Hack Reactor and Optimizely Announce Winners of I/Own It Scholarship for Women in Tech

Hack Reactor and Optimizely, the leading experience optimization platform for A/B testing and personalization, are excited to announce the winners of our joint scholarship for women, which covers the cost of tuition at Hack Reactor and promises an internship with mentorship at Optimizely at the end of the program. While the scholarship program, I/Own It, was initially intended to have just one winner, the interest was overwhelming with over 200 applicants from around the world, and the program was expanded to include two half-scholarships. Read more about the background for I/Own It on Optimizely’s blog. The winner, Jessica Chong, and the finalists, Haley Bash and Amy Chiu, have all been accepted into Hack Reactor through our standard application process.

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Hack Reactor is dedicated to training more talented women into mid- to senior-level software engineering roles.

While Chong has been building websites since she was 13, and continues to do so professionally, both as a freelancer and in her most recent role as chief creative officer, she feels her developer skills could and should be more comprehensive. Specifically, she wants the skills to move beyond the beyond the design and marketing of products to building the products themselves. Chong has worked a variety of web-related jobs, including four years as a freelance web and UX designer.

“I want to learn to code at the highest level so I can build tools for other people—not merely design how they look, or test how the user should experience them, or build prototypes, or write copy or marketing materials to promote them—but build the actual tools,” she wrote in applying to the I/Own It scholarship. “If I can dream it up, I want to be able to build it. I’m tired of asking ‘What if?’ Today, I’m taking matters into my own hands.”

Haley Bash, one of the two finalists, comes to coding with a background in investment banking. Bash developed a passion for facilitating the effective use of capital after working in microfinance in Honduras. From there, she worked as an analyst for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and then the financial analysis company Lazard, where she prepared financial models and presentation materials for executives and board members of Fortune 500 companies. Inspired by innovations such as mobile banking and telemedicine, Bash wants to use her coding skills to build products with a scalable social impact.

“Because there’s no lack of large social problems that need fixing, I could apply coding knowledge to a variety of places–in a company’s CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] initiatives, at a socially driven company, or as a side open-source project I build on my own,” Bash explains.

Amy Chiu, the other finalist, has worked as a product manager for leading tech companies, such as SpoonRocket and Airbnb. After five years in the tech sector, Chiu realized she was in the right industry but had the wrong role.

“I used to love building computer games with Java as a kid. I’ve also had rich experiences working at tech startups, and for years I’ve worked with brilliant engineers every day to solve challenging problems. ­Both experiences have informed me of what it’s like to be a programmer and how rewarding it can be to build and solve real problems,” Chiu writes.

This year, she has been teaching herself to code, and will use Hack Reactor to accelerate her pivot to a career as a developer.

Hack Reactor remains committed to gender diversity in software engineering and is actively seeking corporate partners for an ambitious initiative to help bridge the gender gap in mid- to senior-level engineering roles in the San Francisco Bay Area, by finding and training more talented women like Jessica, Amy and Haley into the industry. If your company is interested in partnering with Hack Reactor on this initiative, email:

Want to elevate your abilities as a developer very quickly? Apply to our program, online or in four major cities, today.

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