Thanks to a financial aid grant from the Python Software Foundation through national PyLadies, I was able to represent PyLadiesTC at PyCon 2015 in Montreal!

My goals for attending, which I wrote in my financial aid application, were: first, to get hyped about Python. Second, to network with other organizers of user groups, particularly PyLadies- we are a new chapter and have much to learn. The third goal was to collect resources for beginners and gain a clearer vision of Python’s potential applications for other non-programming professionals like myself that don’t necessarily want to be developers but can benefit enormously from knowing some code to improve their work.

Open spaces: Feminist Hackerspace (with knitting instruction)

Feminist Hacking Space

Reading PDFs!

PDF Parsing

I definitely got hyped, I met some amazing PyLadies at a PyLadies lunch and through volunteering at the PyLadies booth, and I did learn about a lot of resources. The whole conference was a little overwhelming, so I’ll just jot down some highlights. Maybe later I can write more about conversations I had and people I met.

PyLadies Lunch

First, I arrived a day late because of weather in Chicago. When I left the Montreal airport it was pouring rain, and my bus driver only spoke French. When I (finally) got to the conference center, I shoved food in my face and then went to meet up with Dana, who was chatting with Catherine, a PyLady from Ohio. Then we were joined by Guido van Rossum, who started talking with us about his upcoming keynote in which he was planning to discuss the lack of women who are core contributors to Python. That was a hell of an introduction to this conference!

After I settled in I was able to familiarize myself with the Palais des congrès de Montréal, where the conference was held. There was some debate over whether these pillars look like trees, or blood vessels.

Trees, or blood vessels?

Trees, or blood vessels?

Beautiful windows

Conference Center

Some highlights from the conference:

  • I met a Chicago PyLady Lorena who told me about the Do Good Data conference and the Data Analysts for Social Good, which I hope to join someday.

  • I met another beginner who had come to the conference with her husband and I was able to share some of the resources that PyLadiesTC put together for learning.

  • I got to see a former Minneapolis PyLady who was attending a coding bootcamp in Seattle! I met her classmates and we went out for dinner.

  • I chatted with a guy from Germany about diversity in tech, and he came and found me later to make sure that I had seen the keynote by Jacob Kaplan Moss about mediocre programmers (which is excellent and you should go watch it!).

  • There were tons of free t-shirts.

  • I got a zine about strace from Montreal PyLady Julia, who is AWESOME. Then I talked to several PyLadies about setting up a technical zine exchange. I hope this happens!!! I’m still working on mine…

  • I also met another Minneapolis PyLady in Montreal at the PyLadies Lunch!! She came to one of our local events after that!

  • I went up to Arepera du Plateau with Peter, @CultureClap, and Aaron. Among other things, we had a great discussion where I mentioned that I think the goal shouldn’t be “to have diversity” in tech, but rather to value diversity for diverse perspectives. We talk about this alot in our local PyLadies chapter. Then we ate AMAZING AVOCADO SAUCE until we couldn’t move.

But by far the coolest and most amazing thing about PyCon to me was this. After Guido van Rossum’s keynote where he talked about getting more women to become core contributors, I had stopped paying attention because I have no interest in being a core contributor and the other half of the talk was about Python 3. As a beginner, I mostly use resources written for Python 2 so I don’t use 3. I had started daydreaming and looking at Twitter- which is how I felt for about half of the conference- when Q&A started, and a familiar voice started talking about how the goal shouldn’t be diversity for diversity’s sake, but because we value diverse perspectives. I looked up and there was @CultureClap saying exactly what we were talking about at dinner THE NIGHT BEFORE! I’M THE FRIEND! Something I said got amplified to thousands of people at my first PyCon. And it was incredible. We high-fived. (The comment starts at 20:54)

Overall, I liked the sessions that focused on cultural issues in tech or that were more general, but I struggled to find a balance because if something got too technical, I wouldn’t be able to follow. I sort of felt like the event wasn’t really my thing. That said, people were very supportive and welcoming, and I found that many people were willing to talk about their struggles learning to program. I also really appreciated hearing from academics who use programming as a tool in their work; I think I am much closer to that than a developer or core contributor-type.

I think I’d like to go to the conference again but with a clearer idea of what kinds of people and sessions I want to seek out. This was a fun introduction!

Learning to program is like…

Learning to Program