Annual HackHands event promotes collaborative IT mentoring
Posted on
January 5, 2016
HackHands encourages computer skills development via mentoring.

On Dec. 17, hack.hands (HackHands) announced the second installment of hack.summit, "The Hackathon that changes things." Hack.summit debuted last year as the largest-ever Web conference for developers with more than 64,000 registrants. The event, designed to aid nonprofit groups, is focused on bringing diversity and education to IT, and is organized and promoted by Pluralsight, a global leader in online learning for technology professionals. Pluralsight, located in Farmington, Utah, acquired HackHands in July, 2015.

Hack.summit is scheduled to commence in late February. As was the case last year, all ticket sales support nonprofits serving the software and Web development space. Hack.summit 2014 leveraged top-flight speakers (e.g. creators of Google Glass, Ruby on Rails, Bittorrent, etc.) to help raise $50,000 for nonprofits such as Women Who Code, Black Girls Code and This year, HackHands is hoping to raise even more for these groups.

CertMag recently exchanged emails with HackHands CEO Ed Roman to see exactly what hack.summit is all about and what they expect to accomplish. Here's the scoop:

Q: What is hack.summit and why is it so popular?

Hack.summit is the largest developer event in the world. It contains both a conference and hackathon. What makes it special is it's pure virtual, so you can join from the comfort of your home. It also raises money for coding non-profits. The speaker list is the best-ever seen at a programming conference — you can check it out at

Q: You debuted last year as the "largest-ever web conference for developers," with an impressive 64,000 registrants. How many are you anticipating for this year?

We already have 50,000 registered as part of the hackathon alone (not including the conference). So the total should easily top 100,000.

Q: That's an impressive number. You also have a scheduled line-up of some heavy-hitters. Who are some of the Industry names in attendance this year? ‍

  • David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Ruby on Rails)
  • Joel Spolsky (co-founder and CEO of StackOverflow, founder of Trello)
  • Thomas Kurian (EVP at Oracle. Oversees all 3000+ of Oracle software products)
  • Rebecca Parsons (CTO of Thoughtworks)
  • Kent Beck (Created Extreme Programming, created TDD, co-created Agile, authored 9 books)
  • Bob Martin (created the Software Craftsmanship Movement)
  • Tom Chi (co-created Google Glass)
  • Yehuda Katz (Ember.js, JQuery, Rails Core committer. Created HandleBars)
  • Jocelyn Goldfein (recent Engineer Director, Facebook)
  • Qi Lu (Executive Vice President at Microsoft. Oversees R&D for Office, SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer, Lync, Skype, Bing, Bing Apps, MSN, and more)
  • Ed Roman (founder of, Java book author)
  • Aaron Skonnard (CEO of Pluralsight)
  • Brian Fox (created the GNU Bash Shell, Emacs maintainer)
  • Chris Richardson (Java Champion, created the original Cloud Foundry)
  • Orion Henry (founder of Heroku)
  • Hampton Catlin (Created SaSS, HAML,, and book author)
  • Jon Skeet (#1 answerer on StackOverflow)
  • Dries Buyataert (created the Drupal programming language)
  • Janet Weiner (Engineering at Facebook, big data expert)
  • Floyd Marinescu (CEO of InfoQ)
  • Nathan Marz (creator of Apache Storm)
  • Rod Vagg (Node.js Technical Chair and Core Committer)
  • Sarah Allen (Co-creator of After Effects, Flash video, recent Presidential Innovation Fellow)

‍Q: Last year hack.summit raised $50,000 for various non-profits. Who are these non-profits and what are their missions?

There are a variety of non-profits involved, many of which center around improving diversity in programming. Examples include Women Who Code, Code2040, and Black Girls Code. Other examples include Code for America (helping transform e-government), CoderDojo (helping young people), and (helping across the board).

Q: Do you expect to exceed the $50,000 amount this year?

We just announced hack.summit for 2016, so we're just beginning the fundraising process now. We're expecting to raise much more this year given the credibility we earned from last year's event.

Q: Why did Pluralsight bring HackHands into its ever-growing fold?

We both were on similar missions to help the world through education and mentoring. Our products were complimentary, and the culture fit was there. Through their enterprise salesforce, we can make a bigger impact together.

Q: How does the HackHands team feel about the partnership?

We are thrilled to be part of the Pluralsight family. They've been very welcoming to us, and we believe our mission is furthered by collaborating.

Q: How does HackHands' collaborative problem-solving model align with Pluralsight's IT training mission?

Mentoring is complementary to training — when a developer is taking a course, they can sometimes require custom help. So it's quite synergistic.

Q: What, if anything, has changed for HackHands since the acquisition?

We now have more resources and help at our disposal through Pluralsight to help the world double the speed of software development through on-demand mentoring. This availability of resources has given us leverage to achieve our mission that we didn't have in the past.

HackHands encourages computer skills development via mentoring.
HackHands CEO Ed Roman

Q: Can IT training be made better by encouraging learners to collaborate with peers and experts?

Yes — oftentimes developers spend 90 percent of their time stuck on silly programming issues rather than writing original code. Collaborating can help alleviate these issues and help developers program at light-speed.

Q: How many peers and experts are currently involved?

We have thousands of experts in our network. More than 12,000 have signed our mentoring pledge at

Q: Does HackHands actively recruit peers to its community, or do they simply show up on a "passing through" basis? Are they compensated, or just community-minded?

It's a mix. Some developers require compensation, while others volunteer their time through via hackpledge to help the community.

Q: What certifications can people train toward with help from HackHands?

Any major certification in Microsoft.NET or open-source technologies. We cover a wide range of programming topics.

Q: I'm curious about the name, "HackHands." "Hack" probably makes almost everyone think of "hackers," but breaking into secure systems doesn't seem to be what you are about. Why the name?

There's been a renaissance around the word "hack". Facebook uses it to proudly describe their culture, "The Hacker Way". They have a programming language also called Hack. Y Combinator has a news outlet called "HackerNews". It's a word that is transforming into a positive connotation over time. There's a lot of elite programmers who love the term these days.

About the Author

Calvin Harper is a former associate editor of Certification Magazine and a veteran of the publishing industry.

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