I recently had the opportunity to attend EuroScipy, the 12th European Conference celebrating Python in Science, held from 2nd — 6th September 2019 in Bilbao, Spain. In this blog post, I describe the events in their temporal order.
This was going to be the first international developer conference I’ve ever been part of, and therefore, it was a unique experience on its own. Besides, I was traveling abroad for the first time, and alone. After the long inbound travel of 30+ hours I reached the picturesque city in Basque Country of Spain.
Fast forward to day 1 i.e., 2nd September was the first of two days of tutorials. EuroScipy celebrates differences and does not expects you to be aware of every cutting edge technology in scientific Python. And so, the two days of tutorial is a kind-of prep up for the high density upcoming talks. I really applaud this initiative of EuroScipy which makes it less intimidating to individuals like me who hadn’t even graduated yet :)
On the first day, I attended Tensorflow, NumPy and Pandas tutorials; and got a hands on experience by writing some beginner code in Jupyter NoteBook using the libraries. There were coffee breaks and lunch as breakpoints in the 9 hour long schedule, which served as a nice excuse to get around and network with fellow Pythonistas. There were students, professionals, freelancers and researchers as well, which formed quite a wide spectrum of people compressed in the common hall, talking about what and how they are working on is related to scientific Python. All of this made the breaks well, more than fantastic. Second day was almost the same and also served as extensions to some longer tutorials which began on the previous day. I also met Matti, my NumPy mentor for the Outreachy project who was attending EuroScipy as a speaker as well as trainer.
Day 2 ended around 17:30 CEST, but there was a social event going to take place in the traditional Basque Cidar house from 8 o’ clock. Though I was tired from the long day, but I was way too greedy for the long awaited Guggenheim visit, a world-famous architectural wonder. I chose this over a quick nap in the congested time gap and well, it was worth it!
Time flew by and it was almost 8:30 so I made my way to social event venue, Txoko Piperrak, a traditional steak house near Pio Baroja. Every person who was sitting either next or front of me belonged to a different country. The discussions over the dining table were totally different from the discussions in coffee breaks at the conference venue. As diverse were the people, as were the topics being discussed ranging from everyday jokes to philosophy, politics to books and cinema. I got to know about lifestyle and culture of many countries in the short span of 2 hours, which went by like a blink of an eye.
The next day was the first day of the actual conference. Samuel Farrens kickstarted with the keynote on the topic Image Processing with Python which was truly mesmerizing! The following sessions were shorter, but very condensed stores of information related to different Python libraries. The speakers talked about how their subject was focused on solving a particular problem statement while giving a sharp comparison with the alternative technologies available for similar use case. The toughest part was to prioritize which session I wanted to attend the most when three sessions were running in parallel! Nevertheless, I tried to attend those which I thought would be most relevant to me right now, for course projects, or other open source projects I plan to try my hands on in future.
The speakers were very friendly and welcomed questions and doubts very warmly. It was very common for participants to huddle up to the speaker for one-on-one interactions after the talks. The organizers were ready to help whenever and whatever way possible, related to conference or not. Being from a different continent, I had a dozen problems, whether it was not being able to find adapters which could charge my devices, or having trouble in going around the city because there wasn’t a common language the locals and I spoke, they literally helped me out with everything!
Near the end of the first day events, there was also a maintainers track session on Diversity in Open Source Projects moderated by Dr. Tania Allard. Maintainers track was a set of parallel events which aimed to be a meeting point for the maintainers of different open source projects and their users. Since I was interning with NumPy under Outreachy program, I decided to keep aside my reluctance and fear of public speaking just once and come up and tell people about my work and experience of contributing in the project with such a gigantic user base. And I received great response which was truly amazing! I feel more confident and having a higher sense of self-worth since then. Getting your work recognized in a crowd of accomplished people is highly motivating and Outreachy propels you to do that in every way possible. I would definitely try to keep up this spirit in the long run and spread the same among those who are like the 1 year ago me.
The second and last day of the conference was nearly same except for the mind blowing keynote by Sara Issaoun on In the Shadow of Black Hole and extremely funny and rejuvenating lightning talks towards the end.
Day 5 was the day of sprints, where people from novice to professional levels of expertise in Python programming tried their hands on different projects with the relevant people guiding them as well as coding along with them. At the end of the day, there were swags and T-shirt giveaways!
Attending EuroScipy made a major imprint on my memories as it was the first of its kind of events. And I am really really grateful to the NumPy community who made this possible as well as Outreachy for extending me the offer to be a part of this beautiful journey.
I hope I’ll keep writing henceforth!