Hack Reactor and Optimizely Unveil Winners for Women in Technology Scholarship

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Through coding school scholarship, three students embark on an education path to break stereotypes and pursue careers in programming

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. August 13, 2015 – The Hack Reactor collective of in-person and online programming schools focused on student career outcomes – which graduates over 1,000 Software Engineers annually – in partnership with Optimizely, the leading experience optimization platform for A/B testing and personalization, announced today three winners for their I/Own It scholarship for women in technology. Jessica Chong, a creative professional, was chosen for the full tuition scholarship and begins Hack Reactor August 17. Owing to an extremely strong candidate pool, Hack Reactor and Optimizely elected to award half-scholarships to two additional finalists. Haley Bash, an investment banker, and Amy Chiu, a product manager, have both enrolled in Hack Reactor on half-tuition scholarships. Upon graduation, Jessica, Haley and Amy will all participate in a three-month paid internship at Optimizely, paired with a mentor, before beginning their full-time job searches.

According to a report released in October by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, more women are attending professional degree programs and now account for almost half of students in JD, MBA and MD programs. While these numbers have risen from previous years, this is not the case for women in technology. In 1984, nearly 40% of computer science majors in colleges across the U.S. were women. Today that number has gone down drastically to 18%. Given current trends, about one million computing jobs have no students in the pipeline to fill them, providing an opportunity for more women to fill the technology gap. 

Scholarship winner Jessica Chong started making websites when she was 13 and would upload her sites to domains that were owned by other teenagers. She found this empowering and enjoyed being part of a supportive community. She went on to study geography for her undergraduate degree but knew she would not be able to get a job with her major. She realized she could turn her middle school hobby of making websites into a career and pursued that. Yet as her team and responsibilities grew, she saw there was a technical limit to what she could do. She wanted to change that.

“One of our core missions at Hack Reactor is to empower people. We’re thrilled to be working with Optimizely to give more women the power to expand their passion for coding,” said Hack Reactor Dean Caroline Esmurdoc. “Through this scholarship, together we are able to exclusively offer students a complete package toward becoming a software engineer – pairing training in our immersive education environment with on-the-job experience working at Optimizely. We are excited to have Jessica, Haley and Amy go through our program to begin their careers in programming.” 

Haley Bash discovered a deep interest in coding while doing Ruby on Rails tutorials in her free time. She realized that she liked solving coding problems much more than she did building merger models in her investment banking role, and that she could combine two things she found great interest in – puzzle solving and scaling impact – into a career. Amy Chiu took a break from her job to travel. While exploring her interests abroad and going back to basics, she took the time to code a simple blog for fun. It occurred to her that how she felt about coding was exactly how she felt about solving math problems as a child – that it was rewarding building and solving problems. 

“For most women in tech, the path to becoming an engineer is filled with challenges that go well beyond having the right skills on their resumes,” said Optimizely Engineering Manager Jennifer Lin, “I/Own It is helping women not only get the tools that they need to be successful in the workplace, but it is also providing them with on-the-job training at Optimizely that can propel their careers forward.” 

Read the Optimizely blog by Jennifer Lin here.

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. To find out more about the initiative, participation opportunities and an announcement timeline, email: For more information on Hack Reactor’s mission and other diversity initiatives, visit:

About Hack Reactor

Hack Reactor’s mission is two-fold: to empower people and to transform education through rapid-iteration teaching. Hack Reactor designs and conducts advanced immersion education programs that train students 11 hours per day, 6 days a week, over 12 weeks. Our curriculum cultivates mastery of computer science fundamentals and the JavaScript programming language. The Hack Reactor network of technology schools educates more software engineers every year than Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology, combined. Hack Reactor maintains a 99% employment rate and a median graduate salary of $110,000. Alumni work in a variety of mid- to senior-level engineering roles at industry leaders like Google, Adobe, LinkedIn, Uber and Amazon, as well as at several growing technology companies. For more information, visit:

Media Inquiries

Rachel Rocero
Hack Reactor
(415) 961-2412