RubyConf 2016 – Am I a developer yet?

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?

Vs. ForwardJS?

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
Milling about between talks


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.

Opening keynote

Imposter Syndrome

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.

Q & A w/ Matz on the future of Ruby


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. 😀
A "Three way "
Skyline Chili! Kind of weird!

* 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.

Bye RubyConf!

10 Things I Learned at My First Hackathon


I forgot to mention it last week, but I finally attended my first hackathon! Ryan helped me score tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt’s Hackathon, a 24 hour test of “coding endurance.” This was the big time! I pulled together a small team of San Francisco Learn-ers, plus my roommate.

I didn’t have a concrete goal for the event. Mostly I just wanted to take it all in and have fun, meet some new people and feel inspired. Our team ended up pivoting at the last minute and running out of time to finish our project,  but I did learn a ton just by being there. So, in no particular order of importance, here are some tips for your first hackathon:

  1. Don’t go hungry – Usually food and drinks are available, but just in case there’s nothing to your liking, pack some backup snacks and drinks.
  2. Be comfy – Wear layers. Wear stretchy pants. It might get cold if they jack up the AC. In our case, the event was held in a huge drafty refurbished pier that was right on the water. Cold wind blew through the open doors at all hours. My classmate who was only in a t-shirt was miserable by nightfall.
  3. Decide whether you’re going to sleep over and if so, bring a sleeping bag! I felt like an idiot at first for bringing mine, but as the hours crept on, the sleeping bags came out. Some people even brought cots!
  4. If possible, form your team beforehand, and pick a team leader. It seems like it naturally comes about based on whose idea is used, but it helps so much having one person keeping everyone else on task.
  5. Possibly more important, come to the event with project ideas, and an idea of what technologies you’d like to use. We spent wayyyy too long just bouncing around ideas.
  6. There were some great API workshops at the hackathon, but you would have a leg up if you spent the day before the event brushing up on the available APIs. You can find this information on the hackathon’s website. Just check out the rules or sponsors section.
  7. GitHub + Trello = Organization! We immediately created a repo for our work, but having a Trello board would have helped us keep tabs on the state of the project. GitHub has a new projects feature, which is very similar to Trello, so I’m looking forward to using that in my next group project.
  8. You may be going HAM on your project, but be sure to make some time to network! Chat with the reps manning the booths, do silly things to get schwag (I jumped through so many hoops with Cisco Spark to score pizza for my team), meet your neighbors… and of course be nice to the poor staff working the event.
  9. Don’t be afraid to change your project idea at the last minute. All the cool kids are doing it. We changed ours at oh… approximately 7pm.
  10. Your project doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get the damn thing working enough to show it off. Don’t make it any more complicated than you need to!

Here are some more pictures from the event:


Several hours in and the tables were covered in pizza, candy, charging cables, coffee, schwag, and… makeshift standing desks
3am study break
3am study break
4 am


Sleepy time

Meetups: Women Who Code SF


Event: Ruby and Web Tuesdays

This is a study group and you are welcome to work on anything you would like in our friendly and helpful environment. Organizers and core team members of the Ruby Study group will be present to help you with any Ruby related questions. We welcome many levels of attendees: brand new beginners, coders new to Ruby/Rails, experienced Rubyists, and anyone in between. Work on tutorials, personal projects, or just network! 


6:30 Dinner 

7:00 Introductions

7:05 – 7:15 Introduction to Premise Data by Yang Hong

7:15 – 7:25 “Authentication, Authorization, and Why You Need Them Both!” with Ellie Day

7:25 – 9 Code!

Group: Women Who Code SF

Women Who Code is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers by creating a global, connected community of women in technology. The organization tripled in 2013 and has grown to be one of the largest communities of women engineers in the world.

Women Who code is a professional community for women in tech. We provide an avenue for women to pursue a career in technology, help them gain new skills and hone existing skills for professional advancement, and foster environments where networking and mentorship are valued.

Location: Premise Data

Experience: So, I went to a Women Who Code study group way back, about 5 months ago! It was WWCode East Bay’s Programming and Dev study group held at Clef. I had a mixed experience at that event, mostly due to the long commute and lack of structure to the night.

My experience at the Ruby and Web Tuesdays (why don’t they just call it Ruby Tuesdays???) study group was much better, and I can attribute most of that to the fact that we were all there to study Ruby. There were two quick talks to start off the night (an overview of Premise Data, the company who was hosting the study group that night, and a very clear introduction to authentication and authorization), and they were both interesting, but also just the right length. Turnout at this event was stronger, with about 30 people. The women I met were of all skill levels, some a few years into web development, and one woman who had just created her GitHub account the other day! I got a bit of studying done, and managed to help a person or two, but as usual, going to this study group was really more about being around other people.

Verdict: It was a positive experience in a supportive environment. I’m definitely adding it to my regular rotation of meetups, and since it happens every other week, I think that’s sustainable.

Notes from Forward JS

AKA baby’s first JavaScript conference

I’m not the hugest fan of JavaScript, so how did I find myself at Forward JS, a JS conference? Well, I’m on a number of email lists,and last week Girl Develop It was offering a great discount for Forward JS – $19 for the one day conference (no workshops), down from the original price of $249. I do love a bargain, and I figured that I would learn something, so I impulsively purchased a ticket.

The event took place at the Regency Ballroom. I think I saw CocoRosie play here a long time ago. One guy I talked to mentioned that he had his high school prom at the Regency. They do everything!

I tried to hit up as many talks as possible, but I got tired as the day wore on, and left before the afterparty.

Here’s what I saw:

How Your Brain is Conspiring Against You Making Good Software

  • Jenna Zeigen, Engineering Manager @ Digital Ocean
  • The keynote was pretty interesting. It was all about cognitive biases and how they affect development – from building teams, to coding to project planning. It pushed for greater diversity and inclusion, which seemed to be a theme of the conference.


Forward themed tampons! Yeah diversity! There were a lot more female attendees than I was expecting, and maybe half of the speakers I saw were women. It felt really good, and positive.

Coffee break – Coffee & Stroopwafels – Apparently last year they promised stroopwafels and there were none? They were delicious. Various tech companies had booths set up in the social hall, and I ended up learning about some cool technologies like IBM’s ez API builder, API Connect.


Bringing Dynamic Back

  • Raymond Camden, Developer Advocate @ IBM
  • This session was all about finding ways to make your static site more dynamic. I gave static a try with Jekyll and didn’t end up sticking with it, but this talk was still pretty helpful.

There’s a Bookmarklet for That!

  • Justine Lam, Web Developer @ ShareProgress
  • This talk was a lot shorter and more straightforward than I was expecting. I think it finished in 20 minutes when there were 40 minutes scheduled. Justine made bookmarklets look easy, so I’m working on my first one. It’s a bookmarklet to replace all images on a webpage with photos of Bill Clinton playing with balloons. I call it “Billoons.”


Lunch Break

React/Omniscient and Immutable – the Gateway Drugs of Functional Programming 

  • Erin Depew, Front End Engineer @
  • This one was incredibly popular, probably because it was about React, but also because it was held in the room where lunch had just ended, and there were so many people already seated that maybe they just decided to stay?
  • I got to see how uses React along with Omniscient and Immutable, and all the challenges they’ve run into along the way. I haven’t used React yet, but the talk was easy to follow. There wasn’t much emphasis on functional programming, which is what I was expecting from the title.


React Native: Learn From My Mistakes

  • Joe Fender, Senior Developer @ Lullabot
  • Another React talk (there were 4 total), things to consider when using React. I had a harder time following this talk. Guess it’s time to learn React!


Practical Performance Tips to Make your Cross Platform Mobile Apps Faster

  • Dr. Doris Chen, Senior Technology Evangelist @ Microsoft
  • I was excited about this one. It was basically tips and tricks for speeding up your apps. She was trying to condense an hour talk into 40 minutes so she didn’t quite make it to the end, but it was still enjoyable. One of the better tips: you don’t have to put event listeners on everything, just set it on the parent, and let bubbling up take care of that for you.

IMG_3756 2

Coffee Break – Milk & Cookies

By the time it was cookie time, I was exhausted. While I could have checked out another hour or so of lectures, I decided that it was a good time to call it quits. Overall, I’m really happy that I went. I met some interesting people, and the energy was good. Everybody, male/female, young/old was there to learn. Do I like JavaScript any more than before? I don’t know. It’s a useful language, that’s for sure.


Meetups: Hire Ruby Engineers

Event: July Hire Ruby 

It’s never been a better time to be a Ruby developer, or a more challenging time for companies to find an appropriate fit in the Bay Area. We’re excited to provide free opportunities for talent and companies to meet in the real world. Some presenting companies from past events include:User Testing, TouchOfModern, HumbleBundle, Enjoytech, Stitchfix, Tapjoy, MatterMark, Razer, Adobe, and many more. 

Here’s the run of show:

6:00 – 6:45 pm: Doors open, food and drinks sponsored by Hired

7:00 – 7:30 pm: Startup interviews, quick pitches, and announcements

7:30- 8:30pm: Meet developers and companies, mix it up

Group: Hire Ruby Engineers

Location: The Vault

Experience: I’ve been curious about the “Hire Ruby” events ever since I saw them pop up on way back when. Now that I’m finished with my program and looking for a new job, this was the first time that I felt truly ready to attend one of these events.

The program was pretty straightforward. I showed up, grabbed a beer and some pizza, then scoped out a seat. The room was packed, but I found a seat up front next to one of my bootcamp classmates.

Basically, hiring managers / company representatives volunteered on the spot to be interviewed by the meetup coordinator. They gave a bit of an overview of their company, and tried to sell themselves as a great place to work. The audience then got to ask a few questions, usually about the tech stack, company growth, or current challenges. It was a little strange, like a dating show. Once the main interviews were over, there was something of a lightning round – a few more hiring managers each had about a minute to introduce themselves and their company.

Then it was time to mingle. I’ve attended recruiting events before, and this was similar chaos. Large groups of hungry job hunters encircled each hiring manager, eager to shake hands and get about a minute or two to chat and push their resume, with the rest of the circle watching as well. So awkward!

Verdict: Was it worth it? Well, I didn’t end up speaking directly to a hiring manager. I joined a circle, hoping to talk to a hiring manager for a healthcare startup, but I ended up moving on, deciding that I would email the man later. It was just too unorganized.

On the other hand, I did learn of several promising companies that I’d never heard of before, and I got a read on the type of work they do and what the general company culture was like. I also got to see bootcamp friends again, and enjoy some free pizza and beer. So overall, a win.

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