Conference flywheel

The conferences I've spoken at and how things have built up over time

I was recently asked if I have gained any significant benefit from talking at conferences. The answer is an unequivocal yes.

I've gained new skills, new friends, and many new opportunities.

It's often hard to see what the benefit of talking or attending a conference would be up front, it can be hard to justify the expense and the effort it takes.

Here is a bit of a timeline of the conferences I've taken part in and how they helped me. There have been a LOT over the years, so I might not mention them all.


2018 - PyConZA

I ran a tutorial on type hinting.

At PyConZA, if you run a tutorial you can charge for it. At the time I was freelancing and was more interested in having an audience than in making money from the tutorial so I charged the minimal amount required.

That meant I had a lot of broke students in my audience. Broke students from Umuzi.

After my tutorial I was invited to run some workshops at Umuzi. And eventually that turned into a job. I was resistant to taking the job at first because I didn't want to work for someone else, but I did want to work in tech education so it was the most appropriate job I could get.

I also did my first ever lightening talk. And had really really dorky hair.

After this I was pretty hooked on PyConZA.

2019 - PyConZA

I spoke about Apache Airflow at Umuzi

This talk was pretty impactful for me - after the talk people gave me a lot of positive feedback. The impression I got was that it was impactful. One guy told me that I'd just solved a major problem for his business.

PyConZA 2020 - first keynote address

This was a remote conference out of necessity - these were COVID times.

In this talk I spoke about how Umuzi, an on-premises training provider, managed to survive COVID.

My first PyConZA made this one possible.

I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this talk. I've tweaked it many times and delivered it to multiple audiences. It's a hit!

PyConZA 2021

This is the first time I ever volunteered to help organize a conference. I was invited to be the co-chair.

I took a chance and did a JavaScript talk at a Python conference by speaking about how I was getting Django Rest Framework and Redux to play nice.

DjangoCon US 2022

This was where things really started to pick up. I started looking for opportunities to speak at international conferences and this one popped up. I applied and they took me :)

I reworked my PyConZA 2020 talk again.

Again, it went down really well.

At this conference I met a few people who were working to organize the first ever DjangoCon Africa. They asked me if I wanted to get involved and of course I said yes.

I also met one of the organizers of PyCon Italia and he really enjoyed my talk. This becomes relevant later :)

Here, I started learning about HTMX and AlpineJS - it's often hard to cut through all the hype that exists in web dev land. These tools have made a significant impact on my work.


DjangoCon Africa

This was the first DjangoCon Africa ever. I was grateful that I was introduced to some of the organizers and was able to help out with organizing the event.

Yet again, I revamped my PyConZA 2020 talk for a new audience. Yet again, it went down really well :)

I also had the opportunity to be a coach in a DjangoGirls workshop.

DjangoCon US

This year I did a tutorial on Apache Airflow. I received quite a lot of positive feedback.

I also learned a lot about Playwright, again, this made a big impact on my work. It also inspired another talk.


I ran the same Apache Airflow tutorial.


BBD is an international software solutions company with a strong presence in South Africa. In my honest opinion they are hardcore. My opinion is informed by the fact that I've helped train a bunch of their people, BBD have super high standards.

They had been running Esc@pe as an internal conference for years. This was the first time that they opened it up to the public.

I had the honor of being invited to do a talk.

I did another revamp of my 2020 PyConZA talk. And again, it went down really well.


PyCon Namibia keynote

PyCon Namibia is a special kind of conference because it is put together with the intention of giving Namibia what it needs. There is a heavy emphasis on education.

I did a keynote address about learning to code in the age of LLMs. This is something pretty core to my work.

I also did a presentation at the Namibian University of Science and Technology on how to teach well. It helped me refine my thinking quite a lot. Since then I have started working on this series of blog posts. It's been useful for refining my thinking, but the ultimate goal is really to give other educators tools and leverage.

At the conference, I met a few people here who were a part of EuroPython, they asked me to take part in the next one.


I did a talk/demo about testing modern python web apps. The tools in play were HTMX, AlpineJS and Playwright.


PyCon Italia keynote

I was invited to keynote at PyCon Italia. This was at least in part due to my presentation at DjangoCon US 2022.

DjangoCon US keynote

It's tricky to get big technical conferences to accept talks about education. So my tactic is often to just sneak in a bit of education content in my main talk or in a lightening talk as a bit of a taste test.

This year I get to talk about education as the opening keynote. So cool!

I am also planning to create a new type of Sprint - a learning sprint. More on this later.


Watch this space


Watch this space


Watch this space

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