Elect more international representation & finance-focused individuals to PSF

Jacqueline Kazil
6 min readMay 21, 2020

After four years of being on the board I, like Naomi, will not be running again. I made this decision a few months ago, but life (I̶ ̶a̶m̶ ̶3̶8̶ ̶w̶e̶e̶k̶s̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶g̶n̶a̶n̶t̶. I had baby yesterday) and COVID-19 happened which is why I didn’t write this post until now. Being pregnant, trying to advance my Ph.D, and the extra joys that daycare closure, have been enough distractions. Luckily, my daughter is happily occupied by pretending to read Star Wars books on the floor next to me, and that is giving me a moment to write this.

My plate is full with the things that I listed above as well as a board seat at Byte Back. I have decided to focus my priorities in the manner of the Warren Buffet 25/5 exercise and unfortunately, the PSF did not make the top five. This is not because I don’t love the PSF, but I believe that the board can benefit from new board members with specific qualifications to take the PSF to the next level.

The past four years and $$$

During my time on the board, I have done a lot to help the PSF mature as an organization. This started with my push for staggered terms and terms that lasted for more than one year. This was to ensure that board members could create longer-term strategies and execute on those, as well as not have a large number of board members turn over in one year. In addition to this, I helped co-lead the growth of the PyLadies auction (which raised more than $44,000 in one evening in 2019), I established the Code of Conduct working group, and more.

I believe the two most impactful things I worked on were the scaling of the Grants Working Group to be able to better serve our community and be able to process grants more quickly, as well as the establishment of the Finance Committee. The scaling of the Grants Working Group taught me the impact that we have world-wide in the Python community as well areas of the world where we lack complete representation.

Map of PSF grant distribution around the world.
Screenshot from PSF annual report

The PSF cannot go world-wide without considering long-term sustainability. Because of this, the Finance Committee was created. In 2019, I moved from the Vice-Chair Elect role to Treasurer, which is the head of the Finance Committee and is now an Executive Committee title filled by a board member. The creation of the Finance Committee was to create a better understanding of how finances at the PSF worked as well as understand our risk as an organization and mitigate collapse because of a loss of funding.

With the creation of the Finance Committee, the board now has a great understanding of the finances and the PSF is positioned for an independent audit. There are two purposes to an audit. The first is to have a critical eye from an independent party to evaluate how money is handled, so that we can make sure that the PSF is handling money appropriately.

Secondly, the PSF wants to diversify funding by applying for larger grants from foundations and the U.S. government. Currently, the PSF is mostly funded from PyCon. If a PyCon fails, this puts the PSF at risk. This year, COVID-19 put the PSF to the test. Thanks to the diligence of the PSF staff and the structure we put in place, we passed, but any year that a PyCon fails to happen, it is a kick in the knee to the long-term sustainability of the PSF.

By diversifying our funding, we have created long-term sustainability. Large grants from foundations and the U.S. government, which can help, require more documentation of accountability, specifically independent audits to ensure that their funds are being properly utilized. This may also assist projects under the PSF umbrella to pursue larger grants as well.

What the board needs

Over the past four years, the board has matured a lot. We have streamlined our approaches by doing things like moving to a consent agenda, encouraging board members to take formal board training, and focusing meetings on discussions for direction, instead of individual votes. Many of the board members were elected because of our visibility and activity in the Python community, but not necessarily our experience. We have name recognition in the community among a voting base that is predominately from Western countries, which ends up being biased in our favor.

To those that have the ability to vote in the PSF election…

  1. Vote for people who have done things in the community outside of the U.S. and Europe. It is easy to vote for that person you see at PyCon every year who wrote your favorite library. Don’t. Vote for the people who have done things in the community outside of the U.S. and Europe These are people who you may have never met, because maybe they never had the opportunity to attend PyCon. If you look at where Python is growing around the world, you will see that it is growing internationally, largely in places like South America and Africa. However, there are some areas that have minimal representation, such as Arabic-speaking countries. These are great opportunities for the PSF.
  2. Vote for individuals that have experience in finance and will help push forward the fiscal maturity of the PSF. It is possible that such an individual that has nothing to do with the Python community gets elected. That is okay. There are plenty of people on the board to represent the Python community, but there are not a lot of people that are grounded in finance.

If you know someone that fits either description, please encourage them to run. It takes a few moments to submit.

To those that are running or thinking of running..

  1. Help info and how to submit your nomination can be found here. You must submit by May 31, 2020 AoE.
  2. Before you submit your nomination, consider who you might be taking a seat away from if you are elected and the impact that would have on the PSF. Are you adding to the board?
  3. If this is your first time running, be prepared to lose. If you do, be prepared to come back stronger next year and the year after that. The PSF needs you. Naomi Cedar lost the first time she ran, as well as Kushal Das, and myself. If you believe you have something unique to bring to the board, run again and again and again.

Donate

While the PSF did not make my top five, Byte Back did. With COVID-19, Byte Back is experiencing transitions that I believe I can uniquely help with. Byte Back provides a pathway of inclusive tech training that leads to living-wage careers. The training that Byte Back offers starts with things like how to type and attaching files to emails and goes up to A+ certification.

During COVID-19, there are thousands of individuals in DC and Baltimore that have lost their jobs and many of Byte Back’s adult students don’t yet have the computer skills needed to telework. Byte Back has been enrolling more and more during COVID-19, but is unable to host classes in person. Byte Back is raising money for its Virtual Training Fund to support students from home by purchasing laptops as well as helping students with internet access at home.

If you made it this far, I ask that you take the time to make a donation to…

  • The PSF — to ensure the future sustainability and growth of the Python programming language (If you do not vote in PSF elections, but you make a donation of $99 or more, you can become a supporting member and vote for board members.)
  • Byte Back — to empower individuals with tech training during uncertain times.

Lastly, I will match up to a total of $500 in donations to both Byte Back and the Python Software Foundation. If I receive proof of up to a total of $500 in donations to either organization, I will match those donations until the $500 for each organization is exhausted. Please send me a screenshot of your donation.

--

--

Jacqueline Kazil

Data science, complexity, networks, rescued pups | @InnovFellows, @ThePSF, @ByteBackDC, @Pyladies, @WomenDataSci, creator of Mesa ABM lib