Women Teaching Women Technology Part III: Web Start Women

by Jen Lindner

Nicole Noll is a College Fellow at Harvard who teaches Attitudes & Advertising, and Susan Buck is a lecturer on Web Design at University of Pennsylvania – and together they founded Web Start Women, teaching coding and helping incubate technology startups for women.

What motivated you to start this, and how difficult or easy was it to get off the ground?

The specific motivation for Web Start Women, like any fun idea, came from us scratching an itch we had. Nicole and I were working together on some web start-up ideas, and we realized we were feeling isolated in our pursuits. Nicole mentioned some women friends of hers who were also working on businesses and we decided we should have a regular pow-wow with them so we could share ideas, get energized, learn from each other.

Around the same time, I started coming across some posts on Quora asking “What successful tech companies have had women leaders?” This lead to a bunch of link hopping, and I started really getting into this question – where are all the women doing what I do?

These two events sparked this idea: We can help build this community and provide necessary education and tools. We sidelined our other start-up ideas and started full speed ahead on developing Web Start Women.

Do you see a strong crossover in women who want to learn technology and women who want to start their own technology-fueled businesses, or are those more likely to be different camps?

That’s an interesting question and I’m not sure we have quite enough data to answer it yet, but here’s a rundown of what we’ve observed so far. One of the things that we love about Web Start Women is that we are drawing a wide range of women. We have had girls as young as 12 learning HTML and CSS alongside women who are retired. Our members have all kinds of backgrounds (e.g., librarians, musicians, sociology graduate students, nurses, elementary school teachers, and of course, web developers of various stripes). Some have never written a line of code in their lives and others have written excited notes about classes they would love to teach for us in their Meetup profiles.

Not surprisingly, we’re seeing a vibrant diversity of interests and goals. In terms of crossover between technology and technology-fueled business, it seems like most, if not all, of the women who are interested in building their tech skills also have some kind of business idea, even if it’s just that they want to have a business! I can only think of a few women who are solely focused on a business idea and aren’t interested in learning to do (at least some of) the technical work themselves.

To get back to the data issue, we should point out that most of the events and classes we’ve done so far have been more tech-oriented more than business-oriented. Starting up, it made the most sense to focus our educational efforts on the material Susan has years of experience with and was already teaching at Penn, which is web development. We have some biz-oriented topics in the works, so we might start seeing a stronger crossover as a result.

What informs your teaching technique choices?

I think our primary goal is to break down any fears that might exist. I had unpleasant experiences in Computer Science courses in college where I always felt behind – as if the rest of the students had read some secret textbook that was assigned before the course began, but I didn’t know about it. We do our best to combat that feeling, encouraging a lot of questions and contact before, during, and after classes.

Aside from what we do at Web Start Women, Nicole is teaching at Harvard and I’m teaching at Penn, so we spend a lot of time talking about pedagogy in general. I look at our courses as a product we build for our students, and we’re constantly trying to build the best product we can. There’s no shortage of places you can learn about web development (textbooks, online tutorials, local groups, school), but we work really hard to provide a quality of instruction and an experience that you can’t always get in those places.

Because the courses I teach at WSW overlap with what I teach at Penn, I get the benefit of constantly fine-tuning the instruction. I had some experiences this past year where schedules lined up such that I would literally be teaching the same lecture to Penn students during the day that I would take to a WSW course that night. It was a great opportunity for me to smooth the edges out on lectures, because if something didn’t work in the afternoon, I could tweak it for the evening.

Aside from all this, we’re basically really big nerds about all these topics, and I think our excitement shows through; I hope that’s energizing for women who take our classes.

Do you see any social/cultural changes in your larger tech community resulting from WSW’s work? Is it any more comfortable for women, and/or for men (or not)? Is there a more visible presence of women?

(The tech community we’re most connected to is Philly, so this answer speaks to the tech community there.) We have absolutely seen positive developments in the time since we started Web Start Women. Though we’d love to chalk it up to the work we’ve done, being a scientist, I have to point out that these are correlational data from which we can’t infer causation. 🙂 WSW has really been our introduction to Philly’s tech community–Susan is a recent transplant to the area and I was wrapped up in academia. From our perspective, it seems like the energy behind women-focused tech groups hit critical mass early this year and just took off. WSW is a part of that wave and (we like to believe) a force for positive change. In addition to Web Start Women, Philly now has a very active Girl Geek Dinners chapter, a women’s Python group, and several other organizations that are focused on getting women into the tech field.

From talking with people who’ve been in the community for years, we’ve learned that there’s been sustained effort toward growing all areas of tech (by/for both women and men). What we think is really cool about Philly is that the explosion of women’s tech groups seems to be coinciding with a major growth spurt in the tech community overall. This is a fabulous opportunity for Philadelphia as a city to develop as a tech hub that is very female-friendly, because women are getting in on the ground floor. Rather than fighting an uphill battle like they have to in SF or NYC, Philly’s technical women will be able to scale as the community grows.

Is there a strong online component to your program, or forums for questions and technical support?

Right now the online component is limited to the usuals: Facebook, Twitter and email dialogues. However, we’ve got plans in the works to expand on this; we’ve been testing online education platforms and are aiming to build a stronger, more centralized online community. We love the local roots of our groups, but we also want to be a resource to women who are not in metropolitan areas and who feel isolated from the sort of opportunities they provide.

How long have you been doing the StartLucks – can you tell us about them? Are they a big part of how women you teach stay in touch with you and each other?

Our very first event was a Startluck and we consider them to be a keystone of everything we do; they’re an opportunity for new members to get a sense of what we’re about, and it’s a place where existing members can come and check in with everyone. At some Startlucks, it’s just a relaxed conversation talking about who we are, what we do and what we’re working on. Other times, someone asks a thought-provoking question and we end up having a big group brainstorming session. At our last Startluck, the topic of web accessibility came up and it sparked a great flow of questions and ideas.

We think of Startlucks as a place to come and get recharged about the work you’re doing. These events always leave us with a touch of that feeling you get after a conference in your field; new ideas are seeded, any isolation is broken, and you’re fueled up to create stuff.

What have you learned from doing this? What advice would you give on grassroots teaching to other groups or individuals who would like to do this themselves?

We began Web Start Women to help empower women and in the process, empowered ourselves. It often feels very meta: we’re growing this project that helps other women grow their own projects. Speaking to other individuals who would like to do this themselves, I guess that’s not really advice so much as it is encouragement: go for it. Women and other minorities are hungry for this stuff, you just have to put it on their radar and they will come. In the process, you get to meet a lot of great new people, learn a lot yourself, and feel warm and fuzzy from the rewards.

Susan BuckNicole Noll

Susan Buck and Nicole Noll, Web Start Women

Women Teaching Women Technology Part III: Web Start Women

Women Teaching Women Technology II: Ladies Learning Code

by Jen Lindner

Heather Payne founded Ladies Learning Code in June 2011 with a single tweet. A graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business, she built her first WordPress blog while pursuing a graduate degree in International Relations in China.

What motivated you to start this, and how difficult or easy was it to get off the ground?

I started Ladies Learning Code by accident. I was eager to learn some programming skills, and after attending the first-ever Pyladies workshop while I was in LA on business, I tried to find a similar group in Toronto upon my return home. I was surprised when I didn’t find anything, so I wrote a blog post about how Toronto needs a group for women who want to learn beginner-friendly programming skills and tweeted it out. I started receiving emails, and 85 people ended up signing up for the first event. I was blown away.

My team at Ladies Learning Code works really hard to run awesome monthly events that people like, but we would all tell you that we’re surprised at how easy it’s been to get the word out about what we’re doing. The only way people find out about Ladies Learning Code is through social media and word of mouth (and lately, though the media). In four months, we’ve assembled a community of almost 1000 people. About 200 of those are developers and other technical folks who want to help out by volunteering at a workshop. The support from Toronto’s tech community has been incredible.

What informs your choices in curriculum – is marketability or ease of learning or merits of the technologies themselves? What informs your teaching technique choices?

So far, we’ve covered JavaScript, HTML & CSS, Ruby and WordPress – and all of those workshops have sold out in less than a day. (Actually, the WordPress workshop sold out in three minutes!) We select the topics based on who steps up to lead a workshop and what people are asking for. We also like our workshops to be hands-on, so we consider which languages or topics will make it possible for our participants to feel as though they’ve completed something by the end of the day.

As for our teaching technique choices, we’re still iterating (although, what we’ve done so far seems to be working really well). The key, I think, is our 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio. Four participants sit at a table with a developer and they work together throughout the day. It’s more fun, because it gives everyone a chance to get to know each other. It makes for a better learning experience for the participants too, because the developer can offer challenges to participants who are catching on quickly, and offer more help to those who need it. What we’re finding is that our volunteer developers have as much fun as our participants!

Do you see a strong crossover in women who want to learn technology and women who want to start their own technology-fueled businesses, or are those more likely to be different camps?

We’re finding that there are a lot of reasons why women (and men) want to attend Ladies Learning Code workshops. For many of them, it’s curiosity. In general, our participants are super tech-savvy, and they want to learn more about the technologies they use every day. Some people definitely attend because they want to have a startup one day (or next week!), but some attend just because they want to be better at their job. Some are looking to upgrade their skills and add something new to their resume. And there is definitely a number of people who come because they work with developers, and they want to be able to do a better job communicating with them.

Do you see any social/cultural changes in your larger tech community resulting from LLC’s work? Is it any more comfortable for women, and/or for men (or not)? Is there a more visible presence of women?

I think it’s too soon to tell. There’s no doubt that Toronto’s tech community has been incredibly supportive of Ladies Learning Code, which is a great first step, but since we’ve only been around for five months, we’ll have to wait and see if our efforts result in a tangible difference. Of course, I’m a big believer in the power of communities, and ours is definitely a strong & passionate one. I believe that what we’re doing in Toronto is going to make a difference here. Especially as we diversify our offerings and target different demographics, especially girls.

Is there a strong online component to your program, or forums for questions and technical support? Do the women you train stay in touch with you and each other? What have you learned while doing this? What advice would you give on teaching to other groups or individuals who would like to do this themselves?

At the moment, there is no online component to Ladies Learning Code (other than the informal community on Twitter and Facebook). It’s something we’re thinking about. Many of the women who attend Ladies Learning Code workshops stay in touch. We have quite a few women who have attended two or more workshops, and we are all starting to recognize each other at tech events in the city, which is fun. Since our community is made up of people who are generally very social media-savvy, many of them connect on Twitter before, during or after events, and stay in touch that way. It’s another area that we might look to improve in the future.

The biggest thing we’ve learned while getting Ladies Learning Code off the ground is how much is possible, as long as you have a community that supports you. It’s been really exciting to build Ladies Learning Code over the past few months, but none of it would be possible without Toronto’s super supportive tech community. We’re so grateful to our community partner, The Centre for Social Innovation, for helping make our workshops accessible by providing us with amazing spaces to use for our workshops, and to the companies who have supported us, and of course to the developers who are giving up their Saturdays to help us inspire and empower more women to become builders – not just consumers – of technology and the web.

The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to start a group like Ladies Learning Code in their city is to think community first. Don’t think about the workshops you’re going to run, or about building a website, or getting a Twitter handle or a Facebook Page. We did all of that weeks after our first event – a brainstorming session. By bringing together a group of like-minded people and asking them what an organization for women who want to learn to code should look like (and even giving them markers and big pads of paper and having them breakout into groups and tackle different pieces of the puzzle), we got a better sense of what to build, but also brought together a group of people who cared about it and wanted to see it come to fruition.

Heather Payne, Founder
Heather Payne, Founder
Women Teaching Women Technology II: Ladies Learning Code

Women Teaching Women Technology: Three Trailblazing Organizations

by Jen Lindner

It’s a moment of historical paradox in gender and technology: On the one hand, the number of women entering STEM higher education programs and fields is dropping. And the sexism women face in STEM professions is well-documented, as is the result: 52% leave because of hostile macho culture. But on the other hand, the innovative and enormously successful CS program at Harvey Mudd College is a shining example of gender balance. And there’s a rapidly growing movement of women teaching women technology skills: all over the Americas self-starting organizations are running hands-on classes to huge success. Coinciding with a rising tide of newcomer-welcoming efforts, there’s no question that enthusiasm for women doing web technology is growing.

Maybe we here at RailsBridge are incurable optimists, but we see the rise of women teaching women to code as a pony worth betting on. Girl Develop It, Ladies Learning Code and Web Start Women are all great examples of start up savvy applied to gender in tech. This is the first in a series of interviews with each of these organizations. Watch for these recurring themes: breaking down fears about technology, building confidence, support from their local technology community, the success of hands-on teaching techniques, and changing relations between women and men.

Girl Develop It

Founded in 2010 in New York by Sara Chipps and Vanessa Hurst, GDI has expanded to Austin, Columbus and Philadelphia – and even beyond the States to Ottawa, Canada and Sydney, Australia.

Alexis Goldstein and Izzy Johnston are both experienced software engineers and GDI instructors.

Which of GDI’s teaching techniques do you think work best?

Our emphasis on making the space non-intimidating. Just by saying that over and over, it encourages questions students may otherwise be afraid to voice.

What informs GDI’s choices in curriculum – is marketability or ease of learning or merits of the technologies themselves?

Our main aim is to encourage women to program, so our curriculum is mostly based around laying the proper foundation to support future learning.

The first and most important factor is student interest. We are very open with our students and have an ongoing dialog about their needs. We want our classes to empower students and equip them to face technological challenges in their careers and lives.

All of my classes blend teaching the theory via an interactive lecture and allowing students to play with the code in class as part of a lab. Besides teaching students how to learn languages, we also want them to leave every class with the feeling that they have built something that they can be proud of.

Are GDI classes comfortable for women, and/or for men (or not)?

Alexis: I do think it is a very comfortable experience for the women in the class. I also teach classes that are mostly men, and I find that the women who’ve taken classes with me both in and outside GDI tend to prefer the GDI class. One of my favorite by-products is watching the men (who are normally the minority in a GDI class) adjust to being in a predominantly female environment. I do think it’s a unique experience for many of them, and I suspect it does inform their behavior.

Do you see any social/cultural changes in your larger technology community resulting from GDI’s work?

Izzy: I have had multiple students come back to me months after taking my course to tell me that they were able to get a new job or that they received a promotion because of the class they had with me. But we want our students to reap more than just financial rewards. We want people who might be uncomfortable with the traditional world of computer science to learn they can improve their lives and the lives of those around them with the knowledge and the confidence that they have gained.

And I have seen more women attend hackathons, go to NY tech meetups, and generally participate in the tech scene. There is nothing more rewarding as an instructor to see than a student gain confidence and be able to insert her/himself into a conversation that they felt they couldn’t be a part of before.

Do the women you train stay in touch with you and each other?

Alexis: Some of them do send me their websites and projects after the class, which I always enjoy seeing. It’s wonderful to see their end product and what they’re able to do with the skills they learn.

Izzy: Many of my students email me today with a variety of questions. We also have a growing community of people on Twitter who support one another well after the courses they have taken.

What have you learned while doing this? What advice would you give on teaching to other groups or individuals who would like to do this themselves?

Izzy: I’ve learned that the most important gift you can give a student is not knowledge of a specific language but knowledge that they are capable of learning a language. I would advise anyone who wants to be involved in instruction that the first issue you have to address is never about the language. Not “What is a variable?” or “What does a for loop do?” The first issue you have to address is making sure each person in the room believes that they are capable of learning everything you are about to tell them. From your curriculum, to your slides, to your attitude–create a class that builds confidence at every step.

Alexis Goldstein
Izzy Johnston

More about the instructors: Alexis had conducted training sessions during her seven years as software developer on Wall Street, though most of them were via phone conferences. Teaching in a formal setting was new to her, though something she’d always wanted to do. Izzy has over seven years of instructional experience in software development and has been coding for twelve, and is also obtaining her Master’s at Pratt in Information and Library Science.

Women Teaching Women Technology: Three Trailblazing Organizations

Doing it Right: Harvey Mudd’s Gender-balanced CS Program

by Jen Lindner

What is Harvey Mudd doing so right, you ask? Well, we’ll tell you:

Since 2006, the percentage of female computer science majors has more than tripled, to about 40 percent.

This is because of revolutionary changes in the program designed to build confidence during the early stages of learning. Intro to CS, a requirement for all incoming students, is now broken into three sections – one for total beginners, one for those with some programming experience and one geared toward biology. This “minimizes mistaking familiarity for aptitude and the negative impact that mix-up has on inexperienced students’ confidence.” Assignments are aligned with students’ existing interests to illustrate and enhance the fun of programming. A research project is now offered much earlier, to sophomores — giving them exposure to mentors and the value to be gained by applying even basic skills in real-world CS problems. And a trip to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is offered, introducing women students to the vibrant community of professional women Computer Scientists. All of these things provide a broader experience of the field, and promote students’ belief in their abilities through their own experiences — something women are less likely to have because of cultural barriers to gaining it.

This is an interview with Christine Alvarado, one of the professors who has engaged in this ground-breaking new program.

How long you’ve been teaching? Have you taught at other institutions besides Harvey Mudd?

I got my undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and my graduate degrees (MS and PhD) from MIT. I joined the HMC faculty in 2005. I actively taught for 6 years, and now I’m on sabbatical at Georgia Tech. Next fall I’ll be leaving HMC for a tenured teaching faculty position at UCSD. All of these positions have been in computer science (and all of my degrees are in CS as well).

What has your experience been like with the new curriculum and techniques?

My experience has been very positive. Of course, any time you completely change a course (in this case the first course in computer science) it’s difficult at first, but this change was actually easier than major changes to other courses, probably because of the fact that we had so many people working on the new course.

Was the transition difficult or smooth?

Perhaps surprisingly, it was quite smooth. One reason is probably that we were all really excited about the new course. Another was that I think that almost immediately the students really liked it. It’s always easier to make a transition when both the faculty and the students are behind it.

How has the change impacted the department socially and culturally?

This is more at the college-wide level, but I think there’s a much more positive attitude toward computer science now that we have this new version of CS5 (the first CS course). Prior to the change, CS5 was something that many students just survived (though many students also loved it). Now, almost every student at least appreciates the class, and many more love it, even if they do not go on to become computer science majors.

Within the department we have a much more diversity in the students who choose to major in CS. For one, almost 40% of our majors are women (previously it was around 12%). But more than that, we have many more students who had never considered studying computer science, so there’s sort of a “fresher” attitude toward CS that contrasts with the students who have been doing CS for years before college. Neither culture/attitude is better, it’s just that now there’s more perspectives within the major.

Do you see men and women relating differently? Is it more comfortable for women? For men as well as women?

I think that there is a general difference (which of course doesn’t hold for every male or ever female), but I think this difference has more to do with their experience before coming to college. I think the major is much more accepting now of students of either gender who are newer to the discipline. Students who come in with less experience (who tend to be women more often than men)
approach the discipline with a little more trepidation, but also more fresh excitement. I think that these students don’t feel as isolated in their views as they once did.

Would you say students’ relationships to their machines are changing because of the emphasis on personally relevant projects and fun?

I’m not really sure here. I know that they have fun within the class, but I can’t say whether that changes their relationship to their computers more generally.

And lastly, of the things that are working, how would you suggest we can implement them in grassroots trainings that are often one-time or short-running endeavors?

One thing might be to help students see how broad the field of computer science really is. That it’s more than just programming, and certainly more than just programming in a specific way. There are other hard and intellectually stimulating challenges to be addressed.

Professor Christine Alvarado
Professor Christine Alvarado
Doing it Right: Harvey Mudd’s Gender-balanced CS Program

27th Workshop!

by Jen Lindner

We’ve taught over a thousand women in 27 workshops across the country, and inspired women in the Python and Scala communities to begin doing the same. Right on!

Last weekend at Engine Yard San Francisco, 39 students learned how to build, commit and deploy a Ruby on Rails application and now have access to the Railsbridge network of technical support. Today we’re posting what some of the students and volunteers had to say about the experience.

Cathy – student and first time organizer

I was totally impressed by the organization, the curriculum, the volunteers and the fun and ease with which the participants got the concepts. I was in the beginner class since I haven’t programmed anything in over 10 years. It was fun – the curriculum was great and the teachers/TAs were so happy to help me when I got stuck and just tell me cool things about Ruby and tricks with using the editor. I was inspired that I got it and it makes me want to do more.

The participants and volunteers were super cool and easy to be with. I had the feeling that what the organization values people just being themselves. I heard many peers mention how safe it was and how taken care of they felt. I felt that way too. When you’re trying to learn something new – something that’s potentially difficult, like programming, it makes a ridiculous huge difference to know that you can ask a question if you’re stuck – you don’t have to pretend to have anything figured out!

I hope many more women get a chance to participate.

Alison – student

What made you want to attend the workshop?

It’s a unique opportunity for women. I just wanted to become more technical. I’m a business consultant and my clients are always wanting to integrate with stuff – I need to be able to speak the language and become more technical in my current work.

What did you expect – what was unexpected?

I didn’t expect the TA ratio to be so high. There is always someone to move you along. And I didn’t expect to be put in groups with people who are at my level – that’s great.

What do you recommend about it?

Since it’s open to all skill levels, all experience, you just need a laptop and you can move at your own pace.

Tammy – student

Who would you recommend this to?

I would recommend this to anyone who’s interested in technology, and to people who work with technologists.

How it’s going?

It’s awesome – I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot – I’m at a very basic level because I don’t have any programming skills and the TAs are really good about teaching the basic things that can really slow you down.

How would you describe the experience to others?

Everyone is so nice. The teachers are great , no judgement – it’s like “Okay, let me tell you.” Sometimes at work with engineers – they don’t have the same reaction.

Is there anything you would change?

I would like to learn more about Rails.

Nina – student

What are you inspired by?

The space is awesome, I was impressed that there is so much space and everyone is comfortable. The new curriculum is nicely formatted – the change from the wiki to an application is cool and it’s a good structure.

Amy – first-time volunteer teacher
Amy works for Engine Yard in Portland.

What made you want to volunteer?

I’ve been encouraging women to work in high tech for many
years. And especially since I joined Engine Yard, I’ve
been wanting to give more back to the Ruby community. I’d hoped to get
involved with Railsbridge organization in San Francisco (before I
moved to Portland). This weekend’s workshop was a golden opportunity
to gain experience, which I can contribute to Portland’s women’s Ruby workshops.

How was teaching?

Great! And co-teaching worked really well.

What are you taking away from this workshop?

I’m excited to have met so many inspiring and inspired women.

Who would you recommend this to?

Many people! Especially women who are working in a technical field but don’t have a programming background.

What are you inspired by?

The collaborative atmosphere and people teaching each other, people getting confidence.

Railsbridge workshops are an open source project. We are individuals who volunteer their time and work to make these events happen. All of the materials are open source and we welcome feedback.

Installation instructions


Want to stay informed about our workshops? Sign up for announcements on our mailing list.

27th Workshop!

Seattle RailsBridge – Growing, Growing!

by Elise Worthy

Seattle RailsBridge has been gaining great momentum – the women’s outreach workshops are growing in size, sponsorship*, and community support.

A couple of weeks ago, we held the second Seattle RailsBridge workshop, which had 25 students and 20 teachers/TAs.


Sonia, one of our awesome volunteers, wrote up the following review of the event:

I just got back from the second Seattle RailsBridge and I wanted to tell you all how well it went. Very!

Even the weather cooperated by being overcast and foreboding, making us all feel just fine about spending Saturday inside writing code.

The curriculum (http://seattlerailsbridge.heroku.com/toc) was very clean, well-thought-out, and entirely achievable in the given time without being trivial. The color-coded structure of the lessons made each one easy to follow, and the “What Just Happened?” sections were a wonderful way to sum up each step. Well done!

After the class one of the students who I had worked with praised the class effusively. She said, “I felt like I could ask anything and I didn’t worry if it was a stupid question or not. I felt like I could take my time and still keep up. And everyone was so incredibly nice! The teachers, you TAs — everyone! I was very comfortable there.”

I explained to her that it wasn’t an accident that she felt so comfortable, that we worked hard to make it a woman-centric event, in both subtle and obvious ways. It makes a difference, I said, to have the class be mostly women (we had a few male students and most of the TAs were male) because there’s a sort of gentler silence in the room when it’s mostly women, a sense of open space into which you can ask questions. In a male-majority class, you don’t quite get that.

I was impressed with [the] teachers. Both of them did some subtle and powerful things, including being encouraging without condescension, making plenty of time and (emotional) space for questions, being supportive, and staying light-hearted.

Afterwards there was a general sense of excitement about doing more development. A number of women seemed quite ready to pursue more RoR study. Inspiring! I intend to be part of the next one.

*This event was sponsored by Substantial, Blue Box Group, and PeepCode.


Making these events get bigger and better will rely on getting more leadership involved. If you’re interested in organizing (or co-organizing) an event in the Seattle, contact the team through the group page.

Seattle RailsBridge – Growing, Growing!

Marchando sobre Rieles

by Carmen Diaz Echauri

(english translation)

Uno de los objetivos del RailsBridge Open Workshop es la diversidad, asi que basado en eso, Sarah Allen me pidió que comparta mi experiencia en espanõl sobre un pequenõ tutorial que dicté en mi ciudad natal. A continuación una pequeña versión de mi post original en mi blog.

En octubre 2010 asistí a tres diferentes Conferencias en Informáticas en América del Sur. Una de ellas, CLEI (Conferencia Latinoamericana de Informática), fue realizada en mi ciudad natal, Asunción.

Como iba a estar 2 semanas en Paraguay, me pareció una excelente oportunidad para realizar un mini-workshop y compartir mi experiencia sobre RoR, asi que unos días antes de mi viaje me comuniqué via email con el Decano de la Universidad Católica de Asunción. en la cual me gradué, y le sugerí hacer un taller en la Universidad.

La Universidad gentilmente me proporcionó uno de los laboratorios (salas de computadoras), y el staff técnico de la Universidad preparó las computadoras con ruby 1.8.7 y rails 3.0.0, las cuales utilizan Ubuntu como sistema operativo así que no tuve que preocuparme de la instalación en general.

Asistieron estudiantes del primer año de Ingeniería , ayudantes de cátedras, algunos profesores y público en general. Como el tiempo fue relativamente corto no pude utilizar el currículo completo propuesto por workshops RailBridge, asi que tuve que adaptar un poco el currículo que había traducido anteriormente, la cual básicamente consistió en dar una explicación del framework Rails, hablar un poco de la cultura “Pruebas Primero” y cual es la tendencia actualmente en cuanto a las pruebas de código.

Esta fue la agenda que expuse en un marco de 2 horas:

Nociones básicas
– En que consiste el Lenguaje Ruby. Un poco de historia
– En que consiste Ruby on Rails y porqué es llamado framework.
– Estructura y esquelo del framework
– Model View Controller en acción.

Exploración del proceso de desarrollo consistente en escribir pruebas fallidas primero y luego hacerlas pasar con el código correcto. Basicamente explique en que consiste:
– TDD (Desarrollo basado en Pruebas)
– BDD (Desarrollo basado en comportamientos)

Al finalizar la presentación realizamos un aplicación demo. Lo llamé Marchando sobre Rieles en 6 Pasos

1) $ rails new jugando
2) $ vim Gemfile
source ‘http://rubygems.org’
gem ‘rails’, ‘3.0.0’
gem ‘sqlite3-ruby’, ‘1.2.5’, :require => ‘sqlite3’

En este punto, me tome tiempo para explicar el manifiesto Gemfile en Rails y hacer hincapié en todas las librerias definidas en el archivo.

3) $ bundle install
Aquí expliqué el que concepto de manejador de librerias.

4) $ rails generate scaffold juego titulo:string descripcion:text url:string
Aquí expliqué en que consiste “scaffold

5) $ rake db:create # si la BD no es sqlite
$ rake db:migrate
En este punto explique brevemente en que consiste el programa rake.

6) $ rails server

A medida que íbamos finalizando el taller y construyendo la aplicación los alumnos realizaban preguntas. Fue una experiencia muy enriquecedora y desafiante, ya que preguntas acerca del bundle, scaffold y Gemfile fueron bastantes interesantes en contestar en Español ya que no tenemos un marco de referencia sobre estos conceptos. Finalizamos el tutorial creando un controlador y un modelo, con su correspondientes pruebas en Rspec, el cual agregó 4 pasos más al esquema inicial utilizado.

Quisiera agradecer a la Universidad por esta enriquecedora oportunidad. Definitivamente, aunque haya realizado el taller, fui yo la que más aprendí de esta experiencia.

Marchando sobre Rieles

October 2010 Workshop

On a drizzly October morning in SoMA San Francisco, I pulled up to one of the many renovated industrial buildings and was cheerfully greeted by Susan of Engine Yard. With Jill, a friend of mine/local preschool teacher in tow as chief kid-wrangler, we started about setting up the spacious, sunlit-filled floor that would host our technical outreach event.

The night before we had met with over 20 other enthusiastic volunteers to help a little over 30 women (and companions) set up their computers to learn the Ruby on Rails framework. Software developers, system administrators, UI designers, engineers, and other workshop faithfuls helped participants install and learn the fundamentals needed to use Rails for web application development. The participants came from all types of career backgrounds; at least one was an attorney, several were UI designers, IT staff members came, marketing professionals and others were there to learn. Myself and my co-organizer, Curtis, a regular supporter of these events, led a kick-off presentation that received with excitement and humor; then we were off into small groups for helping participants build their first basic application.

In a very healthy showing, we had enough volunteers teacher and assistants to instruct small groups of three- to four- participants with plenty of personalized support. By lunchtime were were all relieved to find delicious, ample box lunches from a local Mediterranean restaurant and provided by our generous hosts at Engine Yard. Shortly afterward kids that participants and volunteers had brought were well entertained; indeed the one baby was fast asleep in Jill’s adept arms.

By the end of the workshop, participants as well as volunteers were approaching Curtis and myself and thanking us for such a rewarding experience. I joined my family and headed out into the drizzle for good eats with a feeling of great satisfaction knowing how much the workshop was valued by all.

October 2010 Workshop

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

Rails workshop this weekend

by Sarah Mei

We’ve got a few spots left in the free Ruby on Rails workshop for women at sfCUBE in San Francisco this weekend. It’s officially full, but we should be able to take most of the folks off the waitlist. If you join the waitlist but we aren’t able to accommodate you, you get priority registration for the next workshop.

Here’s this weekend’s schedule:

Friday, September 25th: 6-9pm, install everything you need
Saturday, September 26th: 10am-4pm: workshop

You should be able to attend both sessions. If you can’t make the installfest but you’re reasonably technical and think you could handle it, I can probably make an exception. Email me directly (sarah mei at gmail).

Find all the details and register at the meetup site.

Rails workshop this weekend