01-Oct-2013 by Allison McMillan

Read Time: Approx. 3 minutes

That Home-y Feeling

Growing up, I was a part of Young Judaea, a Zionist youth movement that became an integral part of my life. My years in Young Judaea helped me develop leadership skills, community building skills and fostered an appreciation for well-run, interesting, interactive programs/conferences. In Young Judaea, we periodically had conventions (both regional and national), which were weekend-long retreats to bring people together, learn about Zionism and Israel and make governing decisions about the movement. This may sound a little nerdy because it was a little nerdy but it was also awesome! There is nothing like being in a remote-ish place with little cell reception and no internet that promotes togetherness, understanding, and community. I haven’t felt that good about a conference I’ve attended since high school (and I’ve been to a lot of conferences), until this weekend.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a Ruby DCampparticipant. Ruby DCamp is an invitation-only weekend-long retreat for Ruby developers. The weekend is broken up into 2 parts. Part 1 is a code retreat and part 2 in an open space conference. Both parts were incredibly interesting. During the code retreat, we played Conway’s Game of Life. The point of the exercise was to practice test-driven development and really take each piece of code step by step. Particiants pair programmed with a different person every 45 minutes and the afternoon sessions introduced additional constraints like no speaking or not being able to use certain code approaches. For me, this was the first time I had ever pair programmed and the first time I had worked on a problem like this. While a little overwhelming, it was also really amazing and fun. I recognized things I need to work on as a new developer but also realized that I can contribute to conversations and determining approaches to solving the problem. Going into this code retreat, I was completely terrified… of failing, of feeling stupid, of having my pair be annoyed that I didn’t know anything. What I discovered was that all my fears were unfounded and I can’t wait to do another code retreat in the future.

The second part of the weekend was an open space conference. Each morning the group brainstormed possible session topics with the strict requirement that these sessions be discussions and not lectures or talks. We then had about 10 minutes to write all ideas on paper and hang them on a wall and another ten minutes to vote via putting dots on the topic papers we wanted to have sessions on. Each person was allotted five dots. The topics were varied, everything from contributing to open source, to an intro to small talk, to technical interviews and what you look for when you hire (which was particularly helpful for me). There was a newbie session designed specifically to answer questions of the newer coders there. One of the more impactful topics was about imposter syndrome, how and when we feel it, what we do to try to keep it at bay, and ways in which we can help each other. I also loved the session on good code reviews that offered different people’s approaches to reviewing and commenting on other’s code both inside and outside of the workplace. All in all, every conversation was super interesting and there was a rare ability to be vulnerable and honest since the group of people there operated within this unspoken web of trust.

For me, the most important thing I got out of the weekend was a reassurance that my career path transition is a good choice. I love learning to code, but anytime you try to move to a completely different industry, there are always doubts. I knew my local community was supportive, but what about others? The larger community? Well, it turns out they’re amazing too. Encouraging and nice in every possible way, I feel like every ruby-related meetup or conference I have been to just continues to make me more and more excited about this transition. Thanks to everyone who made the weekend amazing and to Evan Light for organizing. Watch out world, I’m going to be a developer!

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