Hack Reactor’s immersive program is known for demanding a starting skill set beyond that of a beginner. In 2017 Hack Reactor introduced a variety of prep programs to help beginners ramp up their skills to the level required for its immersive program. The most popular prep program is a live online group class and is currently offered in multiple class times to accommodate a variety of schedules. A self-guided program is also available for free or with premium features for paying students.
Hack Reactor places alumni in mid-to-senior level positions at companies in tech, including Google, Salesforce & Microsoft, with an average graduate salary of $105K (2017 San Francisco student outcomes survey; 81% survey response rate).
Recent Hack Reactor Reviews: Rating 4.63
Recent Hack Reactor News
- From Mixing Music to Web Development with Hack Reactor
- New Year, New Career? Learning to Code in 2019!
- 2018 End of Year Coding Bootcamp Podcast
In PersonFull Time40 Hours/week12 Weeks
- Start Date
- April 8, 2019
- Class size
- San Francisco, Austin, Los Angeles, New York City
- After you have been accepted, a small deposit is required in order to secure your spot in the class.
- 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. Skills Fund and Climb all offer pre-approvals, so that you can have a loan secured upon acceptance to the program.
- Tuition Plans
- Financing options are available.
- Refund / Guarantee
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- Hack Reactor focuses on merit, not prior experience. We provide prep programs for students from any background to study and pass admissions. Take our free self-paced online prep program or a live online prep class to prepare.
- Placement Test
More Start DatesApril 8, 2019 - San FranciscoApply by March 2, 2019May 28, 2019 - San FranciscoApply by April 20, 2019July 15, 2019 - San FranciscoApply by June 8, 2019September 2, 2019 - San FranciscoApply by July 27, 2019October 21, 2019 - San FranciscoApply by September 14, 2019December 9, 2019 - San FranciscoApply by November 2, 2019April 8, 2019 - New York CityApply by March 2, 2019May 28, 2019 - New York CityApply by April 20, 2019July 15, 2019 - New York CityApply by June 8, 2019September 2, 2019 - New York CityApply by July 27, 2019October 21, 2019 - New York CityApply by September 14, 2019December 9, 2019 - New York CityApply by November 2, 2019April 8, 2019 - Los AngelesApply by March 2, 2019May 28, 2019 - Los AngelesApply by April 20, 2019July 15, 2019 - Los AngelesApply by June 8, 2019September 2, 2019 - Los AngelesApply by July 27, 2019October 21, 2019 - Los AngelesApply by September 14, 2019December 9, 2019 - Los AngelesApply by November 2, 2019April 8, 2019 - AustinApply by March 2, 2019May 28, 2019 - AustinApply by April 20, 2019July 15, 2019 - AustinApply by June 8, 2019September 2, 2019 - AustinApply by July 27, 2019October 21, 2019 - AustinApply by September 14, 2019December 9, 2019 - AustinApply by November 2, 2019
In PersonFull Time60 Hours/week12 Weeks
- Start Date
- April 8, 2019
- Class size
- After you have been accepted, a small deposit is required in order to secure your spot in the class.
- 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. Skills Fund and Climb all offer pre-approvals, so that you can have a loan secured upon acceptance to the program.
- Tuition Plans
- 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.
- Refund / Guarantee
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- Hack Reactor focuses on merit, not prior experience. We provide prep programs for students from any background to study and pass admissions. Take our free self-paced online prep program or a live online prep class to prepare.
- Placement Test
More Start DatesApril 8, 2019 - OnlineApply by March 2, 2019April 8, 2019 - OnlineApply by March 2, 2019May 28, 2019 - OnlineApply by April 20, 2019July 15, 2019 - OnlineApply by June 8, 2019September 2, 2019 - OnlineApply by July 27, 2019October 21, 2019 - OnlineApply by September 14, 2019December 9, 2019 - OnlineApply by November 2, 2019
In PersonPart Time12 Hours/week36 Weeks
- Start Date
- February 25, 2019
- Class size
- After you have been accepted, a small deposit is required in order to secure your spot in the class.
- Tuition Plans
- Financing options are available.
- Refund / Guarantee
- $1.3MM Hack Reactor Scholarship Fund - visit www.hackreactor.com/scholarships to apply!
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- Placement Test
More Start DatesFebruary 25, 2019 - OnlineApply by January 12, 2019April 16, 2019 - OnlineApply by March 2, 2019June 3, 2019 - OnlineApply by April 20, 2019July 23, 2019 - OnlineApply by June 8, 2019September 11, 2019 - OnlineApply by July 27, 2019October 29, 2019 - OnlineApply by September 14, 2019December 9, 2019 - OnlineApply by November 2, 2019
In PersonFull Time40 Hours/week4 Weeks
- Start Date
- None scheduled
- Class size
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- Ten hours of pre-work is required before Day 1 of SSP, although there is some flexibility during the first few days of SSP to complete your pre-work. Sign up for SSP soon!
- Placement Test
Hack Reactor Reviews
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I highly recommend Hack Reactor. I do admit that it's not for everyone. The pressure is very high and the course load is heavy. However, if you are the kind of person who's really good at figuring things out on your own with the right resources, and will relentlessly work to keep yourself afloat, then this program is the right one for you. Make sure to be pro-active. Hack Reactor goes above and beyond with providing you with relevant material and successful ways to incorporate all of that knowledge into your toolbelt. They not only teach you a good broad range of knowledge for software engineering, but they also teach you how to absorb that material and apply it immediately.
Another spot that I think HR really shines is the outcomes program. After you graduate, they give you counselors, referrals, and general help to get you that job. The job hunt can be brutal, but it's nice that they at least don't send you out into that hunt without any tools.
I went through the Hack Reactor Remote program last fall and it was by far the best educational experience I have ever had. It was a rigorous 12 weeks and took a good deal of preparation leading up to it but overall it was definitely worth it. Everyone I went through the program with along with all of the instructors and staff members went above and beyond to make the program the best that it could be. The job support team upon graduating was amazing as well and provided excellent resources to guide me through the job search. I was able to get an awesome job as a Full Stack Software Engineer within 4 weeks of graduating and I love what I do.
If you are willing to put in the work and love code, Hack Reactor is definitely worth the investment!
Hack Reactor is a results-driven curriculum, so I'm here to tell you if and how you can get the results you want. If you work your ass off and you have a decent education/resume, you shouldn't have too much of a problem getting your desired returns from Hack Reactor. I was formerly an attorney that was very frustrated with the legal market, so I pivoted to software and HR had the best reputation. It wasn't easy to get admitted, but if you get admitted to the San Francisco main campus, I'd definitely recommend going. It is important to keep in mind that it seems like the bubble for developers is growing, and it's not entirely certain whether there will be further forseeable growth in the market (although now that it's harder to get work visas, it might help). It's not a sure thing, I think a couple of people in my cohort had a tougher time finding a job, but most everyone found one. The curriculum is great, but it relies all on you to power your engine through it. No one is going to hold your hand through the learning process; be prepared to teach yourself. The BIGGEST asset that hack reactor has is that you will be surrounded by very driven, talented, and friendly individuals. My cohort (HR39) worked together and left no man behind, and we are very close even after the experience is over. If I could do it over again, I would do the exact same thing. After working about 75 hours a week at Hack Reactor, I received an offer for $120k base in San Jose in under a month. Again, it takes hard work though to achieve your dreams. I sent out almost 200 applications in the single month using angellist, hired, linkedin, ziprecruiter and application portals on websites. If you are smart, driven, and feel that you are being underutilized at your current job, I would highly recommend Hack Reactor. Be aware though that nothing is guaranteed no matter how gaudy the numbers were. Everyone works very hard to make it so, and the students, staff and Space Ops crew is amazing (despite underpaid). A handful of students seemed to have problems finding jobs. Most of them didn't apply to enough in my opinion, as it's a numbers game (i did 200 apps in a month and so can you). A handful, despite being good programmers, had pretty weak professional or academic resumes though, and seemed to find the market harder to break into. If you're talented, hard working, and having somewhat of a proven track record as a good human being, Hack Reactor is a vehicle that can help you successfully transition into web development.
In this age of refined open source and cost effective online materials you dont need Hack Reactor to teach you how to code.
Anyways the best way to learn is by using it in a project. Like you will best learn how to cook is by making your favorite dish and in the process you will google recipes, ingredients, best practice and then you will start putting them in place to make your super uber dish. First time it will not be great but will give you a base to improve upon until you get it right.
Apply the principles above to learning to code and make a portfolio of projects (not just tutorials but something actually most you have done yourself)
It will greatly enhance your experience if you find a friend or meetup to code along.
Boom, a couple of months of incremental progress leads to a solid skill you can take to your new job.
Hack Reactor is just a streamlined path of doing the above, and in no means a right of passage or even the best/right way of becoming a successful engineer. (I chuckle when they say Software Engineer. Even CS degree majors do not qualify as Engineers) but that is what you will want to become I am guessing in going to HR.
If this was 10-12 thousand dollars, it would have been worth it, probabily. 18-20 grand, common. Maybe 4 years ago when the best you could get online was a bunch of scrappy blogs. Someone can sue them for claiming to train Software Engineers, because that implies a lot more than going to a germ infested incubator of jam packed students puffed up with false hope after learning basic stuff about data structures, algorithms, a few libraries and frameworks, half of which are old redundant stuff. In the end even they will tell you not to mention HR in an interview, the real reason I will tell you after coming out on the other end is no one gives a c rp about HR, not because there is a bias which there is but because it is just bs that HR is teaching Software Engineering and any good engineer will hire you based on your skills, NOT coz you went to HR unless they are grads.
Staff are pretty awesome, building sucks, curriculum needs major over hawl not only because of old tech but also because for the first half you are learning mindlessly ie passing tests without knowing what the technology is or how its used. A better way would be that students implement a basic app after the two day sprints indivisibly. Fellow students are possibly the best thing about HR.
Seriously find friends who are doing the same thing and go through one of the online courses like the nano degree at udacity for 150 bucks or so is pretty good place, codeacadmy is a good place to start learning languages, freeBootCamp is a good one. Pick one, finish it. Boom Save 18000 bucks.
As far as the 105 grand salary, most people come to HR from strong CS back ground. Quarter have CS degrees, Quarter have some other engineering or relevant degrees, 10% are Berkley or similar grads. 30+% have significant prior experience from job as a developer and 10% have little background and take significant time to build up skills and get lower income spectrum jobs. Compounding all of this gives 105 grand average which is smart on their hand, only admit people who know how to code and this is what you get.
Good people. I would say that for sure. A lot of good iterative stuff going on. 10-12 thousand is a worth it experience.
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.
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!
Our latest on Hack Reactor
When the demands of lengthy concert tours kept Audio Engineer Tre Ammatuna from his wife and three young kids, he wanted to find a career that allowed him to be closer to home. He had dabbled in web design, so decided to enroll in Hack Reactor Remote and study from home in Athens, Georgia, rather than commute to another city. Tre tells us how he stayed focused and motivated during Hack Reactor's 12-week online course, why he wouldn’t change a thing about his process, and explains how he landed a software engineering job in another state when he graduated!
How did your path lead you to Hack Reactor Remote?
I spent over a decade working as an Audio Engineer in the studio and for live concerts. Essentially, it came to a point where, in order to keep progressing, career-wise, I would need to go on tour and travel a lot. However, I have three young children whom I wanted to be there for. That’s when I knew it was time to do something different.
What made you want to switch career paths from audio engineering to coding?
I’ve always been into electronics and technology. In high school, I was part of a program that concentrated on these subjects and I used to read huge 600 to 700-page books on HTML/CSS and modding Doom. When I got into audio engineering, I did design work for musicians and venues on the side – including updating WordPress sites, designing logos, cards, and flyers, and designing the UX flow for venue and restaurant point-of-sale systems, before I ever knew what UX was. When I decided to change careers, I still had a couple of freelance contracts going. But, in my web design work, I kept butting up against roadblocks that were more complex than just adding a plug-in. I realized I needed to learn how to code in order to achieve the results I wanted. That’s what brought me to this career.
Why did you choose to attend Hack Reactor Remote rather than going back to college or teaching yourself?
I knew there were plenty of online resources. But I have three kids, and there’s an attention span that goes with that. I knew I needed support and structure. I looked at getting another degree in addition to my audio engineering and business degrees, but that would have taken years. With a family to provide for, I wanted an intensive program so I could get my new career going quickly. That’s why the concept of a bootcamp really appealed to me.
I learned about Hack Reactor through Course Report. I read the reviews grads left on your site. Some were good, others were bad. I contacted those grads, and spoke to them about their experiences. I discovered that those who left bad reviews, did so due largely to the intensity of the program. At Hack Reactor, you're in class 11 hours a day, six days a week, and most of us put in more time than that. If you’re not prepared for that, or not used to that level of intensity, it can be overwhelming. I was used to working 15+ hour days at music concerts and was in a hurry to progress quickly in my career. So based on my conversations, Hack Reactor sounded like the right program for me. Ultimately, I chose the remote program because my family and I were living in Athens, Georgia, and I couldn’t uproot myself or them for three months.
What was the application and interview process for Hack Reactor like?
What was your online learning experience at Hack Reactor Remote like?
Every day kicks off with an algorithm challenge, to prepare students for whiteboarding interviews. In the first hour you have a solution lecture about the previous day’s problem and then you’re given the current day’s problem to work on. The first half of the program is split into two-day sprints on different subjects. The first day of the sprint starts with a live or recorded lecture, then over 24 hours, you and a partner video-conference, and work through the objectives together. On the second day, you get a solution lecture and possibly a few other exercises to work through to cement your understanding. In the second half of the program, you work in groups through projects where you can decide what to build, what the tech stack is, and then start building it.
How did you stay focused in a remote program like this?
I always had someone to interact with, talk to, and keep me motivated and focused. You are never alone at Hack Reactor. I hadn’t seen this before in online learning, and I believe it’s a big reason Hack Reactor is so successful. There’s a huge sense of community. I still talk to people from my online cohort several times a week. I've done online learning in the past, and it's been kind of a failure. But Hack Reactor, in my opinion, does it right. I give them huge props for that.
I also had the luck of having wonderful people around me. I have to thank my amazing partner because while I was doing the program, she was completely supportive and took care of the kids 24 hours a day. The program was six days a week, so I would leave the house from Monday to Thursday to study at my mother’s house, then I would drive home for three days a week and have time with the family. At home I have a good office room, and students I would partner with knew my situation, so if the kids came in I would say, “Hey, I need to take a 5-minute break.” I made sure expectations were set and everyone knew what was going on.
Were you with the same classmates throughout the coding program?
Yes, you stay with your cohort through the entire program and they really become like a family. People came from very diverse backgrounds. The youngest student in my cohort was 16; the oldest students were in their 40s. We had students from Australia and Germany. There was also a great ratio of women and non-binary students. I really enjoyed the diversity.
Who was teaching you the material?
Each class has a tech mentor, counselor, and administrator. We’re also assigned HiRs – or Hackers-in-Residence – the equivalent of teaching assistants. HiRs are former students who are hired as apprentices to help teach the next cohort. There were about five per class when I was there. The principal teachers do the bulk of the instruction work, then HiRs act as a help desk to call upon when you’re stuck during a sprint, perform mock interviews, and help with resume building. Then each cohort has one or two “Shepherds” who are the main community builders –. they help you work through blockers on coding, act as student counselors, and organize after-hours events like guest lectures and Saturday “Social Hack Nights” where we would get together, play games, and have some fun. I actually worked as a Shepherd after graduating and it was an amazing experience.
How did Hack Reactor Remote prepare you for the job search?
From Day One, they start preparing you for job interviews with algorithm challenges. Then, during the second half of the program, you work with your outcomes coach and HiRs to get your resume together, and conduct mock interviews. When the program is over, you still meet with your outcomes coach once a week, for six months, or until you get a job. The alumni network is also amazing. We have a Facebook group and a Slack channel with over 4000 alumni and staff in it. They’re constantly providing support and advice.
You’ve had several different roles since you graduated. Your first one was with Microsoft. How did you approach searching for a job out-of-state?
I received great advice from a long-time industry recruiter on doing a job search remotely. He told me to do three things:
- Be prepared to travel to an onsite interview immediately, whether they pay for your plane ticket or not.
- Be prepared to relocate quickly, whether you get a relocation assistance bonus or not.
- Make it seem as if you live in the city where the job is. Hiring managers are initially looking for a reason to say no to a candidate. So, they are more likely to pass on your resume when they see you are not in that area. Don’t give them that reason!
Now, I’m not saying to lie. Just have an effective plan you can share with a recruiter to show you that you are coming to their city whether you get this job or not, so there’s no reason not to represent that you are already there. Once you establish a rapport with the recruiter, you tell them, “I'm not there right now, but I can be within two days for our on-site interview, and within two weeks to start work.” This alleviates a huge amount of pressure, and demonstrates your dedication to living there.
That’s exactly how I approached the search that landed me with a contract job with Microsoft. I was in Georgia, but I wanted to move to Seattle. I removed my location from my resume and set my LinkedIn to show I was in Seattle. I had SkyMiles saved to purchase a plane ticket for any interviews that came up. When I got the position, my partner and I packed up the house and two weeks later I flew to Seattle while she and the kids visited family for the first month. I found us an apartment, then the family joined me here.
What kind of work where you doing for Microsoft? How did your career progress from there?
For that position, the 3rd party recruiter found my profile on one of the job sites where I uploaded my resume, such as Indeed.com. They contacted me about the position, and set up phone interviews with the lead dev and manager of the team. I had a three-month contract position with Microsoft, working on a team in their Research Group. I completed the contract, then started pursuing my next career move.
I found my current position at Avvo a few weeks later through the SeattleJS meetup. These meetups are big in Seattle, and often hosted by tech companies. It gives companies the opportunity to show off their offices and find new devs. Avvo was hiring at the time, and I talked to their recruiter for more than an hour at that meetup.
What does Avvo do? What is your role there?
Avvo is a legal marketplace that helps people find the legal help they deserve. It does this by providing detailed profile reviews, and ratings of licensed lawyers nationwide. Approximately 97% of all lawyers in the United States are indexed in our system. If someone needs legal advice, they can go on our site – anonymously if they wish – and have legal questions answered by real lawyers for free. If they need more help, they can use our systems to find the best lawyer for their situation.
I work as a Front End Engineer on our attorney-facing team. For the past year, I’ve been rebuilding the dashboard and admin portals for attorneys and working on the next iteration of our front end stack.
What technologies are you using at Avvo? Are they the same ones you learned at Hack Reactor?
What kind of ongoing learning support does Avvo provide?
Avvo is very supportive of helping newer developers grow. They partner with Ada Developer Academy, which offers a free bootcamp for women and gender diverse people in Seattle, and Apprenti for paid apprenticeships. I’ve also been working with them on education initiatives, creating “Lunch and Learns,” and bringing in 3rd party workshops on subjects like React, GraphQL, and Webpack. We also have the concept of “20% time,” which Google started, which means one day a week we can use our time at work to dig into, learn, and build anything we want as long as it pertains to our job in some way.
Also, my manager is great! He’s greenlit almost every ongoing learning opportunity I’ve asked for – books, online courses, or workshops. As long as I submit a plan, detailing what it is, how much it costs, how it will benefit me, and how I’ll share this information with the rest of the team, he’s all for it.
Was your background in audio engineering useful in learning how to code?
I always love to say that my mind works in a very creatively technical, and technically creative way. It’s one of the reasons audio engineering appealed to me. I didn’t build the microphones or write the music, but I used those microphones to record the musicians and then blend it all together through all that crazy gear you see in studios.
I see parallels in my work then and my work now. In my work now, UI and UX designers create the interfaces - kind of like the musicians created the music. Back end engineers make the equivalent of the microphone. Then, I take these two together, and I create what the consumers actually interact with. Or, to extend the metaphor – the music people want to hear. It’s been a pretty fluid transition.
Looking back on the past two years, what role do you think Hack Reactor played in your success?
I wouldn’t change my process at all. Hack Reactor was the perfect program for me. Hack Reactor doesn't just teach technology and how to code, it also teaches you how to learn.
They embrace the concept of “just-in-time learning,” which helps you solve problems right in front of you. That gave me confidence, and helped me progress faster than I ever would have on my own. While I had many experiences with my freelance work that helped out, within a year of graduating Hack Reactor I got my position at Avvo which is mid-level, not junior. I attribute much of this to the training I received at Hack Reactor. They gave me the know-how and the confidence to do a lot more than the basics. And I also learned how to learn very quickly in the moment.
While I could have gone the self-taught route, it probably would've taken me longer to get to where I am now. I came out of Hack Reactor with a family of people who are now my network in the tech industry, which I wouldn't have if I were self-taught.
What advice do you have for other people thinking about making a career change through an online coding bootcamp?
Know your limits. Programs like Hack Reactor can be life-changing – but they're not for everyone. Find the program that works best for you. Also, get out in the community and talk to people. There are a lot of great networking MeetUps, especially in tech hubs like Seattle.
One of my role models is Kent C. Dodds. His mantra is “Consume, Build, Teach.” It’s not a new concept, but it basically shows that to gain real mastery a person should consume education, build something based on that learning, then teach what they learned in the process of building. Teaching not only helps others, it also cements your learning and shows you the holes in your understanding of the subject. You can grow and give back at the same time!
Is learning to code on your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions List? It should be! The average coding bootcamp graduate gets a job in tech and sees a 49% salary lift. A coding bootcamp could be just what you need to make a fresh start in 2019 as a developer, so we’ve compiled a list of 18 full-time, part-time, in-person and online coding bootcamps which have upcoming cohorts starting in January and February 2019. Most of these coding courses have approaching application deadlines, so submit yours quickly if you want to get a head start in 2019!Continue Reading →
As we near the end of 2018, we're rewinding and reflecting on the most interesting and impactful coding bootcamp news of the year. Come with us as we look at trends, digest thought pieces, break down the ~$175 million in new funding, and more. We’ll also look at our predictions for 2019 and our hopes for the future of coding bootcamps!Continue Reading →
So you’re thinking about applying to a coding bootcamp. What should you expect in the application and interview process? And how do you ensure you get accepted to your dream coding bootcamp? We invited representatives from 7 coding bootcamps to ask all the tough questions about getting into coding school. In this live panel discussion, hear tips and advice about coding challenges, prep programs and more from Flatiron School, New York Code + Design Academy, Fullstack Academy, the Grace Hopper Program, Hack Reactor, Galvanize, and Codesmith! Watch the video, listen to the podcast, read the summary or transcript.Continue Reading →
We usually talk to bootcampers shortly after they’ve graduated – and while it’s so cool to see how quickly they get jobs after bootcamp, we wondered, “what are these bootcampers up to 3 years later?”We caught up with four bootcamp alumni to see how their careers have grown! Hear from Frances Coronel (Fullstack Academy), Pedro Martin (General Assembly), Alon Robinson (Hack Reactor), and Jennifer Sardina (Flatiron School) to see how coding bootcamps helped them achieve their goals (and set new ones)!Continue Reading →
The coding bootcamp industry is always evolving, so at Course Report we closely follow news and announcements in the coding education space. In September we saw a lot of interesting new data around women in tech and how coding bootcamps are increasing accessibility for underrepresented groups. We also read about new apprenticeship initiatives, heard from students about their experiences, and founders told us about taking bootcamps in new directions. There were also articles about the impact of bootcamps on the education industry as a whole, and advice about finding a job after bootcamp.Continue Reading →
We are rounding up all of the most interesting bootcamp industry news that we read and discussed at Course Report in August! This month we heard about a $43 million fundraise and a big acquisition, we saw the decline of CS degrees in the tech job market, we read about a bunch of interesting alumni who were featured in the news, we looked at how coding bootcamps can help us avoid “robogeddon,” and we celebrated an initiative teaching women in prisons to code. Plus, we’ll talk about all of the new bootcamps in August and our favorite blog posts!Continue Reading →
What happened in the world of coding bootcamps in July 2018? In our latest news roundup we look at the fascinating merger of two prominent bootcamps, an exciting fundraise for a bootcamp which focuses on apprenticeships, and a settlement worth $1 million. We also delve into the college versus coding bootcamp debate, celebrate lots of successful bootcamp graduates, and look at the proliferation of coding bootcamps in up-and-coming tech areas. Finally we look at new, innovative ways to finance bootcamp (and the potential for predatory behavior in them), and what the job market is looking like for grads right now. Read this blog post or listen to our podcast!Continue Reading →
Hack Reactor and Galvanize, two of the largest coding bootcamps in the US, are merging – and we’ve got all the details from Al Rosabal, the CEO of Galvanize. Why did this acquisition make sense for both schools? What will happen to Hack Reactor campuses? And how will this change affect future students, current students, alumni, and job outcomes? Find out below!Continue Reading →
So you’re thinking of hiring a coding bootcamp graduate, but not sure how to approach it. After speaking with 12 real employers from companies like Cisco, Stack Overflow, and JPMorgan Chase, we’ve compiled the best advice and lessons learned when hiring a coding bootcamp graduate. Following these steps will help you build a diverse, open-minded, loyal engineering team that finds creative solutions to software challenges. If you’re a prospective bootcamp student, this is also for you – these employers also explain why they hire coding bootcamp grads!Continue Reading →
With an undergrad major in the humanities, your career path can often be a winding road. Bernard Lin was planning to go to law school after studying Ancient Greek and Latin, but when he saw the great work-life balance his friends in the tech industry enjoyed, he decided to go to a coding bootcamp. Bernard tells us how Hack Reactor taught him the skills for the job, how he landed his job through the large Hack Reactor alumni network, and he answers our question: Was Coding Bootcamp Worth It? Watch the video or read the summary.Continue Reading →
Dan Miller is a Front End Blockchain Engineer for startup Kyokan, but he began his career working in communications for NGOs. When he realized he wanted to turn coding into his career, he enrolled at Hack Reactor Remote. Dan’s first software job was at a local company on the east coast of Canada, and now he works remotely for San Francisco company Kyokan. Dan tells us how studying remotely with Hack Reactor prepared him for a remote job, how remote work allows him to balance work and life (and to spend more time with his kids), and what it’s like working in the growing blockchain sector!
How did your path lead to Hack Reactor?
I took some computer science classes in university, and programming was something I enjoyed as a hobby. I majored in political and social sciences and from there I worked with nonprofits, NGOs, and humanitarian organizations. Coding proved useful in my day jobs from time to time. At some point, I decided I wanted to do more coding, so I made the decision to pursue it full time.
What made you choose a Hack Reactor as a way to upskill, rather than another bootcamp, going back to college, or teaching yourself?
I actually tried both of those paths – before I did Hack Reactor, I spent a term doing more computer science courses at college, but I didn’t pursue that further because it was going to take too long, the classes were more theoretical, and not relevant enough to what companies need now. Self teaching was great, but I realized that method would also take too long.
When I heard about bootcamps, I saw they would help me focus very intensely over a short period of time and accelerate my learning. I liked the idea of a structured curriculum, the accountability mechanisms they set up, the peers I would work with, and the technical mentors to check in with. That seemed like a useful and effective way to focus on learning quickly.
I did Hack Reactor Remote almost three and a half years ago. I’m on the east coast of Canada and there were no local, in-person options at the time. If I was to do a bootcamp on site, I would need to move. For me, the big decision was trying to decide whether or not to do it, and when to start.
What was the learning experience like at Hack Reactor Remote? What was your cohort like?
There were 16 people in my cohort, with most of the other remote students spread all around the US. Hack Reactor did a good job of removing any friction that you might expect to come up in a remote classroom. Throughout the day, we were all in online video calls together. A lot of the work was done in pairs, so I was often working online with another student. We used Slack and other online tools to stay connected, so it didn’t feel like I was thousands of miles away from the people I was learning with. I got more from my learning experience online, than I did when I was in university actually sitting next to people in a physical classroom.
The 13-week course was split into two parts. For the first half, every two days we would take on new content focused on a specific topic. We would get lectures, personal prep work, and research on that topic, then we’d complete a small programming project with a partner. We were provided with so much guiding material – we had opportunities to join a classroom video Q&A with technical mentors, and there were people we could regularly check in with to call for help.
How did you stay focused and motivated in that remote environment?
I split my bedroom in half to create a workspace. Other than that, I just had to commit to and embrace what Hack Reactor had set up, and it was fairly easy to stay focused. The days were long, often 11 to 13 hours or longer, but when working with a partner on a project that I would be showing to others in 48 hours, I just had to commit to being a good partner, and I’d stay focused.
The technical mentors who were teaching us maintained open communication with us, and did a good job providing us with tools to self evaluate. And all of that, along with the big goal of finding work as a software engineer, made me focus fairly easy.
How did the bootcamp prepare you for job hunting?
During the second half of course, we did larger projects that lasted one to three weeks. We had online lectures about aspects of the job search, we did practice technical interviews with our technical mentors, and practiced those interviews with our classmates.
Hack Reactor also made an effort to connect us with potential employers. Some of my classmates decided to move to San Francisco, where Hack Reactor’s networks are most developed, and were able to connect with several employers. I also met with a few companies who were willing to hire remote developers, or were exclusively remote companies.
So you graduated in 2015. Tell us about your career path since then.
I’m on the east coast of Canada, and there aren’t as many jobs here as in San Francisco, Boston, Toronto or Vancouver. I was hoping to stay here, so for my job hunt, I followed Hack Reactor’s advice and applied to a large number of remote companies, and to two local companies.
I got two job offers, one with a remote company, and one from a local company, which I accepted. Part of the reason I chose that offer over the remote offer, was the company seemed to be committed to helping people become better engineers as well as producing good software. Everyone there was smarter and more talented than me, so it seemed like a good place to go. I was there for two years, doing full stack engineering, but ended up focusing on front end.
I was looking for a change – hoping to find work that was fully remote, and had a more flexibility than a 9am to 5pm company, which is when I applied to Kyokan. The job description stood out because one of the founders was Dan Tsui, who was a technical mentor at Hack Reactor while I was a student. People at Hack Reactor had an immense amount of respect for Dan and his abilities as a software engineer, so I was excited for an opportunity to work with him.
Can you tell me what Kyokan does and what your role is there?
Kyokan works with blockchain technology. Dan Tsui started Kyokan in 2017, and they have experienced a lot of growth really fast. It started with two engineers, and now we have about nine full-time engineers, they keep hiring people! We do some work on our own internal products, but we’re mainly a contractor so a lot of work is collaborations with other blockchain technology companies.
I do front end engineering, so a lot of my work is building UIs for blockchain technologies. Other people in the company do work that is more core to how blockchains work at a low level, rather than front end development.
Can you tell us about the client projects you work on?
I’m part of a team of three at Kyokan which works on open source software called Metamask. It’s a browser extension that allows anyone to use the Ethereum blockchain, send and receive transactions on Ethereum, and publish contracts. It’s one of the earliest user-friendly wallets for people who want to use Ethereum, and has a huge user base of over a million users. As Ethereum has grown over the past year, Metamask has grown with it. Metamask is an entirely open source project, which welcomes community contributions, and user interaction via Github and other forums. All the tools they developed to build their software are out in the open as well.
Kyokan was contracted to help Metamask revamp of their user interface, and add a range of new features. We started working on it about nine months ago, and the new beta version of the user interface was released early in 2018.
What does a typical day look like as a remote software developer?
I’m on the far east coast of North America, and most of the Metamask team and the Kyokan team are on the west coast, so in terms of schedule, I usually start working before most other people. I have two children aged 4 years and 1 year so I’m parenting in the morning until 10am or 10:30am, I work until 4pm or 4:30pm, then I’m parenting again until my kids fall asleep. Then I’ll do another three or four hours before I go to bed. This particular schedule just works really well for me at this stage of life, and the remote work at Kyokan facilitates that. Not only are the Kyokan and Metamask teams both remote, they both want to ensure that work schedules allow each engineer to do our best possible work, as opposed to cramming our lives into schedules which end up cramping our engineering.
So a lot of my work is independent, but I have daily meetings with my two Kyokan team members and the Metamask team. I’m also participating in the Metamask design meetings and biweekly review meetings. My Kyokan team is fully responsible for the UI, in terms of planning, prioritizing, and executing our work.
Did the learning experience with Hack Reactor Remote prepare you for a remote job?
Definitely. When you have an office job, there's a routine you go through - you arrive, start working, check in with colleagues, and that routine helps you get in the mindset to focus. As I mentioned before, Hack Reactor had things set up to help us get into that mindset, but we still had to break from our lives, and get into work mode. In 13 weeks of doing that, you improve your ability to get into that mindset of work mode. When it’s time for me to go to work at Kyokan, I can just switch on the mindset I had to be in to do Hack Reactor. Having had that experience makes it easier to do that on a daily basis, even though I’m not surrounded by people working.
What stack or programming languages are you using for building blockchain UI at Kyokan? Did you learn any of those at Hack Reactor?
I’ve also had to learn Solidity, a programming language used with Ethereum, since I started working on Metamask. Beyond that, we use a lot of libraries that can communicate with the Ethereum blockchain. As blockchain software, it doesn’t have a database or anything like a lot of conventional apps out there, and that’s another thing that’s new for me.
Hack Reactor now teaches Blockchain workshops, and includes Blockchain as part of the curriculum, do you think Blockchain technology is going to be something that every software developer will need to know in future?
I don’t think it’s something that all developers will need to know. I do think the technology has had explosive growth that will continue, and the potential applications for the technology are huge. I imagine any engineers who have strong blockchain skills will be able to find work for many years to come, but it’s not going to replace all of software. Software engineers out there who don’t spend time learning about blockchain will not be at a disadvantage.
Have you always been interested in blockchain?
When Kyokan started, not all clients were blockchain companies. They weren't advertising themselves much at the time, so when I applied I didn’t know they were doing blockchain work. After I started the job, I learned about blockchain clients, what blockchain is, and how it works. I’ve developed a bit of an interest in cryptocurrencies, catalyzed by my work with Kyokan. Personally I’m really excited by decentralized technologies, and peer-to-peer tech. Cryptocurrencies a big part of that right now, but they are not the only useful decentralized peer-to-peer tech around.
Do you feel like you’ve progressed from Junior to Senior Developer? How does Kyokan make sure you and the other engineers continue to learn and grow?
I would like to think so, but there are varying standards about "what is junior and senior." The other developers at Kyokan are exceptionally talented, and I feel there is still a gulf between me and those engineers whom I regard as senior. I have grown immensely since Hack Reactor, but right now I’m holding the bar a little higher.
Kyokan has been really great about self-development. Early on, Dan Tsui said he hoped Kyokan can be a place where engineers can improve themselves by 10x, and he seems committed to that. We are given time to pursue new projects, and we are given resources. If I want to access online courses or travel to attend conferences relevant to the work, they are supportive.
How has your background working in NGOs and humanitarian organizations been useful in your new career as a software developer?
My roles could be grouped under communications, so I did a lot of writing and phone calls. The importance of communication in software engineering is probably understated, it doesn’t get as much recognition as it should. All the code you write has to be read and understood by other people. At Kyokan, we collaborate with other companies on software, so communication is critical to ensure that everyone involved understands each other's goals and decisions when trying to change or improve software. So my past work has proved useful for that.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a fully fledged software engineer?
As a software engineer, you are always doing work that you don’t really know how to do yet. The majority of time is spent on things you don't know how to do. You’re constantly learning, looking at new problems, and finding new ways to solve them. That’s a challenge, but it is an enjoyable and expected part of the job. My career has been really good so far. The work is sometimes hard, but I really enjoy it. Because of that, most challenges haven’t felt too hard.
When you look back at the last three years, what role has Hack Reactor played in your success? Would you have been able to get to where you are today by self-teaching?
I could have, but it probably would’ve taken a couple more years. A really important mindset that Hack Reactor helped strengthen is to know that I can eventually figure out any technical challenge I face. When I find myself in that situation, I stick to the steps and practices that have always helped me. One of the Hack Reactor founders said to us, "you’ll come to points where you’re so stuck you’ll want to give up or take a break, but it’s in those moments when you’re up against wall, that you need to summon the focus to push a bit further, because that’s when you will figure it out." That mentality to push a little harder has served me well in my career.
What advice do you have for other people making a career change through a coding bootcamp like Hack Reactor?
It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, or feel you’re not the "smartest" software developer. As long as you’re committed to doing this and you’re able to work at it every single day without making yourself unhappy, it’s worth spending time doing. At coding bootcamp, you’re going to be in situations where you don’t know what to do and things get really hard, and that’s fine – just keep working.
You’ve likely heard of cryptocurrency (ahem, Bitcoin), but what do you know about the underlying blockchain technology that it’s built on? If you’re researching coding bootcamps today, then it’s safe to say that blockchain will be a part of your job in some way during your lifetime. Brian Sweeney, a Blockchain Consultant for IBM, is designing a new blockchain curriculum for Hack Reactor and is giving Course Report readers the first look. Read on for a primer on blockchain (you don’t need to be a technical whiz to understand it) and learn why any good developer needs to know this technology.Continue Reading →
Yes, we get it – most high-salary industries need more diverse workers, and tech is no exception. But while the conversation about diversity in tech usually focuses on gender, diversity encompasses racial, socioeconomic, cognitive, and experiential differences. Think pieces and diversity reports show large tech companies admitting they have a problem and beginning to address the diversity in tech crisis, but do we really believe change is coming? Even if companies make public commitments to hiring more diverse candidates for technical positions, is the pipeline strong enough to fuel those hiring commitments? As we track non-traditional routes to tech at Course Report, it’s clear that talented, diverse coding bootcamp grads can fill that pipeline and play a role in shifting the demographics of the US tech industry.Continue Reading →
With the closing of Dev Bootcamp (slated for December 8, 2017), you’re probably wondering what other coding bootcamp options are out there. Dev Bootcamp changed thousands of lives, and built a great reputation with employers, so we are sad to see it go. Fortunately, there are still plenty of quality coding bootcamps in the cities where Dev Bootcamp operated. Here is a list of coding bootcamps with similar lengths, time commitments, and curriculums in the six cities where Dev Bootcamp had campuses: Austin, Chicago, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.Continue Reading →
Need an overview of coding bootcamp news in May? You’re in the right place! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we read about a number of insightful surveys about employers, programming languages, and learners. We read advice about choosing a bootcamp, learned about efforts to encourage women and veterans to learn to code, and heard about student experiences at bootcamp. Plus, we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Looking around the Hack Reactor classrooms, Albrey Brown could see a lack of diversity. As the Director of Diversity and Inclusion, his team decided to do something about it, and started by auditing the demographics of past alumni and current students. After analyzing that data, Hack Reactor announced their “Vision2020” to graduate classes made up of 50/50 gender balance and 20% underrepresented people of color by Q1 of 2020. We speak with Albrey to learn more about how Hack Reactor will attract, engage, and retain diverse, technical talent. Plus, read tips on how other bootcamps can enhance their diversity and inclusion efforts!
Tell us about your role at Hack Reactor!
I’ve been the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Hack Reactor for about four months now. I founded Telegraph Academy after graduating from Hack Reactor, and my team at Telegraph Academy did a very good job of sourcing students from underrepresented backgrounds. When Hack Reactor rebranded, our entire team was absorbed back into Hack Reactor to work on diversity and inclusion efforts and grow Telegraph Track (the revamped Telegraph Academy). I've been working with the leadership team and other employees to expand those efforts to the HR staff as well.
Telegraph Track’s first big project was working with Facebook on their F8 donation – Facebook just donated $250,000 to Hack Reactor's scholarship pool to be given out over the next year. That’s 14 full rides to Hack Reactor for underrepresented future engineers! The Hack Reactor scholarship program has been a really amazing source of underrepresented talent. We looked at how that's been converting to our student population and decided that our second project had to be figuring out whether we're improving or not.
What prompted Hack Reactor to conduct the diversity and inclusion report?
Our moment of obligation came a while ago. When I went to Hack Reactor in 2014, I was one of the only African-American students out of 160 people, which is unacceptable. As an organization, we’ve always been looking to improve, but we’ve invested most of our resources externally. There are seven bootcamps that we support in terms of curriculum, financial investment, and instructional support, and they are specifically geared towards underrepresented groups. We extend scholarships and curriculum help to many community partners, so externally, we've always been about promoting diversity and inclusion.
Once my team was back on site, we realized that we were overlooking more internal efforts and that's what prompted the diversity report itself. It was very easy to walk on campus and see that it wasn’t a very diverse environment. The anecdotal evidence was there – we needed the data to support that, because data is key to change.
Were the results what you expected? Better or worse?
We didn't start the survey with a clear expectation; we know that women and people of color are definitely underrepresented. When we compare ourselves to the bootcamp industry, we only had the Course Report Outcomes & Demographics study, which says that 43% of bootcamp grads are women. And in the tech industry, African-Americans and Latinos account for 1% to 3% of engineers, so I thought anecdotally that Hack Reactor would be consistent with those stats.
Our report found that 25.2% of Hack Reactor alumni are female, 4% are African-American and 6.9% are Latinx. I didn’t want to have preconceived notions about the findings based on the tech industry; we’re an education company, not just a tech company.
This may be obvious to some, but why is diversity & inclusion important at a coding bootcamp?
Hack Reactor is a new type of funnel to the tech industry. Tech organizations are looking to diversify, because no matter their size, being diverse is good – let's be honest – from a PR standpoint, but also good for the bottom line.
For Hack Reactor, there are two reasons why this is important to us. One, the coding bootcamp industry already lends itself to diversity, because the principles that we're built on is creating nontraditional engineers. So our students have a very diverse background and perspective compared to the regular CS degree grad. We've already developed internal practices in communities that foster diversity.
We also have a business opportunity here. In your report, 43% of bootcamps graduates are women, compared to 25.2% of our alumni. For us, that's an opportunity for growth and to get better. Obviously, I haven't heard anybody say that Hack Reactor is a place where women don't thrive, but we need to do a much better job of reaching out to spaces where women are looking for a tech community.
Why do you think that gender disparity exists?
It’s tough, because like I said earlier there are no indications that women at Hack Reactor don’t thrive. Since we started making a concerted effort toward diversity and inclusion, we’ve been getting tons of feedback from women in our community and no one has said they feel “bad” or particularly “marginalized”.
However, like with everything else success comes from a strategy. For whatever reason, our customer appeal is more male leaning. This was an eye-opening realization for us and now we are reimagining how we do things from the top down. Partnering with women-focused tech organizations, creating internal communities for women, and even making changes to our marketing that make us more appealing to women. These are some ways we’ve decided to close the gap and hopefully they work for us sooner rather than later.
Why will it take until 2020 to get to 50/50 gender parity and 20% underrepresented racial groups? How will you get there?
The first piece is tracking this data. We're going to be gathering data from each part of the pipeline to see when people fall out of the pipeline, what type of people parse out the different type experiences that different types of people have at Hack Reactor, and then we can start forming specific strategies around how to help them.
Once we've added gender and ethnicity questions to our admissions application, we can see the top of the funnel and then from there we can start tracking who gets admitted and who finishes Hack Reactor, making more informed decisions to get better at recruiting.
The next step is actually working on inclusion, which means making our environment welcoming to women, people of color, and those who are underrepresented. In our in-person interview, we're adding two cultural competency questions to show applicants that this is a priority for us. We’ll ask how willing they are to learn about diversity and inclusion, and how willing they are to advocate for it. We want to make Hack Reactor a place that not only fosters diversity and inclusion, but also fosters respect for other cultures.
We’re creating spaces for underrepresented students through our Telegraph Track, which provides mentorship programs and leadership development support.
We’re also creating Alumni Affinity Groups. Every large company has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and we’re replicating those with our alumni, so that they can create communities and networks outside of Hack Reactor.
Do you think that making the Hack Reactor classroom more diverse will benefit students?
People have lost jobs over not being culturally competent and I think it's important to highlight that. Not only is this a moral imperative that we should be invested in, but students should also be invested in it because, at the end of the day, the world is changing. This is going to be a conversation that almost every company goes through from now on. So you should invest time in thinking about these things.
After we filter out people who won't enjoy this type of thing, we also have to make it a part of our curriculum. We’re adding cultural competency education that's baked into our curriculum, which will expose the things that the majority population and the underrepresented population should be thinking about when it comes to their career as a software engineer, what it means to practice cultural competency, and also why it's important as part of your career.
Hack Reactor has always been known as the “Harvard of coding bootcamps.” Do you think that this exclusivity and perception of Hack Reactor’s low acceptance rate has contributed to the lack of diversity at the school?
I think you're right. There's a stigma around Hack Reactor that it can be very competitive and unattainable. In reality, only 5% to 10% of our students have a programming background before Hack Reactor.
One of the things that has definitely lowered that barrier to entry has been the Hack Reactor Prep Program. In January, we put out a free Hack Reactor Prep online coding module. It's basically 350 questions that tell you about everything we’re looking for in our interview process, and 85% of people who finish it pass our interview.
We can definitely change things in terms of the way we market ourselves to help us diversify the pipeline. The first thing we're going to do is ask all of our stakeholders, "What was your experience like before Hack Reactor and throughout Hack Reactor? What are the things that we need to tweak, change, and make better in order to demystify what it takes to be a Hack Reactor student?”
Telegraph Academy is reemerging as Telegraph Track – could you explain what Telegraph Track does for students and why someone from an underrepresented group needs that extra support?
To be clear, every Hack Reactor student gets the same technical training. All of the additional support through Telegraph Track is around community building. We meet 1.5 hours per week. Underrepresented students don't have the networks that the majority population does. We have people coming from so many different places – we have a student who moved here from Atlanta and didn't know anybody when he arrived. Having a network of people with a similar background, who are interested in his growth is huge for him.
Underrepresented folks also don't always have access to networks with industry knowledge. For example, they don't have a friend that they can ask for coffee and talk about working in tech. We intentionally pair those students with engineers to share that fountain of knowledge, and it gives them a leg up in terms of professional development. Next, we support their exposure. All of our Telegraph Track students write a technical blog post every week, so that they can build their brand. When you're trying to break into the tech industry, it's really important that you have a presence online to show that you can speak about yourself, particularly as an engineer.
Finally, we set up career support. We don't want this support to end at Telegraph Track, so we have an alumni community where we teach students how to be their own HR advocate. When you start your first job, how do you find the people who are going to be your mentors at your company? How do you break down biases and recognize privilege? How do you create allies? All of these things will help these students navigate the tech industry from the perspective of being underrepresented.
How are you working with employers to ensure that your graduates are being placed in diverse organizations?
We want to connect our students with companies that either have diverse teams or want to build diversity and inclusion programs. Tech organizations have been hiring from the same pool for a very long time. One of the reasons it's important that we do this at this moment in the industry, is that bootcamps are being taken seriously for one of the first times ever. For the first time, we’re hearing recruiters say, "my hiring manager told me to look for a bootcamper." Getting past that first layer of stigma was really important, because if you're an underrepresented bootcamper, then you have two layers of stigma that makes it difficult to get a job. Dissolving the first layer is awesome.
Our goal is to find those companies and audit them; ask how they’re fostering diverse environments and changing their practices. I was just on a panel at Lever, which is a really important company to me because they’re one of the first large companies to achieve 50/50 gender parity. I talk to hiring managers all the time, and I’m looking for employers who can change their perspectives on hiring. When you're looking for an experienced developer or a fresh CS grad, you’re looking for a certain skill set and for them to pass the “eye test.” They say that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy, but we all know that’s not true. We want to work with employers to create systems around applicants showing their work in a non-judgemental environment. That will go a long way towards diversifying and recruiting from other pipelines.
Do you have any advice for employers who want to expand their diversity and inclusion efforts?
First, make sure that you start with a coding challenge instead of a resume. It should be about being able to do the work. Instead of having somebody submit their resume, have them submit some code to you, look over the code and then see whether that is up to whatever standard of programming that you are looking to employ. If you want to hire bootcampers in general, I suggest you get a bootcamper from your company in on the hiring process.
Lastly, you should actually go to the places where bootcampers are, and to places where underrepresented groups are. You have to show up and be actually interested. Even when we vet companies, sometimes we are duped. We’ll go on a company tour and we can see that students can actually feel that this was just charity. As an employer, you have to be authentic about wanting the talent; not tokenizing the talent.
How can other bootcamps improve their diversity efforts?
Don't wait until you're at scale! Do it early and often. And of course, if a bootcamp wants to diversify, they should put out a diversity and inclusion report. Get a baseline of measurement first, because it’s the most important thing. (Rithm School offered a diversity and inclusion scholarship, even though they’ve only had 15 students. I admire the hell out of that.)
Secondly, it's all about engaging community partners. Coding bootcamps exist in the middle of two pipelines: between organizations and prospective engineers, and also in the education pipeline. You need some pre-knowledge to do any bootcamp. There are organizations that are already supporting and creating that pre-knowledge. Code Tenderloin is one example, which is an organization that we’re working with to build a bridge program to Hack Reactor. We need to invest our resources into those community partners, and tap into them to give our resources and share knowledge so that their students have a chance to go to Hack Reactor.
Finally, always get feedback from every group at your school. If you keep asking the same type of person whether they're enjoying the course, then you’re only going to get one point of view.
Missed out on coding bootcamp news in April? Never fear, Course Report is here! We’ve collected everything in this handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read about why outcomes reporting is useful for students, how a number of schools are working to boost their diversity with scholarships, we heard about student experiences at bootcamp, plus we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
How do you get a job after coding bootcamp if you have no relevant, real-world work experience? Only 1.4% of bootcampers have worked as developers in the past, but most career-changers have little – if any– client experience when they start looking for a developer job. Some bootcamps help students overcome this hurdle by offering opportunities to work for the bootcamp itself, or with real clients through projects, internships, and apprenticeships. These opportunities can give students substantial experience to add to their portfolios and resumes, and kickstart the job hunt.Continue Reading →
How does a Financial Intelligence Analyst become a Software Engineer? For Dan Svorcan, it took thorough research, self-confidence, and a lot of prep work before he even started the Software Engineering Immersive at Hack Reactor. After being surrounded by engineers in Silicon Valley and realizing he wanted to pursue his childhood tech dreams, Dan enrolled in Hack Reactor Prep to start his journey. Learn about Dan’s ReactNative thesis application and how he prepared for Hack Reactor’s full-time Software Engineering Immersive.
What were you up to before you attended Hack Reactor?
I studied Competitive Intelligence and Music. My first job after college was here in San Francisco. I worked as a financial intelligence analyst at a bank not too far from Hack Reactor headquarters. I worked there for about a year and seven months before I started Hack Reactor.
How did you go from working in financial intelligence at a bank to then deciding that you wanted to learn how to code?
I’ve always wanted to work in technology. As a little kid, I was always more interested in opening up my battery-powered toys and seeing how they worked than actually playing with them. Putting them back together was also a fun challenge. I also spent some time coding in college. I took a Java class, and from that moment I knew I wanted to be a software engineer.
Since coming to San Francisco, I've met many software engineers. Their stories inspired me to pursue my passion for building software, so I started doing research on the best schools out there, and Hack Reactor kept reappearing. With my background in intelligence, I did thorough research to verify that Hack Reactor was the best option.
Did you try to start learning how to code on your own before Hack Reactor? What resources were you using?
Yes, definitely. I was using Code School, Codecademy, and FreeCodeCamp, among other things. My main segue into Hack Reactor was Fulcrum, an earlier version of Hack Reactor’s paid prep program. As I was finishing Fulcrum, Hack Reactor started offering the free Prep course and I enrolled to get more practice before my admissions interview. There were over 150 exercises to practice on along with great tutorials on how to prepare for the technical interview.
So you had already done prep work, why did you decide to take Hack Reactor Prep?
The main feature that drew me to Prep was a team of software engineers that reviewed every line of code I wrote for certain modules (chapters). I sent my code back and forth, up to five or six times until my formatting was correct, or until my code was small and modularized enough that it was easily reusable. These days, I still follow those rules when I write code.
Prep also offered mock interviews, which were amazing because nothing can truly replace the live interview experience. I think that having multiple mock interviews before my technical interview was very helpful, and made the entire process a lot less stressful.
To summarize, the human interaction and the mock interviews are the best parts of the prep program.
Since Hack Reactor Prep is online, how did you communicate with instructors and mentors?
There was a dedicated Slack channel for student/instructor communication. There was constant interaction with instructors, especially when we were learning about code formatting, readability, and modularity. For example, the main task would be to find the longest palindrome, but the solution would not be accepted until code was properly formatted, easy to read, etc.
What did you actually learn in the Prep course? How did Prep position you for the Software Engineering Immersive application and interview process? Do you think you would have gotten in without all of the prep work?
I learned a lot, but I think two most important things were how to better prepare for a technical interview and how to write clean code.
I truly believe that all the prep work (especially the mock interviews) had a great impact on my interview performance and admission into the Hack Reactor Software Engineering Immersive. The prep program was designed in such a unique way that every step of the way I felt more prepared for the interview.
How did Hack Reactor Prep prepare you for the actual Software Engineering Immersive?
I was offered admission into the software engineering immersive before I completed the prep course, so I had made a tremendous amount of progress even before the course was over. For example, I’m still using some of the skills I learned during the prep work (e.g. clean and modular code). Additionally, everything I learned in the prep program was later multiplied and enhanced during the software engineering immersive.
Tell us about a typical day in Hack Reactor’s full-time Software Engineering Immersive.
On a typical day, I get here around 8am, and I start doing either some quick coding problems or continue where I left off yesterday. At 9am, the day starts with a 15-minute kickoff and maybe a lecture, depending on the day. Usually, there’s a Toy Problem after the kickoff. Toy problems prepare students for technical interview problems during the job search.
How have you liked this bootcamp learning-style so far?
Hack Reactor is very different from any other school really. I was expecting something similar to college-style learning, where students attend a lecture, then learn more on their own before taking an exam. Hack Reactor doesn't work that way; it’s way more efficient.
During the first six weeks of the course (also known as Junior phase), we had lectures regularly– but instead of simply learning what was presented, we went beyond the lecture material and then applied it. Each lecture had a corresponding sprint, which is a technical challenge structured to reinforce a topic or technology (e.g. Angular, React, MySQL, etc).
During the second six weeks (Senior phase), there are fewer lectures. Instead, we work on projects that tie together everything we learned up to that point, and more. We focus on teamwork, larger scale of the applications, and efficient workflow.
Do you have a favorite project that you're working on now? Tell us about it!
Right now I'm working on my thesis application. My team and I are building an app for iOS and Android using React Native.
We're building PixPlorer, an interactive tour guide app designed to help travelers explore new cities. Let’s say you come to visit San Francisco; you’d probably want to see cable cars. Our app gives you a list of things to see or visit, so once you find a cable car, you have to take a photo of it and it will get checked off your list. The app uses image recognition to verify you took a photo of the cable car, and geolocation to determine which particular item needs to be marked as complete (e.g. California Street cable car vs Powell Street cable car). The app will be deployed soon so feel free to check out my GitHub page and the demo video. Some of the technologies we’re using for the app are React Native, Redux, Google Firebase, Google Vision, Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, MySQL, Bookshelf, MongoDB, Mongoose, Mocha, Chai, etc.
What’s your goal for after graduation? What types of jobs will you be looking for?
I’d like to focus on full stack software engineering roles after graduation. I’ve worked on every part of the stack, and I find it really exciting and rewarding to work on both front and back end.
What's been the biggest challenge for you on your journey to learn how to code?
My biggest roadblock was probably believing that this was possible. There are numerous articles about impostor syndrome in the tech industry where people who are really great engineers somehow still doubt themselves. Hack Reactor teaches not only technical skills but how to resolve all doubts and eliminate the impostor syndrome.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about switching careers, and thinking about attending a coding bootcamp?
There are really talented people out there that never go to a program like Hack Reactor because they have doubts. Yes, you do have to quit your job, pay for school, be out of work for three months, and then spend some time on the job hunt after graduation. But doing something you're really passionate about is worth every risk. I'm excited to get to work every single day and I would recommend Hack Reactor 150%.
Here’s what we found ourselves reading and discussing in the Course Report office in February 2017! We found out the three most in-demand programming languages, we read about how coding could be the new blue collar job, and looked at how new schools are tweaking the bootcamp model to fit their communities. Plus, we hear about a cool app for NBA fans built by coding bootcamp graduates! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
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)... Here we’re highlighting 8 forward-thinking companies who are psyched about the bootcamp alumni on their engineering teams. Each of these employers have hired multiple developers, and are seeing their investment pay off.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 want you to have some programming knowledge 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.
This webinar is perfect for future bootcampers or anyone interested in the coding bootcamp industry.Continue Reading →
How much do coding bootcamps 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 $11,906, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
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 →
"Can I be a programmer if I'm not a math genius?"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.