Introducing Peter Grandstaff, DjangoCon US 2023 Conference Chair

Peter Grandstaff, DjangoCon US 2023 Conference Chair

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with the DjangoCon US 2023 Conference Chair, Peter Grandstaff, about his role as Conference Chair and his experience with Django.

How do you balance your responsibilities as Conference Chair with your work as a software developer?

Peter: “Most importantly, I’m able to do this as a result of the fantastic team we have at Two Rock Software. They keep everything running even when I need to block out time to tend to conference planning. I can’t express how grateful I am for them all.”

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest technological advancements and how do you assess their potential impact on the company?

Peter: “I think I do this largely by asking and listening. These days I’m not a big cutting edge kind of person. But I always keep my ears out for new things and when something comes on my radar I seek out people to ask about it. Listen, ask, listen, ponder and experiment. The DjangoCon US crowd is full of really bright people worth listening to, so I like it here.”

Can you tell us about your experience with Django and what inspired you to become involved with the Django community?

Peter: “I found Django around 2010 after having built and launched a big project where I wrote everything in PHP without using any sort of framework. I knew that I’d built something cool but that I’d taken a very inefficient path to get there. In researching how I should approach that kind of project in the future I came across Django and just really resonated with its philosophy and architecture. Luckily, another project came along soon after and I was able to put it to use pretty quickly.

I was pretty absent from the Django community despite working with the framework daily for the next decade.

It was in 2020 when I got to work with DCUS Sponsorship co-chair Dawn Wages that I first heard some really wonderful accounts of DjangoCon US and how amazing the Django community was. I attended online in 2021 and 2022 and was pretty impressed.

As we came out of the pandemic and I learned that DEFNA was looking for a new host city for 2023, I dove in (again, thanks to Dawn) to try to bring the conference here to Durham and I just keep getting deeper into it as we go!”

What motivated you to apply for the role of DjangoCon US Conference Chair, and what do you hope to achieve in this position?

Peter: “Prior to the organizing kickoff for 2023 I’d already taken on some level of leadership by hammering out all the venue and hotel contracts here in Durham. It kind of felt like a natural continuation of what I’d been doing. I’m a DjangoCon US newbie, so I was definitely reluctant to take a leadership role like that. Once I saw how many passionate and engaged volunteers we had showing up to the organizer meetings I felt confident that the Chair role was something I could manage. At least, I could manage it with a good co-chair as backup. Thankfully, the very talented Adrienne Franke [the other co-chair] agreed to take on that role.”

What is your vision for the future of Django, and how do you plan to showcase this during the conference?

Peter: “Other than preserving and maintaining the project, I don’t have strong feelings about the future of Django. I think this is another area where I’ll lean towards listening and asking. My hope is for DjangoCon US to really be a showcase for the will of the community. That we can all come together and inspire each other, learn, and keep Django moving forward into a bright future.”

Can you discuss any new initiatives or innovations that you plan to introduce to the conference this year?

Peter: “We’re going to do Tutorials online only this year. This was largely due to limitations on accommodations in Durham in the days prior to the main conference, but I think it’s an exciting experiment.

The whole conference will be hybrid again this year, so it’s always cool to see how the online experience plays out. Though, this year I’ll be there in person for the first time.

The innovation I’m most excited about is simply bringing DjangoCon US back to the east coast, and to my home town of Durham, North Carolina. I think this is a city that fits this community really well.”

What hobbies do you enjoy when you’re away from the computer?

Peter: “I always have a few books in progress. I love to grow plants–I’m currently waiting for the first cherry tomato of the year to ripen on my balcony. It will be ready any day now! And, I really enjoy movement arts. I’ve been doing martial arts for over a decade and more recently discovered dance. Specifically aerial silks and contact improvisation are where I’m focusing my energy these days.”

Is there anything that you would like to talk about?

Peter: “I’m just really blown away by the people involved in organizing this conference. It’s a tremendous experience to work with these people.”

A topic that is very dear to me currently: Any advice for those new to software development?

Peter: “I think the best thing a new developer can do is to complete an entire project. Ideally, you’d find something you get paid to build, but sometimes it has to be a passion project of your own. The point is to take it all the way from idea to complete product that real people can actually interact with. You’re going to learn so much solving all the little problems along the way and you’re going to have something real to show for it at the end. Just, don’t write it in PHP without a framework like I did. Use a framework. Use Django.”

Thank you so much for your taking the time to chat with me, Peter! What’s the best way for people to contact you if they’d like to know more?

Peter: “The DjangoCon US organizers Slack is a great place to find me, or you can find more info and contact information on the Two Rock Software website, Two Rock

We organizers would like to thank Peter for his leadership and work with the planning of DjangoCon US 2023!