How does a Financial Intelligence Analyst become a Software Engineer? For Dan Svorcan, it took thorough research, self-confidence, and a lot of prep work before he even started the Software Engineering Immersive at Hack Reactor. After being surrounded by engineers in Silicon Valley and realizing he wanted to pursue his childhood tech dreams, Dan enrolled in Hack Reactor Prep to start his journey. Learn about Dan’s ReactNative thesis application and how he prepared for Hack Reactor’s full-time Software Engineering Immersive.
What were you up to before you attended Hack Reactor?
I studied Competitive Intelligence and Music. My first job after college was here in San Francisco. I worked as a financial intelligence analyst at a bank not too far from Hack Reactor headquarters. I worked there for about a year and seven months before I started Hack Reactor.
How did you go from working in financial intelligence at a bank to then deciding that you wanted to learn how to code?
I’ve always wanted to work in technology. As a little kid, I was always more interested in opening up my battery-powered toys and seeing how they worked than actually playing with them. Putting them back together was also a fun challenge. I also spent some time coding in college. I took a Java class, and from that moment I knew I wanted to be a software engineer.
Since coming to San Francisco, I've met many software engineers. Their stories inspired me to pursue my passion for building software, so I started doing research on the best schools out there, and Hack Reactor kept reappearing. With my background in intelligence, I did thorough research to verify that Hack Reactor was the best option.
Did you try to start learning how to code on your own before Hack Reactor? What resources were you using?
Yes, definitely. I was using Code School, Codecademy, and FreeCodeCamp, among other things. My main segue into Hack Reactor was Fulcrum, an earlier version of Hack Reactor’s paid prep program. As I was finishing Fulcrum, Hack Reactor started offering the free Prep course and I enrolled to get more practice before my admissions interview. There were over 150 exercises to practice on along with great tutorials on how to prepare for the technical interview.
So you had already done prep work, why did you decide to take Hack Reactor Prep?
The main feature that drew me to Prep was a team of software engineers that reviewed every line of code I wrote for certain modules (chapters). I sent my code back and forth, up to five or six times until my formatting was correct, or until my code was small and modularized enough that it was easily reusable. These days, I still follow those rules when I write code.
Prep also offered mock interviews, which were amazing because nothing can truly replace the live interview experience. I think that having multiple mock interviews before my technical interview was very helpful, and made the entire process a lot less stressful.
To summarize, the human interaction and the mock interviews are the best parts of the prep program.
Since Hack Reactor Prep is online, how did you communicate with instructors and mentors?
There was a dedicated Slack channel for student/instructor communication. There was constant interaction with instructors, especially when we were learning about code formatting, readability, and modularity. For example, the main task would be to find the longest palindrome, but the solution would not be accepted until code was properly formatted, easy to read, etc.
What did you actually learn in the Prep course? How did Prep position you for the Software Engineering Immersive application and interview process? Do you think you would have gotten in without all of the prep work?
I learned a lot, but I think two most important things were how to better prepare for a technical interview and how to write clean code.
I truly believe that all the prep work (especially the mock interviews) had a great impact on my interview performance and admission into the Hack Reactor Software Engineering Immersive. The prep program was designed in such a unique way that every step of the way I felt more prepared for the interview.
How did Hack Reactor Prep prepare you for the actual Software Engineering Immersive?
I was offered admission into the software engineering immersive before I completed the prep course, so I had made a tremendous amount of progress even before the course was over. For example, I’m still using some of the skills I learned during the prep work (e.g. clean and modular code). Additionally, everything I learned in the prep program was later multiplied and enhanced during the software engineering immersive.
Tell us about a typical day in Hack Reactor’s full-time Software Engineering Immersive.
On a typical day, I get here around 8am, and I start doing either some quick coding problems or continue where I left off yesterday. At 9am, the day starts with a 15-minute kickoff and maybe a lecture, depending on the day. Usually, there’s a Toy Problem after the kickoff. Toy problems prepare students for technical interview problems during the job search.
How have you liked this bootcamp learning-style so far?
Hack Reactor is very different from any other school really. I was expecting something similar to college-style learning, where students attend a lecture, then learn more on their own before taking an exam. Hack Reactor doesn't work that way; it’s way more efficient.
During the first six weeks of the course (also known as Junior phase), we had lectures regularly– but instead of simply learning what was presented, we went beyond the lecture material and then applied it. Each lecture had a corresponding sprint, which is a technical challenge structured to reinforce a topic or technology (e.g. Angular, React, MySQL, etc).
During the second six weeks (Senior phase), there are fewer lectures. Instead, we work on projects that tie together everything we learned up to that point, and more. We focus on teamwork, larger scale of the applications, and efficient workflow.
Do you have a favorite project that you're working on now? Tell us about it!
Right now I'm working on my thesis application. My team and I are building an app for iOS and Android using React Native.
We're building PixPlorer, an interactive tour guide app designed to help travelers explore new cities. Let’s say you come to visit San Francisco; you’d probably want to see cable cars. Our app gives you a list of things to see or visit, so once you find a cable car, you have to take a photo of it and it will get checked off your list. The app uses image recognition to verify you took a photo of the cable car, and geolocation to determine which particular item needs to be marked as complete (e.g. California Street cable car vs Powell Street cable car). The app will be deployed soon so feel free to check out my GitHub page and the demo video. Some of the technologies we’re using for the app are React Native, Redux, Google Firebase, Google Vision, Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, MySQL, Bookshelf, MongoDB, Mongoose, Mocha, Chai, etc.
What’s your goal for after graduation? What types of jobs will you be looking for?
I’d like to focus on full stack software engineering roles after graduation. I’ve worked on every part of the stack, and I find it really exciting and rewarding to work on both front and back end.
What's been the biggest challenge for you on your journey to learn how to code?
My biggest roadblock was probably believing that this was possible. There are numerous articles about impostor syndrome in the tech industry where people who are really great engineers somehow still doubt themselves. Hack Reactor teaches not only technical skills but how to resolve all doubts and eliminate the impostor syndrome.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about switching careers, and thinking about attending a coding bootcamp?
There are really talented people out there that never go to a program like Hack Reactor because they have doubts. Yes, you do have to quit your job, pay for school, be out of work for three months, and then spend some time on the job hunt after graduation. But doing something you're really passionate about is worth every risk. I'm excited to get to work every single day and I would recommend Hack Reactor 150%.