I had a fantastic weekend volunteering at Railsbrdige SD (for women). This program is very familiar to RailsGirlsLA, which I participated in about a year ago. RailsGirls LA was great. It was a two-day setup that consisted of an installfest (evening of day 1), building a rails app with a mentor (day 2), and an after party. All meals were provided for and the event was completely FREE! All you have to do is apply (which consists of completing lessons such a Try Ruby). A RailsGirlsLA event is held about once every six months, and is all organized by volunteers! My only qualm about this event is its location. LA is about a 2-hr drive (without traffic... and there's always traffic). So since then, I have frequently thought about creating or reviving RailsGirlsSD (if one had ever existed), to bring such a program to my local community. But thankfully somebody beat me to it with a similar event called Railsbridge!
Railsbridge originated in San Francisco, 2009, by Sarah Mei and Sarah Allen. It is also a 2-day FREE workshop (day 1 - installfest (6pm - 9pm), day 2 - build an app + afterparty (9:30am ~ 5pm)) but is structured in a much different way. Instead of each person being paired with a 1-on-1 mentor, the students were split into classrooms based on experience and operating systems. Beginners consisted of people who have no experience at all, and may have never used a terminal before. Intermediates were those who had little to proficient programming knowledge, but maybe no experience with Ruby and/or Rails. Advanced consisted of people who were more familiar with Ruby/Rails, but maybe needed a refresher course and/or wanted to level up. Each class had at least one teacher (some had two) and several TAs. As a volunteer, I really appreciated this setup. I TA'd for the intermediate group of Mac users. Maybe next time I'll teach? If interested in participating, all you have to do is register for the event and you're in, however for this edition, there was an extra emphasis for women, and/or those part of an underrepresented group in tech. If you didn't fit either description and still wanted to participate, then it was encouraged that you brought along someone who qualified under such demographics.
Like RailsGirls, the program is put on by sponsors and volunteers, and its curriculum is open source! I have to applaud those responsible for writing the docs because it was thorough and easy to follow. One of the students wasn't able to attend the installfest for example, so I sent her the docs and offered assistance if needed. Agreeing that the guides were well-written, she was able to configure her machine in preparation for day-2 all on her own. Planning Center Online hosted us in their awesome space, and the event was supported strongly by Learn Academy, Dev Bootcamp, and several sponsors. Snacks and lunch were provided, as well as FREE childcare!
It was SO so great, and REFRESHING, to see a room full of diversity and positive energy, all eager to learn! I saw a lot of new faces and tried to encouraged those I interacted with to keep learning. Hopefully I'll see them again at Girl Develop It, or other events throughout the community. Even though I got stumped by a couple of questions (especially regarding Windows machines at Installfest), I was able to either help the student google the answer and/or ask a more senior dev for debugging help. As a result, I also learned a thing or two in the process. Overall I am so proud of this event and am grateful for its existence in the San Diego community. I will absolutely be volunteering again.