Hacking the academic experience

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 20, 2013 from 4:45 – 5:30pm in B201


When I was asked to teach Ruby on Rails at Columbia University I observed that a significant number of the skills required to become a successful professional in the industry are acquired on the job and aren’t being taught in school.


The fundamentals of Computer Science are still incredibly important to cover in university curricula but practice is just as important as theory. There is currently a significant difference between what university CS departments teach and what professionals do; if these programs hope to prepare students for graduate school as well as for the “real world”, they need to incorporate more emphasis on contributing to and using open source software, tools such as github, and sharing and reading other people’s code. Many of us professionals thrive on open source software and wouldn’t hesitate to copy-and-paste a snippet from StackOverflow, but academia isn’t teaching this type of resourcefulness to students.

This presentation will review:
- Lessons learned from the experience teaching in my alma mater’s CS program.
- How I developed a hacker-centric curriculum teaching not only the algorithms, but the keys to being a successful developer in the modern open source driven Rails community.
- How we as hackers can fix this

Speaking experience

Teaching: I'm an adjunct faculty at Columbia University and teach Ruby on Rails. I'm going to teach a Ruby on Rails workshop at General Assembly in NYC in a few weeks.
I've taught 2 and 3-day-long training sessions on programming with MongoDB. I've also spoken at 10gen internal meetings and conduct professional consulting engagements with open source customers.

Presentations: I frequently present at MongoDB conferences (audiences range from 100 - 200 people) and teach workshops (with 20 participants) on schema design (recently in Colorado, Australia, and India)
I'm presenting at RailsConf this year: http://www.railsconf.com/2013/talks#talk-47
I'm also presenting at GoRuCo: http://goruco.com/speakers/2013/stolfo-emily/

Video of me presenting MongoDB's Aggregation Framework at MongoDB Boulder

Review of my Rails class at Columbia:


  • Headshot

    Emily Stolfo



    Emily is an Engineer / Evangelist with the 10gen MongoDB Ruby driver team and an adjunct faculty at Columbia University. Before joining 10gen, Emily worked as a Ruby on Rails developer at a NYC startup but her history with Rails goes back to a research project at Paris’ Louvre Museum. In addition to enjoying programming and art, Emily likes to travel and run when not teaching Rails in her free time.