Katy Sadowski, a data engineer from TrialSpark, was a member of the original cohort. She shared some thoughts on the program, including why she was motivated to join, what projects she worked on, and what impact she feels like it made. Check out the video above, or the full testimonial Q&A below.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Katy Sadowski, and I am a data engineer at TrialSpark, which is a small pharma company based in New York City. I have been part of the OHDSI community for almost five years, and I joined the Kheiron Cohort last year.
Why did you join the Kheiron Cohort?
There are a couple of main reasons. I have been part of the OHDSI for quite a while now, and for most of that time, I was a bit on the sidelines. I would participate in workgroups here and there, or discussions on the forums. I was really grateful for the opportunity to join the Kheiron Cohort because this gave me the opportunity to get more involved in the OHDSI community and contribute to building OHDSI software. My company has benefitted so much from using OMOP and all of the OHDSI tools, so joining Kheiron really felt like a clear and concrete way for me to give back.
The second part is that I felt like I needed some mentorship and support in order to jump into open-source development with OHDSI. I am basically the only OHDSI person at my company, and I had never done open-source work before. It was a bit intimidating, not really knowing how to get involved there. When they announced the Kheiron Cohort, I was so excited because I really felt like this was the way for me to get involved, and get some official support and guidance on how I can be most helpful and how I can grow as a developer.
Can you discuss the education throughout the year, and any projects you have worked on?
The program started with a curriculum to onboard the whole group as OHDSI developers. We learned all about the OHDSI ecosystem, but more from a technical perspective than you might be exposed to on the community calls. We learned how the tools work under the hood, not just what they do, but how they work together, and how the infrastructure is set up. We had several sessions on how to set up our local developer environment, seeding a fake OMOP CDM, building the WebAPI backend, forking code repositories, and things like this.
We also learned a lot about the open-source development process, both how it is done in OHDSI and in general in the tech industry. The main part of the program is that we each had a mentor we were assigned to who helped us choose specific projects and specific OHDSI software tools based on our interests and skillset. I am an R developer, so for me, that was around R packages, and my interests are really in data quality and phenotyping. My mentor Adam Black, who is an OHDSI legend and was really exciting to be able to work with, helped me choose a project for the Data Quality Dashboard package. The project was around getting the DQD accepted into the HADES package library. I thought that was a perfect starter project for me to get involved with because it helped me learn best practices around software development in OHDSI, as well as really get in the weeds with the DQD codebase.
The mentors in Kheiron are really there to help answer any questions you might have, help unblock you, and for me, this was the best part about Kheiron. Generally, getting onboarded to an open-source project can feel intimidating, not knowing whom you could go to or bug with questions. Knowing I had somebody I could go to with questions was very helpful. It provided this structured onramp to becoming an open-source developer in OHDSI.
What are the biggest changes in your open-source understanding or skills, and where has this growth benefited you most?
The biggest change for me within the Kheiron program is that I went from being a user of OHDSI software to being a developer, which is pretty cool. I actually ended up taking on maintainer duties for the package I was working on throughout the program. This led me to get more involved in other OHDSI initiatives, like the data network working group, and collaborate more closely with other members of the OHDSI community. It gave me more ownership over a project within OHDSI, and it helped me give back in a more concrete way. It’s been a win-win situation. I’m thrilled to be involved in this work and the opportunity to grow as a developer, and I think the work I’m doing is really helping out in the community.
Who do you recommend to join the Kheiron Cohort?
I recommend this program to anybody like me who wants to get more involved in OHDSI open source, but might not know how. I think it is especially beneficial, again for people like me, who might not have an OHDSI team at your company. This can be your team. The program can be your team. I think it’s a great example of how OHDSI and open-source work transcend boundaries between companies. I think it’s great from that perspective.
Another profile that this would be good for is somebody looking to grow their software skills. You’ll get a mentor, and there are real software development projects that you can get involved in. It won’t be abstract. You can make real contributions to the OHDSI software tools, and you’ll have a mentor to support you in doing that.