Getting my hands dirty at Ladies Learning Code – Intro to Ruby workshop

While no one who knows me well would be inclined to refer to me as a ‘lady’, last Saturday I spent a very interesting day getting acquainted with Ruby alongside 40 other women at a workshop offered by Ladies Learning Code.  Ladies Learning Code  is a young Canadian non-profit whose goal is to introduce women of all ages to the not-so-dark arts of programming in a friendly way.   Local LLC chapters offer workshops in Halifax, Toronto, London, Vancouver and Ottawa, as well as a March Break camp for girls in Toronto.  As a coding dilettante, I thought this would be a great opportunity to dust off my limited skills and get started on learning Ruby*.

Absolutely no programming knowledge is required to take part in a Ladies Learning Code workshop.  Participants work in small groups with a mentor at each table as a team of presenters leads a series of exercises designed to get people writing simple programmes very quickly.  I was seated with a university librarian, a government translator, and a woman who worked in communications for a local non-profit, none of whom had ever coded previously.  But by the end of the day, through great instruction and friendly personalized help, we were all budding gurus.

The workshop included a good blend of activities: short lecture segments to introduce a new concept , coding and refactoring exercises, and puzzles which required us to figure out what the code would do.  We started off slowly, with quick exercises resulting in 5 line programmes, and ended the day creating a simple blackjack game. As co-presenters, Lana Lodge and Edward Ocampo-Gooding did an excellent job of demystifying what we were getting into, and our mentor Gabriel was also very helpful in getting us past any problems that popped up.   The last hour of the workshop was a bit overwhelming – there was a lot of information presented very quickly, and at my table no one felt up to the challenge of creating the game from scratch because our brains were full.  So we used the template file thoughtfully provided in the course materials that sketched out the logic and provided the tricky bits we hadn’t learned in over the course of the day in order to have a game up and running in less than an hour.

The Ottawa event was held in the supercool Shopify lounge, a great space that they make available to a variety of local geek usergroups.  Many of the volunteer mentors also were Shopify employees – it’s nice to see that kind of support for community events.

The next LLC Ottawa event (sometime in April?) will be an intro to app programming.  If you are looking for an opportunity to dip your toe into the waters of coding, I would highly recommend checking it out.  Join the LLC mailing list to get updates about the next happenings in Ottawa.

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* I’m secretly hoping this workshop will provide the kickstart I need to get back to Brian Marick’s Everyday Scripting with Ruby, which has been collecting dust on my iPad for months now.



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