I recently attended the Rails Girls event organized by ThoughtWorks, Hoppr and Cloud Foundry at ThoughtWorks campus in Gurgaon. Rails Girls, born in Finland and now a global event, aims to provide a platform to generate awareness about technology among women and encourage their active participation.
Preparation: Simplicity in the Approach
Even though, I was one of the volunteers and coach for the event, I was involved at every end, which, I believe gives me an opportunity to present an independent perspective about the entire event.
This was the first event of this nature in Gurgaon and participation was exemplary. More than 300 people registered initially for the event and finally 40 made an effort to come all the way to Gurgaon on a chilly Saturday morning.
The aim was to introduce participants to the world of coding by creating a small ruby on rails app and then hosting it over cloud. This would encourage them to be more hands-on and learn further, generating awareness in the process.
We chose Ideas and Twitter app, which is on the suggested list on the rails girls website. The rails scaffolding eases the development of these apps. We decided to host the website on Heroku or Cloud Foundry.
Coaches were asked to explain about MVC and Rails folder structure. Illustrate how to use rake for installing gems and add basic CSS styling to the website before hosting it on the servers.
This all required an introduction to ruby, for which we planned to organize a session on Try ruby.
Welcome Note, Icebreaker and Try Ruby Session:
The event began with the welcome note by Nitin Dhall, GM of ThoughtWorks Gurgaon office, which was followed by icebreaker and stand up. The icebreaker achieved its purpose as everyone started gelling with each other in a short duration.
The try ruby session gave the basic snapshot of coding in ruby. The introduction to string, arrays and sorting functions generated curiosity among those who were coding in ruby for the first time. For the experienced developers, it was a bit of an over kill.
Grouping of Participants:
Participants were of different level of experiences, from college pass outs to senior ruby developers, and to cater to everyone’s expectations was a challenge. The organizing team did a good job of ensuring a good mix of experience in each group, so that everyone can learn something new from the event.
The workshops followed the try ruby primer. There were 6-8 groups with 6 participants in each and 2 coaches to help them. The place looked like an everyday ThoughtWorks office, there were noises, people were listening intently to their coaches, drawing boards getting utilised, one could hear the bursts of laughter, and a few yay sounds all across the floor.
We all explained the basic Rails framework; the MVC model and functionality of build tools. My team was quick to pick up things and they created the basic scaffolding very quickly. It was good to see the glitter in their eyes when we started the local servers and basic Rails page opened up.
We then created our own homepage replacing the default rails page. Later, we also created the listing page and new ideas pages using the scaffoldings. Intelligent questions were asked during the process and my group was clearing each other’s doubt, making it a very collaborative workshop.
After the first workshop session, we all took a break for lunch and lightning talks. The first lighting talk was from the volunteers of cloud foundry, wherein they explained their services and showcased how easy it is to host the application on cloud
The second lightning talk from Ajey Gore, CTO at Hoppr, was the highlight of the session. He made everyone realize the importance of intent and how ruby facilitates to express the intent in easy, simple and English like language. He also talked about maintainability and scalability of the code.
I also gave small talk on my backpacking experience across Europe. My talk wasn’t tech related but it was a good break, away from all the tech sessions.
The second session of workshop was more focused on introduction to CSS and basic html. We also added custom gems and later hosted the app on Heroku and Cloud foundry. This involved running small migration scripts and basic introduction to Git.
Other groups focused on adding new functionalities to their app, for e.g. adding a login page using devise gem. One of the groups created a feedback page.
The second session of workshop helped the participants to diverge and explore more around the areas, which they were more inclined to. For e.g. our group went to explore TDD and writing DSL tests using cucumber. One other group explored CSS and designing, as there were some experienced UI devs. Another group went to the basic of programming and coding practices in general.
All groups gathered together and showcased their app. They also shared their experience about the entire event.
The day concluded with retrospective among the volunteers. They shared their ideas around their coaching experience, the entire event management and future event planning.
The next step for all of us is to build a RailsGirls community and let this initiative grow into a lasting event. As organizers, we have decided to keep in touch with our group members and clarify their doubts and encourage them to be more hands on.
Overall, it was an enjoyable and eventful day with lots of learning for others and me.