PyCon 2014: Coursera Edition

15 April 2014

My love for PyCon (and Python!) started with a free ticket two years ago from the kind souls at dotCloud (now Docker). Now at Coursera, I owe a large part of my success as a developer to the wonder that is PyCon and the amazing Python community. This last weekend, a few of my co-workers and I made the trek to Montreal, Canada for PyCon 2014, this time as company sponsors.

jon, andrew, sourabh, leith, jacob, and betty

We use a fair amount of python (Django, Fabric, IPython, pandas) amongst our team, and wanted to meet the diverse Python community firsthand. We were excited to show off our Python courses and let others know about the challenging engineering work we get to do out here in Mountain View, California.

As a three-year PyCon veteran, I was exposed to a wholly different part of the community as soon as I put on my Coursera shirt. Pythoneers and pythonistas praised us for the work we were doing, while still being very honest about the shortcomings and potential improvements we could make in the future (and they weren’t afraid to clean us out of all of our t-shirts on the first day).

As an engineer working here in the Bay Area I don’t often get to see the true global impact of my work, so hearing stories from students from all different backgrounds was rewarding. We were extremely humbled by how many people were seeking out education on the Coursera platform and pushing themselves to succeed.

Some of the amazing people we met included Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a professor at the University of Zurich who had just got his first course on Coursera approved! We also met a developer named Will who had taken our Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction class from Scott Klemmer at UCSD and subsequently was able to get the course counted as a valid pre-requisite class for another, more advanced HCI class by the University of Manitoba.

Also, it certainly wouldn’t be a good conference without being a rich ground to learn from our peers and attend some stellar talks. We managed to escape the booth for some very notable talks, including The Birth and Death of JavaScript by Gary Bernhardt, Designing Poetic APIs by Erik Rose, and It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: Battling the Invisible Monsters of Tech by Julie Pagano.

These three talks were all informative, entertaining, and extremely pertinent to the technical and non-technical work we do here at Coursera, and talks that we think everyone should experience too. They span the range of some of the big challenges we face every day, from the code we use, to the interactions we have with others, and finally, for the love we have for ourselves. The shoutout from Jessica McKellar during the keynote was really the cherry-on-top, solidifying the work that we do here at Coursera and the things we can give back as a company to the Python community at large.

Lastly, we had a ton of fun meandering through the city of Montreal, trying the local cuisine (poutine and timbits anyone?) and getting to know the community even better. Now that our trip is over, our only question is: “Is it PyCon yet?”

See you all at PyCon 2015!

Jon, Leith, Sourabh, Betty, Andrew, and Jacob.

P.S. A shoutout to all the talks that featured Coursera classes:

Jessica McKellar - Keynote - An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python

Justin Abrahms - Computer Science Fundamentals for Self-taught Programmers - Algorithms, Design and Analysis Part 1

Melanie Warrick - How to Get Started with Machine Learning - Machine Learning

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