software sessions

Mayra Navarro on Getting to RubyConf (RubyConf 2023)

Asking for help, changing careers, and how people communicate

Mayra Navarro is an organizer of WNB.rb and Ruby PerĂº.

Mayra shares how the Ruby community helped her get to RubyConf, going from project manager to developer, and the different ways people learn and communicate.

This is the final interview recorded at RubyConf 2023 in San Diego.







You can help correct transcripts on GitHub.

[00:00:00] Jeremy: I hope you've been enjoying the conversations from RubyConf. Before we get started. I just want to say thank you to everyone. I met at the conference, all the guests who were so generous with their time. And to Irene from RubyConf for arranging a space and helping me connect with guests.

[00:00:16] This final interview is with Mayra Navarro. She's an organizer of the Ruby community in Lima, Peru and a member of the women and non-binary Ruby online community. She's going to tell us how the community pulled together. Both friends of hers and strangers she had never met. To get her to RubyConf this year, we start the story in April where she's just finished attending the Ruby on rails conference, RailsConf in Atlanta.

Getting to RubyConf

[00:00:44] Mayra: So the thing is, in the last RailsConf, the last day that I was in the US, um, the day that I was returning to Peru, I got fired. (laughs) Yes. So I was with all the stress.

[00:01:01] All the luggages that I had to pick or maybe overweight or something like that. And then I received that

[00:01:08] Jeremy: Oh my gosh.

[00:01:09] Mayra: And I, oh my gosh, what I can do?

[00:01:13] Jeremy: That's terrible.

[00:01:15] Mayra: It was awful. Since that, I think it was May 1st or something like that. And I was looking for job like everybody else who were fired all these times It was a difficult time for me. my plan was just before September I get a job so I have enough money and not using my, my savings for, for going to the RailsConf. Sorry, the RubyConf. but, uh, eventually at the end of September, October, I didn't get anything.

[00:01:44] I'm Christian. So I, well, God doesn't want me to come here.

[00:01:50] it there must be a reason, but there was something inside me that. I just to have to do something else. and I thank to my mom because she's someone that is always fighting for what she wants.

[00:02:02] So I say, okay, I went to sleep that day that I say, okay, maybe I don't want to go. So next day I have the idea. Maybe you didn't use your last card. There is something else. That is something that I have from my mom. I can feel that. I say, what if you ask for money? Well, like a fundraising, I learned about that word later, and I say what, what else could you lose you don't have anything to lose right now.

[00:02:30] So I say, okay, I'm going to write something. I asked Cody Norman, that is someone that I really appreciate right now. I asked him about suggestions, if that's a good idea or no, maybe not. He said, yes, you can do it. Uh, and I asked him if he could help me with the speech because I tried to write something and also I'm not good at writing things on Twitter and especially asking for money because I had to be open myself and be vulnerable to do that.

[00:03:02] And it was like, uh, the last break for myself

[00:03:05] a... I sent the speech to Cody, he helped me to update some things that I have to just improve. And I did it. I, also, I didn't know how to open a GoFundMe campaign because that's only for the US and Mexico. I think it doesn't exist in Peru.

[00:03:23] So he said, Oh, there is another page that you can go.

[00:03:27] I did it. So I just published that. I didn't open that until three, four hours later, because I was like, no, I don't want to see. And then I, I open it and I started to contact with the people who.

[00:03:44] Well, who knows me because I like to be connected with a lot of people. I'm part of the FL RB even being in Peru, I am part of the FL RB. I go attend to the Atlanta Ruby Group. I go, I, I know a lot of people because of the conference. I try to help to the woman and non binary community also. I am organizer of the Ruby Peru, but I didn't want to ask them money for them, but I have some close friends from the conference that I, that I go for all.

[00:04:13] All these two years. So they helped me to share that. And in two days, I got the money.

[00:04:20] It was like a, I can't believe it. It is what, and I'm not good open myself for things like that. I love helping people, but it's difficult when I, you have to help yourself. So. All these people who I could see their names because it's, it's transferred to PayPal.

[00:04:39] So I could see their name is like, uh, I really appreciate the thing that they don't know me. Some people, they don't know me, but, but I know them. I know who you are, if you're listening to this and I thank you appreciate for doing that. I also had the opportunity because I need to talk about this. I got a ticket from HexDev, uh, from Stephanie.

[00:05:01] Jeremy: Oh... Hexdevs. Yeah.

[00:05:02] Mayra: Yes. And, also I applied for the volunteer positions, just in case But I got the volunteer position. So what I did is, besides all my expense, I mean, that trip and also the hotel, expenses, I don't know, does it work? I, I said, I'm going to give this ticket that I have left to one of the women in the wnb community.

[00:05:25] So I did that and say, I have a ticket and also I can share the room. I don't want to say her name because She's trying not to be too connected to social media, but she, she accepted sharing the room with me.

[00:05:40] Jeremy: Yeah.

[00:05:43] Mayra: So she's already here with me and I feel so happy because People not only helping me, they helping me to help and it feel like, wow.

[00:05:53] Yeah. And that is, that is my story. And I still, well, I accepted to come to talk about this today because I received a job offer in the morning that I accepted.

[00:06:06] So I wanted to. Send a happy ending for all my story about this. Yeah. And especially because I know that in the next conference I'll be with my own money, I could say, expenses.

Asking for help

[00:06:20] Jeremy: So was this all this year, the RailsConf? That was this year where you, you went to the conference, you enjoyed the talks and you were employed. And so it was the day that it was over that you, you found out that you got laid off. Wow. it's this, you have this high, right, you've met all your friends and, you know, you're learning all this stuff and you're really excited.

[00:06:42] And then you get this notice and it's like, what, what happened?

[00:06:47] Mayra: Yeah. That is what's happening.

[00:06:50] Jeremy: then you, you kind of, like you said, you opened yourself up but yeah, it takes courage to say like, Hey, I need, you know, I need some help.

[00:06:57] Mayra: Yeah, it's, this is something that I learned about this is always asking for help. This is something that I have been I bring into my life is always asking for help. I know as a woman, uh, as a woman, I have the thing that Try to be strong sometimes. I can do it by myself. I don't need help.

[00:07:16] I don't need help, but sometimes you need, as human, you can open yourself. It's not something related to

[00:07:23] gender it's more like humanity. That's how I feel right now. That is the feeling that I have and that is what is going to keep with me. For the rest of my life, I know. (laughs)

[00:07:33] Jeremy: Yeah. Cause I, I think when, when people don't know, they, they might assume because you're so involved, right. With your, your local community and then the community internationally where people just assume that, Hey, Mayra is doing great. Right? She's, she's got no problems, no issues, and, there's just no way for people to know unless, you know, you, you share, and then that way people can help you,

[00:07:58] Mayra: Yes.

[00:07:59] Jeremy: That's a great story. I'm, I'm, I'm glad that, like, getting laid off is never good, right? That's never fun. But at least... Uh, things positive came out of it in terms of people coming out to support you, but also like you said, being able to support another, you know, another member of our community,

[00:08:19] Mayra: And I would do it, and I would do it again.

[00:08:21] I know that.

Attending conferences

[00:08:23] Jeremy: You know, now that you've gotten to come out, how, how has the, the conference been for you? Like,

[00:08:29] Mayra: It was really good. I feel less insecure than the last time that I was here. (laughs) Actually, my first RubyConf was RubyConf Mini in Rhode Island. So this is like a, the Ruby real not the real one. It's just my more it's different.

[00:08:48] Mayra: But, uh, the same time is. It's closer. That's how I feel it. I mean, this is my fifth conference. My first one was in Colombia. RubyConf Colombia. And I got a ticket as a scholarship. but until now I can say that it's like a, the feeling of the Ruby community, not only Ruby on Rails. Ruby community is like a It's really positive. It has changed my life so much since the first time that I joined to community that it's, I'm so happy to be developer instead of what, you know, everybody switched jobs.

[00:09:20] I did too so it's like, uh, I won't regret.

From project manager to developer

[00:09:24] Jeremy: Hmm. Tell, tell me a little bit about that. How did you get interested in Ruby or, or have been involved with the community?

[00:09:31] Mayra: I wasn't, I it was because money. Because it is.

[00:09:34] Jeremy: That's a good reason. That's a good reason.

[00:09:36] Mayra: Yeah. The thing is, I am graduated, uh, of the university. Uh, in Peru, but I was project manager before, well, I've switched a lot of careers because I was looking what I wanted to do and eventually I was project manager also. but I hated me in that position wasn't really good and it wasn't the company.

[00:09:59] I knew it was me. I wasn't satisfied with my job and also I didn't like that, uh, working from nine to six every day in an office or something like that. It wasn't for me. So I remember that someone, one friend on Facebook shared something like a bootcamp that was about to start in Peru, that they were teaching Ruby on Rails.

[00:10:21] I didn't know what was Ruby on Rails at the time. And then, and also React and JavaScript because, and you have to pay only if you get your first job.

[00:10:32] Jeremy: Oh, this is like a bootcamp.

[00:10:34] Mayra: Yeah, it's bootcamp, the first one that I met, I know, but that time there was someone called Laboratoria, but it's only related to JavaScript, but this one's a little bit more complete. So I apply, I didn't know that I could make it. I did it and it was an intensive bootcamp, six months from nine to six, but also I remember I didn't leave.

[00:10:59] The place until 11 o'clock PM, because we were all 19 people there. So we really wanted to change our future. When everything ends, there was a moment when I, I could feel that Ruby also, especially Ruby on Rails, it was like, uh, something that I really like, uh, the syntax. Things like that. And also our teachers used to say, I can see who could be backend, who's going to be frontend.

[00:11:31] I consider myself full stack, but she, she used to say that. I remember that.

[00:11:36] Jeremy: So, which one were you?

[00:11:38] Mayra: I was the Ruby side. The backend.

[00:11:43] Mayra: Then I got an internship in the same companies who that was promoting the, the bootcamp. After three months, the, the, the internship ended because it was part of the contract but I wanted really to work in a place that they had Ruby on Rails.

[00:12:05] So that's what I got. It took me more time than the rest of my friends, it's maybe it was like. four of us got a job in Ruby on Rails, uh, and I got mine. I remember my first job, full time job for Ruby on Rails was for the government of Peru. Actually, they use, they use Ruby on Rails for, CMS that they manage, that is called So I started working there. So it was a nice experience and I love, and I learned a lot about that experience also. So that is my story how it started.

[00:12:44] Jeremy: Yeah. So you had talked about your friend and your friend referred you to the bootcamp, had you ever done any programming or anything related?

[00:12:54] Mayra: When I was project manager, I had the opportunity to, to manage developers. I have developers in charge. So, but I had the kind of person that even I was. Your product manager, I try to help you to solve some things, like something that I say is a pseudocode. Instead of coding, I tried to give you the pseudocode that the things that you could do. So with that, maybe I can help. Well, my, my goal wanted to help you to unlock if you, you, you got stuck in something.

[00:13:30] So with that, I just have a little bit of knowledge of what to do, but I. I felt that I hadn't the tools or I hadn't the skill to do that. That's why I decided to, to study in a bootcamp because they can teach me about the, that kind of tools because I couldn't study by myself. I couldn't. I can understand how the things goes right now, but at that time I, I was, I was lost.

[00:13:56] Jeremy: But that's like, the, the skill that you already had as a project manager, being able to write the pseudocode and, and talk to your developers about the type of problem they're, they're trying to solve. That, that's a really important skill already. So I think, like, going into the bootcamp, nothing was totally new.

[00:14:15] Right? I, I think that's really great that, that you got to see that beforehand and, and hopefully get a sense for like, that you might. Enjoy this, this sort of thing too, right?

[00:14:25] Mayra: I love solving puzzles, so that was puzzle for me. I started with Code Wars. I know everybody started with that, but it's like a resolving puzzles. I need something there. And one of the things I really love I love helping people. I discovered that when I was helpdesk before. eventually all this time, even this time without job, I realized I can bring that.

[00:14:47] Oh, I being more. aware about that I can help people just coding. So that's, that's what I've been doing all these months because I try to understand about gems or learning things more, but my focus is always going to be helping people.

[00:15:03] Jeremy: I, I think that's really great that that's something that really appeals to you because that's something everybody needs.

[00:15:12] Mayra: You know, the word that comes to my mind all the time that I say this is server. If you think about the word server, it's what I do. It receives something and gives you something. It's all the time. It's, you know, I know it's a machine or something like that, but if you think about the word, you are receiving something and giving something.

[00:15:36] In all the time you are waiting for a, for a request to give something. So that is the word that it's, is for me, it's kind of helping people.

[00:15:45] Jeremy: Hmm. we all serve one another in, in, in one way or another. Yeah. the boot camp, you said it was, uh, six months, and... You were, you were staying till 11 at night. So what, what was that experience like?

How different people communicate and learn

[00:16:02] Mayra: it's a nightmare, don't do it. (laughs) No, it was fun. that bootcamp changed my life. Before that bootcamp, I would say, I'm not going to say I was lack of some of the skills. The thing is, I didn't know how to, how to communicate. And one of the things that I learned besides that you need English or things like that, it's more about how to communicate with people because, there are multiple ways.

[00:16:28] You can't talk in a way, for example, there's something that I'm always going to remember about it is you would prefer. WhatsApp, for example, and I would prefer Slack, or maybe voice, voice records instead of writing, or maybe an email. So, there must be a point between you and me. that might help us to communicate in a good way.

[00:16:53] I, me, myself, especially, don't have to be forced people to do it in my way. It's a way of two, for two, you and me, and the best way, and try to do the same for the rest of the team, for example, or the rest of the people. Maybe they don't prefer this in this way, maybe another way. I have to be open to that.

[00:17:12] Before the bootcamp I didn't know anything about it, but, and I tried to do it in my way. And then, right, thinking about it, it was a little bit selfish, but I need to learn. I need to be aware about

[00:17:25] Jeremy: You're, you're referring to the way people. Communicate, or the ways people learn, or...

[00:17:31] Mayra: Communicate actually. If we talk about the people, how the people learn. I am the example of, I am bad at listening book, podcasts.

[00:17:41] Jeremy: Uh... Oh (laughs)...

[00:17:42] Mayra: I'm sorry, I, I have ADHD. So it's hard for me to follow videos and podcasts because I have to. Pause, uh, Rewind, and Play again. And this is something when I miss so many ideas. So I prefer reading blogs or maybe transcriptions because it helps me just do reading.

[00:18:04] And then return and continue reading when I can't understand something. it was difficult for me just to understand also that people prefer videos. Yes, it's not only my way to learn, it's their way to learn. And also we need to be open to that. Even when I used to, I mentor a couple of... people So, I had to be open to that also.

[00:18:29] I am the kind of person you can write me at 2 a. m. and if I am awake, I'm going to answer you because maybe you are desperate for an answer at the time, but I can understand there are no people who are not. Who doesn't like, don't like that, so I try to be open to that or maybe improve our communications or maybe give some rules and not to think that everything is personal, right?

[00:18:56] It's just, I hope the best of you. And I try that you get the best of me. (laughs)

[00:19:03] Jeremy: Yeah, it's understanding their expectations, what they feel comfortable with, so that you know, It's okay if I send Mayra a message at 2 AM, but if I send someone else a message at 2 AM, it, it, maybe their phone dings and, you know, now they're distracted and, yeah, so, that, that makes sense.

[00:19:26] Mayra: Yeah. If you, for example, I, I, I'm going to ask you because I learned that, can I send you a message at that time? But I, even I have to think about the time zone.

[00:19:36] Jeremy: Yeah, oh, that's true, that's true.

[00:19:38] Mayra: For example, because now I, I would have think about just my friends from Peru, but now I have friends all over the world because of the Woman Non-binary community.

[00:19:49] So I have to think about things like that when I write. So what, all the things that has been useful for me is, for example, is like when you schedule a message that has been useful for me when I have to ask or sending messages.

[00:20:03] Jeremy: It's interesting that you mentioned how with learning you prefer blogs and, and books and things like that because this may be a generalization, but maybe with, newer developers or, or younger people, a lot of them really like the video form Yesterday I was, interviewing, David Copeland, who he, he wrote a book about, sustainable web development with Ruby on Rails, and, yeah, we were talking a little bit about, it's like, so many people want video, is there a, is there still a place for me with my, you know, my, my book?

[00:20:39] And stuff like that, and I think it's important to remember that there's people like yourself, and, um, I, I'm partly the same way, like, I like to be able to have the text so that I can read it at my own pace and copy and paste stuff and stuff like that. But you're right that everybody learns differently, so it, it makes sense for there to be the videos, for there to be, podcasts and blog posts.

[00:21:05] There's different people who learn different ways

[00:21:07] Mayra: And also, some people, including me, needs to pay for something if you want to learn something, because sometimes when it is free, you won't have the value that

[00:21:22] Mayra: it has.

[00:21:23] Jeremy: I totally understand that, yeah.

Accessibility for videos and podcasts

[00:21:26] Mayra: And there is something I would like to mention after you talk about this is I open to videos and podcasts, I can't take my time because I have now a lot of friends who, who create this type kind of content, but I like to remember that there are people with other difficult things.

[00:21:45] No, it's, it's related to accessibility because when you have deaf people, they need. Transcriptions, they need closed captions. So maybe you are in a place with a lot of noise and it can help you, even if the video has closed captions, so people can read it. So it is something like, it's not me. It's more to be more open to people who are really has a disability.

[00:22:12] That's a word that was like, so yeah. Or maybe they, their main language is not English and a lot of the content or the majority of the content about coding is in English. So when you have the transcriptions or you have the blog, you can translate it. And it's easy for that is access to them.

[00:22:31] Jeremy: Yeah, that's definitely true. And I think even past people who aren't native speakers or have a disability, if you aren't in either of those categories, there's still a lot of people who they want to have a transcript or outside. Ruby or programming, people who watch movies and TV shows, a lot of them turn on the subtitles and they're native English speakers.

[00:22:55] The dialogue is in English. They still want to see the subtitles.

[00:22:59] Yeah, I think it's becoming very common. So, to your point when you have video having a way for people to still get the information another way, I think is helpful for everyone. Yeah.

[00:23:15] Mayra: And it isn't too difficult nowadays because now you have AI or maybe, programs that can get you the, at least the closest words.

[00:23:24] Jeremy: It gets you maybe 90 percent of the way there, so it definitely saves time, but I will say it is still work.

[00:23:33] Mayra: Yes. Yes. It still work. Actually, it's because it could be a couple of words that need that maybe the, the program needs to improve. You can improve how the program, uh, translated, but it is something behind the meaning that you still can keep.

[00:23:49] Jeremy: It being there and not perfect is kind of better than having nothing, I guess, yeah.

What's next

[00:23:55] Jeremy: Now that you've spent time at RubyConf, like, what are, like what are your plans next?

[00:24:02] Mayra: There is a story behind all this, but I'm going to, the TLDR

[00:24:06] Jeremy: Okay.

[00:24:08] Mayra: Could be easy because I have a plenty of time without working to make a lot of thoughts in my mind. So it's just like, uh, I would like to explore more about Ruby, Ruby without Rails, something like that. So one of the things that I would like to do after this is just.

[00:24:27] I would like to investigate more about the use of Ruby out of what is what application. It is something I was talking like a couple of hours ago, because there I found a blog about how is, how are the conference. The Ruby conference in Japan. So it was really interesting. It was, an article that is really old, but it got my attention because I never thought about it because I came from a boot camp and it was like a.

[00:24:59] There is something else. So I could see a couple of talks about talking about, for example, Rack.

[00:25:06] Mayra: So I will like how, oh, for example, we have another talk about how to create desktop applications with Ruby. So that is something that I would like to investigate. I would like to try also with the Ruby Peru community.

[00:25:20] We decided to choose to investigate more about it and prepare talks about it in Spanish, because that is the mission. Our vision of our community is to create content in Spanish.

[00:25:34] And also I was planning to give a lightning talk, but I wasn't ready yet to do it because I was nervous about, because I applied for jobs or things like that, I hadn't the time to prepare that, but actually I would like. I dunno if you heard about Dave Kimura and Drifting Ruby?

[00:25:52] Jeremy: Uh, yes. Yes. They, they do the videos, right.

[00:25:54] Mayra: He has a, blog on how to implement some kind of, uh, when your test test fails, you saw the light can change to red or green based on that The test that you are running. So it was really interesting. It isn't related to rails, but it, it is based on ruby so it's like, wow, I want to learn how to do that.

Woman and non-binary community (

[00:26:17] Jeremy: Anything else you want to mention or think we should have talked about?

[00:26:22] Mayra: Yeah, because I am a member of the Women and Non-binary community. So if you are a woman or a non-binary person, you're invited to our community, we are open to, to you and we have meetups monthly. Uh, we have book clubs and we are always open to new ideas to share, to help you to do. that's it, I think. Yes.

[00:26:47] Jeremy: And where can they find you if they're interested in that?

[00:26:51] Mayra: Uh, we have a webpage,

[00:26:53] That is dev in English, I think.

[00:27:00] Yes. And there you can find us. And also there's a form, where you can give us your, your info. It won't be shared only. No, it won't be shared only for the organizers. And that's all. We keep your privacy there.

[00:27:17] Jeremy: Very cool. So


[00:27:23] Mayra: yes, it is.

[00:27:26] Jeremy: Well, Myra thank you so much for spending time to talk with me today.

[00:27:30] Mayra: Thank you and sorry for my English. Ha ha ha ha

[00:27:34] Jeremy: Your English is good, your English is much better than my Spanish.

[00:27:38] Mayra: Okay.