The Pivorak Ruby Summer Course – from student to mentor!

Jim Freeman

Andrew Vozniak
RoR Engineer

I joined OnApp almost a year ago after meeting some of the team at the Pivorak Ruby Summer Course, which OnApp sponsors. This year I had my first experience of teaching at the 2018 Ruby course… and so I wanted to share some of this story with you.

How did I get into Ruby coding? I used to work as an SEO manager. And it was super boring! Most of the work was just spending time on routine tasks, so I started to think about how to automate it. My coding experience started when I wrote a parser for my needs, and it was an incredible feeling of accomplishment when I saw my code working. At the time, I didn’t have a good understanding of how code really worked, but one thing I knew for sure – I liked programming.

Those first versions of my SEO tools were written in PHP, and it was a lot of very bad code. Then I tried to rewrite it all in Ruby… and it was less bad, but still could be better. That’s when I saw a post on Facebook about the Pivorak course – and decided to try it myself.

Pivorak is a solid community of Rubyists in Lviv, Ukraine, and in the summer of 2017, I enrolled in their intensive Ruby / Ruby on Rails two month course. The main value of this course was its combination of very strong theoretical and intensive practical parts, with experienced mentors. It was a really powerful boost in my knowledge and motivation to continue learning and coding in general.

It’s also where I learned about OnApp, by meeting James Withall and Anatoliy Pylypchuk. I think at that time I realized I wanted to work in this company.

Anyway, two months of intense Ruby studying and sleepless nights proved to be rewarding – after the course, I was invited to an interview for the Ruby on Rails developer role at OnApp. And it was successful – I got the job! I’m now a Ruby on Rails engineer, working on OnApp products for VMware clouds.

So how did this lead to teaching?

Back in 2017, during one of the classes, I promised myself to become a mentor the very next year. When the Pivorak community announced its course enrollment for 2018, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. I submitted my application again – but this time as a mentor, not a student. I volunteered to teach a testing class.

To be honest, testing was not something easy for me at the beginning. Rather, I had to come to a deeper understanding step by step, by writing tests – and since I have had my ups and downs along the way, I hoped my own experience would help this year’s students.

Even so, I was nervous when I started to prepare my presentation. It was at this point I came to realize the responsibility that I’d taken on: to teach people something I did not know until quite recently, and try to explain the basics to those who have little to no previous preparation.

Two hours of lectures flew by, almost as one moment. Several students expressed their gratitude and complimented me for such an interesting lecture. To tell the truth, it was a very pleasant feeling.

Still, my students were not the only ones to learn something from the class. During the class, I learned a lot too – how to express my thoughts precisely, how to structure my knowledge, how to talk to the audience, and how to answer the questions. Finally, I learned to teach!

Of course, teaching has its challenges. It’s a really intensive course, and it takes a lot of time and devotion from mentors as well as students – answering questions, helping each student, checking and commenting on their homework.

And often, students challenge you with unexpected questions, and you are not always ready to answer them. But this is all good experience.

I think it’s really important for companies like OnApp to be part of this. It supports not only individual people, but the whole Ruby community. And Pivorak is a great way to build your skills and get started on your Ruby career, like I did. We’re really pleased to be able to help out, share our knowledge, and learn too!

Now, the first month of Ruby courses is over, and the month of practical work is yet to come… but that’s another story.

About Pivorak
Want to know more about Pivorak? If you’re into Ruby, beer, crawfish and problem solving, head to – and check out their Ruby course Facebook page for loads of photos of the 2018 course so far 🙂