HEBREW NAME: Omri
CURRENTLY LIVING IN: Brooklyn, N.Y.
ALMA MATERS: Swampscott High School ’08, Hampshire College ’14
JOB: Senior web application developer, Newsela
FAVORITE FOOD: Sushi, either salmon or egg
FAVORITE MUSIC: Dire Straits
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Firefly,” “Fleabag”
FAVORITE BOOKS: “The Broken Earth” trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION: Japan
PLACE YOU’D LIKE TO GO NEXT: Brazil. In general, what I like most is seeing people I know and people I love.
FAVORITE NORTH SHORE SPOT: Phillips Beach, Swampscott
FAVORITE JEWISH HOLIDAY: Purim
WHAT WAS YOUR JEWISH BACKGROUND GROWING UP?
I think the earliest I can remember is when we were in Indiana. My family lived in Columbus, Indiana, and there were maybe 10 Jewish families in the county, something like that. The memory I have is Purim, probably dressing up as Mordecai. When we got to Swampscott, I went to Hebrew school at Temple Emanu-El [in Marblehead], I got bar mitzvahed at Temple Emanu-El. And then I continued to do the confirmation with Rabbi [David] Meyer, and I also started teaching at Temple Emanu-El with Mrs. [Leona] Glazer as her assistant teacher for about four years.
UNTIL RECENTLY, YOU TAUGHT PEOPLE HOW TO CODE SOFTWARE.
I left that job in February, but for 4½ years I taught at a coding boot camp in the Financial District in New York at a place called Fullstack Academy. I love programming and I love empowering people, so it was really nice to get to nerd out about code and software, and get to do so while lifting people up to a place they wanted to be – getting them from amateur software engineer, struggling in their career, to a capable software engineer, employed at various places.
IS THERE ENOUGH AFFORDABLE TRAINING FOR PEOPLE LOOKING TO CODE?
No, and I think the answer is evident based on the boot camps popping up and continuing to grow – there’s clearly still demand for that kind of labor from people who want to employ people, and there’s still demand for that knowledge from people who want to know things to be employed. But I think tech also has a long history of enfranchising the already enfranchised, so I certainly think to a large extent that’s still true in the software engineering world, and the boot camp world – that people who already have means can change careers and can experience this boot camp. That was something that was definitely exciting about Grace Hopper [a coding boot camp for women offered by Fullstack that only charges tuition after graduates have secured a job] – it was a force for egalitarianism, and a force for equal opportunity in this space, especially for women, and especially for women who didn’t have the same economic privilege that might come with such a big investment in education. At Fullstack, we also ended up partnering with the city of New York to do this web development program, where the city would pay the full tuition of the students who went through it, so it was entirely free – not just deferred tuition.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT KNOWLEDGE IN TODAY’S JOB MARKET?
There’s this notion of coding being a new kind of literacy, and I think maybe it’s not quite that extreme, but maybe it’s in that ballpark – I think it is a very fundamental discipline that can open the world up in many ways. Nothing’s ever for literally everyone, but I suspect at this point there are plenty of ways in which coding is essentially universal, the same way that reading and writing are.
WHAT IS YOUR NEW JOB?
I’m working at a place called Newsela as a software engineer – it’s also educational technology for mainly public schools, all around the US. What our software does is produce current events as news articles at different reading levels, and some in Spanish as well, so that a teacher in a public school can have all their students engage in the same material, but at whatever reading level or in whatever language they need to consume it in. At the moment, we’re publishing between five and 10 new articles a day. The team I’m working on is called classroom engagement, so we work on the primary page of the website, where the students might read an article, and where the teachers might see that article, assign that article, and look at who’s done those assignments in that class.