CarpentryCon Experienced by the African Carpentry Task Force

Thanks to The Carpentries and conference sponsors

Thanks to The Carpentries and funding from conference sponsors, as well as TENET, the members of the African Carpentry Task Force were all able to attend the inaugural CarpentryCon event that took place at University College Dublin, Ireland, between 29 May and 1 June, 2018. Each of us has written a brief summary of our experience and takeaways from the conference, and we all agree that the event was an extremely valuable experience that exceeded all our expectations!

Caroline (Nigeria / South Africa)

I have been to conferences, both national and international, but CarpentryCon was different. I think this is how conferences should be organised. This conference also had skill-up and capacity-building opportunities in workshops like Next-Steps-in-R which I attended. I think it was so much about building up participants so that they can go back to their respective countries and make a good difference. Being a member of this global family and community in The Carpentries has also connected me with colleagues that I only had to interact with via mail until I saw them in person during the conference. My encounter with some is now beyond the conference because we are Skyping and I am getting to put excellence in my research. Also members of the study group here in NWU Mafikeng are already excited about becoming part of this community as a result of my encounter with the global community. Hopefully some of them will be participating as helpers and instructors in upcoming workshops. Also in the course of the capacity-building opportunities during CarpentryCon, my eyes were opened to taking Data Carpentry beyond institution to children and teenagers (a project has been conceived) and even to the different Departments in NorthWest. Thank you to The Carpentries and its LOC. Great job with great output.

Mesfin (Ethiopia)

For me, the CarpentryCon 2018 generated a lot of ideas, connections and inspirations to expand my skills and professional qualifications. I’m proud to be a member of this vibrant community and thank you for holding this conference in a fabulous venue and making me feel so welcome.

Kayleigh (South Africa)

CarpentryCon 2018 was by far the most engaging and self-fulfilling conference I have ever attended. The variety in content, and diversity of participants, was inspiring, and made for an immersive, enriching learning experience all round. Personally, I left a changed person, particularly with the lessons learned from the keynote and workshop session on ally skills. Becoming more self-aware of my privilege and/or target status within different contexts, especially living and working in a complex, multi-cultural, and unequal country like South Africa, will greatly improve my ability to connect, communicate, teach, and develop relationships on a daily basis - I’m already picking up subtleties in human interaction back home that I didn’t notice before, and that is thanks to my participation at CarpentryCon! Professionally, I am so grateful for the variety of options, and the practical approach that the skill-up sessions and workshops at CarpentryCon offered. My teaching and workshop organisation have been directly improved as a result of my participation at CarpentryCon, and I look forward to continuing the work we began at CarpentryCon towards merging Library Carpentry as a formal partner of The Carpentries. Finally, meeting everybody whom I’ve gotten to know so well through the computer screen was such a fantastic, emotional experience. I can’t thank The Carpentries enough for assisting my travel to this most valuable event.

Erika (South Africa)

Participating in Carpentry Con was an extremely rewarding experience: Being able to share the work I’ve done with colleagues and learn even more practical skills to improve my work in The Carpentries community was an opportunity I’m so grateful to have had. As a member of a task force within The Carpentries, the conference provided us an invaluable opportunity to meet and work in person for the first time which was wonderful. As a Carpentries instructor I’ve expanded the network of people I know and understand better the work they are doing in the community. The workshops and lightning talks I attended were well-presented and relevant. I’m still working through the reading list, notes, bookmarks etc I’ve made two weeks later and learning more. The most effective and impactful conference I have attended to date.

Lactatia (South Africa)

What a wonderful workshop! CarpentryCon was the most useful, engaging and interesting workshop that I have ever attended in my career. Trust me I couldn’t miss any session, it was hard for me to choose which sessions to attend because I really wanted to attend all sessions as they were all interesting. The organisers did an awesome job in ensuring smooth running of the workshop. I have networked with almost 80% of the participants and I have learned so much. I pray and hope that this kind of platform doesn’t end here but continues for the generations to come because that is what the world needs to break through the challenges in data management. Thanks to TENET and The Carpentries for funding me to attend this workshop.

Juan (South Africa)

What a conference, best way that I can describe it was that it felt like reuniting with old friends. The shared “Carpentries” approach was visible in many ways during the conference’s engaging talks and skill-ups. I was enriched with all that was shared on how we teach, learn, and make a difference in our respective fields and communities. The conference for myself was about the “How and why you do what you do” and not only about what you do or did.

  • How to you treat colleagues and participants at workshops
  • How you can be an ally
  • How you can move on to new things and let go when it is time
  • How you share and care and build something out of almost nothing

And finally how grateful and thankful I am for great colleagues, friends, and opportunities to be a part of a volunteer organisation that makes a real impact not only when it come to the scientific matters but in people’s lives.

Thank you all

Katrin (South Africa)

I joined The Carpentries community in April 2017 when I attended the instructor training in Cape Town and since then I enjoy being part of this active community. Going to CarpentryCon and meeting many different ‘carpenters’ was a great experience. I particularly enjoyed the break-out sessions, e.g. on mentoring or on continuous learning and discussions about challenges we face as instructors. When I attended the Library Carpentry Onboarding session on Friday, I also learned that whatever background I have, there is always something I can contribute within The Carpentries. I took lots of ideas and motivation from CarpentryCon for building a community at my university in Durban, where the next workshop was just confirmed and more and more people become interested.

Anelda (South Africa)

What struck me most about this conference was (i) how well it was organised, and (ii) how much of a difference it made to have “met” such a large percentage of people online (via email or virtual meetings) before coming together in person. It was one of a very few conferences (and actually I can’t remember any other) where I never felt left out or totally isolated or like an impostor. At all times there were people around whom I have met online before or who knew someone in common. It was still great however to make some new acquaintances and I really look forward to bumping into you online in the near future. The conference offered a good balance of discussions or skill-up sessions related to interpersonal stuff and on the other hand more technical topics. By Friday I was happy to sit in the “Next steps for R” session and learn a few new tricks in R. It’s sometimes way easier than the interpersonal things. CarpentryCon left me with a LOT to think about in terms of inclusivity and diversity, ally skills, and targets and I am still digesting it (and probably will be for a long time). Thanks to community members who nominated me as keynote speaker and for the committee for inviting me and helping fund my travel. It was a terrific experience. And of course a huge thanks for the African Carpentry Task Force who are playing an instrumental role in the next phase of The Carpentries in Africa.

A BIG THANK YOU!! from the African attendees and congratulations on organising what was clearly an exceptional event.


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