How to pay for Hackership?

A vital question to ask when running a full-time programme is how it will be paid for. Even thought the hackers-in-residence volunteer their time for free, one still needs to pay for a venue with facilities, people to take care of it and a staff to run the programme. Today, we want to explain the background of why we think the alumni-support model is the best way to do this and how you will be able to pay for your hackership without any problem.

Wall-e found money to pay for hackership

Some Background

These days, tech people are so scarce that companies are willing to pay recruiters hire-fees of 20-25% of your initial agreed upon salary and at times even up to 30% for good candidates. As a result, some programmes are not run in 'classic tuition'-style, rather, they are partially- or fully- paid for through this recruiting fee. Regardless, HR departments still have a target budget with which to hire people, so what they do internally is they subtract this fee - if they have to pay - from your negotiable salary. This means that if 25% of your salary goes to recruiters, this is money you will never have a chance to negotiate for - though the company would have originally been willing to pay you that amount. This is the basic premise of how recruiting works today.

Why we choose a different model

25% of the first year salary of a person in tech, that isn't too bad. But it often comes with a few strings attached. For example, it only works if you get hired by one of the partner companies, meaning companies the recruiters or educators have previously signed a contract with. Aside from all the paperwork and organisational overhead, this naturally limits the selection of companies a learner who has been through the program would 'ideally' be hired by. It very often can also limit one to a certain physical location. But what if the perfect fit for you is a different company, one with no previous ties to the school? What if it's located in a different country altogether?

Another inherent issue in this scenario is that those who eventually help pay the bills aren't the ones you are actively working with and helping to improve. The ones paying are companies, and companies always have their own agenda. And though this might be fine today, all we would need is one year where money gets a little tight and one of the big budget companies mentions they are more interested in having more X-coders instead of Y-coders, and without you even consciously being aware of it, they begin influencing the programme. In this system, your ultimate focus simply isn't solely with the learners themselves.

The alumni-support model

In a system where the learner pays for their own education, they become the number one priority. Now the issue becomes simply, how to pay the tuition? If you make people pay beforehand, they may leave the programme with a huge debt and sets the wrong incentive for the educators if they believe their job is done once the learner has completed the programme.

In the alumni-support model, the learner begins to pay only once the programme is over and only if they have found a suitable job in the field. And only then will they pay an amount they can afford - namely, a fixed percentage of their monthly income after taxes for one year. Aside from being the most 'learner-friendly' model, this also means that the focus of Hackership is to help the learner improve so much that their market value increases way beyond what the Hackership programme costs. In this way, with the learner being the ultimate "customer" of the programme, it is also in the interest of Hackership to train them to negotiate for the high salary they deserve.

How you can easily pay for it

We believe the alumni-support model is the best model to run Hackership by. We're convinced that for those accepted into the programme, paying for their participation in Hackership afterwards, will in no way be as hard as it sounds. Here are a few examples:

supporting companies

Being tech people ourselves, we have strong connections to people and companies within the community. We understand what they are looking for in a hire candidate and-- to be honest-- they are highly interested in hiring motivated people such as those we're currently accepting into Hackership! In discussions, they've told us firsthand, that our Learners could and should ask for a higher fee, and that they would willingly pay it. Our contract will therefore be with the e learner and not with the companies themselves. As we work closely with and get to know the learner over the period of the programme, we will be able to address concerns about finding a company which provides a sufficient salary to pay for Hackership. We know of plenty that will and we can assist learners in finding a good position, if wanted.

your employer

The alumni-support model offers other options as well. For example, we do not require that you are unemployed during or after the Hackership programme. You can work for any company (just not while being on-site at the programme location), which could also be your current employer. We have heard of supervisors openly discussing a model where the learner would get a reduced payment during the programme while working only on the fifth day and the company would cover the the costs of the programme. You wouldn't believe how many supervisors would love to hear their employees coming up with such an offer as continuous training for employees is a big problem that they usually have to pay a much higher price for. And though the contract we have is with the learner, the programme also offers that the bill might be sent to your employer (as they can use it as a tax write-off).

freelance work

Freelancing is another case that can be tricky as seen from the classic model perspective. They often don't get accepted as afterwards they likely won't seek to get hired but instead go back to freelancing. As the alumni-support model fee is based on the learners monthly income after taxes, our programme is totally fine with and happy to accept freelancers. And with percentage being a relative value, this is also a very fluid model and doesn't require you to pay back a fixed amount in the month in which a client is late on their payment for example: no income that month, nothing to pay. You just pay more the next month, when they follow up paying their bills. Similarly as with employers, you can also deduct these bills from your taxes at the end of the year, saving you even more money.


For a community-run system, the alumni-support model is the most flexible and appropriate of all possible models with which to run this programme. With the scarcity in computer programmers being so high, we aren't at all concerned that any learner will ever have a problem paying for it. However, if there are any concerns, we are willing and able to help with that, too.

Thanks to Morgan for publishing this great picture of wall-e on flickr under CC-SA.

About the Authors

Benjamin Kampmann

is freelance Software Developer and Product Creator. Aside from helping with the organisation of workshops and events, he is part of the strategic team and author of many of the blueprints. ben at Hackership dot org

Rachel Uwa

Organisation wizzard and keen on everything visual and design related, from 3D over visual effect up to interactive installation, she can talk with your for hours. As such she is leading the Design-, Processing and UI endevors of the OpenTechSchool Berlin. rachel at Hackership dot org