Sharing the Journey of Mon.School at IndiaFOSS 2.0

My very first conference experience at IndiaFOSS 2.0, held in Bangalore in July 2022.

 · 6 min read

Back in May 2022, when Rushabh, my mentor, first asked me to give a talk about Mon.School at the IndiaFOSS Conference 2.0, I wasn’t sure about it. I had never attended a conference before. So the thought of giving a talk at one gave me chills. Plus I knew FOSS United had turned into a big deal over the past year. So the number of people attending would be much more than last time.

Later, on giving more thought to it, I realized that I should be really doing it. Maybe not for myself, but definitely for Mon.School. It deserves to be known in our community. So after some reluctance, I submitted the proposal.

I started working on my talk. Then came the ever-present annoying voice from within, who will actually take an interest in knowing about this. Will people actually care? I was watching videos from the first IndiaOS conference to get an idea of how people introduce their work and share their stories. There, I saw talks where speakers were sharing their journey of 5-7 years and how they finally got to where they are. In comparison, Mon.School had just completed a year and we are yet to see the kind of response we want.

I tried my best to ignore this annoying voice and carried on with my preparations. When my talk was ready, I got it reviewed by Rushabh. He liked my presentation and that gave me the first dose of confidence that I needed.

The Travel

The day of the conference was approaching and I started preparing for my travel to Bangalore from Mumbai. I had never been to Bangalore before. I was both nervous and excited. We had planned to reach a day before the conference. So the early morning of 22nd July 2022, I reached Bangalore with my teammates Sayali, Rushabh, and Umair.

The cool weather was immediately apparent. It was a relief after the hot mess that Mumbai is. We lost half a day traveling from Bangalore airport to our hotel. After lunch, Sayali and I went to the Tipu Sultan Summer Palace. It was serene and beautiful.

Once we were done exploring the palace, we got a call from Rushabh asking us if we will join him at the Zerodha Office. He had decided to paint the main banner of the conference instead of getting it printed. 

We reached and saw a giant piece of white cloth on a table and Rushabh was making some outlines on it. He said that the plan was to have IndiaFOSS in white font with colorful background around it. He asked if we can make objects around the main heading which represent something we stand for. I am not good at painting but I wanted to be a part of this. So we started and eventually other Frappe members joined us too.

After 4 hours of sketching, painting, and some mess, we were done. During the process, it wasn’t clear where we were heading but the final result seemed to be worth everything. Then we went back to the hotel. Since it had been a very long day, I was extremely tired and so I immediately fell asleep.

The Day of my Talk

I woke up early the next morning as it was the day of my talk. I was nervous but tried to stay calm. I asked Sayali if she would like to be the first official audience for my talk (the first unofficial audience was my husband who now has my entire talk memorized). I rehearsed in front of her and it went well. We then had breakfast and left for NIMHANS Convention Center, the venue of the conference.

At the entrance, we saw the poster which we had worked on last night and the poster looked like it belonged there. We saw people taking pictures in front of it. It made my heart warm seeing people like want we put our efforts into.

Inside was a big hall where a lot of activities were taking place simultaneously. We first got ourselves registered, after which I met a lot of people. I met Anand Chitiputhu for the first time after working for a year with him. I then entered the auditorium where my talk was scheduled.

The opening talk was given by Rushabh who shared the journey of FOSS United with us all. It felt good knowing that we were all gathered together that day because Rushabh and his friends actually cared about FOSS and took efforts in forming the community. Next was the talk by Kovind Goyal who is the creator of Calibre. I was really nervous during this talk because my turn was next.

When they called my name, I went on stage and started with my talk. Slowly as the presentation progressed my nervousness subsided. I sneaked glances at the audience to gauge their reaction. I saw a few people laughing which made me tense but later I realized they were laughing at the mention of Wolf Gupta, the supposed 9-13 years age kid who got a job at Google but whose actual existence was never proven.

My presentation had a mention of Anand but I noticed he wasn’t there. Right when I got to his part where I talked about the Joy of Programming course, he came back :) I also saw Rushabh enter the auditorium with a man in a suit who I later came to know was Abhishek Singh, President, and CEO of NeGD. 

My presentation ended on time and then there was a Q/A round. People were curious about the challenges Mon.School may face against aggressive ed-tech startups and various ways in which programming can be made interesting to students who don’t know how to program at all.

I felt very relieved at the end of my presentation. I was finally able to pay full attention to the talks that followed mine. It was interesting to see the work that people in the community had done.

During the lunch and tea break, a lot of people came to me telling me they liked my talk which gave me the kind of happiness that is difficult to describe through words. They shared their experiences with various learning management systems either as a teacher or a student. Listening to them, I realized that there is still so much more that I can do with this app. The day had been a long one so after dinner, I went straight to the hotel to sleep.

The Final Day

The next day was also filled with various interesting talks. Moosa Meher’s talk about how he founded the TinkerHub foundation and the work of his team in Kerala made me realize how Mumbai lacks this community energy and the students here need something exactly like this. 

Aditya Hase, my colleague at Frappe, shared the story of his brave decision to open-source Frappe Cloud, one of the major revenue generators of Frappe. It was certainly inspiring to see him not compromise his principles no matter the cost and risk.

At the end of the last day was a panel discussion by the FOSS United team which was transformed into a community discussion instead. People were sharing their appreciation and suggestions on how the community can be made better. 

The team then raised the concern about the lack of female participation, again. The girls were asked what more can be done to bridge this gap. It made me really think about this difference. I personally feel that the FOSS United team is not hindering female participation in any way and there is encouragement from their side. The real problem lies in the day-to-day interactions. Making assumptions that someone can do or can’t do something because of their gender is not cool. These assumptions are internally wired in our brains and come out very subtly in our daily conversations. I do this too sometimes. But I am making a conscious effort to uproot them. I think every individual should be doing the same.

With all the talks and discussions the day came to end. A group picture was taken. Everyone said their goodbyes with a promise to meet again at a similar event. The energy that I experienced these two days with these amazing people is something I will never forget. I felt privileged to be a part of this group. It was all because of the efforts of all the volunteers who made this event a huge success. There is one thing I know for sure. I will put in more effort this year to help the community and contribute in any way I can.

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