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Hungry Academy - get paid to learn Ruby (hungryacademy.com)
254 points by jeremymcanally on Dec 21, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 165 comments

How much do you get paid to fill out the application?

I love the idea that you're "edgy" and thinking outside the box, but honestly, have you really thought your application process through?

As an ugly introverted nerd who still has trouble getting a date, but builds killer software apps and loves doing it, the last thing I ever want to do is spend multiple days in order to enter your beauty contest.

So you'll end up choosing the prettiest people who present the best and write the prettiest code regardless of how important or influential it is.

You'd just be better off bringing everyone in for the first week of the class. By the end of that week, you'd have a much better idea of who would succeed in your program than your seemingly random method of choice.

I've written lots of cool stuff and would love to learn Ruby in what appears to be a great program like yours, but I'm just not hungry enough to subject myself to more superficial rejection. There are already plenty of women around for that.

I think you are making a lot of assumptions about what they are going to be using the info for, particularly the video section. They pretty explicitly state they want to hear your communication skills (those matter) / passion (most people would argue that matters too). You go from them telling you that to "So you'll end up choosing the prettiest people..."

You also have the "... who present the best and write the prettiest code regardless of how important or influential it is." Which is less crazy, because they do say that they want people who write clean code (who doesn't?). But they are also asking for your resume, so I don't think that saying "regardless of how important or influential it is" is fair, either.

It sounds like you've been through a lot of rejection in your life, and I really do sympathize, and understand what that can do to you. But you've gotten to the point where you're lashing out at these guys as though they've already rejected you, way before it's gotten to the stage where they could have even thought about rejecting you. It's not fair to them, and it's not fair to yourself. It comes off as incredibly aggressive, and it creates a really huge barrier before the conversation has even started.

I would argue that the brain processes verbal communication skills and written communication skills in different locations and so, while I may be able to write well, I may come across as Timmy from South Park in front of a camera. In addition, while they are thinking outside the box, maybe they should consider other ways of selection other than the same old stuff like resume. My first impression when looking at the site was that they were more interested in my email account so they could email me for years to come, just like when I entered in a contest to take care of an Island in Australia. Emails still come in even though I block the darn thing. But I also agree that it is not fair to assume that the future will be like the past. That would stop me from even trying.

One big motivation for the video is that it's much harder to fake. It's easy to have my friend write some BS essay for me and submit it for a job, it's a lot harder to do it on camera.

Effective development teams are powered by communication in code, writing, and face-to-face. To be a really excellent candidate, we need all three.

If face-to-face is something people feel uncomfortable with, there are still SO MANY great opportunities to be a developer -- they're just not the right fit for our team.

We're engineers -- not pretty people. We don't care what your face looks like, but watching you explain who you are and what you're good at can give great insight into your personality.

The application is more about whether you feel like a good fit for the team than it is your programming skills. It doesn't mean "do you look good", it doesn't mean "is your English great," and it doesn't mean "Does this look like I 'expect' a programmer to look?"

We're trying to find out "is this a person I want to spend every day of my career with?"

We'd LOVE to bring everyone out for one of our in-person sessions, but are expecting a thousand applications for our 24 spots. Getting all those people in one place would be a massive undertaking and a huge waste of time for the 976 who aren't selected.

Thanks for the quick response, j3. I sure didn't mean to be snarky and it looks like you didn't take it that way. I believe you just added more data to my argument. Let me explain...

If there's only a 3% chance of getting accepted into something so important and life-changing (for both of us), then as an applicant, I want to make damn sure I put my best foot forward into a process that gives me the best possible chance. This just isn't it...

I already know that there's no way anything I put onto video or any underwear (my term for source code) can put me in as favorable competitive light than what I can do for you. I'd just lose out to those who can present better than me.

Compare your application to those of the many incubators and accelerators like yc or techstars. For overachieving builders (the exact people you want to attract), it's the exact opposite experience. Filling out those applications is an enriching experience that gets the juices flowing and generates the excitement that you can compete.

Making videos to be judged by strangers on your "team worthiness", on the other hand, is very hand wavy and a total turn off to precisely the people you're trying to attract.

I believe that "fitting in" is overrated and "being excellent" is underrated and that your process is optimized for the wrong metric.

But then again, what do I know? I'm sure you'll try to prove me wrong (and probably will).

So no videos, no essays, no code ("underwear") reviews; those all just tell how well you "present"... I'm struggling to figure out what you do think a good way to measure your suitability for a programming job is. Just hire you and see how it goes?

I hope this doesn't come off as callous, but I think you need to grow a thicker skin (heyoo!). Like someone said above, you are getting sounding defensive and hurt before anyone has "hurt" you.

Perhaps living social is not looking for a basement dwelling hacker who doesn't feel comfortable on video. In that case, weeding out people who don't feel comfortable presenting themselves is an asset, not a liability. Perhaps they want people with the right motivation and attitude, and then they'll make them programmers (some of them). This seems to be exactly what they want. I think the insistence that you be able to communicate and have the confidence to sell yourself is intentional, not accidental.

hi edw519,

I think that presentation is an important skill for anyone to have in a professional environment. I need to be able to communicate with my teammates, and they need to be able to communicate with me.

That's one of our criteria for hiring where I work - can you communicate with us?

You might be insanely brilliant, but if you can't stand up and talk with us about your brilliance, it doesn't do us much good when wiring your stuff into our stuff.

We also need a decent amount of 'fit' on our team. Fit for us more or less means "cares about the software, cares about reliable software doesn't get into arguments over unimportant stuff, feels relaxed with us, takes showers". Nothing too outre, I don't think. Interpersonal conflicts is something we really - really - don't need. We have enough challenges in the technical arena. :)

No it doesn't...you honestly think anyone would record a video off the top of their head?

Those answers will be calculated to sound the way you want to hear. "Of course I enjoy working, if I can't get 90 hours of work in, I feel depressed that I'm not living up to my potential...taking days off is also completely unacceptable, since I don't want to let my coworkers down."

And getting a feel for a person from a video is not too smart either. In one case, you are friends with the person just talking. In another they are trying to essentially beg for a job talking into a camera, alone in a room.

And if you are getting 1000 applications, it's completely dishonest to require all those people to spend days creating their applications. You are not going to watch 8000 hours worth of video and read all those essays...so why do you require people to do busy work?

And if you are going get 1000 applications, you won't be picking non-programmers either(well maybe one). So why get all those people's hopes up and waste their time? There is no way I'd believe you'd pick someone with a biology degree over someone who already has the basic programming knowledge, where you don't have to explain what an IF statement is or how to create a variable.

To be honest, if it were up to me I'd take only people who didn't have a programming background.

If you look at our community, so many great people don't have the traditional background. Chad was a professional saxophone player. Others studied philosophy, education, economics, or didn't study at all.

We're trying to solve the single biggest problem in our industry: talent shortage.If we accept only programmers, then we're not growing the pool. People with a CS background will get jobs as developers somewhere, I want to find the amazing people who aren't yet a part of this community but are hungry (zing) to join us.

Logistically, LivingSocial has a massive recruiting and HR team who can help out with the screening. Add in a team of a hundred engineers who are eager to find their next awesome colleague, and we have plenty of labor.

I want to thank you for this. I hadn't ever tried programming until I watched some videos for a Stanford Java course a year ago, and I've been working my ass off at it ever since. It turns out this is something I really enjoy and want to continue doing. I'll definitely be applying.

Kudos for thinking hard enough about this problem to not do what everyone else is doing.

I can kind of understand their logic. They'll definitely watch the videos of people they're interested, but it'd be somewhat tedious to ask people that they may be interested in to submit a new set of videos. Yeah it might be a bit of a time sink, but putting together a few videos shouldn't take all that long (2-3 hours, tops?)

Plus, you can get a feel for someone after a couple of seconds of video. Even if they don't watch the whole thing, they probably have people screening. Did you know that Paul B looks at the YC application videos before anything else? In any event, think of all the other applications that we spend ages on, where most get very brief reviews.

As for the programmer part - I'll tell you what I'd do. A certain percentage of the 24, I'd take good proven programmers. A smaller portion I'd dedicate to people who don't know advanced programming, but have undeniable potential, and a basic understanding. Because, really, basic code (if, else, while, for) takes an hour at most to learn.

Why? Here's an anecdote: My friend's father was recruiting developers and received among many applications, one whose only previous job experience was delivering pizza, and he didn't have a university degree. He was bored and intrigued, and decided to interview the guy. He turned out amazing. Perhaps they're trying to hedge their risk, while hoping to chance upon someone brilliant :)

To be fair :

1,000 applicants x 8 minute videos = 133.33 hours, not 8,000

In addition, it's common knowledge that interview questions - whether in person or on youtube - are crafted for the benefit of the interviewer. i.e.

"what's your biggest weakness?" "well, I find it hard to delegate (because I'm such an awesomely hard worker, etc)"

This is inevitable, and not a flaw specific to this format.

However, I think your last point is valid. Realistically, they will be picking people with some background in programming. That said, it's unlikely that applicants to a RoR bootcamp will have absolutely -no- exposure to programming. They might not be professional developers, but I think most of the applicants will have had some exposure to web technology and/or scripting.

For a job application I can see how the essays, videos, etc. could be considered onerous, but from the looks of it this is more like a _scholarship_ application than a job application, and five months of paid training in a work environment is a pretty significant scholarship. In that light, it doesn't seem excessive at all: of course you have to write essays, of course you have to make a short presentation; these are run-of-the-mill requirements for many (not to mention much smaller) scholarship grants.

Did you watch the video? I highly doubt this is a "superficial beauty contest."

Maybe you should start a competing venture called "Ugly Academy." JUST KIDDING!! :)

Ask around your work place and find some of the grey beards that got their start as programmers in the early 90s.

You'll find quite a few that didn't study programming or CS in school, but got their start via company training programs in COBOL, RPG, or Visual Basic in the late 80s and early 90s. This was back when most universities didn't have a CS Program and programming was just a skill in high demand (much like today).

Some of these folks went on to management, system admin work, or kept pursuing the craft and still work side by side with us today.

So what Hungry Academy is doing isn't completely new, but it's a new idea with a fresh face.

I've always disliked the term "hungry," usually it seems to be meant literally, ie. "we know you currently can't afford to eat, and we're going to exploit your weak position mercilessly."

Not to say this is necessarily what's going to happen here of course, but be careful boys and girls.

LivingSocial started with the name "HungryMachine" and one of the company's core values is "Live Hungry" -- that's the inspiration.

We don't want to exploit anyone, hah. In fact, it's quite the opposite -- we want to bring more people into this ridiculously bountiful world of software development.

Is it just me, or is it just the cultural difference (I am from germany, where we - god be blessed - have laws against these kind of hours)- but if I am expected to work 70h+/week in this thing, I belive, the same would be expected if anyone gets that job.

Well done. slavery seems back at last.

Is it just me, or is it just the cultural difference (I am from germany, where we - god be blessed - have laws against these kind of hours)

IANAGerman but I lived there for a bit under a year. Don't the Bundeswehr(Army) and some of the big German companies offer a salary during the B.Sc.+M.Sc.in exchange for going to work for them for 10 years? Because this offer seems superior to me.

Actually a better comparision would be an Ausbildung(Apprenticeship). The company would have to really be exploiting them for it not to be better than an Ausbildung.

And by comparision with the apprenticeship system/vocational education system anywhere else, the German system is awesome. I have successfully convinced myself that this is an awesome opportunity and would apply if I was in a situation visa wise to do so.

That's fair. We wanted to make sure people know this isn't just "show up at 9, leave at 5." There are significant outside of the workday tasks like hacking on projects, reading books, meeting with colleagues, and teaching Ruby to kids.

But I'm not chaining anyone to a desk for 70 hours because _I_ don't want to live that way, either.

Wait, you'd get to teach Ruby to kids? I'll be honest, all of the things for the program sound really awesome, but this is by far the most appealing point for me. I remember hearing a saying/quote which went along the lines of "if you can't explain something to someone else, then you don't really know the material", and I tend to agree with this sentiment for the most part.

I think this is a great opportunity you guys are providing for the community, and I look forward to applying to the program.

It won't be required, but I'll strongly encourage people to join me in volunteering with CodeNow, a program teaching dev skills to high school kids.

Check out http://codenow.org/ and scroll way down for the video of me trying to eat a jar of jelly.

OK, than I am totally OK with this. Because, if I look at my "work"-week, i do have 70+ hours. 40 - 50 @work, 20 - 25 refurbishing our house, 5 - 10 reading/learning new things, mostly while commuting. and for good measure, I would throw in the occasional (3 times per week+) blogposting.

So I really hope, you can find the right, dedicated person. If it wasn't for the "refurbishing the house" part of my life, I would ask, to join, just for the sake of learning RoR.

5 months to learn RoR is about 4 months longer than needed :)

German counter point:

Give me something that is _fun_ and/or _interesting_ and I'm happily spending a big amount of time on it - and in fact, I did that in Germany as well, laws or not.

I'm not sure I'd sign something that says "You're required to put in these hours".

The compensation is completely open - I don't know if these people are payed as junior developers or trainees/interns etc.. - I guess that factors into the equation.

My gripe: I'd expect these 24 people to work on actual products (otherwise I'd question the teaching/mentoring method), so to me it seems the company is getting a temporary team, possibly for cheap.

If I'd be younger, w/o a significant other and - well - applicable (I assume this is for US residents only) I'd apply anyway, though...

As said in another comment, I understood a little bit more after another explenation.

I did a lot more hours for projects, that were quite fun for me, while doing everything I could, to make sure our "customers" (as it was an paid event, but in a hobby-environment i wrote the "") had an exeptional time.

So yeah, I'm totally OK, with working long hours. But not, if a boss "just" demands it.

They're being paid. I think the slavery charge is a bit much.

Plus, you don't know the program structure. That may include homework/group sort of stuff in addition to work and instruction. It'll be like 5 months of college with a job. It's no different if you actually calculate the time investment.

18-month commitment required

This is typically how most top 5 MBA programs get a majority of their students. The applicant will work for a company for 1-2 years, then qualify for an MBA voucher on the condition that the student come back for an additional 2-3 afterwards. In the broad scheme of things, 18 months of work plus only a few months of teaching load (as opposed to 2 year MBAs), is a dream.

That's pretty short, no? Get an unparalleled education in modern software development, step into a high-paying job, and we ask you to stay just 18 months?

No guarantee it will be high-paying, and the word "required" implies that at some point in this process you become beholden to your educators. They certainly don't want any applicants taking the paid education and leaving, so I can imagine some print, fine or otherwise, indemnifying a worthy student (one who is offered a job) should they not fulfill this 18-month requirement.

Still sounds better than dumping 4 years and $160K on a normal degree and then finding no jobs afterward.

I've got a friend now who is a cook in a kitchen. I've been trying to convince him to learn Ruby. This is a killer thing for him. He's making like $12/hr now. Even a "bad" paying programming gig will surely beat that.

You're comparing an intensive 5 month apprenticeship to getting a university CS degree. My personal view is that neither will prepare you for a job as well as just building stuff in your free time.

Is the contract published somewhere? What if something unexpected comes up, say their spouse develops cancer and they need to move to another state to get the best treatment possible? Probably a poor example as Living Social would let that person work remotely, but still, it's a contract -- what are the consequences of breaking it? For similar offers, the 'apprentice' simply needs to repay some or all of the cost of the education.

Yep, that's my understanding -- it's basically "we spent $xx,xxx training you, then you left. We think you owe us $yy,yyy."

That being said, it's a company of humans. What good is a developer who's shackled to their desk while a spouse is distressed in another state? None. There will be a way to work it out. We want you to be happy and great at building software, not imprisoned.

To be fair, slave masters where required to feed and put a roof over their slaves. Modern slave masters don't even do that.

Excellent! I'm glad a big presence in the startup community is willing to train people, instead of demanding: "OMG I CAN'T FIND ROCK STARS I R D00MM333ED!!!!!!" like I see so many other companies do :)

I want to second this. Given the shortage of qualified developers, I actually find it baffling that more companies aren't taking this step. Kudos to Living Social to being proactive rather than whining about lack of talent!

This is similar to another Ruby development training opportunity posted last month, Dev Bootcamp

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3267133 http://devbootcamp.com

Summary of differences I see so far are that Hungry Academy:

- has a different tuition sign (they pay you rather than you pay them).

- is for one employer rather than whoever they can connect you with.

- is in DC rather than the Bay Area.

- is 5 months rather than 2.

Both promote themselves as being compatible with those who have no programming experience, and have an ambitious learning schedule.

(Sidenote: I was accepted for the Feb-March cohort to devbootcamp.)

SilasX, it would be great to hear your comments of this bootcamp.

These programs are awesome. I got accepted to devbootcamp but because I just moved out to SF(OCT) I don't have enough funds to do it in Feb-Mar(hopefully this summer). The Hungry Academy is an awesome idea which I would totally do if it wasn't in DC. Why are more companies not doing something similar?

Sad to hear it was money that kept you out. You couldn't even have paid on the 5-year schedule? I would have lent you the money to cover the first few months (albeit at interest) once I confirmed you were accepted.

I think we'll see more of this general kind of thing in the future, where organizations "cut the fat" out of getting people into software development.

that application is terrible

I can see it being fine as a step 2...but it's way too big as a first step. And you want someone for a job as a programmer...and yet your "filter" for this is essays and videos?

Anyone who'd bother to waste a day writing all those essays and making the videos, can learn RoR on their own...especially if they are already a programmer since RoR is not that different from the other languages

I don't work for Living Social, but I think it's a huge risk that they're taking. The form is burdensome because it needs to be. The only people that they should get are people that really want to learn and that's exactly what they'll get here. Remember, the entrepreneurish techie on HackerNews is likely not their audience. The 19 year old fixing Mom's computer who just failed organic chemistry and might not want to go through with their Marine Biology degree is.

the 19 year old wouldn't hear about the opportunity in the first place

19 year old chiming in. Willing to take a break from getting a degree for a great experience like this. Now to convince my parents...

Apply, then if you're accepted I'll call your parents.

Also, I heard he will hook up a sandwich if it will help.

So would I.

But I did :)

Then again, I already study CS, but I'll definitely try to get into this.

Is the job salary negotiated before the program? I feel like it must be hard to accurately judge someone's programming value before they learn how to program.

What happens if, at the end of the 5-month program, they offer you a desperately low-paying salary? Have you wasted 5 months and moved to DC for nothing?

I think it's even harder to manage the expectations of an already experienced developer coming into this program.

I did something similar with another company and ran into the issue that they were expecting to pay significantly less than I was expecting (realistically or not). In hindsight, it is obvious the program was designed for new programmers or recent grads.

It might not have been such an issue if we had talked about potential salary ranges up front. It was a big shock to learn of their expectations when the offer came across the table.

Something tells me that after making it though a program like this, you'll have plenty of job options, with the one from Living Social just being one.

Those others don't matter though because by going through the class you've signed on for an 18 month stint with LivingSocial.

In reply to you and smountcastle, here is the text verbatim: If you survive the five-month program, you’ll be offered a position on LivingSocial’s elite engineering team (18-month commitment required).

I read this as, if you TAKE the position on the elite engineering team after the five-month period, the contract is for 18-months. I don't think it is necessarily tied to the 5-month learning period.

I thought the same thing. However, it looks like this was cleared up in another thread. It seems as though you are expected to join Living Social at then end of the training. So, it's not really an "offer" after all.

"expected" doesn't necessarily mean "required". Unless one of the things they have participants sign when they agree to do the program lays out specific penalties for refusing the job offer or leaving before 18 months, they're not required to do anything. And if such a clause does exist, there absolutely should be a lower bound on the salary, benefits, etc. in that contract, so that they know they're not agreeing to work for minimum wage for 18 months.

Yes, though if you make it through the program (and offered a job at LivingSocial), you're committed to 18 months at LivingSocial. They seem like a great company so I don't think this would happen, but it does give them leverage to offer a lower salary, reduced benefits, etc.

It's not negotiated before the program. In DC alone, we're seeing explosive growth in the Ruby community, so there are opportunities with the government, contractors, startups, you name it.

If you put your heart into the program there will be a job at LivingSocial for you. And the pay is very nice :)

What level of pay should accepted applicant expect... Market rate for junior level programmer in DC area? Is there anyway you can provide a ballpark figure (like $80K or something) for those who might think about changing his/her career?

Damn, that's really awesome. It seems like a cool way to get into web programming from other fields since they don't require RoR or even a programming background. I might have considered it if my due date wasn't in May...

I'm almost sure we will run more sessions in the future.

I'm curious how you are contractually obligated to join the team for 18 months. What about salary, benefits, etc. While this could be a great opportunity, I would feel uncomfortable not knowing what package I would be getting after the 5 months. For all I know, they could pay us 10K for 18 months of work with no benefits.

I wish I could say more about the salary.

Let's say that I taught middle school and high school for five years, and both the training period and job afterwards pay WAY more than I ever got.

I used a similar approach when i wanted Windows internals programmers in the early 90's. I just called it a internal training program, though.

Irrespective of the number of hours put up, i still think a person new to rails will get a chance to pick up a lot of knowledge and be mentored in the proces - and is a good deal for collage kids.

In a week, or so, you'll find out how this is very different from an internal training program. We're going to make this very external, a learning experience for whoever wants to be involved.

Apologies if this came across negetively.

My goal, at the time i started my company, was to build a really hard-core team. I am sure that is one of your goals too, aside from providing a really intensive training program for your participants.

I would suggest focusing on good habits and good attitude to learning and problem-solving and having fun in the process. Don't allow them to burn out short-term.

Totally agree. I'm taking a lot of lessons from my time in Teach for America where they pushed us hard but still fostered the love for each other, the program, and of course our students.

This sounds really promising. Hopefully, and it would be silly not to, you'll have something in place to detect smart people following along outside.

Very exciting. Are you going to livestream everything?

Hmm I have just started working with RoR. Would jump at this but the DC part is turning me away.

I know you guys said you had an office in Seattle any chance of a similar program there?

Edit: And I also would like to add that I wish there were more programs like this. So many companies want to hire elite,rockstar,jedi,ninja,etc programmers and not willing to give people like me with no CS background a chance. I can't even get an entry-level/junior position since they all require a strong skills these days.

No offense intended, but why should entry level software development jobs be available to people without a CS skill set? Many people spend four years studying CS specifically to earn an entry level job in software development. Shouldn't those without a CS background spend time developing a comparable amount of skills before expecting a software development job? Why should candidates without a CS degree be held to a lower standard? Why would such a candidate deserve the same opportunities as someone who did devote a significant time to learning CS?

Never said I was looking to be a software developer. I'm a Front-end web developer. It's tough to get my foot into the door outside of the interactive agency realm because most companies require 2+ years experience and some form of testing just for a junior position.


Sure, it is possible to find a school to give you a CS degree without learning any useful skills. But most people who get a CS degree are required to write quite a bit of code to earn it, take classes in data structures, algorithms, math, and operating systems. While degree programs may be more theoretical than just learn to write code, a solid background in theory can be very useful.

Why should someone expect a software development job if they have not spent a significant amount of time studying software development? I don't care if they self-study instead of going to school, but it is reasonable to expect a certain skill set before someone is hired to write software.

"Not a programmer? Apply."

How do you expect to turn someone into a decent programmer in five months when they are starting from scratch?

I've been teaching programming for eight years now, and I'd say "What we do isn't that hard." If we were writing 3D game engines, yes we'd need insane levels of math, theory, etc.

But writing web applications is mostly about following smart patterns, getting something done, done quickly, then improving the hotspots that need it. I can teach you to do that in five months, no problem.

Then it just takes a lifetime of practice to be, truly, good.

j3 is right -- developing web apps, 95% of the time, is a trade and not something that requires a four year CS degree. I've taken several people from scratch and taught them enough to be useful to me over a 4-5 month period; years later some of them are holding down very highly paid web development jobs.

I suspect by specializing them in developing with a specific language (Ruby) on a specific framework (Rails).

I doubt candidates will come out knowing how to approach computing models, implement algorithms, explain sequent calculus type systems, and write compilers.

Well that is one way to solve the shortage of programmers. Find hungry people and teach them to code in return for food!*

*Obviously I am kidding. This is definitely cool recruiting experiment.

I'm gonna give this a shot. I've been worried for a while about my skills as a developer and felt that I wasn't up to the same standard as other people (Just like everyone I guess). I think this is a perfect avenue for anyone who wants to get some more experience. Good luck to those entering :)

Awesome idea! I'm very interested to see how this plays out, as my shop (along with quite a few others that I'm aware of) are combating the shortage through apprenticeship programs. This looks like to be a super-structured version of just that.

Congrats to Chad Fowler, Jeff Casimir, and everyone else involved.

I absolutely love this idea - a very Silicon Valley way to deal with the shortage of quality developers!

I loved the program and the proposal.

As for the form, how about asking for HN users or githut accounts. They say more than a cover letter.

And was I the only one that didn't really got excited with the video? I rather get more leadership from the mentors when selling the idea.

Check out the instructions for the application and you'll see that, if you're a developer, we specifically ask for a project posted on Github.

Sorry you didn't dig the video. I'm happy to have one where I don't say "Damn, I look stupid/fat/messy/blah" :)

There's a problem in the application process that I am not sure I can overcome. I can upload a youtube video fine, but the only camera I own takes 240p. Which I really doubt will do anything besides convince the people running this program I'm not a good candidate. I might as well snail mail a VHS. So, if I can get around this step, I'd love to apply(and if I'm accepted I'd move heaven and Earth to make sure I completed the course) but the fact is it doesn't matter how "hungry" you are if the first impression you make tells people you don't have two nickels to rub together.

Maybe a library with a webcam-equipped computer? Friend with a camera phone? Volunteer somewhere for a few hours in exchange for using their equipment?

This sounds like a great opportunity--for those of us without mortgages, families and golden handcuff salaries. If I were younger or debt-free, you could see what someone who's hungry can accomplish.

As a mortgage man and father of two, I totally agree. If you have ideas on how we can make this work for people in your position, please let me know.

I thought about it being similar to one spouse working crazy hard while the second goes to law school for the eventual payoff future. Five months is a lot easier than three years, especially thinking about the $150K you'd owe.

So it's not easy, but I think it will be possible. I really hope that some join us, because there's no one hungrier than a person working to provide for the ones they love. Families teach you so much about work/life balance, how to do things efficiently, and how to smile -- things I'm looking for in our applicants.

I'm in a similar situation, but I live in the D.C. area. Even though things would probably be tough, I plan to apply as soon as I get back home to my computer.

This is the kind of site that people want to share and can go viral quite quickly. You should add the usual suspects of share buttons: Twitter, Fb and LinkedIn.

I'll do my best to answer questions as they pop-up here today, but please feel free to email me at (contact at jumpstartlab) dot com if you want to know more.

You mentioned that people will be payed during the training - what range are we talking about?

About the mandatory 18 month work - how is pay worked out for that? Before training starts?

I'm currently considering to apply, as I'm completely bored here with my CS and Economics bachelor. (Europe) I'd love to finally have some challenge :)

I don't have permission to talk specific numbers in public and it's not really my part of the program -- but expect the during program salary to be a reasonable living wage in our expensive city and the full post-academy salary to be at or above other beginning developer positions.

Sounds like a great opportunity. Is it open to non-US citizens? :)

Yes! We can work on the visas for exceptional candidates.

What about the relocation expenses? Are you offering a relocation package?

As someone who has attempted a country switch a year ago I got myself into trouble when I had to arrange a place to stay - a proper place to stay, because the company back then could arrange me a room in a small apartment with 6 other people sharing a kitchen and due to issues that forced me to pay 3 nights in a hotel. Luckily I found a room to rent through a colleague, right on the first day in the office.

Point being, as much as I adore the idea of dedicating my whole life into learning software engineering and web development, get hands-on experience in a real company and do what I consider meaningful impact in the world, abstract things in the offer like "money", "relocation package" (if any) and apartment are going to keep me "trapped in Greece" for now.

Can you confirm or deny if my worries are legit?

You should probably talk straight to the HR people who have all the expertise/knowledge about these things. Email them at hungryacademy at livingsocial dot com.

Thank you very much for your response. I will ASAP!

This is awesome, more companies need to show this kind of initiative. I'll be applying, we'll see if i qualify as an "exceptional candidate"

After contacting with the HR in the email that you gave me they told me that they don't offer visas for this program. :(

thoughtbot runs a similar program and we do offer visas:


Prem Sichanugrist was a former apprentice of ours. He's from Thailand and is now a full-time thoughtbot employee.

Please apply if it interests you!

Same here. Too bad.

I'm sorry, I was mixed up about this. It's still possible for future iterations of the program, but for this one they've decided "no."

That's alright. I keep hearing a lot about how hard it is for a company to sponsor someone and, given the short notice, I was struck surprised by it.

I think the calendar/rush is a bigger problem than the will/funding. I will do my best, for future iterations, to invite the world.

j3, I just wanted to say that I find your approach inspiring anyway. At least you and LS are doing something about this. Becasue it is an issue. All the companies want perfect candidates, but none is willing to take passionate people and just plain teach them.

That's good to hear. I can't apply this time due to visa issues, but I hope the program is a success for both LivingSocial and the candidates so that more editions are done :)

J-1 "two years restriction"

Are you paying people regardless of whether they receive/accept a job offer from you?

I'm not privy to all the HR details, but you're paid during the program, expected to join the team afterwards, and to stay for 18 months.

I don't know what happens, exactly, if you finish the program then say "Seeya suckers!" But I'll probably cry, and that's mean :p

Hi there, I love this initiative. I'll apply but my English is not perfect :S Should I be worried?

Dang, you guys had to mention being hungry. I'm hungry, but that's because the GF hasn't come home with our food yet.

When is the deadline for the applications?

Edit: Downvoters, seriously? Isn't this a legit question? Just ignore the part about me being hungry. I'm just reading through hacker news while waiting for my GF to get back with my cheeseburger.

The deadline, January 9th, is in a rather large font on a big blue button in the middle of the linked page.

Do you have an option for remote commitment? (outside USA and not willing to relocate during learning period)

Also, is it possible to learn only Ruby, without Rails? While I find Ruby a very interesting language, I'm not really interested in web development.

The program is onsite-only and the content is directed by what you need for the LivingSocial engineering team, which means Ruby, Rails, and many other related technologies. Sorry!

When does the five-month program start?

Early March

Great idea. It seems that the program is more targeted to people with little programming experience/fresh grads/etc? (but I may be wrong since I skimmed through the initial post).

I was wondering if you have or are planning similar programs/incentives for developers with significant prior experience (eg 5+ years of development) but not in the ruby/rails world who are interested in moving towards ruby/rails development?

Do developers with 5+ years of professional experience really need a program like this to become proficient with RoR?

This is a genuine question and not a snide remark.

I expect there will be many "technology switcher" applicants and am working to have diverse skill sets represented -- including those of us who've been developing for awhile.

Assuming one made it through the 5 month training in DC and was offered a job, would that job be based in DC or would it be remote-compatible?

This detail is still under discussion, but I anticipate people will fan out to some of the other LivingSocial offices like Seattle, Boulder, or other up-and-coming spots.

It's unlikely that you could remote from home / some other place because we want to keep the in-person mentorships alive.

Certainly a very interesting program - many props to the Living Social team for setting this up. I'm curious about the logistics involved - both the questions about the commitment / expectation piece, and the actual program itself. Would be good to have some contact information on the page, or some FAQs. But, great idea, hope it works out well and others follow!

Send more details questions to hungryacademy at livingsocial dot com.

I know someone earlier said this program isn't available to non americans, but is there some special policy set up for Canadians (since we're so close....and have been bffs for so long! :D) Myself (web applications developer) and my gf (band teacher) were thinking of throwing in an application, but if Canadians also don't qualify then there's really no point?

From a high level view, I'm totally for this idea. However, I'm skeptical of the viability of this sort of pilot program. Having more info about the "fine print" would be a good start.

It would be interesting to see if other companies start similar programs to meet the short-fall of engineering talent as well.

:( Darn. Too bad I'm not american. Nevertheless, good effort! Let us know how it works out.

Looks like the applicants can be non-american. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3377589

This is my fucking dream. I don't mean to sound unprofessional since I will apply for this but in this case it is necessary to use the strongest word available. This is what I want so badly it almost brings tears to my eye.


I already got companies trying to pay me to learn Ruby. I say no thanks!

I'm more of a fiddler than a developer. Should I submit some basic code sample, or would I be better off applying as a non-developer ?

Go the non-developer route.

When I worked at ArsDigita in 1999 we did something like this but it was only 3 weeks.

Why not film all the lessons? It would make the perfect X-Factor for nerds!

New revenue stream for LivingSocial!

Is there any such programs available online instead of attending inplace?

You have to go "onsite"? Which century are we living in? -_-'

On a purely humorous note, did anyone else watching the video hear Chad say that LS scales to "bazillions" or "zillions" of transactions?

edit : downvoted, really? I thought it was a funny slip

Ah, if only this was more realistic to us full-time students out there.

Nonetheless, the concept sounds very fresh and exciting, and I hope this spawns a Summer variant for people my age!

j3, This is a bit of an aside, but who produced your video? It is very well shot, In-house or a production agency?

The LivingSocial in house team knocked it out in a couple hours -- they're crazy good. I couldn't believe we used "found light" in a hallway and had respectable results.

Yeah, the lighting was what struck me. My kudos to your video team!


Jan 9th

Just wondering, are opportunities like this for college grads fairly common? Either way, I love the idea.

I don't think they're common, at least not in the dev world. One of my training clients runs a six month "get familiar with the company" program where new hires do different jobs -- it's the same spirit but totally different intensity. Theirs is like "hey, it's better than an intership" and ours is like "this is more valuable than college. Work hard, learn hard."

This is pretty smart recruiting by livingsocial, certainly one way to bridge the talent shortfall, but i wonder what happens if someone wants to leave? Will be interesting to see how it all plays out

Another similar program but without the lock-in is Code Academy (http://codeacademy.org) in Chicago. It is different than hungry academy in that you pay up front ($6k) but my understanding is that most of their students are going to be offered a job with Groupon (where it is hosted) or another LightBank company, but under no obligation to do it. I think some of the current students might be starting their own companies instead.

Feefighters did a guest lecture, and i know theyve had a bunch of other a-list guest speakers, including dhh and harper (cto for obama). I met some of the students at an hn meetup, and they were pretty awesome, motivated and bright.

Pretty cool that both of these exist though, I think they'll continue to grow. There are a lot of people who didnt do comp sci in school and don't want to do it on their own

CodeAcademy is totally awesome. I'm the instructor for Hungry Academy and an advisor for Code Academy (http://codeacademy.org/staff).

CA is an awesome program where you can get a great start and be independent. HA is a larger scale (20 weeks), you're paid during the program, then expected to join the engineering team full time. You're not guaranteed a job, but if you aren't ready for the team then I haven't done my job.

I think the programs serve a slightly different audience and the community is better off having BOTH.

Is Hungry Academy effectively an internship program that offers a guarantee of some dedicated training time instead of the intern being thrown to the wolves?

I wouldn't say internship, because to me that means "some learning, some stapling / paper folding."

Our dream is that this program is "better than college." There are people out there that want to do what we do, we want them, so we need to help them build the skills to do it.

I like this a lot because it respects software engineering as a craft, best taught by craftsmen in a real world environment.

I hope non-engineers that you accept will eventually gain a solid foundation of algorithms, maths, notations, etc. But I've always believed that a setting like the one you seem to have created here is the right alchemy for building successful engineers.

I've been thinking a lot about internships versus apprenticeship:


I'd say Hungry Academy is definitely an apprenticeship.

In addition to Code Academy, there's Dev Bootcamp in SV, whose first session is starting this spring. While it's not directly associated with a particular company, the organizers do promise recruiting opportunities upon completion.

Count me among those who are trying to break into the industry without the proper educational background. It's been a fun, yet often frustrating experience (full time job, lack of time, etc.).

I was actually just speaking to a family member and bemoaning the lack of such programs in the DC area. Very glad to see this opportunity arise, and I certainly have my fingers crossed.

I would strongly urge everyone to look at Dev Bootcamp very carefully. Someone from there posted on SF Ruby Meetup mailing list, asking for someone to help out with the training (for free) while the program charges pretty large amount of cash to students. The worse was how the person wrote the message - about how it would be giving back to community, etc. while they themselves would be making handsome money and/or profit.

Just be careful before you sign up.

I will have to disagree with you here. The program charges the same rate as the Code Academy school and what's more, you don't have to pay up front (unlike CA), but can choose to pay in installments over two or five years. Furthermore, if you let them find you a job upon graduation, they will use their recruitment fee to refund you the cost of your tuition. This suggests to me that they are certainly not just out to make a quick buck.

It remains to be seen whether the program will create employable graduates, and a level of skepticism is healthy in any situation, but I think your characterization of the program may be a bit pessimistic.

Interesting. That certainly is cause for caution. Their tuition, afaik, is the same as Code Academy (~$6,000) - so not exactly a trivial expense.

Any link on Dev Bootcamp in SV?

Certainly. I 'think' the deadline for their first session application has passed, but doesn't hurt to check it out. The founder is quite active here on HN :


I just interviewed with them and they stressed very heavily that they do not guarantee any sort of job.

re: deciding not to stay, I would imagine it would be structured like employer funded MBA programs where you can leave at any time, but then have to pay back a pro-rated portion of your tuition and expenses.


I would say do the Gist essay, and at the close of the essay say "And I'm getting started with programming, here's a Github repo".

That way you'd get past the person who's checking "Did this applicant follow the directions (submitting only two URLs)?" But we can (likely) check out the code during the in-depth review.

anytime you make it easier to do a thing, or lower the bar a person must meet, there are consequences, not all of them good.

Who do these people think they are?!?!

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