Humans of oori

Notes from Pycon MEA / GITEX DevSlam 2023, Dubai

Uche Ogbuji

Photo by Aisha Bello, from Pycon MEA / GITEX DevSlam 2023, Dubai

I didn’t entirely think through the reality of the travel schedule I’d let myself in for once I received my itinerary. It would be about 26 hours each way, on the plane and in layovers, then only 53 hours actually in Dubai. Quite the whirlwind, and I won’t make that mistake again…maybe.

When I stepped off the plane I thought for a split second I’d arrived in Nigeria. Climate-wise it was almost exactly a Southern Nigeria in September feel. Hotter and much more humid than Colorado. The humidity surprised me until I realized that despite the romance perception of “desert upon desert upon desert”, I was really thrust up against the sea.

My hotel, the World Trade Novotel, was right next to the DevSlam venue, where the Python MEA conference was situated. That venue seemed large enough to me, then I learned later that it was just 1 unit out of 30 overall for GITEX. That blew my mind with its scale. Here’s the view from my hotel. You can’t see the DevSlam structure from this view, but the big white structure that says “GITEX IMPACT” is the Smart Cities focus area, a similarly-sized unit.

View from Novotel

Right away when I started meeting other Python MEA folks, I was impressed by the diversity of the conference. I’ve never seen anything like it. In particular, there was a large African contingent—a good number of us born on the continent, but now based abroad. Here’s a photo from a speakers’ supper I attended.

Speaker supper 1

We had a lot of great conversations about how such a tech cohort could work towards bridging the Digital Divide, mostly through a Python lens, and including the Oori Data interest area of AI/LLM. I suspect I’ll have fruitful, ongoing discussions with Aisha Bello (to my right in the photo), Joannah Nanjekye (in red, across me), Mannie Young (to Joannah’s right), Lalitha Krishnamoorthy (in black, lower right), and others.

David Mertz and Marc-André Lemburg, between Joannah and Lalitha, are the PyCon organizers, and worked really hard to bring together this diverse group. Here’s a view from the other end of the table.

Speaker supper 2—animation

You can see Emeka Okoye, in glasses, speaking to the waiter. It was especially nice to catch up with him, as we go way back to some of the early adventures in computing I’ve written about in this blog. I hadn’t met with him in person since I’d left Nigeria. It was also good to meet Iqbal Abdullah, in glasses a couple of chairs over from Emeka.

As for my conference contributions, I led a workshop was that first full day—Iterators, generators, coroutines and asyncio, based on a workshop I’ve given at PyColorado, and with some private audiences. This group was attentive and sharp, following the journey I laid out from the guts of Python’s humble for loop all the way to the wilds of asyncio, which seem to intimidate so many developers.

On my second day I was the MC/session chair in the morning, and particularly tickled by the well-deserved approbation of Sebastián Ramírez Montaño AKA tiangolo, as I introduced him. He’s the creator of FastAPI, which I as well as many other developers use a great deal. After his talk there was a line of folks wanting to shake hands and take selfies with him. Quite cool!

Selfies with tiangolo

My own talk that day, The Ode of Code and Poetry, was part of the work I love, connecting my technical side with my creative one, and encouraging others to do the same. How do my poetry and programming professions enrich each other? The audience seemed to enjoy the trip out to left field.

Presentation: The Ode of Code and Poetry. Photo by Iqbal Abdullah

Soon after my talk, the day was over, and I had but a few hours before it was time to head to the airport. I left with a head full of ideas, including, after discussions with Emeka Okoye, a determination to try out The Dubai AI Ministry’s Falcon LLM model in our Oori Data projects at some stage.

In the end maybe my travel itinerary was so stupid it was smart. Not only did I hardly suffer any jet lag after the travel east, but I hardly suffered any after the westward return, which usually tends to be less brutal, anyway. I’ll try to make my way to a future DevSlam, but surely with a few more days to meaningfully explore the Emirates and environs.

Many thanks to David and Marc-André, whom I’ve already mentioned, and to Pawan Kulkarni, the overall DevSlam coordinator, for having me.

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About the author

Uche Ogbuji (he/him)

Uche is an engineering leader with a background of nurturing diverse teams in tech innovation. Three decades of history as a consultant, founder & CTO. Expert & pioneer in data architecture, distributed systems, AI, open-source software and more. Also a writer, speaker and mentor.