Why I love working with Railsbridge

November 10, 2014

I’ve been volunteering with RailsBridge now for 3 years. I started out just volunteering as a coach and moved up to helping organize in Boston and recently in the Triangle. RailsBridge has been one of the most fun and rewarding opportunities I’ve ever had I’d like to share why.

I will be omitting the obvious answer here - “we need more diversity in technology”. That is the mission of RailsBridge and that should be your primary reason for helping out. I’m going to list the other reasons that may not be quite so obvious.

You get to check your own learning

It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to work with someone brand new to the world of web development. A lot of RailsBridge participants have never heard the words we use daily such as ‘DOM’ or ‘EC2’. When you’re asked questions about these things, you are forced to really stretch your understanding of a concept to be able to simplify it enough to make sense but not to the point that the answer is useless.

I have been forced to question a lot of my own understanding of how things work after a participant questioned my reasoning. Having a fresh perspective on things is always nice. Each time I’ve volunteered, I’ve received a ton of new perspectives.

You get to work with different types of users

RailsBridge brings in people from all kinds of backgrounds. I’ve had the opportunity to work with founders of non-profits, secretaries who were looking for their next career, parents wanting to learn to program so they could teach their kids and PHP addicts looking to drop the habit. All the users have different operating systems, environments, text editor choices and browser choices.

In the Rails ecosystem we tend to have a very narrow scope of “mac or linux”. That isn’t the case here, Windows XP is still quite prevalent on a bunch of the machines that come in. I’ve spent hours installing Rails on a Mac OS 10.4. You learn to work with whatever they bring to the table. Having to troubleshoot different environments reminds us to keep all those users in mind when we’re developing tools for other developers. We don’t all use Macs!

We get to be nice!

I’ve said for a while now that the point of RailsBridge is not to teach programming, it is to be a commercial for those interested in programming. We give those who are interested in programming the chance to see how awesome programming is in a weekend and they can decide if they want to learn more from there.

I stand by that point; but I think it serves another, possibly more necessary function: to show others that the programming community is friendly! Most of the people I’ve encountered in this community have been ridiculously friendly and letting people new to our community see that can go a long way. All communities have outliers that screw up the system, we have more than our fair share, but getting all the people together who want to be nice and help allows us to put our best foot forward and show that we want diversity and that we want to be helpful.


We’ve all been blessed by being in this community. RailsBridge allows us to give back. It allows us to give someone else the chance to take part in a community that I really love.

Explaining “rails server” to someone in a weekend and finding out a year later that she went on to get a programming job has to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I can’t encourage you enough to find your local chapter and give back any chance you can!

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