MRS O11 Greg Baugues
This episode of My Ruby Story features Greg Baugues. Greg has been on two previous episodes, episode 142 where he discussed mental illness, and episode 258 where he discussed Twilio. Greg has been at Twilio for three and a half years. He worked on the developer/evangelism team for three years. A couple of months ago he became the lead developer of the community team. He lived in Chicago for eleven years, where he first started using Ruby. He moved to Brooklyn, New York a year ago.
How did you get into programming?
When he was five or six his parents owned a TRS-80 when he was five or six. It had a cassette drive and when turned on it booted into basic. He wrote programs in basic on this computer and it was an instant gratification to him. On a back cover of a magazine, he read there would be a code printed in basic that he would copy line by line. Later, his family bought a PC that had MS-DOS with QBasic, and his friends introduced him to Pascal, C, and C++. When he graduated high school he started PHP and got into web stuff.
How did you get from PHP and web stuff to Ruby?
In 1999 Greg used PHP to start a dot-com company with which they sold eight months later for all equity. He jokes that he “started and sold a company and all I got was a polo shirt out of it.” This reinforced that he always wanted to work in programming but that he would never be happy just programming. He wanted to be involved working on the people side of things, too. He got a job at a consulting agency at Table XI where he was a sales guy. He claims that he wasn’t good at sales, so stopped programming for one and a half to two years in order to become better. Then he traveled with his wife in Europe for a while. This showed him that he spent his free time programming. After this he picked up Ruby for the first time. Ruby was his first language of choice because Table XI and most of Chicago was using Ruby at the time. He also fell in love with it.
What was it about Ruby that you thought was cool?
Greg finds Ruby beautiful and expressive. He believes that it makes more sense than for loop and believes that you can explain it to someone who’s never done coding before and it makes sense to them. Writing Ruby is the closest you can come to writing pseudo code that actually runs. Ruby doesn’t look much different from pseudo code. He thinks it is a joy to write in Ruby.
What contributions do you feel like you’ve made to the Ruby community?
Greg believes that his biggest contribution would be in the vein of mental health. He has Bipolar Disorder and was on a Ruby Rogues podcast where he spoke about it. Because of his disorder, he failed out of college, had trouble with relationships, getting out of bed, paying bills, and a lot of guilt. He finally got treatment in 2007 where medication slowly helped. Four years ago he had a coworker who overdosed that had been showing symptoms of the same disorder. The next day instead of doing a lightening talk he had scheduled about fantasy football, he gave a talk about mental illness and started giving talks about mental illnesses everywhere in the Ruby community.
Charles tells Greg that he heard someone speak about him and said he’d decided to go get help and have a relationship with his family again. He said that Greg’s episode of the podcast had helped him, and others have emailed him about it too. He explains that changing the way someone lives is just as important as writing source code. Greg says that he has learned that we are not alone in this community. There is a value of sharing your story and being vulnerable. It is easy to underestimate the compassion and empathy people have in the Ruby community.
What are you working on now?
Greg just had a conference called Signal for Twilio two weeks ago. There were 2,000 developers and 100 speakers at the conference. He was part of the team that organized speakers. Two months ago he started a leadership role with the developer community team for the first time. He’s trying to learn how to be in a management role for the first time. There were a million developers that signed up for Twilio so he is trying to figure out how to organize a community of developers instead of just having customers.