a group of people standing in front of a sign with lights

a group of people standing in front of a sign with lights
In a previous blog post, I announced the launch of Optimizely’s third Hack Reactor Scholarship and Internship program, and elaborated on why we continue to support it.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce our three winners for 2018.

We received more than 611 applications and interviewed eleven candidates. To everyone who applied: thank you. We are inspired by your love of programming, and the courage with which you are pursuing your dreams to break into software engineering. It was humbling to read your applications and to learn your stories.

This year’s I/Own It winners are RC Brown, Acacia Pappas, and Mandy Trinh. They will be starting their studies in the Hack Reactor Software Engineering Immersive program in January 2019 and joining us as interns in April.

RC Brown

a person wearing glasses RC is a DJ turned programmer/teacher working to create a more just and equitable world in tech. RC taught himself the basics of HTML/CSS/JS and has spent the last year and a half teaching underrepresented youth of color in Oakland the basics of web development, social entrepreneurship and how to unlock their community cultural wealth. RC spends his time propagating his houseplants, hiking with his pup Emmy Lou, and working on side projects that use tech for good. RC found that teaching the basics of web dev helped him solidify his understanding of the foundations. RC wants to continue to work with the youth of the Bay Area and eventually with youth around the globe.


Acacia Pappas

a person smiling for the cameraAfter majoring in philosophy at a small liberal arts college, Acacia spent six years teaching in inner city schools. She most recently taught science and technology at an alternative high school in North Philadelphia where, while designing a computer science unit, she realized she’d much rather be writing algorithms than teaching about them. She started coding JavaScript in her free time, playing around in Xcode, and researching different bootcamps. Passionate about school design and the transformative power of education, she hopes to eventually use her software engineering skills to build tools and resources that serve teachers and students everywhere.

Mandy Trinh

a woman smiling outside

Mandy was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the US at age 7. She discovered programming in 6th grade through creating layouts on Neopets and Xanga. Later on, she studied Linguistics and Environmental Economics at UC Berkeley and worked in public accounting, but decided to pursue software development after realizing what she most enjoyed about her job was creating scripts to automate data entry. Before Hack Reactor, she studied CS fundamentals with Python and Java from Berkeley classes on evenings and weekends, while volunteering to help debug and document legacy code at work. She loves how problem solving continually pushes her to think critically and venture beyond her comfort zone. Mandy is beyond grateful for this generous scholarship and plans on using her skills to mentor and instill love for STEM in youth from immigrant and disadvantaged communities.

Building an Inclusive Engineering Team

I hope their stories inspire others to leap into software. If you are interested in other scholarship opportunities, I’d encourage you to keep an eye on the Hack Reactor scholarships page. You can also sign up for our mailing list on the I/Own It website to be alerted of future scholarship opportunities.

Thank you to Austin Hunter at for all of his hard work driving I/Own It from the Hack Reactor side, and to Hack Reactor’s internal scholarship review committee who helped us shortlist candidates. Thank you to Lina Spevak, Daisy Mardian, and May Delos Santos from Optimizely recruiting; and to Jessica Chong, Quinton Dang, Briceida Mariscal, Lauren Pappone, and Matthew Root for driving the program from Optimizely’s engineering team. I’m especially moved by the fact that Quinton and Lauren have been involved in the I/Own It committee every year since we started the program in 2015, and that Briceida and Jess, two past recipients of the scholarship, also work to continue the program.