Back in November of 2015, I wrote a blog about how Ruby on Rails saved my career. As a recap, I'd been a programmer for 13 years before I was given the opportunity to learn Ruby on Rails. It was a challenging and exciting experience; my mind was blown and I've continued down this path of learning ever since. In case you couldn't tell, gappers love to learn! We are always looking for ways to grow both personally and professionally, we even have our very own gapU!
Well a few weeks ago gap intelligence was awesome enough to send myself and a fellow gapper out to Phoenix to attend our first ever RailsConf. For those that don’t know, since 2006, RailsConf is the largest gathering of Rails developers in the world! (Not to mention the largest gathering of Rubyists) Let me just start my saying RailsConf was, well….AWESOME!! (Just wanted to get that out of the way early.) Don't worry this blog is not just going to be me telling you that I liked RailsConf, because I think most people walk away from the conference with that same sentiment. What I’m hoping this blog WILL do, is inspire those that have not yet attended a RailsConf, to do so one day in the future.
There are a ton of benefits you get when you attend a great conference like this. Lets start with Career Development. If your company sends you to a conference, they are basically telling you they value your career growth. They want you to learn and grow and this leads to improving the companies business. That's a win-win in my book!
Another great benefit of attending a conference is that you get a change of pace from your normal work flow. I read recently in an article that nearly 75% of employees around the world feel disengaged at work every day. From time to time, you have to get out of your regular routine. Its really easy to get caught in that daily grind and not have time to keep up with what’s going on in your industry. Sometimes you find yourself spending all of your time just trying to keep up with the day to day that it's hard to find time to read articles, books, or take tutorials. At RailsConf you will surely discover best practices, new technologies, new methodologies, methods of collaboration…the list goes on and on. Attending a Rails Conf will refresh your mind, help you to get new ideas and inspire you!
Speaking of inspiration, this is the best and my favorite benefit by far. Going to good talks will motivate you. You will come back wanting to re-factor code, try a new technology, use a new gem, learn a new programming language, take new approaches, this list is endless, but we’ll stop here. In fact, my co-worker & I have already created a handful of agile stories and put them in our icebox. These stories were created based solely on the rails talks we were able to attend. RailsConf is not a one track conference. There are several tracks and you have to make a decision every session and choose what talk you are interested in, think of it as a choose you own adventure. The best part of all these workshops and talks is that you don’t have to stress about making a bad choice, because all the slides/talks will be available online following the conference. (Thank you ConFreaks!) So if you are torn between several talks going on at the same time, just make a gut decision, or plan ahead, it is your choice. I plan on going back to watch the presentations I was unable to attend so that I can get even more value out of this RailsConf.
Here’s a list of the tracks that were available this year:
Open Source Deep Dive
Leading at all Levels
Looking at this list, you can see its not just about coding. There were even talks about empathy and teamwork; both topics which have nothing to do with actual coding, but definitely super valuable tools for our toolbox.
Nice to Meet You
One of the biggest reasons you attend a conference that hasn’t been mentioned yet, is for networking. We get to meet all sorts of people that are all there for more or less the same reasons you are plus they share the same interests as you: RUBY on RAILS! You get a chance to exchange war stories with your peers, which is awesome! The conference presenters make themselves available too so I encourage you go and chat with some of these folks. After all, these are some of the brightest minds in the industry, you can learn a lot from these people. Remember, this is Rails we are about talking, with the most important principle being that "its all about our Community".
Now to the fun stuff about RailsConf. You didn’t think it was all business and no fun did you? I hope not, because at RailsConf, you work hard and play hard. Cool stuff at this years conference:
After parties/social gatherings.
T-shirts! You will not need to buy any shirts for a while.
Virtual Reality Station (sponsored by Hired)
Massages. Lets just say I went back for seconds!
Endless supply of cold brew coffee (thanks ProCore)
Lots of snacks
Tasty Lunches. I can’t guarantee EVERY conference you attend will have great food, but this years was definitely de-lish!
Not to Be Missed
I hope those that have not yet attended a RailsConf are inspired to do so now that they have read this blog. So if you are a Rails developer or love the Ruby programming language, I promise, its worth the price of admission. Choosing RailsConf is investing in yourself and in growing professionally. If you aren't at a company that encourages (and helps to pay for) professional development, I hear there are scholarships available as well. So make that leap and remember…keep the faith! Yes…I threw in a DHH joke. If you get a chance, listen to his keynote and you will get it.