Team MitPal – Getting it Started

Posted on by Sherri

Team MitpalSherri and Anitha on the First Day of RGSOC (Image: Team MitPal 2016)

This July we, Anitha and Sherri, began our Rails Girls Summer of Code journey as Team MitPal. We first met at Rails Girls Atlanta meetings, and learned how similar our backgrounds were. We both have backgrounds working in the IT field in non-development roles and have some coding experience. Pamela Vickers, our Rails Girls Organizer recognized that we would make a good team for RGSOC and suggested that we pair up. She also upped the ante by becoming one of our coaches along with Pete Holiday. Our mentor, Henne Volgelsang, and supervisor, Shelly Coen, round out our team. Our project for this summer is Open Source Event Manager (OSEM), an open-source event management software tailored for free software conferences. We’ve been training on our own to become software developers, and have set some big goals for ourselves this summer. Our ultimate goal at the end of our journey is to find our first job in development.

Anitha I have a Masters in Communication and Network Engineering, and worked as a software engineer in test for an year in India. Due to personal reasons I had to quit my job and moved to the US 6 years ago. I always felt that solving problems and learning new skills would make me a satisfied and happy person. To make myself happy and bootstrap my career, I have been learning web technology through MOOC courses, bootcamp, meetups and other resources. I thought that a more focused and comprehensive hands-on training like Rails Girls Summer of Code would help me become a more well rounded software developer. I am very excited to contribute to a huge, open source project.

Sherri I have a degree in Public Relations, but began my IT career right after college when I became a technical writer for a startup. From there I moved into Business Analysis when another company I worked for had a need and asked me to join the team. I always wanted to be a developer, but it was difficult to transition to another role. There was always another project that needed attention, and the promise of opportunity ‘in the future’. Finally, I decided to take the leap and focus all my attention on changing my career and life. I trained on my own for awhile, but I felt that I needed to take classes in a focused environment. I then decided to attend a bootcamp here in Atlanta and completed the backend engineering program there a little over a year ago. Since then I have been looking for my first software engineering job. I felt that RGSOC would be a great way to train and learn in a supportive environment.

The first couple of weeks have been a blur, but as we reflect on it all we have gained a lot of valuable experience in a short time. We have gained experience working with another developer, figuring out things together instead of working alone. We get to learn by example by watching our coaches figure out problems, and then taking that knowledge and apply it to what we are doing. We’ve learned how to analyze an issue, troubleshoot a problem, and research different solutions. We are figuring out how to approach developing a solution. We’ve also learned how to use tools like Byebug, and most importantly how to ask for help and what questions to ask. Fail fast, and ask for help quickly.

Team MitpalTeam MitPal and Coaches. l-r clockwise: Anitha, Sherri, Pete, Pamela (Image: Team MitPal 2016)

As we move through this experience, we learn more about ourselves and how to navigate this new landscape. Some of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned are:

  • Be patient with yourself
  • Schedule regular breaks. Get away from the code.
  • Read Apprenticeship Patterns
  • Talk to your partner and discuss the best ways for you communicate as a team
  • Pace yourself
  • If you haven’t failed, then you haven’t tried. Failure is a part of learning.

Some days truly feel like there is so much we want to do, but so little time to do it in. We are learning to pace ourselves and celebrate all of our victories. This week we are going to continue moving forward and finish working on our first issue and create our first pull request. Our next big goal is to work on adding a newsletter option to the application. We’ll keep learning and keep doing.

“Always two there are, no more, no less.”

Posted on by Johanna Lang and Dayana Mick

Team Jodajodas at Absolventa, their coaching company (Image: Team joda)

What master Yoda is trying to say here is that until the end of September both team joda members will spend almost every day together on their learning path working on SoundDrop.

The “jo” in joda stands for Johanna:

“I am a philosopher, live in Berlin and started to learn programming more than a year ago. The starting point was a Rails Girls Beginners Workshop, which made me very curious about Ruby and Rails, so that I joined two Berlin study groups, the Ruby Monstas and the Rubynettes. In these groups I have been (and am still) participating in several projects from which I learned a lot. Working full time now on the open-source project SoundDrop for three months, surrounded by professional help, is a great opportunity.”

The “da” in joda stands for Dayana:

“I studied literature in Colombia, worked as a teacher for a couple of years and then came to Europe for a Masters Degree in Media and Culture. I had consistently tried to learn programming and had consistently failed until I went to a Rails Girls Berlin Workshop where jo + da met. I am hoping to learn as much as I can to be able to combine my interests in sounds and arts in general with programming and I am really 😃 to have this opportunity. “

“jo” and “da” decided to dive into code during this summer and learn intensively together taking part in the Rails Girls Summer of Code program as joda, after working in both project groups together. They now have a great team of coaches, mentors and an awesome supervisor, as well as Yoda’s teachings as a guide:

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

We are working on SoundDrop, a project that has participated twice in previous Rails Girls Summer of Code editions and towards which we felt keen on from the beginning: The app lets you record sounds and connect them to a place where they belong, thus allowing users to leave an audible mark - anywhere. At the moment, SoundDrop is only a web app, but it needs to go mobile so that users can find drops wherever they are located. So the next milestone for SoundDrop (but of course also for team joda) is to build an API, which we will try to do this summer.

“You will find only what you bring in.”

In our first week and a half participating in the program, we of course haven’t “brought in” major features yet. We tried to get accustomed to the CSS/front end parts of the app by refactoring some of the code and fixing misplaced buttons and containers. Soon, you will be able to listen to SoundDrops (as the play button works now, yay!) and enjoy the responsive design even on your tablet screen :) Currently we are preparing for the great task of building a JSON API for SoundDrop. For this goal we built our own small API and now practice testing on it. Once we’ve tested the whole CRUD cycle, we want to use our knowledge for the “big” SoundDrop API. Furthermore we profit a lot from the many deep dive sessions by our coaches, that provide us with theoretical “background” input.

Team jodaTeam joda, coaches and one of our mentors, also with team LoadToCode and Yodas at work (Images: Team joda)

“Always pass on what you have learned.”

Almost two weeks into the program, we have already discovered some best practices we would like to share with our readers:

  • Take breaks regularly (e.g. 5 minutes every hour).
  • Try to solve problems on your own before you ask for help. Even though it might temporarily bring you frustration and suffering, it is worth it, as in the end you will understand the solution better.
  • Ask for Deep Dive Sessions on basically any topic, concept or feature you don’t fully understand, because, as master Yoda says: “Named must your fear bug be before banish it you can.”
  • Daily feedback to your teammate: What has worked well today? What could be improved?

We leave the closing words to master Yoda, who describes our current situation quite well:

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”

Pssst...we're finally revealing our secret

Posted on by Nada Ashraf and Mayar Alaa

Ruby's Secret Team

The dreamer and the realist, Nada & Mayar. This is who we are: two girls with two completely different personalities but somehow we came together and became one team “Ruby’s Secret”; beside our believes in the healing powers of a good bar Chocolate and that there’s nothing Chocolate can’t solve, our passion for code was this thing in common between us and what made us apply in RGSoC in first place and now we’re working hard and trying to do our best to learn and finally to be able to call ourselves Ruby on Rails developers.
Here’s a little intro about each one of us:

Mayar: Hmmm actually I really find it a little bit hard to talk about myself..I’m a very ordinary girl who just wants to find her passion… I believe that happiness and passion go hand in hand… I like reading, a book is my favorite friend. I like coding because I feel that it is a way for solving problems and thus helping people and making them happier.

Nada: I have lots of dreams and most of them are almost impossible or at least really hard; beside coding I love baking, I recently started an online cake business and I hope that one day I’ll have my own bakery.

Our mysterious can of coke

Applying to RGSoC wasn’t a piece of cake to us; we faced lots of challenges. One of the hardest tasks was finding a coach. After hopeless weeks looking for a coach we finally have a meeting, we arrived half an hour earlier before our appointment; Coca-Cola company was launching a campaign, you get a can of Coca-Cola and print on it whatever you like of words, being affected by the secret book especially the law of attraction, Nada decided to buy a can and write on it “haneksab” which means we’ll win. We decided to do everything we can in order to get accepted.

This is what our mysterious can of Coke is all about: The moment our hand touched this magical can, it was like a portkey that transferred us to a place beyond our imagination.

Week One of RGSoC

Posted on by Ana Sofia

Our teams meet for the first time!Our teams meet for the first time! (Image: Ana Sofia Pinho with the help of the supervisors)

A week has passed and today we are in the middle of a Global Kick-Off Party! Meanwhile, we thought you might be interested to see what all of our teams have been up to in the first days of our program.

From meeting all of the coaches, mentors and supervisors for the first time to making their first pull request or going to conferences, our students didn’t waste any time! We tried to select some of the best moments, but after reviewing all the pictures, we decided to make a facebook album. Take a look here!

A week of RGSoC!Our teams having fun and getting some work done! :) (Image: Ana Sofia Pinho)

Oh! And if you want to be up to date with everything that’s going with the program and with our students, follow us on twitter and our twitter lists! We created a bunch of lists for the teams, students, coaches, mentors and organisers — just pick the ones you want.

Enjoy your Kick-Off Party! :)

Interview with Emma Koszinowski

Posted on by Laura

Interview with Emma Koszinowski

Our next alumna (Class of 2015) is Emma Koszinowski, a Swede living in San Francisco. With a background in media production and IT and a bachelor in Social Science (focusing on how humans learn in digital environments), she took a leave of absence from her job as a maintenance manager at Stockholm university to study when her husband moved his company to San Francisco — and eventually left her job to make a career change. Her aim? Becoming a software developer.

Where do you currently work, and what do you do?

I just started an internship at a small startup called Bridge US where we help people juggle American visa applications. It’s a full stack position where I do a bit of everything: fixing bugs, building features and improving the UI. It feels like it took forever to land a job after RGSoC but if I compare with people I met at events and meetups who went through a bootcamp experience here in San Francisco, it seems like a lot of the other alumnis also spent 3-12 months to find a coding job. My goal was to find a junior position as a programmer right after the program, and I did a couple of interviews and made it to the the technical interview in several of them. Solving a programming task and talking through your problem-solving approach was a pretty nerve-wracking experience for me, but at the same time it motivated me to level up on areas I failed to explain or solve. For quite some time, my day job was to level up on skills I lacked for jobs that I wanted.

What does your usual day look like?

So far I’ve been working on new features and UI improvements as well as fixing bugs. I’m getting more and more familiar with the codebase and the app’s architecture everyday. The goal is to get up to speed on how the most fundamental gems work as well as taking ownership of specific parts or projects.

How did you get interested in programming?

I’ve been interested in technology for a long time and worked in IT, which is somewhat related to software development. I started doing an online introductory course in Python just to get more familiar with how programs are built, and even though it was pretty challenging for me I got hooked. It’s an empowering feeling to be on the production side of things and to know how things work. Knowledge is power.

Is a career in tech something you had planned all along? Where did you work or what did you study before?

I’ve been in the industry for the last 10 years, however I was doing IT or media things, and I can’t think of a more interesting area to work in. This said, I guess I had a mental barrier to do programming since I wasn’t that great at math in school and I didn’t use computers regularly until I was in my twenties.

Which of your skills helped you most to be successful during RGSoC?

I feel like positive self talk might be the most important skill for a programmer. It’s hard to be wrong and that one will be as a new developer. It’s important to take a step back and recognize improvements, even though they seem small or obvious. There is a lot to learn and it’s important to also enjoy reaching milestones and not save the satisfaction for the final release. I believe my management skills — to break things down — and at least some level of discipline helped me get things done. I recommend using Trello or Asana with your team to define tasks and have a platform to communicate about them. I scheduled coaching sessions in advance and made sure I had studied up on the subject I wanted to learn more about before, so that I would have relevant questions. If I reached a roadblock I’d ask in one of our Slack channels to see if there was someone online who had time to answer my questions.

Which difficulties did you face during the program — and how did you overcome them?

We were a really big team! From our open source project CocoaPods we had four remote coaches, two in different time zones than us. We had five coaches from GitHub who hosted us, one and a half remote, and two of our friends also coached us. It was a lot of people involved and just getting everyone on board on what was going on took some managing. The next thing to tackle was to understand who to ask about what. Our GitHub coaches were not familiar with the CocoaPods codebase, so with them we learned everything from demystifying the codebase to iOS development to Regex, algorithms, Git and more. CocoaPods helped us with more specific questions regarding the issues we were working on as well as helping us when we had Git problems, etc… Mostly it boiled down to knowing who to ask about what and to find the time to work on it together, given everyone’s schedule and time zone. If you are having a similar experience, I recommend using Screenhero when you are working together; it allows you to take turns sharing your screen as well as taking over somebody else’s screen.

How did Rails Girls Summer of Code help you get to where you are today?

I can’t stress enough the value of the experience working on a real project with real users. RGSoC is a great way to get that experience which universities don’t really teach that well. I learned to use relevant tools in a team environment and what a workflow can look like. Those are valuable experiences that help me in the internship I do today.

Who do you look up to in your field? Do you have any role models?

I look up to all the amazing people that pass knowledge forward in this field. RGSoC does an amazing job and I would also like to give a big thank you to RailsBridge that organizes workshops in Rails as often as once a month in San Francisco. Check them out to see if you have a group close to you, or get in touch with them to organize your own.

Do you have any advice for future Rails Girls Summer of Code students and for women who wish to work in tech?

Finding a local learning environment has been really helpful for me. Keep eyes and ears open for study groups, workshops, hackathons or social events in tech to get to know people and learn about what’s happening. You might meet people to work with or get help solving a problem you’ve been trying to figure out — or just meet new friends. Also guard your maker time — things don’t get built on their own. When it’s time to look for a job, make sure people know you are looking so that they can connect you with people they know are hiring. Don’t wait till the last week of RGSoC (like I did). Start way earlier.