This week we welcome Dr. Becky Smith (@rebkwok) as our PyDev of the Week! Becky is one of the organizers for DjangoCon Europe. If you’d like to see what Becky has been coding recently, you shold check out Becky’s GitHub profile.
Let’s spend a few moments getting to know Becky better!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
Education-wise, I’m a psychologist (degree in psychology, PhD in behavioural neuroscience), but that was a long time ago! After my PhD I went into clinical trials research, and spent more than a decade doing various roles in that industry, including training researchers on assessment scales, adverse event monitoring, and project management. Now I work as a software developer at the Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science.
I like hanging upside down from things (aerial silks, hoop, pole), running, crafting – especially knitting – and I have 2 dogs, a staffie and a podenco.
Why did you start using Python?
I wasn’t enjoying my job (this was when I was still working in clinical trials) and I started learning python as a hobby, something to do because I didn’t feel like I was learning anything at work. I mostly used free online resources and courses, and started working on small projects. After a few months, I decided to take the leap and try to make a career out of it. Going from a director-level role in my previous career back to being an intern was one of the scariest, but best things I’ve ever done. I went to EuroPython in Berlin when I’d only been learning Python for 4 or 5 months, and it just happened to be the EuroPython that DjangoGirls was launched at. That really inspired me, and I ended up running a DjangoGirls workshop in Edinburgh in November of that year. And now, 9 years later, I’m somehow a trustee of the UK Python Association, and apparently a serial conference organiser.
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
What projects are you working on now?
Python projects? Nothing major…I’ve just finished running DjangoCon Europe (that’s a pretty big project, right?!), and that’s taken most of my brainspace for at least the past 6 months! I’m also an organiser for PyCon UK, which is in September this year, so that’s taking over as my next python-related project!
Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?
I mean, it’s not exactly unprecedented, but I have to say itertools, don’t I? It’s definitely the most useful core library, just full of all the useful things you don’t need to write for yourself! I also have a fondness for a small library for working with datetimes and timezones, called Delorean (and not just for the name)!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
As a career-changer, and someone who came to Python and programming in general later in life, I suffer (probably more than most) from imposter syndrome. One of the questions I’ve often been asked is whether I’d encourage other people to do what I did, and start again from scratch in a new industry. I find it a hard question to answer, because while it was a great thing for me, I don’t deny that I also had a lot of luck and support. In general though, I think a diverse team of developers builds a better product – whatever that is. My current team consists of people from many different backgrounds, and only a very few formal computer scientists. We bring a lot of different perspectives and approaches to our work, and I think that means we come up with solutions that wouldn’t happen if we were all the same!
Thanks for doing the interview, Becky!