It’s a wrap: Ruby Conf Australia 2014
Random nice person: “Hi, so, what do you do?”
Me: “Oh, heh, I’m just a Project Manager.”
stares at feet, kicks a pebble
When I’m at industry events, I don’t think I’ve ever managed to respond to this question with my self-worth intact. I’m a bundle of self-deprecation. I suffer from impostor syndrome just like most of the people I’ve chatted with, only for me, it’s like I’m crashing your conference without any right.
I walked into the worldwide inaugural Railsgirls Next event with all of the good feelings: hope, my own brand of stubbornness, and that burning passion I have for code. I left, feeling less than confident in my ability to do what my heart so desired. I can copy and paste code like a pro, even debug a little bit, but understanding what I’m doing? Not so much.
In the RGN retrospective I joked that I went from smiling–suicide–smiling. Then something dawned on me: this is the cycle that most developers experience on a daily basis – the truth is I’m not used to being bad, not comfortable with being really bad at something: I’m usually able to bluff my way through anything. I felt defeated and went back to the apartment to draw pictures of cacti and black clouds, nary a giggle to be heard. (Thanks to Stripe and Github I forgot about that for a few hours later that evening).
Wednesday morning, I morosely let Luna Park’s gaping maw swallow me up. Once installed I laughed gleefully at the delightful Josh Kalderimis’ MC goodness, drank good coffee and listened intently to things that made little sense.
Later that morning something momentous happened and the gloom lifted. I was listening to people really talk to me, as though they’d been chosen with me as their target audience. The Ruby community made me feel part of their gang, I was at a love in!
A few really standout talks
Day one: Thursday 20
Amanda Wagener bravely broached the subject of The Parental Programmer. Real talk: people have lives and children, there are compromises, all of this is okay. The job still gets done, don’t beat yourself up. Introspection and commitment to being the best you can in the circumstances is what makes us all good at what we do.
Kinsey Ann Durham reassured us that it was okay to cry and feel defeated, often (she cried a lot!). Kinsey started her path to development by attending a Rails Bridge event and as a result decided to pursue a career in web development. As she put it, she always preferred Barbies to computers but then something changed. Her non-traditional path (via Computer Science) into web development was not smooth sailing but nevertheless, she’s living proof to us all that it’s possible.
Ending day one on a high note, we had a very dapper Pat Allan ask us to collectively examine our role in shaping the online world. That we could all see the Golden Age of the Internet – that in our position we could architect the online space so it was good for humanity as a whole.
We then all ate loads of dumplings and some of us sung songs from the 80s and 90s (all ironically of course).
Day two: Friday 21
Rinse and repeat (with bleary eyes)
A big shout out to Zachary Scott. For me, his talk beautifully illustrated the principles of the open source community and tested its resolve. N00b perspective: he really put it on the line with live coding. Things went awry, he handled it all with good humour and calmness, calling on the audience for assistance. His level-headed response to adversity taught me that pair programming isn’t all that daunting compared to partnering up with 200+ people.
We had some controversy erupt following the second last slide of the day, Eleanor Saitta pointed out that the conference was very white and very male and shared a list of possible speakers gathered from Google. Whatever your opinion (and I have my own) there’s no denying that the immediate surge towards tackling this was indicative of the type of community we’re trying to build.
Summary: I am an experiment.
I have hope and I am determined – I even like RubyMonk more than TV. Only problem is, I can’t really write code off the top of my head yet. I bash my head against screens and keyboards and I cry and whinge often.
It’s my belief, and I hope to prove my thesis, that given enough time (and conferences and camps and meetups) I too can achieve what I want no matter my handicap.
I want to make things, I love to create, I have an awesome bio for @j2h to intro my talks with.
And now, when anyone asks what I do, I’m going to answer:
“I make the internet!”
And even if I never deploy anything decent, as a Project Manager, I can still contribute to what is yet to be The Golden Age of the Internet.
Say hi anytime: @MelissaKaulfuss