On being a coach at Rails Girls

March 25, 2017 · 3 mins read

Meetups are a great way to expand the Ruby community. I myself found my first Ruby job through a meetup, back when I only had a couple months of programming experience under my belt. This single night led to a whole new career and completely changed my life. Since then, I have always felt I owed a great deal to meetups.

So when I got asked to participate as a mentor to a Rails Girls event, I immediately accepted. Rails Girls is a Finnish organization aiming to give tools for women to build their ideas. The tech community definitely needs more diversity in its ranks, and this is a great way to make at least some progress on that front. Plus, it’s fun!

Some random notes from the workshop:

  • Being a coach when you’re still unsure about your own abilities can be a little challenging. Whenever a hand went up for a question, I was hoping that this was something I could answer.
  • Saying “I don’t know” as a coach is very important. It’s about showing that even coaches don’t know everything, and that it’s more important to figure things out than to know them by heart.
  • Ruby on Windows is still not there yet. People kept running into all sorts of issues, from problems installing the database to corporate firewalls we couldn’t bypass (okay, this is not totally Windows’ fault). I also tend to forget just how many computers run Windows outside of the tech bubble!
  • Rails is a big beast and is definitely a lot to take in in one day!
  • A couple of things tripped a lot of people:
    • Knowing when and where instance variables are available. The magic that makes your controller instance variables show up in views (but not in models) is not intuitive to reason about (or explain) to newcomers.
    • The difference between a rails console and a shell.
  • People are creative. One person had a fully functional app that displayed a timer for when she had to leave to get the next bus home, API calls and all!

Universal Avenue, the company that graciously lent their offices for the event, had a camera laying around that I borrowed. So that day I also doubled as the official event photographer. Some pictures below: