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My RMU Experience - The Core Skills Course

I want to start out this post by saying that it has been a long overdue that I publicly reflect upon my RMU experience. I had jokingly mentioned that people might have to wait till early January for this post but little did I know that I was underestimating my power of procrastination. Fortunately, as the old adage go, it is indeed better late than never.

For those who may not know about Ruby Mendicant University (RMU), it is an initiative that Gregory Brown started with the help of his wife Jia and Jordan Byron. The goal is to provide free education in Ruby as well as fundamentals of programming and other relevant skills for people who are willing to put in the necessary effort to improve themselves as well as become a contributing part of the community. It started with an idea and has since gone through a few iterations. As a result, it has become a great resource for rubyists who wish to improve their coding skills. The core idea behind the initiative is that (Ruby) education should be free for those who want to take the initiative to improve themselves, an idea that has always resonated with Greg, who made sure that the published or his book Ruby Best Practices allow the book to be downloaded freely.

Around the time Greg came with the idea of RMU, I was seeking the right kind of opportunity to immerse myself into Ruby. I had started being a regular at the New York Ruby Meetup where I was meeting great rubyists and having amazing conversations but I still had nothing to show for it. When I found out that my entry for the entrance exam was selected, I was beyond excited. I knew it was going to be an intense three weeks that is going to stretch me further than I would have stretched myself but I was confident that I would have improved immensely coming out of that experience. I was not wrong.

RMU brings a project based approach to learning and making the process more fun. It demands a certain level of effort from the students, usually 10 to 15 hours of effort per week when you are taking the core skills course but your RMU experience only begins with that. The selection process, which has undergone some changes recently, is a crucial part to both communicate the level of effort expected as well as to gauge whether the student interested is ready to take on the challenges of the core skills course. When I joined RMU, I knew that I was at the lower end of the skills spectrum so I knew I had to put in a lot more effort. Again, I was not wrong. Let's just say that I have not relied on 5-Hour energy as much as I did in October 2010 :). One thing that I can guarantee you and that once you successfully complete the core skills course and gain an alumni status, you will notice a remarkable improvement in your ability to solve problems using Ruby.

Prior to RMU, I was not completely certain how to go about creating a well structured Ruby project. Yes, a look at any well known Ruby project on Github would give people some idea of how a project should be structured. However, going through the process of creating projects on my own helped me realize not just the how to part but the reasons why we do it. Before my RMU experience, I was only familiar with the idea of design patterns) but I was not only able to learn about some patterns but I actually implemented the Template Method pattern. Going into RMU, I had only the desire to contribute to open-source projects but RMU gave me the platform to not only make contributions to the university-web project but also fork an existing library that serves as a wrapper to the Github API and update it to version 2 with few additions that I needed for my personal project.

Throughout the course, Greg was always there to provide feedback and help me improve my code and egg me on to do the work and ship. The community was also there right behind me cheering me on and giving me valuable feedback as well. It's this passion to helping so many like me that makes Greg an amazing member of the Ruby community and it is what inspires rest of us to do our best and give back, not just to the internal RMU community but to the greater Ruby community as well. It is rare to meet such a smart, humble & ever ready to help group of people, even for the high standards that Ruby community is used to and that enriches the RMU experience. You don't have to take my word for it either. Brandon Hays came into RMU with very little programming background and has made inspirational leaps and bounds in his ability to write code and has already started contributing back to others who want to walk the same path. It might seem a little bit of a hyperbole to call RMU life changing as someone who reads Brandon's account but I can assure you that he is spot on. RMU will definitely have a positive impact in your life and it will help you see that with the right level of effort, a passion to improve and a great community constantly rooting for you, you can soar to new heights.

Running such a program clearly needs a certain level of effort. As a result, Greg has dedicated himself fully to RMU and has stopped taking on any consulting work. Therefore, to ensure sustainable growth of RMU, we need your help. Greg is always thinking of ways to have a sustainable revenue streams for RMU and as such, there is a way for people to help RMU while improving their ruby chops by signing up for the Practicing Ruby newsletter. Greg, Jia & Jordan put a lot of effort into RMU on a daily basis and they definitely appreciate all the help people can extend to ensure that RMU will continue to be a great resource for many more programmers who are interested in becoming better at what they do.

If you are someone who wants to become a better (ruby) programmer, I urge you to take a good look at RMU. You can go to the main site, check out the mailing list and join us on the official #rmu channel on freenode. If you have any questions, someone will be more than happy to help you on the mailing list or the channel.

So there you have it, my reflection on my RMU expereince, about 3 months later than I expected & not without a tumblr incident. I cannot thank Greg, Jia, Jordan and the RMU community enough for what they have given me and I can't wait to pay it forward. I have to publicly admit here that I have been a little distracted and have not been able to give back as much attention as RMU deserves but I hope to change that in the future. There are no words to express my gratitude and so I hope to return the favor with actions. With that, I give everyone the right to publicly shame me if I do not show any signs of giving back to the community that has given me so much.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, Greg has made a tough decision and the practicing ruby newsletter is going to be discontinued in the coming weeks. Therefore, I suggest that you only subscribe if you are interested in receiving the back issues and/or supporting RMU. I also would like to remind you that if you wish to support RMU, there is a pledgie set up and you can help ensure that RMU continues to run sustainably by donating however much you can. Thank you for your support.

UPDATE: The tumblr incident led me to compose my posts in markdown which made the trandition to Jekyll based blog hosted on GitHub possible so I guess it was a good thing :-)

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