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Transitioning to Ruby on Rails

When you join a new company, there’s an inevitable learning curve. But what happens when you start a job and you have to learn a whole new language – a programming language that is?

Nemanja Tojagic joined LearnUpon’s Belgrade team six months ago. With 5 years of experience in web development, he’s worked on numerous projects in PHP and JavaScript. So, it was a big step for him to join LearnUpon, where our main technology is Ruby on Rails. For many engineers, it’s a daunting task to move from one technology to another. We sat down with Nemanja and he shared his experiences in hopes it inspires others to make a move like this too. 

What got you interested in the idea of working with Ruby?

To be honest, it wasn’t the idea of working with Ruby that interested me. It was only when I reached out to join LearnUpon that I started to think about it. In the past, I had always worked on small to medium projects and now I had a chance to work on a SaaS solution with millions of users.

I knew it would be a complex app to work on and a challenging project that would help me to develop my skills as an engineer. Once I had a chat with developers from LearnUpon (now my teammates), I knew I was ready for the move, and to be honest, the programming language couldn’t have been more irrelevant in that moment. 

Did you have doubts about the technology switch? 

I didn’t have doubts about moving to LearnUpon; it was more about the pressure I put on myself initially.

At first, it was a different experience for me. For the last couple of years, I was used to being assigned a project and jumping into the work straight away. Now, I had to do some prep and research before the project started. And as an engineer, I couldn’t show my experience from the start. 

However, the team at LearnUpon set very clear expectations. No one expects you to join and get it right straight away. There’s onboarding plan in place and a whole team behind you who are very helpful, so I felt comfortable with this new situation pretty quickly. 

What was the onboarding period like for you?

On the day I joined, I received an outlined four-week training plan. I was also given video tutorials of the app that I’d be working on, and I had access to sessions that explained specific parts of the application.

As I had never worked on an LMS before, it really helped me to understand how things worked and why they work like they do. I also got a book from my team about Ruby and it contained steps on how to build an eCommerce app. So, for my first two weeks, I was meeting the wider teams and learning Ruby by building two eCommerce apps. 

After that, I had some time to get to know the product and work processes, through pair programming with my assigned buddy. The pair programming lasted for a week and then I was assigned my first task in the LearnUpon app. Several months later, I’m happy to be involved in some serious feature development and contributing to the team. 

Any advice for people who are thinking about moving to a different programming language? 

Moving from one programming language to another can take a bit of time, rather than just moving to a different project that’s done in the same language. But at the end of the day, it’s only a syntax. What matters is that you’re confident in your programming skills and in your own sense of logic. If you have these and you are challenged by the project, the switch to a new technology shouldn’t be an issue.