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Empowering R in Paris: Mouna Belaid’s Journey with R-Ladies and the French R Community

By December 15, 2023Blog

Mouna earned the Opportunity Scholarship for the Posit 2023 Conference and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing experience.

The R Consortium recently interviewed Mouna Belaid, a co-organizer of R-Ladies Paris, who provided insights into the growth of the R community in Paris, especially in the French language. Dedicated channels are available for French speakers to seek assistance and other resources.

Please share about your background and your involvement in the R Community. What is your level of experience with the R language?

Mouna met and received the ‘R for Data Science – 2nd edition’ book offered by Posit, signed by both Hadley Wickham and Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel, two of the book’s co-authors, during the book reception at the Posit 2023 Conference in Chicago.

My name is Mouna, and I’m originally from Tunisia, a country in North Africa. Currently, I’m based in Paris, France. Professionally, I’m an engineer with a degree in statistics and data analysis from the Tunisian Higher School of Statistics and Data Analysis. Additionally, I hold double research master’s degrees from the School of Engineers of Tunis and Université Paris Cité, where I completed my academic journey in Tunisia. This is also where I began my career as a data scientist in the banking sector before moving to Paris. Now, I work as a data consultant at ArData, a French consulting company specializing in data science.

I’m particularly skilled in analytic tools like R, Python, SQL, Alteryx, and Power BI. Recently, I’ve been focusing on R in my current job, developing Shiny applications and working on data visualization projects. My journey with R began during my engineering studies in Tunisia, where it was a core part of our curriculum.

Beyond my professional work, I’m deeply involved in the R community. I’m a co-organizer of the R-Ladies Paris Community and a co-founder of the R Ladies initiative in Tunisia. Upon moving to France, I reactivated the R-Ladies Paris chapter. I’m also a part of the R-Ladies global team, responsible for onboarding new chapters, and a certified Carpentries instructor. ​I had the pleasure of being a member of the Program Committee at the Shiny 2023 conference organized by Appsilon.

I’m always eager to learn more and contribute to the R and data science fields, and I’m excited about my ongoing journey and experiences in these areas.

We would like to get to know you more on the personal side. Can you please tell me about yourself? For example, hobbies/interests or anything you want to share about yourself. 

I’m really active and enjoy being on social media, particularly LinkedIn. I dedicate significant time to sharing updates on new achievements and staying connected with our community. I’m also very interested in exploring analytical tools on LinkedIn, like tracking key indicators and the performance of my posts. If I weren’t a data consultant, I would be thrilled to work as a community manager, managing social media platforms.

Couscous, a traditional Tunisian dish

In addition to my professional interests, I have a passion for cooking, especially traditional Tunisian dishes like couscous. I really love engaging in this culinary art. That pretty much sums it up!

What industry are you currently in? How do you use R in your work?

I work in the public sector, specifically at the Ministry of Health in France. I am in the Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation, and Statistics. My main responsibility involves migrating code scripts from SAS to open-source tools like R and Python. This is a significant initiative we are undertaking right now. As part of my role, I oversee the technical aspects, including understanding the scripts and collaborating with the business teams and the script developers. My goal is to effectively migrate these scripts into R, primarily using the tidyverse package. In addition, I provide professional training sessions about R. These tasks form the core of my current responsibilities.

Why do industry professionals come to your user group? What is the benefit of attending?

Mouna presented the R-Ladies Paris community at the “Rencontres R” local conference dedicated to R users, held in Avignon, France, in June 2023.

In my experience with R-Ladies Paris, I believe we’re doing our best to create a safe and inclusive space for everyone. We organize not just in-person meetups but also online ones to enhance accessibility. To ensure everyone can benefit, we record these presentations and workshops and then share them on our YouTube channel. Our topics cover a wide range, suitable for various skill levels, from beginners to experts. These include data visualization, presentations, interdisciplinary work, and even how to develop an R package.

We also collaborate with other sectors, including those focused on Python programming, making our meetups relevant for a diverse audience. Beyond the technical aspects, we host social events; for instance, last October, we had a wonderful gathering in a bar in Paris. Additionally, we maintain a dedicated page on GitHub where summaries and recordings of all our meetups are available. That sums up my involvement and our initiatives at R-Ladies Paris.

What trends do you currently see in R language and your industry? Any trends you see developing in the near future?

I believe that the data science landscape has been significantly elevated, particularly through the capabilities of working with the tidyverse framework. The announcement of ‘quarto‘ and the wonderful projects developed using it has been revolutionary, enhancing our projects’ recommendation and reproducibility aspects. I’d like to talk about the use of R in France specifically. The community here has been evolving continuously.

INSEE, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies in France, has been crucial in promoting open-source tools. This is evident in their GitHub repositories, where they advocate strongly for the use of R and Python. Several public and academic institutions in France have also adopted R. There’s a dedicated Slack space for R users in France. This space is primarily for discussions in French, where individuals can discuss R-related news, seek assistance, and ask questions. It’s a vibrant community where people actively participate and provide answers. That summarizes my perspective on the evolution and impact of data science tools, especially R, in France.

How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups organize, share information, and support each other worldwide. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute.