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May 5, 2015

My Experience Coaching at Rails Girls LA 2015

By: Ursula Messick | Event


So about two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being a coach at a Rails Girls LA workshop.  It was a fantastic and rewarding experience and I want to encourage others to join and help coach/mentor similar events.

“Our aim is to give tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas. We do this by providing a great experience on building things and by making technology more approachable.”

– Rails Girls

Their mission really spoke to me. Even when I was was in highschool and doing web development for fun as a personal hobby I never really thought as programming as a career I could go into. I suffered from a lot of the self doubt and lack of role models many girls face when considering a STEM career.


Event Coaches Are Students

A couple of us who were coaching actually got together prior to the workshop and ran though the Rails Girls Guide with other coaches . We used a mob programming approach we’d be using during the workshop to try and make sure we could articulate what we wanted people to do or learn

If you are newer to command line and to rails application structure things can be tricky. If someone tells you to “type cat app controllers” chances are they will type “catappsontrollers”. So it was a good experience trying to make sure I could give the best instructions without making my students feel frustrated or, even worse, stupid because they thought they had made the mistake rather I had given poor instructions for their level.


From Zero To Hero

So prior to showing up students are encouraged to learn some basic of ruby, github, and command line. Rails Girls LA provided some great resources so the students could be introduced to those topics before they had an environment of their own set up. The workshop consists of a “Installation Party” the night before to help everyone get started.  Either they would help you set up natively or you would be given a Virtual Machine created by the very awesome Ashok Modi so that you could be sure the full stack would work.


Let the Learning Begin

Rails Girls Guide: At the end of the day you should

  • Feel comfortable in the terminal
  • Know about ERB (Embeded Ruby) and how to use it
  • Know how to start a new Rails project
  • Have your project online
  • Know the difference between your local and remote code
  • Be comfortable in git
  • Know what MVC means
  • Learn some markdown
  • Have added a Gem to your project
  • Know about our friend Bundler
  • Meet new friends to learn with
  • Find a mentor
  • Get resources to continue learning
  • Have Fun! <3

So after some great words by some organizers and sponsors I got my two students and we hit the ground running. Me and my students followed the Rails Girls Guide to introduce them to Rails and related web technologies.

Both my students were new to command line so I was really glad I had got to the coaching mob programming session because it made things a lot easier. As we qalked through the guide I filled in the blanks of the different technologies involved and how to look up more information on certain parts and what to really focus on when learning.

After finishing a section we’d walk-through the front end portions so we could test their app and I’d try to reenforce ideas like CRUD and HTTP Verbs. I focused more on the structure of the application then trying to hammer in what MVC really is. I also tried to focus on how to talk the ‘right’ question on google and mentioned how many times I probably google things in a given day. We talked about personalized touches they could make to their applications later.


Never Stop Learning or Giving Back

It was a extremely rewarding experience and I really hope I inspired those girls to continue on and keep learning. I learn new things all the time and I learn a lot with others helping me or me helping other people accomplish their tasks at work. Collaboration is a big reason I have learned so much over the past couple of years.

Sometimes when you are struggling with the next tough problem you lose sight of how far you’ve really come. Everyone seemed to have a blast at Rails Girls, student and coaches a like. It was great seeing the Rails community come out and help introduce people to Rails and web technologies. If there isn’t a Rails Girls event in your area they have some amazing guides on setting up your own event.

Special thanks to Jen Diamond for putting together a Rails Girls event in LA!

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