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Interview with tutorial presenter Jessica McKellar

If you’re interested in learning to program, PyCon 2013 is the place to be. Each year the conference draws a wide range of individuals, including those who work on and teach the Python language. The tutorials are an especially great place to be as they’re an affordable way to gain the freshest knowledge from the best in the community.

That’s where Jessica McKellar comes in. She’s a PSF board member, Twisted contributor, and organizer of the hugely successful Boston Python Workshop. The group hosts weekend training sessions in Boston, and they’ve been so popular that the methods are being applied around the country. The courses have gotten countless people up and running with Python, and that’s what her PyCon 2013 tutorial aims to do.

At 9 AM on Wednesday March 13th, her “A hands-on introduction to Python for beginning programmers” gets attendees on their way to loving programming via the Python language. “Thanks to the ‘batteries included’ philosophy and rich package ecosystem, you can do useful work in just a few lines of code after just a few hours of learning,” she says of the short road to getting started with Python.

Jessica with Boston Python Workshop attendees

Jessica and her fellow organizers in Boston are big on project-based curriculums, hooking the attendee on fun applications and showing them the way there. While learning some language basics, “attendees are programming graphical effects for a Color Wall, cheating at Words with Friends, and checking out live Twitter trends and data,” by the end of the day. Attendees of the tutorial will get their hands on some great introductory projects and have plenty of ideas to take home and further their learning.


“How could you not want to keep learning and practicing Python after that?!”

I knew Jessica had some experience planning events that target not just beginners to Python, but beginners to programming in general, as her tutorial will do. It turns out all of the intro workshops for the Boston group were like that!

Her popular PyCon 2012 talk, Diversity in practice: How the Boston Python User Group grew to 1700 people and over 15% women, presented with fellow organizer Asheesh Laroia, covers the successes of Boston Python Workshop’s efforts to grow and include more women in their community. At the time of that talk only a year ago, the group had just surpassed 1,800 members, 15% of whom were women. As of today, they’ve grown to over 3,000 while maintaining the 15% participation by women. At the heart of their growth are those beginners they brought in through the workshops.

In addition to Jessica’s tutorial, she’ll be giving one of the keynote talks during the conference weekend. The Outreach & Education Committee member has a lot to say about the decline of computer science enrollment at the high school level, and she’s amped up to speak about both formal and informal computer science education approaches. Be sure to check out her keynote, it’ll be a great one.

Even though the conference is sold out, tutorials are not. Sign up for Jessica’s tutorial or any of the others today at https://us.pycon.org/2013/registration/!

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