What to Tell Your Boss About Djangocon

What to Tell Your Boss About Djangocon

July 31, 2014 by Jason Champion

Almost every aspect of DjangoCon is an incredible bargain this year.

This is true even if you have to travel to attend.

Let's assume you are paid $10,000 a year (you can scale up or down according to your actual salary). That means your company is spending roughly $15,000 to employ you when benefits and overheads are taken into account, so in round terms they will be paying you $300 NOT to be at work (this figure is the one you should scale, e.g. multiplying by five if you are paid $50,000 a year).

Oh, and then you need an air fare at $400, five nights at the conference hotel at $125 a night, call it another $725, maybe $900 with taxes. Let's assume you had to wait until past Early Bird tickets, so now it's $750 to get through the door even on an individual ticket (another bargain, compare to (say) the full OSCON pass, though that is a much larger event - and we do listen and respond to requests from anyone who just want to come to the conference; the DSF has also funded some attendance in the past).

So it costs your employer roughly $2,350 so you can have the pleasure of going to DjangoCon. How on earth can you justify this?

The more highly-paid you are the easier the justification is, in some ways, but it should work at all levels where business cases are taken seriously. The same basic argument applies. People with Django skills are in short supply and many of them are at the cutting edge of web technology, but the Django community includes far more individual and small enterprises than large corporations.

Let's suppose that you go to one tutorial and, over the three days of the conference proper, you attend twelve talks. You find out about new, more efficient solutions to a couple of problems that are chewing away at your server cycles, thereby saving your company the need to invest in new hardware as soon. In and amongst that, in the hallway track you meet someone who has experience with the exact configuration of modules you want to use to achieve some important corporate purpose. That information alone might save you two days.

This kind of thing is commonplace at technical conferences, and none more so than DjangoCon. You get to mix with the people who are actually committing the code that gets released, have chance to talk to them, understand better the purpose of certain Django features, and find a couple of new wrinkles on your existing methods that will save you time on some common programming tasks.

Not only that, but by taking the week off you have sensibly given yourself the opportunity to actually work with the core developers, who are a pretty down-to-earth lot* and increase your understanding of the code base during two days of sprinting. These people only get together as a team twice a year! This is like a free immersive technical training session that leaves you way more competent and confident at solving complex web problems with Django. You even make a small commit to confirm that you now understand the build system for the Django documentation. You too will be able to contribute to the Django code base, and this is one of the whole purposes of the sprints: sharing hard-won knowledge to improve things for everybody.

Then you get to go back to work after a Sunday spent traveling, happy in the knowledge that you have contributed a little something to the Django code base. Your increased skill set and improved productivity will amply repay dividends on the cost of sending you. In six months time you deliver a project two weeks ahead of schedule, and your boss at last sees the tangible return on her budget investment in your training.

To look at it another way, if your productivity is increased by a mere 5% based on the vast sums of knowledge you can accumulate at DjangoCon, that means that your company's investment of $2,215 ($1,875 + $30N where N is your salary in thousands of dollars per year). will be returning A TWENTIETH OF YOUR SALARY EVERY YEAR, not just in the year you attend DjangoCon. We need hardly that that repeated attendance will compound the return on this investment.

Finally, a point you might wish to make for the longer-term. Only about 20% of US employees received any training in the last five years. By investing in you, your employer is not only helping to keep your skills honed and up-to-date but also affirming your value to them. In these days of staff churn, and when Djangonauts are such a scarce resource, it isn't the money that keeps you where you are. It's being a valued member of a team. There is no better way to express that than by sending you to DjangoCon, so you should work for a company that will.

  • We apologize for earlier wording, which properly reflected neither typical Django salary levels, the way the core team is structured, nor the spirit the Django community wishes to engender. The core team has striven to achieve a situation where newcomers can be welcomed in even greater numbers than at present. OH: "We all put our pants on one leg at a time. If anything, the opportunity at DjangoCon isn't to meet the core developers and bask in their wisdom, but to meet them and see that quite often, they're busy trying to get both feet into the same leg of their trousers." -- anonymous

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