What an awesome program! I was selected to be an Opportunity Scholar for RailsConf 2017 and it was magnificent. If you've never heard of this, every Scholar is assigned a Guide. I got "together" with my Guide (the phenomenally helpful Amy Unger from Heroku) over email prior to the conference and she provided input as to what sessions would be of use to me, based on my goals. She also introduced me to a ton of people during the conference and made sure it was everything I wanted it to be. We also got access to a Slack channel, to communicate with other Scholars and Guides before, during, and after the conference. And a pre-conference meet-and-greet session. And front-row seats for all keynotes.
In addition to all that, we had first dibs on giving a lightning talk, without having to sprint to the sign-up board after the Day Two Opening Keynote by Justin Searls And I gave one, about the merits of hiring a Junior Developer with a non-traditional background. I went first - Skip to 1:23 for yours truly.
I went to a bunch of super valuable talks and learned an awful lot. Alas, my most valuable learning experience was a workshop, which are not recorded. It was on the morning of the last day - Make Your Life Easier with Shell Scripting and Unix Tools by Devon Estes. No, it wasn't about Ruby or Rails. However, scripting is something we didn't cover at all at Ada, and my coworkers keep talking about "just write a script for it" and I had no clue how to do this. Now I know!
As previously mentioned, my Guide was also amazing at introducing me to a boatload of people, which was super valuable. As a shy introvert, throwing myself out there is terrifying. But as someone who needs to find a job soon, it has to be done!
Overall, this conference was amazing. And, in 2018, it's going to be in Pittsburgh!!! Assuming it's at all feasible, I'm definitely going back. Maybe I'll even make the leap into applying to be a Guide! It's such a wonderful program, and I'd love to give back.