Hackbright Academy is a leading software engineering school for women in San Francisco, founded in 2012. The school offers a full-time engineering fellowship that takes women from beginners to software engineers in 12 weeks. In addition to the fellowship, they offer part-time Intro to Programming night courses for beginners. Alumnae are at major tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Slack.
After graduation, Hackbright Academy connects graduates with Silicon Valley companies looking to expand their engineering teams. Graduates who accept a full-time job from one of the companies in the Hackbright network will be refunded a portion of their tuition. Payment plans are also available. Hackbright's ideal candidate has an inspired desire to learn software development and has prior exposure to programming.
Recent Hackbright Academy News
- Alumni Spotlight: Marisha Schumacher-Hodge of Hackbright Academy
- 8 Companies Who Actually Love Hiring Coding Bootcampers
- How Women Navigate the Job Search at Hackbright Academy with Ronke Aderonmu
Recent Hackbright Academy Reviews: Rating 4.17
Software Engineering Fellowship
- Payment Plan
- We’ve partnered with leading lending partners Pave and Skills Fund to provide you affordable payment alternatives. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions!
- $3000 if placed through the school's job placement program.
- A list of scholarships available at this time can be found on our Empowerment Fund page. We would also recommend reading the Hackbright Academy financial aid and scholarship FAQ to understand the various opportunities.
- Minimum Skill Level
- 20 hours of coding practice
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 5-10 hours remote work per week for the 3 weeks leading up to the start of fellowship
Introduction to Programming
This is a 8-week part-time night course will teach you the basic fundamentals of programming. You will leave with a foundation in Python and be introduced to HTML, CSS, and Flask. The course is geared to those who are planning to apply to a bootcamp or considering shifting their careers.
- $250 non-refundable deposit due upon enrolling
- We are partnered with lending partner Affirm to provide alternative payment options. You can enroll in the payment program here or email email@example.com if you have questions.
- Minimum Skill Level
In PersonPart Time5Hours/week
Application Deadline:March 24, 2017
In PersonPart Time5Hours/week
MONDAYS & WEDNESDAYS 6:30PM - 9:30PM
Application Deadline:March 24, 2017
Hackbright Academy Reviews
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As you can tell from the ratings, I really enjoyed my time at Hackbright. I'm more of a list person, so let's make some lists.
- Excellent structure. First five weeks: lecture in the morning, lab, lunch, lecture in the afternoon, lab. Homework. Weekend assessments. Weeks six through ten: lecture in the morning, work on your projects the rest of the time. Weeks eleven and twelve: lectures and guest speakers on career things (interviewing tips, negotiations, whiteboarding, field trips). It's a very professional setup and I felt well cared for. [Side note: I also felt like I probably could have learned all the things I learned at HB on my own, but it would have taken at least 4x longer and be much more frustrating, so that alone justifies the tuition for me.]
- Lots of feedback mechanisms in place. After every lecture / talk / event, there's a survey. And they take the survey results seriously and implement your feedback (if warranted). HB is not perfect, but they sure do work hard and constant improvement.
- The network. Besides the people who work at HB, you become a part of this amazingly supportive alumnae community. I was actually really afraid of being with the same classmates all the time and also with a lot of women who may want to socialize a lot, but the end result was that I could put in however much effort into socialization as I wanted. I didn't feel pressured to grab lunch or talk. And regardless of my lack of socialization investment, I still felt like one of the team. And it was a great team. I really miss my cohort. And HB.
- The mentors. I had varying degrees of closeness with my mentors but they were all amaizing and oh-so helpful! So cool that HB has this in place to further support us.
- Career support. The career services team is resourceful, encouraging, and supportive. We updated our resumes, LinkedIn, wrote cover letters, ... we basically had everything in place to hit the ground running for the job search as soon as the program was over. I lucked out and landed a job with a partner company about a month after the program ended. I was prepared to allot myself 3 - 6 months for the job hunt, as that is a more reasonable / likely amount of time.
- It's not cheap. Plus, you'll be doing it full time (plus!) so you won't be able to get a job. I feel really privileged to be able to take this leap, but I understand that not everyone can do it. Definitely consider your personal financial situation thoroughly before leaping.
- It's tough. The program is tough. Software development is not easy work. It requires attention to detail, problem solving skills, patience, teamwork. This is a double-edged sword because I was thinking back on my old job where I knew most of the things to know and was not very challenged and made decent money. I definitely could've stayed on that trajectory. But I love challenges, so I went to HB and I know now that I'll be challenged for the rest of my life. Know this before you choose this path. :)
If you have any questions about my experience, feel free to read my blog post on it and reach out to me with questions. Happy to answer them!
Hackbright provided a safe, inclusive environment to learn in. This makes it easy to pick up new topics and, for my cohort, gave us space to ask a lot of in depth questions. That being said a lot of topics are being served up at once, so being able to focus on the program while you're in it is essential to success.
The women I met are wonderful, smart and incredible human beings. The alumnae network provides access to jobs, events and support, but it is up to the individual how much they participate in this after Hackbright.
I was incredibly lucky, in that I had three wonderful mentors. All of who were there to encourage me and even now, in the job search, are valuable assets to have. That being said, not all my cohort mates were so lucky and often felt disappointed in their mentors ability to provide support.
For me, Hackbright provided materials to have solid understanding of Python, but significant studying after Hackbright was necessary to access jobs and have successful interviews at companies that specifically didn't have programs made for bootcamp grads. Having a thick skin after Hackbright is essential as getting rejected from jobs becomes the norm. Also, if you need to return to work after HB while searching for a job can be a taxing balancing act.
That being said, Hackbright was empowering and provided materials to set up a solid base for one to compound on.
If you're reading this, you're most likely considering attending a Dev Bootcamp of some kind. Awesome!
It's almost surreal to look back on the time when I was deciding between bootcamps -- having just graduated Hackbright in December '16, there's no doubt in my mind Hackbright was the best option for me, and the best option for anyone with determination, dedication, and grit looking to transition into the software engineering community.
Around the time I was looking at reviews in my own DBC search, I was reading these reviews thinking "Yeah, it's great to see happy reviews, but seriously tell me why this is a better option than staying at my paying, comfortable job." TLDR version: The return on investment (skills/experience, network, Hackbright name/brand, career services support) is absurdly high.
The longer version:
Before I start the longer version, let me state in glorious but brutal honesty that this is not a cakewalk. There will be days (or even weeks) when you wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea. You will be so tired and/or pressed for time that you seriously question your own ability to make good life decisions for yourself. However, you also get out of this program what you put into it. Simply showing up does not mean you'll be granted all the benefits the Fellowship has to offer. In order to get the most out of this program you must be ready to persevere through exhaustion, overwhelming amounts of information, and your own self doubt.
With that Surgeon General's Warning having been clearly explained, let's jump into all the reasons you should *definitely* do this: skills, network, Hackbright name/mission, and career services.
Skills: There are a ton of different ways to build or do or learn anything -- your own experience in life will tell you this is true. That being said, you can certainly have an opinion on the HB curriculum. Whatever your opinion, the point of this curriculum is to give you the skills to be a hirable junior developer, and it does. I loved how they paired the lecture with a lab where you could really dive in and get your hands on a topic...because having been in a classroom for 5 years I can tell you that listening to a lecture about it does not skills provide. You have to get your hands dirty and they provide you the time to do just that. You will also gain skills no matter your starting skill level -- the lectures and labs are designed to take you from your own point A to a new point B. How far your point B is from your starting point A is largely up to you -- remember, you get out of this what you put into it.
- Your classmates become part of your network. This is like Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring quality bonds here. They support you even when you're being pelted by all of the job-rejection arrows. (Side note: I don't usually make friends with women -- I've always been one of the guys. I was really concerned when I made the decision to come to Hackbright that the "sorority" piece you hear talked about negatively in other reviews would be an obstacle for me, but nothing could have been further from the truth. My cohort is my tribe, and I am just as delighted by that as I was surprised.)
- Hackbright sets you up with two or three mentors. Not everyone in my class had great experiences with their mentors, but this was definitely the exception rather than the rule. Most of the women in my cohort are continuing their relationships with at least on of their mentors, even through the Fellowship is complete. ALSO: The Hackbright Alumnae Community becomes part of your network. SERIOUSLY. I have nothing in common with these women other than that we went through the same program, and the amount these relative strangers are willing to support me, no matter my request, is worth so much.
- Demo Night. Hackbright sets up a time for you to showcase yourself to a room of potential employers. Terrifying? Absolutely. Value? Priceless.
- Hackbright coordinates field trips and other networking events outside the HB campus that allow you to make connection with beyond the Hackbright community. PLUS Hackbright gives you tips on networking, so if all this networking seems like something you can't do, they give you tips so can be better at it and make the most of it.
Hackbright Brand and Mission: Hackbright is serious business, and the employers who work with them know they have consistent results. You can certainly argue that bootcampers are not the "favored" employee picks, but no more so than learning on your own. Hackbright is a well respected name in the DBC community, and that goes a long way. Hackbright is also fiercely dedicated to their mission to #changetheratio. This is empowering at many levels -- I had only briefly considered the social impact of what I was doing when I signed up for Hackbright, but the mission is A Big Deal and brings together employers that you actually *want* to work for.
Career Services: This team organizes field trips and networking events, they work tirelessly to bring job opportunities to you, they give you 1:1 and coaching sessions to help you update your resume/cover letters while you transition careers, they tell you of opportunities (Hackathons, conferences, workshops, panels) in the broader engineering community, they aid in connecting you to the alumnae community, and they genuinely care for your success.
So let's get back to ROI for the program and why it might actually make sense to give up a paying gig to go back to Hackbright.
Many things you could do to switch careers or get up that professional chain also include mean back to school. Hackbright is across-the-board cheaper than an MBA or other schooling -- it's the clear winner in terms of time, overall cost, and opportunity cost.
Not convincing enough for you? Let's undervalue everything and crunch some more numbers:
At their root, most new jobs are gotten through connections. How much are all these connections worth? Let's say you're in a cohort of 20, and you value each of those connections at lifetime value of $100. That's $2000 of benefit you're getting right off the bat. High value networking events often charge admission, and Hackbright sponsors consistently high-value, free-of-charge networking events. Plus you've got connections to a growing network of alumnae -- let's call that a lifetime value of $3000.
It's not like going to Harvard, but recognition of the Hackbright brand and mission is also valuable. Let's say $1000 lifetime value.
How can I even begin to put a lifetime value on the support career services offers? The value there is stunning, but I said we'd undervalue everything, so let's go with $3000 lifetime value.
Given the value of the intangibles above, you're now looking at getting all those skills we'd discussed for about $8000. For a twelve week course. That will make you infinitely more marketable in a growing career field. And you will gain those skills at a pace you simply could not manufacture independently with support that is quicker and more tailored to you than anything you could get online with free tutorials or books.
I dare you to argue with me that you could do better for the money and time than you could at a Dev Bootcamp, but especially at Hackbright.
P.S. I'm not one of the magical HB unicorns that got employed right out of the gate. I'm unemployed while I'm writing this, but I'm still confident that it was the right choice for me, and the right choice for any gritty woman looking to get into tech.
I had a great experience in the Introduction to Programming course taught by Rachel Walker. I had enrolled in the course because I had been unhappy in all of my professional roles. When trying to just do something different, I realized that I don't have the techncial skills to have the job I think I want. I wasn't sure how I felt about programming (given my lack of experience), so I enrolled in the part-time course. It was great. The hours flew by in class. I enjoyed the labs. I knew there was help available, but I didn't take advantage of all the additional resources provided becuase I was able to absorb most/all the information in class. The class was a huge turning point in my life. From that, I knew I would want to partake in a bootcamp and become a software engineer full-time (spoiler alert - I did Hackbright fellowship, got a job, and I'm happier than I ever expected :) ).
You will learn - how to use the command line / terminal. Oh - and Python. But you also learn HOW to learn how to code. Sweet.
As a recent graduate, I was fascinated to stop in and read the reviews here. Having so few reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, especially given that this bootcamp has been going strong for several years and has an alumnae network of more than 500 incredible women upon which to draw support and inspiration.
To set the stage: I have a Bachelor's in Psychology and Masters in Marketing. I spent years providing data analytics, workflow and reporting for a non profit, and then worked as a consultant providing online brand development. I have very little coding experience behind me outside of Wordpress and oh yes, MySpace in the 90's -- but seriously, I had seen little code prior to stepping into the belly of Hackbright.
I applied to 5 bootcamps and was accepted 4: but I held out for Hackbright. Their interview and application process was simple, though their admissions team was a power of (an amazing) one and they took several weeks to give me an accept/decline. I was down to the wire, my second choice start date was a week later! Since then, they have brought on a second admissions staff member so I imagine it's now more streamlined.
I chose Hackbright Academy after doing an on-site visit and talk with all five of the bootcamps I was considering. Each has their own flair and flavor, offerings and perks. Your mileage will vary, your needs & desires are different than others: do your research just as you would choosing a college. I did, and I'm thankful for having done so.
Key differences that steered me towards Hackbright Academy:
Women-only while still being inclusive and accepting of those not constrained to the standardized binary of genderization. I personally value their understanding and appreciate their care around this subject matter.
They are creating community and want to see us support each other through time. They encourage the cohort to bond and recognize that we are in the act of solidifying a network of other women that (for the most part) are going into the same field. Networking is the key here!
Hackbright respects that you have a life and appreciates work-life balance. Unlike the other bootcamps that warned me of late nights and pointed out their nap rooms, our instructors encouraged us to step away and refresh. Studies show that quality, not quantity, facilitate greater learning potential and productivity.
You NEED to be your own best advocate. Step back and consider, then step up and state your needs! They genuinely do try to allow space for everyone's voice, but this is usually done in a group setting. For me, I found that the advisor format is full of holes: it depends who you get, if you are comfortable speaking up, how experienced that person may be, how involved that person wants to be, and other such factors that fluctuate on a per person basis. This was the weakest point in my Hackbright experience, by far; if I had one change to make, it would be in this arena!
The education team is warm, supportive, helpful and encouraging. Lead instructors are killer. They know their work, they know this program, and they want to know you as a person in order to better assist your growth. That level of interactivity can be difficult in such a large group, and I believe that is why they assign you an advisor.
You create an app independently, rather than in a group. The majority of bootcamps have you walk away with several little projects and/or a large project done within a group. Creating your own app serve many purposes: my favorite being that I got to choose for myself which curriculum topics called to me, and then dive deeper. Note that TAs do not have a lot of coding experience under their belts, and this really began to show during project time. Some are more comfortable than others at saying, "I'm going to need another set of eyes". My advice: practice timing your entrance into the help queue.
I'll speak of Career Services directly:
There are two ladies that handle this arena whilst you're within the program. They are outstanding in so many ways. I have been totally shocked to see people complaining about their job search! For each of the other bootcamps I was accepted into, I spent the majority of my on-site visit, grilling (one employee actually used that word when handing me off to their employment search staff for further questioning) them about this aspect of the bootcamp.
Learning the skills is one piece of the puzzle, but as a queer woman stepping into the bro-world of tech in San Francisco, I knew without a doubt that this would be the most difficult piece of my career change. At BEST, other bootcamps offer a week of support at the end of their program, to prepare you. Then a single point of contact for their alumni to help with the job search. Not so at Hackbright.
They started at Week One. And each week they gave us lots and lots of information to digest and action items to begin preparing ourselves, our online presence, and our networks. They provide "fieldtrips" to tech companies for panels, discussions, whiteboarding and even yummy meals. Then, the last two weeks of the fellowship are JAM PACKED with speakers who talk about negotiation techniques, product management, how to work with recruiters to maximize your potential, etc. I was shocked to see so many people not attend these informational talks. Even after week 12, you get an entire month of twice weekly whiteboarding sessions, job leads, and more.
I attended two Hackbright information sessions before applying: I was told point blank that most people find a job within 6 months, some within 3 and those typically already have ties and networks within companies to begin with. In my notes from the first week of career services, I can see that I asked about this and received the same answer. Throughout the fellowship I believe they have repeatedly told us that they are here to help, to support, to provide resources and help facilitate connections, but that it is up to us to really make the job materialize.
Is Hackbright built for underserved populations? Only just barely but really. Do they bill themselves that way...sort of yes. It's a sticky point for me, and has been since the day I came across their website. They are trying to make a change from a very specific angle: those women that already have the financial, educational, physical, etc. capability to take 6+ months out of their lives. Others are working to support women that have obstacles not accounted for here. If that's what you need: proceed on in your search. But if you are able to swing the commitment, I happen to think it is well worth the money, time, energy, and care
I was deeply impressed by the community at Hackbright, and the structure and support was invaluable to starting my new career. My understanding is that as a young program, Hackbright is still changing form cohort to cohort, and with the recent acquisition, more changes are likely on the way -- I would encourage you to attend an in-person event if at all possible to help inform whether Hackbright is the right choice for you. For my piece, Hackbright gave me the tools and support to break into engineering, and I do not doubt that I would not be where I am today without them. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn at Hackbright, and even more so for the opportunities that leaning at Hackbright opened to me.
Hackbright was an incredible experience. Much of the time, I was surprised---by the quality of the education I was receiving, and especially by the competence and creativity of women I was surrounded by. I made some of the deeper friendships I've ever had and was trained in a domain that allowed me to get a job making great money, in the location I wanted, close to family. The only reason I rate job assistance slightly lower is that there is not as much support for you if you're looking for a job outside of San Francisco and not in Hackbright's network---but it's still possible as my experience shows!
Hackbright is an incredible program. While it has already changed a lot since my time there, there are a few key aspects which feel central to the Hackbright experience:
1. Hackbright fosters a supportive, respectful, creative, and fun environment where students are encouraged to push themselves and make mistakes to further their learning.
2. Work/life balanced is highly emphasized and students are encouraged to not only focus on coding but also build relationships and take care of themselves mentally and physically.
3. Hackbright students and staff are amazing people with a diversity of backgrounds and interests. In my cohort alone there were lawyers, librarians, financial analysts, artists, folks who had worked at non-profits, startups, and large corporations. I met incredible people and made wonderful friends with some of the most interesting, smart and hardworking people in tech.
While I had a great experience at Hackbright, everything wasn't perfect. I thought the job finding process was the weakest part of the program. I did most of my job searching on my own. I do know that a lot of the students found it worked for them, especially if they wanted to work with a partner company. Additionally, Hackbright is still in its growing phase so sometimes lessons were chaotic, or things wouldn't go as smoothly as planned. However, the team was good at receiving feedback and adapting to the needs of the class.
I am so glad I decided to attend a coding bootcamp, especially Hackbright. I didn't fully believe it was possible, but I was able to successfully transition into a software engineer from a non-technical background prior.
Hackbright, like most programs, will have challenges, such as leveling differences between students. You'll set yourself up best if you complete the pre-work beforehand and start picking up some interviewing practice about midway through the program. The most challenging part of the program is definitely the job search, but it also happens to be the part where we had the least support. Instructors are already ramping up for the next class, so I think that there is room for improvement here.
With that said though, the experience, instructors, and classmates throughout the program were exceptional. The women who choose to attend Hackbright are motivated and bright, and that continues with a very supportive alumni community after graduation. The environment is extremely encouraging, as instructors will help you both if you are ahead or behind. Most importantly, Hackbright has built up a great reputation and has the added benefit of being all-women in a field that is severely lacking women. This shows in the highly reputable companies that attend Career Day.
TLDR: I came to HB with 0 coding experience. I tried 3 different online courses to learn coding in my previous non-programming, non-tech career with no bueno. Based on my experience and what I have gathered from my classmates, friends from other bootcamps and tech companies, do not expect that "omg! I'm going to be a programmer after this bootcamp!" Expect that you'll know one way to build a website. That doesn't make you a hot Mission burrito in this town. It makes you a Chipotle buritto at best.
Disclaimer: This review is sarcastic and can come off as harsh; in complete opposite to HB's practice of being encouraging and believing in oneself. If you'll get angry or bitter reading negative reviews, skip this one. Also, this is meant for those who are career switching with no prior tech-industry experience.
I agree with many reviews who say that the instructors are knowledgable and are good teachers for basic programming techniques. You'll learn the basics of how to write code. You will NOT learn how to write good, scalable, or smart code. If a good CS degree holder can write it in 10 lines, you'll probably use 20-50 and your run time will be poor. When whiteboarding in interviews (or mock interviews), you'll be trying to use recursion to traverse the tree when a while loop is sufficient and then stutter, "I don't know..." when the interviewer asks for the spatial complexity. But, you'll be able to write code.
I understand that HB is now multiple classes per session. Each class has it's own personality. I met great ladies whom I am close friends with till today. We mainly commiserate about the state of our morale, bank accounts, and job search prospects (all dangerously low, if you're wondering). One thing that really impressed me was the diversity of women I met. Great women who work hard and deserve so much more.
They are great people in the career services. But I personally find them to be emotional roller coasters. They build your expectations up and then when you come head to head with reality and crash, they are nowhere to be found. Everytime they're told how difficult it is, they say, "aww, that's too bad. You need to keep trying!" After the 4th email saying that, I stopped giving them my weekly updates. I can now program my own bot to wish me good luck by text if that was all I wanted.
Go and study with your classmates and use the online resources (someone here linked a bunch of awesome sites). Besides, with the new intakes being so large, I have no idea how they expect to provide sustainable support.
Oh and those partner companies? Isn't great to go on on-site visits and talk to REAL engineers and get interview practice??!! Come job application time, you'll be told they're hiring people with 3+ years experience which is not surprising considering the funding situation now.
HB is a safe place. After you leave, most of you are going to go feel effing terrible and great at the same time. You'll meet alums who are still job searching 6-months in and think, "Oh, that won't be me" but then wonder a week or two later if that'll be you. Go out with a clear mind and no positive expectations about how fast you're gonna be a legit programmer. That is the best start you can have.
One advice I will give you if do end up going to HB: Your personal project is your own. A friend from the other class (same session) had to fight tooth and nail to get her project approved. Even then, HB refused to help her with the aspects "they warned her is over her head" but are basic things we should have learned about Python. Fortunately, her mentor helped her sort it out.
I wish I had made something other than "[popular website] but for [another everyday item/hobby]". I am now working on a less-bootcampy project to put on my resume.
Come project seasion, keep this in mind: Everyone is making a website/webapp. If you are front-endy, by all means, make a beautiful website. During the early years of HB, projects were augmented reality, compilers, large data sciency things, actual programs, etc. Do something to stand out from the sea of websites. Own it. Fight for it and don't give up cuz this is just the begining of the battle of entering the tech world. You'll be fighting to prove yourself even after you get your first job. Might as well get some practice in now.
Response From: Wendy Saccuzzo of Hackbright Academy
enroll if you really like coding, learning new things all the time, working hard; join the surprisingly awesome coding community
I'm in my last week of Hackbright, and looking back I see that Hackbright has been a place where I've been really empowered and inspired to try my best. It was a great learning environment to ask questions, be surrounded by curious and hard-working people, create personal connections with people who really care, and met industry leaders who were happy to join in our learning journey because of the name Hackbright and its alums have brought for themselves.
It was a risk, but I quit my job and enrolled in Hackbright because:
- I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of coding (I had previously taken some computer science courses and was studying independently in my free time)
- liked what I saw of its curriculum (more so than other bootcamps)
- the ‘challenge’ aspect wasn’t available in my current job trajectory
The people I've met here are some of the most resilient, tough, mature, disciplined, and admirable people I've met. From what I've seen of the students, education team, career services, marketing, admission, the rest of the staff: Hackbright attracts diverse and phenomenal people. You probably need to talk to one of us personally to realize this, but the more I get to know each person (especially among the students), the more amazed I become at how much each of us have overcome in the past and throughout the program to have gotten to where we are now—software engineers and leaders in our own right, but even better, with the humility, stamina, and motivation to keep on learning and improving. And the curriculum itself is pretty demanding—10am to 6pm every day we’re learning and trying out new things, and afterwards we’re studying, even after arriving home late.
One thing I did not expect but super duper appreciated: mentors. From the Hackbright education team, you have an advisor who you really come to trust and admire and a whole group of instructors who help us understand the concepts and care about how you're doing. And career services has the best advice and plan dang cool events for us. Hackbright assigns three mentors for you who are currently working in the field, from software engineers to VP's of engineering, to even CEOs who volunteer their time to help us at the start of our software engineering careers. They’ve been really helpful, each in their own ways.
I would suggest that you don't apply if you're not that interested in coding/just having trouble finding a job after college. Think of it long-term: it’s going to require a lot of work and personal initiative, not just in the three months of this program, but even after, while you’re a software engineer. After graduating Hackbright, there shouldn’t be a point where you say “okay, I’ve learned enough.” There are too many cool things to learn and do to become complacent.
If you’re stuck because you really like coding but you don’t think you can do it, reach out to Hackbright and see if it’s right for you. Even though it’s a lot of hard work, there’s a magic of excitement that comes from doing what you really like to do that makes it all worth it. Good luck and ada ftw.
The first day we started at Hackbright, we were a mix of people from both STEM and liberal arts backgrounds, previously working in tech (UI/UX designers, QA, etc.) and a huge, fascinating variety of other careers.
Fast-forward to Demo Night, when we presented our projects to a room full of prospective companies, and we were all Software Engineers, all so impressive in our achievements, all equally capable of taking on the tech world by storm.
This can be credited to what and how we studied. The curriculum has been fine-tuned over the years, very responsive to tech trends and the almost-constant student feedback. The instructors cater to our huge variety of backgrounds, getting us up-to-speed prior to the program with preparatory studies and by presenting the material in a fast-paced, but inclusive way.
This can also be credited to the support system they have in place. In addition to having a Career Services advisor, we had an advisor from the education staff, and both advisors checked in with us regularly and provided us the support we needed to catch up on difficult Python topics, prepare our resumes, and transition from student to developer. They also encouraged us to lean on each other for support throughout the program, which has resulted in a tight-knit group that genuinely wants to see each other succeed.
Following Demo Night, I've heard of many of us having interviews with companies that attended, and Career Services has gone above and beyond to ensure we all end up somewhere we will succeed.
I went back and forth for ages on whether I should do this program, but I am so happy with my decision.
Hackbright is such an amazing, supportive, wonderful place. I did a lot of research when choosing a bootcamp, and fell in love with Hackbright's mission statement, curriculum (cats, Harry Potter, and memes? yes please), supportive alumnae network, and Python curriculum.
They also do a fantastic job at matching each student with 3 mentors, taking you inside of companies for informative panels, and giving you a strong network upon graduation. I am so glad I chose Hackbright, and my life will truly never be the same.
My only negative feedback has to do with the admissions process. It was hell, took way too long, and there was very little timely communication. I have talked to many other women who experienced the same issues. Choosing a bootcamp is a huge life changing decision- timely communication is key!
After SO MUCH research and many other options, I decided to go to Hackbright. I'm so glad I did! Remember - this is a bootcamp and not some fairy land where someone holds your hand while you learn to code. They will kick your butt but it will be worth it. They have a 3% acceptance rate for a reason. If you are even able to get in, just do it. The team is very well connected and you will find a job. Work hard, don't stop learning and show the tech world that women are amazing!
I am a current student at Hackbright and will admit there are some good and bad things about this academy. The entire operation feels more like a community center than an institution that charges students $16,000+ for the 'education'. The majority of the ed staff lack professional training and do not conduct themselves professionally. There are a few great people on the team, but there are staff members who are very unprofessional and immature. Not something you'd expect for the price you are paying. Aside from the instructors who actually have CS degrees and professional experience, the ed team consists of Hackbright graduates who act as if Hackbright is their special sorority. Highly unprofessional. The career services and other teams conduct themselves professionally, however, as a student, my interactions with them have been limited. You can tell they genuinely care about what they do. I would strongly suggest you weigh your options before attending Hackbright. They have a lot of work to do, especially with their education team. Students are not here to be judged, we're here to learn. If you can't do that with a positive disposition, you should take a lesson in client relationship management because we help fund your salaries. For an organization that claims to be inclusive, it seems to cater to one specific type of woman. The curriculum itself needs a lot of fine-tuning and they need a system that will make grading more consistent. As stated, I am disappointed with my experience at Hackbright and will say that this is solely because of the experiences I've had with the Hackbright graduates on the ed team. Tighten up and be more professional its the least you can do for the cost of tution.
Response From: Meggie Mahnken of Hackbright Academy
Instructor, Hackbright Academy
Getting in was hard. Getting through the program was hard. But was it worth it? YES. I see a lot of inaccurate posts on this website and I've got to address some of them.
The instructors have all had industry experience(seems that some people don't know that). TAs and lab instructors are mostly grads from the program who were exceptional enough to be able to assist others beyond their cohort end date. But all of them bring passion for teaching and coding that I have never seen anywhere else. They are constantly trying to give individual help and make sure everyone feels supported. Clearly, some people think they should have 24/7 assistance--but that seems like overkill. (I hear HackReactor has 24/7 support...but talk about overkill overall...). I found advising to be useful check in times with someone who wanted to listen when I had concerns or wanted more instruction on a subject. They cheered me on and seemed to deeply care.
The stack that they teach at Hackbright is less about the content and more about HOW to learn. About 50% of my cohort is NOT working in Python but rather in Ruby/PHP/JS. How cool is that? I didn't feel like I was an expert at Python at the end of the cohort but I think I learned as much as one could of a programming language in 3 months. On top of that, I've heard from the people I work with along with others who have worked with HBers that we write the cleanest, best documented and tested code of any bootcamp. Badass!
Ok, here's what career services does for you:
- They meet with you during the program to get a feel for what your strengths are and what you can leverage as well as what you want to do post HB.
- They have weekly meetings with your cohort to talk about making a great social media profile, how to identify Series A, B, C startups, how to evaluate your past experience, etc...
- They coordinate 2 weeks of talks from industry experts in how to whiteboard, soft skills interviewing, how to negotiate, as well as field trips to partner companies for meals and whiteboarding, and introductions to partner companies who were interested in you from career day.
- Every Monday they have job club to talk about our experiences and give more tips and tricks and keep you on track. Also, every Wednesday they have whiteboarding practice. You have access to these two nights forever.
- They talk and work with you indivually trying to find opportunities and recruiters for you. If you get an offer, they'll coach you through your responses and negotiations.
That's a lot, right? No, it's not a silver platter--but no bootcamp has that.
Overall, it gave me the best launching pad for my career. I met the most amazing women who are inspiring and intelligent along with a great alumni network who want to hire other HBers, and the faith that even a for-profit company can be mission driven and have a heart.
Oh, btw, only 3 people from my cohort don't have jobs as software engineers(or data engineers or security engineers) 3 months after graduating. I graduated in 2016.
If you look closely at their statistics of "90% employed", they are actually from 2014. I graduated from Hackbright in June 2016, and almost 4 months later, I would say about a quarter of my group of 43 is employed. So simply, those statistics don't apply anymore, and sadly that 'quarter' of our group would include internships, non-software tech roles (like support engineer), those who went back to their old jobs, and those who had years of experience in the industry already.
Hackbright sold out to Capella, and now the VP of education, the only truly experienced software engineer out of all the education staff, is leaving at the end of this year. All the TAs, Lab Instructors, and basically all the teachers are Hackbright graduates with no real world experience as software engineers. They only know what they've been taught at Hackbright, and when you need your questions answered, they will tell you your questions are outside of the current project or lecture. It seems a little silly to pay $16,500 for a program where the education staff can't answer your questions, which is the point of paying for more experienced mentors/teachers.
Another thing to note is that what Hackbright teaches are some of the easier languages/techs to learn. Python, Flask, jQuery, HTML, CSS, Bootstrap - these you can learn on your own with all of the free resources online.
Here are some resources for learning (there are dozens more, these are simply what I’ve used):
For learning about Computer Science Fundamentals, I recommend MIT OpenCourseWare (https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm), and 'Cracking the Coding Interview' (you can find it on Amazon). For MIT OCW, you can scan through their list of courses, but going through their intro and algorithms classes are all you need. 'Cracking the Coding Interview' will teach/review all the Computer Science Fundamentals, give you problems to practice on, and it has great interview advice. It is considered to be THE book for beginners and experienced engineers who are trying to get a software job.
Here are a couple websites where you can practice coding:
If you are studying on your own and you think going to Hackbright will get you a job, that is simply not true - or at least it is not anymore since they sold out to Capella. For my cohort, it will probably take more than 6 months for most to get jobs, if they can even find a job within tech that is remotely connected to software. And I mean that seriously. We are all out of a lot of money, most quit their jobs and/or moved to SF for this bootcamp, and now most of us can't find a job. Paying this much money for a bootcamp is a huge decision, and can be crippling for many if it doesn't payout. And sadly, Hackbright hasn't paid out for most of us.
Response From: Sharon Wienbar of Hackbright Academy
Overall I really enjoyed my experience at Hackbright. As the only all-female coding bootcamp in the San Francisco Bay Area, they do a great job of creating a welcoming and supportive environment for women, and the curriculum was challenging enough even for those who may have been dabbling in programming for a while before the program. It may be a cliche to say this, but students do take out of the program what they put into it, and to get the most out of Hackbright you need to be ready to put in a lot of extra work to land that first engineering job.
With the expansion of the class into two cohorts of ~25 students each since March 2016, it's my hypothesis that the quality of the student body has deteriorated somewhat. I thought everyone in my cohort was lovely and friendly, but only half of the class were very sharp with a strong interest in coding, keeping up with the assignments, and pushing themselves to complete a challenging project that stretched their limits. The other half seemed to lag behind during lectures, asked questions that made it obvious they weren't keeping up with weekend assessments, and in some cases would act the most entitled when it came to expecting a job to be waiting for them upon graduation.
The VP of Education and our lead instructor were both excellent, and the teaching assistants were all helpful during the lab exercises. The teaching assistants are mostly recent Hackbright Grads with no real-world engineering experience. TAs were knowledgeable enough in terms of teaching basic topics, but their limited industry experience became apparent during project time when they were not really able to provide a lot of value-added feedback or address my tougher questions and blockers.
A lot of the negative comments from peers that I heard RE job assistance seem to come from a somewhat entitled mindset, with some believing that just because they got accepted into a competitive bootcamp and paid $16k+ in tuition that they deserve to be handed a job upon graduation.
I do think that Hackbright (and probably any other bootcamp) gets you 60-70% of the way to your first junior engineering job, by teaching you the basics of coding and computer science concepts (e.g., algorithms, etc), but it's up to graduates to put in the last 30-40% of sweat and effort in doing coding challenges, practicing whiteboarding, and networking your way into your first coding job.
From what I know, Hackbright is the only (?) coding bootcamp that assigns 2-3 industry mentors, who are all engineers with a few to many years experience who are excellent resources during final project time, as well as during job hunt time for technical interview prep and general introductions to other folks within the industry.
Similar to a previous reviewer, I'm surprised to see some of the negative recent reviews. I think, like many programs like this, how you feel coming out of it depends on how you aligned expectations going in. Overall, I went in with high hopes for learning / development, and what I considered realistic expectations for time-to-employment after graduation, and was satisfied on both fronts.
What you learn is pretty comprehensive for what you'll need in a junior engineer role - and the staff has clearly honed their schedule, lectures, etc. over many cohorts. I found lectures to be informative, easy to follow, and generally well-delivered (for more on this, see "Instructors/Staff" below). The second half of the program - building a web app - really solidifies the theoretical concepts from the first half. I will say that there *is* less time spent on the traditional comp sci / data structures than perhaps would be ideal - but I felt prepared enough at that point to feel confident studying and reviewing further on my own.
Instructors / Staff
Overall, my thoughts here are very positive - with a few caveats. The staff by and large are supportive, passionate, talented people - everyone from the VP of Education to the lead teacher for our cohort (who was so fabulous and inspiring) to the TA's. I will say I was less than impressed by one instructor, and that (as mentioned in prior reviews) the advising standards need work. There were advisors who provided comprehensive, detailed comments on weekly assignments and so on - vs my advisor who didn't give me a single constructive comment in the entire 10 weeks. I think standards / expectations should be better communicated here. By and large though, the staff is passionate, talented and helpful.
I don't get the angst from previous reviewers here - I thought the Career Services ladies were all fabulous and very helpful. They say median time to job is 3 months, and average is more like 4. Before I decided to go, I stalked LinkedIn like crazy looking at graduates and confirmed this was the case - budgeting 3ish months to find a job if I was lucky, and up to 6 months if I was not. I don't think the expectations set by HB are unreasonable.
I do think that your time to employment will vary based on several factors. Number one, everyone comes in with a different background - some have more coding experience, some take to the material more quickly, etc. There were people in my cohort who graduated ready to start interviewing, and others who felt like they needed time to study before diving in - this will affect your timeline. Also, Hackbright does have connections with many local partner companies - but at any given time, only a segment of them will be hiring for jr engineer roles. This is just how the industry works! You could get lucky and get in with one of them, or you might not - in the latter case, the connections you already have and are able to make (through networking events, HB alums, etc.) will be key to your success.
I take issue with the idea that Hackbright is supposed to "find" you jobs - signed, sealed, delivered. My understanding was always that they'd provide me with a platform for learning, intros and connections to various companies, and advice about how to strategize and target my search - and they delivered on all fronts. Other than that, how quickly I got a job is based on things outside of their control (market, partner company hiring timelines, etc.). I don't think this is bootcamp specific - just that companies are careful with how and when they hire jr. developers. (That said, I had an offer 3 weeks out of program close, and many things in the pipeline).
I loved Hackbright, and would recommend it without reservation to anyone who felt prepared to give their time and energy to switching careers. I'd recommend doing your research beforehand, carefully considering your financial / professional situation, before you take the leap.
Hackbright provides you a great network and gives you a good starting foundation. It's up to you to continue your learning post-Hackbright and to find a job.
- A good amount of topics were taught during lectures. You have to realize because it's a bootcamp, only so much material can be covered during the program.
- Hackbright provides you the tools to have a basic knowledge of programming and computer science fundamentals. Post-Hackbright is where you really understand the material because you have time to review on your own time.
- The instructors for my cohort were great. Each instructor had their own sense of humor and it made lectures fun and interesting.
- I wished there was more staff available when it came to the queue. On some days, the queue was so long that by the time I was next up, the queue would close because it was already the end of the day.
- It's important to seek help from mentors at this stage of the program.
- The key with Career Day is to not expect an interview. I went in with a mindset of networking.
- It was a great opportunity to talk about my app and I enjoyed getting to know about different companies.
- Again, you may or may not get an interview with some companies. Don't go in thinking that this is your only opportunity to get a job.
- I was super lucky to be part of such an amazing and inclusive cohort.
- It's not a competition. These women will become your family.
- It was great being surrounded by like-minded and motivated women.
- Don't worry if you're introverted. Hackbright hosts Friday night socials to give you an opportunity to bond with your cohort.
- During Hackbright: Career Services was beyond amazing. They hired a new member and she was phenomenal. You could easily set up an appointment with a member of the staff.
- Post-Hackbright: I didn't find myself utilizing the services much. When I did have questions, the response time would vary greatly from within a day to a week.
- Hackbright provides up to three mentors per fellow.
- Your mentors will be your saviors.
- They have great insights and they offer support whenever they can.
My review is not about the engineering fellowship, but about the admission process as a heads up to future applicants.
Hackbright Academy was the 4th bootcamp I applied to. I applied to the September cohort. Out of the four, this one left the poorest impression on me.
The online application and coding challenge was straightforward. The notification for the first interview/scheduling it afterwards was fine as well. Everything after that was a poor experience though, especially with communication. I received an email the following day that I made it to the 2nd interview. However, over a week passed before I finally asked the admission team themselves when the 2nd interview would be. To that, they promptly sent me an email to schedule the 2nd interview. After the 2nd interview, they told me they would let me know in 2-3 days their final decision. It has been 27 days since their “2-3” days.
The impression this application process left me was they don’t really care about their applicants. It also felt like they were either understaffed or disorganized. Sure, forgetting to update me once is forgivable, but neglecting to contact me twice? That's pretty bad (speaking in comparison to the other 4 bootcamps I have applied to since then, whom have all been prompt with their updates).
With this experience in mind, I probably will not apply to Hackbright again in the future.
IMO, Hackbright provides an excellent network for students to find jobs and gain mentorship.
From my experience, career services is very supportive, and they continue to check up on you and schedule individualized appointments for however long you need it.
I appreciated having a place to go to for support after I graduated, and I loved everyone in my cohort, who I may not have ever met, if it weren't for Hackbright.
Also LadyNerds, which consists of Hackbright Alumnae, provide an excellent comunity for those in need of job opportunities, or who just want to grow as software engineers. It's available to all hackbright graduates.
I would recommend Hackbright to those who are looking for a nourishing community and a strong network more than anything else.
Overall, yes, the Hackbright education is good, but Hackbright's network and lifetime career services is in my opinion what sets it apart.
The last reviewer did a good job in summarizing my unhappiness with Hackbright. I only have the below to add:
I graduated with the June 2016 cohort. Only 5 girls out of our graduating class have been able to find jobs and it's been 2 months since graduation. One of them went back to Hackbright to be a lab assistant, another already had a job lined up outside of Hackbright, another picked up what she'd been doing previous to Hackbright, and I'm not sure what the remaining girls are doing.
By the project phase of our cohort, many of the girls were expresssing malcontent with the program. In particular, career services. If you are struggling with the material, they turn the onus onto you. Meaning, they said that you weren't doing well because you weren't working hard enough or something like that. But seriously! My advisor and my instructors never had time to answer my questions and I got the same, "We don't support tutoring." They didn't give me any personal attention. If a girl wasn't doing well, they would say that it was failure on her part. Not the instructor. And! There was never any personal attention given even if so to help that girl out.
They have unusual and almost unethical practices at Hackbright. At the end of every cohort/class, they offer jobs to the girls with the caveat that if they accept a job at Hackbright - they're not allowed to participate in career day.
And! During career day, companies are not allowed to ask the girls technical questions about their projects. This seems really shady as it would be the perfect opportunity for the girls to show off what they had learned during the Hackbright 12 week class. It serves to do two things: 1) cover Hackbright ineptness 2) protect Hackbright reputation in case the girls don't do well. I was raised to believe that the student's faults were that of the instructors. Hackbright does all sorts of things to cover itself. It doesn't stand up to the things it purports to do.
What really upset me the most is that career services told us all sorts of things about being able to find a job within 3-6 months of graduation. Then, a month before graduation, she tells us not to expect to find jobs soon, but it would take about a couple months of study to really 'get it down.' Some of these girls cleaned out their savings to attend Hackbright! They're owed more than the inflated marketing!!
And! Hackbright was recently acquired by Capella University. This is an online centred learning business that 'takes advantage' of women and minorities. Much alike University of Phoenix that went down for marketing cheaper and more convenient sub-standard MBA programs and catered to women and minorities. When these demographics went for jobs, they were told their MBAs were not competitive. So now the graduates owe money from tuition and they are jobless.
Take your money somewhere more deserving! Hackbright is NOT!!!!
Hackbright Academy is an all female bootcamp which seeks to "Change the ratio," but what the start-up really does is "line their pocket books" via taking advantage of a niche market.
For $16,570, I'd expect a learning environment geared towards the individual students needs. At least this holds true for costly private institutions. Even in public institutions (community college class is roughly ~$300), students are guaranteed the professor's time by office hours, one on one appointments, or at least the tutelage of the teacher's aide. Not at Hackbright. Students are given two one and a half hour lectures daily, assigned daily homework, and weekend assessments in which none of the above are graded. They are mandatory assignments, yet none are scrutinized carefully nor corrected by the student assigned advisor. Upon requesting more individual help, we were told that the school did not support such a structure. The most I ever got was 20 minutes of tutorial per week. When I asked a question, the advisor would conveniently Google the answer and then send me the link. There is 30 minutes of advising per week for the project, but we were told it's mostly for 'strategy.'
Now one might argue that debugging is an important skill to master. This is true. However, for a beginner, it is far too easy to get caught up on a programming idiosyncrasy where one might spends hours debugging as opposed to having an instructor help that student past a simple blockage point and explain what she is doing incorrectly. In Python, it could be a silly indentation error, or forgetting a colon at the end of a loop statement. Plus, it's helpful often to 'talk through' the issue with a more experienced person. For the same amount of tuition ($16,570), Hack Reactor offers 24/7 online help to it's students. CodeAcademy Pro offers the same for 12 hours a day EST for $20/month.
The quality of instructor also followed the Gaussian curve at Hackbright. While there are some very gifted coders, the majority were non-industry teachers. Some of which had just graduated from the last cohort. If they did not know the answer to a question, it was often heard, "That's not within the scope of this lecture." My most poignant memory was a student asking a question and the instructor saying, "That's not within the notes" to which the student pointed out, "It is here in the notes" and pointed out the section. The instructor then answered, "I don't want to answer that right now." Seriously. An "I don't know. I will research it and get back to you" is a perfectly acceptable answer. Or, if the instructors sometimes didn't know the answer, they just kept deflecting until the student got tired of listening to it.
At this point, one might ask...would the $16,570 tuition merit a high return on investment in career services? Sadly, no. What 'Career Services' does is simply surf LinkedIn profiles. The student gets secretive 1:1 meetings with the career services counselor who 'coaches' them on how to hone their skills to target their employment goals. Now, what this really means is that the woman spends time surfing LinkedIn profiles for recruiters...something one can do oneself without paying $16,570. She also advises the student that she has 'connections' and not to tell the other students about them. These 'connections' are easily gotten off surfing LinkedIn profiles.
Additionally, Silicon Valley media has much highlighted the disparity of male to female engineers. So much so that companies are moving to sponsor diversity fairs and events in which to hire minority engineers. Hackbright career services is not attuned at all to the various Silicon Valley company sponsored diversity fairs. This is a shame considering Hackbright's slogan is to "change the ratio." One would think career services would be working extra hard with companies to truly "change the ratio." When prompted during a Q&A session, the counselor had no clue that these programs existed whatsoever.
There does exist a Career Day where the students can show off their projects to prospective employers. However, the catch is that Hackbright does not know who is attending the event until the day before and the companies may not be hiring. If they are hiring, what you will get is a prospective interview...but then you need the skills to pass that interview.
Hackbright boasts that ~90% of it's 'engineers' get hired within 3-6 months. Yet, what is the break down? Is it 3 engineers within 3 months and the rest within 6 months? And, 6 months is a LONG time to find a job. Within that 6 months, the student could have studied a lot with free online resources on her own. Don't be fooled by the marketing of these statistics. Many Hackbright graduates feel unprepared for the traditional computer science interview.
Financial Aid: For a school that is focused on "changing the ratio;" Hackbright only offers loans through partners, one full scholarship for one woman out of 52 women, and for the rest $500 owing to financial need. They do not offer to help look for scholarships through private funds which any solid university or community college would offer if they were truly trying to help a student out.
Students are assigned short 8 minute presentations in which they are to get up in front of their cohort and talk about a pertinent topic. The point of this is to learn to communicate technical ideas clearly and to be able to speak to an audience. While in theory this is a good idea, the talks were never critiqued by the instructors and therefore not useful to the student. What is useful is the information shared with the other ladies in the cohort when it was a good presentation.
While the program does cover many of the items that industry professionals utilize, the items are covered in breadth and not in depth. Students are only given the chance to ask questions during the lecture and once a week during an hour long 'study-hall.' Many of the graduates and current students expressed feeling unready and confused. The students are able to code simple algorithms, but when prompted 'why' and if they can optimize...many students fail in this regard. This is due to instruction failure.
One thing that Hackbright does well is assigning industry level mentors to each of it's students. These are tried and true professionals whom volunteer their time to help get students on their way to careers. My mentors in particular help with my code, project, resume evaluation, and invited me to tour their companies and network. However, I'd say this is more on the part of those individuals than Hackbright as an institution.
All of this makes it hard for a 12 week bootcamp graduate to compete with the many four year bachelors degree graduates from traditional computer science backgrounds. Silicon Valley suffers from no shortage of engineers from all around the world vying for engineering jobs. While it's not impossible to find a good bootcamp and to develop web savvy skills to become a full stack developer, I would recommend doing it at a school that actually has a solid curriculum and in which the instructors are competent and readily available. Good luck on your search!!
Our latest on Hackbright Academy
Marisha was a professional soccer player and collegiate soccer coach before she discovered a passion for coding. She taught herself the basics of web development to help with her sister’s startup, and loved the creative problem solving aspect of programming. Marisha chose to enroll at Hackbright Academy coding bootcamp in San Francisco because she wanted to be part of their women-focused network. Marisha tells us about making the decision to use a SkillsFund loan to cover the Hackbright tuition, the similarities between soccer and coding, and how she learned Java from scratch for her new job as a Software Engineer at Ellie Mae.
What is your pre-Hackbright Academy story?
I went to Boston University for undergraduate school and majored in international relations, because I was interested in studying different cultures and doing government work at that time. For most of my life, soccer has been a big passion of mine; I played soccer in college and professionally for a few years after graduating.
After undergrad and playing pro soccer for a few teams in the US and in Europe, I went to England to get a masters degree in education and worked as a collegiate soccer coach for a couple of years at a university in Sacramento, California. I enjoyed coaching, but at the same time I felt like there was another purpose for me. I was so into soccer my whole life, but I felt like I wanted to give back in another way. My sister got into tech a few years before I did and she was always raving about how many opportunities there were in the industry. She encouraged me to work with her on a new startup idea and build a website together, which turned into an interest in coding. I considered pursuing another graduate degree, but I would have had to invest another two years of study, and even more money. I knew that people were getting jobs right out of 12-week coding bootcamps, and I thought that would be a better investment of my time. I eventually applied to Hackbright.
What was the startup you were working on with your sister?
My sister had already founded a couple of startups, and she had an idea to create an online resource for startup founders to share resources, tips, advice, and lessons learned. I helped her with the technical groundwork. I had never taken a computer science class before, so I had to teach myself. I always spent a lot of time on the computer outside of work, but I never thought about learning what was going on behind the scenes until working on this project with her. I used free online resources as much as possible, just to get a feel for it and build that first website. I didn’t start taking any online coding courses until I was applying for Hackbright and needed to get a foundation in Python.
What made you passionate about coding?
When I was an athlete, I felt like I was challenged every day, like I was problem solving and being creative, in a different realm. Aside from playing soccer, I had never really felt that same kind of passion or challenge in a job. With coding, at first glance it can sometimes seem difficult to break down an issue or design a new functionality, and I like the fact that you can be creative, problem solve, build things, and see the immediate results of what you build. That was more intellectually stimulating for me.
Did you research other coding bootcamps or did you have your heart set on Hackbright Academy?
My sister knew one of the founders of Hackbright Academy, so she had mentioned that to me as an option early on in my search. I started researching other coding bootcamps as well, and I ended up deciding between Hackbright and a coding bootcamp in Oakland, CA. My goal was to find a bootcamp that focused on diversity, by bringing underrepresented minority or gender groups into the tech space. After doing research and talking to alumni, I decided on Hackbright. After experiencing an all-women team environment during my soccer career, I realized in many cases that type of environment can automatically make some people feel more comfortable. They can achieve more because they are part of a team, supporting each other rather than competing with each other, which makes learning something completely new a little bit easier. I knew that I’d have a big network after graduating from Hackbright, which would probably help me land my first and second job, and be able to create lifelong connections with women on a similar path.
Was it important for you to learn Python?
I was still new enough to programming that I didn’t feel I had a solid grasp of what type of language I wanted to learn. I felt that just by being in that environment and learning a first coding language was enough.I did like Python because it is a functional language and more human-readable, which is why Hackbright focuses on Python as a foundational language. Plus, a lot of my classmates at Hackbright are now using it in their jobs. I ended up learning a different programming language for my job, but I think the Python curriculum at Hackbright is really good; it challenges you every day.
How did you pay for Hackbright Academy tuition? Did you use a financing partner?
When I joined Hackbright, I was able to put down a little bit of money, and I received a small financial scholarship from Hackbright, but I had to get a private loan from SkillsFund for the remaining tuition. Paying for the bootcamp definitely has to be a consideration for people. Depending on your financial situation and what you end up earning after the bootcamp, you might be able to pay that loan back pretty quickly. I know some students were able to pay for tuition outright or have others support them, which would, of course, be the ideal situation. However, if you don’t have that option, taking out a loan might be a risk you have to take to put yourself in a better position. It would be great if Hackbright and other bootcamps could provide more financial assistance to those students who are talented but might not otherwise be able to afford the opportunity.
What was the application and interview process like for you?
The admissions process had a pretty quick turnaround since I was applying closer to the start date of a new cohort. You submit an application online, and have to complete a coding challenge. The prerequisites include taking a couple of Python courses online, which shouldn’t take too long. You have to be successful in the coding challenge and then you get interviewed by alumni of the program – every cohort has the opportunity to interview new applicants. If you pass that interview, the recruiting staff interview you and contact you with their decision.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of race, life and career backgrounds?
My class was very diverse in terms of career backgrounds. There were about 36 students in a cohort when I was at Hackbright (they now have two smaller cohorts running simultaneously). It’s interesting you asked about diversity because that’s something I noticed towards the end of Hackbright. My final project was related to diversity in tech, so I looked at the numbers in companies for race and gender, and as I did that, I also looked around in my cohort. There were different ethnic groups represented in my cohort, but proportionally it could have been better. In addition to gender diversity, incorporating a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds into programs like Hackbright is very important for overall sustainability and improving diversity in the tech industry.
What was the learning experience like at Hackbright Academy — share a typical day with us!
On a typical day, we were onsite at Hackbright from 10am until 6pm, Monday through Friday. We had two lectures a day: morning and afternoon. After our lectures we do pair programming, alternating with different partners throughout the duration of the program. All the exercises and hands-on learning are done through pair programming, until we do our final solo project during the last half of the course. Hackbright does a really great job with the curriculum. They have great instructors, and with the evenings and weekends off, you have some time to further study and prepare for the next day’s material.
Another part of Hackbright’s learning experience is that there is a good amount of time dedicated to discussion. They split up the discussions so that people who have more experience on the topic, and people with less experience can discuss things separately. That makes it less daunting to ask questions and feel comfortable about it.
Did you notice a difference being in a learning environment with all women versus your co-ed college experience?
I wouldn’t say it was better or worse, I just think I learn differently in those environments. Maybe it’s easier for some women who are surrounded by women to speak up, and ask the questions they want to ask. It’s just more of an open and supportive environment.
Can you tell me about the diversity project you worked on for your final solo project?
I was really interested in learning more about the tech landscape. Diversity in tech is such a hot topic, and has been for the last few years. Some companies have started voluntarily reporting their diversity information to the public, and I wanted to find a way for both employers and job seekers to visualize that data and see how other companies are doing. I created an application that has information about all the companies that I’ve found which have publically reported gender and ethnicity statistics. The user can play with the data, compare the companies with each other, and see how much a company’s workforce statistics are representative of the US population. Companies are ranked on how they are doing in terms of gender and ethnicity, and I also built an option for current employees to write reviews on their company. In addition, users can see news stories that are related to companies’ diversity efforts. I’ve deployed it online at diversitech.io and I’m still working on it regularly and updating it with company information.
How did Hackbright Academy prepare you for job hunting?
Hackbright does a really good job helping set to set the landscape for what to expect by providing tools and interview practice for the job search. Through the mentor program, each student is matched with three mentors who work in the industry and volunteer their time to help with projects, questions, and the job search. Some alumni stay connected with their mentor after they graduate from the program, which indicates what a great resource it is. I actually found my job through a referral from my mentor, so I feel very fortunate for that. Hackbright makes really strong initial connections for alumni because they have a whole network of partnerships with tech companies.
Unless people have prior work experience in tech, it can be more challenging to find a job right away. You have to study, prepare, and learn from every interview you go on. Hackbright puts you in the mindset to learn and understand the overall picture, but it’s really up to each person to work hard and continue to develop after the program to land a job.
What are you doing now? Tell us about your new job!
For eight months, I’ve worked at Ellie Mae, a software company in the real estate industry which focuses on automating the loan origination process. It’s a medium-size company which has been around for 19 years. I work within the platform engineering division. I was the first junior engineer within that division, and also the first coding bootcamp alum! It’s been a really good learning experience because right now we’re upgrading, migrating, and developing new services in order to become a public-cloud based platform company. They are using a lot of new tech resources, refactoring, and creating new microservices, so it’s a really exciting time for me to join. Everyone on my team is learning something new at the same time. There are also a number of other women on the engineering team– in fact, there might even be more women than men on my team, including QA test engineers.
You mentioned you had to learn a new language for your job. What technologies are you using at Ellie Mae and how did you ramp up?
I had to learn Java right off the bat when I got here. We use MySQL for database management and AWS for deploying our microservices, which is another exciting technology. Even though Hackbright trained us to be full stack developers, I’m primarily working on back end development in my first role.
During the interview process, I had to start learning Java before I went in, but for the most part I just learned by doing on the job. I started off just writing tests to understand the codebase first, then I was able to get into development pretty quickly. The pace was pretty fast on my team when I joined. I had to sink or swim with Java.
How do you stay involved with Hackbright? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
I went to their 2016 holiday party recently! They have events all the time, they keep alumni up to date, and send out a bi-weekly email with alumni and other tech-related events. My cohort schedules our own events to keep in touch a few times a year. It’s only been a year since I graduated but we’ve met up pretty frequently. You tend to stay in communication with the people you’ve found a job close to, but I feel like I could still reach out to any of them – it’s still a close bond, even though it was such a short period of time.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Make an effort to really understand the industry you’re getting into. It’s the hot thing right now to be in tech, and it’s definitely a big part of the future. But you have to try it out, build something, and work out, “Do I really like this? Do I want to be doing this all day every day?” There are people who know they do and are really passionate about it. Before switching careers and deciding, “This sounds so great,” do your due diligence. I would recommend meeting with a few people in the industry who have full-time software engineering jobs. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their typical work day is like, what their career trajectory in this industry has been like, and what they see as the great future opportunities in the tech industry.
For me, Hackbright Academy was a great opportunity. Life is too short not to pursue your dreams and take risks, and if you are willing to do it, a coding bootcamp can be a great option. It may be a big cost in the short term, but you can reap a lot of benefits.
In our recent Student Outcomes survey, alumni reported that they were working in over 650 different companies! Of course, you may have read recent press citing companies like Google who apparently aren’t willing to invest in junior technical talent from coding bootcamps (we happen to know that coding bootcamp grads have been hired at Google and Salesforce, but that’s not the point)...Continue Reading →
Having worked in career services at UC Berkeley, Ronke Aderonmu joined Hackbright Academy as a Student Success Coach with a deep background in education and job success. Through career development classes, one-on-one sessions, and events with industry experts, Ronke guides students to find their ideal jobs at supportive, inclusive companies. She is passionate about Hackbright Academy’s mission to #changetheratio and coaches students through everything from impostor syndrome to salary negotiation. But Ronke’s advice isn’t exclusive to Hackbright Academy students- we recommend that any woman entering the tech industry read these tips!
Tell us first about your experience in career services before you got to Hackbright Academy.
I always knew that I wanted to work in education, creating supportive learning environments for people. I worked in marketing at an education technology startup, which gave me an inside look into the tech space. Then I transitioned to the career services department at UC Berkeley Haas Business School, working with students, getting them job interview ready, working with employers and recruiters, and doing a deep dive into the recruiting and hiring space.
When I discovered Hackbright Academy, I thought of it as this perfect merging of my career services background, my tech experience, my education background, and my overall love of advising and supporting students. At Hackbright, I’m supporting women in the program with career education and guiding them in their job search process.
What does the career services team at Hackbright look like? What’s your role as a Student Success Coach?
We're growing! Our Hackbright Academy Career Services team has Success Coaches and a Community Manager to work with our students and alumnae. Learn more about Career Services and our team here.
I'm primarily teaching classes on career development and meeting with students one-on-one to talk about their career background and strategize to effectively find a job after they graduate from Hackbright. I also plan for our Career Services curriculum for Week 11 & 12 of Hackbright, where we invite industry experts to share job search advice, strategies and tools to prepare the women for success. Our Career Services team also provides field trips during the program, where students have the opportunity to see the inside of a tech company and connect with and learn from engineers who work there.
We also have a Partnerships Team, that works directly with employers, developing relationships with companies who are passionate about Hackbright and want to hire our students.
When does that career prep begin for a Hackbright student?
This is something that definitely sets us apart from a lot of other coding bootcamps; we start from Day One, and even before. Our career services team does a pre-work assignment about social presence and personal brand that the students complete before starting the program.
We want students to be thinking about the job search even before they get here. For a lot of women, the end goal is to find an ideal job in a supportive environment, and that takes time.
Students send us their resumes so we can start taking a look and helping them think about that even before they get to the program. Starting on day one, we do weekly career development workshops and meetings until Week 9. Then in Week 11, we start our full career services curriculum.
Does that mean that a student needs to know the exact job she wants before she starts at Hackbright Academy?
There are definitely both types of students. Some know that, for example, machine learning is their dream field and Hackbright is a stepping stone to get there. We also have other students who just love coding and don’t know what the job market looks like. They don’t have an exact job title in mind when they get to Hackbright.
Hackbright supports both types of students--helping the students who have a specific goal define the steps that they need to get there, and working with those who are exploring to figure out what aspect of engineering they really enjoy. We try to expose our students to roles in the tech space and expose them to different levels of seniority in engineering teams so they have a good sense of their options.
Can a Hackbright student apply for a non-Python job when they graduate?
Most Hackbright students do end up in Python roles. However, students can get jobs outside of Python.
We have students who end up working in a very different language than Python because they've been able to show that they have this strong skillset in Python and are able to pick up new languages really quickly. There are also companies who code in a certain language, but have a language-agnostic interview process. You can interview in Python, but know that once you start that job, you'll need to pick up this other language that the team is using.
There are also students who come to Hackbright with familiarity with other languages like Java or Ruby on Rails too. When those students finish Hackbright, they're not just applying for a Python role; they might also look into companies using the other languages that they are familiar with.
We loved that your CEO recently pointed out that Hackbright students aren’t “placed” in jobs; they earn them. What do you expect from a Hackbright student in order to be successful?
I love that she shared that. We're not placing students in jobs through career services. Our goal is to empower them to job search effectively. We want them to have that experience of earning their job and making things happen.
A successful student shows grit throughout the job search process, and isn't fazed by discouragements or disappointments They hustle and advocate for themselves, finding what they need from the resources and education we’ve provided them, through their alumnae and mentor network, through the field trips and whiteboarding practice they’ve participated in, etc.
The most successful students know when they need to ask for help, are proactive in asking for the resources they need, and take advantage of the lifetime career services we provide at Hackbright. We support our alumnae even with their second, third and more jobs after Hackbright.
Are there specific challenges that female coding bootcampers face when they enter the job market?
The lack of diversity in tech is problematic, and it’s the reason why our mission is to change the ratio. This lack of diversity is not exclusive just to women, but it is something that our graduates face when they dive into the job search. They might go on interviews with a company where they would be the very first woman on the team. Or they’ll ask good questions and realize that the culture on the team isn’t one that is supportive and that would allow them to learn and grow as engineers.
We try to address and equip the women for those challenges during our career services program. We invite guest speakers to talk about how to navigate the interview process in tech; we provide tools for women to find companies where they’ll be supported and thrive in their career growth. And when they find that first job, our graduates then become the people who can speak about that experience and pave the path for future women entering the tech space.
Do you see internal challenges i.e. impostor syndrome in your graduates? How do they combat that?
I read an article recently that argued that impostor syndrome is sometimes used as an excuse for employers who aren’t doing enough to tackle the diversity problem in their companies. Psychologists argue that everybody (even men) have impostor syndrome, and so the rhetoric around this being just a female issue can be damaging. So, we want our students to know that imposter syndrome is a common experience that most people have. What’s most important is how you choose to deal with those feelings when they come up.
We encourage our students on the importance of tracking their accomplishments so they remember what they’ve done and how far they’ve come. We want to remind the women of their milestones as they go through each week at Hackbright, and we celebrate their successes during and after the program so that they keep those top of mind to counter the self-doubt and self-minimizing effects of imposter syndrome.
Does Hackbright vet partner companies on behalf of students? What should a coding bootcamper look for in their first company?
There are two ways that we go about that. One is that our Partnership Team vets partner companies that want to be a part of the Hackbright Academy mission. They talk personally about the company’s goals, mission, the structure of their engineering teams, their onboarding process, if they've hired from a bootcamp before, how they’re impacting diversity in their company. That helps us find companies that will be supportive for our graduates and new engineers in the field.
The other way we address this is by educating our graduates on how to ask effective questions in an interview. We also stress networking, because an effective job search requires understanding the insider perspective, not just what you learn from an interview. Meeting people who are actually working at the company every day is crucial to finding out what it’s actually like to work there.
A few great questions to ask employers:
- What is your onboarding process like?
- If I’m looking for answers to a question or if I want to learn a new technology, what would that process look like on your team?
- What role does the manager of the team play at your company?
Those are all questions that we want our students to be prepared to ask in order to tease out if a company is a right fit for them.
Are there telltale signs that a company will be a poor fit for a woman engineer?
A big red flag is in salary negotiation. If a company isn't being upfront with you about what they want to pay you or are paying you ridiculously below market rate, that's really concerning.
When you talk with employees at the company, if no one is excited to be there or happy to be there, that's really concerning. High turnover rate can be a red flag. Or maybe you realize that there's no training offered, or there’s a lack of a supportive and learning culture. Or everyone looks incredibly overworked. If the company doesn't value a culture of communication and you don't see that clearly, these are all big red flags.
Salary negotiation is a place where women get notoriously shortchanged. How do you guide students towards that $92,000 starting salary at Hackbright?
Salary negotiation is incredibly important to changing the ratio in tech, so we work to provide adequate support for our students in this area and tackle the issue of the wage gap. If a student has an offer from a company, she can contact career services, and we talk through strategies for negotiating and evaluating the offer to make sure that it's a right fit.
We also provide a strong education and workshop on negotiation and compensation during our career services curriculum. We bring in a salary and negotiations expert to speak on effective strategies for negotiation, how to set the right bar, how to let companies anchor, etc.
How important have you found the alumnae network to the success of Hackbright Academy students?
The alumnae network is definitely something that we pride ourselves on and sets Hackbright apart from other bootcamps. We have a large and growing network of over 400 graduates and women in tech.
Going through this intensive experience together unifies the students, and then as alumnae, they have gone on to work at great companies and paved the way for future women. They’ve found out how to find a successful company, how to build and leverage an effective network, and how to make a good connection. When new Hackbright students look to their alumnae, they can see examples of how they’ve been successful. We also have Hackbright alumnae coming back to be mentors and collaborating with us in the admissions process. We have alumnae who give guest talks and panels, and they share their experience about the job search and about their day to day life in the workforce. Alumnae play an important part in our program, and we appreciate them so much.
We also have an ambassador program that we're growing to invite alumnae to share about their jobs search experience and their bootcamp experience to empower other women who want to take that leap of faith and step into a career change in their own lives.
We love hearing success stories. Is there a recent, inspiring success story that you can share?
One of my favorites was a student who graduated from the program and went to our Demo Night (an event where we invite our partner companies to meet our current students). She fell in love with the culture and mission of one company at that event. They were in the education space and making an impact on accessible learning. She was so excited about them, but they were coding primarily in Ruby and not in Python.
So this student made a commitment to dedicate three months after Hackbright to ramp up on Ruby and build another project in Ruby. She had regular check-ins with our Career Services staff -- communicating with our Director of Career Services and Alumnae Manager about ideas and plans of action she could take to maximize her job search. She stayed really active and engaged with Career Services throughout her time after Hackbright, and when she finally applied for that dream job, they were thrilled with her. For me, that story is really profound because it just shows her level of grit, her level of commitment, and her resourcefulness to make things happen for herself.
That’s what makes for a strong and successful alumna – she goes after what she wants. She’s not letting impostor syndrome or any other obstacles stall her.
Is there anything that we skipped that you want to make sure that we include?
I love that I'm part of this mission to change the ratio of women in tech, and I’m really proud of the resources that we can provide for our students, so I'm glad to talk about this any day! Thank you for letting me share what we're doing at Hackbright Academy.
Welcome to the October 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 fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we are also covering our Women In Tech Snapchat takeover! Other trends include new developments in the industry, new outcomes reports and why those are important, new investments in bootcamps, and of course, new coding schools and campuses.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 →
Terri was a graphic designer in Hong Kong, but when she moved to the Bay Area she wanted to get in on the tech scene. An advocate of #changetheratio, Terri enrolled at Hackbright Academy women’s coding bootcamp to turn herself into a unicorn bridging the divide between design and engineering. Now Terri is a UX Engineer at GoDaddy and creating beautiful, functional, intuitive user experiences. Terri tells us why she enjoyed learning with all women at Hackbright Academy, why pair programming is so important, and what it’s like being a UX Engineer.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Your educational background? Your last career path?
I went to Hong Kong Baptist University and majored in Digital Graphic Communication, where I learned graphic design, interaction design, and 3D animation. I combined my minor in Business and picked a focus on Branding. But when I graduated I didn’t end up being a graphic designer straight away. My first job was a producer in a 3D animation production company. They needed someone who could communicate between the design side and the technical side. So my main job was being the communicator between the client who doesn’t know the technology, and the technical staff. Although I was not employed as a designer I picked up design tasks such as company branding on social media alongside my main role.
After that job, I landed an opportunity to build a mobile app with teams in China and Hong Kong, and again, my title was not designer but Project Manager - the communicator between the iOS and Android team, and business decision makers. I also served as gatekeeper for designs and worked with Branding team to polish the campaign. My third job was at a tech startup in Hong Kong where I was finally a graphic designer, and I focused on UI for web and mobile apps.
Why did you want to change career paths and do a coding bootcamp?
I had recently moved to the Bay Area, and I was thinking about doing a bootcamp before I arrived because I knew the area was a tech hub. The reason I decided to switch from pure design to something more technical is because I finished another bootcamp in Hong Kong, which taught me how to build a startup from idea to company. During that process, everything went fine until I was trying to build my website. I could do really good visual UI, but I couldn’t code, and it really frustrated me. I had an idea in my head but couldn’t turn it into a product. I realized coding has an irreplaceable power, it can help me turn ideas in my head into a real product, effectively and precisely.
As I kept reading more about Silicon Valley, and meeting people from the Bay Area at startup events, I heard that companies were looking for unicorns. A unicorn is someone who can bridge the gap between design and engineering. I realized I already had a design background, so why not acquire one more skill, coding, and make myself a unicorn? Plus, I hoped it would help me easily transition into this environment and prepare me for finding a new job when I relocate. I also did some research on career and salary. From a lifelong perspective, the leap from pure design to a unicorn role is likely to pay off well, and provide more career options.
There are a lot of coding bootcamps in the Bay Area, what made you choose Hackbright?
I knew about Hackbright before I moved here, from my research on bootcamps. Hackbright is special, they emphasize supporting and empowering women who are changing careers to tech. Their proposition resonated with me because I am an only child, born in China and raised in a family where they appreciate boys over girls. I grew up in an environment where it takes more effort for girls to achieve the same thing as boys. So I understand the need of having support in critical times, like during a career change. That’s why I chose Hackbright. I definitely needed that support and I needed a group of people who shared the same mission to support women.
I want to support other women as well if I’m successful. After Hackbright, I realized a woman engineer in herself is a unicorn. I feel lucky, I know there are a lot of girls who need more support and inspiration out there, so I want to be part of the mission to change the ratio too. I also love the idea of how Hackbright connects graduates with real companies in Silicon Valley. I was excited about meeting all the companies by the end of the program, so I didn’t even ask what language they were teaching, I just jumped right in.
Did you think about going back to college to study computer science?
Yes, one option was going back to college to do a master’s degree. However, after some research and analysis, I realized a bootcamp would fit my situation better - it’s more cost effective because it’s less time and more job oriented. People who received master’s degrees told me it’s more theoretical and not necessarily job oriented. Since I was relocating, I needed a new job, I wanted to know more people, and make new friends, so I chose a bootcamp for now.
How did you pay for the Hackbright tuition?
A year before I moved to the Bay Area, I knew the Hackbright Academy tuition cost. So I made myself a one-year savings plan. I saved 50% to 80%, but there were still ongoing costs. I got support from family, especially my partner who totally supports furthering my education. He paid the rest of the tuition so I didn’t need any scholarships or financing. Thank you Danny!
Just three weeks after I graduated, I got multiple offers, and was able to negotiate successfully. So looking back, Hackbright was a good investment, and the ROI was pretty good.
What was the application, interview process, and coding challenge like for you?
First up was the coding challenge. I was so nervous. Hackbright suggested we spend 30 hours learning before taking the coding challenge. I took it very seriously, I worked day and night, and did the 30 hours. The coding challenge was a classic algorithm question combined with some smaller simple questions. The reason it’s so complex is that you need to solve multiple questions before you can get to the final answer. It was interesting and not that hard, but it required research and patience. When I look back, the problem has a number of different solutions, so your answers can be different, but what they really want to know is “do you like coding, do you like solving problems?”
After the coding challenge I had two interviews. One of which was with the nice Hackbright admissions director who answered all my questions about the support, and the mission of the program.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of race, life and career backgrounds?
There were 35 students in my cohort. Everyone has different backgrounds. I’m Asian and there were several more Asians. We also had African Americans, Hispanics, and other races. We are from different industries, and different stages of life. Some were moms, I was a newlywed, some were dating, so it was definitely diverse.
What was the learning experience like at Hackbright Academy?
Hackbright divides the program in two. The first half is lectures and lab practice, and the second half is fewer lectures with a lot of project time.
The first half focuses on building a foundation of coding skills, understanding algorithms, and solving problems. We cover the basics, mainly focusing on Python, with a little bit of front end. Each day we have one morning lecture, one afternoon lecture, then the rest of the day is lab time and pair programming.
In the second half of the program, we focused our time on our solo projects. I spent a long time on my project, almost 50 hours a week. If I couldn’t solve a problem with Google or online resources, I could reach out to a TA in the lab and they would come help. We still had lectures every morning about frameworks and tools we could use in our project. The last 2 weeks of the program were dedicated to career services where we had workshops, mentor meetings, mock interviews, and whiteboarding.
How important was pair programming?
Pair programming is very important at Hackbright for a number of reasons. It teaches you to talk through your thinking processes out loud, which is useful for whiteboarding sessions. Communicating with your coding partner is great practice for your future job, because you’ll need to work with and talk to other engineers. Pair programming also encourages you to write usable, maintainable code because you have to pass the code to someone else.
Every day we would switch partners, so we wouldn’t work with the same person for two days in a row. The idea was to keep changing out our programming buddy to train ourselves, because every person has a different communication style. It was training and practice on how to communicate with different people, regardless of who they are.
How many instructors or TAs did you have and how many students?
The student to teacher ratio was 4 to 1. We had 35 students in my cohort. Now, Hackbright splits people into different cohorts and keeps the low student to teacher ratio.
What was it like learning with only women? How did it compare to college?
We have a lot of intimate discussions exchanging ideas and knowledge about how to deal with stress, sleep, mindfulness, and how to balance family, work, and studying. It’s a very supportive network and we all know we can’t do everything perfectly, so we embrace the idea that we have to address problems as we run into them. We know we are not superwomen, but we are becoming superwomen. It’s a safe place where we can ask for help. That’s very different from my college experience, because with boys around, you don't want to be laughed at, you don’t want to voice your problems.
Everyone is taking a leap by joining Hackbright. We’ve all quit our jobs, and we’re all looking for opportunities, so we’re all in the same boat. Whenever I was frustrated, everyone else was too. Everyone’s running to a deadline, everyone’s stressed. In our cohort, bubble tea was a big deal. Whenever we felt like, “no more coding for me - I cannot code, talk, or think anymore,” we’d go get bubble tea, then come back and continue working on the problem.
What is your favorite project that you built at Hackbright?
We had one personal project as a final project, and we had a lot of little coding assignments along the way. The projects I loved were after class homework assignments which simulated an internship at a startup called Ubermelon. Every day just after 5pm, we’d get an email from a “virtual manager”, just like in real life when your manager emails you right before you want to go home. We’d get some instructions and we’d have some tiny little tasks to finish to simulate a real life startup experience. Ubermelon is Uber for melons and is a continuous thing within Hackbright. I love that idea, it’s fun and valuable.
How did the bootcamp prepare you for job hunting? What advice do you have for other bootcampers going through the job search?
Towards the end of the bootcamp, we had a day to demonstrate our personal projects to potential employers. After that, there are two weeks of career services. Career services focuses on researching the companies in Silicon valley, teaching us about the hiring process, and practicing whiteboarding sessions. The whiteboarding sessions were hosted by partner companies nearby so we can learn more about them and make connections while site visiting.
Tell us about your new job at GoDaddy!
I joined GoDaddy in May 2016 as a UX engineer. A UX engineer’s role is designed to be a bridge between the design and engineering teams. Now that I’m able to code, I can fill the gap using both designer eyes and developer fingers, which used to be totally separate. Usually the designer and developer don’t communicate as effectively, or they argue or fight with each other because of “the gap”, but both sides are important. Designer eyes need years of professional training as a designer; developer fingers need lots of training in programming as well.
I work closely with the UX design team and developers across product teams. I take care of interaction, craft user experience in motion and explore new frontend technologies from research, prototyping to implement. We UX Engineers try to zoom into problems that need both skills to solve and focusedly tackle them. Sometimes I also provide designs. Since I know the code base and the technologies we are using, my designs are tailor-made for our system. We also design and develop components that are reusable across the platform. We go agile and we incorporate user testings to help our team create a more delightful user experience based on the feedback we get.
How did you get the job?
GoDaddy is one of the hiring partners at Hackbright. They came to our career day, but it was not my current team which was looking for candidates. They looked at my project on GitHub and I got a call from VP of Engineering. I was told they were looking for someone who can bridge design and engineering. The interview process was really fast because GoDaddy was a late comer in my pipeline. I had already been interviewing with two other companies, and I told GoDaddy it might be too late. I chose GoDaddy in the end because the CEO is really supportive of women in tech. And like when I chose Hackbright, I felt it very important to have mission alignment with the organization and myself. I graduated in April, and started the job in May.
Tell us what a web developer’s day-to-day looks like?
For my workflow, I work with UX Designer and PM to identify a problem, then if there’s something critical we can improve on, I will jump right into research, and see what sort of solution I can provide based on the code base, and the design direction we are heading towards. I’ll create an interactive prototype, I code it out, and a UX manager can pass the prototype on to set up a new round of user testing to see whether it makes an improvement to the user experience. If it is proven that it makes an improvement, then we can pass the new improved design to the engineering team to build it into the product. So it’s a cycle of getting feedback from the real world, then figuring out how to improve the product in an agile manner.
Are you using the stack/programming language you learned at bootcamp or a new one?
How has your past career helped you in your new job?
It has definitely been helpful. The decisions we make in design, how to do spacing, fonts, colors, layouts, proportion, it still helps me today when designing for web. So the only difference is I used to produce static designs, but now I can animate designs and make them interactive using code. It’s more intuitive design, everything is live, and I feel like it’s a level up. I know I can make some magic happen somewhere else beyond my design skill set. For example, CSS3 and HTML5 do things that designers cannot even imagine. So I feel more powerful right now.
How do you stay involved with Hackbright? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
I recently hosted a whiteboarding session at the San Francisco GoDaddy office with two other Hackbright graduates who are now GoDaddy software engineers too. We met the current cohort and talked to the career services staff. I also went back to Hackbright to share my experience about what happened after Hackbright and last week I attended their graduation ceremony.
It’s pretty hard to catch up with my cohort mates because everyone is spread out in the Bay Area or out of state. We have a Slack channel, and from time to time one or two girls will host a gathering.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Ask yourself whether you’ll enjoy coding all day long. Becoming a software engineer is tempting, especially in the Bay Area where we are surrounded by tech companies. But coding is not for everyone. If you cannot sit in front of a computer and enjoy coding on a daily basis, or you are not interested in solving problems or going geeky, rethink that. But if you like to solve problems, and want to be able to build, update, and make changes to a web product, that’s what motivated me to learn. I believe that everyone can be a unicorn in their own way. Be fearless and passionate about what you believe yourself should be. Truly challenge yourself to see if you love doing this.
Everyone has a set of talents and skills already, and finding an intersection between those skills is very important, because it will make an individual more valuable in an organization. For me it’s design and engineering. All the students who joined Hackbright have their past lives, and some professional experience already. Market yourself, position yourself so that people acknowledge your past experience.
Get support from family and friends, because a bootcamp is very intensive. During my 12 weeks at Hackbright, Danny agreed to do all the housework so I could focus on the study during that time. I also got a lot of support from family and friends. So I would like to thank them all, especially Danny. Without such a life support team backing me, I wouldn’t have made it through the relocation and career change so smoothly. Build yourself a supporting team for your life outside of the bootcamp. You can save a lot of time and stay focused on solving the critical problems, if someone can work with you to help with daily tasks and errands. Get yourself laser-focused on the bootcamp, because you pay, you invest, and every minute counts.
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 →
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 →
Before becoming an instructor at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco, Bonnie’s career took her from astronomy, to teaching physics at a high school, then working as a developer for 11 years. She is absolutely passionate about teaching and jumped at the chance to help #changetheratio of women to men in tech by teaching at Hackbright Academy, an all women’s coding bootcamp. Bonnie tells us about why she likes the bootcamp model of education, her interactive teaching style, and the warm sense of community at Hackbright.
Tell us about your background and experience before you joined Hackbright.
In college, I studied astrophysics and computer science, and have always been interested in teaching. I actually really wanted to go into astronomy education after college, but I ended up doing computer work for an x-ray telescope in Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight center. I spent a year there, and then an opportunity came up for me to do education work for the telescope, which was more aligned with my interests. So I worked in that position, but it turned out to be more marketing than education.
I met some teachers at a conference who needed a physics teacher at their school. So I then interviewed and ended up teaching physics for a couple of years at an all-girls high school. I liked the all-girls environment, especially in physics. I liked that physics wasn’t something that girls didn’t do, because there were only girls and if there was a physics class, then girls were doing it.
High school teaching is a hard job. After a couple of years, I decided to move to California to be closer to my family. I worked at a planetarium doing education work, then I ended up working for some software companies. The first company I worked for was a really great company and I worked there for 11 years. The company got sold so I started looking for another software job. I didn’t feel like I was learning as much as I wanted to, and I really missed teaching. One of my colleagues was a Hackbright alumna and she told me they had an opening so I applied!
How did you learn to code? Did you teach yourself the fundamentals of software development?
When I was in elementary school, my dad got an Apple 2 and taught me how to code in basic. So I was pretty interested in that, and I would make little quizzes for my brother. In high school, I spent a lot of time tutoring other students. I was more interested in teaching than coding at that point, and to be honest I am probably still more interested in teaching than I am in coding. I like coding and I do it, but I really love teaching, teaching is my passion. It wasn't until I got to college that I started writing code again.
How did you become aware of the bootcamp model and what did you think of it?
For a while, I thought college is probably overpriced for what you get out of it. It’s good for social development, but as far as professional development, unless you’re going into medical school or academia, it’s not a great place to learn job skills. So I really liked the bootcamp model and how it’s focused on getting people the practical skills they need to actually be a programmer.
I definitely did have my doubts about the short amount of time, and whether people could learn to code that quickly. However, I’ve found it’s pretty effective. You give people the tools in the first half and then in the second half, they reinforce tools by working on a long project. Most women are ready to get a job when they leave, and some women have more work to do after they leave the bootcamp. Students definitely have a foundation in the fundamentals, and they’ve learned how to use other resources so they can continue learning on their own.
What made you excited to work at Hackbright in particular?
When I came here to interview, I could tell it was a really great place. You go into the bathroom and there are Post-Its saying “you got this” and “I believe in you.” It sounds kind of corny, but I got such a warm feeling from the place. I love that Hackbright really looks after its students’ emotional wellbeing, in addition to their academic learning. It really has a great sense of community, and when I came here I thought, “this is a community I really want to be a part of.”
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
My teaching style is very interactive. I like to stop and quiz the students really frequently. Firstly, because it’s more interesting and fun for them if they are participating, rather than just sitting there receiving; and also because it gives me a sense of where they are. If everybody just blurts out the answer, then I know that’s something I don’t need to linger on. If there are no hands up, I know it’s something I need to work on. Then I also like to have fun when lecturing so I make a lot of jokes and hope the students laugh!
What’s the structure of the program?
The first five weeks of the Hackbright fellowship are different from the second five weeks. During the first five weeks, there is a lecture and then a lab in the morning, then another lecture and lab in the afternoon. The labs are all done through pair programming which we find particularly effective because it allows the students to talk about what they have learned. They need to be able to communicate verbally as well as being able to code. On Fridays, we have a study hall in the afternoon where people can either review the week’s material or learn about some advanced material.
Then the second five weeks there is only one lecture in the morning, and the rest of day is working on independent projects. These are a big part of Hackbright and they allow students to pursue something they are interested in. Students solve real world problems, using the skills they have learned. The way I think people learn best is if I want to do this particular thing, I wonder how you do it. Every student has an advisor, so we work with them on projects, and they can ask for help in the slack channel. Students come up with project ideas themselves and then we often coach or guide them on scope.
What’s it like teaching a group of only women?
I’m used to teaching women from teaching at the all-girls high school. I did teach in some summer programs in college, and there I taught both girls and boys. Most of my teaching has been with all women and I like it. I think it’s probably different for adults, but in high school there is definitely less posturing and showing off to the boys or trying to be a certain way. I think most adult women are over that, but I do think it is just more of a collaborative atmosphere, and less competitive than it might be if men were present. At Hackbright, part of that has to do with all women and part of that has to do with the very deliberate work that Hackbright does to foster community.
Is being surrounded by women in your job different from other experiences you’ve had working in tech?
Yes. Usually my colleagues have been men, and I actually like working with men, they tend to be fairly easy to work with. I haven’t had experiences where people have been down on me because of my gender. At Hackbright, our hashtag is #changetheratio, and that is what really makes me believe in working with just women. I really do want to change the ratio, I really want it to be half women and half men in software. This is something I can contribute to here, that I wouldn’t be able to do at another school.
How many students are you teaching at any one time? How many instructors are there?
It’s a small group of women. We have cohorts with anywhere between 30+/- students, running simultaneously. The teacher to student ratio is 4 to 1.
How do you and other instructors contribute to the Hackbright curriculum? How often do you update it?
How do you assess student progress?
We have weekend assessments. Every weekend, students get one or two assessments where they do the work on their own. Then, they turn it in and their advisor reviews the assessments and gives very specific feedback. Students meet with their advisors weekly.
What happens when students are struggling to keep up with the pace?
I’m responsible for people I advise, so I watch them in labs and in lectures, and make sure they are keeping up. If it seems like somebody is having a hard time, then I can schedule extra time with them.
In general, we will give students guidance about how to study on their own, and their advisor will spend time with them. I’m meeting with a student this afternoon, even though it’s not her advising time, because she had trouble with last weekend’s assessment. We scope the students’ projects based on the level they are at. So by the time we get to the second five weeks of projects, we try and set every student up for success at her own level.
How many hours per week do students usually commit to Hackbright?
The students are asked to be here 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Then they tend to spend another hour or two in the evening on homework and review of lecture notes. On the weekends they will probably spend 6-8 hours on weekend assessments. Some of them will only work on projects during school hours, some work on their projects outside of school hours simply because they are so interested in them.
Who is the ideal student for the bootcamp? Are Hackbright students mainly absolute beginners?
We do require that you have some coding experience, at least 20 hours of experience before coming. We give pre-work – some online courses, reading and exercises. But in general we start pretty much from the ground up. Hackbright isn’t for somebody who has been programming for years and just wants to learn about web programming.
We look for students who have interesting backgrounds that they can use to distinguish themselves when they are looking for jobs _ for example lawyers and accountants. We also look for students who are going to have the tenacity to stick with the program. It’s not an easy program. It’s a lot of material and not a lot of time. We really need people to be self motivated to keep up with material and to do the work necessary to be successful.
How does Hackbright prepare students for job hunting?
We have a great career services team. It’s a 12-week program. Ten weeks are academic and then the last two weeks are intense career development focused weeks with career services. Throughout the academic portion, students also get career service coffees every Tuesday where career services does a presentation. Students receive salary and negotiation, equity, and career development workshops, technical interview preparation, whiteboarding practice, mock interviewing, and more. We also offer field trips to tech companies and employer meet and greets during these two weeks.
What sort of jobs are Hackbright grads prepared for when they graduate?
Most graduates of Hackbright are prepared for junior engineering jobs. Because it’s a junior engineering job, the employers are not expecting them to be at the level of general engineer, so the employers know students need some mentoring and other support.
Is there anything else that you want to make sure our readers know about the bootcamp?
Every Friday night we have a social. Some of the socials are hosted by staff and some are hosted by students. It’s a really nice opportunity for the students to get to know each other better socially. We say that your first job you’ll get through Hackbright career services, but your second job you’ll get through your network, so it’s really important to form strong connections with your fellow students. Plus they're really fun! You haven't lived until you've watched a bunch of grown women playing musical chairs.
Wendy Zenone is not only a Hackbright Academy success story; she’s also a testament that coding bootcamps are not a “quick fix.” Wendy’s journey shows that it takes hard work, determination, and grit to make a successful career change into tech. We chat with Wendy about her experience at Hackbright, her advice to other women breaking into the Application Security field (don’t worry, Wendy also explains what App Sec entails), and how her calculated risks are paying off.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Hackbright Academy.
Before I got into tech, I was working as an aesthetitian at MAC Cosmetics, but that was not my dream. I had a small child at the time, the pay was low, and it was overall underwhelming. I was encouraging my son to go into tech, and I lived in Silicon Valley- I had to find a way to improve my life.
I had gone back to school late in life, doing an online Bachelors in Communications at the University of Massachusetts. Education is very expensive, and as I started calculating, I realized it would take me six years to graduate at $1,500 a class. So I started looking at internships where I could get experience without having graduated. I found an internship at a public relations firm where we represented small Silicon Valley tech startups. I worked directly under the founder, Xenia, and she just taught me so much. I learned terminology that was very specific to tech and startups and that I had never learned before, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities in tech. At one point, we represented Zoom, when they were just starting as a video conferencing company!
From there, I took a job at Facebook in their ads department, creating a tool that helped customers customize their ads. The role was not technical, but I worked with a team with engineers. Essentially, I sifted through ad topics to ensure that they followed our global legal policy.
What drew you to wanting to work in Security?
At Facebook, it was very new and exciting to be at such a big tech company, and it fueled a fire. I didn’t just want to work for the tech company, I wanted to be part of the tech team. My husband has worked in the security industry for a long time, and through osmosis, I had learned to love and appreciate cybersecurity and information security.
I reached out to Jen Henley, who is the Director of Security Operations at Facebook, and told her about my dream. Remember that at this point, I have no formal education or tech background. Her advice to me was to get involved and volunteer with Facebook events for cybersecurity awareness month. I got more involved by volunteering, but I was still looking for the perfect position in security.
Eventually, I found a social media job with WhiteHat Security, an application security company. It was still in the communications marketing area, but I was able to work closely with the founder, Jeremiah Grossman. Once he found out that I wanted to do more, he said, "You should learn to code. It's magic."
How did you factor Hackbright Academy into your journey to learn to code?
While I was working at Facebook, I actually started my Hackbright application. Once I started at WhiteHat, I got an automated email asking me to finish the application. I talked to my husband, and we had some concerns- Hackbright is in San Francisco; it costs a lot of money; it would mean three months without a salary. But ultimately, his opinion was that coding is the future, and it’s something we needed to make happen.
How did the Hackbright application go for you?
The first time I applied, I got through to the second interview, but I was not accepted. When I got that rejection email, my heart just dropped. It hurts regardless of how old you are, but I was in my late-thirties, and I knew I didn't have another four months to get started!
I wrote my interviewer an email, and said honestly, "I was very nervous. I do not feel that my interview properly conveyed who I am and my interest in Hackbright. Please just give me another chance to do another interview."
The Hackbright team said that they have never given someone a second interview after being declined (and they’ve since changed the process- you must reapply if you’ve been rejected), but they admired my persistence and gave me another interview. This was my last chance. I did the interview, and I was much more prepared, calmer, and had a little bit more pressure.
Tell us a little more about that interview process- was there a coding challenge?
The application itself was a series of essays and then a small coding challenge. When I applied, they say the coding challenge is “optional,” but here’s a tip: it wasn’t! If you skipped the coding test, it showed that you aren’t up for a challenge. Since then, the coding challenge has actually been made mandatory.
Note: for an updated look at the Hackbright application process, check out Cracking the Bootcamp Interview: Hackbright Academy!
What other resources did you use in your journey to learn how to code?
Prior to Hackbright, I had taken Girl Develop It courses. I also did Codecademy and some free classes offered at Facebook.
Why not continue with those free resources? What made a coding bootcamp worth it?
I am a creative person, but I was not born with a super logical brain. I needed discipline, structure, and to have everything else in my life shut down so I could just focus on learning to code.
Girl Develop It is a great resource for someone who really wants to immerse themselves for a weekend. But if you want to learn a language, you can't go to class once a week. You're going to have to move to Italy, buy bread every day and figure out how to speak the language.
The online classes don't teach you how to structure your code from scratch or even the basic things like how to get your environment set up. At Hackbright, you’re learning everything you need to work as a developer.
Was the fact that Hackbright Academy is all-women particularly appealing?
I actually didn't look at any other coding bootcamps. I thought back to PE class in high school, and I thought about how there were certain activities that I felt intimidated doing in front of men. I knew I would be more comfortable in an environment learning with all women.
I didn't grow up loving video games and building Legos. I have female friends and relatives that have that background. They love computers and games, and they are totally fine going in with a blended cohort, but for myself, I wanted that comfort of not feeling intimidated or pressured. Hackbright was better for me.
Once you graduated from an all-female bootcamp, were you caught off guard by the “real world” gender imbalance in tech?
There are two parts to that answer. The first part is in regards to the gender ratio. I came from a few tech companies prior, and I saw that there were very few women. My team at Facebook had only two females out of 25 people. I was used to it. Specifically, the security field has even less females in general. I was used to working with just men and so I was comfortable with it. It didn't bother me.
Coming into my job right now, on my specific team, I'm the only woman. In the larger Info Sec organization, there are definitely fewer women than there are men. I don't personally have an issue with it, but talking to other alumni that I graduated with, it’s clear that some people can have a hard time with that transition. They can tell that it’s a boys club, and aren’t comfortable being the only female in a meeting. From my perspective, the only way that women can change that ratio is by continuing to become developers. We have to continue and push forward, and eventually there will be an even ratio.
Did Hackbright Academy include a lot of “soft skills” training, or was it a strictly technical program?
The first 10 weeks is a very technical program. You also have a career services meeting every Thursday and your advisor goes over your resume and job skills, how to look for a job, and update your LinkedIn. You’re also learning how to negotiate your salary. The one piece that was missing for me was preparing for what it's really like to start a job. We were prepared to write code, to understand how to build software, etc, but nobody could prepare you for your first job and you’re alone in your new company, and you feel completely inadequate.
I actually spoke to the Hackbright team about this, and I went back to speak to Cohort 13 about how lost you can feel at your first job. I'm going on five months at Lending Club and I'm still learning a ton, but I was fortunate enough to choose a company that appreciates that I have very little experience.
We all go in with different learning abilities, different brains, different backgrounds, so everyone goes into their first jobs differently. Some take off and fly, while others are doubting themselves, and their new career is foreign and scary.
So where are you working now and what's your job role?
I am an Associate Application Security Engineer at Lending Club.
Did you feel technically prepared for your first job?
Once you graduate, you will feel like you've been prepared enough- at least as well as they could prepare you in 12 weeks. In that 12 weeks, I learned so much that I didn't know before. I learned how to create a piece of software, what the full stack is, what a database is, how to query a SQL database.
How did you find your first job after graduating?
What got me to this position was acknowledging what I didn't know and having that desire to learn. A lot of companies look for that. If students graduating from any bootcamp go in with that mindset, it will make things a lot easier instead of feeling like you have to pretend.
When I graduated, I was only the third person out of the Hackbright Academy history to go into security. The field is becoming a little more prominent at Hackbright now- for example, they have a small Security Study Group.
One very important thing in tech is who you know. Graduates need to not only initially rely on sending in resumes, but also to network and meet people in the industry. Go to Meetups and events that are focused on what you want to do. Those connections will greatly improve the trajectory of your career going forward. My job was found by networking and not solely relying on the partner company network of Hackbright. Bootcamp grads need to lookout for themselves and learn to stand on their own without using the bootcamp as a crutch. Go out, meet people. You never know, you may connect with someone down the road for job #2 or 3!
I think you’re the first bootcamp grad I’ve talked to who is working in Application Security! What does your job entail?
On the application security team, we work with everyone who creates the Lending Club website and the platform- engineers, developers and the QA team. We look at internal and external applications to ensure that they are secure. We make sure the code is secure and that there aren't any holes in the applications that could allow our data to be compromised. Basically, my job is to keep the hackers out.
How does the Security team interact with application developers? Are you involved in the entire development cycle?
Ideally, developers work with App Sec team before they even start a project. With that being said, products need to roll out, and meet deadlines, so sometimes we'll have to jump in mid-cycle and take a look at things and advise. Unfortunately, sometimes things will get caught in the end of the cycle as well.
Security is a mix between trying to educate and evangelize. But security is gradually becoming more prominent in companies as you see people getting hacked. We do have to convince companies that security is something you need to put time into- companies are just starting to see the benefits.
What did Lending Club do during your first month on the job that helped you ramp up into your new role?
When I started at Lending Club, they were very patient. They understood that I basically knew nothing. I knew Python from Hackbright but security is a whole separate field that I was not familiar with. They started giving me small projects, integrating me into little things, but not overwhelming me. For example, I had never worked with Jira, which is our ticketing system. When I first started, I was constantly in a state of sweating because I had no idea what anyone was talking about.
During my first few weeks, I asked to be invited to every meeting that I could be invited to. I write down things that people talk about, and I Google them. Every day I learn a little bit more, and what helped me the most was being honest in the beginning about what I didn’t know. My manager, Paul, gave me that advice during my interview, and I believe that part of why I was hired was that I had that ambition, I had that drive, and they saw that.
For other women (or people) who want to break into security, what are some good resources to get started?
Applications Security has a group called OWASP (Net Open Web Application Security Project). On that website, there are tons of resources for people that just have questions about application security in general. It is a great resource.
Then there are meetups all over the United States but specifically there’s one in San Francisco Bay Area with a mentorship program for those who are new to security.
Another resource is Women in Security and Privacy (WISP), where you’re assigned to a mentorship called a “tandem.” You put in what your skills are, and they match you with someone that matches the skills that you're looking for.
Looking back on your time at Hackbright, what is your advice to other women who want to change careers and get a technical role?
My main advice is to ignore the self-doubt. I had a lot of self-doubt, but every time I felt that doubt, I would replace it with, “What's the worst that can happen?” Just try everything you can- from applying to jobs to internships, all they can say is no. Apply to a coding bootcamp, try Girl Develop It classes. There will be times when you feel like you don't belong there, but you’ll realize that everyone started somewhere. Every day that you stay on this new path in your life is one step closer to becoming a senior developer or senior security engineer.
I never thought I would finish my final project at Hackbright because I felt like I never would know enough. I never thought I would be a security engineer and here I am. I still feel like I’m Jon Snow and I know nothing. But I am still here!
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 →
Pat Poels is the VP of Engineering at Eventbrite, and since 2012, he has hired several software engineers from Hackbright Academy, a Python coding bootcamp for women in San Francisco. Here, Pat answers all of our questions about his experience hiring from a coding bootcamp, why he values engineers with non-traditional backgrounds, and how Eventbrite helps those new hires from Hackbright keep learning and growing as engineers once they actually join the team. Watch or read our interview with Pat.
Pat, tell us about your role at Eventbrite!
Eventbrite is an online ticketing platform that works with companies in all different categories. We've been in operation for 10 years and I've been leading the Engineering team at Eventbrite for over four years. Before Eventbrite, I was at Ticketmaster for 15 years, and I’ve played Poker for a living in between. That’s a different story altogether!
How large is the dev team at Eventbrite now?
Our company is growing like a weed. There are 145 engineers on the team across three different offices (we have 11 offices total in 8 countries), and that ends up making up about 30% of the overall staff in Eventbrite.
That's pretty impressive. How did you get connected with Hackbright Academy?
Interesting story. The Girls Who Code group was having a meetup in our office, and a couple of instructors from Hackbright were teaching that class. I got a chance to meet those instructors and get close to the program, and I thought it was a terrific idea. The Hackbright team invited me to their second Grad Day to hear the pitches from their new engineers. I've been pretty attached to the program ever since.
That second Grad Day was probably back in 2012! Since then, what roles have you hired Hackbright graduates for at Eventbrite? Is there a junior developer role at Eventbrite?
We call that “junior developer” role a Software Engineer Level One. Most of the engineers that we've hired have been for “fullstack” roles. Some will be stronger on the front end, but for the most part they have to work on a pretty wide and various set of tasks. There are a lot of interesting problems to solve at Eventbrite, so we don't really look for a certain kind of engineer from Hackbright Academy. We're looking for people we think are a good fit for the company, people who we think are really smart and have a great potential to learn.
Hackbright is unique in that they teach Python. Is Eventbrite also built on Python?
Yeah. We use a lot of different databases, but for the web, we're doing our development in Python and we use Django as our framework. It doesn't hurt that when I talk with candidates from Hackbright, I get to tell them that one of the co-creators of Django actually works at Eventbrite.
Other than Hackbright, how do you usually hire developers? What are you looking for in a new hire?
It's really the lifeblood of a company like Eventbrite to have great engineers and to find engineers to create innovative solutions. We don’t want to do the same things that other companies have done in ticketing. We really try to exhaust every potential channel for hiring. That means having connections to universities, connecting with friends and personal referrals, past coworkers who our team knows are really brilliant, etc. Those are still our biggest channel for new hires, but we love interesting programs like Hackbright Academy as well. I don't want to hire only very senior people who've been in the industry for 10 or 15 years. I want to have a mix of new ideas and new developers as well. Hackbright is a great channel for that.
Do you notice differences in hiring from Hackbright Academy versus hiring from a university CS program or from recruiters?
There's an element of fearlessness that exists for people who have self-selected into a bootcamp like Hackbright Academy. Hackbright grads haven't all necessarily had traditional schooling or backgrounds. I know about having nontraditional backgrounds because I have one myself, and I think that developers who have shown fearlessness tend to be really strong. They tend to be really great at learning and working through whatever problems they may have.
Of the candidates that you’ve hired from Hackbright Academy, have they had CS degrees or have they been mostly non-technical before Hackbright?
There has been a wide variety. A couple candidates have had CS degrees or were already working in the field around the periphery of tech. But for the most part, no. We've had a chance to meet and see a lot of potential candidates from Hackbright, and we've been able to find the ones who were terrific fits for us. That doesn’t mean that those candidates have had a CS background or have worked in the industry before.
So you're not looking for one specific background, but a CS degree isn't necessarily a requirement to work in the engineering department at Eventbrite?
No, not at all. Even with regards to knowing the Python stack. I find that a lot of our really great engineers didn't actually have Python experience when they came in the door. There are a set of things we look for in a candidate, but that has less to do with a knowing a certain technology stack or having a specific computer science background.
What are those qualities that you’re looking for in an engineering candidate? Of the Hackbright Academy grads that you actually hired, what stood out about them?
Every candidate's process is going to be different. Certainly, the projects that Hackbright graduates presented were really incredible, and they're learning interviewing skills so that the interviews go well. But really, we're looking for people we think have incredible potential. We use the interview to figure out who is really bright, inquisitive, hard-working, and who will fight through the hurdles that you're invariably going to hit as you're learning to become a new engineer.
If that means that the rampup is a little bit slower because they haven't had a traditional background or because they aren't necessarily familiar with a certain technology, we're less worried about that.
Company fit means a lot to us as well. Company culture at Eventbrite was carefully cultivated from the start, and so we make sure that candidates are people we want to work with.
Do most Eventbrite developers work in offices or do you have remote options?
We have three engineering offices; one here in San Francisco, one in Mendoza, Argentina, and one in Nashville. For the most part, our engineers work in one of those three locations.
What does the relationship look like between Eventbrite and Hackbright?
We try to attend all of the Hackbright Academy Career Days. We also have engineers from our office mentoring in the Hackbright classroom. We have at least one engineer from our team who has mentored for pretty much every Hackbright class so far. I've also been over to talk with the students and do longer Q&As. Hackbright is a terrific program, and it's something that we want to be attached to and help further, regardless of whether or not we’re hiring engineers.
I'm assuming that those eight hires from Hackbright Academy went through a technical interview at Eventbrite. How did they do? Have you ever thought about modifying the technical interview for coding bootcamp grads?
It's my philosophy that if you have a one-size-fits-all interview process, you're going to miss a lot of important things on both ends of the spectrum. If you’re asking very serious, heavy questions of someone who doesn’t have a CS background, you may not expect them to do well in that interview. Even someone who has been in the industry for 15 years may not do great in an interview like that.
You have to find ways to get answers to the right questions: How well will this candidate do at Eventbrite? What kind of potential do they have? How hungry are they to learn? Are they somebody you want to work with? You have to figure those things out in different ways based on different levels of experience. I'm not going to say that we've perfected it, but tailoring interviews is something that we've spent a long time learning how to do.
You mentioned that Eventbrite uses Python, which is a great fit for Hackbright Academy grads. But a bootcamp grad is going to need to continue learning when they start a new job! How are you ensuring that new hires are supported in their first few months on the job?
This is something we’ll continue to get better at over time, but it starts with having a mentor assigned to work with you on your first day. That person is there to answer your questions.
The environment is important as well. On a team of 145 engineers, we all know that we're successful based on the success of the rest of the team. It's not a competitive environment where you have to step on somebody else in order to get to the next rung of the ladder. We're all here to answer each other’s questions. We use Slack channels very well, so those questions get surfaced out to everyone, and you have a strong ecosystem of great engineers to help with those questions.
Also, we've found documentation of our products and our engineering environments and processes very important. Finally, we do internal bootcamps and training pretty often on particular technologies. For example, right now we have 25 people in a room down the hall learning React, which is a technology that we're pushing into. All of these things help our existing engineers get better, and also help new engineers to onboard faster.
It sounds like you've developed a very strong culture around learning and growing as developers. That’s awesome.
A culture of learning makes it exciting for all of the engineers. Of course, everybody likes working for a company that's successful and growing and sees their stock price go up. But really at the core, the Hackbright candidates have shown that they enjoy learning.
The people that we really enjoy working around the most are the ones who want to continue learning, getting better, and teaching each other. We try to create that culture here.
Are there any interesting stories about Hackbright Academy hires who have advanced in their careers since starting at Eventbrite?
We have a few but one story is about a candidate named Sandy Lee, who was one of the first two hires out of that second Hackbright class. She worked with us for a while and then decided that she really wanted to have a deeper understanding of computer science, and so she decided to go back to Stanford and get a Masters in Computer Science. She actually interned with us while she was going to Stanford, and she's graduating from her Master's program in June, and she's coming back to work for us which I'm super excited about.
Do you have a feedback loop in place with Hackbright at all? If you notice that your new hires are missing a certain skill, are you able to influence the future curriculum?
Nothing formal, but every time I go to Hackbright for a Career Day or another function, I find instructors or administrative staff to talk through what we're feeling and seeing. They're really responsive to that feedback, and they've tailored their program over time based on our feedback and, I’m sure, what they hear from all of their employers. They're pretty open and receptive to it.
That is something so unique about bootcamps, which you may not get with other talent sources- bootcamps are able to iterate on their curriculum so quickly.
That’s a great point. We have a team in Mendoza, Argentina; I would love to be able to talk to the University of Mendoza and give them feedback on what their grads are learning! I get a much more direct channel for feedback with Hackbright than I do with University of Mendoza.
Will you plan to hire from Hackbright Academy in the future?
Oh yeah. We just hired three people from the last cohort which is the most we've hired to date. We’re pretty convinced of the effectiveness of the program. Hackbright has helped us in hiring developers quite a bit, and hopefully we're helping them as well!
Finally, since you’ve had a great experience as a hiring partner, do you have any advice for other employers who're thinking about hiring developers from a coding bootcamp or from Hackbright Academy in particular?
My advice to other employers is to think of this as an investment. There’s a possibility that employers may look at a bootcamp like Hackbright and say, "The learning curve is too steep; bootcamp grads don’t have the background I want, etc." But if you make the investment, you choose the right people, and you invest in them the right way, it's going to pay off. Those bootcamp grads will be worth so much more to you down the road. Think beyond the next six months; what can these new hires mean for the next six years?
We've definitely had great success stories from the Hackbright Academy grads that we've hired. I can’t make a greater recommendation than that!
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 →
Since the first bootcamp acquisition in June 2014, we’ve seen several bootcamps acquired by for-profit universities and even other schools. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise. With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are beginning to take note. And as existing coding bootcamps think about expansion, consolidation through acquisition is certainly on the horizon. We’ll keep this chronologically-ordered list updated as bootcamps announce future acquisitions.
Continue Reading →
Hackbright Academy has been transforming driven, motivated beginners into Python developers since 2012. So what does it take to get into the selective engineering fellowship for women? We got the scoop straight from the Hackbright Admissions team- read on to learn everything you need to know about the Hackbright coding challenge, interview questions, and application process!
Hackbright Academy Application
How long does the Hackbright Academy application process typically take? What steps should applicants expect?
The great news is Hackbright’s Admissions process only takes 4-6 weeks. Students should expect to receive a decision to their application in no time.
We have worked hard to simplify the application process and now it only consists of just a few short steps:
- You submit a one page application for the selected term along with a coding challenge.
- Within two weeks of Hackbright receiving your completed application, you will receive an update to your application.
- If selected to move forward, you will be invited to interview. (There are two rounds of interviews: Round 1 interview is with an alumna and Round 2 interview is with a member of the Hackbright Team).
- Best of all, within two to five days of your last interview, applicants will receive their final admission decision.
What goes into the written application?
There are two quick parts to the application and before you know it you will be done and ready for review!
Our goal is to learn more about you, so take the time and share with us an honest and clear picture of who you are - we cannot wait to get to know more about you!
PART I - The Application: We just need you to share with us a little information about the following topics: basic biographical information, educational background, recent employment information and “share with us a particular area of expertise in detail.”
PART II - The Coding Challenge!
Does Hackbright Academy require a video submission?
We do not require a video with the application at this time. Something to keep in mind is that all of our interviews are conducted by video chat.
Is there a coding challenge? If so what does it involve? How long should it take?
Yes! The coding challenge is a technical problem for which you need to provide us a solution. The key to the coding challenge is not necessarily whether it’s right or wrong; it’s the logic behind attempting the challenge that we are most interested in. Be aware that we rotate coding challenges, so if you begin the application process, but do not submit, the coding challenge for the next quarter may be different. The challenge can take somewhere between 1-20 hours depending on the technical skillset of the applicant. Programming is fun and we want you to feel challenged (no pun intended) and have fun with this part of the application. Test and debug away!
Can applicants complete the challenge in any programming language or does it have to be in Python?
Applicants can complete the coding challenge in any language and we encourage students to complete the challenge in whatever language they are learning (or have learned). Even though Python is a big part of the Hackbright experience, choosing not to code in Python for the challenge is not a factor in determining one’s acceptance or denial. Again, don’t sweat it and have fun!
The Hackbright Academy Interview
How are the interviews conducted and with whom?
All interviews are conducted online. We use different online platforms; whichever is easiest for you. As mentioned above, we request that the interviews be conducted with video. This is an opportunity for us to meet you face to face…and we can't wait to meet you!
What sort of questions are in the interview? Can you give us a sample question?
Both interviews are designed to be like a conversation with a friend. We keep it casual at Hackbright. The interviews are an opportunity for us to get to know you as well as for you to learn more about Hackbright. It is a two-way conversation.
Here's a sample question: Tell us about yourself and why you decided to apply to a full-time coding bootcamp? In the interviews, we do discuss your submitted coding challenge. Candidates may want to have a copy handy when invited for an interview. Our goal is to understand your logic behind the coding challenge.
Will interviewees need to walk through a technical problem during the interview? If so what does this involve?
Yes but do not worry! In the interviews we discuss the coding challenge that you submitted. Something to remember is when invited to interview, to have a copy of your coding challenge ready as it will be reviewed and discussed. Again, we want to better understand the logic behind the solution you provided to us.
How can applicants prepare for the interview? What are a few resources that you suggest applicants use to really ace the technical interview?
The best way for you to prepare for the interview is to just relax and get a good night's sleep beforehand! Again, the interviews are meant to be a conversation and we want to get to know you as much as we want you to get to know us. Hackbright is a very much a community and we want you to be good fit for Hackbright as much as Hackbright needs to be a good fit for you. We highly recommend our applicants attend one of our Hackbright Academy Info Sessions in person or remotely to get a strong sense of the program and more Admissions tips.
There are no specific resources that we share with students on how to prepare since it is not just a technical interview. That said, we do discuss the coding challenge with students; however, that is only one question of many in the interview.
What are your favorite free beginner resources to learning Python?
These are some of the resources that we recommend to our students:
Think Like a Computer Scientist. There’s a lot there. If you can identify where you’re having trouble, then go to that topic and do the exercises, otherwise I would recommend the following sections:
What types of backgrounds have successful Hackbright Academy students had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
We have women coming from diverse backgrounds and a majority of them are coming from outside the tech industry altogether. Women who tried coding, enjoy it and are ready to work hard in order to pursue software engineering as a career. You can read about some of the career transitions of Hackbright alumnae here - it’s an inspiring group!
How do you evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?
When interviewing applicants we look for a number of qualities. That said, due to the amount of pair programming that is conducted in the Fellowship we look for students who are strong communicators, collaborative in nature and prefer to work in a team environment. Other qualities we look for in applicants are: resourcefulness, risk taking as well as those showing an introductory knowledge to some of the programming languages and/or relatable computer science topics.
What is the current acceptance rate at Hackbright Academy?
We are selective in the admission process. However, we encourage applicants not to focus on the acceptance rate, more importantly to focus on providing an in-depth and candid application highlighting yourself and your interest in coming to Hackbright.
Are students accepted on a rolling basis?
Yes. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, which is why we strongly encourage you to submit your application sooner rather than later. If prospective students apply late, there is a possibility that you can be waitlisted or your application may be deferred to the next term. Past cohorts have filled before the deadline date. Please note that candidates can only apply to one cohort at a time.
Does Hackbright Academy accept international students? Do international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?
We do! We accept a small number of international students into the program each term. We do not provide any visa support. Any international applicant who is admitted into the program is responsible for securing their visas to enter the US.
Can rejected applicants reapply? If so how many times?
Yes! We encourage applicants who were denied from previous terms to re-apply. Term over term, we have applicants who have been denied, then reapply after getting more coding experience and are then admitted into the program. There are no limitations to reapplying.
(updated August 2016)
At Course Report, we field a lot of questions about coding bootcamp cost. From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,451, bootcamp tuition can range from $5,000 to $21,000. So how do you decide what to budget for? Today, we're breaking down the costs of several popular coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
Coding Bootcamps are expensive. The average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $9,900, with some bootcamps charging up to $20,000 in tuition. We'll talk about how to calculate your ROI, available scholarships, when to use financing or payment plans, and unique payment models. We'll also explore the nitty gritty details about bootcamp loans with Zander Rafael of Climb Credit. And Hackbright Academy graduate Shannon Burns will talk about getting creative when paying for bootcamp tuition.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the June 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!Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)Continue Reading →
Welcome to the October News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Siena Aguayo was a project manager at a tech company when she decided it was time to pursue programming- she chose Hackbright Academy because of the supportive community. We chat with Siena about why she chose a Python-focused school, how she prepared for interviews, and how Hackbright's women-only policy is helping change the face of the tech world.
What were you doing before you attended bootcamp?
I was a project manager at a tech company in Sunnydale, so spent most of my time talking to clients and configuring the software to their specifications, but also some front-end development. I always did a lot of stuff with computers growing up, and I took some Computer Science in college.
Which bootcamps did you apply to? Why did you ultimately choose Hackbright?
I also applied to Dev Bootcamp. I ultimately chose Hackbright because of the community- it became really apparent after poking around on social media, that Hackbright has an incredibly strong community and that would be a huge asset to me as I launched my career.
Did the fact that Hackbright teaches Python affect your decision?
At the time, I asked all of my engineering friends, and people were pretty neutral. But now that I understand it more, I’m really happy that I went somewhere Python-focused and more focused on CS fundamentals than just learning Rails as a web framework. Now, it’s going to be easy for me to pick up Ruby and Rails, whereas it might be less easy to go the other way. I think it’s probably likely that where I end up will be a Rails shop, but I’m glad that I learned Python first.
What was the application process like for you?
There were two rounds of interviews. One was more of a culture fit, and the other was trying to gauge your technical aptitude. There were brain teasers- they don’t put you on the spot, but they’re looking to see how well your learning style mixes with their teaching style.
Ok, so you’re accepted to Hackbright- what was the pre-work like?
We had to use Learn Python the Hard Way. They sent it out a month before class started and said to try to get through all of it- the secret there is that nobody gets through all of it.
What kind of students were in your cohort? Did you find diversity of the group?
Hackbright has an apprentice program, so if you are a software engineer but you want to do a bootcamp, they’ll accept people with a higher level of skill. You’re learning side by side with those people. For the first half of the program, you’re pair programming- so sometimes those apprentices would want to work by themselves
How large was your cohort?
28 people. There were 5 instructors- Christian Fernandez was our lead instructor. Any bigger and it may have been a problem, but it didn’t feel that big.
Did any students find that the program wasn't for them and choose not to finish?
We actually had the opposite. We took on a woman who had decided that GA wasn’t for her. Everyone finished. Hackbright tries really hard to not let people fall behind.
What was the curriculum like?
The first half of the program, there is a morning lecture, then we would break off into pairs and work on an assignment. Then after lunch, we might have another lecture, and more pair programming. There is a pretty solid structure.
Did you (and your cohort) complete a capstone project at the end of the program? What did you choose?
The whole second half of the program is doing your own personal project. I built an OCR engine from scratch for Japanese. I haven’t deployed it yet- my database got too big to deploy to free hosting options.
Describe your experience after Hackbright- how did Hackbright prepare you to get a job?
At the end of Hackbright, during the last week, there’s a career day. It’s kind of like speed dating - you talk to each company for 7 minutes. You show them your project and try to talk about what opportunities are available at their company. Then you schedule interviews. I can’t even count how many companies I’ve interviewed with- it’s been a lot. And this past week, I got my first two job offers. (Update: Siena took a job as a developer with Indiegogo! Congrats!).
Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
Yes, I felt really well prepared. Hackbright has an end date but it doesn’t really end. Our last day was in December, but I came in almost every day after it ended. We’ve been practicing interview questions and commiserating through the job search process.
A lot of bootcamps offer a partial refund if you end up accepting a job with one of their partner companies- was that part of your experience?
For my class, if you accept a job with their partner companies, you get $3000 back on your tuition. This is something that has been fluctuating.
What are you up to today? Are you working on any side projects?
Right now, I’m pretty focused on getting a job. I started to learn Ruby on the side.
What has been your experience as a woman in the tech industry. Do you feel it changing?
I definitely do. I’ve heard some comments about surrounding yourself with only fellow women being detrimental since it doesn’t mimic the real world. I feel that completely misses the point of all-female engineering schools in the first place. I feel like we’re really changing things- people are talking about the problem of women in tech a lot more. And that opens the door to talking about racial diversity and income disparity as well. I don’t think it’s a lost cause. Hackbright graduated more female engineers than both Stanford and Berkeley combined this last year.
What kind of person would you recommend attend a dev bootcamp? What kind of person won't succeed?
Aside from knowing that you’re good at CS, people who are comfortable in a really collaborative setting will be successful. You can be competitive, but you can’t let that get in the way of helping your classmates. Pair Programming is a huge part of the program, so you probably won’t be successful if that sounds horrible to you.
Shannon Burns was pleasantly surprised and financially unprepared when she was accepted to Hackbright Academy. Coming from a low-income network, Shannon had to think fast, so she founded Hacking for Women and the CodeShannon Scholarship to finance her own education, and she’s not stopping there. Shannon will “fund-it-forward” by donating 10% of her first year’s salary to support another woman’s coding education.
We talk with Shannon about her journey to Hackbright, her goals as a developer, and how her Fund-it-Forward model is going to help women around the world.
What were you doing before you decided to apply to Hackbright?
I got my degree at San Francisco State and I ended up getting a job at a small startup working in an attic. One of my buddies suggested that I try computer programming, so I went to a Women Who Code event and made my first program, fell in love with it, and realized that this is what I want to do with my life.
Which bootcamps did you apply to? Why did you ultimately choose Hackbright?
I spent a good six months researching coding schools- I interviewed students and teachers, checked out placement stats and average salary stats. I had found this thing that finally fit for me, so I wanted to make sure I was preparing myself the best that I could by choosing the best school for me.
How much did the all-female aspect of the camp factor into your decision?
When I first heard about Hackbright, I was actually really turned off. I was concerned that it was all women, and that it wouldn’t prepare me to work in the real world, which is mostly male-dominated. My perception didn’t change until I interviewed. As soon as I walked into the office, all the preconceived notions that I had about being a coding school for women just melted away- it was such a positive environment, and that really sealed the deal for Hackbright for me. I had been to Hack Reactor, App Academy, and Dev Bootcamp, but the visit to Hackbright cemented my decision.
Did the fact that Hackbright teaches Python have an affect on your decision?
What was the application process like for you?
Ok, so you’re accepted to Hackbright- what’s next? How did you come up with the idea to use GoFundMe?
Well, I didn’t think I was going to get in, because I had heard that Hackbright only accepts 2% of students. So when I got in, I was in shock, and thinking about my options- how was I going to come up with a 5K deposit and 10k tuition. At this point, I had two months. I looked into all of the traditional methods. Since these coding schools are so new, they’re not accredited or considered university programs, so you can’t qualify for FAFSA or government aid, and you can’t even take student loans out. So the only loan options are to get a high-interest credit card with a very high limit, or getting a personal loan, or just asking somebody. I come from a very low-income background, and a low income network, so there was nobody in my network who had $15k to lend me, and on top of that, I couldn’t even find a cosigner to get a bank loan. I started crowdfunding and raised about $300. It wasn’t working, because it didn’t make sense for me to ask people to give me money to increase my own salary, so how can I solve this issue? It’s going to come up for a whole bunch of people, especially for women and minorities who are more likely to have lower-income networks.
So tell us about the “Fund-it-Forward” model?
It hit me all at once- I thought, “What if I donated 10% of my first year salary to enable someone else to go to code school too.” So now, instead of just funding myself (which I am!), after I graduate and get a job, I’ll donate 10% of my first year salary to the next woman, who can use it for coding school. Then she donates to the woman after her, and so on. The scholarship fund is called the CodeShannon scholarship, and the organization is called Hacking for women.
There’s also a mentorship aspect of the program, because I’ve noticed that there aren’t a lot of mentor relationships for women in tech. I want to make it a community, a place to go with a lot of resources in case you don’t know where to start. Like, don’t start with 5 languages at once! Nobody told me that.
To my knowledge, this is the first “Fund-it-Forward” scholarship. The women I know in my situation aren’t looking for handouts. I know that so many people have contributed to me change my life for the better, and all I want to do is give that to somebody else too.
How close are you to your goal? Why did you choose GoFundMe?
I’m about half-way to my goal. As of right now, I’m at $10,716, and my goal is $25,000. Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to fundraise, and IndiGoGo charges up to 9% on top of PayPal fees. GoFundMe’s fees were a bit less, but it was still a lot.
So, not only have you decided to attend Hackbright, but are you essentially setting up a scholarship program for Hackbright?
I want to make it very clear that this scholarship is program agnostic, and for women anywhere in the world. I want to encourage women abroad to apply as well, because I know there are even less resources for women abroad. So it’s not just for Hackbright, it’s for any woman who wants to go to coding school.
What are your goals after the program?
Well, I would love to come back to Lyft, but I’m really excited that I’m in a position where all of these doors are opening up. Hopefully I have more than one job offer, so I can make a choice.
How can people contact you or donate to your GoFundMe campaign?
You can donate directly on my website, www.hackingforwomen.com (preferrable). Or you can donate on my campaign at gofundme.com/codeshannon. If you want to follow me on twitter, i’m @karishannon and @hackingforwomen. And I like emails too! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since we interviewed Shannon, she has already sent us an exciting update- Women Who Code has graciously offered to merge with Hacking for Women. While the details are still being worked out, Hacking for Women officially has non-profit status and can offer tax deductions for all donations.
We’ll follow up with Shannon about her Fund-it-Forward campaign and her experiences at Hackbright Academy, so stay tuned!
Ksenia Burlachenko is a Hackbright Academy graduate who completed her program in Spring 2013.
She now works as a Software Engineer at Perforce and considers Hackbright to be “one of the best experiences and best decisions of [her] life.”
What were you up to before you applied to Hackbright?
I came to the US six years ago from Russia to study. Before Hackbright, I had graduated with a degree in Economics from USC. And I really loved economics- I loved problem solving and hard analytical skills, but I couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life. One of my friends just mentioned programming to me and suggested I try to pick it up. So I tried a few courses online and I really enjoyed it, and started to consider a boot camp. Hackbright was the first boot camp that I heard of- I applied and got accepted right away. I looked at other Bay Area boot camps, but none of them looked as interesting as Hackbright.
What was the application process like for you?
After I filled out the online application, I got a Skype interview with one of the cofounders, David, where he asked me about my story. Then my second interview was with Christian, the other cofounder. That interview was more about problem-solving and logic questions. He walked me through a technical problem and we used pair programming to approach it- I think it was about Statistics or Probability. I ended up solving it in 20 minutes, and it was actually the first time I tried programming outloud- I realized then that I should definitely pursue it.
What was the Hackbright prework like?
We went through Python the Hard Way. Since most of the students have no programming experience before the class starts, it’s recommended to try to work through the book as much as possible. I also looked through some computer science books- I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing though!
Did you have a preference for learning Python?
I did have a preference for Python. Actually, it was more of a coincidence, because I was really considering doing something with data analysis, since data analysis and the fundamentals of research were part of my undergraduate degree. Python is really popular in data analysis, and even though I don’t do data analysis now (in my current job), I strongly believe that Python is a better “first language” to learn. You can pick up the fundamentals of Computer Science through Python. I do like Ruby as well, but Python is better if you’re very new to programming.
What kind of students were in your cohort?
I’m sure you know that Hackbright is a program only for women, but everyone came from a different background. A few from finance, a few from the East Coast, people who had established careers and some just out of college. We all connected really well- one of the great things about Hackbright that I’m not sure if other bootcamps have is that it’s a really strong community and everyone is very supportive of each other- we share resources, job postings. There is a huge network of alumni. You’re spending so much time together during the class and you ultimately become best friends, and at Hackbright, I found some of my best friends. I consider Hackbright one of the best experiences and best decisions of my life.
There are a number of online boot camps and online classes that teach Ruby and Python. Why did you choose an in-person class?
For me, it was a very clear decision. I think some people are really smart and disciplined and can learn and structure a program by themselves. But I need to be with an instructor and have more human interaction. I don’t like to be stuck and spend three days looking for an answer on stack overflow when I have an instructor who can, not necessarily give away the answer, but just lead me in approaching the problem. I don’t think you get this with an online course.
I learned other programming languages after Hackbright on my own, which was much easier. But it was important to me to get my first programming experience with an instructor. Also, Hackbright instructors are just amazing- incredibly smart and supportive. Nobody is pitting us against each other- they really want everyone to succeed. Christian was our lead instructor, and Liz & Cynthia were assistant instructors in my program.
Can you describe the curriculum? Did you complete a project at the end?
During the first half of the course, you learn fundamentals of computer science and utilize pair programming. You pick small exercises and complete them with another person. Then, for the next five weeks you work on your personal project. My project was a bit unique, in the sense that it wasn’t a practical project- it wasn’t a web app. I implemented a singular value decomposition from scratch in Python and applied it to movie ratings data. Basically, it’s a prediction algorithm- and it was my first try with machine learning. In my class, everyone had their own preferences for what they would do after Hackbright, and I thought I wanted to do data analysis, but I wasn’t sure, so I tried different things. I realized that I like back-end development more than web development. I got so much support from instructors figuring out what my strengths are.
Describe your experience after HackBright- how long did it take you to get a job? Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
At the end of Hackbright, there’s a career day. It’s like reverse-speed dating: each Hackbright student has their own station, and 20-30 companies switch from station to station, learning about each candidate’s projects and what they want to do. Then, maybe after that they bring you in for interviews. I got hired by Perforce within one month of graduation, which was a partner company with Hackbright (I actually only interviewed with Hackbright partner companies). Right now I work as a Software Engineer. Their policies have changed since I graduated, but when I took a job with a partner company, I got my full tuition refunded.
What does your job entail now?
I work for Perforce, which is source version control system (a similar project is Git). The project I’m working on is called GitFusion; it’s an integration tool that let’s you use Git with Perforce on the back-end. I really like my company and my teammates, and I’m still learning every single day, which I think is the most important part for me. I use several operating systems, like Linux-based systems, in my new job, which is something I didn’t learn at Hackbright. And I had to pick up Perl.
Do you feel like at HB, there were specific programs geared towards combat the imposter syndrome and prepare you to be a woman in this industry?
Absolutely. Every week, we have tech talks, and several were focused on being a female engineer in a heavily male-oriented field, which helped a lot. There were also sessions on how to go through an interview, present yourself, and negotiate your salary. A year ago, I didn’t know what Python was, and I’ve made so much progress. I always felt that for women, it’s hard to get into programming because we get discouraged and we feel like imposters. You’ve heard of Lean In, but when you’re actually a woman experiencing it, you may not understand that it’s even happening to you. Whereas at Hackbright, I got so much support and eventually, I realized that I really am awesome and have the skills for this.
Since you’ve graduated from Hackbright, what has your experience as a woman been in the tech industry? Do you feel like the landscape is changing?
I feel like it’s still a very male-dominated industry. I’ve never really faced discrimination in the workplace- it’s more like little things that other people don’t notice. For example, when someone tells you that you should be preparing more for a presentation, and you start doubting yourself. It can slowly crawl up on you. And I have to say that everyone at my company now is very supportive, but sometimes, when you’re socializing with engineers or at conferences, you see that it’s very male-dominated, and you have to work harder being a woman. You’re in a battle with yourself every single day, but I still know that I should be programming and have the skills for it.
Have you noticed that colleagues or companies have looked down on having a boot camp education, as opposed to a Computer Science degree?
In the beginning, when I got hired by my company, it was a leap of faith for them. But I think right away, I blew away any concerns that they had, and it was clear that I was going to be successful in this career. They saw that my level of preparation and skill was just as good as someone graduating from college.
Any advice for students considering applying to Hackbright or a coding boot camp?
I think that programming is a skill that you can learn in an intensive setting in 10 to 12 weeks. If you learn the fundamentals and if you enjoy it, then you can learn programming. I really don’t think that getting a masters in CS is worth it, if you want to be a web developer. Just get your stuff together, work really intensively for 12 weeks, and you’ll be prepared to be a software engineer in this industry.
Want to learn more? Check out Hackbright Academy on Course Report for courses, costs and reviews.
1/14/2014Continue Reading →