PyCon 2015: An Organizer's Perspective

As I see more reviews, blog posts and direct email correspondence about PyCon’s successful completion, I want to add to the conversation with a brief narrative about PyCon from an organizer’s perspective.

The long road to Montreal

As an organizer there are always things to do, year round, but off-season time commitment is mostly negligible. However, the heavy lifting begins about two weeks before CFP opens in late July/early August, and things ramp up rather quickly thereafter. By mid September I was already “logging” 10-15 hours/week: there were volunteers to be recruited, questions from proposers, spreading the word, reaching out to past instructors, and work to tie any loose ends.

Come mid-October myself and the rest of the tutorials review committee were deep into the review process. Painstakingly reviewing each proposal in front of us, discussing, voting, reaching out to the proposers, if need be, and so forth. As a group, we were investing an non-trivial amount of time in order to get things done and done right. That same intensity went on until about mid-December – no exaggeration – since we had a lot of pressure to publish the schedule.

After a couple weeks’ worth of “rest”, registration opened and work escalated rather quickly: instructor cancellations, room assignment, registration caps and so forth.

Montreal in sight

About a month before PyCon 2015 took place, with Montreal in sight, all the last minute preparations, facilities, special requests, visual aides, usb sticks, network requirements, tutorials luncheon and so forth came into play. I’d say this is the most stressful part of the process because here is when unexpected events and response therein can make or break the process. Fortunately, thanks to the work by the likes of Ewa, Diana and my co-chair, Stuart, the few things that we were not expecting, were handled fast and efficiently.

À Montréal

Touching down in Trudeau I had already about ten fairly urgent emails to deal with. Instructor swaps, new class requirements, room signage, instructor documentation and registration and so forth. Again, I consider myself fortunate to belong to such an awesome conference team and with their assistance we forged forward.

The next four days were positively a blur. So many going-ons. So many opportunities to help and volunteer. So many email to respond to. So many conference-specific meetings and gathering to attend. It was literally go-go-go at all times, from 7am ‘till I went to bed.

Adieu, Montréal

Once time to leave came about, I was in deep confusion of consciousness. I was proud of what a highly motivated group of volunteers can do and what we had accomplished. I was mentally exhausted beyond the breaking point. I was rather sad to leave and sad I barely got to “attend” the conference. I was energized by all the positive and encouraging feedback I was receiving from attendees, friends, instructors and fellow organizers (there were hugs involved!).

So, why?

I cannot speak for other people and their reasons and motivations. For me it’s not a single reason but a group of reasons. I love how the PyCon community leads the industry in terms of inclusiveness, outreach, financial aid, etc. while keeping our cost of attendance among the lowest, if not outright the lowest, of any major conference. I remember going to my first PyCon a few years back and how I was able to hang out in the conference and outside activities as if I had been attending the conference for years, and I want that experience to keep going for other folks. Because there aren’t any “VIPs” or VIP attitudes even amongst the top-tier core developers and PSF leadership. And I’m sure I could come up with many reasons if I thought about it for a bit longer. But the TL;DR is I care deeply about this community.

Closing comments

I will continue to serve the PyCon community until I cannot possibly and sensibly do it any more. Or if I feel I cannot give it my best try. I hope this writing will one day inspire and motivate you, even if to a small degree, to join the ranks of hundreds of volunteers that make PyCon happen every year.