I just wanted to introduce myself on this first blog post.  My name is Toby Barrus.  I have traveled an interesting path to get me where I am at today so I will give you a brief history of my education.  I received a Bachelors in Physics in 1999 from Utah State University.  My senior project was to develop an algorithm in FORTRAN to detect an event in atmospheric space satellite data called a suprathermal electron burst.  I had some programming experience with Pascal that I had picked up in high school, but nothing on such a grand scale as this project.  My adviser started by giving me some basic FORTRAN programming assignments.  Once those were successfully completed, then it was off to the races with some starter code from my adviser.  The end result was a successful project and praise from my adviser, but I never thought to leverage this experience into a career.   I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was my first data mining project.

After graduation I worked two different jobs.  One was with a university professor in his laboratory where I was introduced to the world of nanoelectronics.  The other was with a family business where I worked on computer aided design and machining (CAD/CAM).   Through my laboratory experience I became very interested in nanoelectronics so I decided to apply for graduate school with the goal to become a professor and do research.  My first data mining project was neatly tucked away in my memory as I left for graduate school at The Ohio State University.

Graduate school was a time to do some soul searching.  After a couple of years, I realized that being a professor was not for me.  I wanted to be part of a business even though I did enjoy teaching.  I decided to get my Masters in Science and find any work I could to support my small family.  We eventually ended up back in Utah and I found a job as a quality engineer.

Becoming proficient as a quality engineer meant learning about statistics.  I convinced my supervisor to let me attend the Six Sigma classes being offered within the company.  I eventually went on to complete the classes and was certified internally and then through the American Society for Quality as a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt.  I started teaching the Six Sigma classes within the company.  I was fortunate to have found my dream job.  I got to work on improvement projects where I was able to use problem solving skills and statistics.  I also had the opportunity to be a teacher again which was very rewarding.

In this new role I came upon a project that was intractable with traditional statistics.  In my search for a solution I came across a term I was not previously acquainted with – data mining.  A light came on.  I remembered my experience in my senior project.  I knew I needed to learn more about this new and exciting subject.

Over the next two years I took classes online through the University of Louisville such as:  Linear Models, Classification Methods, Data Mining, Text Mining, and Databases.  Three of the classes specifically used SAS Enterprise Miner as the data mining tool.  I loved every minute of this experience and found many applications to my work as a quality engineer.  The culmination of this experience was receiving a Graduate Certificate in Data Mining in December 2007.

It was now time to find a serious data mining tool to use at work.  I had already implemented an automated system to create Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts using STATISTICA Enterprise so I decided to use a free trial of STATISTICA Data Miner.  I was immediately impressed with how quickly I could get results with this software.  I was able to compare side by side my experience with STATISTICA versus SAS.  Hands down I liked STATISTICA better.  I have been a STATISTICA user ever since.

Now I approach quality improvement projects with data mining as one of my tools in my tool box.  I look forward to sharing my passion for data mining with STATISTICA as I find interesting data sets to work on that are in the public domain.  I’ll be doing this in my spare time at home.  I hope to post at least once every two weeks.  I’ll be starting off with talking about how to import XML data into STATISTICA using STATISTICA Visual Basic (SVB).  I’ll use examples of interesting public domain data that exist in XML format. If you have specific topics you would like me to cover, please feel free to contact me.   I look forward to sharing this journey of discovery in the coming months.