Karolina Surma: Forming PyLadies with non-code contributions cover image
Karolina Surma: Forming PyLadies with non-code contributions

DevConf.CZ Team • June 22, 2022 | Category: Interviews |

From Polish philology to Czech Python community. Karolina Surma is a Software Engineer at Red Hat and a contributor to the PyLadies Community. Read on for more about the struggles and perks of volunteer-driven projects.

About Karolina Surma

Profile Picture Karolina Surma is from Głogów, Poland and works as a Software Engineer in Brno. Karolina studied Polish and Czech Philology at the University of Wroclaw and then came to Brno and studied at MUNI. With her diploma, she could teach Polish, but ended up choosing a different vocation altogether. In her daily job, Karolina maintains a lot of Python RPM packages in Fedora and raises ideas, issues and fixes to the upstream community. The open source project that she’s been contributing to most recently is Let’s talk PyLadies. She deeply admires the Czech Python community, which she finds inclusive, active, and helpful. Karolina is a passionate reader, so when she is not working, you can find her in an armchair with yet another book. A book that recently inspired her was Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. You can find Karolina also on LinkedIn.

Watch the recording of Karolina's DevConf.CZ 2022 talk: PyLadies Community in Brno - Mutual Help to Grow.

Q: How did you start contributing to PyLadies?

After a few years of working in a different field, I attended a community Python course for beginners with PyLadies. At the end, the organiser asked who wants to volunteer to organise new editions. My friend and I decided to join PyLadies, and that opened a new world of ideas to me. I had a very vague idea about open source before (I only knew Wikipedia), so learning that, for example, the Python programming language is an open source project was a complete surprise to me. Moreover, the Python course has open source materials, and our organisational framework is open as well.

Q: What makes PyLadies stand out to you?

As I mentioned earlier, you can contribute to open source not only by writing the code. PyLadies is a community of women programming in Python, but in the Czech Republic, we focus a great deal on programming courses for beginners. Typically, I take care of organising new courses, coaching participants, or performing maintenance tasks like keeping the website up-to-date. I also helped create teaching materials for one of the courses. I want to help other women have the same chance to enter the world of programming as I was given.

Q: What is the hardest and easiest part of being an open source project contributor?

I think that staying around for a long time is the hardest. Volunteer projects suffer when people drop out. They sometimes burn out, sometimes just change priorities. With us, the contributors can switch between different roles which we hope can mitigate the burnout factor from repeating the same routine.

And as for the easiest: Python has a really welcoming community. I don't even know how it happened that from organising just one course, I've gotten to meet Python community members from all over the country.

Q: What is the best way to reward open source contributions?

I think that a simple word of appreciation is generally underestimated as a contribution reward. Hearing a "thank you" from others can do wonders with your motivation. We are also always very grateful for other kinds of organisational support, like being able to use someone's meeting room. The way our community is organised, I can't really imagine introducing (even symbolic) financial rewards. However, I believe it's generally a good idea to support the maintainers of the open source projects, especially if you rely on them in your enterprise systems.

Q: How did the pandemic affect the project and your contribution?

Our courses moved online, which no one liked: neither the coaches, nor the attendees. I felt rather burnt out myself. So we paused our activities and relaunched them just now. We had our first open workshop after the lock-down in April 2022. I’ll be happy to see more new faces in the organisational team. COVID helped us realise that - as PyLadies - we want to meet live and form a community, not a programming school.

Q: How did DevConf.cz impact your open source contribution?

We believed that during our community time, we gathered just enough insights to form an interesting and possibly a not-entirely-obvious talk. Judging by the feedback, I think we did a good job there. I also aimed to encourage more folks to join an open community of their choice, because this proves to be far more adventurous than they initially think. I hope we’ll see some of those folks at our meetups, willing to share their knowledge with the Python newbies.

Explore other articles like this: The many roads to open source interview series.