Meet the Mentors: Top Hackbright Mentors in 2017

Looking back as we start the New Year, we’re grateful for many things. In 2017, we celebrated our fifth anniversary, launched our Hackbright Ambassadors program, and, most importantly, graduated 150 phenomenal women, people who are gender-diverse, and their allies, from our Software Engineering Programs! We profile our alumni, instructors, and teaching assistants often on this blog, but what about our mentors? These tireless volunteers donate their time, knowledge, and mentorship to our students, helping them succeed in, and after, the program.

Join us in thanking our wonderful Mentor community. Here’s to a great year ahead in 2018!

Top Mentors

These amazing volunteers mentored for four or more sessions in 2017. Here, we learn more about the Mentors that support our programs – what they do and why they choose to help at Hackbright – in their own words.

Phillip Long, Full-Stack Software Engineer at BrightBytes

As a Software Engineer, I communicate and collaborate with others to build great software. I strive to stay up-to-date with industry trends, tools, and ideas, to ensure we are constantly improving our team, our product, and ourselves.

Diversity is a systemic problem for the software engineering community, and the earlier in the pipeline we can being developing and supporting the next generation of engineers, the more we can influence the ratio in the industry. Hackbright serves as an excellent entry point for current engineers to guide highly motivated students towards starting in a competitive, yet fulfilling career.

Much gratitude to Phillip for mentoring an outstanding 11 times in 2017!

Rob Slifka, VP of Engineering at Sharethrough

I’m responsible for our 25-person engineering team, working on a mix of content workflow and distribution challenges at scale (15 billion impressions per month and growing!). We coined the phrase “native advertising.” Our teams improve the online publisher audience experience with less interruptive ads that bring value to their readers.

I first learned of Hackbright after we hired an alumna as a phenomenal backend engineer several years ago. She connected me with the mentorship program. It’s inspiring to work with up-and-coming engineers who are so passionate and enthusiastic about learning, and that have wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to such a challenging coursework over so short of a timespan. I’ve been a mentor seven times now and each time I’ve learned something new from my mentee that’s made me a better engineer, manager, and person. I can’t recommend the experience enough and am happy to discuss it with anyone considering it.

Thanks, Rob, for mentoring seven times last year!

Christopher Newhouse, CTO of Revolt, Inc.

As one part of a two person start-up, I handle all the back-end development and “dev-ops.” This includes the API, databases, AWS/Heroku servers, integrations, services, security, deployment, and uptime… and more!

I believe in giving back, whether it’s through charitable donations, volunteering/coaching/teaching, or other means. By mentoring at Hackbright I am able to share my knowledge with budding women engineers and hopefully help them prepare and launch their new engineering careers. It’s a chance to really have an impact on someone’s life and future.

Cheers to Chris, who mentored six times in 2017!

Ankur Agarwal, Senior Member of Technical Staff at VMware

I work for the vSAN Hardware Platform certifications team at VMware where I lead process improvement activities, development, and enhancement of certification tests & tools using Python. I help with reproduction of complex defects, work with partners to drive resolution of certification issues, verification of fixes, and continuously refine test strategy/methodology to ensure comprehensive but efficient test coverage over releases.

Mentoring has made a significant difference in my career (and personal life). I was lucky enough to have mentors who gave me genuine and helpful advice which helped me improve my skills and become a better professional. Mentoring with Hackbright is my way of paying it forward, especially for women who are looking to make a fresh start in software engineering, since women are underrepresented in the tech industry. I firmly believe a little mentoring can go a long way in setting one’s career on the right path and shaping their lives.

Ankur mentored four times last year!

Vijay Alexander, Staff Engineer at Okta

At Okta, I scale and stabilize real time data ingestion platforms, build out test automation infrastructure for micro services, and help drive products that involve distributed completing from beta through to GA.

Mentoring at Hackbright gives an opportunity to explore new viewpoints, stay fresh on my basics, and give back to the community. Additionally, I enjoy discussing data structures and algorithms to helps build one’s problem solving abilities.

Vijay mentored four times last year!

David Lindes, Technical Consultant at Taos

From mentoring at Hackbright, to changing how I use language in order to eschew harmful concepts, to making charitable contributions via secular tithing, I try to make the world a better place, little by little. I’m working with a 7th consecutive mentee at Hackbright and have recently become a technical mentor in the Alumnae Lounge: answering questions, helping people practice for interviews, and however else I can best help to #changetheratio.

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have several wonderful women as mentors and/or supervisors, and quite a few more as colleagues. My experiences in such groups have always been that they’re healthier environments than the all-male groups I’ve been in. When I saw an opportunity to help get more women (back) into computing, it was immediately something I wanted to do. And I’m glad I did!

David mentored four times last year!

Stefan Vainberg, Software Engineer at Dropbox

I work on Dropbox’s desktop client! My team is responsible for ensuring that the product remains performant and functional on every operating system we support. A coworker of mine wrote an awesome blog post about it.

A former colleague of mine shared this program with our team, and after mentoring the first time, I realized I could have a tangible and very positive impact on a person’s livelihood in ways that would be impossible for me to replicate otherwise. And in return, becoming a stronger mentor is a skillset that has greatly benefited me professionally. It’s a rare case of a true win-win!

Stefan mentored four times last year!


A huge thank you to all the wonderful men and women who mentored three times in 2017!

  • Amay Singhal, Software Engineer at Square. It is deeply rewarding for me to empower aspiring engineers to establish their place in the industry and help them grow.
  • Becca Saines (Alumna!), Software Engineer at StreakMy mentors were a very inspiring, empowering, and helpful resource during my time at Hackbright (and beyond)! I aspire to make the same impact for my mentees as they learn, job search, and #changetheratio.
  • Ben Marx, Lead Engineer at Bleacher Report. Hackbright is an avenue where women get the tools to enter the tech industry and become a better represented group. I’ve learned a great deal from the women and try to incorporate what I’ve learned from them at work and in hiring.
  • Chung Nguyen (Alumna!), Software Engineer at Bill.comAs a Hackbright alumna, I received tremendous industry value from my mentors during the program – from whiteboarding practice to better understanding git workflows – they provided valuable insight and support that really rounded out my experience. I mentor because I want to pay it forward to future cohorts!
  • David Ogor, Full Stack Software Engineer at BrightBytes. The current atmosphere in the Valley is not the most conducive to diversity and inclusion. There’s no better way than mentoring to meet aspiring new engineers and not only impart my experience and knowledge, but more importantly, learn from and about them as a collective group of intelligent, vibrant, and fascinating people.
  • Eugene Kirpichov, Staff Software Engineer at Google. The reasons for the skewed gender ratio in tech are well-known and very unfair; Hackbright does a great job addressing them. Of all the ways I could apply my love for teaching in general, this was clearly the right thing to do.
  • Helen Hastings, Software Engineer at Affirm. My freshman year of college I signed up for a hackathon, and at first I was terrified, but I found a group of fun, welcoming, and intelligent women who taught me how to build website from scratch using languages I understood and I had a blast. It turns out they were part of the first ever Hackbright cohort. I want to help teach women the skills they need to enter this influential and empowering industry, and I’m thrilled to be able to give back to Hackbright.
  • Jon Wong, Senior Software Engineer at Coursera. I believe that education is the key to transforming people’s lives. Beyond just learning, navigating something as complex as the tech industry is easier with support, and being a mentor (especially at Hackbright) gives the opportunity to support those around me and also provides a window into what it’s like to be new to engineering. It’s helped me realize what it means to make sure people truly feel like they belong.
  • Kevin Gao, Software Engineer at DataFox. I want to do what I can to bring down barriers to tech and do my part to make the industry more welcoming. One way I’ve found to contribute is to leverage my own experiences in order to support and mentor others as they grow.
  • Kevin Weber, Sr. Frontend Engineer at Infield Digital. One of my biggest personal goals is to help other people succeed. Being a mentor at Hackbright allows me to support engineers-to-be and excite them about what they’re doing.
  • Liz Kain, Software Engineering Program Manager at Otto, formerly Apple and NASA Education. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed guiding and being guided, sharing, and learning from the diversity of our mentees who are each come with a different story, interests, bright enthusiasm, and are heavily invested in what they do. It humbly reminds me of our own respective paths, and inspires me in my own career.
  • Matt Jones, Sr. Software Engineer at Box. I try to help wherever I can, and it’s important to break the gender gap in the field. It’s really refreshing to help mentor those who are truly passionate about learning.
  • Matt Pillar, CTO at Redbooth. I believe everyone should make an effort to #changetheratio, and Hackbright provides a great environment to contribute to that cause. The team and I at Redbooth love hosting whiteboarding practice sessions in partnership with Hackbright, and look forward to participating in future events.
  • Mike Omoto, Director of Engineering at E la Carte.
  • Samantha Carow, Software Engineer at Reddit. I am a product of a bootcamp (Dev Bootcamp, 2013), and I remember how scary it was to put your life on hold to learn something new. I want to help ease that burden in any way I can, and I think the best way to do that is to open up my network to Hackbright grads, provide interview practice & tips, and share my own story.

Companies with the most Mentors in 2017

Interested in becoming a Mentor at Hackbright Academy? Join more than 200 other companies in our Mentorship program.

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