A year and some change ago my friend and colleague Tim Allen approached me about bringing a developer conference to Wharton; the conference would be DjangoCon US. My first thought, “What’s a Django?” “Isn’t that a movie?”. He explained it was a web framework that his team Wharton Research Data Services had been utilizing. As someone who loves bringing events to Wharton and wanting to help out a friend, I was totally on board. We got our proposal together for DjangoCon US 2016 in Philadelphia. I remember getting on that first Google Hangout with our CIO Dan Alig and Tim with some of the core organizers- Lacey, Craig, Jeff, and Stacey and being so nervous! “I hope they like us and our cheesesteaks and soft pretzels!”. Long story short we ended up winning the bid and DjangoCon US came to Philadelphia! It was a smashing time filled with lots of new friends and a good time had by most attendees.
If you would have asked me two years ago if I was interested in development I probably would have laughed at you. I actually think I remember laughing at my husband and telling him “no way there’s no way I’m smart enough to do that.” After organizing and attending my first DjangoCon US Conference my thoughts on development started to change. Things that I noticed were that the Python/Django communities embraced new developers. There was no such thing as a stupid question and everyone was always eager to help me out. My love for development started stemming from DjangoCon US. The following is a list of things that I was able to start learning about due to my involvement with the DjangoCon US conference and a great friendship with Jeff Triplett from Revsys who is the kind of guy that’s always like “This is what I’m working on, it’s cool, here’s a link…” :
- GitHub flows
- DjangoGirls tutorial
- Guidebook mobile app building
- Ti.to ticketing
- Sponsorship (more to come on this piece)
- Speaking - my first time speaking in front of a large audience was when I announced the winners of the Philly scavenger hunt.
- Alexa development was a result of feeling confident that yes, I could develop if I wanted to; confidence I gained by helping to organize and attending my first DjangoCon US conference.
More on the sponsorship piece!
Outside of making sure things were good to go on the Wharton side, I wasn’t quite sure where to start in helping the organizing team. At this point, I was pretty shy still but the organizers of the conference were so welcoming that I wasn’t as shy as I was back when we had the first meeting to go over our proposal. The Sponsorship Chair needed some help in following up with sponsors to gain sponsorship and funding for the event so I jumped in the deep-end. At this point, I hadn’t ever asked for money for sponsorship for anything. Asking for money is hard by the way. For every 70 emails you send - you’ll be lucky to get one yes. At some point, the Sponsorship Chair had to step down because of work obligations so I stepped up to be the new Sponsorship Chair and took over raising monies. This year (2017) I remained on as Sponsorship Chair. Thanks to help from my former colleague Shanna Hocking who had raised millions of dollars for Wharton working for Wharton External Affairs I was able to fine-tune my verbiage in my emails to make them more appealing to potential sponsors and now I feel like I finally have it down! Raising money for conferences is no small deal. Companies work hard for their money and it’s hard for them to decide who to support. Luckily DjangoCon US makes it easy because of the tone of the conference. We are a conference that is basically for the community by the community. We have a code of conduct that we stand by and are inclusive to all!
So I went from knowing very little about development and Django, to
knowing very little about sponsorship and raising money, to being an
organizer, to being a Sponsorship Chair (2 years now), to being a
published Alexa developer (Python), to giving talks about my Alexa
development journey, to being nominated to both the
Django Software Foundation ,
and being nominated to be a part of the DEFNA
board which is the non-profit that runs the DjangoCon US conference. So wow - that’s a lot in that period of time.
As DjangoCon US 2017 in Spokane, Washington is right around the corner I find myself super excited to see all of my friends and to help run the best conference we can for our attendees. I’m also speaking at this conference about my favorite thing, Alexa, so there’s that also. I can add conference speaker to my list now.
So yes, this conference changed everything. I was okay with being a Systems Administrator. 5 years ago that was the dream. But the dream has changed, the dream now looks like combining both my systems admin experience with my new love of development to be on the DevOps side of the house or what I refer to as “BlackOps” heh heh.
When you’re an organizer it’s inevitable that your fellow organizers will become like family as you’re collaborating on so much together. And it’s inevitable that if you want to help with the conference you’ll learn new things if you’re up for it!
So thank you DjangoCon US for the life changing wake-up call. For giving me the confidence to be the best person I could be both personally and technically, for the long lasting friendships you’ve given me, and for the opportunities you’ve opened up. See you in Spokane on August 11th!
Thanks to Jeff Triplett for proofing this post and allowing my “heatsisms” to fly.