This week we welcome Marlene Mhangami (@marlene_zw) as our PyDev of the Week! Marlene is the PyCon Africa (@pyconafrica) chair, the co-founder of @zimbopy and a director for the Python Software Foundation. Let’s spend some time getting to know her!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
Sure, in college I studied molecular biology. I was actually in the schools pre-medicine track because I initially thought I wanted to become a doctor. Looking back on it now I laugh because I hate blood, just the sight of it in movies makes me shut my eyes tightly, so I’m genuinely happy that didn’t work out! I went to a liberal arts college and appreciate that I had the space to take courses in other fields like philosophy and politics which I really enjoy.
I get asked about what hobbies I have quite often, and I’m not sure if I have anything I do consistently enough to call a hobby. I read, and sometimes run, and love to journal. I also occasionally paint, but the last time I told someone I painted they asked me where my studios were and started listing off artists that I had never heard of before, so I like to disclaimer that I don’t paint in a way that is cultured or sophisticated but just as a way to express myself and have fun.
Why did you start using Python?
For a good chunk of my college, I was studying in the United States. I remember coming home one summer and being really aware of how different Zimbabwe was from the U.S. From really small cultural differences like how people address conflict (which is something I’m still trying to figure out with my US friends) to much more impactful things like access to knowledge and education.
I decided that I wanted to stay in my country and start being more involved with empowering my local community. For a number of clear and obscure reasons, I also decided that I wanted to leverage technology to help me do that. As I’m writing this out I’m actually remembering a great conversation I had with one of my friends. She had initially been a math major and then suddenly switched to computer science. I remember her telling me how much she enjoyed building stuff with code and how useful it was. She had created a program that could predict the warmest pathway to walk through on campus (she was also an international student who struggled with the cold, so both of us agreed that this was an extremely useful invention.) I also had a really vivid dream that made me re-evaluate what I was doing with my life.
All of these things led me to start googling around and I actually ended up organizing a meetup. It was there that I got introduced to one of my co-founders, Ronald Maravanykia, who was at the time running a Django girls workshop in Harare. He introduced me to Python as a great educational tool for teaching programming to people who don’t have a computer science background. I use Python primarily to help with teaching for our non-profit ZimboPy, so while I don’t use it in my day job, I really enjoy sharing it with the girls we teach.
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
Thanks for doing the interview, Marlene!
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