As I’m writing this post I’m still coming down from the high that was last week.
Those who follow me know I was chosen to receive a scholarship to attend RubyConf this year in New Orleans (you can read about that here).
The experience definitely lived up to my expectations, I learned and gained so much, met so many friendly people, and generally had a blast.
Here are some of my thoughts and highlights in no particular order:
I know it’s already an overused trope how Rubyists are nice; it’s like they’re the Canadians of the programming world, but my gosh, I never met such a nice welcoming community. I came in knowing almost nobody, and almost everyone I met offered to show me around, introduced me to someone they felt would be of value, and just tried their best to make my first conference experience a great one.
I know I said how Rubyists are nice, but we all know who we owe that to. One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to walk over to Matz and thank him personally for writing the language that got me to fall in love with programming in the first place. The selfie was pure profit.
For some reason, this was a central theme at RubyConf this year. I guess you had to be there (or at least watch @chadfowler’s keynote when the videos come out).
I don’t know why I bothered packing clothes. With all of the t-shirts and socks being handed out I could have just shown up with the shirt on my back (and discard it at the door). Heck, just the stickers would have been enough to cover me up decently :)
Coming from a non-traditional coding background, you can’t help those moments of self-doubt. Did I make the right decision? Can I actually become a “real” programmer? Meeting Flatiron alumni at the conference was a real confidence booster. The fact that three of them were there to present talks (not counting my own lightning talk) helped shelve away those doubts for good.
Speaking of Flatiron, through my year at Flatiron I made lots of great friends. Most of those friends were little more than Slack usernames and fuzzy profile pictures in my head. At RubyConf I finally got the chance to meet some of them in person. We hung out, had beignets together, one of them even offered to open up her house for me to stay at (thanks, Joanna!) It was great to finally get the chance to put the faces to the usernames.
Speaking of matching faces to people, RubyConf was three days where so many of the names I knew and learned to love over the past two years came to life. From Twitter handles like @avdi, @sarahmei, @tenderlove, and @eileencodes, to authors whose books shape my code every day like Sandi Metz and Noel Rappin, To the writer of Ruby Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz) himself. All of these names turned out to be people and very approachable and friendly people at that!
In case attending a conference with 800 strangers wasn’t pushing the limits of my comfort zone enough, I volunteered to give a Lightning Talk! For those who don’t know, the lightning talks are an hour an a half session where anyone who wants can get up in front of a few hundred people and talk for 5 minutes on any topic they want. Drawing inspiration from my (self-proclaimed) title as the Rabbi On Rails, I gave my talk on the topic of “Talmudic Truths For Programmers.” You can read it here.
If you thought a Ruby conference would be all boring speeches you are dead wrong! No one knows how to have fun like Rubyists. If it was a late night party at the aquarium, where I got to pet my first stingray and dance to a DJ live coding his Sonic PI on the screens, a Heroku themed parade through the streets of the French Quarter, Karaoke night, or just a quiet night in playing board games, there was never a dull moment.
After all is said and done, there is no doubt that the last week had a transformative effect on my career as a programmer. The talks, the people, and the community all came together to provide an amazing experience. I can’t wait to be back. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll have a chance to pay it forward as a guide to a scholar just starting on their path?