RailsGirls 101 - How to coach at a RailsGirls Gathering

nine Team Oct 11, 2016

In this blog post, I’d like to walk you through my week-end at RailsGirls Zurich and to give you the key takeaways I got from there.

The concept of RailsGirls is simple: Get forty women in a room, for the most part with no technology background whatsoever, with one goal in mind: learn as much as you can on how to make a website with Ruby on Rails. Let’s just say up front that the task was not easy.

The weekend took place at Impact Hub EWZ Unterwerk Selnau, and since nine.ch decided to be a sponsor for the event, I became their very own ambassador there. We were fourteen coaches for this adventure, all from a rather heavy technical background.

RailsGirls Zurich 2016
RailsGirls Zurich 2016

If you’re reading this and wondering what it takes to be a coach there, here are the things I would recommend doing (or avoiding):

##1 - Be prepared for the Very Basics Some questions are rather expected: “What is a database?”, “What is Rails?”, …

Some others took me off guard, and required a bit more thinking on my side: “Why do we use a terminal on a mac? Why not use finder?”, “Why do we need an editor? Why not use Microsoft Word?”, “Why do we need to type some text in an editor and do things in a terminal in order to make a website?”

You can’t prepare for every single question of course, but it might be advisable to review the basics, or at least know that questions like this will come up.

##2 - Be aware of the technical terms As a long-time IT professional, you might tend to forget all the seemingly crazy words you have accumulated over the years, but you are quickly reminded of them whenever speaking to someone out from the field.

I’m talking of words such as algorithm, process, service, …

I would just recommend being aware of these and try to avoid them as much as possible.

##3 - Be creative in your teaching ways The crazier your examples are, the more memorable they’ll become.

This is the reason why we were referring to the Rails Router as a nightclub bouncer, the Ruby virtual machine as a posh English Lady or the Controller of MVC as an Italian Orchestra Maestro.

You generally want to limit these images to yourself if you don’t want your colleagues to flee from you at the coffee machine.

##4 - Pack some water, brain food and Vitamin C Teaching for two intensive straight days is something that is quite demanding, so the vitamin C and the brain food might come in handy here. The water is just because of the extensive talking that takes place, it will make you thirsty.

The experience was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait for the following events to come. Thanks again at the RailsGirls Zürich team for their incredible organisation, and I’m proud that nine also helped making this big knowledge-sharing weekend possible.