups that meet consistently so we often hold events at once, if not more, a month,” Barbour said. “We do differ from some other groups though in that we move between venues in order to give members from different areas the opportunity to attend.”

That’s evident in a pair of upcoming events for 2020.

On Feb. 13, it will head to Laurel’s Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to discuss open source storage layer Delta Lake with Tim Lortz, a solutions architect with Databricks. Then, on March 12, it will shift to Betamore in Port Covington for “A Day in the Life of a Data a Journalist” with Christine Zhang of The Baltimore Sun.

This is how Barbour works.


What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any tech-related work?

Say good morning to my son and then think through the meetings, tasks, and activities scheduled for the day

How often do you check your email, and do you use any program to get to “Inbox Zero“?

Constantly! I am a heavy user, possibly abuser, of the Snooze feature now built into Gmail. I often will Snooze emails even if it just to later that evening when I know I will have the time to sit down and focus on them. This allows the inbox to be minimal through the day when I can’t truly clear items out.

For ongoing projects, how do you keep track of your progress?

I use a combination of task tracking tools. For the meetup, I use two Trello boards. One to track upcoming events, since I book speakers generally 3-6 months out, and one to track interesting articles, tutorials, and tools for our monthly newsletter. For our company, I use Asana for tracking tasks, business development initiatives, and candidates. During the day, we use JIRA to track stories for our software products. Lastly, I use Wunderlist to track items to buy, things I’d someday like to do, and small tasks.

When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?

I don’t think I ever really take a break. I tend to be working on something all the time, but usually have either a podcast or TV show running in the background. On the weekends, I try to take more time to spend with my son. We went to Jurassic Quest a few weeks back, which was fun.

Where do you turn for inspiration when you’re feeling low?

I listen to a lot of podcasts and a fair number of audiobooks. I find hearing stories about how other business owners faced and ultimately overcame setbacks and difficulties in their careers very inspirational.

What’s your gear?

Nothing fancy at all. Older LG G6 phone primarily used for email and listening to podcasts and audiobooks, Dell XPS 13 laptop used for everything, and an iPad used for streaming video.

What’s one time-saving tip you have?

Get things out of your head into a list or on paper and, as much as possible, stay organized. It is much easier in the long run to get things done when you have a process and know where everything you need is.


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