Ideas in the programming community can be found everywhere; that’s why we love being a part of it. The idea of an international scholarship program for women to contribute to Open Source for the summer came up at a 2013 Rails Girls meetup and could have been just a fleeting dream – but was actually turned into a reality that has now helped jumpstart the careers of over 95 developers. Rails Girls Summer of Code is one of those ambitious Open Source projects that could have disappeared into the ether without the right determination and a sustainable setup to see it become a success. And here we are, three years later.
The third year is an important one. For most grassroots organisations and initiatives like ours, that’s when it becomes more difficult to keep ‘the buzz’ and generate ever more support from the general public – especially financially. Supporters might feel as though we don’t need them as much anymore to create a successful program, and individual contributors tend to get what is called donor fatigue. As well as this, first and foremost: by the third year, a program is expected to run smoothly. Whereas the first and second year were an exploration into what works and what doesn’t, in the third year, RGSoC grew and became an established organisation with a well-defined purpose.
How would I summarize my summer? Awesome, awesome, awesome! I feel like it has been a great adventure and I’ve learned so much and it wasn’t only about the code, but also how to work in a team.
Rails Girls Summer of Code was the best experience ever! I learnt that coding is like making art: having a talent isn’t worth much unless you know what to do with it.
In 2015, against all odds, Rails Girls Summer of Code broke all of its records. We had the highest number of sponsors to date (54), and were able to sponsor 16 teams (in contrast to 10 from the previous year) to work full-time during the three months of the program. We had teams apply worldwide, and we accepted at least one team from every single continent. Furthermore, we’ve found out that over 90% of our past participants have stayed in the STEM fields and found a job, or even started their own company. How did we manage this?
I got involved, because I believe that the program empowers women in a field that is both exciting and scary, and because I would have benefited from this kind of support myself 10 years ago.
I was instantly bought over by the love and dedication coming from the community and organisers. It only made sense to join in the moment it was possible for me to do so.
I really wanted to participate again somehow, the program is great, so I wanted to be a part of it and also give back.
RGSoC for me was an opportunity to help two smart people get their feet wet in Open Source (which can be incredibly intimidating). The contributions to the project were valuable and as a bonus, I got some insights into how I can improve the experience for new contributors in the future.
Behind the scenes
Even though the program starts in July and ends in September, the months before the program even starts are the busiest with the groundwork being laid from January. With the campaign having opened in March this year, we only had about two and a half months to collect the money through donations and sponsorships in order to fund as many teams as possible. For this, we were incredibly lucky to have Travis CI as partners on board from the beginning and be able to use their network of contacts; the support of partners is incredibly valuable, because it enables us to connect with other interested sponsors. Travis Foundation also leads the organisation of Rails Girls Summer of Code; this means bringing together and leading a team, reaching out to sponsors and possible volunteers, organising and setting up a road map for the summer, and making sure that all runs smoothly and according to plan. This support, combined with 160 people involved in varying voluntary capacities, means a HUGE dedication to fostering more diversity in Open Source.
With a little help from our friends
We work in a distributed team, with amazing volunteers who put a lot of time and work into RGSoC. And we’re not just talking about the program organisers! This year alone we had over 140 people helping out: this includes project mentors, team coaches, team supervisors, trust committee members, designers and of course, organisers. We try to provide an inclusive environment for everyone involved, and often see volunteers come back year after year to help out, or alumni becoming organisers, supervisors and even coaches and mentors. This is incredibly valuable to us; we know that a program with only core organisers isn’t sustainable, and we have succeeded in creating a worldwide community that people like to be a part of and contribute back to. We try to keep the organisation as professional as we can but the personal always comes first. We are people first, organisers second, and we deeply care about each other and everyone involved in the program. We don’t just have a Code of Conduct, but also a trust committee every member of RGSoC can contact if they need help - in any form. RGSoC is about building connections, relationships and a different future of the Open Source world: One that is sustainable and diverse.
RGSoC was without a doubt one of the most exciting moments in the Hoodie project history. Not only did it force us to make it easier to contribute to Hoodie overall, but also: we got to work with some very enthusiastic and capable people that have enriched our project and our lives tremendously. We hope we can be back in 2016.
We care about Open Source Software a lot – so much that we and all of our volunteers give up large chunks of our time to make it all happen. We care about giving back to the software we use daily, but we mostly want to see the current numbers (only 11% of Open Source Software contributors are women) change for the better. We want to see more women in this community, and want female role models that future women can look up to and follow suit. We dreamed that RGSoC would be a small step step towards that, but we can stop dreaming – because we’re already writing history and creating a different future of Open Source. One summer at a time.