Meet Sophie and Jenny, Our Rails Girls Summer of Code Students

By: Julia Nguyen

This month is the start of Rails Girls Summer of Code, get to know our latest contributors, Sophie McDonald and Jenny Nam! Follow their journey this summer on Twitter @IfPairElse.

If you’re interested contributing to our project in any capacity, email!

Rails Girls Summer of Code (RGSoC) is a three-month scholarship program to get women contributing to open source software. It’s such an amazing and important program.

This year, GitHub’s Open Source Survey brought public exposure to a well-known fact, there is very little diversity and inclusion in open source communities. The survey demographics didn’t just account for gender, it also looked at ethnicity/race, nationality, and sexual orientation.

The gender imbalance in open source remains profound: 95% of respondents are men; just 3% are women and 1% are non-binary. Women are about as likely as men (68% vs 73%) to say they are very interested in making future contributions, but less likely to say they are very likely to actually do so (45% vs 61%).
Along other dimensions, representation is stronger: 1% of respondents identify as transgender (including 9% of women in open source), and 7% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, or another minority sexual orientation. 26% are immigrants (from and to anywhere in the world) and 16% are members of ethnic or national minorities in the country where they currently live.
- Taken from GitHub’s Open Source Survey

It’s beautiful to see organizations like RGSoC working hard to overcome these abysmal statistics. This year 20 teams from all over the world were accepted into the program.

Map of RGSoC participants taken from Teams 2017 by Maria Ronacher

The aptly named team IfPairElseUnknown will be working on our project as developers. IfPairElseUnknown features two mothers from Melbourne, Australia, Sophie McDonald and Jenny Nam. They will be working out of the Zendesk office in Melbourne. We are so excited to have them contributing this summer. You can follow along with their coding adventures @IfPairElse on Twitter. Keep reading to learn more about their incredible journeys, including what mental health means to them.

Sophie McDonald

Tell me about yourself!

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophierose239

Before becoming a full-time mother, I worked in the beauty industry, in some of Australia’s best spas, as a Beauty Therapist.

I am now making a career change into web development and have been doing so by self-directed learning, with the guidance of a mentor. I am someone who is consistently growing themselves and who takes the time to continue learning.

As a mum I am driven, not only to do great things for myself, but to spur on my son, to achieve even greater things. I love being apart of my local community and often look for opportunities to get involved.

How did you get started on your coding journey?

My sister, who is a web developer, encouraged me to give it a go. She gave me her old laptop with Linux on it and organised someone to mentor me on a regular basis, as she was moving overseas for work.

Since then I have been attending workshops, doing online tutorials and meeting with my mentor regularly, to work on my own personal projects, in his office, alongside some of his team members, which has helped me gain so much knowledge and experience.

Why did you want to learn how to code?

It was my sister who encouraged me to give it a go. At first I wasn’t interested because I didn’t believe it was for me, or that I would be any good.

Once I got started, I found I was loving every minute of it and I wanted to challenge myself and try something new that I had never done before. It’s a perfect mix of creativity, problem solving and has given me to opportunity to step outside my normal routine as a mum and use my brain.

Give a shout out to people who supported you throughout your journey!

My sister Alexia McDonald, who encouraged me to get started and my mentor Robert Postill, who has been a great support and mentor. They have been my greatest support from the very beginning of my coding journey.

You both are mothers, which in my opinion is one of the hardest jobs out there, how do you balance that with your career ambitions and mental health?

After my son was born, I ended up in a Mother Baby Unit for Postpartum Depression (PPD) and it was during my recovery I realised I had to find a work/life balance and being a Mother is a fine balancing act.

Taking some time out from my family to work on my career, gives me time to focus on myself, which is really important when it comes to my mental health. I also make sure I get enough sleep because sleep deprivation is a trigger for me.

Why is mental health important to you?

During my battle with PPD, I felt very alone and isolated. I was a new mum and I feel if I had have had more support around me, my recovery would have been easier. It isn’t easy to open up and talk about mental health issues, a lot of people will dismiss it, because they don’t understand or know how to deal with mental health.

Mental health is important to me because I have dealt with it first hand and I want to be around to support others, so they don’t feel alone and isolated, like I did. It’s important to be able to have an open conversation about mental health and not feel judged or dismissed.

How did you find out about Rails Girls Summer of Code?

A few people mentioned it at a Ruby conference earlier this year. I spoke to one of the girls who participated last year and she was a great support and provided me with lots of information and even introduced me to my RGSoC partner Jenny.

What drew you to contribute to our project?

When I was looking through the projects with Jenny and we saw if me, we instantly said it was the project for us. Mental health is really important to me and I wanted to contribute to something that would have a positive impact on the world.

Jenny Nam

Tell me about yourself!

Follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyNamster

I am based in Melbourne, Australia and I am loving learning and exploring programming languages and especially being part of the Ruby Community.

I am seeking a career change into programming and contributing to open source projects.

How did you get started on your coding journey?

My first encounter was doing a subject, Computational Linguistics using Python as part of my major, Linguistics at university. I then got back into coding many years after leaving university through the Rails Girls workshop.

Why did you want to learn how to code?

I am interested in languages and communities. For me coding is an interesting language that has the ability to create something of value to the community. I feel that this could be a way that I can contribute positively to the community.

Give a shout out to people who supported you throughout your journey!

I would like to thank Sophie who I will be doing the RGSoC with. Meeting her was a blessing and I feel we connect well in many ways. Without her, RGSoC could not have happened for me.

I would also like to thank the RGSoC team and my sponsors and coaches, Adel, Tim, Adam, Simon and especially Julia for the opportunity to work on an open source and have the support and mentoring so that I don’t break the code!

You both are mothers, which in my opinion is one of the hardest jobs out there, how do you balance that with your career ambitions and mental health?

I don’t. Balancing career ambition and my mental and physical well being is a challenge and something I am still figuring out. :)

Why is mental health important to you?

To feel valued and connected with the community is important and good mental health is an important aspect of this.

How did you find out about Rails Girls Summer of Code?

I came across RGSoC through Rails Girls Slack page from a post by the 2016 participant, Ramya.

What drew you to contribute to our project?

I believe passionately in the app and the aims of if me.

Endless hearts 💜 to Rails Girls Summer of Code. Thank you Zendesk for hosting Team IfPairElseUnknown. Thanks to Adel Smee, Tim Moore, Adam Rice, and Simon Hildebrandt for coaching. Thank you Vi Nguyen for supervising. Last but not least, thank you Sophie McDonald and Jenny Nam for joining us!