Rails Girls is a program that aims to equip women with the technology tools to build their ideas. Co-founded by a dynamic duo, Linda Liukas and Karri Saarinen, the program has just completed its second edition in Helsinki and is now on its way to the shores of Singapore.
With Lady.py just concluded last month, Rails Girls brings more knowledge to the local developer community and hopefully will spur more execution of ideas. If you are a female programmer/aspiring programmer (guys may be considered but you will have to bring a female friend who is interested), you can apply for the one-day program here. Application deadline is October 1, 2011 and successful applicants will be notified on October 3. Rails Girls is also looking for coaches who are willing to help out. If you fit the bill, drop them an email at team [at] railsgirls [dot] com. The event will be held on October 8, 2011 at SmartSpace (Gothere.sg) with a pre-conference mixer and installation fest held the night before.
To find out more about Rails Girls Singapore, e27 managed to grab a short interview with both Linda and Karri to hear their thoughts and expectations.
Tell us how you got interested in programming and how you went on to start Rails Girls
[Linda] I studied in Stanford in 2010 and took part in one of the Rails Outreach for Women workshops by Railsbridge in San Francisco. I loved the concept and wanted to do a similar event in Finland – only with a product twist. I co-founded Rails Girls with Karri who at the time worked at Kisko Labs, a Rails shop in Helsinki and in about two weeks organized the first Rails Girls event.
The idea of Rails Girls is to let girls in on the exciting world of building web applications and software services. With Rails Girls, we want to demystify the world of web applications and encourage women to learn about software development. The aim is not only to teach the girls programming, but to get them to think about all the possibilities and problems one can solve in the world by knowing the technology toolset.
What is the female programming scene like in Finland?
[Linda] Finland built the backbone of Internet software such as Linux, MySQL, SSH, IRC and F-Secure. There has also been a strong demo scene and a big open source heritage – but, with a couple of exceptions, women weren’t a part of these revolutions. Now I feel more and more girls are becoming active in the startup scene of Finland and thus starting to contribute to the next big shake-up.
What is the main difference that you have noticed between male and female programmers and what edges do female programmers have?
[Karri] I’m not sure if there is a big difference. In our workshops we see mostly beginners, but seems that women tend to ask more questions and be more interested in why things happen or are as they are.
I think the biggest impact comes from where the women apply this knowledge of programming. Women tend to have different interests, work in other areas of life or encounter different problems than men. Therefore, women are in ideal position to find something that is invisible for men. We encourage women to think about their ideas and try to teach them how to drive them forward. Having a passion for solving something is also a good way to learn.
Why Singapore as the next Rails Girls venue and what are your expectations (or what do you hope to achieve)?
[Linda] I think Singapore & Finland have a lot in common – we’re both small countries, with a strong education system, high level of technological innovation and a society strongly driven by large corporations. The grassroots startup scene has been really blooming in Finland during the past couple of years – so far, we’ve been focusing a lot of our effort in looking into Silicon Valley, but with Rails Girls we’re excited to learn about Asia too. Also a big kudos goes to Jason Ong for being so active in organizing.
Ultimately, our goal is to see a whole new group of people start their own products or companies and see technology as a playground for their ideas. I hope to see Rails Girls Singapore continue further with new workshops and topics – and of course to see these new chapters in Finland and worldwide too.
How has the response been for Rails Girls so far? What would you expect from Singaporean female programmers/ aspiring programmers?
[Karri] Really good. For both of our workshops we have got lot more applicants than we have space for, which is also a bad thing, since we would really like to accept everyone. People say that they had a fun time and feel the workshop gave them a lot. Many also say that they would actually love to have more programming at the workshop and continue the learning with a group.
I hope the participants have an open mind, a lot of excitement and some patience. It’s hard to learn even the basics programming in one day, but you can still learn a lot if you try hard and ask questions. Also not to become too frustrated on problems or if you don’t get something at first. Even the best programmers encounter problems almost daily but you get over them or find another way.
How big will the intake be for Rails Girls Singapore?
[Linda] It depends a little on how many coaches we get, but we do hope to accommodate around 25 people.
Would Rails Girls be interested in running similar workshops in other parts of Southeast Asia?
[Karri] Yeah maybe, let’s see how the Singapore event goes. We always need and want to involve local contacts and so far Jason and other people have been really helpful. So if there is interests from other countries and people want to help us out, contact us, and let’s see what we can do.