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The Skinny on DC events

Rails Girls Initiation

Much of my blogging adventure is based on a ‘learn as you go’ principle where I dabble with new technology and figure it out as I need or want to. Undoubtedly it would be great sometimes to have a person at your side just telling you how to get a particular widget to work or to hire designer to work their magic on your site. I have chosen the road less traveled however. For better or for worse. This blog is not too shabby right? All by yours truly…and with a little help form WordPress of course.

My interest in dabbling with something ‘new’ in the tech world has led me to discover a tech community in DC with raging energy for anything that hits on a key words such as ‘entrepreneur’ ‘social media’ ‘developer’ and ‘web’. The community is alive and doing very well judging by the multitude of meetup groups, conferences, pitch jams, workshops and list serves connecting all these lovely people who are here for the tech party. With DC Week happening this week, the party really is on and I’m excited to be part of it. 

With my DC Week Gold Pass in hand, I set out to RSVP for the various events. I came across a free workshop by a group called ‘Rails Girls‘ and kept my fingers crossed that my application to attend would be accepted. Suddenly, I was very curious. What is an app really? How on earth do you…build..one?  Could this help me with my blog and a new website I’m working on? Who knew Rails Girls would open Pandora’s Box for me on all of this!

Rails Girls got started in Finland (yay) where some brilliant people figured it would be beneficial to get groups of girls (or…women) together and teach them how much fun it is to code and what wonderful things you can create with Ruby on Rails. Today, women all over the world benefit from the generous idea of the Finns (yay) by getting together for inspirational and #free workshops sprinkled with lots of love, coding and informational talks.

I arrived at the workshop anxious but excited. I had no qualms about my Dell laptop purchased in 2004 until I looked around the room- sleek MacBooks and Ultrabooks everywhere. Suddenly, I looked and felt like a cave woman who really wanted to crawl back into her cave, real quick. The ladies at my table politely laughed at my apologetic comments but quickly returned to their own sleek screens- we were here to code, not to compare software.

My trusty Dell held up- I opened the command center, admired the colors in Sublime Text and marveled at the app we were creating, step by step. We reviewed vocabulary, Ruby code basics and the pieces started to make sense. Creating something on the web ‘from scratch’ with code is a pretty amazing process!

What struck me the most about this seven hour workshop were two things in particular:

1. The sense of community among Rails Girls and Ruby on Rails users in general. It was heartwarming to hear that there are unspoken rules of ethics and conduct in the community, many based on the notion of the kind Ruby chief programmer: ‘Matz is nice so we are nice

2. The amazing graphics and marketing material developed around the Rails Girls concept. This is the marketer in me who looks at the product wrapped around the concept. The cute stickers, clever slogans and fun balloons all made me feel this was a very Americanized sorority-esque effort to make coding ‘fun’ for girls. And that’s totally OK with me. They’ve done a fabulous job branding the workshops from Brussels to DC to Tokyo.

Picture credit goes to Jess Erickson

I have to admit- some of the lightning talks were way out of my league but made me even more determined to go home and read up on all the material covered. I cringe at the questions I asked our coach Guille Carlos but like I said, this was the start of many more and one has to start somewhere, right?

From here, I’m going to take a few online tutorials, starting with Rails for Zombies. I’ll probably also venture out to a few Ruby meetups in Arlington or in DC while keeping in touch with the local Rails Girls Google community. It’s all code from here!

Rails Girls Friday hug ( a tradition) Photo via Rails Girls Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/railsgirls

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