Hungry Academy: get paid to learn Ruby/Rails

Programs where people can get paid to learn the craft of software development have started to become a trend. Like many great inventions, such as holography and test-driven development (TDD), it was independently “invented” by different people in different places. The idea of a software development apprenticeship where you learn on the job on the path to being hired has been an on-going, practical experiment by many companies. At Blazing Cloud, we’ve run four sessions of a cross-training program, Dave Hoover wrote Apprenticeship Patterns based on his own experience, and Code Academy, which is not affiliated with a specific company, just wrapped up its first session.

Now, LivingSocial is teaming up with JumpstartLab to offer a new program in Washington, D.C. that they call “Hungry Academy.” With just a week left for people to apply, I took time out today to interview Jeff Casimir from JumpstartLab who will be leading the training.

What’s Hungry Academy all about?
It’s a five-month, full-time, paid training program put together by JumpstartLab and LivingSocial. 24 attendees will be selected for the program and will divide time between classroom instruction, team project work, and open source / community contributions. Instruction will be led by Jeff Casimir and Matt Yoho from JumpstartLab.

We’ll focus on Ruby, Rails, and related technologies. And while some participants will have CS backgrounds, we expect others to have no programming experience whatsoever. You bring the passion and drive, we’ll help you develop the skills.

It starts in March and applications are being accepted until January 9th.

You say that people don’t need any programming experience to apply, how will you balance teaching people who have programming experience in other technologies with students who have never coded before?
From my background teaching middle school and high school, I’m accustomed to pushing people of drastically different abilities. Good teaching is individualized, so it doesn’t matter that people have varied skill-sets. As long as you plan for it, pushing people at their own “right pace” is possible.

What happens after the program?
If you successfully complete the program you’ll join the engineering team at LivingSocial as a full-time developer.

And what happens if they are unsuccessful?
We can’t guarantee jobs, but if you fail then I fail. LivingSocial would love to hire everyone from the program if they can prove their mettle. I promise that anyone who comes with the right attitude and works hard will be ready at the end.

Is it remote or on-site? Do I have to stay in DC?
All attendees need to be on-site daily at the office in DC. If you complete the program and join the team, there are likely opportunities in DC, Seattle, and maybe Boulder, Portland, and Austin.

Why “Hungry Academy”? Are people allowed to eat?
It’s a little weird, admittedly, but LivingSocial came out of a company named “Hungry Machine”. “Live Hungry” is still one of the core values — it means constantly striving to do better. We’re focusing on people who are passionate about their work, want to learn and grow, and can be awesome team members — that’s being Hungry.

How does someone apply?
All of the info is at Please be sure to read the instructions in the job description.

In the application it says that a video is required. What do you think about research that indicates that people screening job applications with a photo of the applicant are biased toward white men?
Yeah, I decided that the application should be a video. Words on a page are just too easy to fake and too boring to read. Under the premise of hiring non-programmers, we’re basically taking people who, on paper, are not qualified. There’s little you can do on a resume to say “I am hungry and ready to kick butt,” it’s just a boring list of what you’ve done and which schools you owe money to. In the video we can see the evidence of your passion and hear it in your voice.

We don’t have an idea of what developers should “look like.” If anything, my concern is that we’ll be biased against those who fit the stereotype of developers. Both LivingSocial and JumpstartLab believe strongly in diversity because, at the core, both companies rely on creative ideas. Creativity is cultivated best when there are many inputs allowed to mix together, not one dominating profile.

In the end, we love people in all their genders, shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, and preferences. If you do too, then you’ll fit in here.

What’s the deadline again?
Applications are due Monday 1/9 and the program starts in March.

What if I have more questions?
Email me at and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Hungry Academy: get paid to learn Ruby/Rails