Last night at about 7:30pm, I saw a tweet from Twilio: “Tonight! Lightning Developer Challenge: Build an App for the White House.” Twilio does cloud communications, chiefly SMS and voice. Twilio’s API is one of my favorites to work with — it’s easy to use, very well documented, has lots of friendly and generally awesome people working there. So when I saw the challenge, I knew I had to do it.
The background: Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, was at Twilio’s offices yesterday as he announced the White House’s latest initiatives around accelerating underprivileged youth in technology. Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson proposed to Aneesh a lightning developer challenge:
“Using government database National Resource Directory, build a Twilio app by 8:00am PT tomorrow morning. Tomorrow at 1:00pm PT in San Francisco, Aneesh Chopra and Dr. Jill Biden will be at the Joining Forces Veterans App Showcase hosted by Code For America to recognize top apps built for our nation’s Veterans. On top of this honor, if you are available to attend the event and pass a Secret Service screening, Chopra promises you’ll be able to meet Dr. Biden.”
In a few hours, I finished my app: HeroJobs.org. The app is simple (as though it was created in… you know… a few hours): veterans can enter their Military Occupational Specialty (which refers to their military job duties), their ZIP code and cell phone number, and they’ll receive texts with new jobs that are near them and closely related to their military duties.
Entering an MOS of 31B (Military Police – Army) and a ZIP code in Oakland retrieves a list of security and management jobs in Oakland and neighboring cities.
Veterans face many problems when they return home, and finding a job in a tough job market and economy is certainly at the top of that list. The jobs presented to veterans from HeroJobs.org are from companies that have made a commitment to veterans, and the veterans get the advantage of knowing about the jobs first.
So, I submitted the app before going to bed, and I got an e-mail this morning from Michael Selvidge at Twilio telling me I won, and the day was awesome. I went to Code for America (which is an awesome organization in and of itself) and listened to Aneesh and Dr. Biden talk about technology and veterans, and I got to meet them both, along with Peter Levin (CTO for the VA) and Craig Newmark (the Craig from Craigslist). Jon Gottfried from Twilio was kind enough to show me around and invited me back to Twilio’s office for waffles and product demos. Twilio has an beautiful office (which recently grew because Practice Fusion moved to a bigger location) and plenty of friendly people.
I’m not sure if I’ll continue working on app or not, but it was fun to make and I’ll make sure it stays online and working so long as folks are using it.