The sisterhood of the travelling Rails coders

Oct 2, 2012

For a small group of women in Tallinn, Estonia, the world of technology offers the chance to have it all: work and family. Known as Tech Sisters, the group formed in August with the intention of following up on the Rails Girls event last March.

According to their website, Rails Girls “aims to give tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas.” Having started in Finland, Rails Girls has since grown into a global, non-profit volunteer community with events in more than 20 countries and countless cities. The group holds two-day events where interested parties learn about designing, prototyping, and coding for web applications using Ruby on Rails, a programming language.

Janika Liiv at the Rail Girls Tallinn event. Photo from the group’s Facebook page

At the Tallinn event last March, there were 100 applications for 30 places, and at the end of the workshop 30 apps were created—all variations on a single theme: a database of objects where you can add, edit, delete, and include pictures. The applications vary from a database for pets to a collection of favorite recipes. Janika Liiv, one of the co-founders of Tech Sisters, said in an email:

 “The goal of this one day hands-on workshop is to get the participants excited about making things and giving them a sneak peek to the programming world. The program is built using the advantages of Ruby on Rails, which may seem a bit magical for the beginners and may not give an in depth view about how things actually work, but lets us reach our goal quickly and gives the participants something they can show off and be proud of.” There will be women from the IT sector as guest speakers as well as a girl who attended the Rails Girls event last March who “couldn’t shake the excitement off and started to learn programming by herself following Michael Hartl’s Ruby on Rails tutorial.”

Of the 30 participants at the last event, Liiv is only aware of four women who continued programming after the workshop. To help the women who wish to continue programming, Tech Sisters will set up study groups which will follow Michael Hartl’s Ruby on Rails tutorial. Each group will have a volunteer programmer who can help with problems and answer questions. Regular meetings are also planned so the women can share experiences and see how other fledgling programmers are managing. As Liiv pointed out, “It’s always assuring to see that you are not the only one struggling.”

The workshop’s program will be the same, but this month’s event is set to be even bigger. There were 125 applications for 50 places, with a quite a few of the applicants coming fromLatviathis time around. As Liiv said in her email,

“It’s awesome that there’s so much interest in the workshop, but devastating at the same time as we can not accept them all. This is one of the reasons we created Tech Sisters – so we could stay in contact and engage both the women who have attended the Rails Girls and those who didn’t get in.”

For those interested in starting their own events, Rails Girls has made the guides to organizing events open source. More information can be found here: Rails Girls Guides.

About the Author

Cameron Virkus

Cameron Virkus is a contributor from South Carolina currently living in Prague after spending a few years in Taiwan.
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