You want to build a web application, and people may have suggested you hire a Ruby on Rails developer along with the program. Ruby on what? The development world is certainly weird to come up with a name like that.
What is Ruby and what is Rails? Here, we’ll analyze the difference between the two as well as what you should be looking for when it comes to bringing a Ruby developer onto your team.
What are Ruby and Ruby on Rails and what’s the difference between the two?
To put it simply: Ruby is a programming language, and Ruby on Rails is a framework written in Ruby with a focus on web development. A simple analogy to better understand the difference: if we build a web application like we build a house then Ruby would be the bricks, cement, wood, steel, etc. and Ruby on Rails would be the prefabricated building materials. A web application can be built by using Ruby to write the program’s core language line by line or by using Ruby on Rails with a set of pre-written programs.
The interest of using Ruby on Rails when building a web application lies in the fact that developers don’t need to start from scratch. They’re already provided with useful and optimized sets of codes and programs that solve common problems. Developers will only have to customize the programs and adapt them to the specific needs of the application. Ruby on Rails offers more flexibility, consistent quality, reduced disruption and can save lots of development time.
Now that you understand the interests of using RoR when building a web application, how do you determine the outstanding RoR developers from the average ones?
What type of skills should RoR developers have?
Let’s start with the basics.
The first thing to look for when hiring a RoR developer is their basic understanding of Ruby. This is something that should be evident in a junior candidate as well. The more experienced the developer is, the more understanding he or she should have on Ruby including meta-programming, creating gems, etc.
Certifications from the Ruby Association are one way to verify a developer’s level of knowledge in Ruby. Those with varying levels of certifications from the Ruby Association are recognized for their high level of Ruby-based system development capabilities. However, as programming languages continue to evolve, some developers may not be interested in passing a certification since these versions are continuously changing.
While searching for RoR developers, you should look for a range of skills. Each developer’s skill level will be different but it’s important for them to have a good understanding and ability to do the following:
- write clean and easy-to-understand code
- object-oriented programming (OOP)
- request/response cycles
- organization of a Rails app
- MVC paradigm
- unit testing with MiniTest and RSpec
- Cucumber, etc.
Other Technical Skills
It’s one thing if your interviewee says they can use a particular program or configure a new project from scratch but it’s another if they can show it. And if they’re unsure, upfront honesty goes a long way. It’s not something that should be looked down upon as a flaw. A positive attitude and a strong willingness are crucial to a successful candidate.
One way to assess a developer’s experience is to ask for the methodology they use and how they’re going to implement it. Currently, the development community is advocating for DevOps and Agile. RoR developers should be familiar with continuous integration, continuous delivery, TDD, and source control management to name a few. They don’t need to have experience in specific tools your team may use but they should have a good understanding of these concepts.
In addition, as technology continues to change, it’s important that developers are willing to adapt along with it.
In addition, Ruby on Rails developers should have deep analytical skills. When it comes to the nitty gritty details, they should not only understand what to implement each step of the way but also why.
Several technical debts arise due to lack of prior analysis before implementation which often results in poor code quality, functionalities that are heavily coupled, complex codes that are hard to maintain and more. Good RoR developers do not reinvent the wheel. They are trained to apply abstract solutions to their specific needs. Advanced developers are already well versed in several commonly used modules of Ruby on Rails framework such as the authentication module.
Since Ruby on Rails relies heavily on code, reusability and customization of the implementation, it’s important that developers know how and why a specific line of code works or doesn’t work.
What about less obvious skills?
Developers share technical skill which are essential and common traits of the job but ones that are not to be missed are soft skills. The following qualities are just as important and should play a key role in hiring a RoR developer.
Effective communication skill are essential for two reasons. The developer’s ability to effectively communicate amongst its team members as well as the capability to interact with external stakeholders such as managers and clients.
The ultimate purpose of application development is to build an application that serves end users’ needs. A lack of strong communication skills will often than not lead to a failure in building the application. Developers should always be asking questions in order to avoid ambiguity. Since end users know what to expect from the application, it’s important that developers feel comfortable enough to ask for clarification instead of guessing. You don’t want to end up with a casual: “that’s how we understood your needs.” You should aim to hire a developer for whom communication feels natural. You don’t want to work with someone who will make every interaction awkward.
As mentioned earlier, when hiring a RoR developer, be sure that he or she is flexible. The best RoR programmer should be flexible stepping out of his or her comfort zone. During the development process, pressure may arise, developers may switch to different projects, or other developers may come in to help the team. Whatever happens, make sure you have a good sense of this in your future hire. Ask them for examples of previous scenarios where they’ve been put in similar situations. This will give you insight as to how they may perform under different situations.
When it comes to hiring the best Ruby on Rails developers, the famous quote: “don’t hire skills, hire attitude” is more than relevant. The developer can always learn skills but it’s their attitude that counts.
Not sure where to begin? That’s where we come in. Take you pick from our network of developers highly skilled in Ruby on Rails as well as any other programming language you have your eye on. Learn more here.