Automated Insights has been a part of the rapidly growing technology sector in the Durham, N.C. area since our founding over a decade ago. Home to several top universities and colleges, the Research Triangle area has always placed a high priority on further education and skill development of its residents, and Automated Insights boasts those values at the core of who we are as a company. That’s why we were honored to host a local chapter of the Girl Develop It organization for a four-part Introduction to Ruby course.

What is Girl Develop It?

Girl Develop It is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and judgment-free opportunities for women interested in learning web and software development.

While there is an ever growing list of online resources for learning and improving development skills, Girl Develop It creates in-person classes and fosters community support to help women of diverse backgrounds build confidence in their careers and achieve their technology goals. Judgment-free support is at the core of the organization’s “don’t be shy, develop it” mantra.

Girl Develop It

The basics

Girl Develop It classes are meant to be a safe space for women of all skill levels to learn, troubleshoot, and explore new ways of engineering to solve problems. The group of women who consistently attended ranged from completely new to programming through experienced developers who simply hadn’t yet ventured into the land of Ruby. Automated Insights’ own Kate Studwell, Software Engineering Manager, taught us the basics of Ruby over a total of eight hours. It was encouraging to see a range of ages, experience, and careers; a grade school teacher, a full time developer at a local tech company, and even a product marketer in myself were all able to attend and follow along with the course.

The nitty gritty

We started off the course with the basics of Ruby:

  • IRB: how do we get started quickly with Ruby by using the command line interface?
  • What are the main data types in Ruby, and what’re the basics for formatting these?
  • What’s the meaning behind error messages you may encounter? (Side note: Ruby’s error messages are incredibly helpful for troubleshooting issues in your code!)
  • How does Ruby handle variable creation?
  • What are some helpful methods we can use to get our program to do what we want, like converting a number to a string type so we can print out a desired sentence on our screen?

That last one resonated with me immediately, since natural language generation is all about transforming numbers into words!

As the course moved along, we ventured into more complex topics like creating ranges, arrays, and hashes for storing and organizing data that we want to use in our program. There are a ton of nifty methods you can use for different collections.

Girl Develop It - Ruby

After some homework and a couple more classes covering more Ruby topics, like writing our own methods, keyword parameters, and object-oriented programming, we moved onto our final project: creating our own role-playing command line game.

Wrapping it up

This final assignment was challenging for a Ruby newbie such as myself, but seeing everything we learned over the previous three classes come together in a single, enjoyable program was inspiring. Not only did I pick up some basic Ruby skills, but I was able to do so without judgment and with the help of others coming over to my seat and troubleshooting with me. As Ruby is one of the top languages our Automated Insights engineers use on a daily basis, I was able to get a peek into the daily lives of colleagues outside of my immediate marketing team and develop a better understanding of how all the magic happens with our product. The main takeaway: keep learning new skills, even if they don’t seem to impact your day job. You might learn something completely unexpected about the work of others, the work of those in your community, and about yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, Girl Develop It is an amazing organization to get involved with no matter how new or seasoned you are in the world of programming!

— Written by Laura Pressman, Product Marketing Manager at Automated Insights