As luck would have it, RubyConf occurred during my job search. The 3 day conference was $400, which ain’t bad at all, but at the time I couldn’t justify plunking down 400 bucks for a ticket, then 350 for a flight to Cincinnati, then another 200-400 for a hotel, not to mention however much money for food and cabs and such. Still… I didn’t have a job… maybe it was worth the investment?
In early October I applied for a diversity/adversity scholarship. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get selected (I haven’t had true adversity in my life in a long time, doing just fine all things considered), but there was a silver lining: I learned that I could volunteer for a free conference ticket. The ticket was a regular ticket including daily breakfast, lunch and snacks. Doing the math in my head, if I stayed with a friend I would really only be paying for airfare and cabs/dinner/snacks. Maybe not even food at all if I hit up the right happy hours.
They asked for 12 hours of help over 3 days, which seemed fine to me, so I signed up. It’s been a few weeks since I got back – nearly forgot to write it up! Here are some thoughts I’ve had about the conference.
- RubyConf was right after the election, and it felt very strange to be in such a festive atmosphere. It felt like I shouldn’t be silly, I shouldn’t be networking or taking lots of pictures, I shouldn’t be eating fried chicken and trying to collect as much schwag as possible. Apparently other people were feeling that way as well, there was an informal group led venting about the election.
- Somewhere in my late night social-media fueled stupor I ran into someone’s post-Trump blog post where they said they couldn’t find state by state listings of minority owned businesses. I found this database of certified businesses, but it could use some improvement. This seems like a good idea for my next toy project (maybe make it more of a Yelp clone?), but I feel like somebody must have already done this, right??? How does this not already exist?
This conference felt very different from ForwardJS, as it should have. It was basically the complete opposite of ForwardJS.
- out of town / hometown
- planned a month in advance / planned a couple days before
- 3 days of programming vs 1 day
- No workshops / Paid workshops
- Ruby / JS
- Volunteering / Attendee
TBH, besides being cheap, volunteering seemed like a great option because I would be able to bond with the other volunteers over the shared work. I felt a little lonely at ForwardJS, and wanted to make sure that didn’t happen at a 3 day long event. I knew that they were recording the talks, so I wasn’t really going to miss anything.
Volunteering turned out to be pretty much all positive. One unforeseen benefit: I was working the registration and information booth, so I got to talk to Ruby celebs multiple times over the course of the conference. And in general once I’d already talked to someone, even if it was just to answer a question, I felt fine walking up to them and chatting later. It felt less weird for some reason.
Actually, there was one moment that felt a little awkward. I went up to talk to a company that I’d applied at a while back. I didn’t make it through their code challenge, but I wanted to tell them that I liked what they were trying to do, and the thought that they’d put into the assignment. The booth was a bit chaotic, so I didn’t find quite the right opening to talk about it. I moved over to the side. One of the booth folks came over to talk to me, then looked down at my badge, or maybe my red RubyConf staff shirt, and said “Oh, sorry I thought you were a Rubyist. You’re staff.”
0_X <- my face
Not gonna lie, had a mini-existential crisis. Do I look like a coder or not*? Sort of, because you talked to me, but not because of the badge… but I can be both… ;o
I talked about the volunteering, and how it was a great way to score a free ticket and meet people in a different way. After a bit of chatting, I ended up mentioning my new job**, and he actually knew some people there! Well what a great coincidence! Couldn’t have come at a better time as I was feeling insecure. Inside my insecure head: I AM A RUBY PERSON AND HEY SOMEBODY YOU KNOW HAS EMPLOYED ME. SO THERE! I AM FOR REAL. RILLY THO.
The variety of content was great, but I gravitated more toward career talks and a few specific technical sessions. They had a content track called “Life After Bootcamps” which seemed timely.
There were also lightning talks at the end of the second day, and wow! People really wanted to share. They kept coming up to the info booth asking when we were putting out the sign up sheet, and then once we did it was a mob.
The first day I was a little starstruck, but quickly I realized that everyone was nice – attendees, other volunteers and staff, vendors, speakers. There were a pretty decent amount of women at the event (more at ForwardJS I think), and lots of female speakers. They did a good job making the conference inclusive – there were gender neutral bathrooms, a lactation room, and free childcare offered onsite. Free childcare!!! I will never have kids, but that makes me very excited!
- On the first day I got to meet Matz! I gave him back his cellphone, which he left in junior ballroom D 🙂 .
- Meeting folks from a couple of companies I applied to (and got rejected from) was one of the things on my conference to-do list, and it wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it might be. TaxJar in particular were nice enough to find me first, right as I was stuffing my face. 🙂
- The fried chicken and catfish on day 2 was really good. 😀
* To be fair, for some reason I am often mistaken for a retail worker when I’m out shopping (Old Navy, Kinko’s…). I don’t think that I look particularly helpful, so who knows. Maybe I look young. Maybe my sweater folding game is good?
** Oh right, I got a job! Forgot to mention it here.