Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

27 Feb 2023, 17:00 p.m.

PyCon 2023: "Argument Clinic" & Mitigating COVID Risk

I plan to attend PyCon US 2023 in person in mid-April in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. I'll be speaking there, co-presenting the play "Argument Clinic: What Healthy Professional Conflict Looks Like" with Jacob Kaplan-Moss at 5pm MT on Friday, April 21st.

What does healthy disagreement look like? Many of us have never experienced healthy conflict at work, and so assume our only options are to either avoid conflict or have a nasty fight. But it doesn't have to be that way: professional disagreement can be direct without being nasty. We want to show what that looks like.
In this model argument, presented as a play, watch two engineering managers disagree about something. How do they work through their disagreement -- politely and effectively? Watch our characters figure out what they're really clashing about, learn about each other's perspectives, and come to a better decision than either could alone.

Yes, this is another in my series of tech conference plays! I had the idea for this play many years ago, and am so jazzed that Jacob was intrigued enough to join me to make it real. We're writing and rehearsing the play now, with the help of our director Kyle R. Conway, and it's on track to be both instructional and entertaining.

PyCon US will be hybrid in-person and remote, and remote attendees will be able to view our talk livestreamed and on-demand. A public video recording will also be available shortly after the conference. But PyCon this year is not permitting speakers to present remotely, so in order to speak, I have to go in person.

Last year I planned to go to PyCon, then cancelled primarily because of COVID-19 risk. I explained my reasoning in a somewhat lengthy blog post. This year, a few things have changed.

Some changes make things harder for those of us who want to reduce our infection and transmission risks. In general, people and institutions are taking fewer precautions. For instance, fewer of my neighbors in airports and on my flights will be wearing masks. And the percentage of people in the US who have gotten the bivalent booster shot is really low: 16.9%, compared to 69.2% who completed a primary series.

But some things in my life have changed to make it easier to go.

In the past ten months, I have learned some skills that enhance my own capacity to keep myself and others safe. I am more fluid at donning and removing my P100 respirator. I am better at holding my breath while quickly removing an N95 mask to take a sip of water or a bite of food. I've navigated socializing with many people with different caution levels, including saying no to things that I wasn't comfortable with, many times. And I've had a lot of practice in high-risk environments (such as hospitals, or in the same room as a person with COVID), keeping my mask on and well-fitted, and finding less risky moments and places to eat. I've also had more practice returning from travel and isolating from Leonard for several days while within our apartment, to reduce the risk of transmitting to him.

Also, in April last year I did not want to potentially transmit COVID to some specific people close to me, such as my friend's newborn. Those concerns aren't as critical now; for instance, that baby is now vaccinated, and I don't have any planned childcare responsibilities. And I had specific hard-to-move plans with Leonard for shortly after PyCon last year, and don't this year. I really really don't want to catch COVID, but if I do, the effects on others will be more muted.

Last year I said, "The patchwork mitigations I could employ to protect myself and others from the most-transmissible-ever edition of COVID-19 would substantially reduce the social benefits of the con, and be pretty exhausting." This year, I am more confident that I can use those mitigations to keep my risk very low while still socializing and keeping my energy levels up.

PyCon is doing what it can to support my choice. I've signed the Public Health Pledge to express my commitment, and I am so glad that one of my favorite events has a robust Health and Safety policy so I can be more comfortable attending.

I plan to use all the "Ways to mitigate risks" that I listed in that section of my blog post last year. So, if you're also coming in person, let's socialize masked and/or outdoors.