The Real Magic of Bridge Foundry

Post by Mary Jenn
I often find myself clarifying just what Bridge Foundry is about to people. Firstly: While we are about enhancing the diversity of the software engineering community, we are an INCLUSIVE community and we invite people from all walks of life into our workshops. The reason why: we welcome the people who typically dominate the industry to participate at events led by people who are not usually in the majority. We seek to look past outward appearances, seeing each person as sharp, capable and intelligent based on their words and actions. If someone makes a mistake, we assume they may have limited knowledge and infinite potential to learn.

I’ve been associated consistently with Bridge Foundry (formerly known as RailsBridge) since at least 2010. I started as a student, then became a volunteer teaching assistant, then I started organizing events. As the organization grew and new “bridges” were added and workshops were being held world wide, I began mentoring new organizers and then once Bridge Foundry got off the ground, I became their first paid employee. I’ve watched this organization grow from a small group of dedicated people into a global grassroots movement. Most of the activity is around in-person events where people teach coding and open source curriculum.

But here’s the thing: – hold onto your hats: It’s NOT just about teaching people to code. NOPE. It’s not!

Wait. What??!!

It’s about so much more than that.

It’s about transformation, community and the magic that can happen when people discover they could do something that “only nerdy techy people” can do. And at our workshops, alongside other attendees who are experienced developers, people new to coding are empowered to do just that.

YES! You too, can be a nerd.

But HERE is where I really get really excited about Bridge Foundry: The work I’ve done with the organization has really been a journey of personal growth. I’ve come to get more comfortable with my own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve faced my own biases – we all have them. I’ve learned that we will ALWAYS encounter people we don’t like and don’t really want to work with. But it’s up to me to work issues out if I want to achieve a goal. We are stronger together.

I’ve learned to be comfortable in an organization full of strong women and people of color — people like me and people who are different from me. And if I want the freedom to use my strong voice, I need to give other people the space to use theirs – and to be who they are.

RailsBridge co-founder, Sarah Allen, has said about workshop attendees, “If anyone has a problem with someone who is acting respectfully toward others yet has a different working style or appearance, then they need to reflect on that discomfort and learn to work with people different from themselves”. Everyone has something to contribute, you see. Everyone has worth.

This is the real magic of Bridge Foundry and is at the heart of who we are. This idea really plays into the long view of who we are and where we’re headed.

In the meantime, please share your experiences or thoughts! Have you overcome a particular issue in your community? Have you had your own journey of personal growth? Are you shocked to hear this – that we’re not REALLY just about teaching programming? We would love to hear about your experiences.. you can submit ideas or draft posts as a github issue or even directly as a pull request.