This is a guest post by Sancho Panza about his experiences at his first PyCon...
Pycon... My visions of the Promised Land…
I was fortunate enough to go to PyCon 2012 in Santa Clara and I cannot be more serious when I say that it was a life changing experience.
I got there in time of the tutorials and was so excited that I arrived an hour early, but that didn't matter because I WAS AT PYCON!!! The tutorials were crash courses that took me from zero to hero in a few very fully packed hours of both lecture and lab work.
My brain was on overload and smoked after the 2 days of classes… and I had not even hit the opening event.
As a first timer to PyCon, this was when the fear and uncertainty set in.."How am I going to take all of this home with me if my brain can't reset?"
The opening of PyCon was, not overstating this, an event that enthralled the mind and ensnared the senses. The atmosphere was electrified with some of the brightest minds on the cutting edge of the Python community and even the emerging technologies field and to be in an environment that everyone looks at everyone else as equals, was just humbling. The keynote speakers, Paul Graham and Stormy Peters, set the minds of over 2500 people rolling down a path of concepts and ideas that would be encouraged and pushed even further over the following days.
Now that the storm of energy from these 2500+ people has been further excited, that energy is unleashed at one moment to go to the field of talks that span such a broad spectrum of topics and really good information, that the hardest part is painfully choosing one talk over another. All this information that is available and I wanted it all, but I could only go to one at a time.
Sitting in a room listening to a speaker talk about something, them giving you the benefit of their experience and knowledge, then saying "You might be new to this stuff, but hey… not too long ago, I was new to it too.", that is a kind of encouragement that can't be bought.. it can only be shared, and at PyCon it is shared freely.
Of all the talks that I was able to go to, I have to mention the talk given by Robbie Clemons, "How to make your website more accessible". It was the second talk on Friday morning, and it absolutely blew my mind. He talked about coding aspects that had not even occurred to me and how my benign ignorance was so common. He opened up a whole new area of exploration for me and to really understand what I am talking about, you really need to attend one of his talks. The personal nature of it will change you forever.
Up to this point, I have intentionally left out much of what I did, but now, I will tell you what the PEOPLE like the tutorial instructors, Jesse Noller, Katie Cunningham, Paul Graham, Jacob Kaplan-Moss, Steve Holden, Robbie Clemons, and so many others inspired me to do.
I was, simply put, amazed by their dedication and felt compelled to give back to them and PyCon in any way that I could, and THIS is where I benefitted the most I think.
I volunteered to stuff bags, be a runner, be an introducer, help with AV… anything that was needed and if I had a free moment, I did it. In the middle of the largest storm of excitement, learning and opportunity I have ever been in, I felt compelled to give back and help feed that energy with the only thing I felt I had to offer.
While I was giving back, I got to talk and listen to more people and it was almost one on one instead of in a large group. I got to ask questions and not have to worry about holding up an entire room of people. I was able to thank the speakers for helping shape my mind and show me a different path to not just help myself but help the community and people on a much greater scale than I had thought possible.
So, by giving back, I received so much more.
I encourage anyone that thinks they might want to go to PyCon to in fact GO to PyCon. It will, without a doubt, change your life as it did mine. But, in order to really get the most out of it, volunteer some time and give back to PyCon. You will not be disappointed. In fact, the experience will mean so much more to you and be more complete than if you don't.
In 2013…. I will be there in Santa Clara… and I will be there volunteering again… and I look forward to it.
Hope to see you there….