Introducing Hollie Lambert, Software Engineer at The Graide Network


Hollie Lambert joined The Graide Network as a full time software engineer in January, 2019. You can read more about Hollie’s first month at The Graide Network on her blog, or keep reading to learn more about her.

Where are you from and how long have you lived in Chicago?

I’m originally from the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. I grew up in the jungles of Puna which was one of the main areas covered in lava during the 2018 Kilauea eruption. I attended the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and majored in Women’s Studies, focusing my studies on gay, lesbian and trans-identity issues, sexual assault prevention and reproductive justice.

I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2018 to attend Fullstack Academy. After graduation I was selected for a fellowship and remained with the software engineering program for three additional months as a teaching assistant. I’m currently experiencing my first polar vortex (also known as Chicago winter) and missing the sunshine.

What drew you to join The Graide Network?

I was homeschooled as a child and attended a public high school in Hawaii with over a thousand students. I spent most of my childhood reading as many books as I could check out from our local library and entering writing contests for short stories and poetry. I participated in a young writers club and posted my creative writing online where others could review it.

As a high school and college student it was often difficult to get that detailed, actionable feedback on my writing because I was in such large classrooms with so many other students. When I learned what The Graide Network’s mission is I immediately recognized the problem, and the company itself was exactly what I was looking for - a startup that is having a positive impact on the world.

What unique skills or perspective do you bring to the team?

I grew up in several different countries and had the fairly unique experience of being homeschool which gives me a different perspective on education. I spent five years working for the Hard Rock Cafe interacting with dozens of people every day which taught me excellent communication skills and how to remain calm in high pressure situations.

As a software engineer, I’m at the very beginning of my career which means technically I have an infinite amount still left to learn. I was also briefly in a circus as a child so if our team is ever in need of unicycle riding abilities or aerial fabric acrobatics I’m here to save the day.

What are you most excited/interested to work on?

The best part about being early in your career as a software engineer is that currently everything is interesting and exciting! In my first few weeks I’ve been focusing on getting familiar with the tech stack that we use because it’s different than what I’ve worked with before. I’ve written unit tests, updated linting issues, fixed bugs and constructed SQL database queries for our internal Metabase dashboards. I’m currently mostly working on behind the scenes stuff and I am looking forward to building features that our Graiders and teachers will use. I enjoy observing and participating in the real world product development of something that provides value to others.

What do you hope to learn in the next 6 months?

In the next 6 months, I hope to get a solid foundation in the front and backend technologies we use. In my first week I felt like I wanted and needed to learn everything at once which was unrealistic. I currently feel comfortable figuring things out independently and then asking for help when I need it but hopefully I’ll continue to get better and better at debugging issues on my own. I’d also like to understand our product and company more holistically and be able to contribute more during our meetings.

What do you like to do for fun?

On the weekends I’m usually hanging out in a coffee shop or in a thrift store. I can spend an entire afternoon listening to podcasts while hunting for hidden treasures in thrift stores. I try to read at least fifty books a year, mainly nonfiction. I like going to yoga classes in the morning and attending interesting talks after work, usually focused on tech or feminist issues.

Meet Our Newest Team Member

Meet Eileen Dominic, the newest addition to The Graide Network family. She'll be taking over as Member Success Manager this summer. You can learn more about her journey as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow and her work at Citizen Schools Illinois. We're so excited to have her onboard and hope you'll join us in giving her a warm welcome!

The National Writing Project Radio Show

The National Writing Project Radio Show

Listen as The National Writing Project hosts a wide-ranging discussion of the power of The Graide Network as an instructional tool, the importance of effective feedback, and the value of experiential learning for pre-service teachers. Featuring Brophy College Prep English department chair John Damaso and all-star Graider from University of Illinois-Chicago Sumaiya Qazi.

Modernizing Legacy Code at The Graide Network

Modernizing Legacy Code at The Graide Network

"While this process is still in progress, we’ve made considerable headway in the past couple months. In the rest of this post, I’ll outline what we’ve done to modernize our legacy codebase at The Graide Network, and hopefully this will help other developers who have inherited outdated or untested code."

Our Week at Camelback

Our Week at Camelback

Camelback Ventures is a fellowship program and seed fund that supports local entrepreneurs who are creating social impact, specifically entrepreneurs of color and women. Diversity is a criterion. In the venture capital world, just 2% of funding goes to black and Hispanic entrepreneurs and 8% to female entrepreneurs. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to close this gap, and Camelback is leading the charge. Learn more about their amazing work!

Education + The Sharing Economy


A Reflection on Education Marketplaces

I recently had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at 1871 about how marketplace models (think Uber, TaskRabbit, AirBNB) are making waves in education. Expertly organized by Educerlerate, Inc., and generously sponsored by Pearson, the panel featured some heavy-hitters in the Chicago ed tech scene, including Admissionado,, WyzAnt, and Mntors. I was honored to partake! My fellow panelists and I had the opportunity to give insight into our businesses, discuss the potential of the “sharing economy” on the future education landscape, and answer some important questions around what it means to be an education marketplace and where to go from here.

In recent years, the sharing economy has come under attack for a whole host of reasons. Critics claim it’s largely unregulated, disrupting existing industries, displacing conventional jobs, eliminating labor protections, and trivializing the concept of “sharing”, to name a few! What quickly became evident when listening to the panel, however, was that these companies were decidedly not the “Ubers of education”. In fact, the panel uniformly rejected that association. For the companies mentioned above, and for The Graide Network in particular, a guiding principle is the use of technology to create meaningful, mutually-beneficial, human-powered connections, networks, and relationships that never previously existed. The end result is additive, not dismissive or diminishing.

Moreover, it became palpably clear that the education marketplaces on the panel differed from traditional marketplace models in another meaningful way: the scales are balanced. When you think of the average marketplace model, you tend to think of companies who connect individuals with disposable income to individuals who need disposable income, and most of these companies, at their core, are far more focused on the former. Of course, you need both sides for a marketplace to function, but when it comes to company mission, value proposition, sales and marketing efforts, and customer service, the focus is (almost) always on the paying party. What I heard time and time again from the panel was a resolute belief that both sides of the market are key stakeholders, deserving consideration and support. This certainly holds true for The Graide Network. In every decision we make, we consider the impact on and needs of our teachers, our Graiders, and of course, the students, and we work tirelessly to support all three. It is the foundation of our business and critical to our mission. I felt especially proud of The Graide Network that night. For many education marketplace models, it is a constant and ongoing challenge to work towards closing the education gap. Hiring private mentors and tutors is not an option for most low-income households, where oftentimes the student need is greatest. Companies providing these private-pay platforms have come up with creative and thoughtful initiatives, such as flexible pricing and scholarship opportunities to support and reach these underserved communities. The Graide Network, however, operates in almost exclusively Title I and high-needs schools, where urgency to build college-ready skills is critical. We give support to the teachers who are at the greatest risk of burning out, and we empower students who don’t have access to private support outside the classroom. To us, the sharing economy is a democratizing force and we are excited to be pioneering new and meaningful applications in education.


Elizabeth Nell is the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of The Graide Network.