15 years ago a phone call changed my career forever.
I had not long started working as a tech recruiter, in the job for just over 6 months. My remit was to place contractors within the software engineering sector across the south of England covering multiple technologies.
This worked out to an extent but I never felt I had a specialist focus and was often chasing the wrong things, a jack of all trades - master of none.
The phone call I made was into an insurance company in Norwich who I understood were looking for developers. The hiring manager explained that they were using a new technology called Django (version 0.96) and had several large projects coming up.
The initial requirement was for 2 contractors to work onsite 5 days a week who had a strong Python background along with knowledge (commercial or not) of Django or other web frameworks.
If I could find these people, there would be a chance to help with other roles in the team as they grew. This was the FIRST time I had heard of Django and there were not really many developers to be found in the usual places.
Job boards were pretty bare, LinkedIn wasn’t really a thing. I had to get pretty creative to find developers - let alone find those available immediately for work, able to commute or move to Norwich during the week.
The more people I spoke to about the roles and the problem surrounding it the more suggestions I was given. Someone directed me towards twitter where I followed and connected with a few devs. I found the Developer profiles on djangogigs.com and also found a great resource called djangopeople - this was a website where early users of Django would “pin” themselves on a map and link their profiles. Some would also list themselves as open to work or as freelancers.
Eventually I found two great developers who both wanted the opportunity to work with Django commercially and were happy to be onsite. One was local(ish) but the other had a 9 hour drive from Scotland each way to get there. They both got the job and started soon after.
A few weeks later, I met the client and the contractors. They were doing well and everyone was happy. The client then told me they would need one or two more Django developers and would like me to do the search again.
I had some momentum with my process at this point and had actually found someone locally who was going to be available a month later. He started on the project too.
The next meeting resulted in further developer hires and soon I was scouring the UK again to find more Django people who met the requirements in front of me.
By constantly speaking to Django developers, I learned of more companies using the technology and needing help to hire into their teams. Some of the contractors I placed during the next few years have gone on to become experts in the field and are running engineering teams of their own.
The more I worked with Django people, the more I enjoyed their company, the more I understood the OpenSource ecosystem and the motivation to work on client projects in the day and on side projects that could help improve Django for everyone else in the evenings.
Sometime in 2010 I attended my first meetup, an event called the Pyssup (Piss up) which was held in a pub in London. 10-15 Python people turned up to chat and drink some pints. I was also recommended to attend the Django User Group London (DJUGL) later that month.
I messaged the organiser to see if they would mind me attending, all was good. I booked my place and started speaking to people I knew around London who might be interested in going so I wasn’t totally alone when I got there.
The sponsor dropped out last minute and a message was sent to the attendees about finding someone to cover the cost of the beers and pizza. I immediately offered to sponsor on behalf of the company I was with at the time. I was even asked to introduce myself to the room on the night.
I was hooked, the talks were fascinating and getting to meet so many people was great fun. I even got invited back, the next time as a sponsor too. This continued for some time, I would attend the events with colleagues who helped with the logistics of running the ever growing meetups.
Because my day job was now 100% focussed on speaking to companies in and around London who were using Django I would often find spaces that could hold/host events and was always speaking to people with interesting projects who could speak at the DJUGL events. I was invited to be a part of the organising team.
A year or so later I was pretty much finding the venue, the speakers and providing sponsorship every time (we met quarterly-ish) and with some of the other organisers leaving London/changing jobs I took on the responsibility of looking after this event for the community. Through the years we’ve held so many different events, brought hundreds of people together and made some long lasting friendships. Several of which I have ended up working with, either hiring into their teams or helping them find work.
We celebrated the 10th anniversary just before the pandemic with a night where speakers from over the years attended and gave new talks.
During the pandemic I changed employers and later went on to start Foxley Talent a year later. My love of the community remains. Stronger now, because without Django I wouldn’t have had the career I have or the opportunities that it has presented me.
Looking back though, I can pin it all on that one phone call.