Last Monday I attended a hangout meeting with the CodeNewbie community. Something they call Ruby Monday. It was my first time trying this sort of virtual community interaction, but I had such a great time that I think I’ll be joining them again real soon.
I think what I enjoyed the most was the atmosphere of respect for all members in the group. It is something nice and incredibly encouraging when your contributions are considered important and your voice is heard, regardless of what your level of experience may be. Thank you, guys! You rock!
As a Junior Engineer, I find that I often feel unsure about the value of my own contributions, be it to a coding community or even to the company I work for. Sure, I’ve gradually gained more confidence, as I’ve developed new skills and acquired experience over the years, but there’s still that part of me that will always wonder how much experience is enough experience for my peers to even consider that I have something interesting to say.
As I meet more people in the coding community, coders of all backgrounds and skills levels, I learn that most often than not we are our own worst judges. Yes, it is true there are a few jerks out there, and people that enjoy putting newbies down to make themselves look good, but most people are not that like that. I do believe, however, that many of us may still suffer from certain bias, even if we don’t know it.
I remember reading some time ago about a study that attempted to determine the bias against women in leadership roles. It was shocking to read how exactly the same actions or circumstances made a man appear as a great leader, hardworking and dedicated, while a woman was perceived as bossy or selfish. Sometimes, I wish someone came up with a similar experiment involving coders. I wonder what would happen if the same solution to a bug or issue, or even a feature, was presented as authored by a newbie programmer, an experienced programmer, a younger person, someone over fifty, a programmer who is new to the community, a programmer who is very well known, a man or a woman. Would it make any difference?
We can’t control any bias that anyone may have against us, but we can certainly do our best to avoid being biased against others and even against ourselves. We are biased against ourselves when we avoid opportunities to contribute because we think we have nothing to give, when we feel like the impostor that crashed the party, or when we allow negative feedback and rejection from others to keep us from doing what we love, simply because we interpret it as a confirmation of that fear of not being good enough.
That’s why I find communities such as CodeNewbie so amazing. Like a safe haven! Before attending that meeting I had considered revamping this blog many times, and many times I had abandoned the effort, second guessing myself, wondering if I really had anything good or useful to blog about.
Well, I am just someone who enjoys coding, who likes the Ruby language, who is working hard to build herself a career as a web application developer (of the Rails persuasion), and who also enjoys writing. While my experiences may not seem relevant to some, I believe someone out there may find them useful enough to keep coming back for more. If you’re one of those, thank you! I promise to update frequently.
Oh, just to end in the purest community style of sharing, here’s a tiny something I learned recently. Until recently, I didn’t know you could evaluate multiple values in a case statement (in Ruby) simply by separating them with a coma, like this
case word when "first", "last" # do something when "second" # do something else end
That’s cool, but even better is that you can do something similar with regular expressions, and you’re even able to make use of whatever value is matched by the regexp, for instance, as the argument for a method call. Like this
case url when /products\/(\d+)/, /products\/special\/(\d+)/ call_to_method($1) when /events\/(\d+)/ call_to_other_method($1) end
This last statement will match an url such as /products/56 and then use the value 56 to call the method. It would also match the url /products/special/78 and call the same method with the value 78. Pretty simple, I know, but useful.