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

Taller en Español en SF

(English translation)

Este fin de semana se ha celebrado el primer Taller en Español en San Francisco, en la Mitch Kapor Foundation. Carmen Díaz Echauri (@cucurucho), Directora del Spanish Language Outreach, fue la catalizadora que hizo esto posible.

Carmen enseña a Sandra Vilaro Ruby on Rails, junto al voluntario Raul Murciano de Heroku.

Hoy ya existen materiales en español para el taller (instalación y currículo), tenemos un grupo en google en español y una versión en español del sitio web de

El taller siguió el formato habitual de RailsBridge Outreach for Woman, con una fiesta de instalación en la tarde del viernes y la realización del taller el día sábado. El patrocinador proporcionó pegatinas para los participantes que consiguieron completar la instalación con éxito y proporcionó fondos para la fiesta posterior, que terminó siendo un gran evento de networking para todos los profesores y estudiantes que hicieron posible este evento.

Gracias al gran apoyo de la comunidad Ruby de San Francisco fuimos capaces de emparejar a cada participante con un ingeniero experto en Rails para programar durante todo el sábado.

Si tienes interés en que celebremos un taller para tu comunidad, queremos colaborar contigo. Por favor, inscríbete en la lista de correos y háblanos acerca de tu grupo.

Muchas gracias a Ulili Onovakpuri de Kapor Capital, al Level Playing Field Institute y a Freada Kapor Klein por contribuir en la planificación y la logística, así como por proporcionarnos la comida y un bellísimo espacio para este evento.

Muchas gracias a todos los que apoyaron el evento del viernes y el sábado y a los amigos que ayudaron a preparar todo el currículum para el evento. Carmen organizó dos reuniones previas donde hispanohablantes ayudaron a los voluntarios técnicos que tenían menos soltura a revisar el español técnico del material enseñado a lo largo del evento. Me gustaría personalmente dar las gracias a los siguientes voluntarios que cedieron gran parte de su fin de semana para hacer esto posible:

  • Carmen Díaz Echauri
  • Ulili Onovakpuri
  • Francisco Viramontes
  • Rodrigo Vanegas
  • Nicholas Fowler
  • Thuon Chen
  • Raul Murciano
  • Mariana Hernandez
  • Juan Esparza
  • Nick Chaffee
  • Mary Jenn
  • Kai Middleton
  • Garance Poppy Burke

y gracias a nuestros patrocinadores:

Taller en Español en SF

Spanish Language Outreach Workshop in SF

(Spanish Translation)

This weekend, we held our first Spanish-language Outreach workshop, at the Mitch Kapor Foundation in San Francisco. Carmen Díaz Echauri (@cucurucho), Director of Spanish Language Outreach, was the driving force behind making this happen.

Carmen teaches Sandra Vilaro about Ruby on Rails, with volunteer Raul Murciano of Heroku.

Workshop materials (install instructions and curriculum) are now available in Spanish, we have a spanish language google group and the website.

The workshop followed the usual format, with an install fest on Friday evening. Sponsor supplied stickers for participants who successfully installed, as well as funding the after-party which was a great networking event for teachers, students and everyone who helped make this event happen.

With great support of the local SF Ruby community, we were able to pair participants with experienced Rails engineers in a full day of coding on Saturday.

If you have a group of Spanish speakers who would like to learn web application development, we would like to work with you! Please join the mailing list and tell us about your group.

Special thanks to Ulili Onovakpuri of Kapor Capital and the Level Playing Field Institute and Freada Kapor Klein for helping with planning, logistics and inspiration, as well as providing food and beautiful space for the event.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the event on Friday and Saturday, and the folks who helped work through the curriculum in Spanish in advance of the event. Carmen held two advance meetings where native Spanish speakers helped technical volunteers who were less fluent to review the technical Spanish needed for effectively teaching at this event. I’d like to thank the following volunteers personally who gave up much of their weekend to make this happen:

  • Carmen Díaz Echauri
  • Ulili Onovakpuri
  • Francisco Viramontes
  • Rodrigo Vanegas
  • Nicholas Fowler
  • Thuon Chen
  • Raul Murciano
  • Mariana Hernandez
  • Juan Esparza
  • Nick Chaffee
  • Mary Jenn
  • Kai Middleton
  • Garance Poppy Burke

and thanks to our sponsors:

Spanish Language Outreach Workshop in SF

OSCON: Start a Workshop, Change the World

Ilen Zazueta-Hall, our new Director of Leadership Development, will be speaking at OSCON next week (7/28). Ilen has worked with us since workshop #2 to make workshops happen and has figured out how to turn a loose collection of engineers into a force for social change. Her talk is called Start a Workshop, Change the World. She’ll be sharing the key recipes that have made the RailsBridge workshops so successful. She’ll share stories of how so many groups of individuals have made workshops happen — with no formal training and an eclectic approach, there are important patterns that make it work.

If you are in Portland for OSCON this week — check it out!

OSCON: Start a Workshop, Change the World

Scala Outreach Workshop

This guest post is contributed by Asheesh Laroia (@asheeshlaroia). Based in the Boston area, Asheesh works on the OpenHatch open source outreach project and outreach events like the Boston Python Workshop for women and their friends. He met Scalathon organizer Yuvi Masory when they worked together with Felice Ford to organize a weekend Open Source Hackathon to inspire college students to get involved in open source. RailsBridge is excited to spread the workshop model to other programming languages and would like to support her outreach efforts in any way we can.

In July, people who want to hack on open source projects written in Scala will descend on Philadelphia to attend Scalathon. Yuvi Masory (one of the organizers) invited me to work with him on gender diversity. So, inspired by RailsBridge and my experience with the Boston Python Workshop, we are running a crash course in Scala for women and their friends who want to attend Scalathon. Our goal is to encourage women and men who are considering attending Scalathon to pick up the necessary skills to join these active, collaborative open source communities.

This crash course is actually a bit different from the RailsBridge open workshops, but we retain the gender diversity goal. Keep reading to find out more about Scala and how the conference shaped the Crash Course.

A word about Scala

Scala is a fairly new programming language, based on the Java Virtual Machine, that sports some new tricks designed to help people write concurrent code. Just like Rails guides the programmer to useful web paradigms like ActiveRecord and URL mappings, Scala and its libraries promote features like functional programming and the actor pattern to build programs that can run in parallel on different data. James Governor at RedMonk writes:

We’re moving into a world of event-based programming, concurrency and messaging….

Now it’s one thing for a guy at a conference to run his mouth off about how Twitter could be better if it was built in Scala. It’s quite another for Twitter to actually rebuild in Scala. Over time other high scale shops have also taken to Scala – notably Foursquare… and UK-based financial services.

Twitter still uses Ruby on Rails to deliver most user-facing web pages, but a few years ago they started replacing some of the back-end Ruby services with applications running on the JVM and written in Scala.

A cornerstone of a Scala programmer’s toolkit is the idea of functional programming, a style of programming that emphasizes “pure” functions that do not modify existing data. This is common in Lisp and ML, two languages often used in computer science curricula, and lies at a contrast to imperative programming common in Ruby and Python where statements have side effects (like updating a hash). Programs built in this style emphasize recursion rather than looping.

Scalathon, and our Crash Course

Scalathon takes place on Saturday and Sunday, July 16-17; our outreach event is the evening before. The conference is an opportunity for existing open source project contributors to meet and also for new prospective community members to join in. With that in mind, our crash course is specifically for people who already are familiar with the functional programming paradigm. Additionally, to attend, you must also be attending Scalathon that weekend.

I realize that makes it a somewhat exclusive event! Many of our crash course’s attendees are undergraduate computer science students. We have 12 attendees signed up now, and we are looking for more. We created these attendance requirements so that we can best serve the open source communities who will be represented on the weekend. The crash course is, in effect, a search for people enthusiastic about getting involved who have the skills to make meaningful code and documentation contributions during Scalathon.

Another purpose of the crash course is to send a strong message to women considering attending the weekend hackathon: you will not be the only woman there. Not by a long shot. So far, Yuvi estimates Scalathon to be nearly 20% women.

Right now, there are still eight slots available. If you have some experience doing functional programming and want to try your hand contributing to active open source projects based in Scala, and you are a woman or a friend of one, we want you to sign up for the crash course!

Scala Outreach Workshop

Riding Rails in South America

One of the objectives of the RailsBridge Open Workshops is diversity, so I asked Carmen Díaz Echauri to write in Spanish about her experience leading a small workshop when she traveled back to her hometown. Read the original blog in Spanish, or for non-Spanish speakers, read an English translation of Carmen’s post below.

In October 2010, I attended three different software conferences in South America. One of them, CLEI (Conferencia Latinoamericana de Informática), which was held in my home town, Asunción.

Because I was going to spend two weeks in Paraguay, it seemed like a great opportunity to hold a mini-workshop and share my Ruby on Rails experience. So, a few days before my trip, I sent an email to the dean of the Universidad Católica de Asunción, where I had graduated, and suggested we hold a workshop at the university.

The University offered me the use of a computer lab and the technical staff set up their computers, which were running Ubuntu, with Ruby 1.8.7 and Rails 3.0.0, so I didn’t have to worry about installation.

First year engineering students, some professors and assistant professors attended the workshop. Because I had relatively little time to teach, I couldn’t use the complete RailsBridge workshop curriculum, so I had to adapt the curriculum that I had previously translated, which basically consisted of giving an explanation of the Rails framework, talking a bit about the “test first” culture and best practices in test-driven development.

This was what I covered in about 2 hours:

* What is the Ruby language? a bit of history
* What is Ruby on Rails and why is it called a framework?
* The structure of the framework
* Model View Controller in action

Exploration of the development process consisting of writing failing tests first and then making them pass with correct code. The explanation basically consisted of:
* TDD (test-driven development)
* BDD (behavior-driven development)

At the end of the presentation, we built a demo application in 6 basic steps. I called it “Riding Rails in 6 steps”

1) $ rails new jugando
2) $ vim Gemfile
source ‘’
gem ‘rails’, ‘3.0.0’
gem ‘sqlite3-ruby’, ‘1.2.5’, :require => ‘sqlite3’

At this point, I took some valuable time to explain the Gemfile manifest and emphasize all of the different libraries defined within it.

3) $ bundle install
Here, I explained how dependent libraries are managed.

4) $ rails generate scaffold juego titulo:string descripcion:text url:string
Here, I explained what “Scaffold” does.

5) $ rake db:create # If the db is not sqlite.
$ rake db:migrate

At this point, I briefly explained “Rake”.

6) $ rails server

As we were concluding the workshop and building the application, I also took some time to answer questions from the students. It was a challenging, yet enriching experience, since their questions about bundle, scaffold and Gemfile were difficult to answer in Spanish because we don’t have a frame of reference for these concepts. At the end of the tutorial, we added 4 more steps to create a controller and model with corresponding tests in RSpec.

I want to thank the University for this wonderful honor and even though I was leading the workshop, I feel as if I am the one who learned the most from these talented students and faculty.

Riding Rails in South America

Inspiring Women Leaders

The Opensource Women’s Leadership event on January 28th was a real treat. Many thanks to our hosts She’s Geeky and the Bohemian Loft. Our sponsors, Pivotal Labs, Engine Yard, TrueCar, Enphase Energy, Balsamiq, Harvest, and Captain Recruiter provided dinner and drinks for our honorees and guests.  Additional ticket sales raised over $500 for the Open Workshop Project.

Many of the women honored at the event came up to me and said that they didn’t do much.  I replied that it is amazing how so many people doing “not much” can add up to something that effects such a big change in our community.  Every workshop has been a “one-off” — one group of individuals who get together for one weekend to make a difference for one group of people.  It’s a powerful thing.  Until now, that has served as its own reward.  However, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge something bigger that is happening.  Two years ago I knew of zero women Ruby engineers, after my first Ruby meetup, I knew one female Rubyist, Sarah Mei.  Now, I know over 30 women Rubyists in San Francisco alone.  That may still be a small number, but these women have made a large impact on the whole community and on me personally.  I no longer feel compelled to count the women in the room when I walk in.  I no longer feel that I am speaking for my gender when I voice my opinion. The difference is profound.

We closed the evening with a panel discussion of workshop organizers: Liana Leahy, Desi Mcadam, Sarah Mei and myself. Aihui Ong, fellow Rails engineer and a leader in our partner organization Women 2.0, moderated the panel. It was interesting to hear perspectives of fellow organizers and hear questions from the audience, which ranged from people who have been deeply involved in the workshops to others who had just heard about them.

• • •

Nobel Prize Women in Science
Nobel Prize Women in Science
RailsBridge, with the help of our sponsorsors and the National Academies Press, provided each honoree with a copy of Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries. These are stories of the 50 women who have been awarded nobel prizes in Math and Science. Sarah Mei had the insight to add biographies of the two women who have received the Turing Award:

Fran Allen grew up on a farm in upstate New York and graduated from The New York State College for Teachers (now State University of New York at Albany) with a B.Sc. degree in mathematics in 1954.  She earned an M.Sc. degree in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1957 and began teaching school in Peru, New York. Deeply in debt, she joined IBM on July 15, 1957 and planned to stay only until her school loans were paid, but ended up staying for her entire 45-year career. Allen’s work has had an enormous impact on compiler research and practice. Both alone and in joint work with John Cocke, she introduced many of the abstractions, algorithms, and implementations that laid the groundwork for automatic program optimization technology. Allen’s 1966 paper, “Program Optimization,” laid the conceptual basis for systematic analysis and transformation of computer programs. This paper introduced the use of graph-theoretic structures to encode program content in order to automatically and efficiently derive relationships and identify opportunities for optimization. She published numerous papers in the 1970s on control flow analysis and optimization. Her compiler work at IBM established the feasibility and structure of modern machine- and language-independent optimizers. She received the Turing Award in 2006.

Barbara Liskov is currently the Ford Professor of Engineering in the MIT School of Engineering’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department and an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her BA in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1961. In 1968 she was one of the first women in the United States to be awarded a Ph.D. from a computer science department when she earned her degree from Stanford University. The topic of her thesis was a computer program to play chess end games. Liskov has led many significant projects, including the Venus operating system, the CLU and ARGUS programming languages. ARGUS was the first high-level language to support implementation of distributed programs and to demonstrate the technique of promise pipelining. Her current research focus is Byzantine fault tolerance and distributed computing. Her contributions have also been incorporated into the practice of programming: with Jeannette Wing, she developed a particular definition of subtyping, commonly known as the Liskov substitution principle.  She has influenced many of the most important systems used today for programming, specification, systems design, and distributed architectures. She received the Turing Award in 2008.

Please spread the word about our fabulous sponsors.  If you are looking for a job or know someone who is, Pivotal Labs, Engine Yard, TrueCar, Enphase Energy and Harvest are all hiring! and of course, Captain Recruiter can fill any position you have open.

Pivotal Labs Logo Engine Yard Logo

True Car Logo
Enphase Energy Logo

Balsamiq logo Harvest Logo

Captain Recruiter

Inspiring Women Leaders