I work for a decent sized manufacturing company in the Pittsburgh area. I am the only ruby developer. We have another developer on staff, but our responsibilities don’t usually overlap and he doesn’t know ruby. After joining this company, I was eventually tasked with writing web apps. Now, my background is Computer Engineering and I spent a considerable time learning lower level programming, C/C++ and even Assembly. I thought it would be fun to learn, so I got some books and got to work.
Why was this bad? It really wasn’t. Learning a new language and framework was a lot of fun. BUT BUT BUT; it was painful at times. I had no resources besides books, Google, and online mailing lists to find answers. Granted they were very helpful, but I had no idea what I was missing. I would spend hours trying to figure out some obscure bug in my code, or waiting for an answer on Stack Overflow. I was getting ever more frustrated, especially with the speed that Rails was moving at the time. I felt like a huge failure. How dumb could I be? All of these cool people were making awesome stuff with Rails. What’s my problem?!!!
Then I heard about these Ruby Brigades that were forming. Lo and behold, Pittsburgh was forming one. I almost didn’t go. I was afraid. I knew I would not know a single person there. I was obviously incapable of learning. For some reason, I decided to go. Guess what, I didn’t know anyone there. Slowly I started to meet people and talk about what I was doing. I’ll stress that this took time, several meetings. As I slowly got over my anxiety, I started to make friends and share my problems with Ruby. They challenged me to get better, and they helped me when I got stuck. It was awesome.
Ever since, I have continued to have great experiences and new opportunities. After hearing two people talking about Mendicant University, I applied. I actually wasn’t accepted the first time. This should have been devastating for me, but once again my new friends came to the rescue. Steve Klabnik messaged me and told me I had just missed the cutoff, that it came down to several of us and only a few open spots. He encouraged me to apply again. I did, and I completed the core skills course. Yay! I’ve got involved with planning this conference. I’ve even sent a few pull requests to open source projects, like Hackety Hack. It’s hard to describe how much this has changed me, submitting to open source is something I never really thought I could do. I still screw up and feel stupid, but I know that I’m not the only one.
Don’t code alone. Get involved. Meet new people. Just coding for a day job is fine, but there is a whole other world out there.