Flashpoint at PyCon 2022: Team Building, Plus 4 Essential Talks

June 3, 2022
Pycon 2022

Team-building IRL is invigorating

Last month, a number of Flashpointers attended PyCon 2022 in Salt Lake City to level up our Python programming skills and meet for some IRL team building.  In fact, most of us were meeting each other in person for the first time. Our Flashpoint Engineering family met up for dinner each night when we’d discuss the day’s topics, bounce ideas off of each other, and generally just hang out.

The first of three family dinners. (Image: Flashpoint)

Together, we were lucky enough to experience tutorials, sponsored workshops, official talks, and lightning talks centered around the mastery and advancement of the Python programming language. It was a fun deep dive into the language that we love and use daily to build the products and solutions that help organizations around the world effectively identify and combat a wide variety of cyber and physical threats.

Related reading: The Flashpoint Hiring Guide for Engineering Candidates

My favorite talks

Over the next three days, I went to every talk that I could from 8AM to 7PM, learning about everything from shaders (in the Python Arcade library) to anti-patterns in one of the most illuminating talks of the conference from Anthony Shaw

Webassembly Tutorial, Pyodide (Roman Yurchak, Hood Chatham)

I started my PyCon 2022 experience with a tutorial about WebAssembly, which introduced the technology and its components. We toured Pyodide and a REPL running python client side in the browser(!) and finished by writing a WebAssembly compiler for a tiny-forth-like language. This tutorial was great foreshadowing for what was perhaps the biggest news of the conference — that through technologies like WebAssembly and Pyodide, Python is poised to meaningfully enter the browser space. A later talk from Roman Yurchak and Hood Chatham discussed Pyodide in more detail, describing some of the challenges of passing code between Python and JavaScript.

Peter Wang

Peter Wang’s keynote had many shiny new toys and bravely live-demo’d PyScript, which allows running Python directly in html in between newly offered tags. The ability for Python to work side-by-side with JavaScript in the browser opens up a huge new world of possibilities utilizing the best of both languages.

Anthony Shaw

Anthony Shaw’s talk about anti-patterns reminded us to pick the right data structures, use comprehensions when possible and identify where loop invariants can be hoisted in our code. Most shockingly (“un-pythonic” in his words), he revealed that sometimes inline functionality in heavily-trafficked loops can be more performant than calling tiny functions to do the same work.     

Naomi Ceder

My enthusiasm never waned for hearing people speak about subjects they were passionate about (no matter how ‘micro’ the ‘cosm’), but the final keynote speech of the conference from Naomi Ceder impacted me in an unexpected way. She implored us to never sell Python down the river and to protect our vital open-source community. For me, this was a call to action to be more involved at the language level and remember why I became interested in computers in the first place. 

Seeing the (Python) forest through the trees

Python is popular because of its accessibility, low barrier to entry and adoption by the scientific community—all features of a language written and maintained by people like us! I was inspired to study Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs) more carefully and consider how I could help the language itself grow.

Recommended reading: The Evolution of Flashpoint’s Data Pipeline, an Engineering Story

PyCon 2022 gave us the opportunity to look at how the ‘trees’ (language design, features, implementation) make up the ‘forest’ (our daily python ecosystems) and reminded us of our own trimming, pruning, and planting abilities. This inspiration, coupled with the mapping of previously disembodied Zoom-screen heads to real-life humans, returned us to work as a refreshed and deeper team.

Team trip to Ensign Peak in the foothills near downtown Salt Lake City. (Image: Flashpoint)

While the conference talks varied in direct applicability to our daily work, I came away with a key insight; sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees…but the forest is made of trees, and it cannot exist without them! 

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