Join me at the Ed Lives! Cocktail Gala on February 23rd – or request a subsidized ticket


Will I be seeing you at the Ed Lives! Cocktail Gala & official launch of Toronto for Everyone on February 23rd?

Ed Lives! is bringing together leaders to commemorate Honest Ed’s for the last time on February 23 at 6 pm before it closes for redevelopment, and in its spirit, launch a new initiative called Toronto for Everyone.

Toronto for Everyone is an initiative by the Centre for Social Innovation that will focus on promoting inclusive and collaborative city building through an innovator’s fund, allyship educational series, and advocacy campaign with creative agency, Sid Lee.

It’s an audacious initiative and I’m sure you can agree, more timely than ever. Launching it at Honest Ed’s — a place of grand ambition that wholly stood for community and inclusivity — could not be more fitting.

They are seeking founding members, which means being part a network of city leaders focused on inclusivity that will shape future initiatives of Toronto for Everyone.

Tickets are $259.99 and you can purchase them here. Ticket sales for the Cocktail Gala will go towards ensuring An Honest Farewell is as accessible as possible, to as many as possible.

The night will have a specialty cocktail experience, moving quartet band, food stations from a selection of diverse restaurants across Toronto, a special presentation from outstanding inclusive city builders, including Jay Pitter, Luke Anderson, Jason Carter, Erin Kang and Denise Pinto, a craft beer and art garden by Collective Arts Brewery, and lots of other magical nuggets.

Request a Subsidized Ticket

Do you know a city builder or social innovator just starting out who should absolutely be there? Are you one? I’m going to subsidize the cost of a Gala ticket for five up and comers – so many people helped me when I was just starting out, and I love finding ways to pay it forward. We can even meet up before the event and head over together.

Email me at heather [at] for details.


HackerYou becomes first coding bootcamp in Ontario to submit application to register as a Private Career College


When HackerYou launched in 2012, the idea of “coding bootcamps” was just emerging. Generally speaking, a coding bootcamp is an educational experience that offers full­-time, in­-person instruction of 40 or more hours of classroom time per week, focused on either full-stack web development, mobile development or front-end development. Usually, bootcamps last between eight and 12 weeks. And the goal is clear: for students to develop skills that will lead to employment. But what coding bootcamps have also traditionally had in common was that they are not accredited.

Well, if that is the criteria, then HackerYou hopes to not be considered a “coding bootcamp” much longer, because yesterday we submitted our application to register HackerYou as a Private Career College in the province of Ontario.


For years, I’ve grappled with the decision around whether or not I should go through the process of applying to register HackerYou as a Private Career College in Ontario. When one of our competitors, Bitmaker Labs, was investigated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in 2013, I wrote a blog post on the topic. At the time, all of HackerYou’s programs were exempt from registration due to their length, cost, or both. But just as I predicted in my blog post, over time HackerYou students and alumni started requesting that we introduce programs that were longer than 40 hours. They wanted us to introduce a vocational program. So in 2014, we did. We called it our Front-End Web Development Immersive, and we’ve graduated 286 people over 11 cohorts, with a placement rate of nearly 100%. You can see where our graduates have landed jobs here.

I knew that we would eventually have to “grow up” and register HackerYou as a Private Career College. Running vocational programs in Ontario without being registered is simply not allowed, and being a responsible business owner means playing by the rules.

On September 13, 2016, I submitted HackerYou’s application to become a registered Private Career College in Ontario, and I am really excited about what this means for us.

Impact on Current Operations:

The impact on current operations is minimal. Our part-time courses are non-vocational and will continue as usual (maybe you should apply to join us?). Our Fall 2016 bootcamp has been sold out for weeks, and will begin as planned on September 19th. We can’t wait to welcome our 32 students to Cohort 12!

Impact on Future Operations:

One of the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Development’s rules is that you cannot advertise a vocational program until it has been approved. So, for now, you’ll notice that the webpage about our bootcamp program looks a little different.

We also can’t schedule our first bootcamp in 2017 until we receive approval from the Ministry. Sometimes, the process can take months – that’s just the way it is. But this timing couldn’t be better for us, as we always take a two-month break from bootcamps between mid-November and mid-January, anyway. Traditionally, we’ve used that time to make improvements to our curriculum. This year, we’re using that time to ensure that, as soon as we receive word from the Ministry, we’re ready to go.

If or when our bootcamp program is approved, it is going to be better than ever. First, we’ve made some massive improvements to the content which we’re really excited to share. We’ll also be able to offer a certificate. It won’t change the reason students attend HackerYou (in this industry, you don’t need a certificate – you need skills), but it’s still cool.

There is also some impact on how HackerYou operates behind the scenes. For example, we’ll now need to have audited financial statements completed every year, rather than just regular financial statements. Our students’ results will also be audited. Each year, the government wants to know how many students complete Private Career College vocational programs, and whether they got jobs. (Based on how we’ve done over the past three years, I’m thrilled to have an official medium for bragging!).

The requirements for Private Career Colleges should make potential students more eager to apply to HackerYou, if approved, than to non-registered institutions. There are a number of requirements that are all in place to ensure that consumers are protected, and that Private Career Colleges are financially stable. It’s probably one of the best things about the idea of becoming registered – it brings a level of legitimacy to what we’re doing at HackerYou that we just couldn’t provide before.

A final perk worth mentioning is around financial aid. Once HackerYou is approved and can provide three years of audited financial statements, we’ll be able to apply to accept OSAP for our vocational programs. Paying for our programs has always been a concern for students, and we’re excited about the potential to introduce this option in a few years.

Innovating from the inside:

Until now, I’ve been trying to fix education as an outsider. HackerYou existed on the fringes, outside of the system. We have had a massive, life-changing impact on hundreds of alumni, but relatively no impact on the education industry overall. We’re a blip.

Since we started the process of applying to register as a Private Career College, I’ve been encouraged by how many opportunities there seem to be for us to work with the government to  innovate from the inside. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had many productive conversations with various folks from the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Development. I even received a letter from the Honourable Deb Matthews, in which she states that she “recognize[s] the important work [HackerYou is] doing, equipping people with skills that are in high demand, and helping us to prepare people for the technology- and knowledge-based economy of the future.” She goes on to state that she would like to meet with me; that meeting has already been set for next week.

But despite our application to register and all of the rules and responsibilities that go along with becoming a Private Career College in Ontario, we remain committed to staying true to what has made HackerYou so successful the first place – staying small, remaining agile, and focusing on student results. We believe that, if our application is accepted, we can be an example for other Private Career Colleges in Ontario. We want to continue to be known as the best place in the province to learn to code, and I have no doubt that we will be able to continue to lead our industry into the future as we have for the past four years.


I’m happy to answer questions about anything and everything related to HackerYou and the process of applying to become a Private Career College, and what this means. Feel free to email me at heather [at]

Learn to Code in 2013: A List of Toronto’s In-Person Learning Opportunities


(Originally posted on the HackerYou blog on January 4, 2012)

If you’ve decided that 2013 is the year you’re finally going to learn to code, you’re in luck! There have never been more resources available to people interested in picking up 21st century digital skills, whether you’re interested in front-end development, back-end development, design, or even something more specific.

But you’ve tried online tutorials. You’ve been to Meetup groups. You’ve watched video lessons. And for some reason, it’s just not working for you. Well, the good news is that – these days – there are lots of options for people looking to learn how to code via an in-person learning experience. And you won’t even have to move to San Francisco.

Here’s a list of places to learn to code in Toronto:

Should you have been included in this list? Email us at info [at] with information about your organization and we’ll add you to the list.

Part-time introductory courses on HTML & CSS, Responsive Design, Ruby on Rails and more. Our next course begins on January 21st. Learn more here.
Cost: Varies (typically $900 – $2000 per course) | @thisishackeryou |

Bitmaker Labs
9-week full-time courses on Ruby on Rails. Deadline to apply for their Spring 2013 cohort is January 14th.
Cost: $7000 | @bitmakerlabs |

Ladies Learning Code
One-day workshops designed for beginners who are looking for a social and collaborative learning experience.
Cost: $50 per one-day workshop (includes a catered lunch!) | @llcodedotcom |

Pay-what-you-can and get hands on with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, WordPress and more at these 9-week courses.
Cost: Pay What You Can | @theYMC |

Team Coding
Free sessions to help beginners get in groups to practice coding.
Cost: Free | @teamcoding

Learn Toronto
Not a course, but a listing of tech and startup related groups and events in Toronto. Perfect if you’re looking to learn on an ad hoc basis.
Cost: Most groups and Meetups are free | @LearnToronto

Have you decided to make 2013 the year you learn how to code? How are you going to do it?

Mind = Blown


I met 10-year-old Keegan back in February, at the first event for kids that I organized as part of my current gig with the Mozilla Foundation. His aunt is Vicki Saunders, someone I’ve known (and admired) for many months now. I’ve seen Keegan a few times since then – at the Hive Pop-Up in June, and then again today, at the Intro to Webmaking workshop that I’m running.

He just showed me his new website:, which is full of “Guides for Geeks” aka. tutorials for people who want to learn to code (or maybe do other things, too). So far, he has a Python tutorial + video, a clock background tutorial + video, and a lesson on creating an HTML web page. Currently, he’s writing a post called “Spreading the HTML Gospel” about today’s workshop.

Seeing this kind of thing makes everything that I do totally worth it. Keegan – you’re a rockstar. Keep it up!

UPDATE: If you’d like to get in touch with Keegan or compliment him on his excellent website, you can contact him at info [at]

Now I’m Really an Entrepreneur


I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time. Not when I was in university (back then, I wanted to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company), but sometime between graduating and landing my first real job, I realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to make a career out of working for the man. Even after that realization, it’s taken me a long time to get here. As of today, though, I’m really an entrepreneur. And I’m effing excited about it.

(Want to skip to my new venture? It’s called HackerYou. Click here to visit the site, click here to read our press release, and click here to follow us on Twitter.)

When I moved to Toronto in May of 2010 (you know, after living in China for 15 months and then dropping out of grad school), I wanted to join a startup. But, of course, I didn’t know a single person in Toronto’s tech or startup communities, and as a recent grad, I didn’t exactly have people clamouring to hire me…to do anything. I was lucky to land a job through Laura Plant (yes, the one from Ladies Learning Code) and I worked for a year at a big company. And that was enough of that.

Just before I left BigCorp Inc. to join a startup as employee #2, I was in LA for work. And if you’ve heard of Ladies Learning Code, you know the story. I stumbled upon an event via Women 2.0. Run by the PyLadies, it was a workshop designed for women who were beginners to Python but ready to learn, which described me perfectly. It was their first workshop ever, and it was great, and I returned to Toronto and tweeted about how we should have a similar group here. Almost immediately, I started receiving emails from people who were interested in the idea, and when I’d received about a dozen, I planned this event. 85 people registered, there was a great turnout, and as a group we decided to run our first workshop exactly a month later. About 20 people were involved in pulling that first event off – it sold out in a day, and was definitely a success! I was surprised, and really excited.

We started planning workshops every month, and they started selling out faster and faster – like, sell-out-in-five-minutes fast. By the end of 2011, my team (by now, four of us) made the decision to start offering two workshops a month. Now, almost 2000 women (and men) have participated in a Ladies Learning Code workshop. Over 400 developers and designers have signed up to volunteer their time. We run a March Break and summer camp for 9 to 13 year old girls. And just yesterday, we announced that we’re going to be offering a couple workshops in Vancouver this summer.

But although I definitely accept the compliments offered to myself and my team for the job we’ve done in starting and growing Ladies Learning Code, and although I truly appreciate being considered an entrepreneur, I haven’t felt like one. Not until today.

Maybe it’s because Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit. Maybe it’s because I got lucky, stumbled onto the idea, and just held on for dear life. Maybe it’s because the point of Ladies Learning Code was never to find a repeatable and scaleable business model (I mean, the thing has a business model, but it sure as hell doesn’t scale. Not easily, anyway.) Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things. It might even just be in my head. But I just haven’t felt like an entrepreneur yet.

Either way, it all changes today. Today is the day that I’m making a specific decision to bring something into this world that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by making an investment in turning this idea into reality. In line with Steve Blank’s definition of a startup, my purpose now is to find a repeatable and scalable business model. And this time, I want to do something that will have a positive impact and make a profit, because I believe it’s possible to do both.

Want to see what my team and I built? Check it out: And be sure to follow us on Twitter – we’re @thisishackeryou.

So, Who’s Instructing the First-Ever Ladies Learning Code Workshop?


For more info about Ladies Learning Code, follow us on Twitter or check out our Facebook Page. We also have a Tumblr account here. If you’d like to join our email list (180+ subscribers already!), click here.

Ever since launching #ladieslearningcode a bit over a month ago, the support from Toronto’s developer community has been incredibly heart-warming and super encouraging. Our developer email list (for people interested in helping us as instructors) has grown to over 50 people in just a few weeks. Even though we launched our August 6th workshop (and guaranteed a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio) without confirming with any potential instructors about getting involved, we felt confident that the developer community would come together and support us. And have they ever.

So, who’s instructing the first-ever #ladieslearningcode workshop? Check out the bios below to find out!

Lead Instructor: Pearl Chen (@androidsnsheep | Google+)
Research & Tech Manager at CFC Media Lab

Why is Ladies Learning Code important to you?

For my entire professional career (especially while freelancing as a web developer), I have never found myself working with another professional female developer (except once when I was involved in the hiring process). So…where are you, ladies? What scared you off? I hope Ladies Learning Code will help me answer this.



Crystal Preston-Watson (@jadedskipping |
Owner, Discrete Signal

Why is Ladies Learning Code important to you?

#ladieslearningcode is important to me because I think it can be it a key element in destroying the myth that women can’t (or don’t want to) be programmers. By reaching out to women who are interested and desire to learn programing and giving them not only the tools but a supportive environment to learn, we not only shape their futures but the future of tech as a whole.


Amrita Mathur (@amritamathur |
Director, Marketing at PriceMetrix Inc.

Though Amrita won’t be instructing (she started her career as a developer but is a marketer now), she has been an enormous help in planning and prepping for the workshop.

Why is Ladies Learning Code important to you?

Having worked in the high-tech sector all my life, I had almost come to accept a work environment that was male dominated. I was on a lot of sports teams as a kid, plus I took Computer Science in University (with all of 11 women in my class), so working and dealing with men has never been an issue.

What has been a problem though is a lack of the female perspective in product development, design and user experience. As more and more consumer apps and products come out, I find myself thinking – hey, wouldn’t it be better if women designed this stuff?! So many of these products are social, and women currently dominate social media and social product usage. Then how come women aren’t developing and designing these products? Doesn’t it make sense that women have more ownership of these products?

It was so obvious. We absolutely needed to see more women in tech… and in development and design specifically!

This is a big part of why I relished the chance to join and grow LadiesLearningCode in Toronto. My selfish motivation of course is that I would welcome and enjoy having more women to work with in the tech industry; but more than that, I wish to eventually help change the thinking of younger women getting into schools and colleges. I want them to understand that being in tech doesn’t have to be mind-numbing or painful, but rather an opportunity to shape the technologies that propel our lives.

I am grateful and enthusiastic to have joined a group of rich, diverse women to help make this happen.

Mike Conley (@mike_conley |
Thunderbird Developer at Mozilla

What are you passionate about?

The web!  Keeping the web open and accessible as a communications and innovations medium.  When I’m not working on Thunderbird, I enjoy working on open-source software (Review Board, MarkUs), and writing music / doing sound design for independent theater companies in Toronto.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I was referred by Greg Wilson, my M.Sc. supervisor.

Gavin Lobo
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, grad student, research assistant, tutorial instructor

What are you passionate about?

Teaching,  Science, Mathematics,  Programming

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I thought it was a great idea to encourage women to get involved with programming!


Jay Goldman (@jaygoldman |
VP Strategy at Klick

Special thanks to Jay and his team at Klick for hosting our workshop dry run on August 3rd. We appreciate it!)

What are you passionate about?

My beautiful daughter, Sophie. Having her fundamentally changed everything in my life. It made me want to reshape this world for her — to fill it with sunshine and possibilities and open doors. She just turned two and is working hard on colours and the alphabet, so JavaScript might be a little advanced, but I’ll bring out to one of the future events :)

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I have a deep technology background and have always fought against the male domination of my industry, trying hard to create opportunities for women whenever possible. Sophie has only accelerated that, and #ladieslearningcode is an excellent first step toward making sure she has a future in this business if she wants it.

Phyliss Lee (@phyllers |
Research Technician at the Princess Margaret Hospital

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about getting more women in technology and engineering, but also interested in human computer interaction and user experience design.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I think that it’s important for more women to to get into technology and engineering. As a teenager I was told that I shouldn’t go into computer science because it was all men, but being female shouldn’t be a limitation on what I can and can not become. In a graduating high school class of 80 young women, only 5 went into a technical (engineering or computer science) field. I want to see more women becoming software developers and engineers.

Christina Truong (@christinatruong |
Front-end Developer at Teehan+Lax

Christina will be presenting one of two “Lightning Talks” at our August 6th workshop. We hope she’ll hang around for a bit with us, too!

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about the web industry of course! In addition to that I love food and trying different restaurants and I LOVE SHOES!  I have 30+ pairs.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I thought it was a good opportunity to get more women involved in the technology field and to be an example for those who may be interested in getting into the development side of things.  I also hope to help those who are non-developers but work in the web industry to get more of an understanding of what exactly web developers do.

Laurie MacDougall Sookraj (@lmds)
Senior Analyst @ University Health Network

What are you passionate about?

Taking broken software and making it work, building stuff that’s useful to people and helps them to do their work more effectively.  Also hammocks, cupcakes, and martinis.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

Seemed like a good way to encourage people to get involved with technology, which can sometimes be intimidating, especially for women in a world where the gender imbalance in computer science often looks like 10 men to every 1 woman.  It’s fun to see the satisfaction of making something work that you built yourself, and of learning something new, especially for people who have never done this sort of thing before.

Svetlana Kolupaeva (@skolupaeva)
Java developer / Team leader @ Exigen

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

Oh, I had plenty of reasons and it was a perfect timing for me to run into #ladieslearningcode on the web :)
I’m new to Toronto. I am a woman in technology. And I feel doing ‘the right thing’ by supporting ideas that touch me.


Monika Piotrowicz
Interactive Developer

What are you passionate about?

I absolutely love being a web developer.  I feel so lucky  to be in a field where I can collaborate with people and learn new things every day.  Whether it’s fixing a bug, or seeing a site go live, it’s very rewarding to know that I’m part of building something that hopefully others may find useful, informative, or entertaining. When I’m not in front of a screen, I love trying out new recipes, watching movie marathons, and playing the very distinguished sport of dodgeball! :)

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I thought this sounded like a great initiative to introduce web development to women and also saw it as a chance to meet some like-minded ladies!  The Toronto tech scene in general is a really great community, so I also wanted to give something back.  I hope there will be more and more Ladies Learning Code after this event!

Melissa Luu (@melissa_s_luu)
Interface developer at Nurun

What are you passionate about?

Traveling and food.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

I decided to get involved with Ladies Learning Code because I would like to help educate others with what is involved in the web development. This includes providing new developers with insight into this field and also helping marketers and PMs understand the real complexity of the web development process.

Emir Hasanbegovic (@phigammemir |
Agile Engineer at Xtreme Labs Inc.

What are you passionate about?

Developing core infrastructures that can be used as tools over and over again.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

(From the editor: Emir neglected to include a response here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is helping us out on August 6th because his girlfriend – and my very good friend – @lauralynplant is reponsible for Developer Outreach…and yes, that means you should contact her if you’d like to run a workshop! If you just want to help out, join our developer email list.)

Jon Lim (@jonlim |
Product Manager of PostageApp, The Working Group

Jon will be our official photographer and videographer on August 6th. Smile, everyone!

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about building awesome things, or helping other people build awesome things. If I love your cause or your project, I will probably sing about it from the mountain tops.

Why did you decide to get involved with Ladies Learning Code?

At The Working Group, we have a team of amazing coders who produce quality code and it was a no-brainer to get involved. In addition, I could personally contribute with my camera, and what a better way to document all of the amazing women (and men!) who are involved in the process.

Thank you to everyone who has offered to help us…

There are too many of you – it will have to be an entirely different blog post. Plus, it’s 1:45 am and I want to go to bed.

Can’t wait for August 6th!

Toronto “Ladies Learning Code” Call-To-Action


Oh dear. What have I gotten myself into?

I go to LA. I attend this awesome “Intro to Python” workshop with the PyLadies. I come home and I write a blog post about it, with a teeny-tiny little paragraph at the bottom suggesting that we get something like this going in Toronto, Canada.

Well, it’s a testament to the strength and character of the Python community – the word spread.

Toronto wants a “Ladies Learning Code” group, too!

As of today, I’ve received almost a dozen emails from ladies interested in getting involved (@melissacrnic and @NicoleRashotte were early cheerleaders!) and others interested in helping us get started. People have already offered us space, sponsorship, and help with promotion – plus, I’ve also been contacted by a few people who want to volunteer and share their knowledge!

I think we’ve tapped into an unmet need in the Toronto community.

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So, Who Won Startup Weekend Toronto?


(Yes, I’m going to tell you who won. But I’m not going to let it ruin this post, for those of you who haven’t heard the news yet.)

I wrote another blog post this morning (well, I aimed for morning…it actually came out in the afternoon) about Startup Weekend Toronto and the progress the teams had made by then. Check it out below!

SPOILER ALERT: Want to know who won? Click here to see who came in third place, here for second, and click here to see who won the grand prize!

Check out the post below – if you have a chance, I highly recommend visiting the websites and landing pages of the other teams that competed. Many of them will continue to work together post-Startup Weekend, so you should sign up now for beta access!

Let me know what you think of the post in the comments section below.

PROGRESS UPDATE @ Startup Weekend Toronto

Written by Heather Payne (@heatherpayne)

Hey everyone! It’s about 1 pm on the third and final day of Startup Weekend Toronto – and the energy here is awesome!

Didn’t make it out to Startup Weekend Toronto? Curious about the progress of our teams after reading this post? Or, maybe you’re at Startup Weekend but are drowning in code and haven’t had the time to take a look around and see what everyone else is up to. Not a problem – we’ve compiled a #SWToronto Progress Update! Check it out below.

In no particular order…

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Report from Startup Weekend Toronto


It’s 10:19 pm. I’ve been hanging out in the Burroughes Building (the Startup Weekend Toronto venue) since 9 am. And it’s not like we’ve been taking it easy, either – we’ve been building stuff.

Want to see what I’m working on? Check out Let me know what you think! (Either with a comment below or tweeting me at @heatherpayne.)

We aren’t the only team doing cool stuff this weekend though. This morning, I (co-)wrote a blog post summarizing the 20 ideas that made it through yesterday’s voting process – over 70 ideas were pitched. (Sadly, only 3 of the Top 20 pitches were presented by women…we’ll have to improve that ratio next year!) Although we originally posted the summary on the EpicRise blog, I want to share it with you here. See below!

Startup Weekend Toronto 2011’s 20 Winning Pitches

By Heather Payne and Melissa Crnic

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