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PyCon 2018 - My First PyCon

Posted by Julian on Sat 19 May 2018 in Reviews • 6 min read

I was pretty nervous going into my first PyCon. As usual however, the Python community was so incredibly supportive and inviting that I felt at home within minutes. I was surprised at how much there was to gain that wasn't actually technical or related to code. Read on for a recap of the experience and some tips for getting the most out of your next PyCon visit.


Balancing Talks and Activities

There was an absolute smorgasboard of talks going on during the Conference Days. Unfortunately, there were also Open Spaces to attend as well PyBites duties to fulfill at the same time.

With PyCon, you're going to need to prioritise. Talks are wonderful but they're also available online (check this year's talks here) so I found that I didn't need to fill my schedule with talk after talk.

Given the talks were online, I ended up participating in more Open Spaces than actual Talks. That said, I'm looking forward to a good YouTube session to watch the talks I missed out on!


Open Spaces

Open Spaces ROCK. They're small form, themed group sessions where you sit around with other interested parties and discuss the aforementioned theme. Generally the person who created the session will lead the discussion but it ends up being a bit of a free for all. Not in a bad way either! The spirited discussion and knowledge dumped by participants was wonderful.

I attended an awesome session on AR/VR in Python that was run by Christian Medina. The discussion was invaluable as participants discussed Unity 3D and the Unreal Engine and how we could possibly interact with them using Python. I also got some great ideas on using OpenCV for non-game related purposes that interest me.

I was also lucky enough to attend a session led by Trey Hunner and Reuven Lerner on Python Training. There was wonderful conversation on training techniques and the like.

As you can see, the sessions allowed for more varied, open and casual conversation. If you head to PyCon 2019, definitely attend at least a few of them!

Open Space Recommendation: Don't hog the limelight. Allow and encourage others to speak up and give their opinions, share their stories and add to the collective knowledge of the room.


Conversation and Networking

There's a lot of networking to be done at a conference like PyCon so it's incredibly important to bring your manners. No one likes rude people!

When you strike up a conversation with another person, again, don't hog the limelight. Ask probing questions to learn more about the other person and what their interest in Python is. Ask for the business card! It's a great way to really show you're listening and you're interested in what they do.

It was in this way that I was able to make a heap of new friends and connections as well as even generate some future business opportunities.

I'll even go as far as saying that the connections you make are more important than the talks the conference has on offer.

The key with all of this is to simply listen. Make sure you hear the other person and you'll be fine!


Be Social

One of the greatest ways I was able to connect with other Pythonistas (and our community!) was to get out of the conference and grab lunch/dinner externally. Chatting at a booth or in a hallway at the conference is one thing. Chatting over a beer and some grub is another.

Don't disappear after the conference day has finished. Find the people you've connected with and see if you can go out for a meal. It'll be one of the best things you'll do! It's also a wonderful way to experience the city you're visiting. May as well enjoy the time away from home right?


Bring Water

PyCon makes every effort to keep you hydrated but I definitely found myself searching for a water cooler or bottles of water to no avail. Keep a bottle with you at all times to ensure you don't find yourself parched like I did!


Meet Contributors

PyCon is your chance to say g'day to the people that have really made a difference in your Python life/journey. I'm happy to report that I was able to meet and shake Miguel Grinberg's hand. I love his Flask material so meeting him was a big deal!

Just remember, these contributors are people too so there's no need to be afraid of saying hi. In fact, saying hi and thanking them for their product/vision etc is one of the best things you can do!

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the likes of Trey Hunner, Dan Bader, Matt Harrison, Anthony Shaw and many more!


Participate

Contributing is another way to really get a lot out of PyCon. Bob and I presented PyBites and CodeChalleng.es at the PyCon2018 Poster Session. The response to the platform was overwhelmingly positive!

That said, there are many ways to participate in PyCon. Some people were hosting talks for their very first time! I can't even imagine how daunting that was. Kudos to them!

If talking isn't your thing, you can volunteer to help with events, tutorials, guiding people around and so on.

Whatever you choose to do, it's guaranteed you'll meet new people and feel great for helping out.


See Stuff!

One of the stand out parts of PyCon was seeing all of the cool stuff vendors and people were showcasing at their booths.

We got to see an awesome demo from the guys at Anvil; discuss everything books at the O'Reilly stand; meet fellow Amazonians at the AWS booth; meet and chat with PSF Board members... and so much more!


TalkPython and Test & Code Booth

During the conference days, Bob and I had the absolute privilege of joining Brian Okken and Michael Kennedy at their Podcast booth. It was so much fun getting to meet their communities, talk about their podcasts and even meet Pythonistas that enjoyed the Talk Python episode Bob and I were on.

The thing that really struck me while we were at the booth was how generous and welcoming the Python community was. Mike and Brian not only invited us to come hang out at the stand but also supported us in discussing and sharing PyBites and CodeChalleng.es.

They also encouraged other contributors to join in so in no time at all we also had Tobias Macey of Podcast._init_, Anthony Shaw, Christian Medina and Matt Harrison hanging out talking about what they do as well!


Conclusion

The key take away from attending PyCon is that it's about the people. The friendly volunteers; the contributors; the friends, you name it. Everyone was so incredibly wonderful that I can't wait to get back there again!

The key to success at the conference is to be nice, open to conversation and always respectful. If you can engage with people effectively then you'll have no issue.

On that note, I just want to say a special thanks to Mike Kennedy for all of his support and hospitality during the conference. Mike, you seriously went above and beyond to help Bob and I feel welcome - something we truly appreciated and won't forget.

The same goes for all of the wonderful people we met, especially those from our community - Sam, Daniel, Jason, Julianna, Davis and Andrew - we loved every minute we got to spend with you all. You're wonderful people!

PyCon2018 was amazing. We can't wait to go back in 2019!

Keep Calm and Code in Python.

-- Julian


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