Last weekend I was at Rails Girls Nagasaki 1st - the first Rails Girls event in Nagasaki - as both an attendee and a speaker. It was a great experience where I was able to learn more about Rails, meet new people, make friends, practise Japanese and overall it was an awesome event.
What is Rails Girls Nagasaki
Rails Girls is a non-profit organisation that aims to give women and girls the skills to understand technology and build their ideas. The Nagasaki event was a free workshop and by the end all attendees had successfully created a Ruby on Rails blog-esque site and deployed it to the web!
This was the first time the event has been held in Nagasaki, and just over half of the people there (including me) were actually not based in Nagasaki, but had travelled from other parts of Japan to attend. Out of the six coaches, only one was from Nagasaki - and both the sponsor speakers travelled from Tokyo. It just goes to show how much effort everyone put in to get the event off the ground and make it succeed. Also, with all these people travelling in - and Japan having so many edible souvenirs - there was a variety of delicious local snacks to try.
The event itself was structured as a two-day workshop, with the first day set aside for Rails installation and dev environment configuration, and the second day for creating the website, lightning talks and afterparty. Coincidentally, there were six attendees and six coaches, so each attendee had a dedicated coach helping them the whole time. We worked through the Rails Girls Guides - which go from ‘what is a server’ to ‘now that you have deployed your website with source control, let’s add some tests’ - and answering any of their questions along the way. After completing the guidess, my coach also helped me design and implement extra features.
My Japanese isn’t fantastic, and my coach’s English was quite limited, but with the help of Google Translate and a sketchbook, we managed to make it work. While I have years of experience programming, Rails is new to me and tutorials/articles can’t answer questions like an experienced person can. I learnt a lot more about Rails conventions and random Japanese programming things from these conversations!
As a sponsor of Rails Girls Japan, TokyoDev has the opportunity to speak at the events. So, halfway through the event I temporarily put on my speaker hat, to give a presentation (in Japanese) on the article I wrote previously on female software developers working in Japan. Considering it’s been over a decade since I’ve done any Japanese presentations, I felt the talk itself went pretty well. However in hindsight I really wish I had tested the setup first, because starting your talk battling technical issues doesn’t help the stress levels.
The day wrapped up with an afterparty at the venue, giving a chance to mingle and chat with everyone over food and drinks. As I attend in-person events partially to meet new people and learn more about the Japanese dev scene, this was definitely an event highlight for me. It was really interesting to hear about people’s reasons for attending or what they hoped for from future events - we even started to talk about planning Rails Girls Fukuoka. Also, did you know Japanese afterparties sometimes have afterparties (that possibly have more afterparties)? It was a great conclusion to a wonderful event.
One of the things that stood out for me about the workshop was just how accessible it was for anyone to participate - the only things needed were a laptop and willingness to learn. There was a lady there who had never touched programming, but she was attending because her son - who works as a programmer - had told her about the event and encouraged her to go. She went from ‘I never understand when my son talks about work’ to ‘I think I sorta get it now’ and to me, that’s just so amazing.
I really enjoyed the event, and I hope I can participate again next time - not as an attendee but maybe as a coach! I’m really grateful to TokyoDev for the opportunity to attend (and speak!). I was able to see first hand how events like this can introduce women to technology, and that’s one of the ways we can reduce the gender gap in IT. Massive thanks to the organisers, the sponsors, the coaches and the attendees for making it all possible.