RubyConf Kenya 2019: My Nairuby Recap

Two weeks ago was the first time I attended a Ruby conference outside my home country, and boy was it an experience. This is my recap post on my experience at the conference.Nairobi, Capital of Kenya, is a nice, calm city. Albeit being calm, East Africans see Nairobi as the fastest-paced city in the region (Coming from Lagos, you can imagine the astonishment I felt but tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal as I thought “…oh friend if only you knew.”). Nairobi is the perfect place to host Nairuby (no pun intended). Being an international conference, the city provided the perfect weather and the perfect city cadence for tech minds to convene and geek out together. There is more to Nairobi, but let’s leave this here.Here's how the conference panned out:

Conference Day 1

The first talk I attended was Vishal Chandnani’s talk on how to Debug Hard. Vishal spoke about how some errors we face while programming may not be a fault of the framework or language, but with our inputs. He demonstrated it was possible to build the Ruby binary locally. He used this to debug the Ruby internals.The most interesting talk for me on Day 1 was by Denis Sellu on Serverless. Dennis is a coconut connoisseur and sees the world in terms of coconuts. The same way coconuts are not nuts, Serverless application may not need servers. He demoed his tool, Ruby Lambda, which automates the admin stuff out of your way and enables you to build Ruby applications as serverless lambda functions.

Conference Day 2

In most conferences and events, the organizers usually front-load the conference, with the most interesting talks and presentations happening on the first day. This was not the case with Nairuby; the talks on the second day were just as interesting as the first.Prathamesh Sonpatki started the day with How To Handle Assets in Rails 6. The focus was on Webpack and how it solves many issues with asset management. I learned here that Webpack could be a replacement for the asset pipeline, but this convention is not mainstream yet. Currently, there usually is a mix between Webpack and Sprockets.Amr Abdelwahab presented the fantastic research he has been conducting on Ruby, the community, and the hype around it. Amr properly deconstructed the hype surrounding Ruby. I learned about highly performant Rubies in this talk. With a question, I also generated the hypothesis that the fastest Rubies may be those which are run on a VM: JRuby on JVM, TruffleRuby on GraalVM, and Elixir on BEAM. Amr emphasized the impact of community, and the benefits of inclusivity in building sustainable software.Stella Maris spoke on Application Security. Security is a segment of application development often overlooked by developers. Stella reminds us that “good software development skills do not ensure good security skills."

Conference Day 3

On Day3, I suppose I learned - to a greater degree - the importance of community in the developer ecosystem. The Rails Girls, NBO led a session for beginners on introducing them to Ruby and Rails. Every experienced engineer was assigned a few beginners to teach. I led two other developers in developing a rudimentary IRB. Little projects like these are enough to spark interest in the minds of people who are new to the language. At the end of the day, I gave a lightning talk on one of the methods I adopt in learning: the Shu Ha Ri method.

Conclusion

Community is an integral part of software development. One may grow independently by studying the language in isolation, and may actually go on to build very amazing tools and software. But by being part of an active community, a software engineer's impact is amplified exponentially. My advice to every engineer is to find a community to be actively involved in. This would provide you with an outlet to share your skills, and the necessary drive to get better at your craft.Another thing I took away from this experience is the value of mentorship. Learning with a mentor — preferably someone who has had experience working with the skill you plan on learning — typically helps you learn faster and better than the toeing the path of the lone wolf. I was humbled and excited to see experienced engineers sit with absolute beginners and patiently walk them through the basics of Ruby and Rails.Seeing the community at NaiRuby and Rails Girls NBO, I am inspired to bring such community into Lagos and West Africa as a whole. Watch this space for communications around that.

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