Random thoughts about the Rails Outreach workshop

part of the RailsBridge Open Workshops Project

It’s the Monday I didn’t expect to see, the Monday after the latest Rails for Women workshop. Two months ago I agreed to step up my volunteer commitment to these workshops. Instead of my usual lurking at the registration table, or lunchtime KP duty, this workshop saw me promoted to Assistant Organizer. Suddenly I became acquainted with the million little tasks that the Sarahs (Allen and Mei) and super-volunteer Ilén Zazueta-Hall had taken on so graciously before. It was like planning a big church wedding, or Thanksgiving dinner for fifty–and praise be that the remarkable Amy Chen was the event’s other organizer. Thanks to her and all the wonderful people who said “Yes!” to volunteering for this event, I am upright, even verbal today, and not reduced to Jell-o from all the pressure.

I spent Install Night and Workshop Day scooting around the workshop space, so my impressions of the event are scattered and incoherent:

* Little touches such as the bicycle racks sponsor Pivotal Labs provides inside its offices, as well as its location near several mass transit stops, said much about how positively different this workshop would be.

* If you’re organizing something like this, do whatever you can in advance, because inevitably something else will become more urgent at showtime. You can’t wing it for an event with this many people and projectors.

* Speaking of projectors, I regretted not having a volunteer dedicated just to A/V. There was too much last-minute scrambling for adapters, though our gracious hosts at Pivotal Labs had what seemed like the world’s most complete inventory of them. You know how I said something would come up right at the last minute? Count on the projectors to provide that drama.

* At the beginning of the workshop, I mentioned how thrilled I was that so many of the participants had little or no programming experience. I am totally sincere about that–of all the good things this workshop brings about, what I’m most proud of is that we offered an event which was friendly to newcomers. Wouldn’t it be great to see something like this for JavaScript or Django?

* I loved having the company of Mary, Sharon, and Michael as the workshop was underway. I never got to the gibbering-to-myself stage of frenzy because they handled so many things. It was kinda spooky how many things just got done–magically, invisibly.

* Everybody who cleaned up at the end has raised the standard for all other events at Pivotal Labs. By 5PM the place sparkled. I hope the Pivots liked it this morning.

What was your experience of the Rails Outreach Workshop?