blowmage A Mike Moore joint

Jim Weirich: My Mentor

Let me tell you of an inside joke that plays out at Ruby conferences. When I find myself in a group discussion that includes Jim Weirich I casually mention how Jim is my unwitting mentor and how I am his biggest cyber stalker. Jim shifts uncomfortably and gracefully changes the subject. Okay, this is perhaps less of an inside joke and more of a sick game. Whatever you call it, it's what I do. And the worst part is that it's 100% true.

Jim Weirich is my unwitting mentor and I am his biggest cyber stalker.

When I was coming up in the Ruby world I already had a decade of programming experience. In my first decade whatever I lacked I made up for with hard work and some innate skill. And while I learned from several wonderful people along the way, I never had anyone who took me under their care, teaching and guiding me in my career. I wanted that, but never had it. And it wasn't until I found Ruby and Jim that I ever got it. Jim, coincidentally, wasn't aware of this at the time.

Jim is one of the best teachers I've ever met. He exudes empathy. He has the ability to understand how the pieces of what he is presenting will click in your mind. And then he knows how to challenge your new understanding to help you see an even bigger picture. And no matter how good your code is he knows how it can be a bit better. And no matter how well you know something he can teach you a just little more. He loves programming and he loves programmers.

And Jim is incredibly giving of his time and talents. Back when I was learning Ruby he had all of his presentation materials online. Sometimes even videos of his presentations. (Back in the dark ages before Confreaks having a video of your presentation was rather rare.) His openness enabled me to learn and grow. I was, and continue to be, fascinated by Jim's presentation style and his approach to teaching. I watched his presentations over and over, hoping to absorb some of his awesomeness by osmosis.

Am I Jim's biggest cyber stalker? I don't know. But because of how seriously I studied his materials I do consider him to be my mentor. From those early days of poring over his slides and code to force myself into new ways of thinking I have had the pleasure to get to know Jim in real life. All the things that have been said about Jim are true: he is a prolific coder, has a cunning mind, and a caring heart. My early goal was to be like him, but I found it was much more satisfying to be his friend.

In the time since then I have been lucky enough to speak at several Ruby conferences. I have a few libraries that enjoy a modicum of notoriety. And I organize the MWRC conference that has contributed over one hundred conference session recordings available online for free. And in all that time I have merely been following Jim's footsteps.

Jim Weirich is the best of us. He is the superlative example of the niceness that Ruby is known for. And last night he passed away and I will never see him again.

I don't know Jim's family, but I do know that he loved them. He beamed with pride whenever he talked about them. As best I could tell he enjoyed his family to the fullest. I wish I did know them so I could tell them in person how much Jim means to me. I lost both my parents around 10 years ago, and my wound from that loss is still open. I can only imagine their grief today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, and those close to him.

Thank you Jim for the influence you have had on my life. I treasure our friendship more than you will ever know.