Hi, I’m Jon.
I’m a data analyst, R enthusiast, hobbyist musician, hopeful runner and lifelong learner. I work as part of a product team at Derivco, where I am engaged in a mixture of product design, game maths and analysis. I live in the beautiful city of Cape Town and I am proudly South African.
Please feel free to connect with me! Either send me a direct message using the form available on the Contact page, or have a look at the footer for my social media, Github and other links.
For a more lengthy bio, keep on reading below!
I grew up in the heart of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, in a small city called Pietermaritzburg - aka ‘the sleepy hollow’. Located about 90km away from the heart of Durban, PMB is probably best known for being the (joint) home of the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon - the Comrades Marathon - which is run between these two cities.
Running is probably the simplest sport there is, but certainly not the easiest, and a race of this distance presents a substantial challenge - both physically and mentally. I grew up watching the race on tv, out alongside the road and sometimes even looking over the wall from the garden (when the race went past our house). To this day, I remain in awe of the thousands of people who complete this journey each year. One of those people is my father, who has 13 Comrades medals to his name. I remember him once saying of the race, “you will learn things about yourself you wouldn’t discover another way”. I think I’d like to complete the Comrades Marathon one day.
But don’t let that give you the wrong impression - most of the stuff that I’m drawn to generally falls much more towards the mental end of the physically vs mentally demanding spectrum…
I’ve always been something of an academic. I thrived in the structured learning environment that school, and later university provided me. Learning is something that I really enjoy and I hope to be someone who never stops learning, both intellectually and otherwise.
I left PMB in 2005 to study at the University of Cape Town - tackling three years of actuarial science before switching streams to graduate with a BSc in Mathematical Statistics. During my honours the following year I discovered the world of Operations Research and Decision Science in particular which really piqued my interest. So after completing my BSc Honours in Statistics, I ended up undertaking an MSc in Operations Research, sparked by stakeholders from the Stormers rugby franchise in the Western Cape.
This resulted in a research project which combined aspects of sports science, decision theory, and a whole lot of modelling and simulation in R. Although I was first introduced to R at the outset of my undergraduate years at UCT, it was here where I began to develop my enthusiasm for R as a programming language.
During the latter part of my MSc, in 2011, I started working in the software industry as a data analyst for RightShift - a tech startup developing online games. The company experienced rapid growth in it’s player base, which gave me good exposure to some of the challenges of managing and manipulating large amounts of data. Our core tooling included MySQL, SQL Server, and much of the Microsoft Business Intelligence stack - SSAS, SSIS and SSRS - along with a good deal of Excel. Over and above that I also did a few projects which leveraged R to embed dynamic reports and visualizations on the company wiki, or for some Shiny apps.
I completed my MSc in 2013, and have since produced two publications (see here) with the help of my supervisor Dr Ian Durbach. RightShift was recently acquired by Derivco, which has seen me transition into more of a product design role, but with a particular focus on modeling all math related aspects of game design, and guiding the data process to faciliate future product analysis on an ongoing basis.
In my spare time, I enjoy running, a myriad of different forms of moving images (sport, e-sport, movies, tv series etc), listening to music, and (when we can find time) making music with my brother and other friends (for more info see ryancalder.co.za). I am also a keen sound engineer with some experience mixing in live environments, though I’d also like to develop some more knowledge and expertise on the production side of things. Along with all of this I am also trying to get more involved in R and other open-source development, and hope to continue growing my technical skillset in pursuit of becoming a more rounded data scientist.