Merry Mou, Class of 2015 hackNY Fellow, on the hackNY Experience

This summer, we are featuring guest posts by some of our Class of 2015 hackNY Fellows. So far, we’ve heard from Kim and Keeyon about their impressions of the Fellowship’s first half, and fallen in love with NYC all over again with Chris. Shloka introduced us to the life of a hackNY Fellow with a unique audio piece you won’t want to miss. Today, we’re featuring Merry, who thoughtfully explores what makes the hackNY environment special.  Stay tuned this week for more posts about working at New York startups!


Merry Mou

Startup: MongoDB
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Special Talent: Humming incessantly


Have you ever tried to have a good conversation with someone on the subway? The closer people are packed, the farther they are from the here and now. Eyes averted, phones out, people are on their way from point A to point B, earphones in – no one here is looking to meet someone new.

There is a time and a place for good interactions. As I’ve grown older, “Wanna get coffee?” has become a more and more familiar phrase. Sure, the coffee meeting is actually quite an effective and enjoyable way to get to understand people, but there’s always something performant and transactional about the affair. Interactions, especially with those I am still getting to know, have become scheduled, orchestrated events. The coffee is something that guarantees to unify us for half an hour, maybe an hour; we share the faces that we wear at 3pm on a weekday, and then we both go back to our own business, our own worlds.

Time and setting. As simple as it may sound, finding enough time with the right people in the right environment is incredibly difficult – and I am glad to say that this is exactly what hackNY successfully creates. Continue reading “Merry Mou, Class of 2015 hackNY Fellow, on the hackNY Experience”

Shloka Kini, Class of 2015 hackNY Fellow, with a unique audio take on the Fellowship

This summer, we are featuring guest posts by some of our Class of 2015 hackNY Fellows. So far, we’ve heard from Kim and Keeyon about their impressions of the Fellowship’s first half, and fallen in love with NYC all over again with Chris. Here, Shloka brings us into a whole new medium with an audio piece! This week, we’ll also feature Fellow posts about working at two great startups, and one thing that makes hackNY special.

Shloka is a grad student at Columbia doing a dual Master’s in Computer Science and Journalism. She applied the skills she’s learned in school, as well as some of her own unique talents, to create this audio piece introducing you to the life of a hackNY Fellow.

Shloka Kini

Shloka Kini 

Startup: Buzzfeed
Hometown: Schererville, IN
Special Talents: Public Speaking; Performing Arts – Instruments,
Bollywood Dancing, Acting 


Chris Wan, Class of 2015 Fellow, on what makes NYC special

Over the next weeks, we will be featuring guest posts by some of our Class of 2015 hackNY Fellows. They will tell us about their experiences this summer, from exploring NYC to learning new technologies. Today, we feature Chris, who experienced the best kind of culture shock when he arrived in New York for the Fellowship.


Christopher Wan 

Startup: Magnetic
Hometown: Wellington, Florida
Special Talent: Public Speaking

I grew up in South Florida, the most suburban of suburbs. Imagine pretentiously-named gated communities like Olympia and Versailles populated by paper-cutter two-storied houses. Imagine every single kid being enrolled in recreational soccer at the age of 7 or 8 as some sort of rite of passage into SoFlo life. Imagine being limited to two first date options: 1) Dinner at a large-chain restaurant like Panera, or 2) Movies. Imagine Walmarts on Walmarts on SuperWalmarts.

Yeah, it sounds boring, doesn’t it? Everything is vanilla and chocolate. Black and white.

I’ve been in New York for seven weeks now. Sure, I’m doing software engineering 8 hours a day and not really dedicating myself fully to exploration of the city, but in the short amount of time that I’ve been here, I’ve heard the distinctive blaring ambulance noise more times than I ever previously had in my 19 years of life. I’ve seen people with holes in their ears the size of potato chips. I’ve seen hair colors that span ROY G. BIV, platform shoes that make women look like they’re walking on logs, breakdancers pole dancing in the subway trains for spare change. People here walk with a quick strut, a purpose, and a sort of intimidating intensity that makes you wonder where they’re going, and more importantly, why.

Continue reading “Chris Wan, Class of 2015 Fellow, on what makes NYC special”

Welcome Hanne, class of 2014 hackNY Fellow, to hackNY as Program Coordinator!


We are happy to announce that Hanne Paine of the class of 2014 hackNY Fellows has joined hackNY full-time as Program Coordinator!

As an active contributor to the hacking community, Hanne is a great fit at hackNY. While an undergraduate majoring in computer science at Stony Brook University, she revitalized her department’s defunct Computing Society as President, increasing its membership 30-fold and organizing weekly Tech Nights featuring talks with startup leaders, tours of NYC tech companies, and a Startup Career Fair. She also introduced her classmates to hackathons, organizing bus trips to hackathons around the US and Canada for students from Stony Brook and the NY area. Hanne is also the director of Unhackathon, an event designed to encourage a greater diversity of hackers, projects, learning and creativity rather than competition. She’s also currently serving as a mentor to this year’s class of hackNY Fellows.

Hanne has previously worked at NASA, Green Map Systems, Google, and Betterpath (as a hackNY Fellow). She has been passionate about tech and education since she started working at a space simulation camp as a middle-school student, where she became a senior volunteer and their first female computer programmer. When not hacking and organizing, Hanne loves thinking about linguistics, astrophysics, reading everything, and being outside. She’s always happy to recommend a good book or talk shop about telescopes, cameras, or high-tech cooking equipment. If you’re lucky, you might get to meet one of the litters of rescue kittens she fosters for the ASPCA.

In other alumNY good news, Shy Ruparel has taken on a full-time role with our friends at Major League Hacking. We thank Shy for his contributions to hackNY and are happy that he’s continuing hackNY’s mission by joining a successful NYC startup.

In addition to helping hackNY with the summer Fellows program and fall hackathon, Hanne hopes to work on improving hackNY’s diversity, to create more ways for our Fellows and alumNY to be involved with the tech community, and to reach out to younger aspiring hackers.

Welcome, Hanne!

Fellows Kim & Keeyon on the Class of 2015’s First Five Weeks

Over the next weeks, we will be featuring guest posts by some of our Class of 2015 hackNY Fellows. They will tell us about their experiences this summer, from exploring NYC to learning new technologies. First up are Kim and Keeyon, celebrating the Fellowship’s halfway mark!


Kimberly Leon 

Startup: Birchbox
Hometown: Monterey Park, California
Special Talent: Expert sailor. Owns her own boat, which she likes to call “Lil Bit.” 

Working at Birchbox has been amazing from day one. I’m building the content api for the articles/videos/slideshows Birchbox makes and I’ll be integrating this with the website’s search results. My mentor, along with everyone else on the Tech team, is very accessible and willing to help whenever I hit a wall or have questions. The entire Tech team at Birchbox is really close and often the best part of my day is getting lunch and talking with some of the other Tech team members. Ananta (2013 fellow who interned at Birchbox and now works there full time) reached out to me early on and treated me to lunch. A few weeks later, the CTO and VP of Engineering made time out of their busy schedules to take me and the other two tech interns to lunch. Free food is truly the way to a college student’s heart.

Kim and Ananta with Toast the dog!

On Mondays and Wednesdays we have the hackNY Speakers Series from 7-9pm, and I’ve learned so much about startups (and other topics, notably data science) over the last five weeks. Coming into hackNY I knew nothing about getting a startup off the ground and over the past five weeks I’ve learned a lot about the role of VCs and what it takes to start a company from nothing. My favorite talk so far was Jonah Peretti (Buzzfeed founder/CEO) being interviewed by Chris Wiggins. They poked fun at each other throughout the talk, which was really fun to watch (I also realized in the middle of the talk that Jonah’s sister is Chelsea Peretti, one of my favorite comedians. WATCH BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, IT’S A GREAT SHOW!!).

Even outside the speaker series, I spend a lot of time with the other fellows. We don’t leave Palladium most weeknights out of pure exhaustion, but usually our weekends are pretty busy. I’ve walked the High Line, pigged out at Smorgasburg, experienced the Rocky Horror Picture Show, walked/danced at the Pride Parade, and played countless games of Werewolf and Resistance with the 2015 fellows and mentors.

The first five weeks went by far too quickly, but I’m excited for what the second half of hackNY has in store!




Keeyon Ebrahimi

Startup: Clarafai
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Special Talent: Remembering quotes and songs from movies. 

When I got into hackNY, many alumNY told me that I was about to have the best summer of my life. This sounded great, but I was skeptical. The internship, speaker series, and meeting other fellows seemed cool, but not to the level of excitement every past fellow radiated.

Now after experiencing a little bit of hackNY, that excitement is starting to make sense.
I’ve fallen in love with how my hackNY class truly grills each amazing speaker we hear from. These hard questions lead to true and honest insight from speakers, which makes the talks so much better than the glorified sugar coated large auditorium presentations I am used to.

I knew I would love working for a small and exciting start up, but I thought I was only going to be able to help on the technical side. I had no idea I would also be trusted with contributing to significant business and strategic decisions. Another priceless value hackNY has made possible.

Above all is the value of having a community of like minded yet diverse fellows right outside my dorm room. If I want to work on a project, I can walk outside my door and find multiple hyper talented partners overly willing to help. If I feel like a fun ten plus player game of Resistance, I can send out a quick message and have a group of friends ready to play. We’ve had days together walking the High Line and nights together out on the town. We’ve made memories with big groups rallying at hackathons, and also with one on one conversations.

It’s impossible fully grasp the beauty of hackNY until you experience it yourself. I know I am only a little more than halfway through my hackNY experience, but I am already excited for the day where I can tell future hackNY fellows that they are about to have the best summer of their lives.