PyStar Paris: Feedback and Thoughts
I wanted to share some thoughts on the first Pystar Paris ever that just took place, and that we organized with Lukas Blakk in the Mozilla Paris office. As I participated both as an organizer and a participant, I wished to share both points of view concerning this workshop dedicated to teaching Python programming to women (see PyStar website for more info).
My Point of View as an Organizer
First, I think it's important to underline that I really thought there would be much less participants, as we organized the event in quite a rush (less than 2 weeks before), and that we had no idea how women would react to this initiative here. Although I've been to many events dedicated to women in FLOSS and/or computing in Paris and France, they were mainly networking events - not events directly related to programming. So this was really a first contact and - surprise! - a dozen women were present despite the short notice. I was also afraid that few women would show up due to the fact that the day before was the "Fête de la Musique" - a day in France dedicated to music, where bands play all day and night throughout the country's streets, and where people usually stay up pretty late... - this combined with the fact that we were doing the event during the evening the next day.But in the end, more women came than had actually registered for the event! There were both beginners who had never, ever programmed before and women who studied computer science and already knew programming languages such as C++. So from 19:00 to 23:00 CET, we all happily gathered in the Mozilla Europe office in Paris in order to get our hands dirty and learn some Python.
(Picture by Claire Corgnou)
My Point of View as a Participant
It's the first time I participate in a programming workshop, and it was really, *really*, a great experience for me. I'm happy I "jumped the step" and actually started to learn Python. I've always wanted to know how to code (yeah but the thing is, before knowing, you have to learn, naturally...), and although I've tried from time to time, I was always alone and didn't have much time to dedicate to it (and I must admit that trying to learn C++ as a first language AND on my own wasn't probably the best of ideas ). So in the end I really wasn't progressing that much. The fact that I could participate in a workshop was therefore THE occasion for me to really get started and motivated. I've noticed I usually work better and progress more quickly when I work in a group, so it couldn't have been a better situation for me.
Also, I must concede that the fact that I knew there would be other women present (and I'm not saying *only* women, I mean that compared to a workshop opened to all I knew for sure there would be at least one other women with me) made me feel at ease from the start. This is a personal opinion, but when I asked the other women who came, almost all told me the reason they showed up was basically the same. And other reasons as well: not only they felt more comfortable in such an environment, they also mentioned that they would have felt more shy and less prone to ask questions whenever they wanted to had there been more geek men there. When you organize a geek - and especially a programming - event, you know that as a woman you will be a minority, and this was the occasion for once to be a majority. So why not try and see what that feels like and how it works out?
And honestly, it does feel really good. There are many reasons for this, many of which I mentioned above, and others as well which I can't even really point my finger on exactly (yet?). But really, being in this room with all these motivated women, knowing we were all there for the same reason and united by the same earning to learn, well it felt really awesome... and almost powerful. Being often a minority in our geek environment, we were for once a grand majority. It felt different - and I'm not saying better - and it felt GOOD. I love working with guys and I have usually no problem with a male geek environment, but hey - girl ambiance rocks as well!
Anyways, it was a great moment and we learned a lot of really cool stuff in a short time (time went by too quickly. As Lukas pointed out, next time we should do this during the day and on a weekend for example). What I especially liked was that we could progress at our own personal rhythm, even though we were all in a group. And we learned concrete things quickly, which makes me want to know even more. If you can learn to do things in a few hours, just imagine what you can do after weeks and months! The excitement rises easily and that just makes you want to go further.
So as a participant, I guess you can tell I have a really positive point of view about this workshop
ConclusionsI think you can say that for a first, "done-in-a-rush" PyStar Paris workshop, it was rather a success. The women present were really happy at the end, and excited by what they had just learned. You could clearly tell they wanted to come back again. And honestly, I know I want to come again, that's for sure!
If we organize the next workshop more in advance, I'm sure we can get much more women to come. And doing it during the day on a weekend would probably be a better idea as well. As a matter of fact, this workshop was done basically right at the end of working hours, and during dinner time. This was probably also not practical for people going home with public transportations or living outside of Paris. These are things we should consider for a next PyStar in Paris.
We also need to have at least one more volunteer teacher to come next time. Having more time to prepare for the event will surely help resolve this as well. I think that finding the teachers before announcing the event can also help.
As I mentioned before, the next edition should also last longer. We should make sure we have both enough time for learning AND for laid-back talks afterwards as well. We should definitely have a spare computer or 2 available (even though we insisted everyone should bring their own laptop). Also, localizing the PyStar website would be a really big plus.
Personal idea: In the longer run, why not do the same kind of workshop but progressively opening them up to men as well, once the number of women has risen enough, that they come back regularly, and that we are sure to obtain parity during these workshops? This might take time, but let's not excluded that.
If you are interested in the next PyStar Paris or would like to stay in touch with the participants, feel free to join us on the google group created for that purpose.
And again, a big thank you to the participants and teachers who came to this first edition