Who are you, and what do you do?

I’ve got myself into the bizarre situation of answering these questions as my anonymous Twitter persona quite_grey, which I only recently created to post #TidyTuesday graphics. My work has commandeered my personal account and it would be weird for my colleagues to see charts of NFL commercials suddenly auto posted to the company intranet site. The truth is I’m head of research at a real estate company, and I’m based in London. That said, I’m enjoying my newfound anonymity, so I’ll try and keep it for now. Researcher by day, #TidyTuesday poster by night (usually midnight, even if the kids stay asleep!).

Regardless, I set up the account so I could start something new. From data to insight in a day (or two, three…) is such an exciting concept, I couldn’t resist. I might moan about brand guidelines and PR procedures at work, but what could I create without either? No boundaries. No rules! But am I any good at this? At first, it was intimidating to post something. That was just the usual excuses: work is busy, I don’t have time, no one wants to see your terrible map of caribou migration. We’ve all been there.

However, the R community, and the #TidyTuesday community especially, aren’t intimidating. In fact, having followed them both for some time, I’ve found them to be extremely welcoming. I’ve been desperate to contribute, and I now I’m up and running I find myself searching out the latest “my first TidyTuesday” posts to give each one a Like. I love that there are people taking part for the first time each week.

How do you use R? What are your favorite packages?

I’ve used R for the last two or three years but never attempted programming before that. So, I’m still on the steep bit of the learning curve. I guess that will never change!

I use the tidyverse packages daily: typically creating and using functions reliant on ggplot and purrr. patchwork became an instant regular. I often use sf for maps and sometimes use broom for models. pdfetch has been helpful to pull in national statistics and central bank data. And showtext is my go-to package to grab a Google Font for my charts.

There is a longer list of packages I need to learn when I get some time. Something tells me janitor will become my new favourite.

What hardware do you run R on? Do you use any other software tools?

My work laptop is a hand-me-down Lenovo ThinkPad that sounds like it’s about to take flight whenever I try something ambitious, but it works.

My main headache is integrating new R processes into existing ones, which typically rely on Excel, Alteryx or PowerBI. But I’ll keep plugging away at it. The end goal is to make as many of my processes accessible to other team members who can’t code. R can only be a sandbox for now.

Do you have any projects that you’re working on right now?

I really want to keep contributing to #TidyTuesday. I learn something new each week that always helps with the day job.

As for real work? Almost every aspect of the real estate industry has changed in the last year. Offices, retail stores, hotels, warehouses, data centres, healthcare, life sciences: all of it, on new trajectories. The number of research projects the company needed exploded.

But our conversations about these latest trends often seem stuck at the “existential question” phase. Put it this way, every time we talk about the office market someone asks, “but what is work, really?” And I’m meant to be the one with the answers. It’s been exhausting; although I think I just went a week without talking about Brexit for the first time in five years, so that’s something.

All that and some research into how the real estate industry could become carbon neutral by 2050 will take up most of the year (career)!

Finally, we have a new working group made of some of our researchers based in Europe to work out automation and visualisation best practice. It has been hard to uncover who has those skills in each country, but we’ve found R, Python, Alteryx and BI expertise cropping up all over the place. I hope we can lay down solid foundations for best practice for our department. It feels like we’re finally about to let go of the old Excel spreadsheets and be all the better for it.

Some of my team are learning R and now they’re getting to the good bit where they’re spending more time typing in R Studio than in Google or my DMs for help! It’s really exciting to see what they can produce after learning for only a brief time.