A visit to PyCon India 2019

A year ago, I was a confused conference first-timer at PyCon India. Fast-forward one year, here I am again at PyCon India 2019! If you haven’t already read my experience from last year, find it here.

A lot had changed over one year. I, along with two other girls were able to organize the first meetup of Pyladies Bhubaneswar chapter, this July. So, this surely was a chance for me to meet other awesome Pyladies leads and organizers. Halfway through September, I got to connect with Niharika Krishnan, Pyladies lead of the Chennai chapter and Sharmila Gopirajan, lead of PyCon Diversity team. I started getting involved in the weekly calls and discussing the various activities that we can have at the booth and lunch. Slowly, few other girls joined and we totaled to 12!

Pycon India 2019 logo

Another exciting thing was, this year, I was presenting a talk with Anisha Swain, another Red Hatter and my friend from college. I was surprised ed to know that out of 303 proposals, only 36 talk proposals were selected, and we were were one of them. As the dates edged closer, the booth preparations started in full swing and no wonder, I was getting nervous 😅. Though this wasn’t my first time presenting a talk on an international platform, I had done that before in DjangoCon Europe(article coming soon), still, this was PyCon ⭐️.

We boarded a flight to Chennai and it was a short flight(50 minutes). To my utter surprise, there was no language problem. People understood English completely, so it wasn’t much of a hassle to reach the venue, except the arrival of the Chinese Prime Minister the day before, which led to the main road getting closed for a long time. Despite all the hassles, we reached the hotel a bit late, but we were glad that at least, we reached!

Day 1

The first day of the conference was the talk day. We hadn’t had much time to prepare, nevertheless, we managed to pull ourselves together. You would agree, no matter how many talks you deliver, you got to get those butterflies every time 😰. Out talk was scheduled at 3.45 pm, we reached around 9.30 am, just in time to attend Jake’s keynote on how Python’s use cases have changed over the decades.

I decided to discover the booths first. Undoubtedly, I went to the Pyladies booth and met all other organizers in the PyCon Diversity team. It was a pleasure to meet Vishakha, Niharika, and Sharmila. The Pyladies lunch was going to take place that afternoon. In short, I was already getting those interesting day vibes 🙌.

Some booths were running interesting quizzes and distributing goodies to those who won. Pyladies had one too. The difference was I had extended a helping hand to Vishakha in making the quizzes for the Pyladies booth. I had never been on the other side of the booth, it was a different feeling. I learned that a lot of effort goes into them. Hats off to all the people who have been running booths!

Then came the time for Pyladies lunch. Pyladies encompassing the length and breadth of the country had turned up. Niharika and Vishakha narrated the story of the inception of Pyladies Chennai. Devi A S L, who was one of the keynote speakers, described what had changed since the inception of PyCon in India. Sharmila described her journey with PyCon India. Some other girls shared their stories about plunging into Python, what had empowered and kept them going. It felt exhilarating to be surrounded by numerous such “Pyladies” and listening to their experiences.

Since our talk was scheduled at 3.45 pm, we had to go an hour before for testing. It was a silent conferencing hall, which made it all the more intimidating. During testing, we listened to the talk on “Python is NOT easy — lessons from SymPy’s codebase” by Sadhana Srinivasan. It was intuitive with examples. Followed by this, Amulya Bandikatla from Indeed presented a talk on Indeed’s Endeavor to “Push on Green”. Then came the time for our talk, I was already getting numb 😓. We climbed the stage, plugged in the laptop and got started.

Presenting on “Performance Optimization with ElasticSearch” with Anisha Swain

Some portions demanded a demo of the queries on Kibana, so I had to switch tabs. The talk could be a maximum of 30 minutes, and we had to switch the control among ourselves, this was nerve-racking. Eventually, we were able to deliver the talk within 28 minutes, followed by 2–3 minutes of questions. We received some more questions about the use-cases of ElasticSearch in performance optimization off-stage. We received some praises but most importantly, received some tips to improve, which was duly noted. It felt great.

Then I attended the keynote on the current scenario of women in the workplace and how to exercise diversity and inclusion by Devi A S L. This talk got deeply imprinted since Devi blended some interesting activities and personal experience. It was the perfect ending to the first day.

Day 2

Come the second day of PyCon India.

Bloomberg was running a quiz, which created a buzz in the crowd. I solved some more puzzles from other booths to gather some more goodies since this was the last day at the conference venue.

Then came the time for speed mentoring sessions, wherein I participated as a mentor. Pyladies conducted it for the first time in PyCon India. There were a total of 9 mentors with expertise in various fields, including open source, data science, remote jobs, big data, etc. I was one of the mentors for open source. I got a chance to interact with a lot of other girls and women, some were in college, some were professionals, some were starting with Python, but everyone shared that thirst to know more and share more. I encouraged other girls to participate in Outreachy and cleared the doubts that they had regarding plunging into open-source and open-source programs.

Sharing the frame with the participants and mentors of Pyladies speed mentoring sessions

Xapo was one of the sponsors of both the lunch and the speed mentoring sessions. They also mentored women on taking up remote jobs and the advantages of such jobs. I also got a chance to meet Bhavani Ravi, who I used to follow on Twitter. She had been closely associated with communities like Google Developers’ Group, Women Techmakers, ChennaiPy.

Though these sessions were for a couple of hours, I could sense a feeling of camaraderie 😍. It felt like I have known all of them for years. This will always remain close to my heart. Thanks to Sharmila, Vishakha, and Niharika for coming up with such a brilliant idea.

I had lunch with the new Pyladies I met. I also got a chance to speak to Devi A S L personally. I had talked to her last year in PyCon, and guess what, She remembered! We chatted a bit about life and what has changed since the last year. She is a true inspiration.

I also talked to Ines Montani about her journey with SpaCy, Python and the whereabouts of technology. She is truly a fun person to talk to. Make sure you catch up with her if you find her in any future conferences.

Sharing the frame with Ines Montani

I also attended David Beazley’s closing keynote on “A talk near the future of Python” where he live-coded a web assembly interpreter, which wowed the audience, including me 👌.

As the second day was edging closer to an end, I managed to click some pictures with the awesome people I met during the conference.

When it comes to being in open source, how can I forget the place where I had started my journey. Yes, I’m talking about the technical society of my college, Zairza.

Sharing the frame with Zairza family

I also met two other Outreachy alums from Fedora, Alisha Mohanty, and Shraddha.

Sharing the frame with Outreachy alums Alisha and Shraddha
Sharing the frame with Pyladies

I would like to reiterate what I said at the very beginning of this article. From a confused first-time conference attendee to a speaker and organizer of a Pyladies chapter, indeed, a lot had changed over a year. Though I couldn’t attend the dev sprints and workshops due to work commitments, I had a great time during the first two days of the conference.

Every developer must attend one of such conferences because this makes will make them realize the power of community and provide them with a chance to expand their horizons of knowledge.

Thanks to the PyCon India team for pulling off such a grand event. I hope to be a part of this conference again next year!

ASE @RedHat, DjangoCon Europe 2019 speaker, Outreachy intern at Open Humans(Round 16), Processing Foundation fellow 2019, ❤️open source