Empowering communities through tech: coding for social change

17 Jul 2019

by Enrica Pasqua & Robin Nierynck

Hi, I’m Enrica. I work as Data Engineer in the marketing tech team. My job consists of developing and maintaining large scale data processing, using Python as my main driver.
I was introduced to coding in high school. I was so fascinated by this smart way of solving problems that I wanted to know more and more, spending my spare time reading e-zines and experimenting with web programming in its early days.
During my Computer Science studies at the University of Milan I discovered both the Python language and the opportunities of volunteering, but in a different field back then: sports.

Volunteering is a good opportunity to meet new people, especially women, and to help them to break the barriers that are keeping them out of the IT industry.

I still remember the day I got involved in Pyladies. It was around 3 years ago and I had just moved to Berlin, looking for new job opportunities. PyLadies is an international mentorship group aimed at helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community. That evening there was a PyLadies meetup hosted by Delivery Hero, in the old office in Mohrenstraße.

Enrica at a Pyladies meetup at the Delivery Hero HQ

Enrica at a Pyladies meetup at the Delivery Hero HQ

It was on that occasion that I started my journey at Delivery Hero and I also discovered how large the Python community is in Berlin.
At first I attended talks mostly for learning new technologies and creating a network. But more recently, I decided that it was time for me to give something back to the community and I decided to support the PyLadies through coaching activities whenever I have the possibility.

I think giving back is a great opportunity to meet people that share the same passion: everyone has different experiences and skills, but the knowledge is not beneficial for others if it’s not shared.
Volunteering connects people, builds relationships, and lets you discover new points of view, exchange experiences and learn from others’ successes and mistakes. It’s a motivational boost, you feel rewarded with a sense of gratitude from seeing how your contribution can be beneficial. Because when you start giving, it triggers a chain effect: it encourages others to do the same.

The first time that I heard about PyCon Namibia was during the EuroPython 2018, the main Python conference in Europe. I was so surprised to hear about a Python Conference in Africa that I said to myself that I could concretely do something to support this community.
The Python Namibia Society (PyNam) is relatively young: it’s growing year by year and it’s already a good example of diversity with its 50% women attendees, but it lacks the necessary expertise and resources for reducing the digital divide.

Enrica Pasqua Delivery Hero

Enrica’s manager and team supported her to give back to the community

For a couple of months I thought about how I could actively take part and eventually I decided to get in touch with PyNam’s organizer, Jessica Upani, to understand what kind of contribution I could make.
Thanks to her suggestions, I decided to focus on presenting a technology that we use daily at Delivery Hero, so I proposed a practical introductory workshop to a tool named Apache Airflow. My aim was to allow the attendees to leave with some knowledge that could be reused in their IT industry. But first I had to make my way to Namibia!

I flew back to Berlin with a lot more than I expected.

My manager encouraged me to apply for the conference and supported me in receiving sponsorship from Delivery Hero, which covered my trip to Namibia. My team was also great: they helped with preparation by giving me feedback on the workshop material, allowing me to tailor it better for the conference. When I came back they asked me many questions, they were curious about the experience and what I brought home.

When I decided to embark on this adventure, I had two goals in my mind: offering my expertise to the local Python community and learning from other attendees and speakers.
But I flew back to Berlin with a lot more than I expected.
The Namibian people were very welcoming and I had the opportunity to listen and learn from their experiences, their problems and daily struggles and to understand what they need in terms of resources and knowledge to grow and to make their voice heard.

Overall, this experience made me even more motivated to learn, to do more and to share my skills.

I learned from other speakers on various subjects like how to build a recommendation system with LightFM, how to write a successful conference proposal, I revised how to setup ElasticSearch with Django, I got closer to robotics by looking into how to assembly a pantograph plotter with a Raspberry Pi, I learned how good it is to adopt Test Driven Development in the software development process, etc.

Enrica at DeliveryHack in March 2019

Enrica at DeliveryHack in March 2019

Volunteering is beneficial for me for several reasons. It is a good opportunity to put my experience into practice, while also learning and improving my knowledge by looking at problems from a different perspective. It is also a good opportunity to meet new people, especially women, and to help them to break the barriers that are keeping them out of the IT industry.

This experience helped me to improve my public speaking, presentation and communication skills: I encourage everyone to try it and see how beneficial it is for your personal growth. Overall, this experience made me even more motivated to learn, to do more and to share my skills, especially with people that don’t have the same opportunities as we do in Europe.

I will continue to participate actively in the community, continue going to conferences and talks, supporting women in learning coding and mentoring new pythonists.