This is a guest post by Cheri Linwood, the organizer of the first Rails Girls ATX!
Rails Girls ATX came about as an accident. I’ve wanted to learn programming for a few years. Knowing this, my husband, Jeff Linwood (a programmer) is always on the lookout for classes or workshops for me especially those that are women-focused.
A few months ago, Jeff sent me a link about Rails Girls, a workshop designed to teach women Rails. I decided to check it and out. I was really excited when I read about the conference because it seemed to really encourage collaboration and encouraged beginners to attend. The only problem was that the closest event was in Dallas, and they had already selected their attendees.
There was a place on the page for me to enter my email address so that I could suggest that Rails Girls come to Austin. I sent my email address along with a few sentences of why I thought Austin would be a kick-ass city to host a Rails Girls event. Within an hour, I had heard back from the head of Rails Girls with a message that basically said, “We agree! Austin would be a great place to have a Rails Girls event. Thank you for organizing it.”. Huh? I didn’t want to organize, I wanted to attend.
Lucky for me, my husband knew some of the movers and shakers in the Austin Rails community. He told them about Rails Girls, and soon we had offers for sponsorship, an enthusiastic group of organizers and coaches.
The Austin Rails community was extremely supportive as well.
Capital Factory was key to our success. Their offer to let us use their office for the weekend was critical to the success of the event. Their space was the perfect size for our workshop. The CF staff we worked with was professional and accommodating.
We were also lucky enough to secure sponsorship from Heroku, Bloomfire, Returnpath, Github and a Rails enthusiast from Dallas. Because of their generosity, we were able to provide t-shirts and a terrific lunch for all of the participants and coaches.
Without any advertising beyond sending a few tweets, we had over 100 applications for 40 participant spots.
The participants were all chosen at random so we had a range of expertise from those who had never done Rails before, to those who used it professionally.
One of the sessions that the participants really seemed to like was the lightning talks. We found out that there is no right way to get in to programming.
We had two high school-aged girls. One said that she now wanted to major in CS when she got to college. The other said that she now knew what she didn’t want to do! Another participant said that she’d just quit her job to become a lawyer but her friend suggested that she attend Rails GirlsATX. As a result, she’s decided to become a programmer instead.
Although I didn’t get a chance to speak with everyone after the event, there was an obvious energy in the room. Since the event, some of the participants have been getting together to try and teach each other more Rails. Rails Girls ATX 2.0 is currently in the works and there’s even talk about organizing one that is specifically for high schoolers.
Overall, the event was a huge success and I’m proud to have been part of a great team.
Cheri Linwood RailsGirls ATX Organizer
If you would like to learn more about Rails Girls, visit www.railsgirls.org
To keep up with all of the Rails Girls happenings here in Austin going forward, please visit our web site and sign up for any mailing lists you are interested in. We hope to see you at a future event!
Follow us on Twitter at @ RailsGirlsATX