The Pragmatic Studio

Welcoming New Instructors: Jim and Corey

September 09, 2011

We’re very pleased to officially welcome two new Ruby on Rails instructors. Let me tell you a little about them…

Jim Weirich

Jim Weirich is a genuine legend in the Ruby community. If you look back at the history of Ruby, you’ll find Jim’s fingerprints everywhere. And to this day, if you’re using Ruby or Rails, you’re using software made by Jim. He created the Rake build system and was a contributor to the RubyGems package management software. Now here’s a little secret not many people know: Jim gets a dollar every time someone runs ‘rake’. That’s right, Jim’s not only legendary, he’s also a very wealthy man! Just think of all that money pouring into his off-shore account. And if you’re running a continuous integration system, well, you might as well be printing Jim’s money. I still don’t know why he wants to teach for us rather than sit on a beach, but I’m not about to turn him down.

Admit it, I totally had ya there for a minute. Here’s the truth: After programming for over 25 years, Jim is a wealth of knowledge. You’ll hear folks in this industry talk about the “grey beards” of programming. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Jim does indeed have a grey beard and the experience to go with it. Over dinner a few weeks back, I thought I’d give him a run for his money (sorry, couldn’t help it) by comparing career notes. It didn’t last long. Turns out Jim created his first .emacs file before I could legally drive.

Despite all that experience, what I love most about Jim is the humble, generous way he goes about sharing what he knows. He’s a natural teacher, but it goes deeper than that. When you’re learning from him, you know that he truly cares. He has this way of meeting you where you are, but leaving you in a better place.

Jim’s actually taught a few Studios with us before, and in fact this week he’s co-teaching a public Rails Studio with Dave Thomas. I wish I was there to hear the stories they must be telling. That, and Jim’s probably serenading the class with his ukulele. If you’ve never coded Ruby to the uplifting sound of a well-played ukulele, you’re missing out on something special. Thankfully, Jim travels with one wherever he goes.

When not teaching for us, Jim is the Chief Scientist at EdgeCase. They’re lucky to have him. I say that because they’re in the business of solving problems, and I can’t imagine a problem Jim can’t solve. Plus he has a wonderful, infectious personality. You’re a better person when you’re around Jim. If you’ve run into him at one of the many conferences he’s attended over the years, you know exactly what I mean. Just look for the guy with the grey beard and a ukelele.

Corey Haines

Corey Haines is best known as the creator and facilitator of Code Retreat. I had heard rave reviews of these intense coding events, but had never met Corey. Then he serendipitously turned up at a Studio one day last winter. I think he was hoping to just drop by for the day. (The snacks at Studio are known to be that tempting.) Little did he know, we’d all get stranded in the hotel for a week on account of a blizzard. Suffice it to say, we got to know each other fairly well that week. Then a few months later I attended a code retreat up in Boulder and saw Corey in action. What a treat! He’s definitely in his element when he’s helping developers improve their skills. And besides having expert-level knowledge of Ruby and Rails, he also has a keen eye for good code design and a flair for test-driven development.

That reminds me to warn you: Corey likes to brag about how fast his Rails tests run. He once ran a full battery of application tests while I watched over his shoulder, in what I can only assume was a calculated ploy to shame me. Unfortunately, I blinked and the show was over. I guess I wasn’t prepared for that kind of speed. I can generally run out for a sandwich in the time it takes most test suites of that kind to run. Anyway, all I remember of that moment is Corey grinning from ear to ear. How fast did the tests run, you ask? Lightening fast. I think I had him do it again in hopes it was a fluke. Then I muttered something about my opinion of show-offs and slunk away. Did I mention his tests were fast? Just ask Corey to show you, and explain how he does it.

Kidding aside, what impresses me most about Corey is his passion for software craftsmanship. After 12 years of coding for money, three years ago he gave up the security of a paycheck and went on a year-long, journeyman tour of software teams. He ended up traveling the world, pair-programming for room and board wherever a team needed an extra hand. I’ll go out on a limb here and assume Corey spent many a night curled up under a desk or (when the gettin’ was good) crashed out on a sofa. You know, just to get better at his craft. That’s the kind of person you want to learn from.

Having facilitated more than 20 code retreats, I think Corey is going to have a lot of fun teaching Studios. More important, I know students will learn a ton from him. We’ve already got Corey lined up to teach a couple private Rails Studios, and he’d be delighted to add your team to his itinerary. Oh, and it should come as no surprise that he loves to travel, even internationally. I have no doubt he’d fly to Helsinki and back, both ways, uphill, in a blinding snowstorm just to help you speed up your tests.

Welcome, guys!

If you’d like to bring Jim or Corey on-site to teach your team, we’d love to talk with you about scheduling a course. Please drop us a line.