Becoming a Rails Girls Summer of Code Coach

Rails Girls Summer of Code Coaches are the first line of support for the student teams. As experienced developers, they help their team deal with issues and questions that arise in the day-to-day of the project.

Coaches do not have to be experts on the team’s Open Source project but they need to understand the project and support their students’ learning process.

Coaching a team does take quite a bit of time and effort, so coaches must be committed to being available to help their team. However, we absolutely support coaches teaming up and helping their students on a roster.

If you consider becoming a Rails Girls Summer of Code Coach, the following guide will help you figure out if you have what it takes and how you can get involved.

Coach Guide

What it takes to be a coach

The main things you have to bring to the table to become a coach are:

  • Patience and an open mind
  • Some experience in coaching
  • Time for coaching during office hours

First of all, coaches are patient, tolerant and open people. Our students are people with various coding levels (everything from novice to medium), as well as diverse backgrounds, mentalities, mindsets, and goals. We want this to be considered and respected by everyone involved.

Ideally, potential coaches will already have some experience in coaching — either from a coding event (like a local workshop) or from guiding junior developers at work.

Coaches will also have to leave their ego at the door: For your students, getting to know the process of coding work will be more important than learning the tools; whatever gets them started and keeps them curious and eager to learn is a perfect tool, no matter your personal preferences.

Keep in mind that your preferences — just like the “common knowledge of the community” — are the result of a long, long learning process which you, and the community, have gone through. Give your students the same chance to discover their own path. Our goal is to get and keep students excited about coding!

Ideally, students and coaches will share the same office space, as this makes it much easier to work closely together. However, that is not to say that a remote coach won’t work — it always depends on the team and the project.

Should a coach not be available to help with a specific issue, students can also reach out to our team of remote coaches via a dedicated Slack channel.

Why should I be a coach?

We firmly believe that coaching will not just help our students but will also help you

  • give back to the community,
  • share your knowledge, and
  • improve your work as a programmer.

There are a lot of good reasons to become a coach. First and foremost, you will be giving back to the community by empowering women and non-binary people to contribute to open source. It’s a great way to share your knowledge!

We also believe that coaching can be really rewarding for your own work, that it can improve the way you write code and help you grow as a developer, as well as make you think about concepts you tend to take for granted.

And above all, it will be incredibly satisfying for you to see the happy faces of your students when they succeed and reach their goals.

Can I coach remotely?

The short answer is: Yes — if it’s the right choice for everyone involved!

We highly recommend that students and coaches spend their Summer of Code in the same location, ideally sharing one workspace. We believe that sitting together in front of a screen with your team to help them solve problems or explain concepts is often more beneficial (and easier), both for the students and the coaches.

However, sometimes this just isn’t possible — and that’s when remote coaching becomes a good alternative solution and we’ll try our best to make this possible for our teams.

What will I be doing as a coach?

  • Going over the technical basics if needed
  • Guiding students through coding steps
  • Showing them how to debug and troubleshoot
  • Showing students the ways to finding solutions

It is important for coaches to teach the process of programming — showing them the way to a solution rather than telling the students the answer straight away. This will sometimes include going over the basics, teaching them how to debug and troubleshoot, or discussing concepts on paper.

Coaches should spend time with their students, guiding them through the relevant coding steps (e.g. by asking mindful questions). Every project is different and requires different methods; just make sure your students really understand what you are trying to teach them, at the risk of not being DRY :)

Please be aware that being an RGSoC Coach is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. This role comes with a lot of responsibility you need to be certain you can handle. Your support is essential for teams to succeed!

Should I have in-depth knowledge of the project(s) chosen by my team?

In-depth knowledge of the project(s) chosen by your team is not required. However, we do expect you to have some expertise in the technologies used in the project. We also recommend getting acquainted with the project’s technical design and codebase once your team is accepted to the program.

How much time does coaching take?

The actual time investment varies from team to team, but this is a general idea of how much time you will need to invest:

  • 1-2 hours a day during office hours
  • Availability via chat or email, for important/urgent matters

During the period of Summer of Code (July–September), we recommend setting aside around 1–2 hours a day of time spent with the team in person (face-to-face), plus being available via chat or email for questions that may arise throughout the day. Where it makes sense, in-person coaching can also be done “blocked” on a whole day or afternoon a week, making it easier for you to integrate it with your day-to-day work.

Coaches are not expected to work together with their students full-time. But from a student’s perspective, it is best for them and their progress if they have a coach at hand most of the time, as they will constantly run into problems they need help with. This is why we recommend that coaching is shared among a few coaches. Each team must have at least 2 coaches but is allowed to have more.

We also encourage you to ask your company to become a Coaching Company.

Ways to find a team and register as a coach

  • Register as a coach on our Teams app
  • Reach out to local Rails Girls/PyLadies/WomenWhoCode/etc. chapters
  • Get in touch with local developer user groups and study groups
  • Write an email on the RGSoC community mailing list
  • Spread the word on Twitter

As a first step, you should register as a coach on our Teams app; just log in with GitHub and, under “My Account > Edit”, select what you’re interested in helping with: as a coach or as a remote coach/helpdesk.

If you don’t know any students yet, reach out to your local female developer initiatives like Rails Girls, PyLadies or whatever is available in your city and fits your technology stack. There you can get to know students and other coaches. We also recommend reaching out to local developer user groups, as well as study groups if there are any in your area.

We also have a Rails Girls Summer of Code community mailing list: send an email introducing yourself, specifying your areas of expertise and location, and offer to become a coach. Additionally, you can spread the word on Twitter mentioning @RailsGirlsSoC and we’ll retweet and help you connect to students.

If you have any further questions, drop us a line at contact@rgsoc.org.