My First Conference

Last weekend I went to my first conference, PyCon 2018. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect: going to talks, meeting up with my coworkers, and chatting with strangers about nerdy things. The one thing I didn’t expect was how it would make me feel.

While at PyCon, I watched many talks on subjects I wanted to learn more about, such as improving performance through async/multiprocessing, learning about the AST, and lexing/parsing. I didn’t get to interact with many new people, though. I would chat up the people sitting next to me before a talk would start, or speak with the sponsors at the booths, but that was the extent of it. I felt like I could have just watched the videos online afterward online and save $800.

However, while having lunch on Saturday, I ran into a couple conference veterans who recommended skipping the talks altogether in favor of attending the Open Spaces groups, which are much smaller ad-hoc events dedicated to some specific subject. I did just that. I went to an event on mypy and ended up in a circle of 20 people, one of whom included the BDFL himself, Guido Van Rossum. I later went to an event on Pipenv, and Kenneth Reitz was heading the chat.

I found these Open Spaces events invaluable because they were discussions, not speeches. Anyone could ask questions at any time, and they were chock-full of tips and best-practice suggestions, sometimes from the author of the software himself. They also personally gave me a boost of confidence because I was able to offer up advice to people on topics I had a bit of knowledge about.

Working on a very small team, and contributing rarely to open-source, it’s easy to become alienated from the larger community and feel like you’re alone in this space. However, after watching thousands of attendees spend their weekend nerding out over a programming language inside a convention center, I have a new found passion for the field I’ve chosen. Further, this convention has instilled in me a tremendous sense of community, and I can’t wait to go back next year (it’s in Cleveland again!).

Next year, however, I don’t just want to be an attendee. I’ve crafted a couple goals for it:

  1. Give a lightning talk at PyCon 2019. These are 5 minute talks that can be about pretty much anything. Fun fact, Docker was actually introduced to the world during a lightning talk at PyCon 2013, although I suspect my talk won’t be anywhere near as ambitious.
  2. Become an active contributor to an open source project. My goal is to put myself out there enough such that I can meet up with people at PyCon 2019 that I’ve collaborated with online.

I’ll see you at PyCon 2019!