Ada Developers Academy Adventure

Train at Union StationToday I went to speak at the Ada Developers Academy for women in Seattle, WA. This was my second time visiting a cohort and it was every bit as fun and rewarding the second time around.

It’s a long day involving two train trips just under 4 hours in one day, but I love the train and because there are few distractions, I generally look forward to getting a lot of work done.

The Amtrak Cascades routes advertises wifi on the train, but it’s kind of a hit or miss, and today was a miss. I tweeted my frustration, and @Amtrak actually responded, suggesting I notify the conductor. So I went to the bistro car and it turned out they were already aware of the problem and that wifi could be had in the dining car.

I planted myself in the dining car for the rest of the trip. At the next stop, a man got on who seemed to be homeless and either under or over-medicated. He went through the dining car talking loudly at everyone, randomly offering people money or insults and generally making the place uncomfortable. I felt bad for him, at the same time I was hunched over and hoping he would leave me alone. The conductor tried reasoning with him, but he was unable to sit still or be quiet, so he was escorted off the train at the next stop. That’s the most excitement I’ve ever had on the train.

I arrived in Seattle just after noon and went in search of lunch. Last time I met with my sister and we went for Dim Sum. We were supposed to meet up again, but her busy flight attendant job took her to Portland today so I was on my own.

Whenever I’m traveling solo, I like to take the opportunity to eat things that would never go over well with my wife, who has a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences that don’t match up with mine. Since I only rarely get seafood these days, I headed over to Ivar’s. Sadly, it was closed due to a ton of construction on the pier.

I think that was the point where the day started to feel like a Choose Your Own Adventure story, so I started tweeting accordingly:

With time getting short, I remembered that Benihana, one of my favorite restaurants of all time, was close to the academy. I checked this time to make sure they were open and headed up the absurdly steep hills of Downtown Seattle.

Wells fargo and other tall buildings, downtown Seattle
Cheat codes for getting up those steep downtown hills. #elevators
Benihana fried rice takes me to my happy place.
Benihana fried rice takes me to my happy place.

I arrived with an hour to spare and ordered side dishes of all my favorite things. Benihana is performance restaurant with family-style seating and a grill on the table where the chef cooks in front of you. For the first time ever, I had a table all to myself and since I only ordered sides, they made it in the back and brought it out, which was just fine with me, as I really didn’t feel like using up energy interacting.

I arrived at in the classroom 20 minutes early and the first thing I fixated on was a woman holding a baby in the back of the room. If you’ve been around a while, you may know that I LOVE other people’s babies and it was quite an effort not to start working the angles to snatch up the baby. He turned out to be the child of two people who worked for Ada and I probably could have wrangled at least a little cheek, which, at 4 months, were coming into prime. Such a delicacy!

Anyway, I decided to cling to some modicum of professionalism and focus.

Once pleasantries were exchanged and we discussed technical issues and starting a bit late to give students time to get back from a protest about the recent horrors in Ferguson, I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Since my wife hates seafood and hates when I eat seafood, I like to start repairs as soon as possible.

I don’t generally brush my teeth in public bathrooms but since this was an office building and fairly unpopulated, I was hoping to finish up before anyone else came in. But alas, five students entered while I was finishing up. To make things worse, most of them were waiting to wash lunch dishes in the sink. I was trying to finish up quickly and minimize the awkward, when one of them said:

“Not to be creepy but….”

“…you follow me on Twitter?” I finished, wiping the last bit of toothpaste off my chin.

Not awkward at all.

Everyone laughed and we said hellos and a few twitter handles were exchanged. Then I made my way back to the classroom.

The talk was really fun to do. Who doesn’t love having a bunch of people interested in what you do? I told the long version of how I became a developer and then for an hour, answered all their questions to the best of my ability.

They had awesome questions. Some folks were shy and never spoke at all, but there was a core group who asked several questions, both insightful and playful. They asked about everything from how I get clients as a freelancer, to how to deal with *ism in tech to how many bicycles I had and why. It was clear they had done their homework on me.

Finally, the flow of questions stopped and all the water I had been sipping during the talk needed to escape so we wrapped things up. Fist bumps, hugs and business cards were exchanged and I chatted with a few of the students who had asked the most questions and tried (in vain) match real names with faces with twitter handles.

Then it was time for them to get back to work, so I said my goodbyes and headed out.

I had just over an hour before I had to catch my train. I calculated the walking times between all my destinations and decided I probably had time to get the donuts I am always craving when I get anywhere near Pike Place. Note to self: skip the powdered and just get the fresh, hot cinnamon. I decided to continue my text based adventure theme:

An attendant opened the door for me as I walked into the train station 15 minutes before scheduled departure. The station was practically empty and I walked right up to the deserted check-in counter, pulled up an e-ticket on my phone and got my seat assignment.

After all the flying I’ve done this year, the contrast was notable. Have I mentioned how much I love train travel?

I spent some of the ride back on Twitter, some napping, and some time banging my head trying to get Capistrano 3 working for my website deployments, which reminded me how much I don’t know about Ruby and how nice it would be to take six weeks off from everything and just learn stuff, like the Ascenders got to do. That’s not going to happen, but maybe I can make some sort of week long work retreat to someplace cool happen next year.

Today was a great day, but the foundation was too little sleep so I’m ready to get home and fall into bed.

Today I learned if you treat your life like a text-based adventure game, it’s way more fun.

Union Station
Union Station


This post is part of the thread: Tech Journey – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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