Interview with Lauren Burke: Giving Her First Solo Presentation

In March 2022, as part of a special series of Data Umbrella events to celebrate Women’s Month, we invited Lauren Burke to present on how to Create a Free Data Blog with Jekyll & GitHub Pages.

  1. Have you given a data science presentation before or participated in panel discussions?

    The presentation I gave on Building a Personal Website with Jekyll and GitHub Pages was my first solo talk! I’d previously participated in a few virtual panels around various topics related to data science and analytics, as well as moderated a couple of webinar discussions. At work, I’ve given presentations and tutorials on data science projects and techniques. I’ve also developed activities for and given interactive talks for middle and high school students.

  2. When was your first (solo) presentation?

    I would count my talk for Data Umbrella as my first official talk!

  3. What inspired you to give that presentation?

    Back in November 2021, I joined the scikit-learn Communications team at the recommendation of Reshama Shaikh. In that role, one of my first major projects was setting up the official scikit-learn blog.

    A few years back, I set up a personal website with Jekyll and GitHub Pages then continued to iterate and embrace more of the customization options available. That experience, plus the customizability of the Minimal Mistakes theme and free hosting option via GitHub, made it the ideal option for the first version of the scikit-learn blog.

    Afterward, Reshama approached me about giving a talk on the topic for Data Umbrella. I’ve personally seen the value in having your own website - it helps you to establish your personal brand, build out a portfolio, gain visibility online, showcase accomplishments, and create a space to share knowledge. I felt this talk would be a great way to communicate the benefits, demystify the process, and hopefully inspire a few others to promote themselves and their accomplishments!

  4. Do you have any suggestions for first-time speakers?


    a) Even if you feel like you don’t have as much experience as others or haven’t been in a field long enough, your perspective is important and sharing your knowledge can benefit others. Always remember that right now, someone is at the stage you were 1, 5, or 10 years ago. What you share could help them!

    b) I recently learned this tip through our speaker coach for the DataConnect Conference, and it’s something that I haven’t seen mentioned often.

    I like to have something to reference while giving a talk, usually adding notes, talking points, and cues for myself. These make my presentations more consistent and help me feel more confident while speaking. This suggestion has changed the way I go about it.

    While we generally speak in series of 8 to 10 words, the sentences we write tend to be much longer. So, if you’re providing notes for yourself in entire sentences, you tend to sound more robotic, wooden, or even out of breath. For presentations, I now do a voice recording and then transcribe talking points and notes as I listen back. Since I’ve switched over to this process, I’ve noticed that my talks flow better and I don’t feel the need to pause to catch my breath.

  5. What has been your experience since you have presented? What are the benefits of public speaking?

    I’ve had people reaching out with questions and comments on the topic - even a few months later! A few even shared with me the websites that they created based on the tutorial, which I love to see.

    Giving this presentation definitely improved my confidence in my ability to speak publicly in front of larger audiences. It was also nice to have positive feedback on the talk content itself! As a data scientist, communication skills are so important and it was great to hear from attendees what they found interesting and beneficial. I’ve been thinking about applying to speak at larger events and conferences - taking what I’ve learned from the experience and applying it to other topics.

    Additionally, I found that presenting was not only a great way to share your knowledge but to enhance it as well! While putting together my talk, I was researching and diving into the documentation deeper than I ever had before.

  6. Is there anything else you would like to share?

    Through WIA, we just launched a new podcast called Women in Analytics After Hours! Each episode, we chat with women in data and analytics to learn more about what they do in the space, how they got there, and more. It’s now available on all your favorite podcast listening platforms, and we’ll be posting new episodes every few weeks. Our next episode comes out on July 13th, where we’re joined by Tracy Teal of RStudio to talk about Managing Open Source Projects and Ecosystems.

Lauren Burke presents on creating a blog
Lauren Burke presenting to the Data Umbrella community