18 4 / 2014

And when you didn’t think it could get better than that, Justin shows us how it’s done one-handed! 

18 4 / 2014

I caught up with intern Justin Jaffray as he was giving another team member (also named Justin), a quick demo on Rubik’s cubes.  Love the random and awesome talents of our team. 

17 4 / 2014

A Khanversation with…the whimsical, analytical, ever smiling, dreamer Ben Haley (aka Ben 5)

When your name is Ben and you work at Khan Academy, there is a lot to live up to…undoubtedly, Ben 5 is a true Bengineer. Not only is he an expert xkcd reader, but this graduate student in the DGP biology PhD program at Northwestern also builds models of the risks of radiation exposure, and in his free time, volunteers at the Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) at Stanford (which he helped found in 2009). He interned with us last Fall and recently accepted his job offer to return full-time. He is a self-proclaimed learner: "I have devoted most of my life to learning, for myself, for others, even for computers."

In his cover letter to KA, he also included a list of his favorites:

● KA Video: The hat riddle.
● Smell:Jasmineflowers.
● (clean) Joke: A man walks into a psychiatrists office, speaking rapidly he says “Doc, I have this recurring dream that’s driving me nutes. First, I’m a wigwam, then I’m a teepee, then I’m a wigwam…”. “Stop,” the doctor interrupts, “You’re too tense.”
● Code: Norvig’s 20 line spelling corrector
● Star Trek Movie: Wrath of Khan (I’ll show myself out)

We will forgive him one day for his favorite Star Trek movie. In the meantime, in Ben5 fashion, he shares his perception of what working at Khan Academy is like through story and illustration. Onto a Khanversation with Ben Haley…or rather, what he calls…

How to land your dream job, in 30 years

Step one: be born, and this part is easy, because your parents pretty much do it for you. After that, you grow up and go to school. You have dreams of what you want to be, but they may not be that realistic.

space_president

College comes and you decide to be a biologist. You aspire to show the world how cells really work. But you find yourself in lab very carefully mixing one clear liquid with another clear liquid. At this point, it becomes not at all clear how this will lead to a meaningful and fulfilling existence.

mixing_tubes

Post college, you work as a waiter for a while. You learn to smile when you see people walk in the door, and that’s much more important than you realize at the time. You also learn that you do not like waiting.

waiter

You decide you need an adventure. You pinch your pennies until you can afford to ride up the coast of California on a $100 mountain bike. This is an important time in your life, because you have time to reflect. And you realize two critical things:

  1. You have always loved solving puzzles.
  2. Helping people is the most rewarding thing you do in life.

think_bike

You return to life with ambitions to be a programmer, a practical way to get paid to solve puzzles. You work part time back at the lab, even begin grad school. But the whole time you are making time to learn how to code, following along on the Stanford undergrad cs curriculum by reading all those textbooks by Ullman and others.

studying_programming

In the meanwhile, you find little ways to help people: volunteering teaching kids to read, making websites, etc. Soon you find yourself in the middle of a project with an old friend at Stanford to deliver interventions to students over the computer. This is really cool, because now you are programming to help students, solving puzzles to help people.

help_human

During all of this you fall in love with the burgeoning world of online education, thanks to some amazing courses. Your friend at Stanford finds a chance to collaborate with Khan Academy and you jump at the chance to help. The collaboration shows promise and someone at Khan Academy asks if you would like to apply for an internship. Whoa.

You do apply, thinking you will be rejected, but by some miracle you make the cut. Seven months later you are in sunny Palo Alto walking into your first day at THE Khan Academy!

Arriving at Khan Academy is like entering Willie Wonka’s factory. There are ping pong tables, board games, castles made of tea bottles, and all manner of techie people sitting about couches and desks, composing the future of education. Sal Khan himself walks around and even says hi to you. Whoa again.

wonka_ka

You set to work trying to pitch in however you can. You have a thousand grand ideas, but you never get around to one of them. Reality pulls you in, pulls you down, puts your nose to the grindstone. And you work, struggling to pull weight in a team much stronger than any you have ever worked with before.

hardwork

After month one your boss tells you he thinks you should present the results in front of the company. Your knees start shaking. Present these results to a roomful of geniuses that you still barely know? You would like to quit. But this is important, this is helping people, this is for the world. So you pull it together, and present it anyways. Throughout the whole , your voice is shaking and your hand is quivering. You move through it quickly, happy when it’s done, feeling like a flop.

hand quivering presentation

The next day Sal sends an email saying we should do something “a la the results Ben Haley presented.” Whoa again.

email shout out - 'gp ben'

The remainder of your internship is a similar sort of emotional roller coaster. You love it here and you want to help so badly which means you are continually self critical. Other people bring you out of it, encouraging you, correcting you, and pushing you.

roller coaster pic

And all too soon the end of your internship comes and there is this ultimate day where you will have exit interviews. You have no idea how this day will go. You have tried your hardest, but you realize that Khan Academy is hiring the best and brightest and you don’t know if you made the grade.

You realize it’s okay, though, because it’s not about you; it’s about other people. And here’s the wonderful thing about point 2. When you make your life about helping people you fight your ego and you align your thinking with the world. If Khan Academy hires you it will be to help the most people, if they hire someone else it will be to help the most people. And that’s what you want. You want Khan Academy to help people the most, with or without you.

with or without you

Of course, you are still massively nervous, until Jace pulls you aside and tells you that good news will come tomorrow. You are in shock. You walk around the parking lot at Khan Academy for an hour calling your family, calling your fiancé, giddy with excitement.

16 4 / 2014

Tom McFadden joined us at lunch this week…Tom makes science raps. Whatever you’re imagining regarding how fantastic lunch was…yea, it was basically like that. 

16 4 / 2014

The breakfast of champions

16 4 / 2014

This is how we party… 

This is how we party… 

02 4 / 2014

Señor Clippy is a new addition to our office thanks to a gift from Marcos’ friend. We feel an immediate attachment.

01 4 / 2014


Today Marcia blew our minds when she suggested putting store bought cookies in a toaster oven to maximize deliciousness. A research study has begun to determine the optimal settings for this new procedure. - Kyle

Today Marcia blew our minds when she suggested putting store bought cookies in a toaster oven to maximize deliciousness. A research study has begun to determine the optimal settings for this new procedure. - Kyle

01 4 / 2014

April Smarties

24 3 / 2014

"So you may have already seen the video of Spock making an Important Announcement…but you may have missed the moment where kamens did the Chicken Dance of Happiness"
- Craig

"So you may have already seen the video of Spock making an Important Announcement…but you may have missed the moment where kamens did the Chicken Dance of Happiness"

- Craig

19 3 / 2014

"I must say I’m very impressed by this starship" - Spock visits @khanacademy to announce the return of @divad12 & jlfwong

19 3 / 2014

Best. acceptance. ever.

14 3 / 2014

The best and most delicious way to celebrate Pi day: Homemade pie and fresh whipped cream courtesy Alpert, Tabitha and Kyle. Delicious, divine, delectable!

The best and most delicious way to celebrate Pi day: Homemade pie and fresh whipped cream courtesy Alpert, Tabitha and Kyle. Delicious, divine, delectable!

11 3 / 2014

Eye-KAtching fashion around the office: Jason and Alpert sport their “eduKAtion for everyone” t-shirts. They look gray-t!  

Eye-KAtching fashion around the office: Jason and Alpert sport their “eduKAtion for everyone” t-shirts. They look gray-t!  

09 3 / 2014

In honor of inspiring women all around the world, we highlight Khan Academy’s Paulette Altmaier, who leads our Education Partnerships team.

Read her story, reflecting back on her days from IIT-Madras as one of only 2 women. 

As I look back, there is no doubt that IIT-M was a defining experience for me. I came to IIT-M from an all-girls’ school, so being one of only 2 women in my graduating year was a very different experience. The downside was the ‘life in a fishbowl’ effect, with every minor activity at risk of being known all over campus! The positive side, which has been  a lifelong positive, was the wonderful peer group, and the confidence one gets from earning a place amongst the best, and being up to the challenge of keeping pace with the IIT curriculum and all those brilliant classmates!

IIT Madras was a very conservative place when I was there and it was hard to actually have friendships outside of Sarayu. Interestingly, once we came to the US, however, those loose connections became very tight bonds, and those friendships are some of the strongest and best I have ever had. I hope it is easier for you today to forge those bonds earlier, since they are a wonderful lifelong asset.

After I graduated from IIT, I came directly to the US on scholarship to do my MS. This was unusual at the time – very few IIT women came here until after they were married – I am happy to see that is no longer the case. In addition, a challenge my generation faced,  was that IIT was not the world-famous name it is today – it seems unimaginable now, but at the time, the top US universities considered IIT an unknown and obscure university. So we had to prove ourselves here, and in a sense, we had to create IIT’s reputation by showing what we could do.

Although the IIT years had challenges and finding one’s place in a university with so few women was not pain-free, I would not change that experience for anything. It made me the person I am today, and gave me the confidence to enter the high-tech world of Silicon Valley at a time when women were few and far between, and women executives pretty much non-existent, and to succeed on my own terms, combining career with a happy family life. My two daughters are also engineering professionals now, recently graduated from college, and I hope the professional world they encounter will be less challenging for them to navigate, as I hope it will be for all of you. We all build on the shoulders of those who went before.

After a career in high tech, which included running billion-dollar businesses and starting new ones, I have now transitioned to a new phase of my professional life, with a focus on giving back, specifically in education, at Khan Academy, the non-profit whose mission is to provide a free high quality education to anyone anywhere. Although I really enjoyed my high tech career, it is immensely satisfying to be able to work in high tech while giving back, and that too is one of the ongoing legacies of my IIT experience.

P_Altmaier2_HR

 Ms. Paulette Altmaier earned an M.S. in Computer Science from Syracuse University and is a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering/Electronics with Distinction from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

As Education Partnerships lead at Khan Academy, Paulette loves working with people who help students learn – in schools, colleges, foundations, after school programs, …

Before joining Khan Academy, Paulette held senior executive positions and enjoyed building great products at a variety of high tech companies including Cisco, Juniper and Dell.

She holds three patents in software and communications systems.