May 16, 2013No Comments

Women Learn to Code: Girl Develop It

2013-03-27 18.46.51Technology is cool. Creating websites is fun. Building an app is the modern day equivalent of being in a band. Oh, and there's the added benefit of exciting, well-paying jobs, too.

The number of people who build software is growing, thanks in part to educational alternatives that have emerged over the last few years—from online offerings like Code Academy and Code School to intensive immersion programs like Dev Bootcamp and Starter League. Free online courses and local meetup groups are helping make coding more accessible, and it's exciting to see the diversity of the technical community expand.

Here in Chicago, we've recently launched a local chapter of Girl Develop It, an international organization "that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction." It's all about creating a non-threatening environment where people can learn, practice their skills, and network.

We recently wrapped up our first class, an Introduction to HTML/CSS that ran for two hours, one night a week for four weeks, and included nineteen women and two men. Many of the participants work with developers on a regular basis—as project managers, account managers, social media specialists, marketing managers, or graphic designers. Some are interested in making a permanent career change and becoming developers, while others want to get better at their current jobs and improve their communication with the coders on their teams. It was fun to watch their excitement, confidence, and curiosity grow as their web pages came to life, and they were able to control things they once considered magic.

Some of these women may now go off and practice on their own, explore online courses, sign up for the next Girl Develop It class, or even make the leap to a bootcamp program. Building software is fun and rewarding! It's so great to see people who had never considered it a possibility have a chance to launch a new career in coding.

This Saturday, May 18, at 10am we'll be hosting a Meetup: PairUp! Practice Your Coding Skills (Give Forward, 1564 N Damen Ave, Suite 303), so stop by to pair with another person at your skill level and hack on a project for a couple hours. Whether you're just getting started with HTML or looking to strengthen your Javascript skills, all levels are welcome.

And if you know any women who are interested in coding, please tell them about Girl Develop It!

May 15, 2013No Comments

Highlights from RailsConf 2013 – Portland

“Head West!” This is how DHH described the pioneering spirit of the Rails community in his keynote that kicked off RailsConf 2013. I recently made my own journey west from Chicago. So it was fitting to attend the conference in my new hometown of Portland.

There were many outstanding sessions, including a talk on Rails vs the Client Side by Table XI’s own Noel Rappin, How to talk to Developers by Ben Orenstein, and The Magic Tricks of Testing by Sandi Metz. Topics ranged from integrating NoSQL with your Rails app to designing social media apps for a world that is not “normalized.”

Now is truly a great time to be a Rails developer, and attending the conference was a fantastic way to discover new resources. Rails 4.0 release candidate 1 just came out. There are good learning tools available, including the podcasts RubyRogues, Ruby5, and Code School. There are also great tools for evaluating the quality and security of your code like Code Climate and New Relic. If your company is hiring or job searching, Developer Auction is a resource that takes a creative approach to connecting employers with job seekers.

With over 1,500 attendees, the “hallway track” was packed. I met some really interesting people and had a great discussion with Chuck from Portland Code School about how to get more women involved in the local Rails community. Women are a strong part of the Rails community and were represented at the conference by groups like Rails Girls and Women Who Code. It was also inspiring to see Sandi Metz and the founders of RailsGirls: Linda Liukas, Pia Henrietta Kekäläinen, and Karri Saarinen recognized as Ruby Heroes.

In addition to the sessions, RailsConf 2013 hosted some of the best lightning talks I’ve ever attended. I highly recommend checking out the following:

  • Nick Quaranto and Miles Forrest both gave talks about launching Ruby meetups. Nick started openHack and the Buffalo Ruby group. Miles successfully started his own local Ruby Brigade. He had been commuting from his hometown of Chillowack, BC, after three failed attempts drove him to commute all the way to the Seattle Ruby Brigade.
  • Chris Morris, in his talk on Technical Intimidation, challenged us not to be intimidated by people who know all the things, but to learn from them.
  • Jon McCartie gave a strong presentation on purposeful code. He challenged us to find ways to apply our skills to tasks we value.
  • Yoshiori Shoji was inspired to use gem-mirror to keep on hacking, even during a 10-hour flight from Japan.
  • JC Grubbs spoke about apprentices, and how to teach and value people.
  • Andrew Harvey talked about shaping company culture.
  • David Padilla really summed it up when he said conferences are about content, but they are also about people.

I definitely came out of the conference inspired to learn more, code more, and become more involved in the awesome Rails community. I’m looking forward to next year’s RailsConf, which will be back in Table XI’s sweet home Chicago!

What were your favorite parts of RailsConf 2013?

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