Thoughts on Attending RubyConf 2021 ~ 16 Nov 2021

This year, I attended RubyConf 2021 virtually. While the conference was happening in Denver, I was at home in Austin, tuning in via the RubyConf website and the Discord server.

I was a sponge, learning all that I could about the Ruby community, ecosystem, tooling, and more. I’m grateful that I could spend time growing my knowledge and getting inspired to learn even more Ruby.

Winning a Ticket

One of the big reasons why I was able to attend RubyConf is that I won a ticket to attend virtually. I heard about the contest on Twitter, and through the Ruby Radar newsletter, I entered to win a free virtual ticket to the conference.

After winning, I decided to set some intentions around what I wanted to get out of RubyConf. I wanted to:

  • Deepen my knowledge of the Ruby language
  • Understand more of the ecosystem
  • Meet new people in the Ruby community

All of the Learning

The best part of this conference experience was absorbing the content. As a virtual attendee, there weren’t as many sessions as there were for in-person attendees. Interactive workshops, for example, weren’t live-streamed.

This was kind of a bummer at first, but there was plenty of content for me to chew through during the three days of the conference. The talks, both the pre-recorded and the live-streamed ones, were fantastic.

Speakers came from different companies, all of whom used the same tool (Ruby) in unique ways. Watching the diversity of presenters expanded my understanding of how Ruby can be a medium for building amazing things.

Some talks were at my level - things I could easily understand and learn from. Others went a little over my head, and demonstrated just how far I can go in this field and in learning this language alone.

Acknowledging that I didn’t know how to write a method in Ruby one year ago, I felt a sense of pride that I could understand as much as I did. Simultaneously, I felt the distance between myself and the mid-senior level developers attending the conference. That distance didn’t imply inadequacy on my part — rather, it motivates me to reach that level.

A Sampling of My Learnings

During the conference, I took notes. This made me a more active participant, even though I was watching everything on my screen. In no particular order, here were some of my favorite takeaways:

  • Ruby 3.1 is going to include lots of cool goodies - like better debugging and better support for concurrency via async.
  • Open source software is headed in a fascinating direction. It was eye opening to hear about the Black Swan events that caused OSS to transform.
  • Abstraction is an art - and should code (and other things in life) easier to understand and use.
  • Testing code can be done in many different ways, and a great way to learn them is through observing lots of different examples.
  • There are ways to be an active reader of books on technical topics. Being more engaged means applying more of the learnings, and accelerating competency.
  • Pull from the scientific method when debugging — hypothesize and experiment over and over again until the root problem is found.
  • Ruby is a language that prioritizes developer experience over raw performance. Ruby is fast enough for most needs!

Meeting Other Rubyists

As a new member of the Ruby community, I don’t have any Ruby friends outside of my coworkers. I quickly realized that attending virtually meant it would be tough to meet people at the conference.

I thought I would feel more saddened by this, but I actually think this year was great to do virtually. Considering how new I am to Ruby and Rails, I wanted to focus on content consumption. Typically at conferences, I like to make new friends and start side conversations.

Being virtual allowed me to focus more on watching content and taking notes rather than socializing with others.

Future Conferences?

This experience has gotten me very excited about my attendance at future tech conferences. I’m convinced that these talks, when implemented, can be huge accelerators for my career and my connections.

RubyConf 2021 has also gotten me motivated to tackle more challenging problems at work and during my own time. This boost alone makes attending worth it.

Happy Building! 👋

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© Saalik Lokhandwala, 2021