Stacey was a veterinarian, but started coding little apps to help her with calculations at work. She found she really enjoyed coding so decided to make a career change! Stacey enrolled at women’s coding bootcamp Hackbright Academy in San Francisco to accelerate her learning and learn how to build useful tools for vets. Read the article or watch the video to learn about VetCalc, the amazing (and functional) app Stacey built for her Hackbright final project to help vets more accurately calculate drug dosages!
Tell me a bit about your career, your education background, and how your path led you to go to Hackbright Academy Bootcamp.
I’m a veterinarian. I met my husband at vet school, and he left to go pursue software engineering. I kind of had my eye on his career since then and he’s been absolutely loving it. I started dabbling in coding by making little things that would help me at work and I found that I enjoyed it! Recently, I decided to join Hackbright Academy and make programming my full-time thing. Hopefully one day in the future I can keep making veterinary software to help other vets in their work, too.
What made you choose Hackbright Academy, as a way to learn these skills? Did you consider other bootcamps, going back to college, or continuing to teach yourself?
Yeah, I thought about all of those things. I thought about going back to university, but after spending six years at university already, I wanted to stay in the workforce and make the change as quickly as possible.
I was already living in the United States, working as a veterinarian. I started researching US programming bootcamps and I actually had a friend who went to Hackbright Academy’s Hackbright Prep Course. I liked the tech stack, I thought Python seemed appealing, and the class allowed me to play in data and machine learning. I also liked the prospect of forming a network with other women who were coding. Course Report was helpful in my decision too! Now I’m attending the full-time in-person Software Engineering Program.
What was the application and interview process like to get in?
I had a behavioral interview first where we chatted, and I asked questions about what it was like to actually go to Hackbright Academy. Then I booked my technical interview for two weeks’ time. I studied technical questions until then, had the technical interview and passed that. The admissions process was very smooth. I did all of that from Australia, as well, and that was easy!
Tell me about the cohort: How many people are there, and what are their backgrounds?
Yeah! I think that’s one of the best things about Hackbright is the people you get to meet. The people in my cohort are just the best, they are amazing! There are 26 women in our cohort. People have come from social work, finance, journalism, and the health industry. Every student has such different reasons for why they’re here but also kind of similar in a way, which is nice too.
What was the actual learning experience like?
During the first half of the program, we had an hour and a half lecture each morning. Then we would go into a lab, and do pair programming where we have an exercise we do, and get assigned to different partners every day. Then we have a lunch break. We come back for an afternoon lecture and another pair programming lab session. We also have career sessions throughout each week, and check-ins to make sure we’re doing okay.
During the latter part of the course, the class ends up being more project heavy. We’ve been working on projects for the last four or five weeks. Here, we have a lecture in the morning which is more computer science focused or about tools we might want to use in our projects. The rest of the day is usually working on projects.
We’ve recently switched again out of projects and into more career-focused curriculum. For this week and next class time is more about getting jobs, interviews, and preparing us for the next stage of the journey.
Can you tell me about your favorite project?
My favorite is the project that I’ve been working on for the past five weeks. It’s called VetCalc and it is a dose calculator and social network for the veterinary industry where users can save, share, and calculate drug doses for animals.
Profile page: When you log in to VetCalc you end up on your Profile page where you’ve got all of your saved drug doses. If you need to get information about a drug quickly to prescribe it, you can search for it within your profile page.
Drugs page: If you haven’t saved a particular drug, or don’t have a preferred dose for it, you can go to the Drugs page. You can search for what you want, then click on a drug to see the textbook dose for that drug. You can then save a preferred dose to your profile.
Prescribing: When you’re ready to prescribe a dose, you click “Prescribe” which takes you to a dose calculator page. You can fill in the weight of the patient, the concentration of your drug, and then adjust how much you want. I built a range slider so that you can visualize how much you are prescribing. As you adjust it, the syringe fills up, which took me so long, but I’m so proud of it! If you don’t have a liquid, you can select tablets instead and use the range slider to see the tablet pieces. At the bottom of the page you’ve got a drug label that updates as you fill in dose information. Another feature of this that I love, is that it calculates the total number of tablets. When you’re happy with the drug label, you can text it to the client.
Other users: You can search through other users to see their dose preferences, and I’m hoping to add the functionality where you can search based on individual vets’ specialties. You can follow other users, and have easy access to their information.
Messaging: I added a messaging utility so users can message each other to get confirmation on drug doses or extra advice. It wasn’t easy, but I’m so proud of it now! I also gave it an infinite scroll using Ajax request.
Can you tell me more about the technologies you used to build your Hackbright project?
I wanted to try a bunch of different technologies with this, so it’s kind of an amalgamation of things. The big ones were:
Were all of those technologies covered in the Hackbright Academy curriculum?
No, I taught myself a lot of them. So, I tried to cover the Hackbright Academy curriculum by using a PostgreSQL database, Flask server, and Bootstrap. I tried to use the things we learned at Hackbright Academy, but I also wanted to challenge myself. We didn’t learn about the sockets; we didn’t learn about any of the animation libraries; or the trie data structure that I used to build the search bars.
Were you working by yourself mostly on this project?
We all work individually on these projects. We work on them for about six hours a day at Hackbright Academy and then everyone works on them for different amounts of time at home. I worked on mine a fair bit after school. I got addicted to programming and I couldn’t put my project down!
What are your plans for the future of the project?
I’m definitely going to keep working on this. The next thing is to change it so that there are real drug doses in there. You also can’t delete accounts right now, so that’s going to be another thing. And then making it mobile responsive. I’m hoping to release this project. I know that an app like this will be helpful to other vets.
How important do you think it was that you were able to work on a project like this?
Before being forced to work on a project, everything I was learning seemed kind of impossible. Honestly, when I thought of the idea for the project, I thought, “I’m not going to be able to do this.” This bootcamp project was extremely important in showing me that I can actually build something, teaching me how to build something, and making me feel like I can be a software engineer.
Can you tell me more about the career week and how Hackbright Academy is preparing you for the job search?
We have a bunch of guest lecturers coming in. The Hackbright team is teaching us about salary negotiations; about what questions to ask in an interview so that we can get a job that’s a good fit for us, rather than just a job; and also going through a lot of practice interview questions with us. With programming, the interview is technical and kind of nerve-wracking. We’re practicing those questions with other students on whiteboards and on computers. Sometimes, you get take-home challenges as part of job interviews, so they’ve given us some practice ones.
What are your plans when you graduate, aside from launching your VetCalc app?
My number one priority will be looking for a job. I want to work somewhere that is going to be supportive, has a great culture, and will help me learn as quickly as I can. It would be fantastic if I could find something that could fit with my background in vet. But the most important thing to me is the people I work with. I’ll worry about the mission of the company later in my career.
What’s your advice to other people who are thinking about doing a coding bootcamp like Hackbright Academy?
Definitely, for me, bootcamp was the right decision. Before the Hackbright Academy Bootcamp, I was slow in my learning. I thought I couldn’t do a lot of things and Hackbright Academy showed me that I could. I think the bootcamp has been invaluable in filling the gaps and holes that I couldn’t get to when I was trying to learn by myself. I couldn’t have learned as quickly as I have or build what I’ve built without the bootcamp. This project would’ve taken me years.