Welcome Kari, Coraline, and Anna to the RailsBridge board!

We’re thrilled to announce three new members of the RailsBridge community have joined our board of directors!


Kari Bancroft is a Software Development Instructor at Ada Developers Academy where she works as a teacher and mentor for growing junior developers. Kari has previously worked as a Senior Software Engineer and an Instructor for a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Facebook. She is extremely passionate about helping new developers find their place in the industry. When she’s not teaching or writing code, Kari is probably playing with her dog Kylo, dancing around the house or writing songs about snacks. Find her on twitter @karianneban.


coralineCoraline Ada Ehmke is a speaker, writer, teacher, open source advocate and technologist
with 20 years of experience in developing apps for the web. As the founder of OS4W.org and creator of the Contributor Covenant, she works diligently to promote diversity and inclusivity in open source and the tech industry. She works for GitHub as a senior engineer on a team devoted to creating community management and anti-harassment tools. Coraline is also writing a book on empathy in software development. Her current interests include refactoring, code analytics, and artificial intelligence.


annaAnna Neyzberg attended her first RailsBridge workshop in 2013. It was incredible and was what inspired her to learn to code. Since her first workshop, she has been looking for ways to give back to the amazing RailsBridge community. The past two years she has served as the organizer manager and then chapter lead for the SF chapter. She works as an engineer at Carbon Five and is a co-organizer of SF.rb, a new Ruby meetup in San Francisco. When she is not working or community organizing, she likes learning to climb rocks and looking for places to have a delicious cappuccino.


Thank you to everyone who submitted an application to join the board! RailsBridge is lucky to have you in our community, and we look forward to continuing to work with all of you on making tech better.


Welcome Kari, Coraline, and Anna to the RailsBridge board!


The RailsBridge board is excited to announce our organizational initiatives for 2016 and 2017! Broadly, we want to reach more communities that are under-represented in technology, create stronger communities in areas that currently have workshops, and sponsor workshops in more geographic areas.

The goals came from a lot of discussion. The Board of Directors drafted the first version in late 2015 and worked with the Advisory Board to refine them. Reaching our goals will take the effort of many RailsBridge chapters and leaders around the world, and we’re excited to have so many talented volunteers. (If we happen to reach all these goals in the next 6 months, we’ll set new ones!)

For each of the goals, we want to share the specific goal, why it’s important to us, and ways that you can help us succeed.

Initiative One: Reach New Populations

RailsBridge has historically focused on running workshops for women, and though we’ve partnered with other communities over the years, this year we’re officially expanding our outreach to other under-represented populations in tech, including people of color, LGBTQ folks, non-native-English speakers in the United States, and low-income groups.


The board will work with eight of our existing chapters to partner with local organizations and hold a workshop for an under-represented group other than women.


Working with women was a natural place for RailsBridge to start; our two founders were women trying to get more women into the San Francisco Ruby community. But our ambitions have always been bigger. We want to make the Ruby community as a whole more welcoming to diverse people.

Some chapters have already been working with other groups — for example, RailsBridge Savannah has focused on low income populations from the beginning, and RailsBridge San Francisco has put on workshops partnering with groups like Black Founders and the Latino Startup Alliance.

Working with a new population requires understanding where they’re coming from, and also finding representative instructors. So it’s important for us to partner with organizations that already have strong community ties. For this initiative, we’ll seek those partners and work with the chapters that have experience with this kind of outreach, and ultimately create a guide that other chapters can follow.

How You Can Help

If you know of an organization that might be a good partner for presenting a RailsBridge workshop, please get in touch! Although our goal is to help existing chapters expand their outreach, if you want to help organize a workshop in a new place, please let us help you! The RailsBridge board plans on doing fundraising in conjunction with Bridge Foundry to be able to financially support these workshops. Email community-partnerships@railsbridge.org to learn more!

Initiative Two: Build and Support Communities

RailsBridge has historically held 2-day workshops that provide technical instruction in software development. Over time, we’ve discovered that their biggest impact has been the tight-knit, inclusive community the workshops foster rather than in the immediate technical instruction.

We want to support more community building, and where it doesn’t happen currently, we want to help organizers move from putting on occasional, isolated workshops to creating regularly-occurring events that help people learn together.


The board will support five of our existing chapters in running their second or third workshop, while working to reduce organizer workload and lower potential burnout.


So many of our attendees tell us that the best thing about a RailsBridge workshop is the feeling of belonging they get, surrounded by people like them who are near their skill level and are also figuring out if software development is something they want to do.

The relationships that form at RailsBridge workshops can be powerful and long-lasting, and are cemented by ongoing contact at other events. We want to help more RailsBridge chapters develop this sort of ongoing community.

At the same time, we recognize that organizing an event is a lot of work, so an important part of this initiative is making it easier to run events and recruit volunteers. Rachel Ober of RailsBridge NYC gave a great talk at Open Source & Feelings about her experience as a RailsBridge chapter leader.

The RailsBridge Chapter Committee is currently developing a toolkit to help chapters make the leap from one-time event organizers to their second or third workshop. We hope to help chapters with things like volunteer recruitment, fundraising, and internal communication so that they can be successful.

How You Can Help

If you’ve had a workshop (or a few!) in your area but haven’t been able to have more, please get in touch! We’ll work with you to facilitate community and learning without burning out.

We could also use your help in improving our chapter toolkit, whether you’ve organized one workshop or twelve. For early access, or to tell us that you’d love to help with the chapter toolkit, please email communities@railsbridge.org.

Initiative Three: Expand to New Areas

RailsBridge’s organic growth has been tremendous, and in 2016, for the first time, we will target particular metro areas for new RailsBridge workshops.


We will provide financial and logistical support for workshops in fifteen new areas. We’re still working with partners to determine which specific areas will have the biggest impact.


In 2015, we expanded nine new cities organically; fifteen cities is a stretch goal for us, and we want to do it without taking significant resources away from our first two initiatives.

We have the ability to support new cities in a variety of ways, including connecting people in the area who want to help, working with institutional partners in the area, helping with outreach to students, or helping with money. The kind of support RailsBridge provides to each new city will depend on what organizers need.

How You Can Help

Organize a workshop in a city that hasn’t had one! We’ll make sure you have the mentorship and support you need. It will be a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding.

You can also connect us with companies and organizations in cities that could host or sponsor a workshop in a new area. Email expansion@railsbridge.org to start the conversation!

2016 and Beyond

Thanks to everyone who helped shape our 2016 goals. We’re incredibly excited about the direction of the organization. This year is our most promising yet because of the hard work of the hundreds of volunteers that are continually organizing, teaching, and giving input about what could be even better.

Achieving everything we want to in the coming years will require time, energy, and financial resources. We would love your individual support via PayPal, or if your company or organization wants to become a sponsor, please email hello@railsbridge.org.

See you at a workshop!


The RailsBridge Chapter Outreach team needs you

RailsBridge is seeking new and experienced organizers to join the Chapter Outreach Team!

One of the RailsBridge board’s major goals for 2016 is to better support existing RailsBridge chapters and make it easier to start a new chapter. Our documentation for running an individual workshop is extensive, but we currently don’t have much written down for setting up chapter leadership, coordinating ongoing fundraising, and managing the workload of recurring workshops.

We’re looking to start a team to streamline chapter outreach and communication and create a kit for new chapters. This kit will provide new chapter organizers information and advice collected from RailsBridge chapters about topics like working with the RailsBridge finance team and using the Board and the larger RailsBridge community as a resource. Anyone who has organized a workshop before (even just one!) would be a great member of this team.

Applications for the positions will close on November 15, 2015. Email us with questions at volunteer@railsbridge.org.

Read through the volunteer openings with have here: http://bit.ly/railsbridge-volunteer-descriptions-2015

Apply to join a RailsBridge team here:

The RailsBridge Chapter Outreach team needs you

Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Email, or Podcast for RailsBridge!

If you love words, RailsBridge, and the Internet, please get in touch — RailsBridge is looking for volunteers to form a communications team!

We’ve had tremendous success in the last six years growing primarily through word of mouth (and about three tweets per month), but we’d like be more intentional about how we share our accomplishments and goals with the world. That’s where you come in!

You will be the voice of an organization doing work that you care about, seeing and sharing the fruits of our collective efforts.

There is a lot of amazing work happening throughout the world with RailsBridge, and the communications team will have a chance to speak broadly about RailsBridge as well as work directly with chapter leaders to promote individual chapters’ efforts. The communications team will also be instrumental to the success of RailsBridge’s 2016 goals of expanding into new communities and new cities.

There are many different communications avenues that the team can focus on, such as social media, blogging, press releases, or even a RailsBridge podcast! The communications team will help the board figure out which channels of communication would be most exciting for the team and most helpful for RailsBridge.

Applications for the positions will close on November 15, 2015. Email us with questions at volunteer@railsbridge.org.

Read through the volunteer opening descriptions: http://bit.ly/railsbridge-volunteer-descriptions-2015

Apply to join a RailsBridge team!

Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Email, or Podcast for RailsBridge!

Join the RailsBridge Fundraising Team!

Is your life better because of RailsBridge? Do you want to enable diverse communities to experience the excitement of writing their first Ruby program?

The RailsBridge board is planning a fundraising campaign to support expansion in 2016, and we’re looking for volunteers to work with us on planning and executing this campaign!

In 2016, we’re hoping to expand RailsBridge to new cities and new marginalized groups we haven’t partnered with before. We want to dedicate money to those efforts, so workshop organizers can focus on students and volunteers, rather than worry about who’s going to pay for the Installfest pizza.

We’ve traditionally fundraised for individual workshops or for a specific purpose. But for 2016 we’re considering running a crowdfunding campaign. This kind of fundraiser is new for us, so we’re especially excited to find members of the global RailsBridge community with experience running a crowdfunding campaign, or who are new to crowdfunding but excited about running one.

Read through the descriptions of the different volunteer positions we’re filling: http://bit.ly/railsbridge-volunteer-descriptions-2015, and please consider applying for one of them!

Applications for the positions will close on November 15, 2015. Email us with questions at volunteer@railsbridge.org.

Join the RailsBridge Fundraising Team!

An excited welcome to Ana & Bianca!

RailsBridge is thrilled to announce that Ana Castro and Bianca Rodrigues have joined our board! They started in June 2015, and have been making excellent contributions already.

Both Ana and Bianca bring a wealth of experience as RailsBridge chapter organizers, and Lillie, Rachel, and Sarah are all extremely excited to have their voices and ideas to help guide the organization.

Please join us in welcoming Ana and Bianca to the board!

Ana Castro is a software engineer at MagmaLabs focused on front-end development and is passionate about best practices and performance. She loves CSS, Vim, Ruby and JavaScript. She has been running the chapter in Colima since the first workshop in Mexico took place two years ago, and also led the translation of the RailsBridge curriculum into Spanish. The best reward for her is the smile of the attendees when learning Rails. She’s also director of Women Who Code Colima.

When not writing code she’s practicing sports like swimming or cycling. Ana enjoys cooking, outdoor activities, and taking long walks with her dogs. Find her on Twitter as @anymoto.

Bianca Rodrigues has been involved with Bianca RodriguesRailsBridge since the first New York City workshop
in 2013. After her incredible experience (and as the proud owner of her very first Rails app), she was hooked. Bianca started organizing events later that year and is an active member of the organizing team in New York. She currently works at Accenture Interactive where she works on digital marketing projects for various clients.

Bianca’s favorite season is summer and her favorite drink is a mojito. You can find her on Twitter as @biancarods.

An excited welcome to Ana & Bianca!

Seeking More Board Members

The RailsBridge board has two open seats! We’re looking for experienced RailsBridge volunteers outside of the SF Bay Area to join the board for a two-year term. If you’re interested in joining or want to nominate someone, send us an email at board@railsbridge.org.

We’ve also written a the RailsBridge board charter and published it on our board repo. It’s pretty short, and it covers things like the responsibilities of the board & board members, board communications, and procedures for filling board vacancies.

If you’re considering nominating yourself or someone else to the board, here are the responsibilities of RailsBridge board members:

  • Serve on the board for a 2 year term
  • Attend monthly board meetings
  • Serve on at least one RailsBridge team or committee (i.e. finance, communications, geographic expansion, operations)
  • Board members should expect to do 15-20 hours of RailsBridge work per month, depending on the board member’s responsibilities
  • Recruit new committee and board members
  • Attend two RailsBridge workshops per year

And here are the guidelines for board candidates:

  • Nominees should be current or former RailsBridge volunteers.
  • Nominees should have at least six months of involvement with RailsBridge.
  • Nominees with prior leadership experience within their chapter or in the larger RailsBridge organization will be preferred.

We hope to have the two vacancies filled by the end of April, so send us your nominations!

We’d also love to hear any feedback, questions, or suggestions you have about the board charter — you can get in touch at board@railsbridge.org or open an issue on the board’s GitHub repo.

Seeking More Board Members

New Leadership in San Francisco

Here in the Bay Area, we’ve held a RailsBridge workshop nearly every month for the past four years. But demand hasn’t subsided — in fact, every workshop we do still fills up weeks ahead of time. Behind the scenes, the consistent production of 30-100 person events is a lot of work.

We owe this incredible streak to the efforts of our RailsBridge SF organizers and meta-organizers. But our current leadership structure is burning out our best people, so we’re trying something different. We’ve split the role we previously called “meta-organizer” into three roles.

We’re excited to introduce you to the new RailsBridge San Francisco leadership team! Ruchika Kumar will be our initial Chapter LeadCeleste Layne will be our initial Venue Manager, and Anna Neyzberg will be our initial Organizer Manager. We’re starting with three-month terms that we’ll extend if everyone is still having fun (and we hope they are!). Here’s a bit more about these amazing women who have stepped up to help grow RailsBridge San Francisco:

Ruchika Kumar, Chapter Lead

Ruchika schedules and supports workshops happening in San Francisco. She manages the SF calendar, ensuring that workshops are happening at a good pace — one or two each month. She also recruits workshop organizers and new leaders to our community, by attending workshops and other events, and champions the work of the current volunteer base. As the leader of the SF chapter, Ruchika works to make sure that volunteers aren’t burning out, and is able to step into roles temporarily if needed. A dark-haired woman smiles at the camera, laughing

Ruchika, from rainy Manchester, UK, moved to the USA eight years ago. After a few years in NYC she opted for sunny California and has co-founded multiple products with Ruby On Rails, latest being omni channel SaaS SKU IQ. Her first stop in SF was a Railsbridge workshop.

CelestE Layne, Venue Manager

Celeste is the one to talk to if your company would like to host a RailsBridge event! She maintains our good relationships with the companies that host our events, and works with new venue partners. She writes a lot of email, checks out new venues, communicates RailsBridge’s expectations and requirements, and follows up after events to hear how it went. Then she cycles that input back to the leadership team to consider when planning future events. A woman rides a bike with a full basket and a smile

Celeste is originally from the island of Trinidad and Tobago. She moved to the Bay Area approximately two years ago, after growing up in New York City, to combine her background in architecture and urban planning with tech. She found a welcoming community in RailsBridge. She currently works as an active transportation planner in SoMa.

Anna Neyzberg, Organizer Manager

Anna recruits and supports organizers for individual workshops. Many people don’t think they can organize events, so much of her job is explaining how much fun organizing is when you have a team of co-organizers. A woman in a coat smiles at the cameraShe identifies serial participants who should be recruited as volunteers, and works with the RailsBridge board and SF leadership team to recruit organizer mentors and match them with new workshop organizers. She also follows up with the organizers after their workshops to thank them and identify improvements we can make in the planning process.

Anna is a Bay Area native who opted out of med school to enter the exciting world of web development. She loves being outdoors, traveling, and handcrafted coffee. RailsBridge SF was her first real introduction to web development.

Want to host or sponsor a RailsBridge event in San Francisco? You can email the SF Leadership Team at sf@railsbridge.org. Want to make a general donation to RailsBridge or help in some other way? Get in touch via hello@railsbridge.org.

New Leadership in San Francisco

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

How I Meta-Organize in San Francisco

This month marked the first anniversary of my joining Rachel Myers as a RailsBridge meta-organizer. After I organized a workshop in March 2012, she asked me at the afterparty if I wanted to help her make workshops happen each month by finding organizers and venues. Drunk on the power of having successfully helped 60 humans learn Rails (and several delicious beers), I agreed.

Over the last year, we’ve ramped up from having an average of one workshop per month, to three workshops every two months, to two workshops per month. This is mostly due to ever-present demand and the growing number of curricula written by awesome volunteers. We do an Intro to Rails workshop every month, and then other workshops on a rotating basis. We are super lucky to have a lot of companies willing to support RailsBridge by opening their office doors and buying dinner, breakfast, and lunch for our students and volunteers.

What a meta-organizer does

My workflow with Rachel has evolved over the year. At first, there was a lot of copying of eachother on emails to organizers and venues, and keeping lots of things (potential organizers, potential venues) in our inboxes and in our heads. Since we do not have a hive mind, though, I made a spreadsheet where we could list out our prospective organizers / venues, the status of each upcoming workshop, and which of us was responsible for making sure that worskhop took place.

With that spreadsheet in place, the planning part of the meta-organizing role is mostly straightforward:

  • At least once per quarter, get together to brainstorm and send emails.
  • Comb through the past volunteer and organizer lists to see who might be willing to organize again or for the first time.
  • Look through our list of companies who have previously offered to host or that we have contacts at and decide who to ask.
  • Send out a bunch of emails to potential organizers and venues.
  • Follow up with those who have questions or are up for it.
  • Connect volunteers and venues to pick a date for their workshop.

(This process gets way simpler when people volunteer to organize; often these folks are also volunteering their company to host. This is particularly awesome for Rachel and me, because we get to skip straight to supporting the organizers.)

It often takes a month or so of emails back and forth to firm up a date for a workshop that’s a couple months out. But once dates are chosen and venues confirmed, we are mostly around to support organizers and their mentors. We assign most organizers mentors, even if they’ve organized before, since it can be nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and Rachel and I aren’t always available. We often have a kick-off meetup with the organizers at the venue or a cafe to go over the general details and answer any questions they have.


Not surprisingly, the biggest challenges that I’ve had as a meta-organizer have been around communication. Sometimes it’s between the venue and the organizers, or the organizers with eachother, or some other group of people. One of the big projects I worked on last year was overhauling the Organizer Cookbook, in the hopes that it would help our organizers become more independent. It’s worked! But sometimes people don’t read it. It’s pretty long, so I don’t blame anyone for being a little overwhelmed by it. Project for 2013: make a high-level intro to organizing that is factual and fun.

I’m a pretty detail-oriented person, but I try not be anyone’s boss about exactly how to make their workshop happen. I have about a million opinions about organizing and what works best, but workshops tend to be okay (actually, great) without perfectionism. Rachel is a much more relaxed person than me, so it’s good that we work together. We’ve got the good cop / bad cop thing down to a T. (She is both totally positive and totally realistic in a way that regularly blows my mind.)

The other main challenge to being a meta-organizer is the onslaught of exciting information. Since we’re pretty visible in the RailsBridge community, people often direct their questions and ideas to us, which is amazing! And also can be totally overwhelming when you’re also trying to make workshops happen, have a full-time job, and in my case, build Bridge Troll. So it can be hard to always follow up on the cool things people throw our way, and another of my goals this year is to recruit more community manager and geographic outreach people, so new organizers in other cities have a clear path to making a workshop happen.

What’s Next?

Do you know anyone who loves tech and humans and spreadsheets? I’d really love to hear about them. I might have communicated this already, but I’m really busy, and I’d love to have more leaders in this amazing community.

For the less spreadsheet-inclined, we need help in about a million different ways, especially writers to help us communicate what we’re doing and talkers to help mentor and encourage our organizers.

Email me at lillie dot chilen at gmail dot com with any nominations, questions, or silly cat gifs.

(Cross-posted at http://lillielillie.tumblr.com.)

How I Meta-Organize in San Francisco