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Community and Coding: A Booth Hacks Retrospective

By Pratyush Rastogi ‘15  |  march, 2014, Issue 1
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Hackers getting together over a few slices.

 "Well MBAs are useful to startups because you know how to sell...if you're an MBA who can code then you're even more useful. And if you don't know how to code... f'n learn how to code!"

The above quote, which was passionately stated to us during a meeting with a Booth alumnus who was running a healthcare technology startup, had a profound effect on Jake Walker and me. Within 20 minutes of leaving that meeting we had a name and a plan - Booth Hacks, an 8 week course that teaches Booth students the basics of coding. We thought students would love it because they could finally understand developers, be more useful to employers, and create mockups for their products/websites when launching their startups.

And we were right. A testimonial from one of our regulars, Shawn Thomas, "I was furiously writing up my SNVC application a few hours before the 10am deadline, and I wanted to add in a picture of a mock-up of the website idea ... I looked up a website that had a design I liked. Opened up my javascript console, added code to delete the logos, added in my own text, took a screenshot of it, and bam! Got my mockup. Thank you, Booth Hacks."

But learning functional skills wasn't the only reason students enjoyed the class. When polling our students about why they came back to our class week after week we heard another reason, one we really didn't expect. "The people... all kinds of great people here and I'm learning from everyone!" said another of our regulars, Bill Drowsky. This positive externality (wow we're such nerds) was aptly capture when 2nd year Colin Smith said, "The best part of Booth Hacks is meeting the other students involved."

We were pretty surprised by this revelation that students were coming back because of each other. It also so happens that people were coming back to hear Diana Zink's analogies during her lectures, "getting information using APIs is like a game of marco-polo." I digress. We had never expected to create a new community out of Booth Hacks, but it turned out we had. You know you've spawned a hacker and entrepreneurial culture when break times were being used to discuss new entrepreneurial ideas or vigorously debate the need for bitcoins. We also noticed collaborations between students flourish, participants were actively helping each other out. In fact, Lee Ettelman, entered a coding competition and roped in his fellow Booth Hackers.

This discovery gave us a new definition of Booth Hacks. It was no longer just a coding class. Instead it had naturally morphed into a collaborative of innovative and inquisitive individuals who used coding to solve problems and develop new ideas.

For those of us who founded Booth Hacks, this was really great to see. While it was not our intention to create this new community, we were very pleasantly surprised when it happened. Part of the reason why this might have happened was because of the amazing crop of students who attended our classes, part of it was the incredibly hard work that Diana Zink and Jake Walker put into making the classes collaborative, and part of the reason why this might have happened may have been the free pizza we gave out each class that forced people to congregate and converse. But whatever the reason, I'm really glad it did happen.

Description of Booth Hacks:
Booth Hacks was founded by Jake Walker, Diana Zink, and Pratyush Rastogi. This year Booth Hacks launched an 8 week course to teach fellow Boothies how to code. While our events are over for now, watch this space in the 2014-15 school year for more events, hacking, and pizza! (Follow us at

Last Updated 3/10/14
Last Updated 3/10/14