Hack Reactor is self-admittedly not a "0 to 60" course, it is instead a "20 to 120" course and expects successful applicants to have some background in coding (either professional or self-taught). Boasting a 98% graduate hiring rate, Hack Reactor places alumni in mid-to-senior level positions at companies in tech, including Google, Salesforce & Microsoft, with an average graduate salary of $104K.
Recent Hack Reactor News
- Meet Hack Reactor Full Scholarship Winner Josh Hickman
- Your 2017 #LearnToCode New Year’s Resolution
- December 2016 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup
Recent Hack Reactor Reviews: Rating 4.58
- Around half of our students receive help in financing their Hack Reactor journey. We work with lending companies that understand the investment you are making in yourself. Pave, Skills Fund and Climb all offer pre-approvals, so that you can have a loan secured upon acceptance to the program. WeFinance is a crowdfunding platform with a dedicated page for our students.
- Payment Plan
- Deferral program available
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Computer science and programming background required
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Approximately 30 hours
Hack Reactor Remote
- Payment Plan
- Applicants who would otherwise be unable to attend Hack Reactor may split their tuition into installments and finish paying a portion of tuition up to six months after graduation.
- Limited number of half-tuition scholarships
- Minimum Skill Level
- Some computer science and programming background suggested
New York City
- Around half of our students receive help in financing their Hack Reactor journey. We work with lending companies that understand the investment you are making in yourself. Pave, Skills Fund and Climb all offer pre-approvals, so that you can have a loan secured upon acceptance to the program. WeFinance is a crowdfunding platform with a dedicated page for our students.
- Payment Plan
- Deferral program available
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Computer science and programming background required
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Approximately 30 hours
- Around half of our students receive help in financing their Hack Reactor journey. We work with lending companies that understand the investment you are making in yourself. Pave, Skills Fund and Climb all offer pre-approvals, so that you can have a loan secured upon acceptance to the program. WeFinance is a crowdfunding platform with a dedicated page for our students.
- Payment Plan
- Deferral program available
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Computer science and programming background required
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Approximately 30 hours
- Payment Plan
- Deferral program available
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Computer science and programming background required
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Approximately 30 hours
- Payment Plan
- Deferral program available
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Computer science and programming background required
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Approximately 30 hours
Hack Reactor Reviews
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Let’s begin by getting the dirty details out of the way to relieve some curiosity. I’m going to attempt to give those who are looking for an honest and insightful review a full understanding of my perspective, so they can possibly make an informed decision about their future. I’d first like to present some facts about me, since it seems to be relevant for the sake of context when reviewing the opinions, perspective, and respective nature of those providing reviews provided here or anywhere for that matter. My name is Richard Boothe, I attended Hack Reactor in Austin during the cohort of 2016 that went from February to May. During my time as a student I decided that I’d like to be a Technical Fellow/Hacker in Residence, and thus went on to do so at the New York campus from June to September of the same year. After my time at Hack Reactor it took me 5 weeks to find a job in web development, my salary is above the average of Hack Reactor graduates.
As of the writing of this review, I am working for both Ksquare Solutions Inc. and also the Boy Scouts of America in Irving,TX as a Senior UI Developer/Software Engineering Contractor respectively. I am 33 years old and before attending Hack Reactor was a bartender/bar manager for 10 years. Hopefully that’s enough info for you to find me on LinkedIn if you’d like to ask questions or just want to absolutely know I’m not a fake person like a majority of the anonymous one-star reviews seem to suggest.
My experience in regard to software and web development prior to Hack Reactor was limited entirely to Team Treehouse, Code Academy and Coderbyte. I had discovered that I really enjoyed the algorithmic nature of solving problems and was tired of my career behind the bar, so I began researching bootcamps and university options two years prior to my time as a student. The majority of programs at that time were advertising a 0-60 acceleration in learning, meaning having an absolutely zero amount of knowledge in the field of web development to knowing enough to get a junior level job. Meanwhile Hack Reactor advertised an education that would accelerate future web developers with a 20-120 acceleration, leaving their graduates at a mid to senior level upon entering job search. Furthermore, at the time none of these programs offered outcomes assistance besides Hack Reactor, which was a selling point for me for the obvious reason of avoiding retreating back to the bar scene after investing the admitted high cost of a bootcamp like program. I decided completely against the idea of investing in a University program upon realizing it would cost me a minimum of $80,000.
I decided on Hack Reactor for a seven reasons.
- First, I looked at the reviews on sites like Course Report and Google just as you are today.
- Secondly, I appreciated the honesty that was provided in regard to the level of understanding in coding/analytical thinking that was necessary to attend and succeed at their program, I will address this further later.
- Fourth, their is an emphasis on acquiring soft skills and learning to pair program. This skill has provided me with an enriched ability to communicate in an amicable and concise manner with my peers at work that has absolutely helped me advance quickly in my career.
- Fifth, the continued enrichment of the program keeps the topics fresh. I’ve read a few of these reviews that speak about how some of the instructional videos are old. Yet the concepts and the technology hasn’t changed in the last two years, at all. I'll discuss ES6 momentarily.
- Sixth, Hack Reactor enforces the basics first. This is the entire reason for the first six weeks.
- Seven and most importantly, Hack Reactor provides a community feel that inspires a drive to learn. This was crucial to my success during times when I felt overwhelmed or frustrated with my progress.
As a prospective student, an actual student, and later a Hacker In Residence, I never felt that any of those reasons were abandoned or less than what was originally presented.
Hack Reactor is *NOT* a bootcamp for students looking for an easy ride into a six-figure job, it never has been. Furthermore, it is not a program that one can easily jump into without prior experience and exit with a maximum gain. For this reason I warn anyone attempting to game the admissions program that you are doing yourself a huge disservice. If you review some of the poor reviews, you will notice a trend that most of those students providing 1 star reviews had failed the admissions program several times, or had ‘memorized the admissions requirements’ rather than take the time to learn the concepts that are recommended for admittance.
It took me a year to get to a point where I felt confident enough to take the admissions interview, and that was after performing self-study with the concepts of conditional statements, scope, closures and higher-order functions. For those that gamed the system and feel cheated, I feel sympathy for you but also wonder what you expected when time and again the expectations presented before admittance and during the cohort were that you needed to have a fundamental understanding to succeed. The reason Hack Reactor focuses so heavily on fundamentals to reinforce the understanding that students should already have is to insure that more advanced topics like frameworks, API creation and consumption, data manipulation, and database structures can be taught. FYI, the admissions system has been changed to avoid unknowingly allowing students into the program that are not yet ready. So while learning the concepts of higher order functions such as each/map/filter/reduce is great and will help you be a better developer, memorizing how to type those functions out without knowing the reason for the code will probably be a waste of time.
My thoughts on the program overall are great obviously, I rated everything five stars across the board for a reason right? The instructor Gilbert answered any and all questions I ever had about the content of the curriculum, and always did so humbly and with patience. My Technical Mentors/Hackers In Residence were always willing to help me reason about toy problems, or help me find break-throughs in my understanding. Of course there is the chance that I got lucky with a great group of folks as mentors and instructors, but given the nature of the Hack Reactor program, and my experiences at two separate campuses, I highly doubt it. Linden, my wonderful and amazing counselor was a godsend at times I felt overwhelmed and disheartened about my self-confidence in regard to my own progress. The support of a student counselor is one that is not mentioned very often in regard to the reviews on Hack Reactor and it should be, this role is crucial to the students having an ear to speak to and a voice to listen to. Shout out to Jeff in NYC for being equally amazing!
During my time as a student I decided I wanted to be a Hacker In Residence as I have always enjoyed teaching, and also wanted to enrich my understanding of more advanced concepts in web development. This decision, which frustratingly, insultingly, and inaccurately has been posted in prior reviews was not due to a lack of ability to acquire gainful employment, but rather a desire to teach and further my understanding in advanced topics related to web development. The Hacker in Residence program is something that students apply for during their time as students, not during their job search or after they "decide they can’t get a job". If you are reading this and decide to attend Hack Reactor, I highly encourage you to apply for this position as it is incredibly rewarding on so many levels, I’ll spare the details as that’s a different topic all together.
Lastly, the community that I still engage with today is one that continues to grow and flourish as I carry on with coding and my career. I am extremely grateful and proud of the accomplishments I have achieved because I am aware of how difficult the task was, and is. And with that I’d like you to keep that in mind when making an investment in Hack Reactor, as with any life changing decision for yourself. Most things worth doing of any magnitude are not simple, or easy, or quick. Don’t try to cheat the experience. If you really want to invest in something, attack the goal with a hundred percent. Please reach out to me if you’d like, and thanks for reading the novel ;)
I'm going to let you all know that I was 120% skeptical about the whole coding bootcamp experience. I mean, how can anyone expect to come out of a 3 month bootcamp with enough knowledge to be a mid or senior level software engineer? And how the heck did Hack Reactor skew their numbers to get such insane statistics?
Who I am:
- Business major in college coming from reputable and decent paying account manager type jobs
- Questioned if I was good at coding because I'd never done anything remotely technical besides some math, econ, and stats
The Bread and Butter of this Review:
- The remote experience requires intense self-discipline, but the curriculum is so well structured that you will definitely feel the pressure to be present and be on top of your game.
- Software engineering and programming is all about learning to be independent and figuring out creative solutions to the problem. I kid you not, I think i spent half the time during coding on Stack Overflow or becoming a pro Googler.
- Programming is not cookie cutter - it's like a language so sometimes you can express it in ways that aren't great, but still get the job done. Therefore, you will often find that the 2 day sprints in Hack Reactor don't necessarily explain solutions exactly in the way you want it. However, they really take a lot of time to explain methodology and do walkthroughs if you are struggling.
- You have to bust your butt every day. This is a unique time period in your life if you choose to follow through with the program. It's only 90 days long. Do whatever it takes and learn the material.
I got a job before my program even ended at an awesome company doing fullstack software development (senior to midlevel) and I didn't even know how to program a year ago:
Many of cohortmates have already gotten AWESOME software engineering jobs in line with Hack Reactor's statistics. If you are remotely competent and feel like you need someone to give you guidance and help boost your career towards something you really feel passionate about - DO HACK REACTOR.
I attended Hack Reactor (at the time still MakerSquare) from April to July of 2016. I then stayed on 3 months longer as a fellow, but this review will only focus on my student experience.
At first my research focused on traditional higher education. CS master's programs, mostly. However, I had little desire to do research or otherwise re-enter academia, so the value of a traditional graduate degree did not at all warrant the cost for me. Eventually, a serendipitous browse through alternative options led me to coding bootcamps, and eventually MakerSquare which had a campus conveniently located in my hometown. My honest first reaction to their claims (and the tuition) was “yeah, right.” I binged on all reviews, good and bad, before deciding to go the self-study route. Besides, I was already a developer. What could a costly 3-month program teach me that I can’t learn for free on the internet?
Fast-forward a year to early 2016, and I had barely gotten off the ground. I had more responsibilities at my old job and had little residual willpower to learn web on my own. Sure, I convinced myself a few nights a week to put in a couple extra hours and work through online tutorials, but it was a half-assed effort at best. At that point I realized I was missing a few key factors: accountability, structure, and a collaborative environment. I finally admitted to myself I'm the kind of person who needs the pressure to thrive and learn. That’s when I decided to go for it. After all, it's exactly that kind of environment HR seemed to be good at providing. Another major selling point for me was the networking potential. In my experience the tech industry is smaller than you think, and making many new connections can prove helpful in unexpected ways.
A recurring theme you’ll notice in coding bootcamp reviews is that you get out of it what you put in. This applies to Hack Reactor even more so because of the volume of information coming your way combined with the ambitious 3 month timeline.
I soon learned that head start was marginal, because the course hits the ground running with only a few intro lectures to get you acquainted with the staff, facilities, etc. After that you jump right into alternating between lectures and partnered assignments (sprints). In fact, the entire first half consists of sprints spanning a couple days each. Again, it’s easy to hit information overload in this time - your brain can only absorb so much - but building as solid a foundation as you can prior to starting can make all the difference in how well you understand the assignments. I used the help desk sparingly, but when I did need it I found it sometimes slowed me down more. I took the route of trying to figure it out myself unless I was truly desperate. But even when you do put in a ticket, there’s a chance your fellows (who just finished undergoing the program themselves) might not know the answer either. In the end, I always managed to find an answer either from fellows or others in my cohort. This wasn’t the case for everyone, though, and a common complaint is that fellows aren’t as knowledgeable as trained instructors. I didn’t share this frustration, because having a background in development has taught me that’s how the industry really is. You’ll sometimes get feedback on what to do, but it’s mostly up to you to figure out how. Overall, HR specializes in fostering this kind of “struggling" environment, and not necessarily one where answers are readily and conveniently available the moment you get stuck. As a result I learned how to form better questions to ask and where to find certain information, both essential skills in any highly technical position.
The second half of the course revolved entirely around group projects. What app to build was entirely up to us. HR did the grouping for us in an attempt to keep skills/proficiencies balanced across teams. It’s during this time I held the most grievances as a student, but mostly due to group/people dynamics which is largely out of HR's control. The silver lining is that learning to work with difficult people is in itself a valuable skill. Another grievance was that there was less structure/accountability in this half of the course. How much you can accomplish largely depends on how motivated/focused your group is, which can also stem from how exciting of a project you choose. As for choice of project, it was entirely up to us. It ended up working out for my groups, but I felt a little too much time was spent picking and scoping a project so that it was achievable in the given time. I wished they'd offered a list to choose from for groups who didn't necessarily have an idea off the bat. Finally, once we did choose a project, I felt there was little staff/instructor interaction. This wouldnt have been a problem except that I had to constantly split my time between project management and programming when I would have preferred to just do the latter.
The reason I didn’t dock any stars is the fact that the HR curriculum is not set in stone. It’s constantly evolving and adjusting based on student feedback, and it’s one of the reasons I admire the program so much. In the time I stayed on as a fellow, I personally saw all my grievances addressed along with any new ones raised by subsequent classes. Instructors (and even staff) began taking more of the project management role, freeing up the students to just code. Also, they began to provide a pre-defined list of projects for groups who didn't want to come up with their own. Regardless, I still came out of the second half having built complex apps from front to back that I could show off to employers and even study before coding interviews. In fact, it’s the proficiencies I gained working with the frameworks for those projects that helped me get hired quickly. So all in all, the group work was well worth it and a crucial part of the curriculum despite the few shortcomings.
Finally, I'd to mention the HR staff. Opinions vary wildly but in the end, I came out of the course feeling like every single person on staff would go miles out of their way to help me out, whether it be the instructors, administration, fellows or hiring team. I could tell they cared and believed in the program, so much so that they'd do their absolute best to ensure you get your money’s worth. But again, much of the work and learning is up to you in the end, and that can affect your perception. When I had grievances about the group projects, the administration took detailed notes and refined the structure for the next cohort. When I had difficult technical questions, the fellows would spend as much time as they could spare sharing what they knew, even if they didn’t have an answer on hand. When I needed general career advice, even the instructors would set up a 1v1 with me and spend hours of their time sharing their own experiences and suggestions. Then of course there’s hiring. I expected that making such a drastic career shift would mean I’d have to start over as a junior software engineer. Instead, I ended up being able to translate most of my experience from the hardware world with just a bit of careful wording on my resume. I was able to land an ideal position at my #1 choice within a couple of weeks of entering the job search. Some of that success was due to a lucky connection, and some due to the extended depth I gained from staying on 3 more months as a fellow. Regardless, the hiring team was in lockstep with me throughout each step of the interview process, helping me review what went well, what to communicate, and even how to negotiate an offer. I tend towards overcommunication as you can tell by the length of this review, yet they were more than patient with me. In short, there’s nothing I learned in the course that wasn’t relevant in the job interviews, and in fact I was able to blow my interviewers out of the water because there was little hesitation answering technical questions.
If you spent the time reading this whole thing, then I can only assume you’re on the fence about undergoing the program. While it’s easy to just say “go for it,” I’d rather suggest that you first separate the questions “do I want to be a software developer?” and “how do I become a web developer”? Hack Reactor will be a major asset in answering the latter, but the former is one you'll have to figure out on your own before you take the plunge.
Though at times imperfect, the HR curriculum continues to evolve, refine, and balance between employer and student needs. The elasticity of the program helps to ensure it’ll only get better in the long run. The first half is overwhelming and will spread you a mile wide and only an inch deep with the intent of providing comprehensive exposure. The second half, however, gives you the opportunity to dig deeper in a smaller set of topics and build practical resume fodder. And all the while, you have a motivated staff guiding you each step of the way.
Overall, the program worked as advertised for me. I put in my all and then some, so I feel like the value received in return exceeded my expectations. I’m now working at a wonderful company in the city I wanted to live in, at a better paying and more interesting position than I had under a year ago. I've successfully shifted my career and am way more excited about where it might take me. I also made numerous connections with both existing and future developers along the way, all who I’m better for having worked with and hope to work alongside again in the future. There isn’t a career goal I set that HR didn’t help me achieve, so it’s safe to say this investment paid off big time and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
I cannot recommend Hack Reactor more strongly to anyone who wants to get into full stack software engineering, but isn't quite ready to get a job yet. If you're able to get into the program, and willing to put in a lot of effort over three months, it's a terrific accelerator.
People may have been different levels in terms of background knowledge or familiarity with coding concepts, but one of my favorite things about the program was how smart and motivated my peers were. A lot of the work in the program is project-based work, in pairs or groups, so having really awesome peers was just as important to me as having great instructors.
I did the program over the summer, when it was still called MakerSquare, and then continued for another three months as a teaching assistant, during which time MakerSquare, owned by Hack Reactor, went through a re-brand process to bring MKS under the HR name.
As a graduating TA, my job search experience is a bit different than other students', since I have more experience (and a few months more of skills) under my belt, so you can take my comments on my job search with a grain of salt if you like :)
As a TA, you start work while the rest of your cohort goes into their "Career Week". Then at the end of your TA period, you join the Career Week of the cohort that's graduating at that time. During career week, you get a lot of help developing your resume, cover letter, practicing interviewing, discussing salary negotiation tactics, etc. Asif was our on-campus outcomes staff member, and he's awesome.
About half of my cohort (which graduated at the end of August) is employed by now. Maybe a bit more; I'm not sure exactly. Some folks get jobs right away, especially if they really hustle (one guy only had one month left on his visa, and got a job offer from a sponsoring company within that time). Of the four of we TAs who "graduated" a couple of weeks ago, I have an offer already, and another one of us is employed (by another one of our cohort-mates, actually).
I'll explain my ratings a bit:
- Overall Experience: It was really fun, challenging, and I came out of it able to build complex web applications from scratch. My job prospects are great. What more could I ask for?
- Instructors: Very smart, and very good at teaching.
- Curriculum: Top notch. The projects were very well designed to introduce us to important concepts we'd need to learn.
- Job Assistance: What I think HR does really well: Giving us guidance about our portfolio; helping prepare us for interviews. What could be better: Doing more to connect us to companies. I can't completely speak to this, though, because my job search so far has been so brief, and so hurried because I've had a very quick process with a couple of companies. I know HR does offer some resources, and I haven't had time to look into them and figure out how to use all those resources. I would have given a 5 score if the HR partnerships team had proactively reached out to me to try connecting me to partner companies.
I was surprised to learn that there are only a handful of Canadians that decided to attend Hack Reactor. I feel like a lot has been said about the general experience of the program so I thought I will write about my experience in hopes of helping those of you from out of the US whose thinking about attending.
I was very hesitant about choosing Hack Reactor at first and did extensive research before I decided it was the choice for me. I can't speak about other countries, but there were other coding bootcamps around the area I was living that was definitely a cheaper alternative. The reason why I picked HR over these other cheaper and closer alternatives is that the HR curriculum covered significantly more content in a shorter amount of time than any of its competitors (where I lived). If you are looking for a program that's there to push you to get the most done in the least amount of time, HR is the right place for you.
The second biggest thing that I was very worried about was whether the whole remote experience will live up to the onsite experience. Now that I have completed the remote program, I am really glad that I didn't decide to move to SF to attend the onsite class. Not only will you be saving a lot of money since you won't need to rent a place in SF but you will be working out of the comfort of your own home. For me, this was a big plus because I get to stay close to family and attending class just means rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class started! I also really enjoyed the recorded lecture because it allowed me to speed them up, rewind, and rewatch them anytime I wanted. But what about not actually seeing your classmates and instructors in real life? To be honest, I have made some amazing, life long friends that I didn't expect to make. I don't think that strong bonds between people are formed from just being in the same room together.
One thing I do have to admit is that being outside of the US, the amount of support you will be getting during the job search will not be as effective. You will most likely be facing a completely different job market and not everything you learn during job search will be applicable in your case. With that being said, I still believe that technically, HR prepares you very well to enter the job market, no matter where you are from. My biggest resource during the job search has been the HR alumni network, where you can get insight about your job market from HR grads who has gone through it before you.
This is just my prespective on the remote program and it might not be for everyone. I advise you to do your research before making your decision but don't be afraid to take the leap!
Tldr; Hack Reactor provides the curriculum and the right people (motivated and smart) for you to learn web development concepts in pairs and by yourself. I can only speak of the staff in the SF office, but they were both experienced and helpful, although anyone expecting to be a software engineer should get comfortable with directing their own learning (aka not leaning on staff to figure questions out unless you're really stuck).
Going into Hack Reactor (HR), I wanted to learn to code as quickly as possible and to try to get to a top tier company. I chose HR because I know I wanted an intense / all-day everyday experience, and looking on LinkedIn I found that HR had way more graduates at top tier companies (Uber, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Stripe, etc.) than other bootcamps.
Within the first week of attending, I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of my peers. They were more motivated and experienced than I expected, with several having graduated with Computer Science or Mechanical Engineering degress, and a couple having prior industry experience. Given that Hack Reactor is largely pair programming with your peers, they made a huge difference in how much I learned each day.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the curriculum. It provided some direction, while letting us figure out the key concepts via code. In my experience, the only way to really learn coding concepts is to code them yourself, and then recode them. After finishing the curriculum the right way, and reviewing the concepts you didn't understand (by recoding them), you should be able to do both.
When deciding on a bootcamp, it matters what your best alternative option is. I'll lay out the decision in my eyes from those perspectives as well.
1. Bootcamp or self-study?
After having gone through the program, I think that the people and curriculum in particular make a huge difference in the rate of learning. While it's conceivable that you could learn tht much on your own, you would need to be dedicated enough to work 10-12 hrs a day for 6 days a week, find your own curriculum to learn the key concepts, and to have smart and motivated peers to bounce your ideas off of every hour or two. If that sounds daunting, then Hack Reactor may be a good way to get the right structure to learn.
2. Hack Reactor or another bootcamp?
Several bootcamps suggest that they can help get you a job in software engineering. I read up on what the student experience was actually like, and saw that some of the bootcamps clearly had more intense experiences than others, which from my experience leads to more learning. Additionally, LinkedIn searches confirmed that only a couple of the bootcamps actually had graduates working in large numbers in software engineering.
Note: you should expect to get guidance on the job search, but realize that you will not be at the bootcamp for most of your job search, and will need to stay motivated / focused enough to find a job.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Hack Reactor. To give some background, I recently graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and I wanted to get into software engineering. I considered either getting a masters in CS or going to a bootcamp. I chose to go to a bootcamp because I wanted to be with a group of like-minded people during the learning process (+ get a job), rather than just finishing the courses required by my university. I think it was a good choice.
My favorite part of the experience was the people. In college, I had a lot of situations where studied on my own, because I couldn't find like-minded people with the same desire to learn/etc. This cause a lot of stress, exhaustion, and low accountability. At Hack Reactor I was learning with and from a group of encouraging, smart, and positive people for over 11 hours a day. This made the whole learning process stress free and maximized the number of hours that I was learning. I stayed until 10-11pm everyday because I wanted to keep learning. This was in contrast to college where I felt exhausted and stressed after a couple hours, took a lot of breaks, and wanted to be done ASAP.
I learned a lot, but I can't say that for everyone. You get what you put in during the time you are at the program. Hack Reactor can help you build the right community to be productive (there is some luck of the draw, since your cohort may/may not fit your vibes). But the amount of knowledge you acquire during that time is all up to you.
Hack Reactor was a truly unique experience and I can't think of a better way to get into programming if you had no background in CS. As a student, I stayed there past 10 PM almost every day because I just didn't want to leave. I was surrounded by very intelligent and motivated individuals and that really pushed me to work harder than I ever did.
If you are unsure about the program, you can message any of the grads on linkedIn and I'm sure they'd be willing to answer your questions. Or you can message me. I definitely don't think it's for everyone, but if you're the type of person that would enjoy going to (winning) a math competition or something, you'll love the place.
I graduated Hack Reactor recently and it was a great experience for me.
I have to say up front, if you are looking for very detailed long lectures on various topics and step by step instructions to teach you how to do everything, then you will not get what you imagined. The whole spirit is to learn by struggling and solving problems and form a logical and systematically way to approach unknown issues like a software engineer. You will spend most of the time working on problems with your fellow students, especially in the second half of the program. Support was provided to guide you not to give you answers.
Also the contents of the program were not the most recent releases. For example, Angular 2 was released recently, but it was not taught in the program because the program only taught you popular technologies that the job market is looking for. In this example, AngularJS is still more adopted than Angular 2.
Overall, you will be pushing yourself to learn the technologies and you will get what you put in. I am very satisfied with what I have accomplished.
I really enjoyed my time at Hack Reactor. I was surrounded by smart, hard-working people, which was wonderful. In addition to specific programming concepts and technologies, they taught intrinsically valuable skills such as how to learn a new technology. Now, I'm confident that if I get a job using a technology I'm not familiar with, I'll be able to learn it quickly and effectively.
My biggest complaint is the lack of job assistance. They spend a week at the end of the course giving advice on resume, interview prep, etc., which is definitely a positive thing. However, once the course is over, they kind of just sent me out on my own and said "good luck getting hired". I wish they would have provided some connections to companies or at least give me a nice list of jobs to apply for.
They also made it clear that having Hack Reactor on one's resume is not a huge benefit. Coming in, I was thinking that the "degree" from Hack Reactor would be worth something on its own, but apparently that's not the case.
If you enjoy coding and are willing to work really hard, Hack Reactor will be maybe the most intense, rewarding 3 months of your life. People come into it from all kinds of backgrounds and the curriculum is such that if you can think analytically and put in enough effort, you'll make it through just fine and come out with an insane amount of knowledge and skill.
Also, the people. I've met and worked with some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, fascinating people that I've ever met and I expect to stay friends with them for a long time. As a girl in STEM (I studied math in college and have worked in all technical jobs) there's always a bit of apprehension going into a mostly male working environment, but Marcus stressed on day 1 that any sort of bad attitude toward minorities would not be tolerated, and HR ended up being one of the most fair, supportive environments I've ever worked in. (I say 'worked' because the second half of the course basically feels like you're at a job).
As others have mentioned, there's a technical assessment half-way through that you have to pass to move on to the second half of the course. I think people worry about this more than is necessary. If you work hard to master the material during the first 6 weeks, you'll probably be fine.
Its been about 2 months since I graduated from Hack Reactor Austin. I am currently working as a full stack engineer at a great company. I pretty much got all that I wanted.
It hasn't been easy tho, just getting into the program requires dedication and hard work. The program itself is super intense and there were tears and stressfull moments, but in the end it really prepares you to hit the ground running on your new job. It is incredibly helpful wether its learning fundamentals, learning how to learn or preparing you for the job market and it is worth every penny. I had my doubts when I was first reading the reviews about 6 months ago because it sounded too good to be true. I know my review sounds super positive but if you work super hard and you have passion Hack Reactor is the way to go.
I went through the prep program in Austin, TX, then the immersive bootcamp, then worked as a fellow and I have nothing but amazing things to report from the experience. You learn more than you thought to be possible in only 13 weeks time, and the curriculum and overall experience is perfectly aligned with what you need to succeed as an up-and-coming software engineer. The curriculum is constantly iterating based on the job market and feedback from students and graduates which makes the whole expreience a lot like it really is in the work force and ensures what you're learning is very relevant. I believe really makes Hack Reactor really stand out from other bootcamps. Now at my first job I am regularly amazed by how much the bootcamp has prepared me not only to ace the interviews to get the job but also to know what to expect out of the industry and how to handle it.
While it was very challenging work I felt supported the whole time and I learned more than I would have studying by myself for years. It's not only technical knowledge you gain, but working on real applications in a team environment (a big part of the experience you need to land your first job which would be impossible to achieve through self study). Staff at Hack Reactor truly wants what is best for each and every student that passes through the school, and the interview process helps to make sure each class is full of driven, smart, nice people that you will want to work with for 13 weeks straight.
If you put the work in you will absolutely learn the skills you need to ace a job interview and excel in the industry, and I can't imagine a better bootcamp with regards to the culture and the curriculum (and for me the location of Austin which is amazing).
I was sick and tired of my high stress, thankless, engineering career and had a calling to learn to code. I applied and got accepted to the Austin bootcamp. I took a leap of faith by quitting my high paying job and moving to another state, but it was the best decision of my life.
The entire experience was challenging and exciting. I learned more in three months than I thought I ever could. This bootcamp was the real deal! One month after graduation I landed my first software engineering job which paid more money, had a way better company culture and was a lot lower stress than my old job. I actually look forward every day to going to work and interacting with my kickass coworkers. The value of actually loving your job cannot be overstated!
The key to understanding Hack Reactor's philosophy, and by extension the positive and negative reviews seen here is their guiding principle of teaching you to hunt instead of spoon feeding the program to you.
In classical education, subjects and materials are feed to you in a perscribed order where you later regurgitate them on a test or prompt. The course is meant to completely encompass ALL material for the course. However, real life and developer jobs aren't like that at all. Every day you come to work you don't know how to do your job. You are paid to figure it out, build things no one has before, and find solutions.
Hack Reactor takes a different approach toward creating engineers. One, where everything you do is in real world, developing skills that you will use every day in your job. There are no safety nets like classical education, there are also no tests or grades like in classical education. The course is NOT all encompassing, like in any dev job (I've had several) you have to look for outside resources. Maybe you can't understand the material from a tutorial, so instead you look for another that helps you grasp the material better.
Failure doesn't mean you have to retake the course to keep your GPA high, it means you need to go back and get better at what you had a hard time in. At Hack Reactor, failure is to be celebrated, because you've found your absolute limits and with your classmates and a little guidance YOU can overcome them. It doesn't matter what your GPA is or how much you've memorized when programming, what matters is that you have the skills to either build it or figure out how to.
The double edged sword of continous course refinement. You get the LATEST tech to learn that is relevant to the industry. But there were some hickups with videos and lectures. Still 4.5/5
Helpdesk was hit or miss, I ended up going my own way and feel that my debugging skills are better because of it. I also learned to take everything with a grain of salt. 4/5, day to day instructors went above and beyond every time.
The Job assistance has been fantastic. I graduated HR and am in the job search, and feel I have the skills to negotiate effectively. I won't always have the support net of HR, but their team has given me skills so that in the future I won't need it. 5/5
I had a great experience that really transformed me and propelled me on the path I wanted to go. I would highly recommend Hack Reactor. 5/5
Can you learn everything they teach for free(ish)? Absolutely, the developer community is amazing like that. Free tutorials, guides, documentation and tools are provided everywhere. But let me counter with why would you skip the course to learn on your own? Think of learning to fish. You could buy a pole or even just get some string and a stick and teach yourself to fish. It would take a long time but it's free right? On the other hand you could shell out for a fishing book, learn where the fish will be, what bait to use, techniques etc. You learn to fish at an excellerated rate because you are getting all the lesson you would learn in a fraction of the time. That's what tech courses are selling you, not knowledge, but time.
They provide little/no help for job search, and the school doesn't give you enough to get a job after. Completely false, I have interviewed and seen hired people with a fraction of the experience and tech ability that HR gives you. But I understand, I'm in the same boat as you guys, looking for a job and it's tough. Hack Reactor is not a be all, end all development bootcamp. Nowhere will teach you everything you need to know, not even your job. Instead you learn the tools necessary to build yourself up.
You only get what you put in, HR does little to teach you, it's mostly the other students that help you learn. As with everything in life, you only get what you put in and your mileage may vary. I learned a lot from my peers, I also learned a lot from the instructors who are there at every step to take extra time to help you understand the concepts being taught. You will not be spoon fed material and you are encouraged to strike out and learn on your own. There's a review about how Hack Reactor is misleading with less than 800 hrs of coding. I don't know about you but I experienced easily over 1000 hours of programming. If you put in the bare minimum you get the bare minimum.
You will not be spoon fed information, tests, everything an employer could ever want, and a job. You are given a spear, shown how to use it and told to go hunt.
I read through the reviews on here a few days ago, and while I definitely agree with some of the criticisms, and have made some of the same criticisms myself, I arrived at the end of Hack Reactor onsite with an incredible appreciation for the work that everyone put in, students and staff included, and a sense that it is going to turn out well. I am just starting the job search, so we'll see, but I am glad I did the program, but it was rough -- and I say this as someone very experienced in working my ass off for crazy hours.
HR doesn't do a great job of deciding who to let in, and there is a huge disparity in ability and previous experience among the students. HR kicked three of our cohort out, and I'm not sure how many from the other floor. This was after at least four left voluntarily earlier on in the course because they were worried about failing the mid-term exam and getting kicked out and losing all their tuition. (HR has to keep their job placement stats up, so they don't graduate anyone who doesn't seem like they are going to get good jobs.) Apparently the current junior cohort is in danger of losing a lot more students. If you are a really fast learner, you can come in and get through the course without knowing more at the outset than they require for admission. However, it is going to be really painful and scary the entire time. Most of your fellow students will have worked with servers and databases before. Many will have worked with React or Backbone. If you have not done any of these things, be prepared to be overwhelmed. It is worth your while, if you want to get the most out of the course and have the best job prospects afterwards, to learn more than the bare minimum required to be admitted. Being good at algorithms and toy problems is important, but it's not what the bulk of the material is, and you'll be well served to learn a little more of the nitty gritty before diving in. Wait one more cohort than you think you need to and go through some full stack tutorials. Skip the CSS and JQuery. You'll barely use this at all at HR. Know the other stuff, the stuff they tell you you don't need to know in advance. At HR you will teach yourself a lot. This is only going to work for you if you already have enough knowledge to know where to start with that.
I really came to appreciate everyone in my cohort. There's a real sense of community, especially in the second half of the program, after people pass the exam and know they aren't getting kicked out. It's a total sausage fest, and there's definitely an annoying amount of competition among the boys at times, but there's also an enormous amount of humor and camaraderie. It's a program that is definitely worth your while, as long as you approach it in a smart way. Learn more than you think you need to know, more than they tell you you need to know, and you'll get a ton out of this course.
I recently finished Hack Reactor Remote and am leaving a review about the remote experience specifically. I originally planned on attending onsite HR, but job/ personal circumstances didn't let me move to attend the course. So I enrolled in remote with a little trepidation- my goal in attending HR was to grow really fast as a software engineer and to be constantly pushed to be better. I wasn't sure if a remote course could motivate me in the same way as seeing my classmates in person.
I was wrong.
REMOTE IS AWESOME! There is a distinct culture in the remote program and it feels intensely social. Even though your classmates are all over the country (we had one guy in Europe too) you still feel closely connected with them and you're together 12 hours a day in lecture, pair programming, and hangouts. You know how being in a constant groupchat/ snap session with your friends feels like you're always with them even though you're in different cities? HR Remote is like that, except you're getting things done, and your classmates are always pushing you to be better (in a super nice positive way).
Before starting HRR, there were 3 areas that I was concerned about that I'd like to address in my review- CULTURE, LEARNING, OUTCOMES.
Hack Reactor purposefully has a very positive atmosphere. Everybody supports each other and I never felt weird asking a classmate to jump on video chat with me to help me work through a problem or technology that I knew they were a superstar in.
Even though you're distributed, through chat and meetings you quickly get a good idea of everyone's personality and interests. That makes it easy to find people who share your specific programming interests to pursue topics together. Hack Reactor students are really committed to being good web developers and will pursue various topics they're interested in outside of class (i.e. functional programming, 3D canvas animations, systems programming languages) and the culture of exploration is infectious.
The course is challenging at times and both the staff and other students are awesome at cheering you up and getting motivated again.
We graduated with a lot of good in-jokes (which is a good sign of a close knit team).
I was a self-taught programmer for 9 months before starting HR and one of the primary reasons I wanted to do a bootcamp was that I felt that I wasn't moving fast enough by myself. I'd work on Udacity courses, or projects from online tutorials and then I would hit a place where I WOULD BE STUCK.
Prior to HR, I would try to solve my problem, inevitably get frustrated, and generally take a long time to move past my obstacles. After HR, problems no longer last that long. I have the confidence that I can learn new paradigms, look up Stack Overflow, and learn new frameworks without getting stuck.
There are previous negative reviews of Course Report where a student complained the Hackers in Residence (the TAs of Hack Reactor) would just tell them to Google a solution to their problem. Well...yeeaaah- how else do you expect to find an answer?
Don't go to Hack Reactor if you would want an answer handed to you everytime you get stuck at a bug. These aren't the droids you're looking for. The staff will be very good about jumping on a call with you, talking over the problem space with you, and offer helpful suggestions about where to look for a solution. They won't just tell you the answer.
The magic of Hack Reactor isn't in the course material. It's high quality and always iterating to stay close to the current state of web tech. However, in my opinion it's only like 10-15% better than stuff you could find online for free.
The value of Hack Reactor is all the training in how to solve problems, and not giving you any slack when you'd rather be handed an answer. It's the classmates who will help solve problems with you. It's the thrill of discovery when you finally get your code to work and you've learned new in the process.
Regardless of whether you do a bootcamp, I would argue the most essential skill for a developer is to be able to view a bug as a learning opportunity to learn new paradigms or to correct a fundamental misunderstanding.
This is one of the most important metrics when evaluating a bootcamp, and one of the fuzziest. When I applied for HR, the hiring metrics seemed unbelievable to me and I think they may create unrealistic expectations for applicants.
The short answer is yes, you will almost for sure get a software engineering job somewhere within 3-6 months of graduating a program. It may not be the ideal job, but it will be a place that you can develop your skills.
I think a lot of the negative feedback comes from students' expectations not being met. Going from not programming at all to working at Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Facebook after three months of Hack Reactor is not a realistic goal. Yes, it's possible for certain students with prior experience and certain students who work their @sses off- but it's not the expected outcome.
The expected outcome is you get a decent job at a dev shop somewhere, and if you really care about working at a unicorn, you can interview there after a year. I would argue that the Hack Reactor marketing doesn't make the expected outcome clear and it leads to some disappointment.
That said, even though I just graduated, I feel very prepared for the job search. For the handful of applications I sent out last week, I've gotten past a few phone screens and got past a coding challenge (to build a Node server in a few hours) sent by a company.
Hack Reactor is not magic. If you're not completely committed to being a developer, it's not 10x better than just learning on your own. Its value is that it puts you in an intense environment with other committed classmates where you can quickly develop the meta-skills that will make you a good engineer. What you do with those skills and how you leverage them into getting a job is mostly on your own (with staff support).
I chose Hack Reactor because I wanted a challenging program where I could accelerate my learning. There is no credential or diploma that you get at the end, but I do feel much more confident approaching the job search and learning new things. I continue to view myself fundamentally as a self-taught developer, but Hack Reactor was an accelerator for my personal progress (kind of like young startups going through YC- not guaranteed success, but you learn a lot and get good networks).
If that is your goal and you can afford it- Hack Reactor is super worth it.
I just graduated from the Hack Reactor onsite program last Friday, December 9th.
Don't expect to be spoon fed instructions while you're here. If you want to passively absorb lectures all day long and be told the answer to everything, Hack Reactor probably isn't the right boot camp for you. At Hack Reactor, the vast majority of the day is spent making stuff with cool people, and that's where the learning happens.
The people are one of the best parts of Hack Reactor. We had a friendly, collaborative group of students working round the clock to make each other better. I'll keep in touch with lots of them long past our graduation. The environment and energy here are unparalleled. It makes you want to get shit done.
At Hack Reactor, I learned at a rate that far exceeding what I did during undergrad at UCSD or while getting my master's degree. But don't expect it to be easy. Don't expect it to always be comfortable.
Expect it to be hard. Expect it to be stressful when you're trying to meet a tight deadline. Expect it to be frustrating when things don't work. Expect it to be immensely gratifying when they finally do. Expect to meet 40+ bright, motivated, like-minded people. Expect to spend 11+ hours a day programming, 6+ days a week. Expect to learn a ton.
If you're worried about the validity of users' posts here, I'd recommend that you search for Hack Reactor alumni on linked in and reach out with some targeted questions. Most of us are friendly ;)
Hack Reactor is a demanding 13 weeks of hard work, but if you put in the time it pays off beyond all expectations. I went from a guy obsessively pouring over google/quora/course report reviews and working on code wars prompts, to attaining proficient skills across the full stack in just 3 months (it is a real thing). In Hack Reactor, the name of the is exposure and they do an incredible job of introducing you to the universe of software engineering in a remarkably short period of time. By the end of the course, you'll find that you have learned how to learn and all you really need to pick up any new language or framework is a couple of days and some docs. If you're on the fence about joining, get off of it and do it already. You'll make great friends, great products, and come out on the other side ready for a career change into the lucrative field of software development.
I can't speak on behalf of HR Remote that has received a lot of recent hate, but my experience at HR Onsite from Sept - Dec of 2016 was fantastic.
HR's Most Valuable Assets to me
Instructors and Staff: 5 Stars easily.. to name a few
- Josh: Really really smart and compassionate. Makes sure no one falls behind, provides additional lectures or 1on1s, and genuinely cares about every students' success.
- Benji, Zak: Helped me out tremendously especially right before the cumulative assessment. Gave 1on1s, advice, additional lectures, and kept me on the tracks to success.
Location: 5 Stars: Easy commute.
Environment: 5 Stars: HR does a great job picking out people that can get along with each other to spend 13 stressful weeks with.
Self Autonomy: 5 Stars: I don't have that mentality anymore where I look at the problem and tell myself "I don't know how the ***k to do this"
Things to improve:
Job search prep: I wish we were able to have more than just a couple of mock coding interview sessions with an instructor. If there was an additional week of practicing alogorithms, schemas, data structures, and anything else that would show up on an interview, HR would be about perfect.
Toilet Paper: I hate 1 ply.
Live Lectures > Recorded: Our class was fortunate enough to receive a lot of in-person lectures (scheduled and unscheduled) and even one from the co-founder of npm, Laurie Voss. Make sure to keep it this way.
Take advantage of the resources provided and you'll be in good hands.
One misconception I can maybe address
"Hacker in Residence are recent graduates who couldn't get jobs"
From what I saw, many of the top students in my cohort were the ones that became Hackers in Residence. Extremely knowledgable and were usually the ones to go to to ask a quick question.
If anyone wants an honest answer, shoot me an email.
Walking into hack reactor I was skeptical that it could live up to the hype. It seemed way too good to be true. I can assure you it is even better than anything that you could ever expect.
Over the 3 months I was able to transform my skills from basic coding challenges into being fully capable of building any web application that I want. They build your skillset to be able to pick up any framework or language - and the stuff our cohort built was quite incredible. We had a mixture of vr apps, mobile apps, and web apps.
I thought it would be gruelling with such long hours. But I never felt like I was working. It felt like I was with some of my closest friends solving puzzles all day. I didn't want to be anywhere else in the world.
So if you're in doubt. Take the plunge, you won't regret it.
I came to Hack Reactor to learn how to build full stack apps and not simple front end websites. And at every level Hack Reactor has given me the knowledge and training I need to build amazing things.
At Hack Reactor, I built:
- Mobile applications (https://github.com/smartiecereals/glazedgallopers)
- A photo-sharing virtual reality app (https://github.com/lowtalkers/escape-reality)
- A trip planning collaboration tool (https://github.com/smartiecereals/glampr)
All of these were made using technologies that are being used at startups and big companies right now. Before Hack Reactor, the most I could make was a to-do list website using simple jQuery and after Hack Reactor I was able build virtual reality apps with multiple backend technologies. The difference is evident.
But, they don't just teach you programming, they also teach you how to learn, how to communicate, how to collaborate in a team and how to apply for jobs.
I highly recommend Hack Reactor to anyone who is interested in software, looking for a career upgrade or anyone who wants to start a technology company.
Thank you for listening!
Before I begin my review, I want to mention that I signed up for Hack Reactor not to seek engineering jobs, but to build my own startup projects. You can say that every review on here is a subjective assessment of HR. But since I don’t need anything from Hack Reactor after graduation (you know, things like job search support, recommendations, etc.), I feel my review is as impartial as it can get. Judge for yourself, of course.
Hack Reactor is the Navy SEALs of coding schools. Navy SEALs is wonderful. But Navy SEALs is not for everybody. Neither is Hack Reactor. If you are driven, self-reliant, have a good head on your shoulders, and are prepared to go the extra 100 miles and more, Hack Reactor is your school. If you want work-life balance and are more comfortable having teachers spoon-feed you, or if you think by paying an expensive tuition you’ve somehow “paid the dues” and can just expect magical success thereafter, then look elsewhere. (Actually, if you are the last kind, no need to look. No school will fit your bill.)
The admission interview for me was a drama-free event, because Fulcrum gave me a pretty efficient roadmap as to what to prepare for the interview. I also had the incentive to prepare hard, because their policy was if I didn’t get accepted by one of their schools, I wouldn’t get my Fulcrum tuition refunded.
The remote classes are all conducted online of course. I said “classes”. But actually you don’t spend too much time listening to a teacher talk. Most of our time is spent doing things, i.e. coding. This is something you don't get by just hacking together a study plan with online tutorials. Coding is an activity you learn by actually practicing it, not by watching someone else do it. And the HR's framework gives you the maximum hands-on opportunity to practice actual coding with challening, realistic projects.
For the first half of the curriculum, the schedule is broken down to mostly two-day sprints. On the first day of a sprint, you get the instructions about what you are expected to code/build. After exploring the problem on your own for a short period, you get together with a classmate (your sprint partner) and start writing code. You communicate with each other through video conferencing and share your code through an app that allows you to write to the same file online realtime. On the second day, after you’ve tried as much as you can at your tasks, HR releases suggested solution codes for the sprint. You study those. The day after that, the same process repeats, with a different coding partner and sprint subject.
HR provides some materials (e.g. videos) about the specific frameworks/concepts you should know in order to work on a sprint. But you are expected to go find whatever materials you need on your own to get the job done (e.g. googling, stack overflow, online tutorials, blogs, tips from your classmates, proceeds from selling your soul. Ok, the last one probably won’t help you much). You get some support from the help desk, which is manned by recent grads. But most time you won’t be given straightforward answers even if your helper knows the answer. You’re expected to problem-solve as much as possible on your own.
Now depending on your personality, this could be an unpleasant and chaotic experience (apparently the case according to some negative reviewers). Or it can be an exciting and efficient way to learn. You’re constantly being thrown in at the deep end and feeling like you’re drowning much of the time. At least that was the case for me, especially during Weeks 3-4. But I LOVED this style of learning. I loved the challenge, the autonomy, the discovery, and the fact that I’m in control of my own learning, all within a well-defined framework, so that I don’t proceed blindly while still having plenty of freedom. And the pressure to finish the sprints on time keep me on my toes all the time so that I really have to pick up new information at the maximum speed. Is it stressful? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Is it amazing? YES!!
Again, I think how well you would take this learning approach depends on who you are. For example, there’re some negative reviews on here that said HR videos were not good, HR materials are not original, HR didn’t teach you enough, HR course hours are less then they claimed, etc. Here’s my reaction to those critiques. 1. Frankly I skipped half of those course videos. Because watching videos is slow and I prefer just googling some tutorials up fast so that I could get to the sprint. Those videos may be mediocre. But so what? You’re not supposed to get all you need from the HR materials. And to me, HR strikes a good balance between giving you directions and teaching you to be independent. You’re expected to find whatever materials that suit you to crack the sprint. 2. Same thing goes with the “they don’t teach you enough” claim. Guess what? HR taught me very little, except they taught me how to learn programming (my googling skill was improving at warp speed). And because of that, I learned what I needed on my own quickly. 3. As for course hours, I don’t see why that’s relevant because in HR I was spending 13 hours a day coding anyway, official course hour or not. Nobody tells you how much you should work in HR. It’s all about what you produce.
The bottomline is that your personality and values will determine your expectation for yourself and for HR, and that will determine your outcome. That's why if you decide to apply, make sure you're well prepared with at least the JS fundamentals and preferably went through, say, Free Code Camp, and built a toy app BEFORE you join HR. (Free Code Camp is a good pre-course for HR. I went through most of it before HR, thought I learned a lot, and then realized HR was on a whole different level.) You may cheat your way through the HR admission. But if you're not prepared enough, you'll struggle a lot because the curriculum moves fast. So do yourself a favor and come prepared. Otherwise you end up wasting your time in HR and wondering why you're not getting your money's worth! If that happens you have no one else to blame but yourself!
Not everyone is sufficiently prepared in my cohort or takes the HR learning approach well. By the halfway point there were several people dropped out from my cohort, voluntarily and involuntarily. Every time our class counselor announced a dropout, I would hear the Hunger Games theme music playing in my head (the one they played when a tribute went down). It’s not that far-off an analogy, except in the Hack Reactor Games, you don’t kill each other. You help each other instead.
This brings me to the next thing I want to tell you about— your classmates. My classmates are amazing people. And I suspect when I look back at this experience a few years from now, my classmates would be my biggest reward from HR. Although they are from all walks of life before joining HR, they share some commonalities— smart, determined, multi-talented, hard-working, extremely kind and helpful. And hilarious, too. I don’t remember another three months in my life when I had laughed so much every day, despite being under constant pressure to perform. And that is what HR surprised me the most. With the classes being remote, I hadn’t expected to build much relationship with fellow students. But after three months, the kind of community and bonding that had emerged from my cohort was nothing short of amazing. If this site has an option to rate “communities and peers”, I would have given it 10 stars!
If you ask any MBA graduates from Ivy League schools, many of them will tell you that the most useful thing they got out of their MBA is not academic knowledge, but a network of successful peers. I don’t think the tech industry is all that different. Having worked with my classmates, I have no doubt that many of them will be rising stars in their future jobs and become successful engineers. I’m proud to be their classmate. If I had paid the HR tuition just to gain this peer network of talented engineers and nothing else, I would have considered my money well spent!
There were a couple reviews on this site that mentioned “you learned more from your classmates than from HR”. For those reviewers, that was a negative thing. But by now, I’m sure you can already guess my position on this. That’s right, I learned a lot from my classmates. And I can’t be happier about that.
And finally, the result. I can’t tell you much about job search, because as mentioned, I did HR to build my own projects. And also, my cohort just graduated yesterday (Dec 10th 2016), and job search has just begun for most of my classmates. What I can tell you is that one person in my thesis group got hired already, for a job that pays >$100k, two weeks before graduation (He’s a smart guy, but had little coding experience before HR, and is definitely not top of class. He has great personality and people skills, though. And that’s quite important in job search). I’m not saying his case is the norm. It’s NOT. I just want to tell you what is possible.
Again, whether HR is for you depends on the type of person you are. The same experience can be perceived in different ways. How do you find out which type you are? That’s easy. You’ve read my review. I gave you my most honest opinion from my perspective. You’ve also read some of the negative reviews from former students. I trust they gave their honest opinion based on their perspective as well. All you have to do is to look within and see which perspective you can most naturally identify with. That’s your type right there. Good luck!
I attended Hack Reactor because I was unhappy with my current career path and wanted to break into the software engineering industry. I feel confident in saying that HR has thoroughly prepared me for this transition in a way that no other experience could. It is easy to be put off by the seemingly outlandish success statistics and the high cost and the short time. I know these were all red flags for me at the outset. What I have found, though, is that HR is a well-polished program run by passionate educators with a deep understanding of the software industry. It's not a free ride to a great job, but if you put in the work, you end up with a solid set of skills and a newfound appreciation for the power of good education. I never thought that I would learn so much in so little time, and I definitely didn't think that I would feel so ready to learn new topics. Beyond the core curriculum, the greatest thing you gain from HR is the ability to learn new software topics on your own. It's not for everyone, but if you think it may be for you I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
As a former mechanical engineer, it's in my opinion that one of the most important skill sets every engineer needs is autonomy. Hack Reactor does a great job of building your autonomy. As you move along through the curriculum, they systematically remove more and more scaffolding until you're building full stack applications on your own and solving real engineering challenges.
The staff is great, and they all have invaluable industry experience. The lecturers have a commanding knowledge of the curriculum and they practically beg you to ask questions because they want everyone to understand the material. The mentors, coaches, and counselors are all very eager to help out. In only three months, they build a relationship with you where you feel like you're part of a family.
Some of the previous low-ratings on Course Report are a little confusing. The tone of some of these reviews reflect feelings of neglect and animosity. I'm not sure why this is because the Hack Reactor staff are very upfront with the program's intentions, and their business model is directly tied to the success of their students. Because of the transparency of their SSOM standards, there really isn't any way around this.
I had a great experience at Hack Reactor. I received the guidance that I wasn't getting from self-study, I learned to push myself further than I thought was possible, and I made some life-long friends along the way. That being said, you'll get what you put into it. There is an endless amount of information out there. They teach you to explore new concepts, and they challenge you to go beyond the core curriculum.
That was my experience at Hack Reactor, and I hope my review helps others get a clearer picture of what Hack Reactor life can be like.
Our latest on Hack Reactor
What were you up to before you applied for the Hack Reactor Scholarship?
Did you find that music and audio engineering was similar to programming?
Why did you decide that a coding bootcamp was your best option to learn programming? Did you consider getting another college degree?
I've been self-teaching for about a year, so this is something I thought about for a while. I briefly considered another degree, but I knew it would take too long. Plus, I felt jaded toward the university experience after getting my BS. To me, the risk to reward ratio of a coding bootcamp made sense – being pushed extremely hard while learning to code for 3 months and then getting the results that Hack Reactor publishes felt like a great deal. Originally, I thought I could work in a finance-related role at a tech company and horizontally pivot into a technical role, but I found I was getting burnt out coming home and learning for five to six hours, all while handling a day-job. I’m hoping my experience at Hack Reactor will fill in any knowledge gaps that I may have as I make a final push to get into an engineering role. Additionally, I realized that I needed the intangibles that a bootcamp could provide – the immersive structure, and the network of instructors and other passionate students who share the same objective as I do.
Did you research other coding bootcamps? What stood out about Hack Reactor?
I looked at General Assembly and CodeSmith. But I had a friend go through Hack Reactor who said good things about it and I watched him get placed at a company after he graduated, so I picked his brain. Plus, some of the prominent people that I follow on Twitter had been through the same track at Hack Reactor. After doing my research, I really felt that Hack Reactor was one of the top coding bootcamps for me, and if I was going to devote so much time and energy to this, I wanted to be around the best students and teachers.
In the beginning, I started with a few Udacity MOOCs, but as time progressed, I built a hybrid system that worked for me. I used pretty much anything if it was good. One thing I felt was helpful were written tutorials by developers on Medium. I followed knowledgeable engineers on Twitter. I found amazing resources on YouTube and would listen to the free classes provided by MIT on OpenCourseWare. Everyone learns differently, so I was just trying to be like Neo from The Matrix and “plug-in” to the tech community in a lot of different ways.
My local community was also extremely important. I went to several NodeSchool meetups and met people there who I'm still in touch with. Not to mention, meeting people at meetups helps you gauge your own competency, understand what level you’re on, and find areas where you can improve.
Did that self-teaching get you through your technical interview at Hack Reactor?
For the Hack Reactor scholarship, applicants have to make a two-minute video! What was yours about?
The point of that video is to teach something in a two-minute video. At first, I was going to teach my viewers something generic, like how to cook a recipe, but I felt that it wouldn’t fully tell my story. So instead, I gave a high-level overview on how to sample music. I spent two minutes explaining and demonstrating how to sample Crave You by Flight Facilities. I couldn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked, but I was able to briefly explain how sampled music is created. I tried to make my video educational, intriguing, and most importantly something that told my story.
When do you start your cohort?
I will be starting January 31st at the LA campus.
How have you started preparing for Hack Reactor?
I’ve also been letting my friends and family know that I’m starting Hack Reactor and it’s going to be taking a lot of my time for the next few months. But they’ve all been watching my journey and know how passionate I am about this, so I think they’ll understand when I go off the grid.
Do you have specific career goals after you graduate? Do you want to stay involved in music?
I’d like to work for a startup where I can get my hands dirty. I’m open to working for any company with a product that I’m passionate about. For example, Splice is a start-up based in Santa Monica, and they provide workflow tools for musicians and producers. I love the founder’s vision and what he does for the community. Stem is another startup that’s working on paying artists and producers their streaming music royalties using the blockchain; that looks interesting.
I’m passionate about music, but I have other interests as well! I went to school for finance, so ideally I’ll find a job that’s in my realm of interests or is a combination of the two.
Any advice for future bootcamp applicants?
Don't get discouraged! I can easily think of the many sleepless nights I had being frustrated as I dealt with all the new information. I knew where I wanted to be in my career, but it felt so daunting – I guess that’s what they call Imposter Syndrome – and I couldn't see the path to get to where I wanted to be. Tap into all of your resources; Twitter is the reason I found out about the Hack Reactor scholarship! Albrey Brown retweeted an announcement about the scholarship, and that's the reason I applied. Attend meetups and meet people; I’ve found the programming community to be extremely beginner friendly. It’s amazing how many resources are available at the click of a button or just by asking.
Also remember that learning is a lifelong process. I still have and will continue to have days where I get stuck, but as long as I'm getting better and progressing, I can feel content that I’m growing as a person and as a developer.
It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.Continue Reading →
Welcome to our last monthly coding bootcamp news roundup of 2016! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends we’re talking about in the office. This December, we heard about a bootcamp scholarship from Uber, employers who are happily hiring bootcamp grads, investments from New York State and a Tokyo-based staffing firm, diversity in tech, and as usual, new coding schools, courses, and campuses!Continue Reading →
In our recent Student Outcomes survey, alumni reported that they were working in over 650 different companies! Of course, you may have read recent press citing companies like Google who apparently aren’t willing to invest in junior technical talent from coding bootcamps (we happen to know that coding bootcamp grads have been hired at Google and Salesforce, but that’s not the point)...Continue Reading →
Have you heard the news? MakerSquare and Telegraph Academy’s network of schools are rebranded as Hack Reactor Austin, Hack Reactor Los Angeles, Hack Reactor San Francisco and Hack Reactor New York City. But what exactly does this mean for MakerSquare and Telegraph Academy alumni, current students, staff, and future students? We asked the Hack Reactor team to answer our questions about how this merger will affect tuition, admissions, curriculum, culture, and reviews.Continue Reading →
Should I do a coding bootcamp? This is a question we hear all the time, and for good reason. As more coding bootcamps launch (not to mention the rising media coverage), you’re probably wondering, “should I jump on the bandwagon and learn to code?” A recent TechCrunch article implored you not to learn to code unless you’re ready to put in the work to be great, whereas President Obama wants every student to learn computer science in high school. So what types of people are opting for coding bootcamps? And should you be one of them?Continue Reading →
Cisco has hired a number of Hack Reactor grads (almost half of their CTAO engineering team are alumni), and finds that they are “so well prepared and ready to hit the ground running.” We spoke to Cisco Director of Experience Design Dustin Beltramo and Technical Leader Joe Sutton about what they look for in a new coding bootcamp hire, why skill set is more important than having a degree, and what stands out about Hack Reactor alumni compared to other candidates.
Tell us about Cisco and your roles there.
Dustin: I’m a Director of Experience Design in the Chief Technology and Architecture Office (CTAO) at Cisco. I manage a small team of visual designers and design strategists, and work closely with our lead engineer (Joe) to hire front-end and full-stack developers. As I’m sure you know, Cisco’s a large company with about 70,000 employees worldwide. The CTAO org is basically an innovation team, consisting of a bunch of architects and distinguished engineers from across Cisco who partner with customers to build proof of concepts for new technologies and products -- typically things like cloud service orchestration, security, analytics, IoT, and software-defined networking. When the POCs (POC = Proof of Concept) prove that there’s a market for a new product, we transition the project to the relevant mainline engineering team within Cisco to be productized. The Experience Design team supports the CTAO org by designing and implementing the front-ends for these co-innovation projects.
Joe: I’m a Technical Leader, my main role is to architect/lead the engineers on all the projects we implement. I work closely with the designers, various backend teams providing APIs, and when the time comes I work with the mainline engineering to transition the projects over.
How large is the development team?
11 engineers at the moment, four of whom are Hack Reactor grads.
How did you get connected with Hack Reactor as an employer?
Joe was recommended to Hack Reactor by a friend at his last company. While there, they had good success in finding top quality candidates. So when the time came to expand the engineering team, we decided to give Hack Reactor a try.
What types of roles have you hired Hack Reactor graduates for at Cisco?
Software engineer, primarily front-end and web-centric.
Other than Hack Reactor, how do you usually hire developers at Cisco? What are you looking for in a new hire?
There are a lot of coding bootcamp alumni looking for jobs now - of the Hack Reactor grads that you actually hired, what stood out about them?
It’s really their capabilities, the quality of their code, and their attitude. These days, most front-end and full-stack engineer resumes look the same, everyone lists the same set of frameworks and tools and whatnot. We’ve found the only way to really gauge a candidate is by the quality of the code they write. Since the Hack Reactor folks have their final projects and other work available on GitHub, it’s easy to get a sense for what type of developer they’re going to be. On top of that, the Hack Reactor program seems to prepare students exceptionally well, they have a good sense of what it’s like to work on a modern web development project.
I’m assuming that your hires from Hack Reactor went through a technical interview. How did they do?
Yes, definitely, there’s no other way to really guarantee that an engineer knows what they’re talking about. We do not modify our process for bootcamp grads. The partnership definitely makes things more efficient, by reducing some of the administrative overhead associated with the interview process.
Has it ever been a concern for you that these new developers don’t have a traditional computer science degree?
Not at all. We hire people based on their demonstrated skill set, not on any particular degree or certification.
Hack Reactor provides us with great support and consistently delivers a pool of candidates who are exceptionally well-prepared for the type of development work our team does.
How do you ensure that the new hires are supported as they continue to learn after they graduate from Hack Reactor? Do you have mentoring or apprenticeship programs in place?
Yes, the lead engineer provides ongoing mentoring, there are regular knowledge-sharing activities amongst the team, as well as providing opportunities to attend industry conferences and training. Oddly enough the Hack Reactor grads themselves can also act as mentors. Many of the teams we work with were trained as strictly backend engineers and so they are not up-to-date with the latest cloud-native web app techniques and technology. The work our Hack Reactor grads do with other teams helps to spread that knowledge more broadly within Cisco.
Are there any interesting stories about Hack Reactor hires that have advanced in their career?
We don’t have any particularly interesting stories, but we know that programs like Hack Reactor have had a very positive impact on most of the people that have gone through the programs. We’ve interviewed over thirty candidates and seen people from all walks of life, which you don’t always see from traditional new hire candidates. We’ve seen people with degrees in Computer Science, Law, Theater, Philosophy, History… the list goes on. Everyone we asked, why they joined Hack Reactor, all responded that they were looking to improve their quality of life, and were very happy they went through the program.
Do you have a feedback loop with Hack Reactor at all? Are you able to influence their curriculum if you notice your dev hires are underperforming in a certain area?
We provide feedback on every candidate we interview and hire. We haven’t really seen any systemic deficiencies. But the folks we work with at Hack Reactor are very open and responsive, I wouldn’t hesitate to approach them if we noticed an issue that needed to be addressed.
Will you hire from Hack Reactor in the future? Why or why not?
They are our first choice! The grads are so well-prepared, they come in and hit the ground running, that’s really what we’re looking for.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or from Hack Reactor in particular?
First, not all coding boot camps are created equal. We would recommend talking to colleagues in the industry who have experience with the various programs. We wouldn’t hesitate to hire grads from the best boot camps, especially Hack Reactor. We find the students are highly motivated and excel in their work, and their training is top-notch. They may seem inexperienced on paper, comparatively, but the best coding bootcamps simulate a real world software development environment for their students, and that experience is incredibly valuable.
What is your advice to future Hack Reactor grads that are interested in opportunities at Cisco?
Please apply, we need you! Cisco is in the midst of an exciting transition from its hardware-centric roots to a future based on software and services. We need the skillset of Hack Reactor grads now more than ever. If you apply to a team that is fully embracing this cloud-centric future, your skills will be a huge asset, and you’ll have the chance to make a big impact, even on a company the size of Cisco.
Welcome to the August 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest news is the Department of Education's EQUIP pilot program to provide federal financial aid to some bootcamp students. Other trends include job placement outcomes, the gender imbalance in tech, acquisitions and investments, and paying for bootcamp. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Many competitive coding bootcamps require a certain level of coding knowledge or background in order to be accepted into their programs- whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
While a number of coding bootcamps have published their own student outcomes, Reactor Core recently released SSOM, a methodology for calculating job placement outcomes that they’re encouraging other bootcamps to adopt. As the coding bootcamp industry grows, transparency in marketing practices becomes integral to the success of the industry, so we spoke to Reactor Core CCO Shawn Drost about their Standard Student Outcome Methodology (SSOM), the (un)importance of auditing outcomes, and how Reactor Core calculated Hack Reactor’s 98% Hiring Rate with an average starting salary of $104K.
Shawn, what’s your role at Reactor Core?
I'm a Co-Founder of Hack Reactor, the San Francisco bootcamp. In 2015, we also started Reactor Core, which is a network of coding bootcamps made up of Hack Reactor, MakerSquare, Telegraph Academy and others. Now my official title is Chief Commercial Officer of Reactor Core.
As part of Reactor Core’s efforts, you’ve now released the Standard Student Outcome Methodology (SSOM). Tell us what SSOM is about.
SSOM is a document that helps coding bootcamps calculate a placement rate. If a school is focused on helping people get jobs as developers, then it's very important to communicate that success to the public. Hack Reactor and our other Reactor Core schools have all communicated placement rates from Day One, but over time, it became important to formally document what that means and how we calculate that number.
So what does go into the Placement Rate? Isn’t it simply the number of graduates who get jobs as developers?
People think that number is really straightforward, but it turns out there are a lot of edge cases. We have to think about who counts in the numerator and in the denominator, how to deal with international students, and how to count graduates who the school employs afterward, etc. How do you deal with somebody who gets a short term, part time contract?
People can disagree about how all of these things work, and it's really important to be transparent. In its infancy, the bootcamp industry has not really done that. And to be fair, neither have law schools, which are now in their adulthood.
You've been running a coding bootcamp for three years- what are some of the challenges that you faced as a bootcamp founder in reporting outcomes?
It's not especially difficult for the coding bootcamp industry to keep track of student outcomes, and this conversation is broader than the bootcamp industry. It turns out, the entire higher ed system is bad at keeping track of student outcomes. When Reactor Core started building SSOM, the first thing we did is look at existing standards that are in place at law schools. It turns out the existing standards are very haphazard.
Did you look at College Scorecard when designing SSOM?
We did -- College Scorecard has a great approach that we can't implement on our own. The government basically pulls the tax records of students, so they have great salary data for all alumni. This is an approach we've recommended to the state of California, and they're looking at it.
So should there be different outcomes rubrics for different types of schools?
About 90% of coding bootcamps are organized on the promise of "you want a job as a developer. We'll get you there." And for any school that is set up like that, they should have the same basic principles that powers SSOM. It’s very strict in that it has a narrow view of what counts as success -- it only counts jobs with “engineer” in the title, and does not count edge cases like “what if I went back to my old job and did some coding”, or “what if I got a job like ‘product manager’ that’s tangentially related to coding.
But SSOM is not appropriate for a school that consciously decides it has different values. If Startup Institute, for instance, decides that they value a diversity of outcomes and they’re explicitly clear about that to students throughout the admissions process, then I think there's room for a different type of outcomes rubric.
How many schools in the US qualify to use SSOM to report outcomes?
Most of them. Any coding bootcamp that predominantly markets itself as "we can move you into software jobs" should take that as a principal that they count coding jobs as success, and they don't count jobs in other fields as success.
When designing SSOM, how important do you find auditing in the validity of success outcomes?
Zero percent. And we got our own Hack Reactor report audited through Frank, Rimerman Rimerman + Co. LLP; they did great work.
So you'd say transparency is more important than auditing?
I think that it's important to build consumer trust through as many mechanisms as possible. I think auditing is likely to catch only the very worst cases of outright fraud, and I don't think that audits are a very effective system for ensuring that students are being served well.
The problem is that there's an inherent conflict of interest when you have a bootcamp paying a supposedly independent third party who to hold that bootcamp accountable.
How about coding bootcamps that are “accredited” or “approved” by a government body (ie. the BPPE in California)? Does that mean anything about their outcomes?
The State would be the first to tell you that they don't have any means of tracking student outcomes in a rigorous way. We are in close touch with the California government, and when they asked for employment data and we started digging a little bit deeper, we found that the government knows that this is a complicated process. We had to write SSOM from scratch because there was no such document already.
They don't have any of the funding or the operational bandwidth to assess the validity of a school’s self-reported employment rate, so the state doesn’t validate it. They send out a data request and then publish what the schools send back. But look through that data- there are typos and numbers that don't add up when you page through the government’s list of vocational programs in California.
The government doesn’t have an accreditation process; they have a “permission to operate” process, where they determine whether or not you have the facilities and curriculum to run a coding bootcamp. Everyone I’ve spoken with is a dedicated public servant who really wants to do a good job, and I think they would also be the first to say that they have no idea whether or not a coding bootcamp curriculum is “good.” They’re looking at whether the school has the financial wherewithal to issue refunds, if the school has a fax machine, a library, etc.
So SSOM has been used to actually calculate and publish Hack Reactor and Hack Reactor Remote’s outcomes in the form of a Cohort Report. When will we see Cohort Reports for MakerSquare, Operation Spark, Telegraph Academy, etc?
We are on track for that- keep an eye out for announcements.
How long does it take a school to use SSOM in order to actually create the Cohort Report?
If your dataset is really neat and the number of students is pretty small, it could take as little as 5-10 hours.
How heavy is the burden of documentation on the school?
It's pretty substantial, because the documentation part of this assessment process is probably the hardest.
There's two phases for schools that adopt SSOM. This first report is published in “Onboarding Mode,” which basically means that the school is collecting all of the hard data (anything that a third party created or signed- for example, offer letters).
“Compliance Mode” is when the school is sending out confirmation surveys to students.
What is your advice to a new coding bootcamp who values outcomes and wants to start the process of reporting their student outcomes?
We designed SSOM specifically around the fact that a school will not necessarily have all the data required by a methodology that Reactor Core just wrote in the last year. Any school can start using SSOM today, and there's a grace period to get your operations in order. Reactor Core also has a standing offer on our website to help onboard any school with SSOM at cost, and that includes whatever kind of support we can offer in terms of assembling the actual report.
Have any schools taken you up on that offer?
We don't have any announcement about that yet.
Skills Fund is attempting to get schools to come to consensus on an outcomes methodology. From those early meetings, do you think that SSOM could potentially just be adopted by Skills Fund or by all schools?
What we want is for the industry to have good standards and for consumers to have access to apples to apple comparisons. The goal of the Skills Fund process is not to produce a document like SSOM- it is to produce a methodology minus the documentation standards.
SSOM is both a methodology for calculation and a set of documentation standards. I think it's correct for Skills Fund to first accomplish an easier set of standards given that they're trying to bring more coding bootcamps to the table.
Then would Hack Reactor theoretically also adopt that methodology if other schools agree on it?
Yeah. I'll say that if it is too flimsy for us to stand on, then we will try to kill it in committee. So far, though, the results are promising. Skills Fund is not our first or second methodology that we attempted to get adopted. I would love it if Skills Fund is successful and we will switch over.
Could an online school use SSOM?
Totally. An online school does use SSOM- Hack Reactor Remote!
Does it worry you that schools like DevMountain, NYCDA, and Hackbright Academy are now being acquired by for-profit education companies?
It is definitely two different worlds colliding. I don't really know yet. For-profit education companies certainly have a bad reputation, but I have a more nuanced view of that than others. And I think that generally, the safest person to trust with a responsibility is the person who just destroyed that thing. I'm at least curious to see what happens with the outcomes for those schools.
Why should students be concerned with seeing outcomes at coding bootcamps?
The first thing that a student should know is that we're in the early days of an industry that luckily is taking outcomes seriously. We care in a way that you don’t see even for other career-track programs like law schools. That’s lucky for students!
The bad news is that when it comes to bootcamp employment statistics, there's not an apples to apples comparison right now, and different schools are in varying stages of taking their personal responsibilities seriously. Students should look at how each school calculates its placement rates and you should continue to speak to alumni when you are making your decision process. I encourage students to put pressure on schools that are not explaining how they calculated their placement rates. Tell them that it matters to you.
If I were a student right now, I would almost abandon the attempt to get an apples to apples comparison and instead just look at the rigor of how specifically schools can answer questions and whether or not there is a document that explains it. That's a pretty meaningful signal.
To learn more about the Reactor Core network of schools, read Hack Reactor reviews, MakerSquare reviews, and Telegraph Academy reviews on Course Report. To check out Hack Reactor’s Student Outcomes, here is their 2015 report.
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
I heard you were recently at the White House talking about the New Orleans tech scene. Tell us what you were up to!
I was at the White House to talk at the Police Data Initiative event. A nonprofit coding school here in New Orleans called Operation Spark held a hackathon July 2015 focused on the White House Police Data Initiative. We worked alongside the New Orleans Police Department, City Hall Officials, and people from the community – developers and new coders. They released the police data and opened it to us, then we were able to hack on it, create applications, and do data visualizations.
Then we gave the police department feedback on how they could improve the data to be consumable by the public. They took our feedback and released the data in February this year. Representatives from police departments were there to discuss how we could do better in the future. Police departments from around the country agreed to the Police Data Initiative, and pledged to work hard to make their data open to the public.
Well done! What was your background before Hack Reactor Remote and before you even got into coding?
I'm from St. Louis, but I came to New Orleans in 2010 for college. I studied physics and math for two years at Loyola University. My original plan was to finish at Loyola University, with a degree in Math and Physics, and a degree in Engineering, then to go into software engineering. But I wasn't able to finish school for financial reasons.
I stayed in New Orleans and worked in sales for a couple of years and some other odd jobs. I've always been really interested in computers and learning how to code. When I was introduced to Operation Spark, my learning-to-code journey started.
Once you were at Operation Spark, what made you want to enroll in Hack Reactor?
When I got to Operation Spark- even before then- I was really excited about the opportunity. Then when I actually started learning how to code, I fell in love with it. I would be up really late working on projects. John Fraboni, the CEO and founder of Operation Spark, always tells a story about how he would get pings and notifications of me doing my work at 12am, 1am, 2am in the morning, just going at it. I fell in love with it and I didn't really know what next steps to take, but John told me about Hack Reactor and said that it was an awesome program. I just trusted in the process and went along with it.
What was the application and interview process like for the Hack Reactor Remote program?
When I did it, you had to apply online. There was a small coding challenge before you could apply, which encourages you to go Codecademy to teach yourself the basics. Then they give you materials to study in order to prepare for your interview. They set you up for an interview with their team over Skype. You’re asked a bunch of questions to test your knowledge and test how well you do on the spot with new problems.
Did you find that the class you did at Operation Spark really helped you with that application process?
Yeah, it helped a lot. Operation Spark gave me that initial drive and the initial idea that I could succeed in this field. You’re surrounded by people who are already software engineers in the city – their CEO John is actually a software engineer as well. Being in that environment gave me a lot of drive and excitement about what I could achieve because of who I was surrounded by.
What was the overall learning experience like while learning through Hack Reactor Remote?
It was crazy. I had to get used to working 11 hours a day and 6 days a week. People compare it to "drinking through a fire hose.” There's all this information in short, typically two-day sprints, which force you to learn at a rapid pace, and also not be distracted. You learn how to use your resources very, very wisely so that you can get to the end of each sprint. Once you get past the first two days, it's just craziness. In a good way, though!
And what was a typical day like when you were studying?
Typically there's a morning meeting, and then you have self-assessments every week. Then you pair, get your assignment, and it's solo reviewing of the sprint – what you're going to be doing, figuring out the basic requirements, and the time to start coding it. Afterwards you get with your partner and just pair all day long. In the evening, people do a short presentation on some type of technology. After that, you do more pair programming, and then obviously lunch and dinner are in there as well.
What kind of learning platform were you using? How do you stay on track?
A team from Hack Reactor- including full-time software engineers and students from the Hacker in Residence Program- built this platform called Bookstrap. It has the whole curriculum and everything else you need – resources, videos, and lectures.
Did you have just one instructor or were you interacting with a lot of different instructors?
There is a mixture of lab lectures and video lectures, so we had different instructors for the lab lectures and the video lectures. Then you have your technical mentors. There were two or three technical mentors who did town hall meetings during and after every sprint. Town Halls are 20-30 minute sessions where you can ask questions and clear the air on any confusion. We interacted regularly with different people, but they get familiar quickly because you are there all the time.
You were mentioning doing a lot of pairing. Were you paired up with the same person throughout or did you alternate?
No, you alternate. We had about 20 people in the class which gave room to pair with almost everybody over that time, and then towards the end of the class, you get to pick your own pair.
It sounds like you got to know the other people in your class quite well. Where were they from and what kind of backgrounds did they have?
They were from all over. One guy was from Poland. Our “shepherd” from the Hacker in Residence program, who made sure we were okay, was from Switzerland. I had classmates from Korea, and from all over the US. When I later went into The Hacker in Residence Program, that class had a guy in Brazil.
Some people find it easier to learn to code in-person, but Hack Reactor Remote sounds like it works even though you're far away from all the people you're learning with.
It works really well. The reason that it works is because you have to try a bit harder. The people aren't right next to you when you pair, so you have to work around their problems. Working with people who are in different time zones than you is a whole different problem to solve. Also, from the amount of time I spent in pair programming; I have close friends who I've never met in person. During Hack Reactor- especially during the job phase of Hacker in Residence- we talked all the time and shared notes. We still talk all the time in our Slack channels. I think in-person is an awesome experience, but I don't think anybody should rule out the remote experience either because it was great. We had a lot of fun.
How many hours per week were you spending on Hack Reactor work on top of the compulsory 11 hours a day?
During Hack Reactor, the first six weeks is the curriculum phase and then the next six weeks is the project phase. For me, being in Central Time Zone, class was from 11am to 10pm. During the curriculum phase, I would stay up for a couple hours after class, but I would try to get my sleep because this was new and I wanted to make sure I was functioning properly. Unless I was way behind on a sprint or something, then I would stay up. But during project phase and our thesis project, I was up all night. I would go home, and I'd be up working on my thesis project from about the time I got home around 11am to sometimes 4am.
Did you work on Hack Reactor Remote from home or did you find another space?
Since I was had done an in-person class at Operation Spark, they let me and six other people from Operation Spark do the Hack Reactor remote program together in a room. That was really awesome. In the very beginning they tried not to pair us together so we still had to have that remote experience.
I’m excited to take a look at your thesis project- could you share your screen now?
Yes, for sure. I worked on an actual company called Culturalyst. The idea was thought up before Hack Reactor by Sam Bowler, our CEO and founder. We then started building the project during the thesis phase in Hack Reactor and continued working on it. Our product now looks a lot different than our presentation did back then because we’ve been revamping it and building on that infrastructure. We’re going to release it to public, which I'm excited about!
Our team was Mykia Smith, Alice Green, Alon Robinson, Ryan Baskell, Brian Kustra, Victor York, and Sam Bowler, and our product is Culturalyst. Culturalyst is the LinkedIn for artists, where users can find artists they love and fans can directly support artists. Watch below:
That's such an awesome project. So you started working on this for your thesis project and you’ve continued working on it after you graduated?
Yes. It slowed down a bit because some people went into the job search and others were in the Hacker in Residence program, but now we have reassembled. We were actually all in New Orleans together at Operation Spark. We're looking at adding more team members so we can finish the functionality and release it to the public.
What technologies did you use?
We used Angular, Node Express, SQL for our database, and now we're migrating to PostgreSQL. It took about three to four weeks.
Looking back over your time at Hack Reactor Remote, what did you like best about Hack Reactor Remote?
Everything. The staff were awesome. The head of delivery, Liz Penny, is such a character. In our meetings we had “meow offs” where somebody begins meowing a song, and they have to keep meowing it until somebody guesses what the song is.
Because Liz is the head of delivery, her energy transfers to everyone else and makes it a really fun, supportive, and encouraging environment. All the people I met are just awesome. Also, I love Hack Reactor because they taught us how to learn. I don't know everything, but I'm confident that if I have a problem, I can find the resources and figure out how to solve it.
What was your first step when you graduated from Hack Reactor Remote?
I went into the Hacker in Residence program. Since I was part of Operation Spark, the in-person remote, they selected me to help pilot an experiment in Mountain View, California where we opened an onsite extension to the remote program. There were two Hackers in Residence, and a couple of students on site doing the remote program together.
We were called “shepherds” and were in charge of ensuring the success of the onsite and the remote students. We were figuring out if and how will this remote learning works, and reporting that back. We also got feedback from students on how they felt about the program.
After that, I came back to New Orleans in April, went to the White House, then really hunkered down in my job search. And this past Monday, I started working at GE Digital.
Congratulations! What are you doing at GE Digital?
I'm a front end developer. GE Digital is moving into the industrial internet of things. Have you seen a GE commercials lately? They're just making fun of how everybody thinks of GE as an appliance company. But they're trying to let the world know that they've entered the industrial revolution. I will be working on their industrial IOT platform, called Predicts, and building cool stuff on that.
Did Hack Reactor help you with that job search process to find this job?
Yeah. My outcomes coach was phenomenal. She had a lot of experience working with CEOs of companies. She brought that level of expertise to Hack Reactor and helped me in my overall confidence, my negotiation skills, presenting myself as who I am and the value that I'll bring to a company. That was really awesome to work with her and pinpoint those things.
She looked over my resume, and the emails I was sending to different companies. I could hit her up and say, “Hey, I'm about to reply to this company, I don't know what to say,” and she would make suggestions on my emails. It was an awesome experience working with her.
Now you're at GE, what's your day-to-day look like as a Front End Developer?
This is my first week! I’m one of only two front end devs on the team. I've been reading all day long just figuring out the platform, what it does, what it can be used for, and doing the tutorial and the introductions on it. Now, I'm finally getting into the seed application, and I can see how they built that out and see what it does. We're launching a brand new project on July 11th. It's awesome. I like it so far!
Yes. We'll be working with Angular and Polymer, and the back end at GE is built with Java. I'll definitely have to learn Java at some point. The cool thing about GE is that the company is so big that I will have the chance to touch everything. I’m starting on front end and then once I make a lot of progress on that, I can say, “Hey, I want to work on back end” and begin learning Java. Some of their back end is built in Go language, so I'm excited to learn that too. They're really big on getting you where you want to be in the company.
What advice do you have for people thinking about doing an online bootcamp?
I think a lot of people presume that doing an online course like this will give them the freedom that they desire as well. You can find that in some part-time or longer courses, but if you're thinking about going to Hack Reactor Remote, don't underestimate the time commitment because that is really important. You do have to put in a lot of work, and you will be able to work from home, but you can't use that as an excuse to slack off or anything because you will fall behind very quickly.
I had one of the best times of my life at Hack Reactor Remote. It was amazing, and the opportunity that I gained from it and the people that I met from Hack Reactor was completely worth all the hours that I put in. Now I'm employed as a full-time software developer at a very large company. If you're thinking about doing it, do it. Do it. I don't believe that you will regret the decision.
Welcome to the June Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world, including new bootcamps, what we’re seeing in bootcamps internationally, outcomes, and paying for bootcamps. Plus, we released our big Bootcamp Market Sizing and Growth Report in June! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the May 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world, from acquisitions, to new bootcamps, to collaborations with universities, and also various reports and studies. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup podcast.Continue Reading →
After working as a software engineer for 15 years, Fred Zirdung joined Hack Reactor when it launched in San Francisco in 2012. And while he had always wanted to teach, he didn’t realize just how much he would learn by teaching at Hack Reactor. He’s now the Lead Instructor and in charge of developing the curriculum and lecture materials. Fred tells us about how he taught himself to code, what makes a great bootcamp instructor, and the recent additions of ES6 and React into the Hack Reactor curriculum.
Tell us about your background and experience.
I was an engineer for about 15 years before I joined Hack Reactor. I worked at a variety of companies, from Fortune 500 companies to little startups, in various capacities from individual contributor all the way up to key leadership roles.
I’ve been with Hack Reactor since the very first class in December 2012. I started out working part time as what we now call a Technical Mentor. On my weekends, I would help students with issues, questions, and bugs in their code. I joined Hack Reactor full time in July 2013.
How did you learn to code? Did you get a Computer Science degree?
I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering, which is essentially a computer hardware degree. I didn’t really learn that much about software in my degree; most of my software skills are self-taught, through various industries and jobs that I’ve had. Back then I only had books to study from, and a lot of people who mentored me along the way.
How did you become aware of the coding bootcamp model and what did you think at first?
I thought it was an interesting take on education. I thought it was really cool and I wanted to be part of the experiment.
What drew you to teaching at Hack Reactor specifically?
I found about Hack Reactor through a friend of a friend. I’ve always been interested in teaching, but I’d never been interested in going back to college to get a masters degree or PhD – which is what you need to teach at college or university level. I didn’t think my teaching aspirations would ever come to fruition, but then I found out about Hack Reactor’s bootcamp model and decided to pursue it.
Did you have teaching experience prior to teaching at the bootcamp?
Not particularly. But as an experienced developer I would mentor younger and less experienced engineers who I worked with on a regular basis – and I really enjoyed that process.
What do you think is the most important quality for a bootcamp instructor? Is it better to have technical knowledge or be a good teacher?
So you need to have technical capability, but you also need to have a combination of other soft skills. You need empathy, to be able to put yourself in the shoes of a student. You need compassion – sometimes you have to tell students things they don’t want to hear or something at odds with their personal belief, but you have to do it in a way that doesn’t devastate the student. And you need to be able to hold a room and command attention while being approachable.
What does it mean to be Lead Instructor at Hack Reactor? What does your role include?
I teach a number of classes, and some of the lectures. I also oversee the development of our lecture materials and some of the curriculum, so I am the gatekeeper of the content that students see.
Tell me about the Hack Reactor curriculum and structure.
Our curriculum is structured in sprints, which mirror what you would see in a real life software engineering environment. You have sprints where you focus on a particular set of problems you’re trying to solve, so we mirror that same concept here, but on a shorter timeframe. Sprints happen once every two days, then we switch to a different topic. There are many topical based sprints, which focus around a particular core technology. However, often the goal in the sprints is not to teach a specific technology, but it’s about the bigger picture goal – for students to become autonomous learners and autonomous programmers. Hack Reactor bootcamp aims to teach students the ability to be autonomous in any terrain we put them into, rather than giving them strict recipes and paths to follow.
How do you keep the Hack Reactor curriculum up to date and relevant?
Because our curriculum is less focused on specific technologies and more focused on how you think about things, we don’t have to iterate as often on the actual technology components we use. We keep up with what’s going on in the industry; for example we recently added React and ES6. If we notice that a particular concept didn’t land, we will work out why it failed, then fix our lecture materials and content to plug that hole so future students don’t get caught up by the same issue.
Tell me about how you have recently incorporated ES6 and React into the curriculum.
We go through a review process, where we consider various changes, then implement them, and review them. However, our curriculum is pretty full so for us to introduce a new sprint like React, we have to decide what to take out. For React there was another technology we decided to remove, so that created a hole for us to add React. But if we were to consider adding Angular 2, there is already a spot to teach Angular in our course, so we would just replace that. Something completely new might mean restructuring the curriculum to make space for it.
What did you take out which allowed you to add React?
CoffeeScript, which was superseded by ES6. We spread ES6 throughout our entire curriculum, and a lot of features of coffeescript are contained in ES6, so those two technologies are rather duplicitous. While CoffeeScript is not going away anytime soon, it is now outdated.
What made you choose to teach both Angular and React?
We also teach Backbone. We teach Backbone, Angular and React from different perspectives. Sprints are focused around a particular piece of technology, but we are teaching people to think about programming, rather than the technology itself, so there are often secondary goals associated with each sprint. So Backbone, for example, is an extremely useful teaching tool for understanding the concept of decoupling modules in various ways. But Angular takes a completely different approach to dealing with dependencies, so it’s a fantastic technology to use when teaching dependency injection, which is another way you can deal with software dependencies.
There are a lot of popular frameworks out there, but we can’t teach all of them. We chose these ones because they have secondary pedagogical objectives.
How often do you make changes or updates to the curriculum?
Removing a sprint and adding a new sprint happens a few times a year, but our curriculum is changing every cycle – every single class gets a new version of the curriculum. We are in fact sometimes changing curriculum literally up to the day before students arrive because we are always aiming for the best possible experience. A lot of times there are hundreds of little tiny changes in there that are barely noticeable, but over the course of three years, there are vast differences as those little changes accumulate.
It’s one of the things I’m personally proud of that we are able to do. We’re really organized in term of our feedback cycle, getting feedback from our students and our observations on how curriculum landed in the past, so we just stay on top of that very regularly.
Do you ever make changes on the fly?
When appropriate yes. We try to avoid those scenarios because it can be confusing or frustrating for students.
What have you found is your personal teaching style? Are you hands on, do you like to lecture, do you let people get stuck and figure things on their own?
When I’m up lecturing I try to have a balance of all three. Sometimes there are concepts that warrant me just talking while students listen. There are other times when I like to let them struggle with a concept. Oftentimes I will play quizzes or games with the students to help identify dissonance in their thinking and problems with their mental model, and usually I find one person’s problematic thinking is reflective of many people in the room.
We’ve heard that some Hack Reactor lectures are delivered through video- why is that?
We have a small number of videos, but most of our lectures are delivered live. The ones that are delivered via video on site are solution demonstration videos. For each sprint challenge, we find it useful to give students the solution, or at least one possible ideal solution, so they can learn how an expert might approach a particular problem. We do that via video specifically because we want students to be able to go back and refer to the content on their own, in their own time.
What resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers?
Hack Reactor has a prep program, called Reactor Prep, that is aimed at beginners. It’s a really good way to get a taste of what the bootcamp is going to be like. We also have Fulcrum, which is for students who are more advanced and already have some of the knowledge covered in the Reactor Prep program. Both programs charge tuition but you can credit the cost of Fulcrum towards the Hack Reactor program.
To get a taste for programming in general there are a few things I recommend. Wherever you are, look for programming meetups in the language of your choice. There are tons in San Francisco and most of the metropolitan areas. It’s a great way to network, meet people in the industry, get tips, and see presentations on interesting programming topics.
What do you like best about teaching at Hack Reactor?
I love interacting with the students. In every cohort there are a bunch of new faces who come in with interesting stories and interesting backgrounds. It’s really great to interact with them, but also from a teaching perspective, every new cohort is a new challenge. Students challenge my thinking on concepts all the time, and that’s a fun way to learn new things.
Tyson had been an entrepreneur since the dot com bubble, starting and helming numerous tech companies for 14 years. In 2013, after watching the internet startup founder 'prototype' transition from an MBA to a software engineer, he decided to gain this skillset himself, so he enrolled at Hack Reactor to become a more effective entrepreneur. But Tyson’s goals changed. After graduating from Hack Reactor, he started a nonprofit to teach kids to code, and then became a senior software engineer at Nike. Tyson wasn’t expecting to fall in love with coding, but discovered he enjoys it as much as company building and product development.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What was your previous career path and educational background?
Since 1999 I’ve been an entrepreneur and general manager of fast growing consumer, internet and mobile companies and products. My first company was a music discovery platform called Gigmania, providing live music content to Yahoo, AOL, and MTV. During the 2000 downturn we sold it to a big concert producer.
In the early 2000s, most digital company founders were Harvard and Stanford MBAs, so I decided to get an MBA. I went to INSEAD, an MBA program outside of Paris. After that I started an internet gaming company called Pixelfix, and then I joined a company in NYC called Bold Media, an early social network where I ran their games and business development units. Then I moved to the West Coast to run the internet development group of media company Future. After that I joined a social activity ad tech company called Appssavvy, where I ran the publisher side of the business.
In 2013, I had an idea for a new business. I talked to engineers who I’d worked with in the past and to Pivotal Labs in San Francisco. But ultimately Facebook's 'Hacker Way', which reflected the startup culture of the SF Bay Area, convinced me that to be a more successful, creative and agile entrepreneur I needed a deeper understanding of technology, and the skills to build prototypes myself. It was with that goal in mind that I went through Hack Reactor.
So you had been involved in managing and running all these companies, but had you been involved in building the products?
In all my roles I’d been deeply involved in product development, but I’d never written a line of code.
What made you want to be able to build those prototypes yourself and write code yourself?
For a couple of reasons. In 2001 when I got an MBA, most early stage company founders had MBAs. But by 2013, it was now engineers building their own prototypes. The market had shifted, so to be relevant in the industry, particularly in early stage companies, I was doing myself a disservice by not having a technical skillset. You can be a lot more agile and iterate more rapidly if you’re creating the product prototype yourself. It makes me more flexible, and on the management side it would make me more effective at working with engineers.
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a bootcamp or did you just dive into the bootcamp?
No, I pretty much decided I wanted to do this quickly. I should have started this process years ago, but I didn’t. So I quit my job and joined Hack Reactor. An immersive learning environment made a lot of sense. And I didn’t have time to go to back to college; there’s way too much slack in that traditional education path.
Did you research other bootcamps or just Hack Reactor?
Was your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
It was pretty diverse- around 33% women. People had varied backgrounds, but I was the only one who had never done any coding before. I passed Hack Reactor’s admissions coding challenges, but everyone else had been writing in another language or knew another language. Some had done Dev Bootcamp and were now doing Hack Reactor, some had studied computer science in college. I had the least exposure to code, but I had a ton of relevant industry experience.
What was the age range in your cohort? We get a lot of questions about whether people in their late 30s or 40s should do a bootcamp, and whether they can get a job easily after graduating – what’s your take on that?
There were a few people in my cohort over 35, then there was one young person under 20. Everyone else was in the in 22 to 35 age bracket. Everything seemed to work out well for those in the older age bracket. I think one of the people in the older bracket is now a Hack Reactor instructor. But there is an age bias in Silicon Valley – it’s a cultural thing. I am currently a senior web engineer at Nike in Portland, Oregon, and I would say there’s no age bias here, and many of the engineers at Nike, perhaps half, are over 35. So I think it depends on the type of company you want to work for.
What was the learning experience like at your bootcamp — typical day and teaching style?
It was like being caught up in an information tsunami! We started at 9am, we would have a very light lecture, then you could choose to stay on for the second part of the lecture, or start the coding challenge. There was a lot of guided self learning, which was a very effective way to instill the discipline we would need on our own, or in a job to figure out how to solve problems. There was very little front-of-the-room lecture time. But tons of availability for advanced people to discuss advanced ideas, or for beginners to get help when they needed help.
What sort of projects did you work on?
My own personal project was called Yummy Show. It was an online cloud-based software for presentations, leveraging reactive data and data visualization. I thought learning D3 was really cool, and realized if I had known D3 when I was in business, my business presentations would have been much more effective. With Yummy Show I wanted to enable people to make their presentation data come to life without knowing how to code. The group project we worked on was a kids interactive game using the computer camera and HTML5, for face and object recognition.
Tell us about Mission Bit and what you did after graduating from Hack Reactor?
When I graduated from Hack Reactor in June 2013, I spent the summer building up Mission Bit, and launched the first classes at the end of summer. Mission Bit is a non profit providing computer science education pathway for public high school kids. The teachers are volunteer professional software engineers from top companies and startups in the Valley. We bring the kids to different companies to show them what they can do with coding skills. We try to convey to kids that this skillset is a booster for your life no matter what job you choose. You don’t have be a software engineer – if you were a farmer, you could write scripts to work out how weather is affecting your crop growth rates. Whatever job you choose to do, coding skills will help you do it better.
How were you using your programming skills at Mission Bit?
I built some software for our volunteers and students to use for class scheduling and for attendance tracking. I also built a text message management platform called Yummy Text. One challenge we had was communicating things to students across classes. Kids just don’t read their emails, and they didn’t want to download a Mission Bit app, but they all had cell phones so the most effective way to communicate was via text message.
When and why did you decide to start looking for engineering jobs?
While I was running Mission Bit, I set up a shell company where I could prototype different ideas, so I was building products all along the way. Initially I’d decided to learn to code to be a better entrepreneur and be more effective at iteratively making products. But I realized that I love the process of coding and I love the problems you have to solve. I love the scope of the knowledge, not just the end point of having the finished product. So that was when I decided I wanted to work and become a better engineer. So I started the search and took this role at Nike.
Tell us about your job at Nike.
What does a typical day look like for you these days?
We have stand ups at 9:15 am and 11 am, with sprint planning on Mondays. I deploy to production twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I’m not in standups and sprint planning, I’m coding – it’s all coding all the time, and it’s awesome. I know I like coding my product ideas. Luckily, I like building other people’s products too!
How does your schedule and life compare to when you were working as an entrepreneur?
I work all the time anyways because I have all this other stuff. At Nike I put in about 40 hours a week, but I fly to Portland for work from San Francisco on Monday mornings and come back Friday night. I’m on a couple of different boards, and I’m always trying to learn new stuff. So I have entrepreneurs’ hours regardless. I don’t know how sustainable the lifestyle is, but it’s totally working for now and Nike is an awesome company. That was the main reason I wanted to do it.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you since you graduated from Hack Reactor?
Being a middle aged man figuring out what to do through a midlife pivot. Seeing the reflection of yourself in your kids makes it impossible to dodge things you’ve maybe tried to dodge in your life. That forced me to reevaluate what I was doing, what I was working on, and make sure I was focused on doing things I truly wanted to do. I would say working through all that was hardest thing. Hack Reactor was part of that process of changing myself.
What sorts of things are you doing to maintain/learn new skills?
Recently it’s been playing around with React and Redux and getting familiar with those frameworks, and getting familiar with Angular 2.
What advice do you have for people wanting to change their careers after a long career and take a bootcamp?
I kind of fell into the change. I wanted to use it as a propellant to what I was already doing, and just realized through that process that I liked building stuff with code. But my advice is to be clear about what you actually want after a bootcamp. Either you know you love being an engineer or you know this new skillset will help you attain or achieve your specific goals, because bootcamps are intense and you basically shut off your life to do it for three months. To get the most out of it you need to love the thing you want to be, whether it’s an engineer or CTO or a better entrepreneur.
Any final comments about Hack Reactor?
The Hack Reactor community is very special and I attribute that to the relationship among the founders, because those guys are really tight, and that permeates through the rest of the community. The community is solid, energetic, and really helpful, and the founders are super invested in nurturing and catalyzing that energy and possibility.
How long does the Hack Reactor application typically take? What are the steps applicants should expect?
The process is quick and relatively simple. Applicants first take a simple coding challenge to show that they have command of basic concepts. Once that is completed, they move on to a technical interview. And that’s it! Applicants typically receive a decision within 10 days of the technical interview.
Admissions Coding Challenge
Does everyone take the same coding challenge? Can you give us a sample question?
How long should it take? Is there a time limit?
How should a beginner prepare for the admissions challenge? Who is the right candidate for Hack Reactor Fulcrum vs. preparing on their own?
The best way to prepare is our Reactor Prep and Fulcrum courses. Prep is built for coders who have dabbled, but don’t feel comfortable building apps or interactive web pages. Many Prep students have gone on to be admitted into our 12-week program.
Fulcrum is for intermediate coders who want to get to the next level and have the optimal preparation for our immersive course. Fulcrum students are invited to a technical interview after completing the course, and may subtract their Fulcrum tuition from their immersive tuition.
While self-study can be a good way to introduce yourself to basic programming concepts, we’ve found that many people get lost in the resources and need more structured guidance in order to reach their software engineering goals.
What goes into the written application? Does Hack Reactor require a video submission?
Neither, actually. Students need only complete the coding challenge and technical interview.
Will interviewees need to walk through a technical problem during the interview?
Yes, the interviewer and interviewee will work on a technical problem together. The interview is not just a test, but a chance to learn and experience the Hack Reactor teaching method. Applicants are encouraged to examine the underlying logic of their code.
How do you evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?
We look for students who respond well to challenge and uncertainty, and who are clear, empathic communicators. Some coding ability is important, but we are more concerned with students’ willingness and ability to learn, than with what they already know. Identifying these qualities has been a key element to our students successes.
Can applicants do the Hack Reactor interview in-person or are all interviews conducted online?
Applicants can do whichever is more convenient for them. Our online program, Hack Reactor Remote Beta, does online interviews. Like with the entire immersive course experience, Hack Reactor Remote Beta brings the full coding interview to an online format.
Are students accepted on a rolling basis?
What is the current acceptance rate at Hack Reactor? Is a low acceptance rate important to Hack Reactor?
A low admissions rate is an arbitrary benchmark, and is not important to us. What’s important is a high and consistent quality standard. We are exclusive, but not for exclusiveness’ sake: we require our students be hardworking, growth-oriented, and curious learners.
What types of backgrounds have successful Hack Reactor students had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
One comment we often get from employers is how refreshing it is that our candidates are from diverse backgrounds – culturally, academically, and in terms of work experience. Many students have technical backgrounds, but we also have many career-changers, and others who have been coding for weeks or months, not years. This is a result of our admissions process: we screen for communication skills and growth mentality as much as, or more than, coding chops.
Does Hack Reactor accept international students? Do international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?
We do accept international students. While we don’t offer official advice on visas, many students have made it work, and have found employment in the Bay Area or back in their home country.
It’s easy to apply to multiple schools at once, but each school makes their own decision. Applicants that apply to multiple schools have a better chance of getting into at least one program. However, we suggest that students do the research about the various schools in the network to choose two to three that fit their personal goals and learning style.
Can rejected applicants reapply? If so, how many times?
It is rare that we fully reject anyone. Generally, the worst case scenario is that we ask you to reinterview after more study. It is not uncommon for applicants to get in on their second or third try, sometimes after taking our Prep or Fulcrum courses.
Are Coding Bootcamps the new "replacement" for college degrees? Or are bootcamp grads missing out on valuable Computer Science theory by opting out of a traditional CS degree? As coding bootcamps rise in popularity, they face both praise and criticism- but what is the real difference between these two education paths? Join Course Report and our expert panel (seriously, these folks are running the best bootcamps in the world) to dive into this topic: CS Degrees vs Coding Bootcamps.
We're so excited about the panel joining us for this webinar:Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)
At Course Report, we field a lot of questions about coding bootcamp cost. From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,451, bootcamp tuition can range from $5,000 to $21,000. So how do you decide what to budget for? Today, we're breaking down the costs of several popular coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the September News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!
This Week on Course Report:
- Should you learn web or mobile development first? We dive into this question with advice from Atlanta's DigitalCrafts code school!
- Have you tried Thinkful's Workshops? Grae, the Head of Education at Thinkful, gives us the scoop on their newest offering for bootcamp grads and working engineers.
- Mechanical-Engineer-turned-Web-Developer Kacy Ebel talks about her career change and her experience at We Can Code It's women-only bootcamp.
Aquisitions, Fundraises & Regulation
- General Assembly announced their $70MM Series D. This reporter thinks about what the fundraise could mean for their London campus.
- Hack Reactor acquired Chicago-based Mobile Makers Academy, adding iOS to their offerings. They also announced "Hack Reactor Core," the umbrella under which each school will operate autonomously.
- Inside Higher Ed reported on General Assembly's journey through regulation and expansion. Education Dive provides a nice, brief summary of the article.
- The Huffington Post reported on a letter from Jeremy Shaki and Khurram Virani (Founders of Lighthouse Labs) to parliament on code literacy, outcome-based education, and Canadian innovation through technology.
New Campuses + Courses:
- Dev Bootcamp announced they will open doors in San Diego this November.
- Montana Code School's first cohort started class September 28. (Listen to Montana Public Radio's story on the bootcamp).
- ThoughtKite will teach their first Toronto iOS bootcamp in October.
- Code Fellows has overhauled and reorganized their courses (bye bye Dev Accelerators, hello Code 401!)
- Applications for Code Platoon, a Chicago bootcamp geared towards veterans, are now open.
- Global News Canada writes about Toronto's Bitmaker Labs.
- Fortune Magazine explores women in Coding Bootcamps.
- FCW finds that coding bootcamps are 'Very empowering, very transformational.'
- A LinkedIn researcher blogged about the types of jobs reported by bootcampers on the networking site.
- Delaware Online looks back on ZipCode Wilmington's first bootcamp cohort.
- Built in Chicago: How Designation is bringing the bootcamp model to design.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee computer coding school expands as employers show interest.
- The Street: Future Code Monkeys May Skip College and Head to Boot Camp
Have a great October!
Are you planning on attending a coding bootcamp? Deciding between two bootcamps? We’ve scoured the net for alumni blogs from top coding bootcamps including Fullstack Academy, Dev Bootcamp, The Iron Yard, Coding Dojo, MakerSquare and Hack Reactor. From a CS major to an event planner, these bootcamp graduates give you a snapshot of what makes each coding school and experience unique.Continue Reading →
After a career in IT, Casey Garland realized his love for building and joined Hack Reactor's Remote class while living in Pittsburgh. We talk to Casey about the logistics of the remote course, the differences between Thinkful and Hack Reactor, and his advice to future Hack Reactor Remote applicants.
Tell me what you were doing before you started Hack Reactor.
I got a bachelors and masters degree from WGU which were both remote, online learning as well. My degree is in Information technology and my masters is in Information Security. I’ve been working in technology for about 10 years on the IT side of things, and then I managed a software development team and found out how much I liked building. Eventually, I decided to quit my job and I joined Hack Reactor.
Did you do Codecademy or other online programs to introduce yourself to programming before applying?
I’d been exposed to programming over the years but I really started this year, I started doing Codecademy but it wasn’t enough so I actually did Thinkful’s front-end developer program and that jump-started me.
So between your undergrad and Thinkful, you were confident in online remote learning beforehand?
Yeah, definitely. I was looking at Hack Reactor before they announced their remote program. I have a wife and a small baby in Pittsburgh; I couldn’t just go to San Francisco for three months on top of not working and paying tuition. The reviews and everything were so overwhelmingly positive I didn’t think it was possible for it not to work.
What was the application process like for you?
They’ve got a pre-interview technical challenge that we did but my understanding is that they don’t do that anymore. Then I had a technical interview with one of the Hackers in Residence and I found out about a week later that I was accepted.
Who were your instructors during the class?
Shawn Drost, who is one of the cofounders, was our main point of contact. Our lectures were primarily done via video. We would have a video of the onsite lectures and then we would follow up with Sean or somebody else afterwards if we had any questions.
Did you ever have live lectures or were they all recorded?
Well, we only had one live lecture. We had one live lecture where somebody actually that taught that lecture did it in person for us live. In the technical part we only had one. Once we had gotten to the hiring phase in the last couple of weeks, we had more live lectures.
Can you tell us how the recorded lectures work logistically?
They use Vimeo. The first half of the program was really scheduled out in advance and it was very clear what you were supposed to be doing in a given time. We experimented with different ways of asking questions during the video and things like that. I think what ended up working best was just freeform. We have a group chat that’s always active and people just pop in and ask questions.
Did you have lecture in the morning and then work on projects in the afternoon?
Yes- everything’s split into two-day sprints so you have a lecture then you go explore the problem then you have another lecture. Then you have the rest of that day and the beginning of the next day to work on the project for that lecture.
What was the second 6 weeks like?
The first 6 weeks are really hands-on technical learning. The second 6 weeks are project based; so the majority of it you’re just working on different projects.
Were you working on those as a team or individually?
As small teams.
So you were interacting with the other students in the remote program.
Yeah, it’s really interactive. You interact with the other remote students a ton.
Were there any hiccups with timing or issues like that?
Yeah, there were some. They weren’t as big of a deal as you would think. One of the guys was actually from Nigeria and he had all kinds of connection issues. I’m on the East Coast so I worked from 12pm-12am every day, which is kind of weird. You get used to it. That didn’t end up being as big of a deal as I thought it would be.
Were you all pair programming or doing Google Hangouts?
All the above. The first half was all pair programming and you were on Google Hangout at the same time. I probably got in a hangout with my group 4 or 5 times a day.
Do you feel like Hack Reactor adapted the program to what people needed, since this was the first cohort?
Yeah, definitely, within certain bounds that they’d established. I think they take that approach with the onsite as well. They really take an iterative approach to what they’re doing.
A few times we gave them specific feedback about something and the next week we were doing it a different way.
What were the differences between your experience with Thinkful and your experience with Hack Reactor remote?
They’re not even the same thing; they’re so different. For me, Thinkful was a way to see if I actually like writing code, if I could be any good at it. It’s relatively low cost and there’s no risk whereas Hack Reactor is so expensive and such a commitment that there’s a huge risk. And Hack Reactor was 12 hours a day. I probably did 12 hours a week for Thinkful. That being said, I would still highly recommend Thinkful.
Can you tell us about a project that you worked on during those 6 weeks that you were particularly proud of?
I have one big one and one small one I’ll tell you about. The big one was a group project that we did and we built a platform for a small businesses to mobile-enable their employees. So instead of filling out forms on paper in the field or filling out a spreadsheet, they go to backend out of Node and Mango and the Mobile Apps from Ionic and Angular that allows them to fill out forms on their mobile devices.
The other one was just a little side thing that I did to help me put together the best fancy football lineup. And I actually won a contest that had 14,000 entries in it this past weekend.
How has Hack Reactor layered in job placement?
I wouldn’t call it job placement. I think they do a really good job with the resume building and with preparing you for the interviews and preparing you mentally for the best approach at getting a job. I think they do an awesome, fantastic job on that.
We were the first remote program; they were trying to figure out how they can best actually help get in contact with the people. They have such a great presence in San Francisco and I think almost half of our class went to San Francisco to try and find a job there but five of us are still trying to find jobs back home or remotely. The contacts they have outside of San Francisco are not as plentiful, but they are working on that.
Did you meet with potential employers throughout the program? Were you given access to that network?
Not throughout the program. It’s pretty concentrated in the last week. We will have met with 5 employers by the end of the week.
Have you done interviews?
Yes, and I already have two offers. I didn’t apply to these jobs but I did update my resume on LinkedIn and Career Builder and I had several people call me last week and I set up interviews for this week and I got two offers out of it.
Are either of those jobs remote or are they in Pittsburgh?
They’re both in person, in Pittsburgh. I’m definitely open to something remote. I’m kind of freelancing now, too. I don’t know that I really care that much whether it’s remote or in person. I just want to like the people I work with and like what I’m working on.
Is there anything else you want to add about Hack Reactor that we didn’t touch on?
Overall, I’m super satisfied. I definitely would make the same decision again. I would recommend if the person was able to, go in person. I think you’d probably get a better experience in person, just judging from all the reviews I saw from the in person people.
After going through it, do you think that there’s a type of person who wouldn't do well or wouldn’t excel?
I feel like we had a lot of different personalities. We only had 10 people but still there were different personalities. You just have to be willing to do the work; especially the first 6 weeks. It’s so hands-on. The second half you have to be a bit more self-motivated. But if they can get into the program they will probably do just fine.
After working in animation for ten years, Chris Bradley was ready to head back to the East Coast and change careers. He was looking for a high-quality remote programming course, so he applied to Hack Reactor's newly announced Remote program. Check out our interview with Chris- it's full of useful information about the Hack Reactor admissions process, what to expect when learning online and how the Remote course compares to the in-person option!
What were you doing before you started at Hack Reactor?
I had attended an MFA program with an emphasis in computer animation. and then worked for about 10 years as a visual effects artist in Los Angeles. I created visual effects for commercials, television and film, finally ending up at DreamWorks Animation doing character effects.
What made you want to change careers?
Throughout my visual effects career, there was often some level of scripting involved. I wrote little tools to do certain things and worked with third party vendors to see what the current state of their technology was in order to decide between partnering up with them or writing something proprietary in-house.
So gradually, my career took me closer and closer to the development side of the industry. I never got to a point where I was actually a software engineer, but it seemed like a really neat space to be in.
So you were not a beginner when you started at Hack Reactor.
Probably not. I had done some scripting in Python, as well as MEL (Maya scripting language) and VEX (Houdini scripting language) but I always struggled to get good at scripting. I just never had the time to dedicate to the kind of thinking behind how to do it well.
When did you decide to start looking at bootcamps?
After being in L.A. for about 10 years or so, my wife and I decided we wanted to be closer to extended family back on the East Coast and I left DreamWorks without a concrete plan of what I was going to do. We ended up in Central New York, the flip side of picking a rural area being that there aren’t a lot of job prospects. I was looking at what the remote world had to offer wondering: “are there any viable career solutions or career opportunities?” I really felt that I could leverage a lot of my experience, interests and passions to create a good life for myself.
Did you look at other online bootcamps like Bloc and Thinkful?
Actually, I completed Bloc last year before joining Hack Reactor. As I did my preliminary search I looked at all the options and quickly honed in on the half a dozen or so that had credible reputations.
Did you look at any in-person boot camps?
No, I didn’t. I’m about three hours from New York City which at the time had the closest on site program. We had just gotten settled, so spending three months away from my family wasn’t really an option, and Bloc was the only boot camp that seemed to have a comprehensive offering that included some form of mentor or instruction, which I felt was important.
I spent some time on Treehouse and Code Academy and I think they’re great for getting introduced to programming, but you’ll never learn how to be a professional programmer through those sites. At the time, Bloc was the only one that offered one-on-one mentorship, which I think was a great initial support mechanism; there was someone you could actually ask questions and get a direct answer from.
The truth is, I picked Bloc because it was remote. Going to one of these places onsite for three months was kind of the opposite of what I wanted for myself and my family.
What was the application process like for Hack Reactor Remote?
Hack Reactor does its brand and its students a great service by being very selective with their admissions process. I’m going to speak about what I went through, although I think it’s changed a little bit since they’re constantly iterating based on feedback, which is really cool.
Once I submitted that, it opened up access to a chat application. They’ve got a chat bot, I think it’s on Firebase, that is just generating random chats and you basically have to interface with it using Ajax, JQuery and the like. It’s an exercise that’s intended to force you out of your comfort zone and to rely on your resourcefulness to get it done.
At the time, you weren’t even allowed to schedule a technical interview until you successfully completed that exercise.
After you successfully complete the chat bot you are allowed to schedule a technical interview. It’s probably a standard tech interview, about an hour long, with a few minutes of ‘why are you doing this?’ kind of thing and then it’s about 45 minutes of paired coding. It’s not for the faint of heart- it’s basically about getting very comfortable with anonymous functions and call-back functions and how to use functions as arguments to other functions.
Again, I think that by establishing that base level just to get in, they’re setting up their students for success in the long haul by accomplishing two things: setting the bar high from the get-go (last I checked, their acceptance rate was between 3 – 5%) and creating up a baseline that all students can start from.
This is important given that a lot of people with a wide variety of experience are going to be applying to the school. Some people come in with what I would call a moderate tech background, others with CS degrees, and others who were previously lawyers or whatever - with little experience in tech. Students come from all walks of life.
Other coding schools don’t really do this and consequently have to keep the curriculum down to the lowest common denominator, so you wind up spending a lot of time on basic fundamentals, which may not be appropriate for the entire class.
Was there anything that you were hesitant about or were you pretty much convinced during the interview and application process that Hack Reactor Remote would be a legit use of your money?
It’s a few hundred dollars shy of $18,000 which is the same price as the on-site program. That is psychologically different from most other coding boot camps that offer both onsite and online with a substantial discount for the online classes. In that case, the question becomes, why is the online version cheaper?
Once you get over the initial shock that it’s the same price, your expectations are that the experience is going to be as good as onsite. And once you start thinking about it that way, a more appropriate question to ask is, why are other places charging half as much for the online version? Is it half as much the experience? And if so, why are they doing it?
I think Hack Reactor, over the course of their two years, had opportunities for expansion. They could have gone to satellite locations and opened up offices, or almost franchised the school. They were very, very concerned about the quality control of the curriculum and they felt that it would be much easier to manage from one central location and distribute it over the web as opposed to opening up satellite branches. I think they had just as high expectations for the remote program as they do for the onsite program and based on that, they charge the same. It did take a little while to process that but at the end I think it makes total sense.
Everything’s going to be a leap of faith and I think a lot of it is tempered by their placement statistics. So you have that to offset any kind of the risk. You have to do your due diligence and make sure that you’re clear on what you’re getting out of it.
I want to talk about logistics for a bit- tell us how the remote classes work?
Hack reactor is 6 days a week, 11 hours a day of scheduled activity. That’s basically the minimum expectation, and you wind up spending, on average, a couple of hours more per day. Hack Reactor wants to make sure you never run out of stuff to do - they provide so much structure and so many opportunities for activities and stuff to work on that you could never finish it all.
Do they put a camera in the lecture room for you?
Initially, it was exclusively recorded lectures. What they’d been doing is recording the lectures from previous cohorts and giving us access to those. It’s an interesting format; we don’t get the benefit of actually being able to ask the instructor a question in live real time – but at the same time, we get the benefit as remote students of being able to pause, rewind and replay the video, which onsite students don’t have, so it’s a little bit of a trade-off.
What’s phenomenal about Hack Reactor in general is that they’ve taken an innovative iterative approach to teaching and their curriculum. Durring the first six weeks in the junior class, the 6 days of the week are broken up into three two-day long sprints. The first day in the morning, the topic will be introduced. You’d get a brief introduction lecture to a topic and then they’ll give you to a couple of hours to pore through the project documents and do some background research. Next, there’ll be a specific targeted lecture that’s kind of the meat of the project and then we pair up and hack away for the rest of the day.
At some point the following day there’s a solution lecture and then you have the rest of the day to finish up your project based on the best practices you learned about in the solution lecture.
This would be on a two-day cycle (called a “sprint”) that finishes with a sprint reflection that starts with about 5 or 10 minutes of just throwing out ideas on what you liked or didn’t like about the sprint. The class then votes on each topic to achieve consensus and pick 2-4 of them to discuss in detail.
And you were able to participate in that feedback?
Yes; this was done with the remote students just as it is with the onsite classes.
Would you use Google Hangout?
Yes. We heavily relied on Google Hangouts to come together and share a screen to have these kinds of dialogues. An amazing part of the class is that, if something was not working, Hack Reactor would come up with a fix within a few days. It was a very iterative process in that way.
As the course progressed, we started to get more access to instructors. There was some feedback saying we felt we were not getting the same experience as onsite so they would bring instructors in and give a lecture over Hangout. It was just really cool that they were able to adapt to our feedback immediately and import modifications to the program to address those concerns.
Were you ever able to interact with other students, remote or in-person?
There is a ton of interaction among your remote classmates and the Hack Reactor experience is completely built around the idea of pair programming, so there is very little time where you are doing anything by yourself.
So pair programming was an easy process even though you were remote?
I’d never done pair programming before and I feel like that whole experience translated very well to the web interface. We were using a really cool service called Floobits which basically allows you to synch up tech Sublime Text sessions. It’s a live code-sharing system so as you were typing, you see what the other person’s doing.
Once you have that combined with something like Skype and Google Hangouts, it really is just as good as sitting right next to somebody. So that experience translated incredibly well to the web.
How are the Bloc and the Hack Reactor remote programs different or similar?
I think you have to take a step back and look at the intent of each program. A year ago, Bloc positioned itself as “zero to web developer in 12 weeks.” I think they’ve reframed their expectations and now they say ‘learn the fundamentals of web development in 12 weeks.” Their intended results are just different.
Because the intended outcomes are different, the experiences are choreographed to be different. One of the ways Hack Reactor measures themselves is in their hiring placement statistics. They’re really making sure that they’re investing a lot in the program to develop those kinds of people. Since employability, for those immediately seeing jobs, is a big goal, they’re also concerned with recreating what it’s really like to work as a software engineer and recreating that experience. There’s an emphasis on pair programming, as well as thinking about the more theoretical aspects of application design like time complexity, algorithms and that kind of thing. I think they’re aiming for different results.
How were the instructors and how did you interact with them?
It’s the same instructors for the whole school. When we were watching the recorded lectures, they were recorded from the onsite presentations with the exact same instructors. I should mention as an aside, Hack Reactor probably has easily some of the best teachers I’ve ever encountered anywhere. They clearly have mastered the discipline and they have also mastered how to teach it. Even the recorded lectures far surpass most of the live lectures I’ve had in all my education up to that point.
I highly recommend that you go on YouTube or Google anything that Marcus Philips has presented and you will see what I mean; it’s incredible.
Hack Reactor also has one of the best Angular developers on staff, Scott Moss, who wrote the ngFX library. He’s onsite and actually came into our class to teach a live lecture over Google Hangouts when we had our Angular sprint. They’re very much experimenting with the format and trying to figure out which works the best. That’s really what they’re concerned about; providing the best experience possible.
You were saying the first 6 weeks is more lecture-heavy. Is the second week more project-based?
Yeah, I’d say there are more lectures in the first 6 weeks but you’d still have most of your time to spend hacking away. They’re basically done in the form of test-driven development. They give you a skeleton project with a bunch of failing tests and it’s up to you to look why the tests are failing and try to make them pass. Then you transition from the junior class to the senior class, which is the project phase of the course.
We did one solo project which was a two-day sprint and then a pair project which was another two-day sprint, then two more small group projects, about a week in length, and finally a large group project which took up three to three and a half weeks.
Can you tell us about one of the projects that you did that you’re particularly proud of?
One that I had a lot of investment in was a Spaced Repetition review app. Spaced Repetition is a method for studying and reviewing material. It’s essentially like flash cards on steroids with a really powerful method and a ton of data to back up its effectiveness.
The premise is basically that you get a flash card, it asks you a question which you answer, and then it reveals the answer and you rate how easy it was to recall the answer. Based on how well you rate yourself, the application has an algorithm that determines when the next time you’re going to see that card is. If you have a really hard time answering the card, it’s probably going to bring it back at a shorter interval. But as you get more confident and your ability to answer the questions becomes easier, it’s going to start staggering those intervals out to longer and longer intervals.
We did this project in Meteor, which was a ton of fun to work with. I got to implement the algorithm, which was really cool and hands-on.
There was another really cool project I didn’t get to work on but one of our other groups completed for their thesis project. We were using Google Hangouts for the whole class and it’s not the greatest. So they wrote their own Video Conferencing library Google Hangouts with much better video quality and much better audio quality and much more reliable in general. So there were some pretty cool projects.
How does the remote program incorporate job placement and job readiness?
I can speak to this to the extent that I’ve got experience with it but I should also say that I was invited to participate in the Hacker In Residence program, which pulls me out of the job hunt. It’s basically a post-graduate fellowship with the school. I’ll be doing that starting Monday. This last week is the actual week of the job hunt where they have a job day hold a hiring day. This is basically like a job fair where 30 or so companies come in onsite and each student interviews with about 6 companies. They’re currently setting up a similar hiring day experience for the remote students.
Leading up to the actual day when you’re face to face with prospective employers, all of the job preparation is identical to the onsite in that you get tons of experience doing mock interviews and help on how to craft your resume which includes an audit to ensure the most effective presentation of your personal story. Remote students received over two hours of live lecture time with a recruiter from Microsoft, getting real hands-on feedback on our presentation skills and how to pitch our selves. The experience is identical to what onsite students get.
You had mentioned a hiring day. How do they do that for the remote class?
I didn’t get to participate in that because I took the Hacker In Residence position but my understanding is that they’ve lined up five or six employers to do a series of hangouts throughout the day for the remote students, trying to replicate the onsite experience as much as possible. So they have an allotted time for the hangout with the particular employer; you talk to them and then you move on.
For your Hacker In Residence program, are you going to be working on the remote program specifically?
It’s basically part-time work directly for the school. In my case, I’ll be doing admissions work. The rest of the time we’re just expected to work on projects of your own desire and if it benefits the school and is something they wind up using, they’ll actually pay you for it. Hack Reactor’s only concern is that you’re working on something to continue your development as a software engineer. They’re very supportive and encouraging of personal projects and if it benefits the school, that’s fantastic and if not that’s also fantastic.
Once you’re done with the Hacker in Residence program, do you see yourself freelancing or being a remote employee?
I haven’t really thought about it in terms of what kind of employee I’m going to be. I’m more interested in working on projects – this sounds corny – that I’m passionate about. Personally, I’m not interested in working at a social media company coming up with another button to tell somebody that you like them. That’s not what I’m interested in.
Given where I am geographically, remote is probably going to be a big criteria.
After going through the program, have you noticed any traits that you’ve found you needed in order to really be successful in online learning?
I think that Hack Reactor has established a very good gating factor. Their application process is very selective in who they admit because they don’t want to waste anybody’s time. They don’t want to waste your time as a prospective student and they don’t want to waste their time as a school with accepting people who aren’t going to be a good fit.
What’s really interesting too is they put just as much emphasis in on being a culture fit as they do an aptitude fit. Not only do you have to be willing and able to do the work, you have to be willing and able to work with people. Also, you have to to be kind of comfortable with not knowing what you’re doing (and having confidence that you’ll figure out how to find the answer) because that’s a big part of software engineering.
Just from the schedule alone, it’s not for the faint of heart. I have three young kids and it was definitely incredibly difficult to see them for 15 minutes a day. I’d wake up and get them out the door for school because it is Hack Reactor is on a West Coast centric schedule. Being on the East Coast, my day would start at noon and not finish until midnight, one, or two in the morning. There’s nothing about the program that you do on your own time.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It was definitely the most challenging academic experience of my entire life but that being said, it was more than worth it just in terms of a sense of accomplishment. It’s just a very gratifying experience. If anybody’s looking for a challenge and they want to push themselves farther than they think they can go, Hack Reactor’s the place to be.
Shawn, what were you doing before you cofounded Hack Reactor and what convinced you that Hack Reactor was a viable business/education model to be involved with?
What does the Hiring Team do at Hack Reactor?
I have to give a shoutout to the Hiring Team, because they are incredibly hardworking and smart people, and they’ve built out a really unparallelled system for connecting grads with great companies. I’m seriously unaware of anything comparable… they make your college’s career services department look very sloppy, and they work harder and smarter and have more volume than any recruiter.
Here’s how it works: they collect all kinds of information about the open reqs at all of our hiring partners, then they really dig into how students should think about those companies and circulate information about them, the pros and cons and what kind of person should apply there. They then survey students and staff and feed this all into JobQuery -- this piece of software that we built because the team’s spreadsheets became too arcanely powerful and we grew fearful of them -- which does all this matchmaking and follow-up and tracking magic. It’s very beautiful to watch their meticulously-curated success metrics slope upwards.
On the other hand, they have kind of an easy job -- the students are great, and since word has gotten out about that, the companies are great (we can’t name most of them unfortunately), so they just get along well. OH at our last hiring event, from a CTO to a tech lead: “If you're hiring from anyone but Hack Reactor, you're doing it wrong.”
Does Hack Reactor require pre-work to make sure that students are on the same page? What does it consist of?
The precourse work is a pretty complicated piece of the puzzle. It has to be accessible to people that only recently started coding, but it has to be challenging to those well into a career, looking to update their skills or make a career switch, because we have a real mix of people coming into the class. It has to be hard, because we want to give everyone early perspective on how hard the class is (before they quit their jobs, etc) but it has to be easy enough that they can do it before they have the full support of staff. We’re constantly tweaking it and pushing content back into it from the course, to make room for other stuff. Right now, applicants rewrite some existing libraries, go through a bunch of self-guided instruction and test-driven stuff on the finer details of JS, and work through a bunch of git and HTML/CSS resources. It’s between 40 and 100 hours, depending on experience.
Hack Reactor is considered the "Harvard of Coding Schools." Did you and your team make conscious decisions to keep the quality of your school high?
Yeah, that was the plan from the start. It’s an easy plan to have (who doesn’t want that?) but making it a reality is harder. We’ve had to consciously decide to grow slower than others in the sector and turn away a lot of good applicants. We had to put a lot of work into making hires and have a lot of hard conversations when staff were doing a B+ job. More than anything, it’s the result of an insane amount of heart and energy from people at the school (most of whom never get any public recognition). So, it’s really rewarding to see that work implicitly recognized by stuff like this question (which is actually quoting Steve Newcomb, CEO of Famo.us, who’s hired several of the alumni) or the recent WSJ article that called us out as a counterpoint to the downward trend in bootcamp graduate outcomes.
I mentioned part of this earlier -- we were working at top companies, present at ground zero to witness a major trend in the web. The decision raised a few eyebrows at the time (my friends thought we were nuts for not teaching Ruby) but in the time since then, JS has clearly taken over (eg check the graph on this post) and we’ve seen some coding schools retool their entire curriculum to use JS instead of Ruby/Rails (eg Fullstack Academy has switched over completely).
Job placement may be one of the biggest variants between all of the coding schools. Explain Hack Reactor's approach to helping students and graduates find jobs.
We’re big on data-driven education, and student outcomes are our ultimate measure of the quality of our school. It’s the best way of measuring success, even for students that aren’t looking for a job: it’s the market saying “oh yeah, this place trains real engineers." So we pay close attention to student outcome statistics, and a lot of our power comes from the years of continuous revision that happens:
- Someone has trouble in the job search.
- We freak out and somehow solve the problem for that specific student if we can.
- We figure out what went wrong: Hole in the curriculum? Error in student progress reporting/followup?
- School levels up. So, that’s the meta-answer.
Here’re some specifics:
- We work really hard on admissions, and we have really good processes for determining how quickly people learn.
- The curriculum team is incredible, and they consider student questions or assessment failures as evidence of things that need to get fixed for next time.
- We cover the computer science fundamentals (data structures, algorithmic complexity) in great depth, both because they are fundamental engineering concepts as well as because they are the main subject matter of software interviews. This is kind of a luxury we get as a result of being a 20-120 program (vs a 0-60 program, which is what most coding schools are doing). We require that applicants learn a lot on their own, and then we have a longer course (more weeks, more hours per week). As a result, we have space for an hour a day of “toy problems” that challenge students to assess and improve the algorithmic complexity of solutions to small problems, just like they do during interviews.
- We have a lot of content throughout the course on blogging, portfolio management, resume review, conducting a successful job search, etc etc etc. All the curriculum is on github, so they have like 20 learning repos, plus a couple of big projects, which are often real projects for real clients/companies. When you google the students, they look like normal engineers.
- After the course ends, students use our software to track their interview pipeline, and we know whether they’re set up for success.
TLDR: no magic, just lots of hard work and iteration. Meat and potatoes stuff that somehow is not commonplace at any educational institution. I foresee a world (decades away) where we can’t say that any longer as education changes to be more data-driven and outcome-focused.
How is the job placement process structured? Does Hack Reactor get a referral/placement fee from companies? Does the student get a tuition refund once placed?
I answered the placement process question earlier. We get referral fees from hiring partners -- it pays the salaries of the several full-time people that do that work and overflows into the school’s general fund. We don’t do refunds when students accept a job at company X instead of company Y, and we have an organized process to encourage students to apply for jobs outside of our partner network. I find that refund model to be deeply weird: it offers soon-to-be-wealthy students a short-term, unimportant incentive for a decision that has critical long-term effects on the student. The alternative is a pay-it-forward model: every current student benefits from hiring program revenues equally (our staff:student ratio keeps going up while our tuition has not risen in two years) and if the student feels like a partner company is your best choice, they take that job (which probably pays six figures) and the school gets a bunch of money to reinvest.
What is the most current job placement rate? What goes into that rate? (ie. what's the denominator? do you only "count" students who indicate that they're looking for jobs?
This is a great question -- there aren’t clear standards in our industry for how these numbers are tracked, although we are working with other schools on this problem. Our current placement rate is 99% of job-seekers within three months of graduation. The denominator excludes the following groups:
- Students who enter the program with no intent to conduct a job search.
- International students.
- Entrepreneurs (eg the hedge fund profiled in Wired).
- People that enter the Hacker in Residence program (HIR -- it’s like grad school) are counted after their residency ends three months later.
The motivation here is to provide job-seeking students with the clearest picture possible of their likely outcome. We’d like to see better standards/transparency for the industry (eg cohort reports, third-party verification, total counts for different outcome categories, student-assessed outcomes, standard processes to establish prior job search intent) and we’re working to make this a reality as the industry grows up. It’s early days yet and we’ll see a lot of changes in this specific area.
How does Hack Reactor continue to help alumni after they've graduated and been placed in jobs?
We kicked off an incredible alumni program about three months ago. It’s only just beginning, but it’s already a source of pride, and is starting to draw people to the program through word-of-mouth. The long-term-vision is to build out the strongest network of brilliant engineers/CTOs/etc in the Bay Area and build out ongoing education programs. It’s already the best alumni network around (in my unbiased opinion) and we are really just getting started. Some awesome initiatives:
- We dedicated two different rooms at the school, exclusively for alumni. There’s a lounge/meetup space (pool table, giant TV, comfy couches) and there are several events every week (movie nights, side project Saturdays, the first-ever Tessel hackathon, etc). There's also a coworking space, where at least one startup is hacking on something world-changing.
- We’re collaborating on volunteering projects, like supporting Mission Bit (which was started by an alum) and building out an as-yet-unannounced learn-to-code program for prison inmates.
- If an alum decides to switch jobs, they come back to us and we loop them into the system for mock interviews, portfolio review, Hiring Day, etc -- same stuff we do for current students.
- We have a newsletter that informs alums of speaking opportunities, upcoming events, and so on.
- We’re launching an alumni mobile app soon that can tell alums who’s in the alumni lounge, or which alums are at which companies (if you need help on an API).
This is all paid for by the referral fees (although maybe only half of the alums that go through our process take jobs with our partners) so it’s long-term-viable and we have a budget to do all of this as well as the stuff we have planned in the future.
In your time at Hack Reactor, have you noticed that companies and hiring managers are getting more comfortable/confident in graduates of Hack Reactor and other boot camps?
We’ve definitely made a name for ourselves. The biggest factor is that alums act as a viral agent, either because their bosses are like “where can I get more of you” or because they end up in a role with hiring authority themselves.
I think coding schools as a whole have established that they’re putting out quality candidates, but that result varies by institution and within institutions (as with any educational sector). There’s still a long way to go towards educating engineers that went through a four-year program about how much you can accomplish if you structure a three-month program right. Word is getting out, but most engineers/hiring managers would still be surprised to compare the volume of coding experience of a coding school alumni vs CS degree-holders.
Where can we find Hack Reactor alumni today? Do you have any cool stories about students who landed a really neat job?
Oh man. Plenty. Our alumni can be found at pretty much any big-name company you care to name (Google, Adobe, Amazon, Uber, Beats Music, SalesForce, Pandora, Groupon) as well as the awesome startups that you might not have heard of unless you’re paying close attention (famo.us, NodePrime, Class Dojo, Backplane). One grad moved up to CTO in really short order at a really fantastic startup, Keychain Logistics -- kind of a savant. Another ended up rewriting a 70kloc front-end app (including selecting the framework) after six months at his startup, taking it all the way to successful launch.
It’s not all about jobs, either: I mentioned the alum that started Mission Bit, an incredibly inspiring non-profit to teach coding skills to high schoolers in public school. Another pair of alums went to France to work on meditation software with Thich Nhat Hanh. Ultimately, we’re not here to shuttle students into jobs, we want to empower them to have incredible lives and accomplish whatever they want.
Hack Reactor is renowned as a top programming bootcamp, and they just launched their Remote Beta Coding School. Applications are now open and the inaugural cohort begins July 21st. Course Report got the scoop from Shawn Drost, cofounder of Hack Reactor and the developer of the Remote Beta program.