“Give a (wo)man a fish and you feed them for a day;
teach a (wo)man how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”
Following months of preparation, the day was finally here. HackerOne’s office in Groningen was hosting a Rails Girls global coding event. Born in Finland, Rails Girls is a global, non-profit volunteer community that aims to provide the right tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas. HackerOne’s office was embellished in red and white- the colours of Rails Girls, ready to welcome the ambitious, zealous group of people eager to write their first lines of code. As the first person walked in through the doors, our faces lit up with a warm smile - the fun had just begun!
I am Stuti Srivastava, a senior product engineer at HackerOne and one of the organisers for the event, and this was my first experience at a Rails Girls event, which kicked off on a breezy winter night with an overwhelming number of participants. The room was buzzing with different sights and sounds! The first day was an Installation party to help the participants set up their machines to get ready to code. The coaches - Alexander Jeurissen, Rutger Gelling, Alexey Zolotov, Dmitri Burlutskiy, Brian Reigersberg, Henk Van der Veen, Liesbeth Wijers, Marina Andenko, and Philip Kocanda were making rounds offering their guidance if and where needed.
Complete with a sumptuous pizza dinner, all I could see was the participants interacting with each other, most of them having met for the first time. Some had driven directly from work, some had taken a train in from different cities, some were coming from classes and some after tucking in their children for the night. I was pleasantly surprised at the passion and the curiosity that pervaded the halls. The evening ended on a high note as everyone left looking forward to an adventurous day two ahead.
How often do you walk into an office at 9 am on a Saturday? Don’t be surprised when I tell you that Rails Girls participants were setting a precedent - arriving at the workshop as the daylight was beginning to pour in through the windows. I walked into the smell of freshly brewed coffee and warm breakfast. The excitement was palpitating! The day of coding was kicked off by Karen Sijbrandij, board member and coach at Rails Girls, outlining the details for the day. Shortly afterward, Peter Berkenbosch took the stage. In his talk, he walked us through the basics of MVC architecture and the commonly used terms in software programming. It was an engaging hour not only for people who were new to programming but also to those with some former experience like myself.
Once the foundation was laid out, everyone settled in with the coaches to start off the workshop - building a simple Ruby on Rails application following this guide. The following hours were delightful to watch. The camera team comprising of Miray Mazlimoglu and Dirk Zittersteyn did a fantastic job capturing the determination, engagement, and joy of participants and coaches alike as they brainstormed problems and created experiences on their screens using code. All I could hear as I walked around were words such as “compile”, “error”, “run”, “build”. Two rigorous hours were followed by delicious sandwiches and beverages to refuel.
Liesbeth Wijers started the next session with a Bento Box exercise aimed at familiarising attendees with a breadth of technologies by gamifying the process. Participants were encouraged to use web search if they had doubts, however, most could easily differentiate between front-end and back-end technologies. Very fun and exciting! The crowd then regrouped to continue the workshop. I couldn’t help but get inspired by how innovation was spurring all around - enabling individuals with the basic tools and knowledge had quickly helped them leverage these to build fascinating and diverse applications. As the workshop ended at 4 pm you could see content faces everywhere, and some curious ones who wanted to continue longer!
The last item on the agenda included exhilarating talks by four female engineers:
- Rory Ou spoke about her journey to become a software developer and the success story of moving from her parents’ house in San Francisco to her own apartment in the Netherlands as she built a career from learning to code.
- Alexandra Khegay had the audience in awe of her story- from wanting to be an Ornithologist in Uzbekistan to becoming a successful software engineer at HackerOne in the Netherlands - she still follows her passion for studying birds and maintains a website of different birds.
- Karen walked down the memory lane describing her journey from studying to be a Social Psychologist as a Master’s student at LSE to continuing her education in Computer Science at Stanford to having found her passion as a developer at HackerOne. Meanwhile, she continues to inspire other women by organising Rails Girls events across the globe.
- Finally, I took the stage and talked about my bittersweet memories of growing up in India and the role models that drove me to become a coder and subsequently a product manager.
Rounds of laughter culminated into a lively afterparty where the participants, organisers, and coaches bonded with each other and shared their experiences. We each took away something from the event. Learning to code has helped so many women around the globe to pursue their dreams and be independent. A little education goes a long way to enable them to take the first step in this direction. Here’s hoping we can all propagate this knowledge around the world and participate in global evolution through technical education.
Every year Rails Girls organises workshops and events around the globe. You can learn more about the mission statement and upcoming events at http://railsgirls.com/.
You can view more photos from the event in our Facebook album here.