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Another team in my department recently hired a data scientist. I am the only one with any real data science training in our department and my manager asked me to have an informal chat with him to gauge the level of his knowledge and see if he can help our team as well.

Since he was already hired and if he did collaborate with us, it would have been on an informal "their team is doing our team a favor basis", I wasn't in a position to ask him pointed technical questions but instead I had to assess his skill level indirectly from the informal get to know each other meeting we had.

I asked him if he was comfortable coding in R, and he said yes, but he didn't know what RStudio was, which in the last 4 or 5 years has become the de facto standard IDE for writing R code.

Am I right in seeing this as a red flag?

I personally find it very surprising that someone who has been keeping up to date on the latest statistics and machine learning techniques in R, isn't aware of the IDE that everyone else is using, and I am tempted to go back to my boss and say that he doesn't know as much as he claims he does.

But I feel that I might be being too hasty in passing judgment.


Based on the answer and some of the comments I got, I need to clarify something: I don't expect him to be proficient in RStudio, if he's comfortable with another IDE or with command line, that's perfectly fine. In fact I would be impressed more by someone who doesn't use RStudio and uses the basic R interpreter or R Jupyter.

But not using the most popular IDE is one thing. Not having heard of it at all is another thing.

A Windows developer who doesn't like Linux is fine, a Windows developper who hasn't hear of Linux is alarming.

  • @community This is not a question about a specific choice, despite of what it looks if it is read too quickly ;) – carrdelling Apr 21 '18 at 8:34
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    Did you ask him how much statistics knowledge he has? I would say stats knowledge is much more important than IDE for a data scientist to be good at his job. – scaaahu Apr 21 '18 at 8:54
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    IDEs come and go. The underlying mathematics remains. Principles trump tool-of-the-day. He knows an important language - languages have a much longer lifetime than IDEs. – Captain Emacs Apr 21 '18 at 12:08
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    I do a lot of R and heard of R-studio a long time ago. That said I dn't use it for a number of reason. I think that it is a little alarming that he hasn't heard of it, however (i) not everyone is an R aficionado or an Rstudio groupie; (ii) this person uses bases R and is comfortable with it (a lot of people do and there are good reason to avoid bloated libraries); uses R only in passing for particular purposes; (iii) spends more time doing analysis rather than following whatever is cool. The question you should ask is whether the analysis this person produced are any good. – fridaymeetssunday Mar 5 at 13:42
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    Am I the only one impressed by the irony of @CaptainEmacs comment? – bishop Mar 5 at 23:49
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I think your question undersells RStudio a bit.

RStudio is more than just an IDE really. RStudio as an organisation are also responsible for several popular R packages (examples: ggplot2, shiny, stringr, dplyr and others, especially via Hadley Wickham). They have had a notable impact on R as a language over the years and have quite a big presence in the R world now.

Not using their IDE isn't an issue, but someone who hasn't heard of RStudio at all has probably not been proactively keeping up with R developments very much.

If the person in question has supposedly been using R every day for a few years with a job title like "Data Scientist" then I would find it surprising that they have never heard of RStudio. If they use R a lot but their main job is e.g. biological researcher, economist etc I would be less surprised. If they are a "Data Scientist" whose main language is not R then I would also not be concerned.

Your question only mentions that you asked them if they are comfortable with R and they said "yes". I assume you would not have asked this if their main language was R, so I don't see it as a red flag.

Summary: I would find it strange only if they have been working in "Data Scientist" type jobs for a while with their main language as R.

(FWIW, I am an R user)

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    Thanks, this helps. As you said, he might be a good data scientist, but whose main tool is Python or Matlab, and who had a passing familiarity with R. – Alex Kinman Apr 22 '18 at 18:24
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    Ah, so the parallel to other fields would be a web developer that does not know about the W3C. That's very, very different than RStudio as an IDE. – Nelson Apr 23 '18 at 5:45
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I code in vim. I have no idea what IDE all the cool kids are using these days for the kind of programming I do; vim works, it's powerful, and I haven't had any reason to explore newer alternatives.

I explore additions to languages, new libraries, new tools, new algorithms, new ideas -- why should I also check out every new IDE that comes down the line?

So, no, I wouldn't see this as a red flag. What matters is how well he knows and works with R, not how familiar he is with the latest flashy new toy associated with R.

It's like worrying about hiring a writer that isn't familiar with all the bells and whistles on the newest, fanciest word processing app. You're hiring a writer, who needs to understand grammar, voice, and the kind of writing they are being hired to do -- not a specialist-in-this-particular-word-processor.

Same thing here: you're hiring someone who does data analysis and programming in R, not a specialist in a particular IDE.

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    Agree. That person could be programming on Gedit or Notepad, and still write functional and correct R code. IDE's are indeed helpful, but sometimes they "spoil" us by all those enhanced features it has. Programming without IDE is far more challenging that programming in one. – DarkCygnus Apr 21 '18 at 1:04
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    @Nelson and LindaJeanne and just about everybody else commenting on my post seem to be missing the gist of my question: I don't expect him to use RStudio and In fact I would be impressed more by someone who doesn't use RStudio. But not using it is one thing, not having heard of it at all is another. A Windows developer who doesn't like Linux is fine, a Windows developper who doesn't know what Linux is alarming. – Alex Kinman Apr 22 '18 at 15:42
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    @AlexKinman What's the reason to know about something that you don't see yourself using? And why is the lack of such knowledge an alarm? The knowledge of the existence of these tools don't do anything for them. I code in HTML, I have some awareness of HTML IDEs like Dreamweaver, but then what? Should I then know about other IDEs? And why would I go out of my way to even learn about them if I don't need it? – Nelson Apr 22 '18 at 16:11
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    You haven't really explained why "lack of knowledge of RStudio" is an alarm. We're trying to explain why it isn't an alarm. You'll have to explain why it is. That link doesn't make sense to most of us reading this question. – Nelson Apr 22 '18 at 16:12
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    @Möoz I'm pretty sure GRRM has at least heard of Microsoft Word or even Open/LibreOffice. – 520 says Reinstate Monica Mar 5 at 13:23
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I don't know what tools you would be using, so I can't tell if not knowing X in your area is a red flag or not. But it doesn't need to be a red flag: If you have two candidates that are otherwise equally good, and one knows the tools that you are using and the other doesn't (whether these tools are something everyone uses or something really obscure), you take the one with the advantage of knowing your tools.

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The accepted answer seems right. But I'd like to add another option to consider:

Assuming RStudio is to R what Visual Studio is to C#, if anyone told me they're comfortable with C# but haven't heard of Visual Studio, my first thought would be that they didn't hear me well. Or not necessarily "heard" but "understood". Perhaps they did "hear" me but they call it VS, or maybe they just think of it as the IDE. (You mean to tell me there are other IDEs??). Imagine someone that is comfortable using S-Q-L asked about Sequel (see here, here, and if you have enough rep here)...

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