RailsBridge: The Next Stage

Over the last five years, RailsBridge has done hundreds of workshops in dozens of cities around the world. We were one of the first organizations tackling the problem of technology diversity, and our workshops have reached thousands of people and made a measurable impact on the diversity of the Ruby and Rails communities.

None of that could have happened without leadership. Yet during this time, we called ourselves a “flat” or “leaderless” organization. And the organization has changed. At that first workshop in 2009, we were just Sarah Mei and Sarah Allen. These days RailsBridge makes a larger impact than ever, thanks to hundreds of volunteer teachers, TAs, developers, and organizers.

As we’ve grown, we’ve started to feel rather keenly the downsides of a “leaderless” organization. The term itself was a disservice to the informal leaders we did have, and since we didn’t have named roles or teams, it was difficult for new volunteers to figure out how to get involved.

Iterate all the things

So in the spirit of iteration, we’re trying something new. We’ve convened a board of directors with a mandate to create just enough structure to help RailsBridge thrive. We can grow more quickly and efficiently, reduce volunteer burnout, and make a bigger impact on the world if we have explicit, navigable power structures that are accountable to the larger RailsBridge community.


We’ve appointed an interim board — Lillie Chilen, Sarah Mei, and Rachel Myers — who, over the next six months, will build a permanent board that better represents the diversity of RailsBridge geography.

Their specific goals are as follows:

  • Define how board members are added, how long they stay, and how they transition off.
  • Recruit new board members from chapters outside of San Francisco.
  • Establish an annual budget and fundraising plan to support RailsBridge’s expansion and growth.

We have have big plans for what comes after that, but we’ll save that for a future post!

Who are these people?

Lillie Chilen

lillie_face_500Lillie Chilen is the chair of the interim board, and has been running various parts of RailsBridge since 2012. She led the effort to take Bridge Troll from the idea of a workshop management app into functional (and awesome) software, rewrote the Organizing Cookbook from a single timeline into a wiki’s worth of advice, worked as SF meta-organizer for about a year, and has led various other RailsBridge projects. She is a software engineer at Omada Health, and credits the RailsBridge community for turning her vague interest in programming into an actual career.

Sarah Mei

sarah500Sarah founded RailsBridge in 2009 with Sarah Allen, and after a few years away from day-to-day involvement in RailsBridge, is excited to be back to support the wonderful work RailsBridge volunteers around the world have been doing. She does software consulting with DevMynd Software, and spends most of her time on the floor at client companies, pairing with developers, helping level up their teams. She’s also a director of Ruby Central and is writing a book!

Rachel Myers

rachelRachel Myers has been running RailsBridge things since 2010, after attending the second RailsBridge workshop and later becoming the very first San Francisco meta-organizer. She’s a frequent conference speaker and RailsBridge evangelist. Rachel is an engineer at GitHub, where she writes Ruby and JavaScript. In her spare time, she loves drinking Scotch, and playing with Legos and taking her cat on walks.

Where’s Sarah Allen?

We’re delighted to report that Sarah Allen, co-founder of RailsBridge with Sarah Mei, is still heavily involved with the organization. Leadership-wise, though, she’s leading the charge over at Bridge Foundry, a non-profit organization we created when we realized that all the things we knew about how to increase diversity were too good to keep just within the Ruby community. Currently, in addition to RailsBridge, Bridge Foundry is working with ClojureBridge and MobileBridge. Check out their awesome work at bridgefoundry.org.

RailsBridge: The Next Stage