Lisa Valentin – to have patience with myself and with my code

Rails Girls Berlin “Wall of Fame”

This a series of interviews with women, that have successfully made their way into coding.
Check out their stories, get inspired!


Lisa is one of the Rails Girls Berlin organizers. Soon after joining our team, she attended her first workshop. Today she’s doing her second programming internship and is back at university – studying Computer Science.

„I was a bit scared that I would not be a good intern as I only had a tiny bit of experience with HTML and CSS and had never really programmed something by myself. But this turned out to be not the case!”.

Hi Lisa, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background.
I have just started to go to University again to study Computer Science!:) After getting my first bachelor’s degree (English & Politics), I had been working in a PR agency, but that wasn’t really for me. Then, in October 2012, I attended a Rails Girls Berlin workshop and discovered that I like programming a lot, which is why I decided to work as an intern in ZEIT Online’s tech team. I learned how to write JavaScript, improved my HTML and CSS-Skills and got an insight into how web development works „in real life“. I am very grateful that I got work there, as I had great colleagues who taught me a lot, which is why I eventually wanted to go back to uni and learn a lot more about programming. And this is where I am now! I’m in the first semester at HTW Berlin, and so far I am very much enjoying it!

How did you get to know about Rails Girls Berlin?
I read about them online, in an article from an online newspaper. The concept sounded really good and so I contacted and joined the
organizer’s team. Soon after, I attended my first workshop.

Why did you join the workshop and what was your impression of it afterwards?
I have always been fascinated by computers and especially the Internet. Previously, I had played around a bit with HTML and CSS for a blog I wrote and wanted to learn more about that. And I wanted to see if programming is really as much fun as Rails Girls says it is :D.
The workshop itself was a lot of fun! Even though I was very confused at times it gave me a good insight into how programming works 🙂

How did you continue learning?
The workshop I attended was sponsored by ZEIT Online. I talked to their CTO who immediately offered me an internship :). So, only three months after the workshop, I was already getting hands-on-experience!

What was the biggest obstacle during your learning process?
To have patience with myself and with my code! It took some time until a basic understanding of programming really sunk into my brain. Until then, I didn’t fully understand most of the code I was writing and was confused A LOT, which is perfectly normal when starting to learn how to program.

When and how did you decide to change your profession?
That was pretty easy: I don’t like doing jobs I don’t enjoy, so when the contract with my PR agency ended, I didn’t renew it but started the internship at ZEIT Online. During my internship I realized that programming is something which I could imagine doing on a daily basis. I talked about that to my team leader and colleagues who encouraged my decision to study computer science.

Where you afraid of that step? If so, how do you think about it in retrospective? Was there a reason to be afraid?
I was a bit scared that I would not be a good intern as I only had a tiny bit of experience with HTML and CSS and had never really programmed something by myself. But this turned out to be not the case! While working on several projects my knowledge increased step by step. As I did not want to continue working at my previous job, starting the internship was overall more exiting than scary though :).

What do you like the most about your new profession?
Right now I am doing an internship at a start-up, which is really interesting because I get to look into programming concepts I have not
worked with before. Generally speaking, programming is very flexible with regard to time and space, which I like it a lot. It always depends on the company, but I can work from home early in the morning in my pajamas or I can stay at the office until late at night – I only need a laptop and an internet connection. And programming never gets boring: There is always more than one way to solve a problem, and there are always new things to learn and discover.

What is your advice to women who want to learn coding?
Just do it! No, seriously, just go to a Rails Girls workshop, or try, which is where I practiced coding in the beginning as well. And if you realize that you like programming much more than what you are doing right now, find a way to make it your profession! A great way to start would be a part-time internship, for example, or Rails Girls Summer of Code, which ensures a fair payment.
The people I have met in the tech world so far are all very supportive and open-minded! So don’t be afraid to take your first step.

We thank Lisa for helping us to inspire more women to get into coding and wish her lots of fun with RoR. If you want to tell your own story, please get in touch with us.