CarpentryCon 2018 — This is what a community conference should be like. 🌈

(Originally published on Medium)

By chance I heard about CarpentryCon that’s being hosted by University College Dublin (UCD) via a PSF grants request, and I am on the PSF grants workgroup and one of the other other members asked if I know about it. I didn’t know about it and same goes for the organisers. At least I get to vote for this as I normally know the community organisers in Ireland.

Plus I saw Valerie Aurora and Greg Wilson on the speaker list. I’ve ran two Ally Skills workshops from using Valerie’s content (Etsy & Workday), so it was great to see her in person, plus I totally signed up for her Ally Skills workshop on the 3rd day of the conference as I was curious on how she ran it, plus it’s always a great experience in these workshop, I learn so much and still find myself wanting to learn more. 🙌

They certainly have been thoughtful from the get go, from letting people jot down their pronouns on their badges, and what their role was in The Carpentries, I put myself down as Attendee. 😊 They also have offered childcare although no-one needed it, and also a quiet room. ❤️

I really didn’t know what to expect as someone who was not part of any of the carpentries (data, library or software), and they’ve recently rebooted themselves as The Carpentries after merging the 3 organisations together.

Each person I came across greeted me with a welcoming smile, some stopped to have a chat. All the folks from The Carpentries Team were present and I have talked to a couple, but mostly we attended the same workshops together. The workshops I went to were very much focussed on discussion (Ally Skills, Efficient Speaking, Chasing Funds, Continued Learning). I was happy to be able to contribute where I could, and I learnt a lot from the facilitators and those taking part also.

Did I mention the attendees were very diverse and many international visitors, folks travelled from all over North America, Africa and Europe to Dublin. That stopped me complaining too much about the hour it took me to get to UCD because of the M50 and N11 traffic, this normally takes less than 35 minutes, which I can attest to on Friday when I left home at pretty much the exact time as Wednesday. It was approaching long bank holiday weekend, that is why the traffic was super quiet on Friday morning. It was great to see so many enthusiastic faces and everyone was in such high spirits of just wanting to learn and connect with one another. And I didn’t realise it was their first every CarpentryCon.

Besides sharing how folks can improve running workshops (training, mentoring, content creation), I really feel this community gets what I do when I explained all the tech community initiatives I’m involved in.

Greg Wilson’s keynote touched on points which I find myself nodding a lot especially around areas like knowing when to let go of projects (or whatever it is that has taken over your life) and listen to your friends and family because they are worried that you are burning out.

The impact of the conference for me was pretty profound, just after Day 1 and I am kicking myself that I didn’t poke at the tech community organisers/leaders to come to even the 1st day of the conference. It’s not perfect but is one of the best I’ve attended when welcoming new people, including them in conversation, and always striving for change and not doing the same thing because “It’s always been done that way!”.

Even though it’s not a technical conference, it was great to meet folks of a community like The Carpentries. I highly recommend folks who are organisers of local tech meetups/user groups, mentors, informal/formal educators to go to/get involved in one of their events, and if you are lucky, their next CarpentryCon.

About Author

Vicky Twomey-Lee

Pythonista, but normally found organising various tech events, and now heavily involved in diversity initiatives like Coding Grace, PyLadies Dublin, and Women in Technology and Science (WITS Ireland).

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