What Rails Girls Taught Me

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Jan 31, 2013
What Rails Girls Taught Me

(Photos courtesy of Jessica Allen)

If you’ve ever had the urge to build something, but were too scared or skeptical of learning to code, my advice to you is just try it.

Coming from a non-technical background, I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of learning to code. Not only did it seem too complex for me to understand, but I was also unsure as to how to go about starting. Amongst other qualities, that’s what makes Rails Girls so wonderful. They give you a foundation, tools to start, and the support of friendly coaches who help guide you through a fairly easy tutorial. Building an app in a few hours seemed overwhelming on the days leading up to Rails Girls, but when the day comes, you’re surrounded by others who know as little as you do, making the workshop much less intimidating. And although the coaches have years of experience, I didn’t feel like an idiot for having a question or for having a syntax error… make that a few syntax errors.


I always knew there would be a lot involved in learning a programming language, but what I didn’t know was how strong and supportive the Rails community is. Developers want to build cool things, but they also want to help others do the same. They support one another by sharing code and making it open source, which makes development much easier, especially for those just learning. Because of resources like Twitter Bootstrap and Ruby Gems, basic add-ons like buttons and forms take only a minute to add instead of hours.  The accessibility of these tools lowers the barrier for people, such as myself, who are interested in building something that works and is aesthetically pleasing.


(Screenshot of my first Twitter Bootstrap button!)

After one workshop, will this be something I’m going to continue? Yes. While I don’t have intentions of becoming a full time developer (right now at least), I do think that it’s a critical skill to have. To be able to see your ideas come to life without relying on someone to do it for you is empowering and liberating. Here are a few additional tips I learned:

  1. Keep your code clean and organized. It will make it easier to work with and to share with others.
  2. Every little detail matters. Always double check your punctuation and spacing.
  3. There’s a lot you can do with basic tools, and the internet is full of them!

So if you’re scared to learn, don’t be. If you don’t think you have the right mind for it, you do. At least give it a shot before dismissing it as something that’s not right for you. Who knows, you might just have fun.

— Rachel Mae Smith, @rachelmaesmith

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