RailsBridge Chicago – The first encounter with Ruby!

This is a few weeks late, but I felt that it was such a great event that it needed to be written about! As I mentioned in a previous post I have decided to change careers and am spending time outside of work teaching myself how to code. The big switch is going from a very generalist, office admin gig to becoming a web or software developer. Since I am at the beginning of this path, a lot of the advice I’ve heard is to fully immerse myself in the new information. Typically you hear this kind of advice when learning a new language so I figured that the best way to research what I would be getting myself into was by attending local events. Lucky for me, my first event was an intense two-part (11 hours total) workshop which allowed me to dive head first into a new language while surrounded by other ladies in the same boat.

The event I attended was a Ruby on Rails Workshop hosted by RailsBridge Chicago.  RailsBridge is a totally neat organization. Their mission is:

RailsBridge is working to make tech more diverse and welcoming by teaching programming, connecting human beings, and listening to people’s needs. We organize and teach free workshops on Rails, Ruby, and HTML & CSS in cities all over the world, targeted at groups of people that are underrepresented in tech.

Following the mission, that meant that this was an ALL LADIES EVENT! The event space was graciously donated by Brad’s Deals, located in a the swanky near-loop area. The poured cement floors, bistro tables for standing while working, and open floor plan eked of “today’s modern office” only to be emphasized by a refrigerator filled with organic juices, energy drinks and beer. That this is a place where people work hard and play hard.

As I mentioned, the workshop was two parts–and for a totally good reason. Friday night was dubbed the “Installfest” complete with instructions and snacks (if you’re interested in playing along at home, you can find resources here). For almost three hours attendees plowed their way through instructions as Teaching Assistants (volunteers from the local Dev Bootcamp) helped students inch their way to the major checkpoint for the night. There was one moment where the majority of folks with PCs were having issues, and it was because of an errant “s” in “https” that essentially cause a 3-program pileup. When another TA swung by my laptop to eliminate this single naughty “s”, I mentally buckled myself in for what would be an eye opening weekend.

On Saturday morning, I wanted to show that waking up early to attend a totally new to me class didn’t scare me so I cabbed in to BD’s office and was SUPER early. I settled in and started chatting with people near me. I was so surprised to find out that a lot of the women at the event were already in the tech field. On my right I had two software developers who work at call centers and on my left, a hardware resource manager who works a start-up.

After an introduction by RailsBridge Chicago, we are directed to our assignment for the day. For the next few hours it’s ⅓ self directed, ⅓ co-directed, and ⅓ TA assisted learning to plow through the lesson. I will say that there are some Pluses and Deltas to what went on:
( Pluses and Deltas is just an evaluating tool I learned from my days of volunteering. I’m sure you know what Pluses are, but Deltas are things that you would like to change)


  • 3-hour Installfest the night before was such a good idea! What better way to make sure that everyone is ready and prepped for a whole day of coding than to make sure that you’re ready the night before.
  • TAs were super knowledgeable and the other attendees were also very helpful during moments when I felt lost in the lesson.
    The lessons were fairly straight forward and offered tasks with screenshots.
  • Being able to write into the console and text editor yourself and post changes made to a (locally hosted) website really helped you get over the hump of “OMG am I going to kill my computer?!” Personally, the console looks way too much like the command line so the first time I saw it I panicked a little and said an apology in advance to my laptop–but all is well! The console is a place to tinker and run servers, not ruin your computer.
  • I really appreciated the list of resources that were sent out to everyone who signed up afterwards. There were links to websites and other suggestions for attendees to continue on with their independent study


  • I would have liked more information on the concepts that make what we were doing work instead of just following instructions.
  • Tiny change would be to make sure that links to all of the presentation slides are posted somewhere (on a website or in the physical space itself) ahead of the presentation so that attendees could follow along instead of trying to find a place to sit where you can see the TV that the presentations were projected onto.

On a non-content side of things, the donated food was amazing! There was a huge line of pizza on Friday night and Saturday was filled with tasty and healthy munchies. I was super impressed and while this has nothing to do with what we learned, it totally helped to make a very comfortable learning environment.

As for what I learned, I’ve really only scratched the surface of RoR.  There is a lot of jargon to pick up and a ton of referencing the same thing in several different places within your app. Building a tight procedure is going to take some time to establish (“first update this, then that, and the other”) but ultimately, I think that coming up with an idea that could be executed in RoR is going to be one of my biggest challenges. Hopefully by the time the next event comes along, I’ll be able to get through my assignments quicker and have ideas for dynamic sites.


2 responses to “RailsBridge Chicago – The first encounter with Ruby!

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who panics at the site of the cmd. I’m learning to get used to the command line via git and django, but still…

    Glad to know RailsBridge Chicago went smoothly. Perhaps I should check it out next time I’m north in the city.

  2. It really was great! The event was free, but for the time, resources and experience as a whole, I would have totally paid a (small) fee to attend.

    I’ve been signing up for events left and right. Hopefully you’ll be able to attend one when the weather is better 🙂

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