Finding Your Path, CircuitPython and Getting Work Done!

In our final time block before our break for lunch, we’ll have a panel session, a more advanced session about Python following the lightning talk primer and a session focused on strategies to getting work done!

12:00 AM – 12:45 AM

Panel: Finding Your Path


It’s not easy walking into a world dominated by opinion. Which language is best? Which technology is that of the future? Tabs or spaces? Navigating a career path is no trivial task. Do you need to learn skills on the side to land the job you think you want? Do you just pick a company that pays well and hope you like the work? What if you’re mid career and decide you would like to try something else. Is it too late?

Listen in as Andrew Connors, Danielle Leighton, Matt VanTassel, and James Stewart discuss their experiences navigating their own career paths.

This session will be a “fly-on-the-wall” panel in which you get to listen in on a candid conversation between four software professionals.


Matt VanTassel

Matt has spent the last 13+ years as a developer and manager in startups and large corporations, most recently joining RISE as CTO. He has led teams through org restructures, engineering process initiatives, production incidents, and daunting deadlines while maintaining morale, quality, velocity, and release commitments. He’s an ever curious leader who believes life is too short to do something that doesn’t fulfill you.

Matt believes deeply in using data to drive decisions, including analytics and customer feedback. He doesn’t just graph and monitor things at work—he’s fully instrumented his side projects and even graphed his infant son’s feeding and diaper change data!

Danielle Leighton

Danielle concentrates on the creation and implementation of industrial artificial intelligence programs with demonstrable, real impact. She helps clients transform raw sensor data into new insights and data products aligned with their business goals. Undeterred by the messy, difficult world of raw sensor data, Danielle is passionate about calibrating sensor (“IIoT”) data and keeping it in context.

Working with architects, data engineers, developers, and visual designers, she adapts research approaches and machine learning methods as needed over the life of a project.  Her professional background includes energy, retail, healthcare, and government, and she has worked with quantified selfers, biohackers, hacklabs, and makerspaces. She is notoriously unreadable to GSR wearables. In her previous life, Danielle worked with the world’s most sophisticated wearable to date, the hearing aid. Currently, she focuses most of her time on artificial intelligence programs for large scale asset networks.

James Stewart

Dr. James Stewart is SVP of Video Analytics with Canadian-based defence company Patriot One Technologies. Patriot One is creating a multi-sensor approach to mass casualty threat detection and acquired James’ New Brunswick-based company EhEye, which created an automated weapon and disturbance detection technology that sits on top of existing surveillance camera networks. James brings a strong mix of academic and industry experience having held positions such as Lead Data Scientist with Forcepoint (Formerly Raytheon|Websense), Research and Development Manager with the Information Security Centre of Excellence at UNB (now the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity), Senior Network Intelligence Analyst with Bell Aliant, and Crime Analyst Manager with the Saint John Police Force, where he continues to serve today as a 15-year auxiliary police constable. James is committed to building the security and defence sector given his strong roots in NB with his 3 children Maria, Adam and Becca, and his wife Connie who is a statistics professor at UNB.

Andrew Connors

Andrew is a software engineering graduate (May 2018) with a combined 3 years experience working with cloud computing tech, microservices, data science, AI, and backenddevelopment. You could say he’s been around the block, but Andrew says his age would make that a joke. He always knew he wanted to be an engineer of some sorts—he’s always loved math, science, and solving problems.

Dave Astels

Dave has been working in the computing industry for 35 years. He started when 8-bit CPUS like the 6502 and Z80 ruled the land and he designed and built his own hardware and hand-crafted code from assembly language. Eventually he went off and got a Computer Science degree and focused exclusively on software for many years. Along the way he spoke at conferences and wrote books. One of his blog posts instigated the rSpec project, which has been imitated in most programming languages. More recently he found himself working with hardware again. This time it’s different. Instead of using assembly language, he is using Python. Dave spends his time these days hacking on projects and writing about them, teaching other people the joys of making things that do stuff in the physical world.

Dave grew up in Nova Scotia and spent more time there, Calgary, Boston, Washington DC, Silicon Valley, and Chicago before finding himself back in Canada; this time in SW Ontario.

Matt believes deeply in using data to drive decisions, including analytics and customer feedback. He doesn’t just graph and monitor things at work—he’s fully instrumented his side projects and even graphed his infant son’s feeding and diaper change data!

CircuitPython: Python on Hardware


Python has made the jump to embedded software running on microcontroller hardware. This talk will introduce CircuitPython, a fork of MicroPython (a implementation of Python 3 designed to run on small hardware) that takes it to exciting new hardware and makes it very beginner/learner friendly. MicroPython is a new, opensource implementation of Python3 for this type of environment, including the BBC Micro:bit.

CiruitPython is a fork of MicroPython that supports new hardware and provides a very beginner/learner friendly way to deploy code to the hardware: connect your board via USB and a drive appears, drop code onto the drive and it runs. Edit code directly on the drive. Save it and it runs. Connect to the board via a terminal emulator (e.g. screen) and you can drop into a Python REPL. A recent addition has been a compatibility layer for Raspberry Pi making CircuitPython code portable between the various microcontroller systems and the Pi.

Dave Astels will introduce CircuitPython and various boards from Adafruit that support it as well as the Mu python programming environment that has support for CircuitPython and associated hardware.

Patrick LaRoche

Patrick LaRoche is a manager at Lixar Inc in the Air Division focused on delivering products with Agile teams to clients. Over his years in the industry, he was a founder of his own startup (topLog), ran engineering teams, and helped grow companies from early stage to established. He has continued to focus on improving and optimizing the software engineering process in the search for the holy grail of DevOps, an actual working CI/CD pipeline while remaining agile in product planning. Patrick’s technical focus is typically in infrastructure, attempting to keeping up with the latest in Kubernetes, serverless, and the general fun world of containerized shipping of all things great.

Minimal Likeable Process – Scrum? Kanban? Just get work done!

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 If you are a starting a new project, whether it be a startup, a project inside a large company, or just taking on a small hobby, planning, tracking, and delivering your work always leads to a question around “how do we break this down, execute, and deliver?” With so many tools, books, and opinions floating around on Medium, Slack groups, and hackernoon on how to go forth and prosper, it can be overwhelming to find the balance between getting sh*t done and planning said “sh*t”.

In this session, Patrick will share his experiences over the different size of organizations, colocated and remote, he has worked at, leave you with some thoughts (and some opinions) and draw conclusions, from his perspective, on what are some great ways to do the minimal process as an engineering org that will set you up for success. Agile? Scrum, Kanban? Just GSD, let’s hash it out and figure out what works for you.

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