POODNYC 2015 Scholarships have been awarded

Scholarships for the Oct 19-21 Practical Object-Oriented Design Course (POODNYC) in New York City have been awarded! Winners are listed below, but before I introduce them I'd like to give an overview of the applicant pool and selection process.

I'll be awarding scholarships for future public classes and hope that transparency about how this works will motivate you into talking some deserving person into applying, or into applying for your own deserving self.

The POODNYC Scholarship

The scholarship includes a seat in POODNYC, and airfare to and lodging in NYC (all courtesy of Hashrocket, to whom I am very grateful). As you can see, it's a full ride. The intent was to remove every financial barrier that would prevent the recipient from attending.


There were 24 applicants.

Experience Level:

  • 16 - less than 1 year of experience or currently in school / attending bootcamp
  •  8 - 1+ years
  •  8 - career changers


  • 19 - women
  •  5 - men

Minorities/Under Represented:

  • 13 - people of color (4 men, 9 women)
  •  3 - women over 35


  • 11 - New York
  •  7 - Other states
  •  6 - International (Ecuador, England and Germany)

Selection Criteria

We (me and 2 others) knew that we wanted these scholarships to support good works and/or diversity. The first time we gave scholarships (for the Oct 2014 POODNC course) we supplied very minimal instructions and relied on each person to argue their best case. These instructions merely said 'Tell us why you deserve a scholarship'. This year we added a additional field for ‘Amount of Programming Experience’; more on this below.

While we don't have a rigid checklist by which to evaluate applications, we definitely look favorably upon candidates who:

  1. are engaged in good works
  2. have a moderate amount of programming experience
  3. are demographically diverse from the community at large
  4. have a clear financial need

Good Works:

We preferred candidates with a demonstrated track record of good works, where we define 'good work' as anything from "I spend my spare time on 'Code for America' projects" to "I volunteer as a coach at RailsBridge, RailsGirls, BlackGirlsCode". We preferred candidates who could say "This scholarship will help me do a better job at this thing I am already doing" over candidates who said "This scholarship will make me better".

This year there were so many applicants giving back to the community that we gave additional weight to this criteria.


We required some amount of real-world programming experience, 'some' being defined as 'more than a bootcamp'. Folks with very little programming experience have successfully taken this course, but more experienced programmers get correspondingly more out of it. The scholarships are intended as levers to support change; requiring at least 6 months (ish) of real-world programming experience moves the fulcrum and makes each scholarship have more value.

There were a number of applicants who, although they were engaged in all kinds of good works, didn't yet have enough experience to qualify for a scholarship. We regretfully removed them from consideration and urge them to reapply in the future.


We believe that human diversity improves both the software we create and the community in which we work. We were biased towards candidates who differed from the demographic norm (i.e., in age, ethnicity, gender, etc).

Financial need:

While last year we required folks to demostrate a clear financial need, this year a few candidates were engaged in such impressive good works that we were tempted to ignore this criteria. As a result of this experience, we are officially softening our stance on financial need. Although we will continue to take ability to pay into consideration, future scholarship applicants will not be disqualified based on ability to pay.

This year we did not disqualify a single candidate based on our assemement of their ability to pay.

As I said above, we didn't explicitly ask for financial, experience, demographic or good works information but it was easy to get. Many applicants actually included it on their submission and simple web searches unearthed the missing bits.


A 35-something woman of color who was in the midst of career transition while organizing a community meetup and hosting hack-a-thons would rank very high by the criteria above, and a 20-something Caucasian male who was employed as a junior developer, well, not so much.

The applicants for POODNYC were doing so much good for the community that we added ‘Good Works’ to ‘Experience Level’ in order to stay in the running. Applications which survived those tests went on to be evaluated based on ‘Diversity’ and ‘Financial Need’. We narrowed the list from 24 to five finalists (interestingly, like last year, the demographics of the five matched those of the whole), and then selected the two winners.

The Winners Are

Charlotte Chang

Charlotte is a career changer and a recent programming convert. Upon graduating from Flatiron School, she tried freelancing only to discover that "it takes a village to raise a junior developer". She lives in Cleveland, a former industrial powerhouse which has lost 50% of its manufacturing jobs since 1954, and which had a median household income of $26,096 in 2013. Living in a community which needs to shift its focus to building technology skills led Charlotte to give back.

As part of her efforts to refresh the rustbelt, Charlotte is an organizer of Cleveland Agile Group (CleAg) and is very involved in Make on the Lake, an Internet of Things meetup. She has volunteered for Cleveland Give Camp and Canalway Partners*. Charlotte will also be speaking to future technologists at We Can Code It.

Charlotte doesn't want to be just a 'developer', she wants to be a great developer, one with strong coding practices who gives back to the community and becomes a mentor for others. Charlotte currently works at LeanDog.

* No, she did not receive a scholarship because she volunteers for the bike path. This is pure coincidence.

Richard Lau

Richard is a combat veteran who is passionate about helping other veterans transition their career after their service is complete. He is currently building a free program to help veterans, along with their spouses and children, learn programming. Richard is also an advocate for veteran entrepreneurship.

He attended the Web Development Immersive at General Assemb.ly on a Veteran Scholarship. After graduating from the program he started volunteering for RailsBridge NYC. Richard plans to use the course to improve his skills so he can be a better and more knowledgable teacher. He also serves as a co-organizer of the New York VIM meetup.

Richard lives in New York City.

We Want You

As you can see, a candidate who is engaged in good works and is an outlier in every demographic category would be unbeatable, but qualifying on even a subset of these criteria can win you a scholarship. If you, or someone you know, fills the bill, I hope to see your application in the future.

A number of applicants were actively doing good works but did not yet have enough experience to get the most out of the course. If you're one of these folks, I urge you to re-apply in the future. One of today's winners is just such a second time applicant, and proof that additional experience combined with persistence can pay off.

So there you have it ... the POODNYC scholarship winners. Please join me in extending my congratulations to Richard and Charlotte. Our community is improved by their presence. I'm grateful that they're here and gratified to support them along their way.

In closing, one more shout-out to Hashrocket. Their continuing support of POOD course scholarships is a sign of their ongoing commitment to our community and reflects their core values. My thanks.

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Posted on August 26, 2015 .