a cultural exchange

Melanie Archer writes that “the point of the Rails for Women workshop is to make a cultural exchange”

It’s like going to a country where you don’t speak the language. You prepare by learning basic phrases which will help you ask directions to the train station, order food from a restaurant menu, and be polite in that country’s etiquette. You don’t start with the pluperfect tense, historical study of that language’s divergence into regional dialects, or intensive scrutiny of the country’s avant-garde poets. Your goal is to enjoy your trip to that country, and, if you do, you might return and gain more facility in its language.

The stated goal of the Rails for Women workshop to increase gender diversity in the Ruby community by helping women learn Rails. By the end of the workshop, however, what’s happened is a lot more positive and enduring than fifty or sixty people inspecting http://localhost:3000 on their laptops.

Instead, there’s an exciting, contagious mood of self-confidence in the participants and volunteers.

She also makes the point that the cultural exchange isn’t just one way.  The workshops benefit the volunteers individually and Rails as a whole.  I have found it to be true personally — each time I volunteer at a workshop, I learn some important detail about Rails or Ruby that I didn’t know before.  First time volunteers usually tell me that they learned a lot.  Volunteers are also, slowly, making Rails more accessible to newcomers, inspired to solve frustrations of workshop participants.

Melanie has volunteered at many workshops and led the May SF Workshop. Read the whole original post on her blog.

a cultural exchange

From know nothing to know something

I went from a Ruby know nothing to a Ruby know something. The San Francisco Ruby on Rails outreach program has been instrumental to introducing me to programming and Ruby. My original motivation to learn programming was to understand my development team as an Agile project manager. This recent 9/10 – 11 workshop was my 3rd. I kept returning because

  1. I have a steep learning curve having never programmed before with only a limited knowledge of HTML
  2. I am new to Ruby and have come to love it
  3. I love the San Francisco Ruby Community especially the women, Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei, who are the driving force for making these workshops available to anyone who wants to learn. They have created a community where local volunteer Rubyists are teaching future Rubyists. Both Sarahs are passionate and dedicated to build a local Ruby community where anyone who wants to learn the Ruby programming language would not be turned away due to lack of opportunities and resources.

The 9/10 – 9/11 workshop was made possible by Pivotal Labs generously offering its space, making its beverage fridge available to all participants, and buying us lunch; Captain Recruiter, Mike Pope, joined as a sponsor, buying beer for the after party, and personally helped with registration.

After Friday evening setup, participants arrived at 9a.m. on Saturday morning, ready to get their hands dirty in learning the Ruby programming language. We all sat down to a brief introduction of San Francisco Ruby, the Ruby programming language, Rails, and Agile development. Then the participants are grouped by Ruby knowledge plus programming experience.

Every time I attend a workshop, I have never ceased to be amazed by the spectrum of participants. We had husbands and wives, roommates, co-workers, mothers, fathers, young people, and the not so young. It’s heartening the see the outreach is actually reaching a large slice of the society in which we live. Sarah Allen put it nicely saying that software developed should reflect our society. I was impressed by the providing of someone to watch young kids so that parents could participate. I liked the chatter of babes in the background, it added a dose of reality somewhat. This time we had little toddlers running around bare footed with their toys. A rather nice distraction when one needs a little respite from hacking, I think.

The workshop ended with a group retrospective and then a party to celebrate a productive weekend of learning the Ruby language and, Rails for those who are more advanced. Please excuse my bragging, I am proud to have graduated from not knowing any formal programming to some programming. I intend to continue attending these workshops and hope one day to give back by being a Teaching Assistant. I have benefited much from San Francisco Ruby outreach workshops most importantly the love (yes, I said love) and support from the local Ruby community is just tremendous and sublime. I made a lot of friends and most of whom were willing to tutor me in person, answer questions via twitter, texts, phone calls, etc. All i can say is Wow! What a community! I feel very blessed, loved, and supported for a geek wannabe. Anyone out there who is intimidated by the task of learning programming or Ruby, try a workshop, it will change your life. It changed mine.

From know nothing to know something

Mighty Ruby Tuesday Event

Mighty Ruby Tuesday Event Raises Funds for Training Women Programmers

Benefit for the RailsBridge Open Workshop Project Aims to Raise $10,000

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – May 24, 2010 – SFRuby Workshops, a volunteer effort dedicated to training women programmers, announces its first crowd fundraiser, Mighty Ruby Tuesday on May 25, 2010 at Mighty in San Francisco.  The event will call attention to the rewards that await women in computer programming careers and raise funds for another year of free training workshops for women in the Ruby language.  It will feature four female DJs in the drive to inspire financial support beyond the corporate sponsorships that have made the first year of the workshops possible.

An effort of the RailsBridge Open Workshop Project, the SFRuby Workshops have trained more than 300 women in Ruby on Rails since 2009.  Initiated in San Francisco, workshops also have been held at Harvard University last October and at Pace University in New York City last week.  The workshops are staffed by volunteer teachers who work with participants in small groups that are organized around participants’ skill levels.  The teams developed a curriculum and basic structure for teaching Ruby that is fully documented and open source.

“In creating these workshops, we wanted to do something by women, for women, with help from a lot of guys,” said Sarah Allen, President of RailsBridge.  “As an open source community effort, Ruby is a great first programming language, and Rails is practical for entrepreneurs seeking to build their own web apps and for software developers who want to update their skills. Ruby on Rails presents a strong career opportunity to women today.”

“The need for Ruby developers grows every day, and our sponsors have been with us every step of the way in helping us get more women into the workforce,” said Sarah Mei, Secretary of RailsBridge and Open Workshop Projects lead.  “While our sponsors remain crucial to our work, this event invites the community at large to be part of the financial engine that keeps the workshops going.”

Sponsors are of the Ruby on Rails Workshops are Heroku, EngineYard, Scribd, Pivotal Labs, Orange Labs, Honk, slideshare, balsamiq, RubyMine, vodpad, PeepCode, Stormweight, and Manning Publications Co.  The workshops also have supporting partner organizations in DevChix, San Francisco Women on the Web and Women 2.0.

About Mighty Ruby Tuesday

Mighty Ruby Tuesday, a benefit for the RailsBridge Open Workshop Project, will take place at San Francisco’s Mighty, 119 Utah Street, in San Francisco from 8:00 pm until midnight.  Tickets are available in advance for $15 by visiting http://mightyrubytuesday.eventbrite.com; at the door, the price is $20.  Corporate and group sponsorships are available for a donation of $250 or more.

About RailsBridge Open Workshop Project

Based in San Francisco, California, the RailsBridge Open Workshop Project has created replicable recipes for successful events.  The SFRuby Workshops, created by Sarah Mei and Sarah Allen, focus on gender equality and women in technology.  The RailsBridge mission is to bridge the gap between aspiring developer and contributing community member through mentoring, teaching and writing.  For more information, visit http://railsbridge.org. The Ruby On Rails Workshops are free, and men are welcome to attend as the +1 of women attending the workshops.  For more information, visit http://sfrubyworkshops.com and http://wiki.railsbridge.org/projects/railsbridge/wiki/Workshops.

Mighty Ruby Tuesday Event

Workshops continue in 2010

On February 26th and 27th, we held a successful workshop at the Microsoft offices in downtown San Francisco, supported by EngineYard, Blazing Cloud, Pivotal Labs and a host of volunteers.  This may be the last workshop led by “the Sarahs” and Ilen, and that is good news.  As we approach the end of our commitment to spend one year teaching at least 200 women Ruby on Rails with the expectation that we would find 10-20 new Rubyists from that group, we find that we have accomplished more than we set out to achieve.  We have taught about 300 women (and some men) Ruby on Rails.  The local SF Ruby meetups routinely have 5-10 women or more.  Sarah Mei recently tallied 18%, reported at SCALE 8x in her talk about moving the needle.

A critical next step is to make the workshops sustainable and we have a plan, at least for this year.  We’re planning to have 3 more workshops in San Francisco, each led by a different team, supported by experienced volunteers.  We have documented the process as part of the RailsBridge Open Workshop project, putting together a set of workshop recipes.  The recipes are still missing a lot of info — we expect to improve the documentation as new leaders learn what we’ve forgotten to write down.  We’ve also heard from people in other cities who would like to create workshops of their own, and maybe create workshops that expand on the curriculum we currently teach or branch out to Javascript or other tech.

If you would like to get involved, join the google group and let us know how you would like to help and also join the mailing list for announcements.

Workshops continue in 2010