AlumNY Spotlight: Lisa Luo (’14)

Welcome to our AlumNY Spotlight blog series! This winter, we’ll be profiling some hackNY AlumNY who have continued to do great things at the startup where they spent their hackNY Fellowship summer. In our last post, JS Tan (hackNY ’14) told us about starting a creative agency with his friends and going viral with speculative marketing – check it out.

In this post we interview Lisa Luo (Class of 2014), who interned at Kickstarter and has since impacted several important teams there. Lisa’s mentor, Dan, is impressed with her work as a Fellow and as a leader on the Android team. “Lisa‘s quickly become an important part of the Kickstarter family. During her summer here, Lisa helped build our site’s internal permission system which has evolved into a fundamental part of our application. After her exemplary work, she was invited back over her winter break, and was offered a job starting this past June, after her graduation. She’s now a core member of the team working on the Kickstarter Android app. In addition to cranking out Java, Lisa can be found hanging tote bags on lamps to ‘create the right mood’ at her desk, and creating Slack icons for all of her team members.”

Lisa at her desk at Kickstarter.

What are you up to at Kickstarter these days?

I am currently a junior android engineer on the native team (2 iOS and 2 android engineers including myself), working on our first android release. Since we’re currently building the app from ground-up, I work on building and fixing whatever we need to build and fix!

What did you work on when you were a hackNY Fellow there?

When I was an intern, I was a back end ruby/rails developer. I spent the beginning of my summer actually learning more in-depth rails and how to develop with a professional team. By the end of the summer, I shipped a simple admin roles and permissions internal tool that assigned roles which filtered admin permissions on the admin side of our website. After that I tinkered around with some android prototyping, inspired by some scratch work I did during a company hack day.

Lisa presenting a demo at Music Hack Day in 2014.

What was your favorite part of being a hackNY Fellow?

My favorite part was waking up every morning and not always knowing what I would be doing for the day: after work I often Google-mapped my way to a cool office somewhere in NYC for our HackNY Speakers Series event, where I listened to and chatted with some of the most influential New York tech figures. I also loved living with and getting to know my brilliant HackNY companions, many of whom I consider great friends today. Having the opportunity to spend time with influential people who shared my interests in technology, whether they be CEOs or dorm mates, really motivated and inspired me to explore my potential as a coder and creator.

How has your company grown or changed since your hackNY summer?

Kickstarter has changed quite a bit in the past year. The engineering team itself has nearly doubled in size, the company as a whole growing by about a third. This calls for a little more company structure, i.e. specifiying teams, rearranging the office, etc, but the supportive, open, and brilliant culture remains the same. I find it exciting to work with and know a variety of people with colorful backgrounds.


What did you learn as a hackNY Fellow, and what have you learned since then?

As a hackNY Fellow I learned quite a bit of rails on the job and how to git like a pro. Since then, besides all of the philosophical self-learning through life and growing up, I’ve picked up a little bit of Swift through SpriteKit game development and have started to learn reactive programming paradigms through RxJava. In my last year of undergrad I learned a fair bit about computational fabrication (e.g. 3D printing), which was cool, and how to make cameraless films.

What do you enjoy doing away from the keyboard?

In a list, I like making films, traveling, collecting things, running, drawing, writing, wandering around New York, and surprisingly, cooking.

I’ve been into making weird little films and animations since I was a kid and have been in the process of putting together a short film based on my family and travels in China in 2013. I’m a music enthusiast who plays guitar, bass, and Chinese hammered dulcimer, have been to at least 20 concerts so far this year, and have a budding record collection ranging from Motown to Mac Demarco. I think I’m also a compulsive collector; I’m currently in a phase of collecting business cards because I love the quirks in their designs. Staying fit keeps me sane, running long distances clears my mind, as much so as writing, which I regrettably have much less time to do these days. Finally, I am surprised by my enjoyment in cooking because I believe that is my first step of accepting adult life.

TL;DR I love the keyboard, but I enjoy doing many things away from the keyboard.


Applications for the Class of 2016 hackNY Fellows are now open. Do you have any advice for the hackers who are applying?

When I applied to hackNY for the Class of 2014, I thought there was no way I would get accepted. But I did, and quickly learned that I was silly to have so much self-doubt at that point. I say, believe in yourself and be confident, but most importantly, be thoughtful in writing your essays and expressing yourself — your written words are pretty much the one window we have as reviewers to get to know who you are, behind your Github stats and LinkedIn skills and tweets and whatnot. If you’re worried about your code, experience, or projects, just be genuine about sharing something you care about!