[Edu-sig] Fwd: Python for Secretaries

Catherine Devlin catherine.devlin at gmail.com
Mon Sep 21 16:37:58 CEST 2009

Hi, edu-sig.  I'm not a teacher; I've taken an Intro to Python lecture
around the Ohio region a bit, that's all.  I have a bug in my brain to
put together some material (a good website and a class) aimed at
business users.  Laura suggested that I get your input, which makes
huge amounts of sense.

There's a new wiki page for the project at


- your ideas and resources, please!  I'm finding that I need to mine
information on some of these officey tasks from some very coarse ore;
shortcuts you can provide will be quite welcome.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Catherine Devlin <catherine.devlin at gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 10:45 PM
Subject: Python for Secretaries
To: diversity <diversity at python.org>

I'd like to ask for more input on a personal ambition of mine that has
a diversity tie-in.

I blogged about it here:

The idea is a website and a class designed to show businesspeople a
little bit of programming that they can use in the computer tasks they
already have.  Not to make them into real programmers (at least, not
yet), but to show how they can automate some of the tasks that work
makes them do anyway.

(If a few of them end up becoming passionate hobby programmers, or
even switching careers, and joining the ranks of contributing Python
programmers... well, OK, that hope is the ulterior motive from our
point of view.)

I'd like your ideas on
- what should be covered
- any existing sources of documentation to draw on
- tasks to automate

I like the title "Computer Programming for Secretaries (and other
businesspeople)", even though not many people are literally called
"secretaries" anymore, because it's a very unpretentious title - it
would emphasize that it's aimed at people who don't feel like they
could survive a serious programming course.

There are lots of beginning programming guides out there, but as far
as I know, they are all aimed either at students, or at people who
already know that they want to get deeper into programming; people who
want to program for programming's sake.  I'd like something for people
with a totally different goal.  It would differ from regular
beginners' classes in that it:

- would highlight ways to use data in typical business apps (yeah,
that means MS Excel, Access, etc.) - this is *not* prominent
information right now even for experienced Pythonistas
- would feature exercises in business tasks rather than games, mathematics, etc.

The diversity tie-in is this: here in the USA, a sampling of
businesspeople working in most any office has a MUCH broader
cross-section of the population than Python has now.  Any recruits
Python gets from such a population would almost certainly broaden us.
Also, "secretary" has feminine implications in the U.S., and I
wouldn't mind if that led to a female-heavy group of students.

So, anyway.  I'd love your suggestions (here or as blog comments).

Oh, and - this is only one of my many ambitions and responsibilities,
which means I'm not even going to get seriously started on it anytime
too soon.  Please, if you have the passion and the time, STEAL THIS
IDEA!  I'd love to hitch belatedly onto a train that *you* get going.

- Catherine

- Catherine
*** PyOhio * July 25-26, 2009 * pyohio.org ***

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