Geoff Harcourt - CTO of Literacy Non-profit, CommonLit #48


Geoff Harcourt is the CTO at CommonLit, a literacy non-profit that provides reading curriculum services in English and Spanish to students and teachers around the world. CommonLit currently serves over 15 million students between the 3rd and 12th grades.

Before joining CommonLit he was a product engineering consultant at thoughtbot, where he worked with high-growth startups to help them tackle process and scaling problems.

He previously worked as CTO of Cortex Building Intelligence, a startup whose product helps commercial real estate operators reduce their utility use. Geoff began his career working in several product-side roles and transitioned to engineering after learning how to code on nights and weekends. He majored in history in college.

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Episode Summary

I want to work with people that are relentlessly curious. They don’t have to be a total expert at Ruby or Rails or PostgreSQL or the core technologies we use at CommonLit. But if I feel 6 months from now, their skillset will be even bigger than it was before, I think they can be a really good fit working with us.

“I was a consultant sort of acting like a fill-in technical cofounder for startups that didn’t have a technical cofounder.

For me to learn a technical concept, I have to use it in a project I care about the results of.

—Geoff Harcourt

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. What is it like working for an education nonprofit, CommonLit? Characteristics Geoff look for when building his team as CTO?
  2. Why project-based learning is so important for Geoff in acquiring new skills?
  3. How Geoff got introduced to coding by running a website for his fantasy baseball league?

Key Milestones

Additional Resources