The second edition of Rails Girls Łódź took place a few weeks ago and I cannot be more proud to have been a part of that – again. The recipe for a great workshop boils down to just a few good quality ingredients. Come along, I'll show you.
Different flavours of the same
Rails Girils is an initiative to get women and girls interested in technology and programming. Created by Linda Liukas in Finland, it is now a huge community of volunteers, organising introductory Ruby on Rails workshops in many parts of the world.
Every Rails Girls event is different – even though the brand, the agenda and most of all, the values and aims, are the same, each local organisers team is given freedom to make it happen in their own, unique way. This year in Łódź we had 16 teams of 3 participants and a mentor. We were funded by 9 companies. There was 5 of us in the organising team. We chose a post-industrial venue because we live in a post-industrial city, and we have a boat in our logo because Łódź means boat in Polish.
Only 2 of the organisers have a job that involves writing code and only one has a computer science degree. This is by no means a problem, but rather gives us a wider perspective as a team. After all, our target group for the workshop is mostly made up of people new to programming and without much technical experience – we need to remember that.
We try to select mentors in that spirit, too. You don't need to have strong technical skills to become a coach, nor do you have to be an experienced teacher. This year we've had 10 developers who had never coached before, several of them with just a few of years of professional experience and coming from vastly different academic backgrounds.
We try to provide everything the participants may need during the workshop so they can focus on learning. This is both an effort to squeeze what we can from the time they spend at the event and to make them feel comfortable. We believe that creating a safe, welcoming space is essential. Food, drinks, comfy chairs and patient mentors are important, but we think that little things matter just as much. Did you forget your laptop charger? That's fine, we'll lend you one. Do you take your coffee with soy milk? Cool, you can find it next to the gluten-free cookies.
Real people doing real jobs
There are no formal requirements for what the participants have to learn during the workshop. We give them the opportunity to spend a day and a half with a real person doing a real developer job. For most of them, that's a rare thing. The questions the coaches get asked range from wildly technical ("What is an IP?") to wildly personal ("Why aren't you working in the field you majored in?") – and I don't know which ones are harder.
There are no failproof instructions. This is real life. We trust our mentors to do the right thing.
A strong local tech community is what make a Rails Girls workshop possible. It's not something that you can pull off alone. The event is entirely non-profit, so everyone gives what they can: professional developers donate time to teach, companies sponsor and a motivated organising team puts it all together to create an amazing learning experience. As long as you care about Rails Girls values, you can be a part of that, too.
It's not about us
In the end, everything the organising team does and doesn't do is for the participants. It's a simple but powerful metric for all organizing decisions. It has also been a good enough explanation of my personal motivation for doing this (twice).
To me, giving the time to organise a Rails Girls workshop is about helping the participants to make an informed choice about their career. It's about building the community and bringing in new people with new POVs. And because it takes a lot of work to make a workshop like this happen, sometimes it's just about getting things done.
See you at Rails Girls Łódź 2016!