Python in Atlanta: resources for PyLadies

So, tonight I’m giving a talk at PyLadiesATL about doing Python in Atlanta. My goal is to share information that’s relevant to newcomers and experienced developers about what we currently have going on, so that we might all dream together about what we want.

Since a lot of folks won’t be able to make it, but might benefit from having the info available here, I decided to write up my thoughts. For anyone who has ever asked to pick my brain on doing Python in Atlanta: here ya go. This is what I know. Hope it helps – and: please? Help me out by lending your own suggestions. We’re all in this together, after all!

Our current resources

PyATL – a welcoming Meetup for all

PyATL is Atlanta’s Python Meetup that meets on the second Thursday of every month. It is convened by Doug Hellman, a super awesome guy who works on OpenStack and is a prolific open source contributor. He is well known for his work on virtualenvwrapper, a set of extensions to virtualenv. (Virtualenv is what we use to create isolated Python environments to work on our projects – it’s something you usually encounter very early in your Python-learning journey and end up using all the time). Doug is a great resource for all things Python, so follow him at and say hello at PyATL.

I attended PyATL for the first time in January and had such a great time that I’ve been back every month (except for June, when I was at DjangoCon Europe). I even gave a talk on PyLadies there in May.

Unfortunately, not a lot of women attend the Meetup. The first time I attended, there was only one other woman there, and in subsequent meetups there have never been more than three or four women in a room that sometimes inches towards fifty.

And since people don’t wear “beginner” tags on their shirts, it is easy to assume that everyone there is some kind of Python expert, and is so much further along than you. This can be intimidating if you are a new coder.

This was the case the first time I turned up in January, and I was accordingly nervous. I didn’t really understand the talks. But I did sit at a table with others and forced myself to talk about my interest in and growing experience with Python. Yeah, it was intimidating, and I felt like an imposter, but folks were really nice and I’ve actually become good friends with one of them.

If you’re serious about learning and using Python in Atlanta, you owe it to yourself to give the Meetup a try. Right now, it is our most established regular gathering for Python users in Atlanta. It’s a great way to meet others using the language, hear who’s hiring, and of course, learn from excellent talks.

My favorite thing about PyATL is the high quality of the monthly lectures, and of the speaker-educators who give them. Apart from that very first meeting, there hasn’t been a talk since that I felt went completely over my head, no matter how technical, because the speakers are so good at explaining even complex topics in accessible ways. Newcomers may be pleasantly surprised at just how well they follow along.

Likewise, PyATL is also a welcoming place to get practice speaking. Right now, there is a high demand for women to speak at programming conferences on technical topics. But if you’re not a student, you might not get a lot of opportunities to practice. PyATL can be that opportunity, and wants to be. The organizers are very welcoming to and supportive of new speakers. Some of the folks who are really good speakers are great, Doug told me, in part due to the fact that they’ve been giving talks at PyATL over the years and improving each time.

I used my May lecture at PyATL to prepare for giving two talks at DjangoCon Europe in May and June. It definitely helped me sort out some of my nerves!

If you’d like to get practice soon, opportunities are just around the corner. August is PyLadies month at PyATL, and they’re looking for women who’d like to speak. If you’re interested, please let me know ASAP, as they like to announce the schedule a couple of weeks in advance. You can also ask me about available speaker mentor resources. There are a few local, experienced speakers and Python developers who are available to help you practice and work on your talk.

Similarly, September is “beginners” month at PyATL. The talks will be either by or for beginners, and as always, all are welcome – though it’ll be particularly relevant and helpful for new coders.

PyATL Jam Session – a place to code together

PyATL’s format is lecture: you attend and hear talks by local developers. In contrast, PyATL’s jam session is an informal gathering where PyATL members gather to write Python together. You can choose to bring a hobby project or work with a new friend on something else. If you’ve ever stayed for the “sprints” after a tech conference, the jam session will feel familiar. It’s open to anyone who wants to write Python – all experience levels welcome.

The group is very helpfully convened by JR Rickerson, a local Python and Django expert who writes code every day at his company Red Rivet Studios. JR is a huge supporter of Python in Atlanta and is key to making our Django Girls happen in September as a coach (Django Girls? more on that in a moment).

Information about upcoming Jam sessions can be found at the main PyATL page. The next one is Tuesday, August 4 at 7pm, here at Pindrop. You can learn more and RSVP here.

Conference opportunities: PyTennessee, PyOhio, Curly Braces

Conferences are for new coders and experienced developers alike. You don’t have to have written Python for years to get a lot out of a conference: you can network with other developers, learn about new tools and new ways of approaching old problems, and participate as a volunteer.

It’s been my experience that organizers of Python and Django conferences work very thoughtfully to select a variety of speakers and talk topics that reflect the diversity of its audience and will reach folks no matter where they are with Python. I found this to be the case when I attended PyTennessee back in February. I attended a particularly good talk on security by Ashwini (@ashfall) and Chris (@radix) that was great for beginners. Even the talks that stretched my current understanding of Python didn’t go completely over my head. Again, as with PyATL, this speaks to the quality of developer-educators we have in our community.

If you’re curious what its like to attend and speak at a conference as a learner, I wrote up my experience at PyTennessee here and at DjangoCon Europe here.

Several Atlantans are heading up to Columbus Ohio to attend PyOhio later this week. After PyOhio, the next regional Python conference will be PyTennessee in Nashville in February. You are highly encouraged to keep an eye on the official PyTennessee Twitter for more info as it becomes available, and to mark your calendars for February 6 – 8, 2016.

And though not strictly about Python (or any particular programming language), Curly Braces Conf is coming up at the end of November, here in Atlanta. It is a free, local, welcoming one-day conference about the intersection of computing with arts and sciences. Anyone is welcome to pitch a ten-minute talk about something they’ve found exciting, surprising, or delightful about programming or computing. Learn more here.

Learn online with fellow PyLadies at PyLadiesRemote

Deepen your involvement with the global PyLadies movement by attending a PyLadiesRemote event or helping out as a TA. PyLadiesRemote is the Remote chapter of PyLadies. While it was founded to reach the needs of those who doesn’t have access to a local PyLadies chapter, the workshops are free and open to anyone. Follow on Twitter to learn what’s next.

If you have more experience with Python, you can help out as a TA. I had a great time TAing Katie Cunningham‘s Intro to Python class. Since then they’ve had intro to JS and Intro to Django with Emma Delescolle – the latter, just this past weekend.

PyLadiesRemote is organized by the amazing Anna who also writes the Django Girls “Your Django Story” series on the official blog. More on that below! She has always been a huge help and inspiration to me and I can’t recommend her work with PyLadiesRemote more highly.

Further your study with PyLady Lynn Root’s Newcoder.io

It’s great to get started learning Python with tutorials at Codeacademy, Learn Python the Hard Way, and Coursera. But once you’ve finished these, you may find yourself looking for more of a challenge. Fellow PyLady Lynn Root’s newcoder.io might be just the ticket. Designed to help you go beyond tutorials into building projects, you’ll really get a change to flex your growing Python skills. Tutorials on data visualization, APIs, web scraping, networks, and GUI can be worked sequentially and grow in difficulty. Bonus: your confidence as a Python developer is certain to grow as you earnestly work through these.

Need a job in Atlanta? – Companies that use Python – that might want to hire you!

MailChimp is one of our Meetup sponsors and provided the food and drink we’re enjoying tonight. MailChimp helps folks send better email by providing efficient and innovative ways to manage contacts, send messages, and track results.

They’re currently seeking moderate to advanced Python uses in a variety of positions. You can see what they have available here.

Pindrop Security provided the space for us to meet tonight, and is already well-known in the Atlanta Python community for fostering goodwill by providing a place for the PyATL jam session to meet. They have extended the opportunity to PyLadiesATL to meet here long-term.

Pindrop provides solutions to protect enterprise call centers and phone users by combining authentication with anti-fraud detection technology to verify legitimate callers while detecting malicious callers. They’re hiring in a variety of Python positions. Go here to see what’s currently available.

I have friends who work at MailChimp and Pindrop and they seem pretty happy with it!

Kabbage is the #1 online provider of loans to small businesses. Its concept is revolutionary: it allows users to draw against their lines of credit, as frequently as once per day, for anything they need to grow their businesses. Unlike traditional lenders, who rely heavily on credit scores for decision-making, Kabbage approves small business loans by looking at real-life data.

Kabbage seems like a pretty wonderful place to work, and they were featured in “Best Places to Work” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Check out careers here.

The Weather Channel is a household name, and they’re hiring. Employees of the Weather Channel regularly attend PyATL as active participants and nearly every month they mention that they are hiring. Check current positions here.

Local recruiters for Python jobs: A representative from Choice Technology Group, Sandy, recently attended PyATL and is interested in speaking with folks who are looking for Python jobs. CTG is located on Auburn Avenue and has a referral program. For more info, check their website.

Some thoughts: can I get a job as a developer without a CS degree?

So you’re teaching yourself to code because you’re interested in it, you wake up thinking about what you want to build, you crave collaboration on open-source projects. And maybe you’re perfectly content to build pet projects to make your personal life easier, or build a blog using Django to highlight a non-technical interest, and so on. But there may come a time in your life where you’re interested in getting a full-time job as a developer.

I have personally heard many success stories of people transitioning from non-technical careers or educational backgrounds into coding full-time. It is a lot of work, but if you are passionate, you can make it happen. While these women aren’t necessarily from Atlanta, it’s worth it to check out the “Your Django Story” blog run by my friend Anna of Django Girls. She regularly highlights women from a variety of backgrounds, often non-technical. These are women who taught themselves languages, tools, frameworks, and ended up building careers for themselves doing what they love. There’s a good chance you’ll find it very inspiring!

And there are plenty of women in Atlanta who have taught themselves to code and found great success. One very inspiring story come from the Ruby community: Kylie of RailsGirlsATL is now giving her “Amelia Bedelia Learns to Code” talk all over the US! And while my friend Melissa does have a degree in CS, her commitment to learning Clojure is hugely inspiring (and I not-so-secretly hope we work together to bring ClojureBridge to Atlanta!).

If you’re a woman who taught herself to code and has found success in the industry, please do speak up at our Meetups. We want to hear your story and learn from it. Just as there were probably loads of folks who helped you on your way, we hope you can do something similar for Atlanta’s PyLadies. Remember, we all rise together!

Stay in touch with Atlanta’s tech community on Slack

Have you heard of Slack? Slack is basically a bunch of chat rooms organized by topic. Private groups and direct messaging is also available.

TECH404 is a group of chat channels for Atlanta area developers, designers, marketers, business people, and other professionals involved in technology. It’s a common space where folks talk about technologies they’re using, successes and failures, job opportunities, and use lots of emojis.

You can find me in the #all-the-nerdy-ladies channel created by Pamela Vickers (@pwnela) of RailsGirlsATL. I’ve also heard and the #jobs and #gigs channels can be helpful for those looking.

Other social/networking opportunities across languages and tools

A simple search on Meetup will reveal lots of different types of tech meetups in Atlanta, from Clojure to Women Who Code. I compiled a list of a few of them and when they meet in this post “Geeky in Atlanta.”

So know you know what’s out there… what do you want from PyLadiesATL?

Seriously – in this talk/post, I wanted to give you ideas of existing resources here in Atlanta for starting or continuing your Python journey. I’ve covered our other Meetups, job opportunities, remote learning resources, and some personal advice.

But I also want to hear your dreams for Atlanta’s Python community. What’s missing? How can we make it better? Do you want our Meetup to focus mostly on talks from local developers? Do you want us to run a concurrent track of tutorials or workshop series? Please, let me know!

We have a few ideas to run by you:

Demystifying Computers: they’re Not Magic

“Computers Aren’t Magic” is a series of workshops by local developer Shawn Boyette of Curly Braces Conf. These day-long workshops cover computer hardware, the internet, Linux, and programming. This series will be held as a collaboration with PyLadiesATL, so keep an eye on our Meetup page for more details as they emerge. The first one on hardware was held on March 21, and will be reprised.

Using git and Github

Do you have a Github account? Do you use it? Are you familiar with these words?

Github is a powerful tool for sharing your own open source projects so that others can work on them. It also gives you access to the open source work of others. You use git on the command line in order to make changes and do loads of other things.

I’ve used Git and Github to manage my own projects and to contribute to others’. They’re critical tools for open source contributors, and lots of companies use Github to track their work.

At DjangoCon Europe I attended a workshop by Daniele Prociada called “Don’t Be Afraid to Commit”. It’s a workshop and tutorial for Python/Django developers who want to contribute to projects, but need grounding in the tools required to do so. It takes participants through the complete cycle of 1) identify an issue in a project; 2) writing a patch with documentation; and 3) submitting it, using git on the command line and Github.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in learning, please let me know! I would use Daniele’s curriculum for this workshop, and it would last about a day (food provided).

Django Girls in Atlanta!

Django Girls is a 501c3 non-profit that empowers women all over the world to host workshops that teach women to fall in love with programming. The curriculum is entirely free and open source and available online. Check the tutorial out here. I am organizing Atlanta’s first instance of Django Girls to be held – fingers crossed & we secure our location! – Friday, September 25 and Saturday, September 26.

If you identify as a woman, know English, and have a laptop, you can apply for the workshop. You don’t need any prior technical knowledge. This class is for absolute beginners.

As a workshop attendee you will:

  • participate in a one-day Django workshop (with installfest the night before) during which you will create your first website
  • meet people from the industry and learn more about programming
  • be fed by us – all meals provided during the workshop

The workshop is free to apply and attend, but we only have space for thirty people, so please follow us on Twitter at @djangogirlsATL for the latest news. The official Atlanta Django Girls website will be up on August 1, and applications will open soon after that.

Do you use Django or Python for work or fun? If so, please be a Django Girls coach! You do NOT have to be a Django expert in order to help out as a coach. You must simply be willing to work through the tutorial with 2 – 3 attendees. If you’re interested in helping coach, please let us know at atlanta (at) djangogirls (dot) org.

We are also looking for sponsors. Sponsors are prominently displayed on the Django Girls Atlanta website. If your company agrees that the IT industry can greatly benefit from bringing more women into technology, and you want to be an active part of helping more women learn to program, please contact us at atlanta (at) djangogirls (dot) org.

What else?

I’m sure you have other ideas – let’s hear ’em! And let’s work together to make Atlanta a Python community worthy of women.

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