Hack Reactor Program Q & A

A reader reached out to me about my experience at Hack Reactor and I thought I’d share them as a Q&A with you all. Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments!

11/3/14 update: More questions and answers added!

Q: How did you like the learning experience at HR? I can only imagine how tough it is working 12+ hours daily for 12 weeks. What was the most challenging part of your experience at HR?
A: It’s tough to keep the hours, they advise that you shut down all other parts of your life except sleep and working out which I definitely agree with. The focus is what allows you to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. Paul Graham of YC wrote a great post about the importance of not context switching too much. Additionally, the support system here is amazing. There are plenty of resources around (the hacker in residents, industry professionals, alum, a senior class) and the fact that your peers are all so dedicated makes it easier to keep pushing.

Quick tip: It’s important to learn the process of learning to code rather than brute memorization, this will save a lot of time and make you a better programmer in the long run.

Q: Are you currently using the knowledge you learned at HR at your current job? Do you feel that you are at a disadvantage when comparing to your other colleague with CS degrees?
A: My current job is “shepherding” the next cohort which basically means I’m a TA for them. In addition, I’m working on Pawprint (see the last post) on the side which is primarily built in the tools we learned at HR. The knowledge from HR has been very useful to me and I my peers who went out to get full-time jobs feel the same, although you will get a lot more in depth experience once you are working with production code. A CS degree is a lot more theoretical, HR will give you hands on experience with modern tools but it’s not going to give you all the academic depth. I think of this as learning Excel rather than getting a degree in finance – you learn the tool and some basics so you can perform on the job but not much beyond that.

Q: I have only finished HTML, CSS, and Javascript on Codecademy so far, as well as the chat builder challenge by HR. What other prep would you recommend before I schedule my technical interview with HR?
A: This is what I did before HR: https://emilydee.com/2014/04/14/hello-world-how-to-start-programming/ I would recommend looking into some intro to CS classes to start building a foundation. A few of my peers also did the one I recommended in that post and we are all big fans.

Q: What made you want to do the program?
A: Like you I had thought about it in college but was talked out of it. Later on, I ended up working in tech and felt increasing need to understand the technical side of things so I started doing online coursework afterwork.

Q: Do you feel like you have a strong enough foundation of the fundamentals of coding with a program that’s so short in length? Do you feel confident enough in your skills after going through the program to say that you’re a developer now?
A: Yes, 99% of graduates go into full time engineering roles and most are pretty comfortable. As a developer you are always learning so its honestly never THAT comfortable but you do end up with the skill set of a very competent junior engineer. While 3 months is not a lot of time, the program is 6 days a week and about 14hrs a day so hours wise, its probably a full year at university

Q: Why did you choose this one over others? The languages you would learn? The instructors? Friends’ recommendations?
A: Javascript is the language, this is currently the only full stack language. I chose it because it has a reputation as one of the best and you get the most in class time. Having gone through it, I’m confident its the best program because they are always iterating on the curriculum. What I learned was more succinct and developed than the what the students got 6 weeks before me and the students after me got even more material than that.

Q: Did you get a lot of attention from the instructors or do you feel like you were learning and working more on your own?
A: Its a balance, the instructors give you more material than you can digest guaranteed – its up to you to learn it.

Q: Do you feel like it was worth it?
A: Yes

Q: Do you feel any discrimination about your talent or ability as a female? Do you feel as respected as your male coworkers in your current position?
A: No. The tech culture can be very very bro and at times but the boys at Hack Reactor are always very supportive and sensitive to the girls in the room. Overall its a safe place and if you ever feel uncomfortable there are plenty of people to talk to. I chose HR over a girls only program) because these are issues you will have to deal with if you become a software engineer anyway – best get started now 🙂

Q: Are you working at a completely different company now with a completely different position? What were you doing before?
A: I founded my own company, http://getpawprint.com/ and you can read about it in this blog post https://emilydee.com/2014/06/17/what-is-pawprint/
Prior to that I was a product person at LearnSprout (I was the 2nd employee there so it feels similar except this time I can program).

Q: How did you first learn about this program and how long did it take you to decide to do the program?
A: Learned about it through a friend, interview process was 1 month and I spent another 3 months deciding when would be a good time to leave my job.

Q: Did you have any engineer friends that voiced concerns or doubts about the program? Do you believe they were unfounded or that they had some validity?
A: Yes, there are many hacker schools and they vary greatly in quality. What you get from these programs (even the best ones) is not going to be the same as a 4 year degree. I equate it to learning excel and building a financial model then going directly into ibanking rather than doing an undergrad business program – you won’t understand all the theory but you’ll have enough to get you through the job and you’ll learn more along the way.

Q: How do you find the work that you do now? Fun? Boring? Repetitive? Challenging? I honestly have no idea what it’s like to be a developer and I’ve heard various differing accounts, so it would be nice to know what you think of it now.
A: I love it but its become very clear to me that this is highly dependent on personality. I’m not sure how accurate this is but I find that people who love logic puzzles and math generally enjoy it

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4 thoughts on “Hack Reactor Program Q & A

  1. Hi, I also came from finance and am trying to switch into web development :). I was wondering if you knew any NodeJs before applying to hack reactor? Would you recommend brushing up on javascript concepts or learning Node? I just learned Backbone and built a simple quiz app with Backbone and RequireJs, so I was wondering if you think I should brush up on my javascript or start learning Node? Thank you in advance!!!

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      • Wow thank you so much for the quick reply! Literally posted my first response one minute ago :). I only know html/css/jquery/javascript/backbone right now. It seems like you took that Mooc class, so I would assume it exposed you a little to working with the backend. Would you suggest I learn a little something about the backend before applying to hack reactor? Right now I barely know anything about working with the command line. I just know the front end stuff like Backbone, jquery etc. Thank you!

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      • The mooc i mentioned is amazing for learning cs fundamentals which will be extremely helpful, if you have time i strongly recommend going through it. A few of my classmates that really excelled took the exact one.

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