Women at Hacker School: Three perspectives

This is a guest post by Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock. Nicholas is a cofounder of Hacker School, a free, three-month retreat for people who want to become better programmers.

In the past, we’ve written on the Hacker School blog about everything from what people do at Hacker School to mistakes we’ve made to how we’ve tried to eliminate subtle sexism and racism.

For this post, I’ve asked three alumnae to share their experiences, and what they got out of Hacker School.

An important thing to know is that Hacker Schoolers hail from a tremendously diverse range of backgrounds. Some have worked professionally as programmers, and others are just a few months into learning to code. Some have studied computer science, and others are purely self-taught. Some are looking to transition careers, and others just enjoy programming and want to spend three months honing their craft.

Below, three Hacker School alumnae share in their own words their experiences and what they got out of Hacker School.


Photograph of Hacker School participants pair-programming and drinking coffee

Hacker School participants

As my youngest child approached college and I thought about resuming my software development career after ten years at home, I faced the seemingly insurmountable problem of catching up on the dramatic changes in technology that had occurred over the time that I was out and proving that I could program well in the current environment. Hacker School was the means by which I was able to successfully overcome those challenges.

At Hacker School, I learned about the state of technology in so many different ways, through sessions put together by staff or fellow Hacker Schoolers, through formal talks by residents, through discussions in the internal chat system and in casual interactions throughout the day. I had focused time to program and, when I needed it, guidance about what to do and what tools to use. I came out of Hacker School with a much greater understanding of the architecture of the web and current software development practices, and with a body of work to show that I could still program.

Hacker School also provided a lot of support in terms of finding a job, from interview prep through making it easy to connect with a lot of great companies and guidance about which would be good fits. I am thrilled with the job that I recently started and am certain that I would not be where I am without my Hacker School experience.

About Stacey: Stacey came to Hacker School from New Jersey, and is now an engineer at Dropbox.


I decided to come to Hacker School to work on projects that were outside of my comfort zone and to feel more confident about my technical skills. The environment at Hacker School provided a safe space for me to make progress in both these areas.

Hacker Schoolers consistently respected one another, so I learned not to be afraid or embarrassed by what I didn’t know. The diversity of the group made it much easier for me to focus more on being productive than being concerned about representing a particular demographic. It was also a great opportunity to interact with kind and intelligent people from a variety of different technical and cultural backgrounds! I would recommend Hacker School to anyone who is hoping to find a welcoming community.

About Danielle: Danielle came to Hacker School from Montreal, and is finishing her final year at McGill University studying biology and computer science.


Hacker School participants working on laptops

Hacker School participants

Two years ago, I was an Engineer at Boeing. After a while, my favorite part of going to work was automating my job, rather than just doing it. I decided I wanted to change careers, but wasn’t sure how. I didn’t have a computer science degree or professional programming experience, and I didn’t want to go back to school.

But one day, I stumbled across Hacker School’s website. It was everything I was looking for — free, with job placement after, and it even had grants for women so I’d be able to pay for living in NYC for three months.

When the program started, it was even better than I had imagined! The people are amazing, and I had something to learn from every single person in the room. And even though I was new to programming, there was something I could teach every single person in the room. Hacker School’s social rules helped to create an incredibly comfortable environment.

After my batch was over, I chose to take a job as a Software Engineer at Venmo. I love what I do now. I get to solve interesting problems, work with amazing people, and learn something new every day.

About Alex: Alex came to Hacker School from Washington State, and is now an engineer at Venmo.

If you want to spend three months focusing on becoming a better programmer as part of a welcoming and diverse community, you should apply to Hacker School. We accept applications on a rolling basis, and while the advertised deadline for the winter 2014 batch has just passed, we still have some spaces available.