If you ever wanted to start a new group or community and felt like you didn’t really know where to start, this article is for you. My story is about why I decided that I needed a PyLadies group in Hamburg and then why it took what felt like ages to actually start the group after deciding to do so. You can find the technicalities needed for starting a new PyLadies group on PyLadies and in the PyLadiesKit.
Why did I start PyLadies in Hamburg? I mean there are already so many meetups in the city. And I went to some but I wasn’t hooked. I somehow noticed a senior data scientist in Berlin was posting she was looking for a new job and that future job had to be in a diversity friendly place (ps. she found that job and many others after).
I decided to leave my job and I’m looking for a new data science or analyst position in Berlin. If your company needs one, and the team prizes professional growth and diversity, please let me know 🙂 (I’m not interested in pure ML or data engineering.) DMs open, RTs appreciated.— Ellen König (@ellen_koenig) Mar 15, 2018
And she was also posting the PyLadies events in Berlin. Compared to other meetups those sounded like something I really wanted to attend, they were more like let’s do things together and less the I did something cool I’ll present events style. Unfortunately I am a lazy person and the idea of going to Berlin (2hrs away from Hamburg) and having to do airbnb and then get a train really early to make it to work.. was just well.. not what a comfortable person does. And I don’t want to move to Berlin.
And so it began
Now I wanted to start the group and I reached out to Ellen Koenig and she was supper supportive and put me in contact with the Berlin PyLadies group via slack, so they provided with all the info and answers to all my random questions. Since then Pyladies slack has a channel to help #prospective-organizers.
ask for help from a group, if in your country then even better
As with anything new the tricky part is getting started.. the brain gets overflown with the endless possibilities and also endless ways to fail.
The hardest meetup to schedule is the first one. When you do not know what the audience will be nor their level, but you still want it to be relevant to everybody. What if you do a beginner workshop and everybody else is better at it than you. What if you do an advanced workshop and everybody is confused. What if nobody shows up. For me personally all of this leads to procrastination. The only way for me to escape the procrastination black hole is to write a list with all the todos.. or print out the one from the PyLadiesKit.
when stuck, todo lists are your best friend
Going through the list took some time.. considering that everything is based on volunteering, thus response times are also quite long, but the PyLadies community encourages you to run meetups independently of having everything properly in place.. so the people who do not have a procrastination problem can do so (i.e. robots). You can always change things later.. email addresses, twitter handles and so on..
Locationwise.. I’d also put it in the bureaucracy list.. Luckily free now (my former employer), where I used to work, had space for meetups so I didn’t have to worry about the location. If you do not have a location, go to a meetup hosted somewhere and just ask them if they would host yours. Networking helps. And now with the pandemic you just need a video conferencing application.
The biggest problem I had was not having a topic for a first meetup (I think I lingered in this state for over a month).. till one day I was listening to a podcast from Data Framed on Online Experiments where Emily Robinson mentioned how in the R Ladies New York group they were doing Book Clubs. I reached out to Emily on twitter to ask about the format: one gives people some time to read the book, and prepares some questions for the meetup and then everybody talks about.
first event is more about community than about content
And so I scheduled the first meetup as a Book Club, and I didn’t personally have to fail at anything, the brain was tranquil about that! The topic was nevertheless a cool book: Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neill.
The event was lots of fun, six people showed up and we all decided together what the next events should be about, and two women also agreed to join as co-organisers: Fari and Avaré Stewart. The most important part is for the organizing team to be diverse.
you never walk alone
After the first event it is all pretty much almost smooth sailing.. especially if one is not the only organizer.. it all feels like team work.. slack helps there with the communication. And sometimes some of us can take a break or all of us are taking a break. Once you start organizing meetups you realise that you have to assess how large your room should be. As the events are free a lot of people treat rsvp as calendar reminders. This happens also in the remote events. There is a simple rule though, and apparently everybody knows it:
around 50% of RSVPs on meetup show up
There is one topic left and I will not really go much into it here. It’s about the question I sometimes get, I’ll go maybe in detail in a future post .. maybe:
Isn’t it discriminatory if you do an event just for women?
For now I will say that it is not just for women. We had some men joining our events, which is on its is a good thing as long as it doesn’t turn into a majority men meetup.
PS: If you are in a city which is missing a community which you feel you need, start it: you will meet awesome people on the way!