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PyDev of the Week: Anna Makarudze

This week we welcome Anna Makarudze (@amakarudze) as our PyDev of the Week! Anna is a Django Girls Foundation Trustee & Fundraising Coordinator and DSF President. You can learn more about Anna by checking out her website.

Let's spend some time getting to know Anna better!

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

I am a freelance software engineer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. I hold a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe and an MSc in Strategic Management from Chinhoyi Univerity in Technology. I have worked in various sectors in the ICT industry in systems administration roles, network engineering roles, telco billing, and consultancy before switching back to software engineering.

I am also heavily involved with the Django community. I have been a Django Software Foundation (DSF) Individual member since 2016; and have been a DSF board member since 2018, Vice President from 2019 -2020, and President since 2021. I have organised many Python and Django events and attended and spoke at many conferences before the pandemic hit. I really miss the in-person conferences.

I used to like reading books but now my reading has kind of narrowed down to tech books, which I am reading a lot lately. I like watching movies, comedies, drama, listening to music, gardening and going for walks. I also enjoy travelling to new places, especially for tech conferences. I also like just chilling and hanging out with friends and family. I like and enjoy a good laugh.

 

Why did you start using Python?

I find it funny each time I am asked that question because I haven’t managed to do any projects related to why I started using Python yet, more than 6 years after starting to use the language. I first learned with the intention of using it for data analysis. However, during my early days of learning Python, I found myself learning more about web development, first with Flask and then Django and I never made it to actually using Python for data analysis.

Most of my projects are developed using Django, with a few Flask ones but none have data analysis yet. I found Python to be easy to learn since I started learning it after more than 5 years without doing any programming and I guess this is why Python became my language of choice. The last programming project I had worked on was my final year undergrad project.

 

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

I started learning to program a long time ago, while in high school so I have been exposed to Basic, Visual Basic 6.0, Pascal, C, C++, and Java but that was a long time. More recently, I have been working with JavaScript (I am still somewhat a beginner here) and Bash. Python is my favourite language and it’s not only because it is to learn and has a wide range of applications but also because it has a great, wonderful, and welcoming community. I love the phrase “I came for the language but stayed for the community”. Not sure who said that but it is very true for me.


What projects are you working on now?

I have a personal blog that I am trying to improve as well as add technical posts to boost my resume. I have also been reading a lot preparing for job interviews, mostly for SRE Systems Engineer roles so am polishing up on my data structures and algorithms as well as large systems design. I have a strong systems administration background so I feel that role would be more suited to my experience.

I am also working on a CMS for a client who provides advisory services to registered members, which will feature an e-bookstore for his publications. I am also currently maintaining and supporting the Django Girls website and other Django Girls resources. Every now and then I also work on projects as part of Udemy courses to build my tech stack as part of my continuous learning.

 

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

I would say Django is my favourite, along with Pytest, Requests, Django Rest Framework, and Pdfkit. Requests and Pdfkit are just fun and cool to play with while Django, DRF, and Pytest are amazingly powerful tools for web development. Pytest simplifies testing Django apps with its powerful and easy way of providing fixtures for tests.

 

How did you end up working with Django Girls?

I was still a beginner with Django but already involved with Django Girls when the position of Awesomeness Ambassador became open and was advertised to the Django Girls community. I love Django Girls and what we do so I applied, knowing fully well that I would only be able to do half of the job, the fundraising bit - I am so poor with financial administration and I didn’t even know how things work in the UK where Django Girls is registered but I applied anyway.

It turned out that their best candidate at the time could also only do the other half I couldn’t do so I had to be interviewed for the second time but for the role of Fundraising Coordinator, which I got. After the founders stepped down as trustees, I found myself being the only trustee who had experience managing the website so I was asked to be the lead maintainer of the project, which has been awesome.


What do you like most about Django Girls?

The Django Girls environment and community are very welcoming to newbies and beginner-friendly. It made it very easy for me to grow both my hard and soft skills in a welcoming environment, with patient coaching from Ola and Ola and after they stepped down, the new trustees, most of whom I already knew, were very supportive of me taking the technical lead.

We are very informal in our language but we do that to be friendly and the friendly environment is just what many people need when they are learning to code. I love what we do, providing free resources and empowering women to organize workshops that bring about diversity in tech. I love that we provide an environment for women and others who want to support us to develop and grow both in their coding and leadership skills.

Ola and Ola, and their first band of volunteers started an amazing project and fostered a friendly community of volunteers, and left a legacy of a warm, friendly, and welcoming environment in the Django Girls Foundation itself. I love the people I work with at Django Girls. I certainly hope that the Django community will continue to support our work so that we can keep Django Girls going and one day we will also be able to hand it over to a new group of trustees.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I knew I wanted to be a software engineer at 14 and chose my high school subjects around that idea and pursued a degree in Computer Science. I feel blessed to have managed to achieve what I set out to do many years ago. While the tech world is all about continuous learning and improvement and I continue to learn; I feel more blessed that I get to work and pursue my passion at the same time. I love to code and enjoy programming, though it’s stressful at times and I get stuck a lot of times but I am always happy when I find my way.

I have a hard time gauging my skills and I am hard on myself at times but I still love my work anyway. I love what I do and I hope I will be as happy as I am in my next role as I have been with Django Girls. I guess that’s why I took my time looking for a full-time role after my last full-time role ended. I wanted to be sure of my next steps and ensure I find a role that is a perfect fit for me. I hope that happens hopefully in the next couple of months.

 

Thanks for doing the interview, Anna!

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