PyDev of the Week: Mridu Bhatnagar

This week we welcome Mridu Bhatnagar (@Mridu__) as our PyDev of the Week! Mridu enjoys giving tech talks. She recently started a Youtube channel and a blog on Python and other tech topics.

Let’s take a few moments to get to know Mridu better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

Hi, I am Mridu. I am a backend developer by profession. Computer Science and Engineering graduate by degree. I am in the formative years of my career. I love building stuff, converting ideas into working applications, and automating tasks wherever I can.

Other areas of my interest include outdoors – sports, travel, adventure. I have done trekking, hiking, wall-climbing, long-distance cycling, kayaking, and now that I have started I am always on the lookout for an opportunity to do those again and also explore the ones that I haven’t tried so far to face the fears and live the life experiences to the fullest.

I am more of a go alone and meet people kind of person. This gives an opportunity to meet new folks at a variety of meetups(not just tech meetups) from different walks of life, different age groups, an opportunity to indulge in intriguing conversations, and a bunch of new things to learn and get inspired from.

Why did you start using Python?

I was in the third year of my under-graduation and we were offered Python as one of the elective courses. This was the turning point in life. We were given lots of interesting problems to solve as a part of our lab work, projects. The problems were related to building interesting applications from building small word games, hangman, multi-player tic-tac-toe, tinkering with boards raspberry pi, beaglebone, using OpenCV to identify number-plate of a car, something around QR codes, etc.

We were graded on a single project. I was so excited about the ideas that on-side I started building more projects. Gradually, my interest in programming started to develop.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Professionally I have been programming with Python, using SQL for working with databases. For building some of my side-projects I have used HTML, CSS, JS. Every programming language works best for certain use-cases and has its own limitations too. However, based on the variety of side-projects I can build using the language and community around the language, Python is favorite.

What projects are you working on now?

I am currently practicing and building side-projects related to web scraping, pandas. Solving SQL problems.

Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?

Depends on the kind of problem I am trying to solve.

core libraries:

  • os – for working with the file system
  • random – for prototyping quick games
  • datetime – for dealing with everything related to dates and their format.
  • json – for parsing the API responses

third-party libraries:

  • requests – querying APIs
  • pandas – data-intensive tasks
  • BeautifulSoup – small scale scraping projects
  • python-dotenv – for following a good practice to store API secret keys for the project

How did you get started giving tech talks?

In 2017 I got selected as a mentee for a DjangoGirls, Bangalore event. There I met a lot of folks from the Python community. The next year 2018, I moved to Delhi because of job. I don’t remember how I came across the PyData Delhi community Github page. That was it, I wanted to start and get over public speaking fear. I saw the opportunity. I reached out to my DjangoGirls coach and asked him how should I prepare the presentation. Does the topic look alright? Over WhatsApp, he explained and reviewed the presentation. The proposal got accepted. It was December 2018, I delivered my first talk on the topic “Virtual Environment in Python”, gave a hands-on demo. The duration of the talk was 45 minutes. Since that day, almost every other weekend I have given talks at different meetups and conferences.

From a shy introvert to making it to the other side and giving talks has been a journey.

There is nothing as satisfying as seeing your own improvement and the happy faces of your audience when they learn a new concept.

What advice do you have for others who want to get into speaking?

1. Getting CFP selected for a conference is luck. You won’t know why your proposal has got selected, or why has it got rejected. Meetups are no less, they are always on the lookout for speakers. Speaking at a meetup is always a win-win situation.

2. If giving a 30 minutes talk seems daunting. You always have an option to start small. You can start by giving a lightning talk, that’s basically a 5 minutes talk. With every next step keep progressing forward.

3. In case you fear facing the audience. Now, is the time to start with meetups and conferences going online you don’t have to directly face your audience. Shivering hands, shivering legs won’t be visible. Go for it.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I learned this the hard way, after hesitating to reach out to anyone in the initial years of engineering. Find your teacher/mentor. Reach out, ask, seek help if you need to. Avoid getting into the trap of analysis-paralysis. Go ahead, start.

I am forever grateful to the teacher/mentor who introduced me to programming and believed that you can do it. By giving talks within my native country and outside, if I am able to give back to the community in a small way it has honestly been a collective effort.

Thanks for doing the interview, Mridu!