My experience with the Agency of Learning

James Garcia
2023-08-07 14:43:19 UTC

A couple of months ago I was honored to be accepted to join Agency of Learning. Now that I have had some time in the program I wanted to share my experience. Also, hopefully to bring some awareness to the program.

What is Agency of Learning?

It is not a top secret organization for students, or is it? Seriously, it is a program that was started by Dave Paola to help Early career developers and specifically Ruby on Rails(Rails) developers to get experience. It has taken on different iterations, but the goal remains the same. It is a totally volunteer basis program.

Why Agency of Learning is needed?

Over the last year or two there has been a lack in Jr level/Early career positions for Rails developers. For various reason companies are not investing in or “taking a chance” on Early career Rails developers. They are instead only seeking out Mid/Sr level Rails developers. As you can imagine in several years this will be a problem for companies that have invested in building their apps with Rails. This has lead to bootcamps moving away from teaching Rails and people in the community to tell people to learn something other then Rails, which is sad.

Cost for companies will be that they will need to pay someone a large amount of money to maintain their app, pay someone a large amount of money to move over from another language to learn Rails, or pay someone a large amount of money to port over the app over to a different language that is still hiring Early career developers. You get the picture “Large amount of money”. From a business sense, it doesn’t makes cents. I digress.

Back to the Why. There has been some great people out there that have been the voice for Early career Rails developers, and they are shouting from the rooftop. I am super thankful for them. :hugs: Dave has taken the next step to help and invest in Early career developers. All of this so that Rails is still a thriving, and viable solution for years to come.

How the Agency of Learning works?

Each person requests to become a member, and Dave will interview and select each person that joins the program. The program consist of both Sr level developers and Early career developers that volunteer to be in the program.

The Sr level developers are mentors and leads for the various projects. One of the Sr devs volunteers his time by helping with interview prep. I would like to take a pause to applaud these Sr devs for giving of their time to help. 👏👏👏

The Early career developers have some experience with HTML/CSS/JS and of course Rails. The experience consist of being self-taught and/or attending a bootcamp. Some have also worked on freelance projects. When we are accepted into the program we are encouraged to join one of the projects and get our hands dirty. There are standups, yes standups 😃. Each person talks about what did they work on yesterday? (or last working day). What do they plan on working on today? Do they have any blockers?

One of the main ideas of Agency of Learning is to give us, Early career devs, an opportunity to get experience working in a team on production applications. In fact, these Open source projects we are working on are either now in production (being used in the wild) or will soon be.

My experience

This opportunity has been a game changer for me. Have you heard of or played trust fall? That is what comes to mind when I think of my experience. Now I feel confident to work on a codebase I know very little about and if I get stuck or mess up I can trust that I can get help from the team.

Often it is said a great way to get experience is contribute to Open Source. Totally agree, but when I have tried it in the past it felt like being dropped off in the middle of the ocean with a kayak and paddle, then being told all you have to do is paddle to land. Okay maybe not that dramatic 😂, but you get the point. I just felt overwhelmed with not knowing how to contribute. I knew how to rails new, build an app, how to commit my code to GitHub, and deploy. What I didn’t know is how to contribute to someone else’s project. How do I work with an existing codebase, how do I know where in the code to make changes, how do I tell the maintainer what changes I made, how do I even get the changes to the project, how will I get help, what if I mess up, what is a rebase, and the questions continue. These questions caused me to have ‘analysis paralysis’. 😵

Enter Agency of Learning. I was accepted into the program, and given a onboarding email with tips on how to get started with the program. The main thing was to get connected with the team by joining the Discord, and introduce myself. Next I needed to browse the different tracks, and then see what project to get involved with. I joined the standup for one of the projects, and day one my confidence level shot straight up. Why? Because I saw the recording of the day before where the Sr dev assisted with helping an Early career dev out of a hairy situation around git commits and rebase. It was amazing, sorry fellow teammate for your pain, but it was a great learning experience. From then on I picked an issue, and dove in, if I got stuck, asked questions, got advice, and submitted my PR. :fireworks: Now I have been doing the rinse and repeat.

The Agency of Learning Discord is a great place to get and offer help, celebrate wins, share what you are learning, and discuss your point of views. Everyone in there wants the other person to succeed. Again this has been a game changer for me. Agency of Learning is helping companies (our future employers) to lessen the time that they would normally need to onboard a Jr developer. Dave, the founder, has called it a finishing school. We are learning and experiencing things not found in a bootcamp or from being self taught.


I would encourage you to get involved. To find out more get in touch with Dave at Agency of learning. Your act of involvement could change someone’s life. Thank you for reading.

Podcast with Dave