With a gender split of roughly 17% women to 83% men (based on LinkedIn data), the Ruby developer landscape is fairly imbalanced, but still typical for technology specialisations across the board. Nonetheless, the number of female Ruby developers is starting to increase and close that gap, which presented a great opportunity to dive into the data and find out why Ruby is beginning to buck the trend.
We analysed the career paths of 169 female Ruby developers and 100 male Ruby developers, learning how they had made the choices that had led them to work with Ruby. This is what we found.
And what did we find?
Of the 169 women we spoke to, only 31% had come from a traditional Computer Science background. The majority (65%) went through university and completed degrees in other specialisations, including business, the sciences, literature, and the humanities. Only 7% had not completed any traditional university degree.
The numbers were more balanced within the ranks of the Ruby men: 48% came from traditional Computer Science backgrounds, while 45% had cross-trained. Once again, only 7% of the men interviewed had not gone through tertiary education.
Of those that had come from a non-computing background, we wanted to find out how they had cross-trained into the tech sector. For many, the answer was coding bootcamps. These have become much more prevalent and accessible over recent years, with a range of options now available on the market covering many different disciplines and suited for a variety of budgets.
For both women and men, the majority of bootcamp graduates were juniors, suggesting that the impact of bootcamps on the market is relatively recent and becoming increasingly commonplace among those entering the industry.
The most popular bootcamp amongst female Ruby devs was Makers Academy (41% of the total, 64% of those who cross-trained), while the men’s choice in bootcamps was more varied, including Makers alongside the likes of Le Wagon, Bloc, and others.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when focusing on senior engineers, both men and women tended to originate from a Computer Science background – though it’s hard to pinpoint whether this is due to employer preferences, bootcamps being a fairly recent trend, or natural career progression.
Of those women who did not come from a traditional Computer Science background, 96% cross-trained into Ruby using bootcamps, with the remainder learning on the job or through self-teaching.
When asked why they chose to go through a coding bootcamp as opposed to returning to university when undergoing their career change, this is what some of the women had to say:
“I underwent a career change, and the bootcamp was the most cost-effective way to do that! A lot of people at bootcamps are either spring-boarding into their first job or needing to pivot at top speed. I support my husband, so we weren't in a position for one of us to pick up the slack while the other took a career break to retrain.
The benefits were the speed and the cost. Flatiron has a flexible repayment program, which made a big difference to me.”
- Ruby Developer, Flatiron grad
“I think bootcamps are better for people going through a career change, because you want to know you will get a job at the end of it – after all, you don’t want to spend too much money without knowing whether or not you’ll get a job! Flatiron offers a ‘no job, no fee’ guarantee – so it was a no brainer.
Time is also a big factor. Bootcamps only take 3 months, making them better value for time. With a bootcamp, you can immediately start earning, which you would not be able to do in uni.”
- Ruby Developer, Flatiron grad
“Bootcamps offer a very different learning environment – You’re taught how to learn on your own, so it’s very focused around self-learning. This means there’s a very good team culture and camaraderie, with everyone helping each other – and that leads very well into life as a developer as part of a team. It’s also very fast-paced; every three weeks, you’d be learning a new language or framework, with projects to test your ability at the end of each of the three weeks.”
- Ruby Developer, Makers grad
“One thing about bootcamps is that you don’t really learn the fundamentals. It’s more like vocational training, where you learn how to do the actual job well, but not so much the principles behind it. CompSci grads have a basis in fundamentals and algorithms, which you just don’t get in bootcamps. But, as it is, there’s really no trouble finding jobs; the demand for devs is very high, and, on top of that, many companies are now more open to diversity and career changes, so they’re more willing to consider bootcamp grads.”
- Ruby Developer, General Assembly grad
“For me the huge driver for going to a bootcamp over going back to uni (as I have already done a full uni degree in a completely unrelated field) was the time involved. I had quit my job and was hoping to make a switch quickly. I had been self-teaching myself with free online courses for months before but didn't feel like that would make a career change possible. I got very lucky since I got offered a short-term contract on the day of final presentations. It only took me a month or so after to get a real job offer and I am still at that same company now as it is the perfect job for me at the moment.”
- Back-End Developer, We Got Coders grad
As you can see, the answer to why so many women are going through bootcamps is simply: cost and time. Guaranteed job placements, flexible repayment and pricing schemes, and the quick turnaround time mean that bootcamps offer an affordable way to reskill and switch careers with much less impact on your living conditions or additional opportunities.
Don’t discount people just because they don’t have a Computer Science degree.
Not going to university for a Computer Science degree is not a sign of lack of potential or ability. In fact, many bootcamp users graduated with a degree in other, seemingly unrelated specialisations. Most people who choose bootcamps do so to change careers and/or to save valuable time and money.
It’s because of this that the bootcamp route is increasingly becoming a mainstream path into tech. And, the fact is, bootcamp graduates tend to be highly motivated, hungry developers who are willing to go the extra mile and self-learn – after all, they have to be, to graduate from the intensive bootcamps!
Test people for their skills and potential, not their certifications.
When looking to hire someone, put in the extra effort to screen your applicants properly by asking them questions that test how they think and whether or not they know how to do essential elements of the job. You can do this by asking about their relevant experience or projects that they’ve worked on.
Hire people for roles based on needs.
It’s important to understand what bootcamps and CompSci degrees train for, in order to decide what you truly need to fill your role. If you do need a very theoretical, fundamentals-based engineer, then you may have no choice but to hire a CompSci grad. But if you simply need a solid coder who can write certain languages and test theirs and others’ work, then a bootcamp grad may be your best – and most affordable – option.
Account for bootcamp graduates in your company’s L&D programmes.
If you have a learning and development programme in your company, then you can leverage it to bring your bootcamp hires up to speed on the fundamentals and algorithmic knowledge that they may be lacking. For example, you could host a weekly ‘Lunch & Learn’ to study further, or pair up with other developers to do exercises that can further their skillset and, at the same time, give your other developers the experience with mentoring that they will need to one day become a team lead.