Ruby Hero

The Ruby Hero awards organizers wisely opt not to have recipients do acceptance speeches. So I thought I’d say a few words here.

When Olivier Lacan presented the awards, he first showed a slide with the photos of all the previous recipients on it. It’s a breathtaking honor to be counted among their number. It’s even more of an honor that I could look at that slide and see the faces of so many people I call friends.

Over the past fifteen years, my career and personal growth have been linked to the growth of the Ruby community. Ruby has given me so many gifts: a way out of soul-crushing government-contracting work. Welcome into a group of inspiring, enthusiastic, and kind practitioners. An entrance into the world of public speaking. Continuous, well-compensated employment that enabled me to support an ever-growing family. And something especially precious: the opportunity to earn the respect of my peers, as well as the respect and friendship of many of the people I consider personal heroes.

In a sense I feel that I’ve been gifted with my own personal Ruby Hero awards on a daily basis for years now. The constant stream of supportive tweets, incredibly gracious emails, postcards, and kind words at conferences have encouraged, sustained, and humbled me. I make no secret of the truth that I frequently suffer depression and overwhelm. I’ve lost count of the times that an appreciative note has arrived during the depths of discouragement, lifting my spirits and strengthening my resolve to always be better.

The truth is, I struggle constantly with the fear that I haven’t earned this adulation. The facts:

  • I am not a prolific open-source contributor
  • I didn’t help create amazingly useful tools like Heroku, Github or TravisCI
  • I’m not a conference organizer
  • I’ve only done a limited amount of free/public mentoring and training
  • A lot of the stuff I’ve “given” to the community has been for profit: my books, my RubyTapas screencasts.

When I look at the concrete contributions of other Ruby heroes, I question what it is I actually do for this community. Mostly I just seem to run my mouth. Sometimes it seems like I’ve taken more than I’ve given.

But a lot of people seem to like… whatever it is I do. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to all the people who have encouraged me. I’m grateful to all the conference organizers who have given me a platform and the opportunity to travel around the world and meet programmers on three continents. I’m grateful to everyone who has sent me a question or a suggestion or an idea that has later showed up in a blog post, book, or RubyTapas episode. I’m grateful to everyone who has listened to Ruby Rogues over the past four years. I’m grateful to everyone who supported my consulting pair-programmer venture, and who thus supplied the bridge that took me from being a consultant to being a full-time educator. I’m grateful to everyone who has bought my books or paid for a RubyTapas subscription, giving me the ability to spend all my time doing something I dearly love to do: figure things out, and then explain them to other people.

I’m deeply indebted to my original ruby heroes, people like Dave Thomas, the late Jim Weirich, Chad Fowler, Reg Braithwaite, James Gray, Dan Kubb, and too many others to name. Thanks for inspiring me, teaching me, and then later being nice to me as I got to know you all in person.

And, of course, I am grateful to my wife Stacey, for putting up with and tirelessly supporting all the globetrotting, career upheaval, and long hours.

Ultimately, whenever I receive appreciation in any form, it says one thing to me: now, do even better. I intend to do just that.


  1. Congratulations, Avdi. It is such a special thing to be honored by you coworkers. I may not understand a thing about Ruby but I recognize your intelligence, your rational thinking,and your clarity in writing,among your many admirable traits. I hasten to add that I applaud your devotion to your family. Your grandfathers would be so proud of you, as am I.

  2. Avdi, when I ran into the morning of the awards, you gave no hint of the real reason you were stopping into RailsConf. But of course you didn’t. Your humble approach to this is reflected in all the work you have done. So many of us are better programmers and better people because of you. Congratulations. I wish you continued success in your many endeavors.

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