What happens when you take a group of software developers and plop them in the woods for three days without wifi, cell phone reception or server access?
Well — amazing things, actually.
ONTRAPORT’s 2015 Success Awards Best in Class winner, Bobbilee Hartman, does exactly that through Rails Camp USA West. Inspired by the success of the original Rails Camp in Australia, a wilderness camping retreat for Ruby programmers, Bobbilee became passionate about bringing the brilliant idea to the west coast. She soon realized that organizing an “unconference” of this caliber would be anything but easy — especially while balancing her other full time responsibilities. As a full time engineer, Full Stack Development Mentor for Bloc, Inc. AND Head Organizer of Rails Camp USA West, Bobbilee epitomizes the drive, dedication and work-life balance that entrepreneurs covet.
Here are the five lessons we learned from Bobbilee Hartman and Rail Camp USA West on maintaining perspective and a healthy work-life balance:
1. Sometimes You Just Need To Unplug
One of the coolest aspects of Rails Camp USA West is that for a weekend, developers and designers — people who are constantly plugged in or in front of a computer screen — go offline. At Rails Camp USA, “We want people to hang out and talk without being distracted like at normal large conferences.” (Source) Three days without cellphone or internet reception may be a little intimidating for most entrepreneurs, but Rails Camp encourages its campers to disconnect from their devices and, instead, connect with the people around them.
2. You Love What You Do, But You Don’t Have To Do It All The Time
It’s so easy to let your profession or business run your life that it might seem like cheating if you take the day off to go hiking, canoeing or rock climbing. But trust Bobbilee; just do it. Don’t worry, your office, projects and calendars are not going to vanish into thin air if you take some time off. Chances are, you’re going to feel refreshed, reenergized and ready to kick it into gear when you go back to work.
3. Get Back To Why You Started
Like most entrepreneurs, you start your business because you have a passion. Sometimes, when your passion becomes your livelihood, you forget why you loved it in the first place. That’s why Bobbilee encourages her campers to bring projects to Rails Camp that they want to work on rather than have to work on. Without the pressure of having to monetize your work, you can truly enjoy the task for what it is, instead of what you need it to be.
4. It’s Ok If You’re Not An Expert
Even though she runs a camp for software programmers, Bobbilee hasn’t always been a developer. After college, she worked as a designer at a tech startup before quitting her job to learn how to code at The Starter League. Her late start into programming sometimes leaves her with bursts of “imposter syndrome” or feelings of not being qualified or competent enough to handle the tasks and hurdles that come with a full-time career and running her side projects. It’s important to remember that, as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to do everything alone, and asking questions doesn’t mean you’re failing — it means you’re improving.
5. If You Truly Have A Passion For It, You’ll Find The Time
While she admits that she’s had to sacrifice a lot of her free time and social engagements, Bobbilee finds comfort in her fellow entrepreneurs who help her stay on track. “Many of my friends are entrepreneurs so we motivate and inspire one another.” (Source) Bobbilee makes it a priority to wake up early each morning to exercise and work on Rails Camp and other projects before starting another full day at work. Diligently budgeting her time between her obligations has allowed Bobbilee to make her dreams of creating a rejuvenating and innovative wilderness camp for her tech peers a reality.