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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
Not to say this is necessarily what's going to happen here of course, but be careful boys and girls.
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.
Well done. slavery seems back at last.
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.
But I'm not chaining anyone to a desk for 70 hours because _I_ don't want to live that way, either.
I think this is a great opportunity you guys are providing for the community, and I look forward to applying to the program.
Check out http://codenow.org/ and scroll way down for the video of me trying to eat a jar of jelly.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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?
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.
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
Then again, I already study CS, but I'll definitely try to get into this.
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 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.
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.
If you put your heart into the program there will be a job at LivingSocial for you. And the pay is very nice :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do you expect to turn someone into a decent programmer in five months when they are starting from scratch?
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.
I doubt candidates will come out knowing how to approach computing models, implement algorithms, explain sequent calculus type systems, and write compilers.
*Obviously I am kidding. This is definitely cool recruiting experiment.
Congrats to Chad Fowler, Jeff Casimir, and everyone else involved.
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.
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" :)
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.
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 :)
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?
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!
J-1 "two years restriction"
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
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.
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.
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?
This is a genuine question and not a snide remark.
It's unlikely that you could remote from home / some other place because we want to keep the in-person mentorships alive.
It would be interesting to see if other companies start similar programs to meet the short-fall of engineering talent as well.
edit : downvoted, really? I thought it was a funny slip
Nonetheless, the concept sounds very fresh and exciting, and I hope this spawns a Summer variant for people my age!
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
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.
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 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'd say Hungry Academy is definitely an apprenticeship.
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.
Just be careful before you sign up.
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.
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.