John Detlefs Programmer

SciPy 2016!

Last week I went to Austin, TX to Scipy2016. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How would people communicate? Would I fit in, what talks would interest me? Fortunately the conference was a huge success. I have came away a far more confident and motivated programmer than when I went in.

So what were the highlights of my experience at Scipy?

On a personal level, I got to meet some of my coworkers, the members of the Beckstein Lab. Dr. Oliver Beckstein, David Dotson, and Sean Seyler are brilliant physicists and programmers who I have been working with on MDAnalysis and datreant. It was surreal to meet the people you have been working with over the internet for 3 months and get an idea of how they communicate and what they enjoy outside of work. It was the modern day equivalent of meeting penpals for the first time. I especially appreciated that David Dotson and Sean Seyler, both approximately four years my senior, provided invaluable advice to a recent graduate. If you’re reading this, thanks guys.

The most valuable moments were the conversations I had in informal settings. There is a huge diversity in career trajectories among those attending Scipy, everyone has career advice and technical knowledge to impart upon a young graduate as long as you are willing to ask. I had excellent conversations with people from Clover Health, Apple data scientists, Andreas Klockner (Keynote Speaker), Brian Van de Ven (Bokeh Dev), Ana Ruvalcaba at Jupyter, the list goes on…

Fascinating, Troubling, and Unexpected Insights

  • Scipy doubled in size in the last year!
  • So many free shirts (and stickers), don’t even bother coming with more than one shirt, also nobody wears professional attire.
  • Overheard some troubling comments made by men at Scipy, e.g. “Well, all the women are getting the jobs I’m applying for…” (said in a hallway group, this is not appropriate even if it was a joke)
  • The amount of beer involved in social events is kind of nuts; this probably comes with the territory of professional programming.
  • There are a lot of apologists for rude people, someone can be extremely nonverbally dismissive and when you bring it up to other people they will defend him (yes, always him) saying something to the effect of ‘he has been really busy recently’. Oliver Beckstein is a shining example of someone who is very busy and makes a conscious effort to always be thoughtful and kind.
  • Open source does not always imply open contribution, some companies represented at Scipy maintain open source projects while making the barriers to contribution prohibitively high.
  • A lot of people at Scipy apologize for their job (half-seriously) if they aren’t someone super-special like a matplotlib core developer or the inventor of Python. Your jobs are awesome people!
  • It is really hot in Austin.
  • git pull is just git fetch + git merge.
  • A lot of women in computing have joined and left male dominated organizations not because people are necessarily mean, but because they’ve been asked out too much or harassed in a similar fashion. Stay professional folks.
  • Cows turn inedible corn into edible steak.
  • As a young professional you have to work harder and take every moment more seriously than those older than you in order to get ahead.
  • Breakfast tacos are delicious.
  • Being able to get out of your comfort zone is a professional asset.
  • Slow down, take a breath, read things over, don’t make simple mistakes.

Here are some talks I really enjoyed