"PyCon": HENNGE continues to support the open source programming event globally
For many years, HENNGE has been supporting PyCons, which are international conferences for Python, an open source programming language. What are PyCons and why does HENNGE continue to support them?
Here are the interviews of Ogura-san, our Representative Director, CEO/CTO, Jonas, who is a HENNGE employee and a member of the board of the PyCon JP Association, which is a nonprofit organization with the goal to hold an annual PyCon in Japan, and Gunji-san, who is a contact person for the PyCon sponsorship at HENNGE.
Hello Ogura-san! Since 2014, HENNGE has been supporting PyCons hosted in total 9 regions, such as in Singapore, Australia, Italy, and so on (except Japan). I find it rare that a Japanese company sponsors such overseas events.
Hello. Yes, it is very rare, perhaps HENNGE is the only one in Japan.
In 2018, HENNGE sponsored PyCon Columbia. When we first offered our sponsorship, I heard that it was taken as a fraud or something. They did not understand why a Japanese company wanted to sponsor it. There was no precedent.
So it must have been a big surprise to people in Columbia.
Why does HENNGE sponsor PyCons globally, including PyCon Japan?
There are two major reasons;
First, it is because we benefit from the open source language. About 50% of HENNGE engineers utilize Python to develop our products and services. Since we benefit from it, we naturally would like to support the open source community. It is part of our corporate culture to think that way.
So it is a gesture to return our gratitude and appreciation to them.
Exactly. Somebody must support the community so that it will remain active and Python will continue to be adopted; and that somebody must be us since we benefit from it.
I see. What is the second reason?
Secondly, we are hoping that it may connect us to talented engineers and give us some recruiting opportunities.
It is true that HENNGE's internal common language is English and we actively hire talented engineers overseas.
Yes. But recruiting is not our primary objective, it would be a nice added bonus. I would like to support open source activities since I am an engineer myself. That is a major reason.
So we would like to support the activities, that is the very reason. I understand that HENNGE also sponsors PyCon JP, which is held in Japan, not only PyCons held overseas.
Since 2011, PyCon JP has been held in Japan and HENNGE has been supporting it in various forms since 2013. We have once provided our office as a pre-event party location and served food and drinks to participants. I was present in the office as well and participated in the event.
What a creative and unique way to support them!
However, since 2020, the event has become online due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are no longer able to support them physically. Therefore, we support them as an exhibitor, putting up a company booth.
I have an impression that online events provide less opportunities for recruiting. Was stopping the sponsorship ever an option to HENNGE?
Never. Especially supporting PyCon JP is part of our efforts to contribute to the local open source community. Therefore, I never thought of stopping it. Furthermore, I do not want the culture of holding technical conferences to be lost, therefore, we would like to continue supporting them.
Next, I would like to interview Jonas, who is involved with management and operation of PyCon JP. So, Jonas, you are a HENNGE employee and in the meantime, you are a member of the board of the PyCon JP Association, which is the managerial body of PyCon JP, is that right?
Yes, that's right. In my previous job, I was invited as a speaker at PyCons hosted in the U.S. and Europe and when I was in Japan in 2013, I participated in PyCon APAC for the Asia- Pacific region. Then, I joined HENNGE while continuing to volunteer at PyCon JP and became a member of the board of the Association in 2019.
So you have been involved with PyCons for about 10 years! Could you please share with us the aim of PyCon JP from the point of view of the Association?
The aim is to provide a forum where the Python users communicate with each other and exchange information and ideas. We, the PyCon JP Association, hold annual events in Japan to promote Python and expand the community.
There must be a lot of other events related to programming languages but what is unique about PyCon JP?
It's the principle of equality. Our motto is that "everybody can present their knowledge and ideas equally". Therefore, participation fees are kept as low as possible to make it accessible to a broad range of people.
I see, but it must be quite a challenge to keep the participation fees low.
Yes, but there are two enabling factors;
First is that most PyCons, including PyCon JP, are managed and operated by volunteer staff. Second is that many companies sponsor the events. Thanks to sponsoring companies, we are able to continue the events.
I heard that PyCon JP sponsoring slots often sell out!
Yes, when I was involved with organizing a similar event in Europe, it was really hard to find sponsoring companies. Therefore, when many companies offered sponsorship for PyCon JP, I was very surprised and touched by the generosity of the local community.
I see! Do you see any negative impact from the Covid-19 pandemic these years?
Yes, many small-sized events were canceled. As far as PyCon JP is concerned, it was quite a challenge to switch the event online. Especially when the Covid-19 was starting to spread, we could not find a lot of services and tools available for large-scale online events and we had to learn it from scratch.
It must have been tough, especially in the beginning. How did the online event turn out?
Its major drawback was that there were less face-to-face casual conversations. On the other hand, it was good that anybody could participate from anywhere.
We did not know what to expect in terms of sponsorship when we switched the event online, but it turned out that many companies continued their sponsorship as before, which we truly appreciated.
That is great! So how was the 2021 Pycon JP held during the Covid-19 pandemic? Gunji-san, who was the contact person for PyCon JP sponsorship and who managed the event on the day of the event will share with us her experience.
So, I understand that the PyCon JP held in October 2021 was held both on site and online, is that correct?
Yes, that's correct. Total 628 people participated in the 2-day event.
HENNGE continued its platinum sponsorship since the year 2020 and put out a booth as well as gave a speech at a special session as a sponsoring company.
In the special session, HENNGE member presented HENNGE's long involvement with PyCon JP. HENNGE provided original gift novelties for PyCon JP, right?
Yes, we did. A gift box containing a T-shirt, a thermal cup, an USB adapter, a web camera cover, and a smartphone stand was sent to everybody who participated in the online stamp rally.
That's gorgeous! How did you choose the gifts?
We conducted a survey to HENNGE engineers on the candidates of gifts and selected from the viewpoint that they could be used daily. I had a sample of the thermal cup to try it out by myself and made sure that the quality was good. I will be happy if those who received the cups use them regularly to refresh themselves while they are working remotely.
I heard that not only the gift boxes but also the Zoom background images were created specifically for PyCon JP.
Yes, they were. HENNGE design team created four images. I believe that other participants were impressed by them.
They are all stylish and our logos on the top right are striking. So how did you find PyCon JP held in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic?
As participants listened to different speakers, they were sharing their impressions and thoughts online at the same time and sending stamps to other people's comments, so there was a sense of togetherness which was unique to such an online environment.
While Pycon2020 was 100% online, PyCon 2021 was held both online and on site; therefore, we were able to see the benefits of being on site and meeting participants in person as well.
It was my second time participating in the event and I felt that PyCon JP is a great place to meet and interact with many different people, indeed.
Even if the form of events transforms, it would be nice if we could keep the event as a place to exchange information and ideas related to Python.
Lastly, I would like Jonas and Ogura-san to express their thoughts for the future of PyCon.
Sustainability is a huge topic in the developer community. If Python declines, PyCon JP will not survive either. While it is hard to see what the future holds for us because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we would like to continue our activities so that Python will be widely adopted in Japan and stay relevant for a long time.
Development languages serve the developers' community; thus, the community comes first and it is important that the community itself stays active. Therefore, as a company, we would like to support PyCon as much as possible.