Vicky Twomey-Lee Awarded The PSF Community Service Award For Q3 2021

>>> Shared from Original Post Python Software Foundation News

Vicky Twomey-Lee, software engineer, PyLadies Dublin founder, EuroPython Society emeritus board member, Coding Grace co-founder, Women Who Code Dublin director, and WITS member, have been awarded the Python Software Foundation 2021 Q3 Community Service Award.

RESOLVED, that the Python Software Foundation award the Q3 2021 Community Service Award to Vicky Twomey-Lee. Vicky has been a PSF Fellow since 2012 and a long-time volunteer to several PSF and Python spaces. 7 years ago she founded and continues to help organize the PyLadies Dublin chapter. Additionally, Vicky has been an active contributor to the PSF's Grant WG since the beginning and continues to provide helpful feedback and reviews. She also helps with EuroPython, Python Ireland, and past PyCon Ireland events.

We interviewed Vicky to learn more about her inspiration and work with the Python community. We also asked several of Vicky's associates - including Cheukting Ho, Steve Holden, Marc-Andre Lemberg, and Lais Carvalho to share more light about Vicky's community efforts and her impact on the community.

The Origin Story

What are your earliest memories of how you got into tech?

It was undoubtedly thanks to my dad. I remember when I was a few years old, and I woke up in the middle of the night, and I heard this "click-click" sound with a green glow lighting up my dad's face. He was big into tech. I think he was one of the few who imported computers for work and personal interests in the early 80s.

And as I got older,  I initially played games, but then I got to install programs and even upgrade hardware. My dad brought my younger brother and me to all the techie and game shows coming to our small city, Limerick.

Then in 1984, a very unique and memorable present my dad brought back from Hong Kong, a Nintendo Famicom, changed everything. I got into video games big time. Fast forward to my late teens. I was interested in graphics and was qualified to get into Graphic Design at one of the best art colleges at the time. Still, unfortunately, I had to repeat my final year in secondary school as my parents wanted me to go to university instead.

I didn't have enough Chinese to explain graphics design, so I studied Computer Systems at the University of Limerick.

Besides my studies, I experimented with HTML (there wasn't even CSS back then) during those dial-up days and then progressed to hosting and designing my own blogs at home.

And then, there was my first job at Sun Microsystem, where I met my husband - Michael Twomey - we were into the same things, and Python was the first language we got excited about, around 2002. We attended and ran Python-related events together (amongst other initiatives like diversity in tech and game jams).

We still get very excited about lots of geeky things, and in the last number of years, it was around electronics. 

Involvement with the Python community

What was your earliest involvement with the Python community?

When Python Ireland's first meetup started in 2004, I was an attendee along with Michael. When it got rebooted in 2005, the folks wanted to organize talks (note that Meetup and Eventbrite didn't exist back then), so I thought it shouldn't be too hard to find a space and get speakers.

Somehow I ended up taking the ball and running with it for over a decade, though I stepped back in 2016.

What drives and inspires you into volunteering your time and resources in the Python Community - PyLadies Dublin, Python Ireland, PyCon Ireland, and EuroPython?

It is the community because it helped me get to where I am today. Everyone was so friendly and explained things if you didn't understand.

What drives me? 

I think it is knowing that these groups can provide opportunities that have afforded me lots of weird and wonderful experiences and jobs. Like a researcher and curator for Dublin Science Gallery for an exhibition called GAME, part of a team to run a meetup of all meetups (my dream) called 404.ie at a fantastic venue. Connecting even more communities at the new hip, up-and-coming co-sharing space called Dogpatch Labs.

I know what it's like to feel lost and scared in a field I work and volunteer. I realize that I have a platform to help those who are curious and want to learn more, connect with others, and I want them to feel welcome and be part of the community.

And hopefully, in turn, some of them will pass that same sentiment on and welcome others into the community.

Yes, I get pushbacks, but I have my husband, family, and friends who look out for me. 

And I have to highlight my wonderful husband, Michael. He's been my rock, intervened when it got too much for me, picked up and tidied things away for me when I was talking to people before and after events.

And EuroPython is finally coming to Dublin!

That's the reason why we started up PyCon Ireland in 2010 (I chaired the first four editions). Since then, the Irish Python community has made it successful year on year, and the goal is in sight.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone in person (it was postponed twice due to Covid-19, so the third time's the charm) in Dublin, Ireland.

And the PSF Grants Workgroup?

I wanted to do more and was delighted to get invited to join the PSF Grants Workgroup. It was a small way for me to give back. I know what it's like to try and run something when you don't have any support. No one knows about your group/event, and starting from scratch is super hard.

I have learned a lot from the various communities worldwide on their needs for help to run their events.

How has your involvement within the Python community helped your career? 

I was learning to be a leader, mentor, organizer, and diversity in tech advocate. It helped me stay grounded as I saw all the excellent work done by the PSF, EuroPython, and PyLadies. 

It's pointed me in the direction of advocating for diversity in tech and the creative tech community and the importance of STEM in education.

So I have very different and unusual jobs as a result.

How has Covid affected your work with the Python community, and what steps are you taking to push the community forward during these trying times?

I've been working from home for a while, but with Covid-19, I learned how to stream. I had experience running live streams and podcasts with Dublin Maker, and I used these skills to run PyLadies Dublin remotely.

I already have skills in creating media and editing videos. I noticed I have a shorter attention span when watching videos, so I've shortened our events to 1 hour and opened opportunities to collaborate with international groups and invite speakers abroad.

I also realized not to fret if there's a low attendance during live events as people will (re)watch the videos in their own time. So not stressing about live attendance helped me produce a better experience for guests and viewers at our events.

Other problems I noticed are people with "zoom" fatigue, so people are a lot more understanding of mistakes. We are more patient and supportive. We are looking forward to in-person events again and are wondering how we will do a hybrid event.

Plus, learning and being in awe of what EuroPython organizers and teams have done in the past two editions.

It's always about learning, not being afraid to fail, and trying other things until it works for you. Of course, it's good to collaborate with others. You can't do everything on your own. With everything remote right now, it's an excellent opportunity to try different ways of running events.

Besides all that, I am working part-time with a company called Yard. And we are looking at how we can help tech communities rebuild their groups after Covid-19. So that's interesting for me on a personal level with all my various community groups.

Vicky Twomey-Lee Impact Story on the Python community

Cheukting Ho, EuroPython, speaks on Vicky's contributions to the Python community in Dublin:

Besides being a fantastic leader in her community in Dublin, Vicky also helps other communities to connect. I would always reach out to her to invite more people to join my Python events.

Steve Holden supported Vicky's PSF fellow nomination and shared more on Vicky's impact:

By creating (and remaining a mainstay of) PyCon IE, Vicky gave Irish Python programmers the chance to see themselves as a community. Her other work to improve diversity and support the entry of more women into the tech field is also impacting.

Marc-Andre Lemburg nominated Vicky as a PSF fellow and has worked closely with her on the EuroPython Society Board since 2012. He speaks on Vicky's impact:

Vicky is highly positive, kind, and very supportive of people in the community and its organizations. She has made a real difference for Python in Ireland and helped seed the foundations of the community in Ireland.

Lais Carvalho from Python Ireland also speaks on Vicky's impact:

Vicky is a highly hardworking person interested in making the community as diverse and inclusive as possible. She works non-stop to accomplish such goals, to the point of mild exhaustion. Her impact has been significant with PyLadies, the Dublin Maker events, and Python Ireland.

The Python Software Foundation congratulates and celebrates Vicky Twomey-Lee.

>>> Read the Full Story at Python Software Foundation News