Article | Rails Girls Workshops

Rails Girls Workshops

Free workshops are run all over the world by Rails Girls to encourage diversity in tech. These weekend-long workshops are organised by local volunteers. They’re friendly interactive workshops designed to teach women how web applications work. Abletech have been proud sponsors of Wellington Rails Girls for a number of years and Abletechers are regulars at the workshops.

To me Rails Girls is a really good way to help people find programming and gain a support network. Dawn Richardson.

At a recent Abletech Tech Talk, Dawn Richardson explained what was involved organising the April Rails Girls workshop including:

  • What they did at the workshop

  • How they funded the weekend

  • Food and catering

  • How they made the material relevant and impactful

Abletecher Tania Walker coached last year and volunteered as an organiser this time. Abletech intern Kate Norquay attended as a participant this year and shared her experience at the Tech Talk.

Read on for a summary of the Abletech Tech Talk.

An organiser’s review, ramblings and lessons learnt

by Dawn Richardson

The Workshop

The Rails Girls workshops generally start with an ‘installation party’ for helping with any software installation issues. Then there are welcomes and introductions, followed by an inspirational talk with someone approachable and engaging. We introduce participants to a bit of Ruby with which is an interactive way to start playing around. Then we start learning some Rails using a Rails Girls guide that teaches participants to build a To Do list. We break frequently for food and discussions. On the last day we have short talks from sponsors and a party so everyone can socialise and network together.

The Funding

We created a document that outlined how companies could sponsor us. It outlined our cause and offered four sponsorship levels: bronze, silver, gold and Ruby. Each level had perks attached like social media, logo placements, speaking at the after-party etc. We targeted sponsors who were likely to be sympathetic to our cause. Tech companies are keen to support diversity; it’s a hot topic at the moment. Getting sponsors for coffee, beer and food was more of a challenge as they’re not as directly impacted by the issues of diversity in tech.

This year we reached out for sponsorship and we were overwhelmed with the number of organisations who wanted to support us.

The Food

With catering comes dietary requirements so it was quite a job to provide appropriate food for those with certain dietary needs and allergies. We learned that some dairy free snacks have honey in them which isn’t suitable for vegan diets.

Improvements from the last workshop

For Rails Girls to survive long-term it needs to improve every time. We’ve asked for feedback, taken it on board and kept improvements coming. Here are some of the changes we’ve made.

Because Rails Girls targets those who are underrepresented in tech we made efforts to be inclusive. We tried to make our event open for transgender and non-binary gender people. All our toilets were made unisex and our language was updated appropriately to suit.

We are also trying to be more inclusive of supporting women who are in tech, to learn more, so a variety of skill levels were considered. We made efforts to encourage people, who were able, to work on their personal projects. Some guide modification was required for this.

We also included a Demo session which was great. People could demonstrate what they’d built. One project that stood out was designed to teach Te Reo, with sound.

This year we repeated a Pathways Into Tech session that worked well last year and was one of the most popular sections of the weekend. There are many different ways to journey in to the world of technology and this session was a great way to support and encourage.

Participant’s Perspective

Abletech’s intern, Kate, took part in the workshop this year. She explained that Rails Girls was one of the best tech events she’s ever been to. She sat near those working on personal projects. Kate said that at times she finds coding a bit isolated. She enjoyed the collaboration of the weekend. Kate found that sharing ideas with each other was really cool. She said there was creativity as they worked together. Kate enjoyed the feeling of solidarity at the workshop and wished she had gone to a Rails Girls session when she was learning to code, to gain confidence and to benefit from the support network.

Rails Girls Wellington volunteers

Rails Girls Wellington volunteers

Give Ruby a go right now!

Find out more about Rails Girls or Wellington Rails Girls.

Catch another Abletech Tech Talk.

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