headshot of Python instructor Todd Rutherford

Instructor Spotlight: Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford is an SAP HANA developer and a Python software developer at Blue Diamond Growers. He has more than 10 years of experience working in computer programming and is an expert on data science, cloud computing, software development, deep learning and data visualization. Rutherford joins UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education as an instructor in the Python for Data Analysis Professional Concentration.

Why is Python programming important?

Python has already changed the course of digital transformation in corporations, and it has changed the way we think and operate as data scientists and machine learning engineers. Data is the key to the evolution of artificial intelligence, and Python is the vehicle and infrastructure moving AI forward. Python is used to solve some of the biggest questions and issues that we face as a society and in business.

Why are you passionate about Python?

I am passionate about Python because of how dynamic it is. The more you learn about the new functions and methods in Python the better programmer you become. I learn new programming libraries almost every other week. Python also has coding depth that not a lot of languages have.

How has Python grown and evolved over time?

Python has grown exponentially since the initial release in 1994. Python is used in multiple different industries. It is truly a diversified language that is strongly recommended for data and computer intensive programming. Python is also one of the main languages to use for data science and machine learning.

Why do you teach?

I teach because I want more people to become Python programmers. There is a great need for Python in every industry. I also love to see passionate students obtain the fundamentals of Python. Once you have the fundamentals down, then you go into the daily practice of writing efficient Python code that can change your life and possibly automate a lot of tasks you may do on a daily or weekly basis.

What is your teaching style?

I use an applied method, giving students the ability to think about how big data, data science and cloud concepts apply to their everyday lives as students or working professionals. This builds context in the way they work and live.

What do you want students to take away from your course?

I want students to be very excited and confident that they can perform fundamental Python data-intensive programming in data science, and I want them to be able to communicate that to a potential employer or business owner.

Considering a career in programming?

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How will learning Python positively impact a student’s life?

Python will offer ideas and concepts that students may never have thought of to develop in Python. It also provides new opportunities and opens doors to work in new industries. You can become a software engineer, data scientist, machine learning engineer, data engineer, data analyst or an AI engineer. The sky is the limit if they keep the learning journey going. 

Describe a moment where, as a teacher, you had an impact on a student’s life.

As a business intelligence developer for the Department of the Treasury I provided data analysis training. One officer didn’t have relative experience in information systems or database management and was concerned that they wouldn’t be able to grasp the concepts and perform the technical output required. I reassured the student that with continued practice and applied learning they would succeed. I worked with my students to break the concepts down and into their business terms and processes. After just a few weeks, they were writing and managing their own data applications and wrangling their own data without any assistance. So much so, that some of the officers were promoted and some left for more advanced roles. Their ability to succeed and gain advanced concepts within a short time truly made me feel great and accomplished as a teacher.

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