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Why we choose to teach Ruby on Rails in 2020

Is it worth making it the core framework of our web development Bootcamp, considering that most of our students are starting from scratch? For us, the answer still is a resounding yes. Here's why.

Why we choose to teach Ruby on Rails in 2020
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Ruby on Rails is still a great technology to learn in 2020

Why is there so much dumbfounding noise about 'Rails is dead' on the internet? The addition of Java in some coding bootcamps, the rise of Python and the breakneck speed of the JavaScript world implicitly signal that the Ruby on Rails job market is unhealthy and the technology is outdated. This has lead to a nonsensical spree of 'Rails is dead' clickbait-type posts. It's 2020, and Rails still is absolutely worth learning and mastering.

We Code to Build and Solve Problems - using Ruby!

Le Wagon is, first and foremost, a coding bootcamp for product-minded people. We are successful if our alumni see code and technology as a means to solve real problems. Software development is ultimately about creativity, and we want to give students the tools they need to bring ideas to reality. Rails fits perfectly in this frame. Still today, Ruby on Rails is the fastest way to go from 0 to product. It is no secret that it is the preferred technology for startups. Despite the hype in the JavaScript world, the number of Rails startups in hot places like Silicon Valley or Singapore is still huge.

We want our learners to use their time during their project weeks making things, and spend less time making things work. While our program covers the fundamentals of software development and databases, we do not believe that you should need to manage every layer of an application when you are working on an MVP. For better or for worse, Rails is a framework that follows a 'batteries included' philosophy. The number of outstanding libraries that are out there for Ruby and Rails makes it possible to build features really quickly. Videos like this showcase how much you can get done when you master the framework. Rails enables devs to be productive and ship features fast. Our students experience and achieve more with it, and that is crucial for a great learning journey in tech.

Rails has an established Job Market

As a coding Bootcamp, we care about hiring outcomes. While many of our alumni start their own companies or projects, many others seek developer roles, and it is our duty to help them out. Beyond the Rails-powered giants like Airbnb, Shopify and Github, Rails is powering a myriad of companies of all sizes. According to builtwith, there are over 2,000,000 websites today built on Ruby on Rails.

via Twitter
When people say 'Rails is dead', what they are really saying is that Rails is not that exciting new kid on the block anymore. Rails has become something better: a mature, battle-tested framework powering companies of all shapes and sizes. This has led to a job market that is far from being saturated and one that pays fairly well. According to some hiring agencies, it might actually be a great moment to be a rails developer. At the end of the day, there are two types of technologies: those that become legacy and those that disappear. Mature ecosystems produce stable, durable job markets with strong communities around them. Choosing Rails makes it easier for us to find hiring partners with senior developers who can continue to help our alumni grow.

Rails is a friendly framework and makes learning easy

If you don't know code at all, which of the following seems easier to read?

5.times do { print "hello!" }
or 
**for (i = 0, i < 5, i++) {
	console.log("hello!");
}**

I can bet you chose the first one which is written in Ruby; the second is written in Javascript. The elegant simplicity of Ruby makes coding delightful. It's a language focused on making developers happy and keeping its syntax close to natural language. That matters when you are learning how to code. In words of Why's poignant guide to ruby:

We can no longer truthfully call [Ruby] a computer language. It is coderspeak. It is the language of our thoughts.
When we move to the world of Ruby on Rails, the effect of Ruby's expressiveness only amplifies. The developer ergonomics are greatly thought out. Common, lower-level operations are elegantly abstracted away so you can focus on delivering functionality. Taking up coding should never become a source of frustration. We believe that we should reduce the friction between human intention and computer behavior while keeping good engineering practices. Ruby helps us accomplish this with its developer-friendly philosophy.

The Ruby Community

Our students are not in a Bootcamp forever, they will need to go 'into the wild'. Learning to code, when taken seriously, means committing yourself to a lifelong learning journey. The thing is, taking your first steps amongst developer communities can be daunting. Some developer forums are downright harsh, thus creating a barrier to self-directed learning. Another reason to choose Ruby on Rails is the Ruby community itself. In general, it's incredibly friendly, welcoming and down to earth - it's made out of people that you would actually love to meet. In words of Martin Fowler himself:

A community that has a good blend of talented, collaborative people has a distinct competitive edge. [...]A good reason to take the Ruby phenomenon seriously is the quality of the community that's behind it.
Or if you don't want to take my word for it (or Martin's), check out this video of Rails conf couch edition to get a feel of the Ruby community culture. The effect of amazing work that the community has done compounds over time. The amount of resources and quality documentation available to you is mind-boggling. Whether you care about how to use a library or need advice on how to design large Enterprise applications, the community has you covered.

You can still work with the latest JavaScript

We fully realise that the world of web development is spinning fast, and we are not blind to the benefits that technologies like React or Vue bring to the table. Rails plays along with new technologies really well. The thing is, learning Rails or any other 'hot' JavaScript technology is not an either-or proposition. Actually, Rails plays along extremely well with other front-end frameworks. You can embed light options on top like Turbolinks or Stimulus.js, or you can combine the sophistication of React or Vue with the simplicity of developing a Rails backend.

Oh, languages and frameworks do not really matter

The most valuable thing that alumni take away from a Bootcamp will not be the tech stack. It's the ability to think in code, break down problems, and use technology to solve them. The key takeaway is falling in love with coding and problem solving, and learning to drive your own journey in technology in the future. I understand that people seeking a Bootcamp want to learn the 'hottest' technology because it's naturally seen as a proxy for employability. Going through the Bootcamp helped me fall in love with computer science, and get the foundations to steer my career. Whichever particular technology you start with is irrelevant, it's all just a means to an end. Rails is still relevant in 2020, and a great entry point into the world of web development. It's a reliable, proven technology with a solid ecosystem of tools, big companies, startups, and enthusiasts around it. The community is active and welcoming. But at the end of the day and above all, learning to code it's not about which technology you choose. We choose Ruby on Rails because it aligns with our vision of what great learning in tech should look like.

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Thanks for reading this far! I’m Miguel and I take care of Product and Growth for Le Wagon in Singapore 🇸🇬

If you want to exchange thoughts on how to create outstanding learning experiences in tech feel free to contact me at miguel.jimenez@lewagon.org.


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