Learning Ruby on Rails with Rails Girls in Barcelona

Rails Girls Barcelona

At Redbooth I wear many hats: billing operations, finance, HR, and generally making things happen. Working with a bunch of cool and geeky developers is a lot fun. It can also be an interesting learning experience.

Coming from a totally different background — I studied Fine Arts and Art History in college — I’ve been curious about understanding how our developers’ minds work…and what’s really going on on those black screens full of colorful characters. (They always seemed like black magic to me!)

Every now and then on the billing side, we run into a technical challenge in our system with an account. Whenever we encounter an issue with a customer subscription, we go into our database report system to figure things out and resolve the issue quickly. Sometimes a different kind of approach is required — it helps to have a developer’s eye and the ability to dig into the code.

So one day I realized that I could develop a better understanding of the code myself. I started looking into some basic intro coding courses and one thing led to another. The next thing I knew, I was looking at the next event for the Barcelona Ruby on Rails group Rails Girls.

This fantastic non-for-profit initiative makes the world of technology and coding more accessible to women who are eager to learn more about Ruby on Rails. No previous experience needed — just you, your laptop, your curiosity, and a willingness to learn. Sounds like fun to me!

Fran Casas, a Platform Developer at Redbooth, was also going to be there, serving as one of the Rails Girls mentors. The goals of Rails Girls resonated with him as well.

“We are a bit closed, the IT world and the science world, sometimes,” he said. “We have to be open, and not just open — we have to be proactive about helping people to get into it, because it’s a very interesting world. This barrier is especially tough for women. That’s why it’s Rails Girls, and not Rails People.

On the day of the Rails Girls workshop, I headed to Fab Lab, a creative co-working space in an industrial part of Barcelona and weekend home to Rails Girls. Each participant was assigned a group and a mentor.
Daniella and her Rails Girls teamDaniella (right) and her Rails Girls mentor and teammate

We started off by putting some basic programming commands into practice with a live-action game called “Roboto.” Collaborating in a group, we had to guide a human “robot” (our mentor) through a maze with a series of simple written commands. It was a really cool way to be introduced to problem-solving and analytical thinking.

The atmosphere was upbeat and fun for everyone. “There was quite a lot of creativity,” Fran said. “You could almost see the small light bulbs on top of people’s heads, lighting up.”

Fran and the other mentors guided us through the software installation, basic programming concepts, and the frontend and backend of building our first web diary totally from scratch. The weekend program was intense! In addition to the coding activities, we attended a series of informal talks and presentations mainly run by women empowering others to start in the tech world.

At a Rails Girls workshop, you won’t learn everything you need to know about coding in a weekend — but that wasn’t the goal. Rather, it was about acquiring basic tools and visibility into the programming community, and getting better acquainted with Ruby on Rails.
Fran and his Rails Girls teamFran (center) with his Rails Girls mentoring group

“I like Ruby on Rails because it’s easy to learn and easy to teach,” Fran said, “and I’ve realized that it helps you form your thoughts very well. It makes difficult problems easy to solve. And you don’t have to be a super-senior experienced programmer to do really difficult and awesome things. You just have to take time to learn it and study a bit. With a little help and some mentoring, you can do really nice things.”

Everyone involved was so generous with their time and energy: all of the mentors and organizers are volunteers. The event also wouldn’t be possible without its sponsors — and I’m proud to say that Redbooth was one of them!

So, where do things go from here? Fran plans to continue mentoring: “I’ll continue as long as I can to lend a hand.” And as for me, I’m just getting started!

Since completing the weekend workshop, I’ve signed up for online courses in Ruby, completed a HTML/CSS event and even built my first page in just two hours! I’m looking forward to going to more meetups with Rails Girls, too. I don’t know where this will all lead, but there’s one thing I know for sure: I want to always keep learning.