Austin, Texas is a hotbed of mobile and traditional software development, startups, and Rails shops, and given my history in Silicon Valley, where Ruby on Rails has been the framework of choice for years, I wanted to find out from Lance Vaughn, CEO of CabForward, what makes Ruby on Rails in Austin.
Why CabForward? The Austin Business Journal Book of Lists just ranked them one of the leading Rails development agencies in the metropolitan area. CabForward architects responsive web and mobile solutions in Ruby on Rails, and has rocketed into the top ten Custom Software Developers in Austin, according to the ABJ’s February 2014 listing. CabForward is increasingly positioned as a strategic technology partner for leading companies. More, Vaughn heads up the LoneStarRuby Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to grow Rubyists throughout Texas. He commented,
“That is one of the reasons we so strongly support the LoneStarRuby Foundation, to help train talent in the Ruby language and Rails framework to better meet the demand in the market place.”
The demand in Austin continues to grow as the platform gains more ground throughout web. Ruby on Rails has lowered the barriers of entry to programming and well-served many (re)entering the workplace.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised to find the pervasiveness, in conversations with entrepreneurs, of .Net, PHP, Java and other languages when I relocated to Texas from N. California a few years ago. Ruby on Rails, in Silicon Valley, has long been the go to framework for ventures; as expected as being Lean or Agile. Web applications that formerly might have taken weeks or months to develop, can be built in a matter of days. Rails’ popularity is a direct reflection of the raw productivity it delivers right out of the box; hence the appeal to the startup community. In a sense, I’d liken Ruby on Rails to WordPress: why one earth would you code a website from scratch when you can use a framework that enables you to do it efficiently? Begging the question, what is, or rather was, it’s role in Austin and why was it not as pervasive?
What is Ruby on Rails
Businesses favor it for reducing the overall cost of new software projects while developers are embracing it for it’s extensibility, flexibility, and ease in supporting collaboration.
Ruby on Rails is intended to emphasize Convention over Configuration (CoC), and the rapid development principle of Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY).
“Convention over Configuration” means a developer only needs to specify unconventional aspects of the application. For example, if there is a reference in the code to Price, the corresponding data is called price by default. Only when a developer deviates from this convention, such as calling the dataset “costs”, that the developer needs to write code regarding these names. Because of this, Ruby on Rails leads to less code and less repetition.
“Don’t repeat yourself” means that information is located in a single place. For example, using a Rails module, a developer can retrieve information from a database based on the name and not reiterating the details in the code.
Ruby on Rails in Austin & Texas
Today, Austin boasts over 25 active RoR groups spanning a wide swath of the Austin Web and Tech community. Austin On Rails, Austin.rb, Maker Square’s Ruby n00bies, and Women Who Code reach thousands of area developers while thought leaders such as Damon Clinkscales, Keith Gaddis, Nathaniel Jones, and Vaughn, push the leading edge of the community.
Topics of discussion at meetups range from software development, web standards, entrepreneurship, data management, rich internet applications, web design, agile software, and open source resources, proving Austin is now leading many of the conversations and that entrepreneurs are increasingly embracing Ruby on Rails.
Evidence of that? Ruby on Rails Developer in the Austin Metropolitan Area garner a salary of $78,574 after only 4 years of experience while other sources suggest an average salary, including all levels of experience of $83,000 peaking at around $110,000. Indeed, the Texas economy is demanding Ruby on Rails professionals.
Vaughn’s work with LoneStarRuby Foundation is about driving that awareness and adoption of Ruby on Rails, “The demand for Ruby on Rails solutions continues to grow, and our own sales pipeline stays full, but the number of developers trained up in Ruby and Rails falls short of market demand. We often see projects being coded in other software languages simply because there are more developers available in that language when needed. That is one of the reasons we so strongly support the LoneStarRuby Foundation, to help train talent in the Ruby language and Rails framework to better meet the demand in the market place.”
Joining Austin, in projected high tech growth over the next four years, are San Antonio and Houston. Job growth by category through 2017: Software developers: 11%, App developers: 10%, Network administrators: 9%, and Systems analysts: 8%. While San Antonio will see the biggest high-wage job growth (10%), the studies note that most of its gains will be in education, finance and insurance. The tech crowd throughout the country is finding greater opportunity in Austin, which is projected to see robust growth in high-wage tech industries such as custom computer programming services, computer equipment manufacturing and engineering services.
Regardless of where, precisely, Ruby on Rails is the most popular platform for web applications, and that demand is only going to continue. While Austin may drive a position of innovation and experience, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio’s economic impact will continue to drive investment into and throughout Texas as companies evolve to embrace the work already being done by CabForward and others.