Sabeen Ali, Master’s in Organization Development ’09

Is Code a Force for Good?

This alumna and AngelHack founder thinks so.

For AngelHack founder and CEO Sabeen Ali MSOD ’09, technology is limitlessly powerful. The challenge is to use its power for good, which is why her organization focuses on bringing computer coders and innovators together and educating the next generation.

“I want to teach people that they can have an important role in business and technology and still do good at the same time,” Sabeen says. “I really do believe anyone has the ability to change the world. You don’t have to have a PhD or hold a government position to create change.”

Sabeen, who grew up in Fremont, founded AngelHack in 2011 with the idea of bringing coders together to compete, hack solutions to community problems, and create change. Today the nonprofit boasts a global community of 50,000 programmers and hosts hackathons in 52 cities around the world. AngelHack connects entrepreneuring coders to hackcelerator mentors — well-connected funders and entrepreneurs with the experience to turn ideas into businesses.

Code empowers

After winning a 2011 AngelHack hackathon, home cleaning and repair booking service Zaarly received $14.5 million in funding. Another AngelHack hackathon alum, restaurant website builder Appetas, was acquired by Google.

AngelHack is also launching an online educational platform where budding programmers who live in the developing world or those who don’t have access to such training can advance their skills.

USF taught me that if you have a vision then the only thing keeping you from accomplishing it is action.”

“We think of coding as a new, global language for change and innovation,” Sabeen says. “We teach our community how to code and that coding can create empowerment, equality, and open up new opportunities for all.”

Sabeen was drawn to USF’s master’s in Organization Development program because of its experiential approach to teaching and learning, which encourages students to put what they learn to use as soon as possible in the real world, even if it’s not perfect the first time, she says.

Working with Peet’s Coffee

USF taught her it’s okay to make mistakes. “If I fail, it’s okay,” Sabeen says. “I learn and keep moving forward. USF taught me that if you have a vision then the only thing keeping you from accomplishing it is action.”

During her final semester, Sabeen’s team worked with Peet’s Coffee and Tea to assess the success of the company’s leadership development program, both qualitatively and quantitatively. “We’d come back to the class and everyone in the cohort would troubleshoot together. It was great,” Sabeen says.

Another benefit of the program was its flexibility for working professionals. “My professors understood that life happens. Classes are held in the evenings or on weekends, and professors will work with you,” says Sabeen, who worked full-time while studying at USF, on top of being a wife and mother. “You’re able to juggle your class work, internships, and family.”