Tales from Rails A Marketing Mind at a Programming Camp

April 15, 2013 · 4 minute read

I met my first Ruby guy back in 2008 working at a startup in Boston. Whenever he talked about “Ruby”, I had always imagined this scene in The Goonies.


While it isn’t quite as colorful or tangible as holding a bag full of “save-the-day” rubies in your hand, Ruby, the programming language, has become almost as valuable as the stash from One-Eyed Willie’s Ship, Inferno.

Rails Girls is very similar to KidsCodeCamp in that both workshops are entirely free for the student, both are volunteer run, and sponsor supported - and most importantly, both believe in the power of passing on knowledge to better the world.

The Hybrid Group was a proud sponsor of Rails Girls LA because of their belief in the movement. Monetary sponsorship aside, we wanted to see what it was like from the inside - to support this organization by learning in solidarity. (So they sent me!)

I come from a Marketing/Design background, so a lot of coding terminology is lost on me. I find myself frustrated during conversations with programmers and left to feel less than when asking, what may seem to them, a “ridiculous” question. For me, what I can see, touch, and communicate is the basis for how I operate. My job is, after all, about communicating. :)

That said, I found that I was surrounded by like-minded women (and men!) at Rails Girls LA.

The task was simple:

Show up, eat some food, and hunker down for a solid day of learning… And that I did.

In the first portion of the workshop, I sat with three amazing women from marketing, front-end design, and music supervision backgrounds. We were all there for the same reason: to be able to better communicate with programmers and learn to create applications ourselves so that we can bring new solutions to the market.

I felt entirely overwhelmed for most of the day. We were being given a gluttonous amount of information and not enough time to digest. (I suddenly felt for my nephews and nieces currently in school. Where was recess?!) I learn by doing, and less so by looking at slides - so when the time came to split into groups and create an app, I was thrilled.

I have always been one of those people who learns on the fly, and sometimes I am flying at warp speed. I quit music classes in school because they were too slow for me. I raced through high school in a year and a half because, well I had better things to do. So not much was different when I began going through the Rails Girls Tutorials. I sped past my partner and coach and was able to help them with errors I had already worked through. THIS was the way to learn, for me. I made a mistake, I learned. I taught what I learned about 10 minutes later. Commit to memory.

Halfway through the day, Jessica Lynn Suttles, who ran Rails Girls LA (almost, if not entirely, on her own) provided us with a fabulous vegan lunch from Veggie Grill - so much healthy food that no one felt guilty for binge eating. Plus, strawberry lemonade. I wish she were the one in charge of designing school lunches across the country!

After lunch, we got back into our groups and proceeded to launch the apps we had just built. They were not incredibly technical apps, but you could see them, interact with them, and communicate with them - and so they were right up my alley. After I had finished uploading my app, I decided to wander around the classroom and discovered those that went above and beyond the standard directions and created something even bigger, more beautiful, and multi-functional. It was similar to walking through an art class of students drawing the same model, and relishing in their unique variations. The difference was that our renderings did more. This was our first taste of what it was like to write code - to put words into a box (terminal) and make something happen!

If Rails Girls were created to inspire women to learn more about coding - it will have succeeded. After the workshop, during massive consumption of cupcake time, I chatted with my original group of women to hear how each of us felt about our experience. The consensus was, “where do we go from here?” Sure, we learned that we could type code into terminal and deploy an app to heroku, but why, and how? The big concern was keeping the information fresh and continuing to learn. Would there be another Rails Girls LA? Is there a place where uber beginners can go to understand what we had just created? Luckily for me, I have already paid for classes at Udemy - so I will be following up Rails Girls LA with online courses. :)

I am happy to be a part of The Hybrid Group and truly admire their support of an organization that exists to get more women into the game!