Prospective applicants will need to fill out an online application detailing their interests and personality, then complete a coding challenge and two interviews. Hackbright's ideal candidate has a desire to learn software development and has prior exposure to programming.
Hackbright Academy provides students with mentorship, tech talks, and career services. After graduation, Hackbright Academy connects graduates with Silicon Valley companies looking to expand their engineering teams as alumnae work at companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Slack. Hackbright Academy offers deferred tuition, limited scholarships, and payment plans for qualified students.
Recent Hackbright Academy Reviews: Rating 4.51
Recent Hackbright Academy News
- Why a VP of Engineering Mentors Hackbright Academy Students
- November 2018 Coding Bootcamp News Podcast
- Meet a Hackbright Academy Instructor: Heather Mahan
- In PersonFull Time40 Hours/week11 Weeks
- Start Date
- None scheduled
- Class size
- Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco
- $250 Non-Refundable
- Deferred tuition and lending partners available, including Skills Fund to provide you multiple payment options.Students who’ve completed our part-time course are eligible for a $1,500 discount
- Tuition Plans
- Hackbright Academy offers a deferred tuition program to select, eligible students. If eligible, that means no tuition payments until you are hired. Click here: http://hba.io/2ADhSeP
- We have four scholarships available from our partners who are committed to changing the gender ratio in tech. Learn more: http://hba.io/2zahyUp
- Minimum Skill Level
- 40 hours of coding practice
- Prep Work
- 5-10 hours remote work per week for the 3 weeks leading up to the start of progrtam
- Placement Test
- In PersonFull Time10 Hours/week3 Weeks
This is a 4-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.
- Start Date
- None scheduled
- Class size
- San Jose, San Francisco
- $99 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.
- WWC and Hackbright Academy are offering a full scholarship to Hackbright Prep. Learn More: http://hba.io/2zdo8JV Hackbright Academy offers partial scholarships to a limited number of students each quarter. Learn more: http://hba.io/2zd8NJj
- Minimum Skill Level
- Beginner - 10 hours of coding experience.
- Placement Test
In PersonPart Time14 Hours/week24 Weeks
The part-time software development program is stimulating, exciting and fulfilling. Our challenging curriculum is based on 5 years of training students, providing tangible feedback, and helping each individual improve throughout the learning process. Students can partake in Hackbright's life-changing Software Engineering Program while working. The Part-Time Software Engineering Program will teach you the fundamentals of computer science in addition to modern web development. This part-time program includes labs and lectures on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, plus Saturdays. One of the most in-demand languages to learn in the industry is Python – the core language of our curriculum. Companies that use Python include Google, Yelp, and Dropbox to name a few. Mastering Python here will help you start thinking like an engineer. You can feel confident that you’ll walk out of the door ready to tackle any engineering role.
- Start Date
- None scheduled
- Class size
- San Francisco
- 250 Non- Refundable
- We understand that your education can be a big investment and that’s why we’ve partnered with leading lending partners to provide you affordable payment alternatives. Check out the options below and please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions! Click here to learn more.
- Tuition Plans
- Refund / Guarantee
- Minimum Skill Level
- 40 hours of coding practice
- Prep Work
- 5-10 hours remote work per week for the 3 weeks leading up to the start of course
- Placement Test
Hackbright Academy Reviews
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You can do impossible when you have passion and are supported by a great learning environment.
Hackbright helped me to make my dream come true.
After 12 years in Technical Recruiting and hiring hundreds of software engineers I decided to give myself a chance to become a software engineer myself. When I was looking for a software engineering bootcamp, I was super picky as I wanted to choose the best one and I ended up with Hackbright. They met all my requirements:
1. Curriculum. - during the course, we covered most critical skills and tools required to be a software engineer, including version control, the Linux command line, relational databases, web frameworks, AJAX/JQuery, and front-end frameworks. We also covered broader essential software engineering topics like debugging, pair programming, code reviews, core computer science concepts (including runtime analysis, recursion, and advanced data structures, such as linked lists, graphs, and trees), and technical whiteboarding.
2. Practical skills - each student was working on her project. Each of us built her web-application from scratch. By doing that we went through each step of Product Life-Cycle Development - DB design, back-end, front-end, implementation, debugging, testing, UX-design. During the project time, our instructors used Agile software development approach - we had two sprints, MVP and daily scrums.
3. Learning environment - supportive, encouraging, motivational and has a lot of fun! Our instructors created an open and collaborative environment. Sometimes I didn't feel I am on a lecture; it was more like a team discussion. New topics were clearly explained and questions were patiently answered.
4. Success stories - I carefully reviewed the Hackbright job report. I was impressed by the program completion rate ( 99%) and average time to land the first job after the program. Last two weeks of the program are focused on job search techniques and tools. Hackbright also gave us a great tool of how to live after Hackbright :) (sounds funny, but so relevant) - how to organize your daily routine to keep learning, practicing and job searching. For me, it took two months to land a software engineer job.
It was challenging and fun, and a piece of my heart will always stay with this fantastic school. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is looking for a way to become a software engineer.
Coming from an education background (HS science teacher) Hackbright Academy was an easy choice. When I was weighing my options for bootcamp programs, there were some I came across that threatened to kick student's out based on repeated low assessment scores. A concept that seemed very possible for me at the time. When I inquired about Hackbright's policy on low assessment scores, I was told that their approach was to initiate a conversation about what could be improved upon (whether that be more frequent advisor check-ins, modifying study habits, making better use of mentors, etc). Hackbright's student centered program made it the easy and right choice for me.
I was so impressed with the quality of instruction throughout the course. My instructors were passionate, knowledgable, and open to feedback. Their patience for questions seemed never-ending. As for the greater Hackbright community, I was encouraged and supported throughout the 12 weeks and beyond. The career services Hackbright provides really prepared me to enter the post-Hackbright abyss, and I actually ended up landing a job through their internal job board. I would highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition to a career in Software Engineering.
Before I started Hackbright, I was skeptical. It seemed like a lot of money with no guarantee of successfully landing a job. However, I stuck with the program and graduated about three months ago. It paid off - I was hired as a software engineer several weeks ago!
For me, the most valuable aspect of Hackbright is the community. The staff, instructors, fellow students, mentors, and alumnae are incredible. The alum network is amazing, and the staff really does their best to support you. I loved everyone in my cohort and I know I've made friends for life!
The Community: Instructors and mentors are amazing, the staff is supportive, fellow students and alumnae are incredible!
Hackbright Connections: Companies love Hackbright! There are many events, study sessions, interview prep discounts, hack-a-thons, networking opportunities, and job opportunities that are exclusive to Hackbright Alum!
Cost: It's expensive! However, there are some scholarships available: https://hackbrightacademy.com/blog/announcing-the-code-reddit-scholarship/
Pace: If you have prior coding experience, the pace of the program might feel slow. If you are brand new, it will feel fast and overwhelming. Also, Pair Programming is a huge part of Hackbright, so you will occasionally work with people who are not at the same skill level as you
Bay Area Only: If you want to work outside the Bay Area after Hackbright, you will greatly limit your network and job opportunities
If you are considering attending a coding boot camp, you should:
1) Have enough money for the program, money for housing and food during the program, and money for housing and food for possibly up to 6+ months to a year after the program ends while you are searching for a job.
2) Genuinely LOVE to code - you should have 20+ hours coding experience before applying to the full-time program. You don't have to be an expert, but you need some experience.
3) Realize that graduating from a boot camp is NOT a job guarantee - you will need to spend a lot of time and energy post-program networking, refining and developing skills to get a job. It could take up to a year! In my experience, the post-Hackbright work was more challenging than the program itself.
4) Understand your first job probably will NOT be your dream job! I know several Hackbrighters that have ended up at companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google, but they were either accepted to an apprentice program, had prior experience, or they worked at other jobs first. The first job you get might not be at your dream company, but it will be a great experience!
5) Know that there is a lot of competition for entry-level jobs and apprentice positions! Hackbright does post apprentice and junior level positions on the job portal, but there are a lot of people applying to jobs that require less than experience.
6) Accept that you will not have a social life for 3 months - Personally, I spent 40 hours a week at Hackbright, 1-3 hours doing homework and working on my project each night, and occasionally up to 10 hours every weekend working on assessments or your project.
7) Acknowledge that you will keep learning after Hackbright and continue to learn on the job. The learning never stops!
I honestly believe Hackbright is the best decision I've ever made - If you want to be a software engineer, GO TO HACKBRIGHT!
Attending Hackbright Academy was the best decision I have made (besides getting my dogs, of course). I had tried going back to university in Florida to pursue a degree in software engineering--I got through a year of taking classes part-time before becoming fed up with how little useful information I had learned and how long it had taken. I heard about Hackbright and was impressed with their curriculum, reviews, and graduate statistics, so I quit my job and moved across the country to attend.
While attending Hackbright, I was continuously blown away by the amount of practical information they were able to instill in us in such a short amount of time. The biggest learning tool for me was the individual project that each student creates. Developing a web application from scratch was an exciting way to go over the technologies and tools we had learned while also exploring new ones.
The education team and support staff are some of the most knowledgeable, genuinely helpful people I've ever met in an education environment. Everyone is super accessable and really seems to care about the success of each student. I was offered a software engineering position very quickly after graduation because Hackbright's curriculum really does make its students competitive in the job market, and they also spend a good amount of time preparing its students for the ever-daunting technical interviews. I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in a software engineering/web development career.
I came to Hackbright with some experience with coding and computer science. I had dabbled in many different programming languages and technical applications through working at a couple tech startups, online tutorials, and a CS class in college.
The other main factor in my decision was the schedule. I wanted to do a part-time program. From my past experiences, I knew that I learn best if there is time between classes to allow information to soak in before moving on to the next topic (especially if the topics build on each other!). Since I was in no rush to complete my program, this worked for me.
Although I was in the inaugural cohort in this 24-week format, I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the program ran. The instructors were accommodating to our schedules with assessments, advising meetings, and additional office hours during project time (especially since all of us were working full-time).
It was a very collaborative and supportive learning environment among my classmates and instructors. Everyone there genuinely wants to see you succeed (throughout the program and beyond)! It was great to have an advisor who is aware of how things are going. There are also assessments twice a month to help solidify your understanding and identify gaps in knowledge. Hackbright takes feedback seriously. They have a survey after every lecture to let them know what worked and what didn’t. You also receive feedback on your assessments based on your understanding of concepts and your coding style.
After each lecture, there are lab exercises completed in pairs. What’s great is that you get to apply the concepts right away and are able to ask questions about things you thought you understood. Beyond checking your understanding of concepts, through pair programming I learned skills in technical communication, working with others, self-confidence, and was exposed to different problem-solving strategies and programming styles. I think these are all important skills for the workplace since you’ll likely be working as part of an engineering team.
During the second half of the program you build your own web app. Having a project that you can say, “I designed and built this whole thing” gave me a sense of accomplishment and allowed me to see firsthand how much I had learned over the six months. Plus, since I made every decision and wrote every line of code I now have a project in my portfolio that I can explain in depth to a future employer.
Overall, I loved my Hackbright experience. I definitely learned the skills to be a successful software engineer. I am proud to be part of a group of diverse, intelligent and driven female software engineers.
I have a non-traditional, non-traditional background, graduating with a CS degree and then deciding to go into a bootcamp, but I can honestly say that Hackbright has made the decision worth it. Hackbright gave me what my CS department at uni couldn't, a supportive and empowering network meant for my growth and post-graduation success.
Lectures are packed with information and well laid out. Instructors are friendly, encouraging, and always open to questions. Instrcutors also hold plenty of office hours to answer any questions, programming related or not. They provide an enormous amount of technical and moral support. Hackbright also has field trips for their students and has plenty of opportunities to network with engineers in the field. They have designated "Career Coffee" lectures every week to help you with the not-so intuitive skills and resources needed to be successful during your job search post-bootcamp.
All in all, I felt like Hackbright had an incredibly wholesome approach to the "software engineering bootcamp" and I came out of the camp feeling well-prepared and ready to tackle the job search with an added bonus of an incredible group of like-minded and supportive friends.
I enrolled in Hackbright's full-stack bootcamp after completing their Python prep course. I had done some self-learning prior to that but the prep course gave me the confidence in their curriculum and their guidance to dive into a job transition that I had been hesitant about prior to that. A bootcamp is a big investment both financially and in terms of the time and energy required, but after testing the waters with Hackbright's prep course, I was completelly sold.
With Hackbright, I found that coding could be fun and done in a supportive, non-competitive environment where everyone was excited to share ideas and see one another succeed. I also felt confident enough in my newfound skills to start applying them at work almost as soon as we covered them in class (I was enrolled in the 24-week Part-Time Bootcamp, so I was employed full-time throughout), which meant I got to have some real-world experience of writing code and seeing it work in a job environment even before I graduated.
Some elements of the bootcamp did feel a bit awkward; for example the instructors were relatively junior, and not all had much direct experience either as instructors or working as professional software developers or engineers themselves. I think this was largely because of the challenge of finding instructors whose schedules could work around the odd hours of the Part-Time Bootcamp may have limited the pool of instructors who were available. That said, they were all lovely, personable people who were willing to go above and beyond to find the answers to questions if they didn't immediately know them, and I think the curriculum was sufficiently solidly constructed that the material we covered did not suffer overmuch. Another (possible) negative was that some of the job-hunting resources and events felt a little cookie-cutter and poorly timed. However, I think this was largely because they were still figuring out how to adjust the syllabus to make sense in the brand new 24-week format (e.g., our project demo night happened long before we were ready to start seriously networking or applying for anything). Regardless, I felt that the majority of the career-support resources, such as site visits, guest speakers, and whiteboarding with real live engineers in real live partner company offices were by far the most helpful aspects of the bootcamp, as they gave us the chance to interact with potential future colleagues and be treated as peers, which was tremendously confidence-boosting.
The place where Hackbright really shines, however, is in the community of women who surround it. Every single alumna we spoke to, every single current student we interacted with (across all courses and campuses), and every single instructor or admin at Hackbright (many of whom are alumnae themselves), was thoughtful, encouraging, and frankly, loving. I am not normally a very sentimental person, but the community of women at Hackbright is the perfect antidote to much of the negativity around tech and diversity initiatives that has been in the public dialogue lately. I feel inspired to give back as much as I have gotten, and hope to stay involved with the great work Hackbright is doing moving forward.
I won't beat around the bush--completing a bootcamp is HARD, especially if you have a life or a job outside of class that you can't step away from. But if you have the passion and the discipline to get yourself ready, ask for the help and resources you need, and to keep knocking away at it week after week, you will be amazed at how quickly you can learn and the awesome things you can build. There are many ways to learn coding, but there are not very many ways to connect yourself with an amazing community that can help you carry yourself forward at every stage of your engineering career. Hackbright is both!
I absolutely loved my time at Hackbright. It was a unique experience to be in a room full of inspiring women who enjoyed solving problems as much as I do. The instructors really cared about their students' success, and would consistently go the extra mile to make sure you mastered a concept. Above all - it was fun! I looked forward to coming to class everyday.
The curriculum is good, but what's even better is the emphasis on grooming you for the work force as a software engineer. At Hackbright you learn things you never even thought about during your self study, such as testing and following style guides. Going into Hackbright, you vaguely understand the importance of good variable names and writing notes. After Hackbright you can't help but cringe when you see a function with a missing docstring.
Another reason I would recommend Hackbright over many other bootcamps is because of their superb mentor matching program. Each student gets paired with two mentors. Each mentor has agreed to donate at least 1 hour/week of their time to the student, and must have person software engineering job experience. My mentors proved invaluable in solidifying some of the more abstract concepts. They also practiced whiteboarding with me, helped me plan my project, and offered suggestions and inspiration. Both of them kept working with me for months after Hackbright ended, which kept my moral high during the difficult job hunt period. Whether you decide to go with Hackbright or not, make sure you choose a program that offers this type of mentorship! A lot can be learned through diligent self-study, but there are so many items that are made 100x easier by having a good mentor.
Hackbright offers an incredibly supportive environment, and this doesn't stop after graduation. The career team schedules one-on-one meetings with each student, and encourage you to schedule as many meetings with them as you want. There definitely is a lot self-motivation needed to keep up with the work necessary to find a job after graduating, but they are there with you every step of the way. Hackbright also sets up various networking events to help the students meet the right people to get them jobs.
Hackbright gives enough foundation and exposure to concepts to teach its students how to continue their education. Even before you secure a job as one, you leave Hackbright a software engineer.
Prior to attending Hackbright, I had been at a co-ed (mainly male) coding program that lacked the education and career support I needed to succeed as a software engineer. I ended up choosing Hackbright because of the post-grad support and emphasis on balance. There is a technical mentor on staff twice a week, career staff available to help, study sessions every month to continue learning, an amazing alumnae, and many career events. The importance of balance in the program was huge, because I truly believe you cannot learn without some type of balance. We were often told not to stay up until the crack of dawn cramming CS topics. I found their way of teaching most effective for myself to solidify web development and computer science.
I did not realize until during the program, I would make long-lasting connections with my cohort mates and staff. I always had someone from the ed staff to turn to for technical issues and emotional support during this hard journey. I was able to go to my advisor for any questions or concerns related to curriculum, personal matters, imposter syndrome, and career advice. The career team was able to help us prepare during the program and after on the job hunt. The field trips we were able to attend really helped solidify what I was looking for in a company and what the industry was like by meeting many other engineers, particularly women in the industry. The mentorship program is not perfect, but I was lucky to have an amazing mentor that provided technical and emotional support. Overall, I would highly suggest Hackbright to someone looking to break into the industry who knows they need support during/after the program and balance/guidance.
Hackbright took us on company visits, which helped to give us insights into what it would be like to work in tech and also helped expand our professional network. We were also matched with mentors who work in the tech industry to help us throughout and even after the program.
Career support was more than I expected, more than I recieved in the two universities I had attended previously. Additionally, the alumni network is large, pretty spread out (not just restricted to the Bay Area), and super helpful. Every alum I have contacted to ask about job opportunities has been responsive, encouraging and supportive. I graduated Hackbright with a strong sense of what my next steps should be in terms of how to approach the job search and what projects/technologies to work on next. Thanks to the amazing career support, I was able to receive my first job offer less than a month after graduating.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to leave my decade-long career in Customer Support and attempt a transition to Software Engineering. I considered multiple bootcamps but ultimately settled on Hackbright Academy after the admissions interview.
The main thing that stood out to me in the admissions interview was that the questions focused on how I might support my cohort throughout the program. What I took from that conversation was that Hackbright uniquely cares for its students and aim to provide as many avenues of support as possible. That feeling was reinforced time and time again as I was going through the program. The instructors and extended faculty support their students every step of the way, positive affirmations written on post-its adorn the walls of the school, and if a student has a bad day, the whole cohort gets together to support them. In addition, a couple of weeks in, each student is matched with two volunteer mentors from the industry who dedicate an hour per week to offer advice and support.
The curriculum is very well-paced for students who have had a prior introduction to programming. More advanced students may find some of the material in the first five weeks to be a review; however, every lecture and exercise comes with additional material for further study which I found to be invaluable.
After the first five weeks, the cohort breaks apart into individual projects. Students pick their project with assistance and guidance from their advisor, then start development from scratch. Independent projects cover database design, to back-end server development, all the way through front-end design and deployment. The purpose is to reinforce the skills developed in the first five weeks through practical implementation. In the end, students demo their projects in front of a visiting panel of companies followed by an evening of networking.
Finally, the last two weeks are focused on career development. Cohorts visit tech companies in the area, practice interview skills and get guest lectures from hiring managers and alum.
Throughout the program, Hackbright staff asks for frequent feedback. Feedback forms are sent out after every lecture, the data from which is used to help tailor future lectures.
Upon completion of the program, the school continues to support students through the job search. Career development staff will check in with students to offer advice and assist with connecting to hiring managers. Instructors host bi-weekly study sessions for alum and can provide additional practice interviews.
Circling back on my personal experience, I found several companies from our project demo night reached out to me to offer interviews. After interviewing with several companies, I ultimately chose to accept a job offer from one of the companies who visited our demo night.
I honestly couldn't be happier with my choice to attend Hackbright Academy. Everyone from the instructors and career development team to the extended faculty genuinely cares for their students and are passionate to #changetheratio. My experience was a transformative one that couldn't possibly repay. I can't recommend the school enough to anyone looking to make a positive change in their life.
The most valuable resources you need making a major career switch is a strong network and support system. The community at Hackbright is unbelievable. I started school with a competitive mindset and just wanted to make a quick career switch and get sh-t done. At Hackbright, I learned how to build community and what it means to empower others, especially women. I felt more accepted than I ever had by a group of peers (besides my best friends from childhood). My incredible cohortmates inspired me daily, and the alumni network was very supportive in my job search. Hackbright also has an excellent mentorship program (2 mentors : 1 student ratio), and a network of industry partners that regularly host job fairs and whiteboarding sessions to help you shine in the job market.
I could easily write 20 pages about how much I loved Hackbright but I’ll try to keep this a little shorter than that. Just as a background, I might not be the traditional Hackbright student in that I came to Hackbright directly after getting my degree from UC Berkeley.
The program starts off with two lectures and two labs per day. You give anonymous feedback after every lecture which they use to improve the course. Then there’s a few weeks to work on a final project and the last two weeks are career focused. You get an advising group where you and three other students have a specific advisor who helps guide you in your quest. Fridays are fun.
I have never seen such dedicated and caring instructors. All of the instructors went way out of their way to help me. On several occasions I had instructors send me a follow up email to something I had asked them about with more information and sources. During project season I got so much help and always felt so encouraged by them. They’d also do that thing that really great teachers do where you ask a question and then somehow they make it so that you figure out the answer yourself like I don't know how they do it but it's magical.
At first I was very overwhelmed by anything career related. I came in totally clueless when it came to that area. However, in the last two weeks (that were totally career focused) that changed. They set up guest speakers, workshops, field trips, taught us how to network with other people (so scary!) and more. I always felt like they were there to support me and help me with everything I needed help with whether it was with my resume or just a pep talk. Finding a job is a lot of hard work but they don’t just send you out into the wild. You can talk to career services at anytime after you graduate and they also send out weekly check in emails as well as emails that have all the future events, alumn talks, etc. I never would have imagined that I would successfully negotiate my salary offer over the phone (it was so scary!) but career services gave me the help and confidence I needed to do that.
Lastly, here are just some of my favorite parts of the program:
1) Turns out your brain actually functions better when you get a full night sleep (who would have guessed…). Hackbright’s mission is to make you learn a ton of stuff in a short period of time so they encouraged us to get a full night sleep and make an effort to take care of ourselves. It worked.
2) There was no competition. I felt like every student wanted to help each other and build each other up. It was so great to learn in an environment when nobody was trying to prove they were smarter than you (cough, uc berkeley)
3) I felt supported by students and staff. During the program I had two close family members pass away within a day of each other and Hackbright was such a comfortable and supportive environment that I was able to get through it.
4) And for my favorite part of Hackbright: All the confidence I came out with.
I had very little, if any, confidence going into this program. I never would have imagined that going to Hackbright would change that. And unlike while I was at Berkeley, I was able to gain confidence without desperately trying to compare myself to other people. In just 3 months, Hackbright was able to build me up and give me confidence I never would have thought I could have.
I went into this program thinking I’d learn how to code better and yeah I came out with all these sweet coding skills but I also came out with a huge support network, a good understanding of the industry and interview process, I learned how to talk to strangers, and I have more self confidence than I’ve had in my entire life. I’m now doing things I would have never imagined I could do before.
I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is willing to put in the effort and work hard.
I applied for engineering roles before Hackbright, but I rarely heard back from recruiters, and I couldn't succeed in on-site interviews.
Hackbright Academy gave me the skills, confidence, vocabulary, and connections to excel at interviews and land my first software engineering role!
The atmosphere at Hackbright was superb. I felt supported every step of the way—by the instructors, by career development, by my mentors, and most of all, by my cohort! Even the learning areas are fantastic, as they're not a row of desks but fluffy soft shaggy carpeting, floor seats, and generous couch seating, in addition to a row of tables and chairs. Support staff (i.e., stuffed animals) are spread throughout the room, and named adorably.
Hackbright gave me the opportunity to pair program with my colleagues, which not only reinforced the exercises, but it helped us learn to verbalize our ideas about the functions and algorithms we wrote. Hackbright also matched each of us with two mentors, who met with us weekly to reassure us, build our confidence, teach us, and help us practice to prepare for interviews.
Hackbright's alumnae network is invaluable for mentorship and for networking throughout my career, and probably the most valuable part of Hackbright.
Before Hackbright, I couldn't even imagine myself spending the kind of money it costs to attend a bootcamp, so I started teaching myself how to code. Several years later, I got as far as a few freelance gigs. I then decided to spend a "reasonable" $5K and another year earning a web dev certificate (nights and weekends so I could continue working full time) but that really only got me confident enough to get an email developer position, which does not involve any "real" programming.
After being unsatisfied with where I was, I reevaluated my life and finally decided that if I wanted to be a software engineer I needed to truly go for it, so I quit my email job and went to Hackbright.
It was honestly one of the best decisions and experiences of my entire life. I was getting the proper instruction I needed from top-of-the-line educational staff to finally "get" how these programming languages work, in a super supportive and hilariously fun working environment. I met amazing and intelligent women who were not only my peers, but who had become some of my closest friends. We still keep in contact today and meet regularly. Together we learned, struggled, succeeded, cried, triumphed, built solo apps, and became software engineers in the process. And after the fellowship was over, we didn't get kicked out and forgotten, we had tons of resources, events, and help from staff and the program, which we get to access...forever! (unlike other bootcamps...)
If I could go back and tell my younger self to stop wasting time with self-study and lack-luster programs and go to Hackbright, I would. But I can't and thankfully I am extremely happy with where my life decisions have ultimately taken me, which is to my new job as a full stack developer. But I can tell YOU. If you have read this far and are in the same shoes as me, I urge you to take the plunge and do it!
It IS worth the money. You will make it all back in a few months at your new job and then some.
It IS worth the time. Would you rather be in school for 3 months, or 4 years for a CS degree, for the same starting position at a job?
It IS worth it!
The second five weeks you will work on your capstone project and present it on Demo Night, in front of prospective employers and other people. Here you will all about MVP (Minimum Viable Product), debugging, testing and researching APIs and other issues that come up when trying to meet a deadline.
The final two weeks are spent with the Career Development team. You actually work them every week thoughout the program, but the last two weeks you get them fulltime. You will go out and do white boarding and technical interviewing at tech companies in San Francisco. You will learn about networking, salary neogiation, interviewing skills and much more.
The 12-week fulltime program is expensive, tough, but rewarding. They have a great Alumae network that you can plug into and scheduled Alumni events (think networking). The women you go though the program with will be your friends/network for life. As one of the instructors said, "you will get your first job, but the women you graduate with will get up your next job."
Before I found Hackbright, I never considered being a software engineer. That option was never offered to me in high school or college, and by the time I decided to study it on my own, I immediately regretted not starting sooner and taking CS classes in college. Luckily, Hackbright quickly entered the scene and showed me that my chance wasn't over. By taking me on and feeding my desire to enter a technical field, Hackbright ignited a fire in me that I doubt will ever go out. I learned so much in my 12-week program, and I haven't stopped seeking out new things to learn since.
To give more specifics...
Things I found that Hackbright excelled in:
- Teaching a tech stack that is growing in the industry. In my current position, I use Python every day and I love it! Not to mention, Hackbright was the first to teach me how a computer works in the first place. :)
- Structuring our time together efficiently. Given the mountain of material we learned in 3 months, I was constantly impressed that I never felt overwhelmed. Lectures always contained the right level of depth into each subject, and the corresponding lab sessions were perfectly tuned to train us in the concepts we had just learned. The program leaders clearly listen to past cohorts (taking surveys after every lecture and checking in every week), and implement changes to the structure that greatly benefit the students.
- Kickstarting our professional network with a mentorship program. Each student was paired with 2-3 local working professionals in the industry. These mentors were volunteers, drawn to Hackbright's mentor program with desires to guide the next generation of engineers! I was given 3 completely awesome mentors who continued to help me well into my job search.
- Nurturing a safe, fun, encouraging environment. Weekly check-ins and evening socials provided time for both students and staff to relax and get to know one another. Unfriendly competition was never welcome in our cohort, as was evident by our frequent pair programming sessions and supportive demo-night practices. The bonds we created allowed us to flourish in our time there, and we frequently reconnect and remain a strong network of support.
- Providing tools and techniques to help with the job search. Weeks 11-12 were entirely devoted to career services, and I felt well-equipped for my job search. Most of the benefits I received came later, however. Hackbright offers discounts for its alumni to use a variety of study tools, and I took advantage of several that really made a difference in my job search. In particular, my cohort was given beta access to Interviewing.io, a platform that conducts technical phone interviews between anonymized participants. It was a fantastic opportunity to get interview practice in a low-stakes environment, and potentially make new contacts!
Things I think Hackbright could approach better:
- Project guidance. At the culmination of 10 weeks, each of us had built a coding project that was entirely her own, and Demo Night was a chance for us to show it to enthusiastic representitives from leading Bay Area tech companies. Planning for that project began around week 3, and each project idea had to be approved by one's appointed project advisor. However, I feel that the project I chose, while interesting and fun, didn't allow me to showcase all of the tools I learned at Hackbright. I didn't know this at week 3, but by week 10 I had a few regrets. I wish I had been advised to change my project concept a bit earlier on.
- Being a better representative to partner companies. At several points in my job search, I found a favorable job listing at a company that was in partnership with Hackbright. I sent a request to our Career Services for a formal introduction to the company (as is procedure), but each time, there was a holdup—either Hackbright had since lost their contact at the company, or Career Services advised me to approach the company myself. I felt unsupported and didn't end up getting any facetime with those companies.
After experiencing Hackbright, I was ready to face the industry with staff, company partners, and 600+ alumni at my disposal. But regardless of the resources I was given, I am still most grateful to Hackbright for taking a chance on me and nurturing my curiosity into the behemoth it is today. Now I know that I will never stop learning, and I never want to!
I've written a post on Hackbright's blog with more information on my experience and my current position as an engineer. If you have any questions for me, please reach out on LinkedIn—I'd love to help! Cheers, and good luck!
Coming from a nursing background, I had zero coding experience prior to attending Hackbright's prep course (and onto the fellowship). After talking to tech recruiters regarding what bootcamp to attend, they all unanimously pointed towards Hackbright.
There are 4 dinstinct qualities about Hackbright that make it stand out from the rest: the transparency, continuous passion for improvement, support system, and alumnae network.
Transparency - They held info sessions for prospective students, were timely with email exchanges, and are part of a 3rd party outcomes report. Just looking at the website, you know exactly what you're getting into, up to the day-to-day schedule of the program.
Continuous passion for improvement: During the prep and fellowship program, every lecture was paired with a feedback survey, as well as the TA writing notes in the back for potential powerpoint typos, areas of clarifications, etc. They also restructure the curriculum from time to time to keep up with the latest versions of programming languages / if a certain technology is starting to be prevalent in the job market.
Support system: When you're attending a lecture and look back, seeing all the other instructors/TAs literally attending the lecture WITH you, you know you are in the right place. What an amazing staff. I never once felt insecure about asking a question, and never once had no one available to ask the question to.
Alumnae network: Hackbright continously hosts events where alum and students connect with one another, as well as the career services team being more than happy to introduce you to previous graduates. It's by far the strongest community I've seen. We are all proud Hackbrighters, easily spotted in the city with our red jackets.
My only room of improvement would be the tech stack they teach. It's a carefully curated one, intended for pedagogical reasons. However, in terms of the job market and what's prevalent out there, it does not exactly align. But, this bootcamp above all else taught me HOW to learn new frameworks/languages in a short amount of time, which is absolutely the most important skill you can have going into the tech industry.
I began my coding journey by following along MIT's introduction to programming course and various Codecademy courses here and there. A few weeks later, I decided to check out Hackbright's fellowship application. It was a day before the deadline for the next cohort, so I stopped halfway through the application. I figured that there's no way I could complete the whole process in one day. Then I got a call from Victoria from Admissions, who encouraged me to submit my application since the deadline had moved back by 2 weeks. I got accepted within the month, and it's surreal how much my life has changed.
I absolutely loved the program. A drawback I read online before was that an all-women bootcamp doesn't prepare you for a male-dominated workplace. I can say that that is untrue. The environment simply provided the women with a safe place to focus on learning.
- Energetic staff and knowledgeable instructors who revamp the curriculum based on feedback
- Study/life balance for student's ability to decide how to spend time after 6pm
- Exposure to full-stack webapp development. The individual projects are so each student can fully own her idea/execution
- Mentorship program is careful curated - I had three mentors: a frontend engineer at mid-sized startup, an engineer at a small VC, and a backend engineer at a large-sized company. They all used different languages and were available for support on project and whiteboarding.
- Pace was slower than I would have liked, but in a way it forced me to absorb the information deeper
- Algorithm is taught mostly with whiteboarding, but I think it's important to instill the importance of logic & algorithms early on. I studied algorithms on my own time after class ended for the day.
Overall, I met really great people and found my job ( which I love ) within two weeks of graduating. I would recommend this program to anyone who wants to change industries and needs a structured path.
I had a positive experience at Hackbright Academy. Hackbright was a supportive and positive environment for me to learn how to code and prepare for the job search.
First of all, I was super impressed with the collaboration environment among the students. It did not feel like a competition where there is a sole "winner" of Hackbright. I feel like we ALL came out as winners at the end and we all helped each other in our own way, whether it was emotional support or help and ideas technically. I definitely got that "these are my people" feeling!
There was a lot of support and encouragement from the educational staff and career services team as well. The quality of my instructors was excellent as well as the TA's and lab instructor. The instructors were great about checking in with the students making sure we were understanding the material and encouraged us to ask questions. They were also very good about requesting feedback after each lecture. A school that takes feedback seriously is a good sign in my opinion!
Hackbright tries hard to set you up for success, already connecting each student with 3 mentors that work in the tech industry. All three of my mentors were helpful and involved. I still communicate and meet with them even though the fellowship is over. I have a much bigger network now than I did before Hackbright!
Career services were also strong. Very organized and thought out material. The last two weeks of the fellowship was career services focused, bringing in people from the industry to talk to us and give us a wealth of advice for the job search.
Of course, make sure to put in the hard work, time, and dedication to make the most of Hackbright!
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 has a very supportive environment. I am glad I joined Hackbright and thankful to everyone. Even after I finished, the staff is still very helpful with any questions I might have plus there is a mentor that comes twice a week at the alum lounge which I think is awesome and definitely helps during job searching time.
There is just too many amazing words to describe Hackbright.
As a working adult and parent, it was a difficult decision to quit my full-time job and attend Hackbright. I made the switch strategically by first attending their weekend boot camp course and then their prep course to get a feel of how they structure their coursework and teaching style. From the very beginning, I was blown away by their supportive and nurturing environment. They are really passionate about changing the ratio in tech and this mission is reflected in everything they do(i.e. teaching approach, opportunities for women, mentorship, etc). I am forever grateful to have spent the past 5 months (prep program + full-time program) with amazing women who are on a mission to become awesome SOFTWARE ENGINEERS! The passion to learn is contagious at Hackbright and I love it!
Our latest on Hackbright Academy
Impressed with a new hire who had graduated from Hackbright Academy, VP of Engineering at Sharethrough, Rob Slifka, was inspired to get involved with the all-women’s bootcamp. Three years later, Rob continues to mentor students and guest lectures about how new engineers can find jobs they’ll love. Rob tells us what he loves about mentoring software engineers, why he would hire more Hackbright Academy grads in the future, and advice for giving back to the tech community.
Tell me about yourself – how did you get involved with Hackbright Academy?
I've been the VP of Engineering at Sharethrough for eight and a half years. One consistent challenge in the Bay Area – and everywhere – has been hiring engineers. We've been hiring pretty much since the moment I started in 2010 and I’ve spent over six hundred hours interviewing.
I found out about Hackbright through a woman that we hired. She graduated from Hackbright, joined our backend engineering team, and was terrific. It was clear how much she enjoyed the Hackbright program and how meaningful it was to her. I asked how we could get involved and she put me in touch with their team. They needed mentors and guest speakers for every cohort so I opted to do both of those and other Sharethrough engineers have mentored as well.
I saw on your LinkedIn that you have a Computer Science degree. With your traditional background, were you skeptical about hiring from coding bootcamps?
We’ve hired several engineers over the years from bootcamps. Any skepticism we had was around how we would understand a bootcamp candidate’s potential or career trajectory (they might not like engineering!) when we only have a few months of information about them. When you hire software engineers who have significant experience or have a relevant degree, you have confidence that they’ve chosen a career path in the medium term and have more information available to estimate their impact on your team.
However, I never had skepticism around whether someone could learn enough software engineering to meaningfully contribute in such a short time period. There are plenty of self-taught engineers out there; certainly bootcamps providing a streamlined, structured experience could teach someone how to write code.
Why made you want to mentor women at Hackbright Academy?
The engineer we hired from Hackbright was terrific and the world could use many more like her. Every engineering team I’ve worked with has struggled both with diversity and scaling. Mentoring at Hackbright is a way to directly affect each of these and you get a chance to work with great, motivated people.
I work with my mentees on the interview process, resume writing, how to talk about yourself, how to talk about your experience, how to tell that story so that the point comes across when you're talking to a recruiter. At Hackbright, they do offer career services and advice, but I wanted to be able to just tell students, "I'm interviewing developers every day. Here's what I'm seeing even experienced engineers struggle with. Here are what the standouts do well."
What do you think of Hackbright Academy's curriculum? Do you feel that they are teaching students the right skills to break into the software industry?
I'm not super involved in the technical curriculum – I’m more familiar with the career services side of things. Every student whom I've worked with has ultimately gotten jobs in tech, which seems like an indication their curriculum is relevant.
With respect to the Career Services curriculum, they have folks from the tech industry speak at Hackbright. I think it’s super valuable to actually get professionals who are living it come in and demystify working in tech, interviews, etc.
Students also go on field trips to visit company offices and work with employees on site. It’s great for students to see the context of the environment they'll be going into and interviewing at by doing a field trip.
Hackbright also helps students with resume writing, and they do demo nights where they get exposure to interested companies and get a chance to practice talking about technical work, a super important skill not many engineers have.
How often do you mentor Hackbright students and how do you communicate with them?
I prefer to meet in person. The frequency is completely up to the mentee. I've had mentees who want to meet pretty regularly; and I've had folks who will send me an email every so often. There have been people with whom I’ve had one meeting then never heard from them again, which is also totally fine. It's up to the individual. Hackbright assigns each mentee two mentors (to account for schedules and different communication styles) so this isn’t too surprising to see variance here.
I like to let the mentee drive our meetings, given what their interests are and where I can help. I'm upfront at the beginning and say, "Here are the times I'm available. I can host you here at the office whenever, I'm happy to respond to email in a timely fashion," and let them determine the pacing.
When we meet at the Sharethrough offices, I find that sitting in front of a whiteboard works well because the majority of my work with mentees is capturing all the things they may be concerned about or have questions about, teasing them apart and diving into each one.
How important do you think it is for successful people in the tech industry, like you, to advocate for more women and a more diverse tech workforce?
I actually founded a conference called Calibrate for people transitioning from engineering to engineering management, which is a career change. It’s a place to go where they can talk to people going through a similar shift and hear advice that's tailored specifically for that point in their careers.
When we are selecting speakers, we have strict goals around diversity and inclusion. Part of that, specifically for a leadership conference, is that we want to provide a platform for diverse speakers so that others see them and say, “These are respected industry leaders that came from a similar background to me, and therefore, I can envision a future for myself in this industry.”
That visibility is similar at coding bootcamps – in order for diversity and inclusion to be bettered, you need more examples of people who are out there doing it every day. Hackbright Academy, in particular, is one of the most direct ways I can think of to influence that – by creating successful women engineers.
How do you define a “successful” mentorship?
For me, there are two things that define success. One is getting students to own the interview process and, two is having students leave with a confident story about themselves and their background and technical work. I want to prepare my mentees to say "Here's why I am here, here are my skills, here's what I'm excited about," versus going into an interview and feeling as though they're being pecked with questions.
A lot of times, folks in bootcamps have doubts about their abilities because they didn't have a certain kind of education. I've even mentored people with PhDs who had doubts about their abilities, which is crazy to me given how much of a demonstrated track record they have. If they can leave with a bit more confidence in talking about themselves, their projects, and about technology, that's going to help them find a job they’ll be happy with..
Can you tell me about the guest talks that you've been doing at Hackbright? What topic do you speak about?
The guest lecture that I've done about twenty times, is about finding a good fit as a new engineer. We spend so much time talking about tangible things and comparing job opportunities based on the number of work hours and salary benefits. We talk less about culture, values, growth opportunities, that sort of thing. It's harder to get answers to that.
So in my talk I share questions you can ask yourself to determine if you’re joining a good team or a good organization. My talk covers what those questions are, and why we'd all want to work in a place where we can answer “yes” to these questions. For example, “do I know what is expected of me?” or “do I have an opportunity to do what I do best every day?” I go over the questions you can ask in an interview to make sure a company will be a good fit.
I know you've already hired a Hackbright graduate at Sharethrough. Would you consider hiring more, and recommend other companies hire Hackbright alumnae?
Yeah, absolutely. One of our challenges is that we have three small engineering teams. We want to have the bandwidth to make sure it's going to be a really good experience for the Hackbright grad and a good experience for us. When we can hire a slightly more junior developer and bring them up, then obviously Hackbright is the first place we're going to go.
You’re not obligated to be a mentor at Hackbright – what keeps you going back to speak at Hackbright and mentor students?
For me, the value is that these folks are super inspiring and admirable. They're changing their lives in a really drastic way, and that takes a lot of guts. They (and oftentimes, their families) are investing a lot of themselves in pursuing something very different than what they did in the past.
My other motivation is that in my own career, I wish somebody had told me the importance of finding an opportunity that's a great fit for me. I had one really crappy job – I would have appreciated someone telling me, "Hey, you need to value yourself more in this situation, or else you're going to end up in a place that might not be a fit for you." I never had anybody break that down to me.
What is your advice to bootcamp students who want to be true contributors to the engineering community? What should their next steps be when they graduate from bootcamp?
As a first step, I’d suggest staying involved with your bootcamp after you graduate. Every time you do something at a bootcamp, you are helping the community. You're going to help people go through bootcamp, and then they're going to finish, and spread the same great information that you gave to them through their networks and through their jobs for the rest of their careers. Share advice with the folks in your own environment. At your specific bootcamp, you can give back in an extremely relevant way by giving students tips you wished you had. Staying involved with the bootcamp is a way to get a broader influence.
This November has been super busy in the immersive coding education world, and at Course Report! We read about how Amazon’s new headquarters will impact the coding bootcamps in New York City, we celebrated successful coding bootcamp grads, we were sad to hear that a school is closing, we heard advice for being successful at bootcamp, and found out about new initiatives to improve diversity in tech! Plus we look at new schools and campuses around the world and discuss our favorite pieces on the Course Report blog.Continue Reading →
Heather Mahan is an instructor at Hackbright Academy’s South Bay campus – a community she loves building. We caught up with Heather to see what she’s like in the classroom. Learn about her teaching style (as a Hackbright graduate herself, she always remembers what it’s like to be a beginner), why it’s important for women to learn in a supportive environment, and the two qualities she finds in her most successful students.
Heather, how did you get into programming?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a master's degree in Linguistics from UC Santa Cruz. After I graduated, I came back to the Bay Area (my hometown) and joined the tech industry – it's a really interesting field to work in at this moment in history.
But how do you do that with a linguistics degree? I decided to join tech by becoming a Technical Writer. Throughout that journey, I was documenting all these incredible products, and I realized I wanted to have the power to create those products rather than write about them.
I started learning to code with online courses – Coursera and Udacity. When I considered trying to actually become a software developer, I thought, “Do I go back to school? Do I get another university degree?” Hackbright Academy was still quite new at this time in 2014, but it seemed like an awesome option for people who had completed their education and wanted a career change. I enjoyed my experience at Hackbright and ended up taking a great offer from Google to work as a Technical Writer for their Developer Platform team, but left that job because I still wanted to build things.
Why did you return to Hackbright specifically to teach? There are tons of coding bootcamps in San Francisco!
San Francisco has tons of meetups and opportunities – the community in South Bay is so much smaller than SF. It’s a dream of mine to be able to help grow that community in my hometown.
About a year ago, Hackbright posted a position in the South Bay for their pilot Prep program. I reached out and was thrilled to become an instructor for the very first Hackbright course in the South Bay. Currently, I’m teaching the full-time Software Engineering course at the South Bay campus and I’ve taught three cohorts so far.
Did you have teaching experience before working at Hackbright Academy?
I taught in grad school, and as a technical writer, I developed a knack for explaining things. I also taught at a cool summer camp called Girls Make Games where girls learn how to program their own video games.
One of my passions is working with girls and women in tech. I got to teach younger girls at Girls Make Games, and as an instructor at Hackbright, I get to work with women. It’s important to give women opportunities to engage with tech during childhood and also as adults. You want young girls to have positive experiences with technology. But then there's also this other demographic of women who didn't have that chance when they were young, and now they want to get involved as adults. It's great that lots of different organizations are focusing on different angles of inclusivity and diversity in tech.
As you’ve become an official instructor, what have you found your teaching style to be? How do you approach teaching women to code at Hackbright?
I want people to find the subject fun and approachable. So many students feel intimidated by these topics, so I try to break them down and demystify them. I try to remember what it's like to be a beginner. I think about how to frame things so that there's as little assumed knowledge as possible when I'm explaining a concept. I also love coming up with fun analogies and colorful diagrams.
The actual course is mostly hands-on teaching. There are lectures, but there’s a lot of time dedicated to labs. We dedicate four weeks to working on an individual project. When students are struggling, my approach is to ask questions. It's sort of the Socratic Method in a way – I try to ask questions that help them think about what they're stuck on rather than just tell them the answer. Hopefully, through that conversation, I'll help them arrive at that lightbulb moment: "Oh, I needed to change this part of my code to make it work."
Are linguistics and programming similar worlds?
They're actually very connected in a way that I didn't realize when I was first studied linguistics. I studied a subfield of linguistic called Formal Semantics, which is all about modeling the meaning of language. A lot of the foundations of formal logic intersect with the founders of early computer science – there’s a lot of overlap.
In addition to teaching, do you have other tech hobbies that you’re particularly excited about right now?
After graduating from Hackbright and teaching there for about a year, could you tell us about the ideal student for Hackbright?
For a student to be successful, there are a couple qualities you need. You need to be very driven and self-motivated. We're giving you access to knowledge and we're doing our best to make these topics approachable and exciting. But ultimately, there's still a lot of hard work that the student has to do in order to learn that material.
Another quality I’ve noticed is curiosity. Students who do well at Hackbright, typically, have a curiosity for wanting to know why something works the way it does, instead of just being satisfied that it works. You can copy-paste code from the internet that will work, but that’s not the point. How does it work? Why does it work? You need to have a curiosity about those things.
Do you see success tied to prior programming experience? Can someone be successful at Hackbright without having a technical background?
Any prior knowledge that you start with is helpful. In fact, for our full-time software engineering program, we don't admit students who have no coding experience. For a case like that, we offer the Hackbright Prep course, which will introduce you to Python and help you understand if you like coding and want to pursue it.
So, yes prior knowledge helps, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you’ve been tinkering with computers since you were five years old. Prior knowledge can take various forms – it doesn't have to be the same for everybody. We just want to see that you’ve demonstrated recently that you have a serious interest in programming.
Do you see any validity in arguments that an all-women's learning environment doesn't prepare women for working in the real world? How do you balance the learning environment with the working environment?
Ideally, there shouldn’t be any difference between an all-women’s environment compared to a co-ed environment. Every person should be treated fairly, regardless of their gender. Unfortunately, gender-bias and sexism do happen sometimes in ‘the real world’.
When you’re attempting to learn difficult topics, such as computer science and programming - and these topics really are tough for everyone, regardless of gender - why wouldn’t you choose a bootcamp that provides the most supportive unbiased space for your learning?
The reality is that women in the workplace and even in academic settings sometimes get sidelined because of their gender. We want to provide a space that is the most welcoming and supportive of that already underserved demographic. A lot of folks, myself included, feel like if we had to learn computer science from the very beginning in a traditional academic environment, we probably wouldn't have done very well because it's an intimidating environment. Traditional academics are often set up to weed people out.
But this space isn’t just about learning – it's also about gaining confidence. A man who has the same amount of knowledge as a woman is probably going to act more confident. We're trying to help women build their confidence in addition to learning computer science. We’re giving women the confidence to say, "I can do this, I deserve this, I’m every bit as good as my male peers." Building that sense of pride before they enter the workplace can make a really big difference.
So the Hackbright classroom doesn't mimic the real world, but how do you prepare students for their first jobs?
Hackbright is a place where women don’t have to worry about gender discrimination. I think this environment really does help our students focus on learning and building confidence. Being more effective learners only makes our students more prepared for their new jobs as software engineers. And hopefully the confidence they build at Hackbright also helps our students navigate other aspects of ‘real life’ - such as advocating for themselves in the workplace.
Another thing that sets Hackbright apart is that you teach Python. Has anything changed in the past few months? Any upcoming curriculum changes you’re excited about?
One of the unique things about Hackbright is that after every single lecture, the students have the opportunity to give feedback. Students hop on their phones to fill out our surveys everyday, so we're constantly revising lectures. We end up with tons data from every cohort.
Tell us about your biggest student success story!
Honestly, I’m so proud of all of our whole alum community, including students I’ve taught as well as women I learned alongside back when I was a student myself. An amazing woman from my 2014 cohort came in with a background in Psychology and Marketing. Now she works as a Software Engineer at Twitch and has done collabs with my internet geek hero @sailorhg. Another student who I taught recently came from a customer support background and now she works as a Production Engineer Facebook, a job that she landed less than six months out of Hackbright! So yes, our graduates are pretty amazing.
You sound like such a proponent for the South Bay tech community – what resources, meetups, hackathons do you like in South Bay for aspiring bootcampers?
First, I definitely recommend talking to people in the industry and getting a sense of what it’s like to be a programmer. What does the everyday job look like and are you interested in it?
Meetups I love: the Women Who Code meetup – they have a Silicon Valley chapter. Girl Develop It has a chapter in San Jose.
Hackbright South Bay and San Francisco both host a bi-weekly meetup, where folks can see what it would be like to learn programming at Hackbright. I actually host that meetup so you can come hang out with me! You can check our event schedule on meetup.com.
After hearing requests from students, all-women’s coding bootcamp Hackbright Academy is launching Online Python 101, a self-paced, online course for women interested in learning to code and looking to get a taste of Hackbright. The new Online Python 101 course will start in November 2018. Senior Director of Education, Meggie Mahnken, explains who the flexible online course is meant for, how her team is working to maintain Hackbright’s community feel in the online class, and what the online learning platform looks like – plus, how you can easily transition from Online Python 101 to their full-time or part-time Software Engineering programs.
How have you spearheaded Hackbright’s Online Python 101?
As the Senior Director of Education at Hackbright, I love spreading the love of programming to other folks who are looking for their life’s calling. Programming is incredibly rewarding and fun, in addition to being a marketable skill, and it brings me great joy to see people moving into this career. I work with many different teams at Hackbright, but primarily in curriculum, education, and training.
Teaching programming to beginners who all have different experience levels is difficult. As a teacher, you have to have all of your metaphors and teaching tools locked and loaded and ready to deploy at any moment so that you can get as much done in the time that you have. It’s also very accelerated and rigorous in its own way. With Python 101, I wanted to bring elements of the Prep course along with basic beginner skills for anyone interested in learning to code, online. I asked questions like: How do we maintain the sense of a positive learning environment? What is unique to the learners who are experiencing this class online? I’ve also worked with our staff to think about the components of an online course in order to ensure that even in a remote learning environment, students are getting enough hands on practice, and lecture-based instruction, to be able to learn the material.
You've been offering courses in-person for a while – what made you decide to launch Python 101 online?
We've offered Intro to Programming courses since 2014, but Hackbright Prep, which focuses on preparing people for bootcamp, is about one year old. We’ve had a lot of requests for an online introduction to Python program. People want to figure out whether a coding bootcamp is a good fit for them but they may not be able to get to a campus every week. To learn enough coding to get into a coding bootcamp, you don’t need to attend a full-time class. You can spend a couple hours a night (about six hours a week) studying the concepts.
We're excited to see how we can maintain the community and the in-person feel in an online course, because a lot of people are attracted to Hackbright’s community aspect and feeling a part of something special. Even if you're just learning beginner concepts, it takes a lot of courage, commitment, motivation, and perseverance to continue. We're hoping to bring the in-person environment to an online course. I'm so excited that we're giving women alternative formats to learn to code – I can't wait to reach more people and narrow our focus on the exact curriculum we need to teach this material quickly.
Who is Hackbright Online Python 101 for?
There are many different reasons why someone might be interested in learning the fundamentals of coding online. Online Python 101 is perfect for a few types of people:
- If you’re intending to do the Hackbright Software Engineering program, this is a great way to get a taste of what Hackbright is like and learn exactly what you’ll need to know for the application. Online Python 101 also qualifies students for the 40-hour coding experience requirement for applying to bootcamp.
- If you have a busy schedule, or are taking care of kids or family at night, you can't just drop everything and go to an in-person course.
- Because Python 101 is online, you’re welcome to enroll even if you don't live in San Francisco.
- It’s also for people who just learn better in an online environment.
- Online Python 101 is not necessarily just about preparing students for the Software Engineering program; you can also enroll if you just want to dip your toes in a bit of Python.
- If you’re not sure that you want to do a coding bootcamp, Online Python 101 is a great way to test the waters.
What is the schedule and structure of the Online Python 101? Is it asynchronous or is it synchronous with live lectures?
The four-week program is semi-synchronous with pre-recorded video lessons – I'm bringing together all of the best Hackbright instructors to help with these videos. They’ll all have different teaching styles, a lot of experience with the Hackbright community, and can empathize with our online students from afar.
We recommend a weekly schedule with weekly deadlines. For example, students should plan to finish watching the videos for Module One by end of week one, and finish the videos for Module Two by the end of week two. But we don’t require you to structure your week in a specific way.
We'll have weekly office hours with an online forum where students can chat to a mentor, ask questions, or get on a video call to pair with a mentor or with a classmate.
What does the curriculum cover? Is it identical to the in-person Hackbright Prep curriculum?
We've taken the in-person Prep curriculum, and clarified it to be an online course. It's not fundamentally different, but we've evolved the curriculum to take it online. A lecture in our in-person Prep class is 60 to 70 minutes long where an instructor goes through some slides. But for Online Python 101 videos, we split those lectures into smaller digestible chunks of information.
As we’ve thought about how to split up the lectures into chunks, we've had the opportunity to clarify and prune the kernel. We’ve learned a lot that we’ll probably ship into the in-person class as well. As we design this online experience, we’ve been intentional about choosing examples, metaphors, and projects that motivate beginners instead of intimidating them.
The course covers the basic fundamentals of programming in Python including:
- Basic data types and getting user input
- Conditional logic and how to program choices and decisions
- Basic algorithms just using user input
- Control flow and looping
- How to create basic functions and organize your code
- Lists, which is a slightly more abstract data type
- Programming tools – the primary code interpreter that students use is Repl.it, but we also teach Sublime Text and the command line a little later in the course
- How to go about debugging your code and best practices for creating code that's easy to be debugged
- An intro to Tuples and Dictionaries in Python
At the end of the course, students record a short video of themselves presenting an interactive Python script.
How is the Online Python 101 course delivered? Should a student expect to sign into a specific platform every day?
Yes, you’ll sign into an online course platform called Canvas. From the homepage students can navigate through the different modules. In each module there are videos, static content to review, and lab exercises. The platform allows students to learn a module in the exact order that we want them to learn it.
The lecture videos are presented alongside a slide deck and lecture notes. As students watch a video, they can choose to participate in discussions related to the video. We will prompt them add their questions to the discussion. We encourage students to take their own notes as they're watching the videos to try to stay engaged.
After watching those videos, they move on to lab exercises on Repl.it, where they follow instructions to build a program. The lab exercises are guided, give students suggestions, and encourage students to try things out on their own. Then students turn in their answers, the course mentors review those, and provide feedback. There are also quizzes and weekly skills practice on Repl.it to practice the concepts.
Who are the instructors teaching the Online Python 101?
Depending on the size of the class, we’ll have instructors watching over it. Those instructors will be sending reminders, communicating with the class throughout the modules, running office hours, answering questions, and helping coordinate students for pair programming.
How often will students interact with instructors and other students?
Students will have the opportunity to interface with staff on a bi-weekly basis during office hours. There will be discussion components throughout each of the modules that will enable students to see the reflections and commentary of their classmates. Additionally, a public question forum will be available so that students can raise any confusions or clarifications, as well as see what other students’ questions and answers.
Aside from that, students will get feedback on their work on a weekly basis – even if it's not a live conversation, they’ll be getting an update on how they are progressing via grades on their skills practice assignments. Just like our in-person course, at the end, we’ll assess students, give students written feedback and our recommendations going forward. Each student receives a personalized consultation where we evaluate the student’s performance in the class, their goals, and their next steps.
As for student interaction, we encourage students to coordinate with each other and pair program via a video call. We love pair programming and we've done some research about how to schedule pair programming in an online course format. We'd like to make that option available for those who want to coordinate with another classmate and pair program on something, but it's not a requirement.
How will you help people stay engaged and motivated in the online course?
It's very common for people to drop out of an online course. Office hours are the main way that we’ll stay in contact with students, check in, give advice, and make sure they're turning in their work. We’re also experimenting with the threading/discussion tools in Canvas – if everyone is confused about a specific lesson, we want to be able to address that.
What can a student expect to achieve by the end of Online Python 101?
Students will have built six or seven scripts in the guided lab exercises, which are like mini projects with lots of room for creativity and expansion. They’ll also solidify the core programming concepts.
The goal of this course is to give students not just Python knowledge, but to get them past the initial hump that comes with learning any programming language – get a feel for variables, control flow, and looping functions. You can't do that by just reading. You have to reflect, struggle, debug, and quiz yourself on those concepts to be able to say, "I can see myself as a programmer and I want to pursue this,” or, “I learned a lot, but this isn't for me.”
So it's not just learning the concepts, but figuring out where does this fit in for my life? Do I want to pursue the skill set? How can I? Should I? Hackbright Online Python 101 is demystifying programming as a whole and giving students the skills to continue learning afterwards.
For students who want to apply to the full-time Hackbright Engineering program, is there a streamlined path from Online Python 101?
Students will go through a technical admissions interview at the end of the online course, which is essentially a practice admissions interview. That gives students an idea of what they will be expected to do to get into the Software Engineering program. We give them feedback on each concept and how much work they need to do before they’re ready to apply. From then on, we’ll stay in close contact with all of our online students. They have direct contact with our admissions department. We continue to build our relationships from that point, and we care about these students because we've already gotten to know them. We want to see them get in.
Does Online Python 101 cost the same as the in-person Hackbright Prep? When does the program launch?
Online Python 101 is $695. Hackbright Prep is usually $1,895, but because we’re running the class online, we’re able to pass along the savings from not having a physical space or instructors in session three days a week. Our first session of Online Python 101 starts November 5. Students will have until December 14 to complete all the online modules and assignments. The deadline to apply to Online Python 101 is October 31.
For students who are thinking, "Why pay for Online Python 101 when I can do Codecademy or Free Code Camp for free," what would you say?
The core reason is to learn alongside a community of peers who you can interact with, commiserate with, and be on the exact same page with as you learn to code.
The mentorship during the online course is pivotal for a learner who needs someone to answer their questions about core concepts. It's not easy to learn all this stuff for the first time without having someone help get you unstuck. It's so hard that even just a tiny mishap, a small bug, or an error message that you haven't seen before is enough to make you stop working altogether that day. Our goal is to provide a community and an experience that encourages people to stick with it.
How should someone choose between an in-person or online class?
Be selfish and give your future selves the best possible chances at succeeding. Think about what you’re like when you're stressed out and not feeling great. How can you plan ahead for that moment? Will you feel better learning in-person because you need the physical feeling of being in a classroom, or is it going to help you feel more at ease if you don't have to travel to a classroom? Imagine yourself on those tougher days where you're really tired, and figure out what's going to be best for you.
Coding bootcamps like Hackbright Academy help women break into the tech industry quickly, but we can’t ignore that women leave the tech industry 45% higher rate than men. In order to stay in tech, women need to feel involved in the community – and I’ve learned a few lessons over the last 2 years post-bootcamp. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be an integral part of your tech community; below are tips for extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts to flourish in tech.Continue Reading →
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In the coding bootcamp industry in June 2018 the biggest trend we saw was coding bootcamps funneling grads into apprenticeships! We also saw two big fundraises by bootcamp-adjacent organizations, we heard about some interesting new legislation which could change how online bootcamps operate, and some bootcamp alumni launched exciting new careers. We also look at the effect bootcamps are having on tech industries in areas around the world, which bootcamps are offering scholarships to help women and underrepresented groups launch tech careers, and partnerships bootcamps are forming with big companies like Facebook. Read the blog post or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
Neha Gupta was a doctor in naturopathic medicine before realizing she wanted a career that enabled her to solve more varied problems each day. With family and friends who worked as engineers in the tech industry, she had a supportive network to help her transition to tech. See why Neha chose to learn to code at all-women bootcamp Hackbright Academy, how her bootcamp learning experience compared to college, how she balanced a full-time coding bootcamp with a part-time job, and why she chose to become a part of Hackbright Academy’s first South Bay cohort!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Describe your background and your career path.
I went to Northwestern and received a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Science and a degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics. My goal was to become an allopathic doctor and go the traditional MD medical route, but I ended up wanting to do natural medicine. I attended National University of Health Sciences, which is a school for chiropractors and naturopathic doctors, to receive my doctorate in naturopathic medicine.
What made you want to switch career paths from medicine to technology?
In my last year of medical school, I was taking classes and working as intern at the school clinic. My experience there was very repetitive. I was seeing a lot of patients coming in with the same kinds of complaints and ailments, and I couldn’t use the wide variety of tools I had to treat patients. I don't generally like to do the same thing over and over again when at work, so I got bored of that quickly.
I moved to the Bay Area from Chicago right after I graduated. I took my board exams, passed, and got licensed for the state of California. I was searching for naturopathic doctor positions, but in the back of my mind, I was also thinking, "my experience wasn't that great in terms of the variety I was seeing. So do I really want to do this?"
In the Bay Area, we're surrounded by tech and many of my friends and family are engineers. My parents are both engineers so I've had that engineering background surrounding me since very early on. So I thought, "Why not combine medicine and engineering and find a job that is at the intersection of healthcare and technology, because there's so much potential."
How did you find out about the coding bootcamp model? Did you consider getting a computer science degree?
Actually, my husband was the one who told me about coding bootcamps. I definitely didn't want to go back to college because I'd just finished four years of undergrad and four years of medical school. So I did my research and looked at a bunch of different bootcamps in the Bay Area. Hackbright Academy was top of my list mainly because of its mission to change the ratio with its all-women bootcamp. I only applied and interviewed with Hackbright, and I got in. The whole process went so fast, so I didn't look further after that.
What were the other factors important in your decision to attend Hackbright? Location, price?
Yeah, I actually looked into Hackbright Academy in January and at that time they hadn't launched the South Bay cohort, but I knew that they were going to. I purposely waited to join the South Bay cohort before I enrolled. I live in San Mateo so it's right in the middle of SF and South Bay, but I preferred the driving/parking in South Bay.
Price was definitely something I was thinking about. When I saw that Hackbright Academy had deferred tuition, that bumped them up on my list even more. I participated in the deferred tuition program.
How long was your Hackbright Academy interview process? Did you use resources to help you prepare?
What is the South Bay Hackbright Academy campus like?
The South Bay campus is in a normal office building within a multi-office building complex. And there's a nice big parking lot, with plenty of free parking, so that's good. Our campus is on the second floor, and we have one large room. Hackbright splits up the room so that on one side, it's the lecture hall for all our lectures, and then there's the lab part of the room where all the computers are and where the instructors help you with projects.
We fit comfortably in the space since there were six of us but it could probably hold 20 students. I think they are also looking into expanding and getting more rooms for the future.
Can you tell me about your cohort? How did an all-women cohort with different life and career backgrounds add to your learning experience?
As the inaugural cohort, we were a small group, but I liked it because we all grew closer to each other. Most of us had no prior coding experience, and some of us had taken coding classes in college. We all came from different backgrounds, and all wanted to do different things in tech. My focus was on health tech or education tech, since I was also a tutor during college. There was another woman whose focus was on the intersection of social justice and tech. It was definitely nice to have such a small cohort where we could share our past experiences that shaped who we are.
Describe a typical day at Hackbright Academy’s South Bay campus. What was the learning structure like?
The program is broken into three sections. For the first five weeks, lectures were at 10am every day for an hour or two. Then we would have a lab to reinforce the concepts discussed in lecture. We had lunch from 1pm to 2pm, then another lecture, then a lab again to reinforce the lecture concepts. We went home around 6pm. Those first weeks were very structured.
The next five weeks were when we started our individual projects. For these weeks, we still had lecture at 10am, but then we had individual project time. If we needed help, we would get into the queue and then one of the instructors would come and help us.
The last two weeks were more career focused. We had lectures, but they were a lot of guest speakers like engineers from partner companies and Hackbright alums who are working in the field. We also had field trips to different tech companies.
What did you think about the teaching style of Hackbright Academy in comparison to your traditional university learning path? Did it work better for you?
Hackbright Academy was definitely intense because we were learning new things every day and there was little time to digest everything. Over the first eight weeks, we had assessments to demonstrate that we understood what we had just learned. That was helpful because I could focus on what I had learned and see if I understood what was taught.
Personally, I like being challenged and learning at a fast pace. That's how my undergrad was and that's how medical school was as well. We were always learning and there was very little time to catch up on what was just taught. The weekend is basically the only essential time you get to make sure you understand the material.
Compared to learning in medical school, how was your experience learning new subject material with all women?
In college, I was surrounded mostly by guys, because I had STEM majors. Even in high school, I was one of the few girls in my math and science classes. Now, learning something new later in life compared to high school and undergrad, I definitely appreciated that the atmosphere was the opposite of competitive. Hackbright Academy was very nurturing. I was surrounded by women who had each other’s backs. The experience helped me be okay with making mistakes, which is natural when we're learning something new for the first time.
Others in my cohort also said they appreciated the supportive environment. We all know when we go into the workplace, we're going to be surrounded by mostly men. So even though we're not as sheltered going out into the real world, it's okay because we had this nice learning atmosphere where we built our strong foundation.
What was your biggest challenge whilst learning to code at Hackbright Academy?
Time management was my biggest challenge – balancing going to bootcamp with having a part-time job. It was probably even more challenging than learning the new stuff because you barely have time to do anything. After the bootcamp finished at 6pm on weekdays, and all day on Sundays, I would tutor high school students in chemistry and algebra. Saturdays were the only day when I could focus and ensure I understood what was being taught at Hackbright Academy that week.
I started tutoring before Hackbright, and when Hackbright started, it was the middle of the school year, so I had students whom I didn't want to abandon. It was definitely intense, but in a way, it was kind of relaxing. At Hackbright I was the student and I was learning all this foreign material, and then when I was tutoring, I was teaching material I already knew.
I had a lot of support from Hackbright to make sure I still kept up with the program. We were each assigned advisors, so if I ever had an issue, they were there to help us. I definitely felt supported through the whole process.
Tell me about your Hackbright Academy final project. What technologies did you use?
I had so many ideas for my final project so it was hard for me to pick an idea. I finally settled on creating MealHub because I really like to cook. During this program, I found myself having to make meal plans for the week because if I didn't have it written down, it would take too much time to think about what I wanted to make every single day. It's better to sit down on Sundays and write out what to eat for the whole week, then just follow that schedule. So I decided to build an app to help with that meal planning.
For last five weeks of the course, when we're working on projects, the lectures were focused on things we could put in our toolbox. We learned about D3, a data visualization program, and Chart.js which I used in my project to display the nutrient intake for each recipe. You can check out MealHub’s Github here.
How has Hackbright Academy helped to prepare you for the job search?
Hackbright has been super supportive in terms of the job search. It’s been more support than I expected because I didn't have this kind of support with my past schools. It's been amazing. I just graduated last week, but even one week out, I feel very supported. We have a Hackbright career counselor to whom we send weekly or bi-weekly updates on our job search. If we have any questions, she's always there.
Hackbright also has partnerships with companies and shares job listings at those partner companies. If we want to apply to one of those, Hackbright can refer us into that company, so that's been very helpful.
In terms of my job search, it's going well. Right after Hackbright, I went to Hawaii for a weekend because I hadn’t had a break for three months. When I came back, I started applying to jobs and got some phone screens so it's been good so far. On average, Hackbright grads get jobs in three to six months, so those are my expectations. I'm not expecting a job immediately, but hopefully, it doesn't take a year.
What sort of role are you looking for? Is there any type of company or industry you prefer?
Coming into Hackbright with a medical background, I didn't want to lose that aspect. I was focused on working at health tech companies. I didn't really have a particular role in mind before I started, but after going through Hackbright and making MealHub, I realized that I really liked working with the front end of the project. I like the back end as well, but I put a lot of effort into the front end. So now in terms of roles, I’m looking for full stack software engineer positions but with more of an emphasis on the front end.
Before Hackbright, I was very against startups. I wanted to look for bigger companies, mainly because my husband didn’t have a great experience with a particular startup. I had that in the back of my head so I kept thinking, "No startups." But I’m now open to that possibility. Currently, I've applied to more startups than I have bigger, well-established companies.
In terms of industries, I'm still leaning towards health tech. I’m also exploring education tech because of my tutoring background. I think those two industries would be awesome because that’s where my heart lies, but I'm open to anything.
What's the biggest unexpected difference that you've noticed about searching for tech jobs versus searching for jobs in medicine? Have you noticed a difference at all?
The biggest difference I've noticed is that there are so many jobs for software engineers out there. There's so much opportunity. There are so many places that I can apply to in almost any industry. For me, particularly it's health and education that I'm looking at, but tech is needed for everything. So whatever anyone's interest is, I'm sure they could find some way to bring tech into it. There's no shortage of job opportunities.
What advice do you have for other people who are considering a bootcamp and changing careers?
One big thing is make sure you like to code. When my husband first suggested coding as a possibility for me, I immediately said no because I had taken a coding class in undergrad and hated it. I thought there was no way I was going to do this. But I gave it a chance, tried it out, and realized that I actually really loved it. But if I hadn't loved it and had forced myself through a coding bootcamp, it would have been a miserable experience. So definitely make sure you like to code and you like to think in that way before starting a bootcamp.
Also, there are so many bootcamps in the Bay Area and in other parts of the US. I made a list of pros and cons for each bootcamp and picked Hackbright Academy based on those weighted pros and cons. So make sure you do your research.
Manisha Patel has a background in fine arts and worked in project management at Apple, but she was always fascinated by the work of the engineers she worked beside. So she decided to enroll at all-women coding bootcamp Hackbright Academy to learn Python in a supportive environment. Now Manisha is a software engineer at Reddit, and is excited about inspiring more women to make the move into tech. She tells us why Reddit has now hired six Hackbright grads, her advice for other students to get the most out of their bootcamp, and how Reddit’s new scholarship will enable more women to learn to code at Hackbright Academy.
Find out more about the Code Reddit Scholarship Fund and apply for $5000, $10,000 and full scholarships to Hackbright Academy.
Can you tell me about your career and education background and how that path led you to Hackbright Academy?
I have an MFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. As a working artist, I have always had a day job. For a while, I was doing FileMaker development at various companies. FileMaker is a WYSIWYG application development tool that lets you create databases and interfaces. You need to code a little bit, but it's not real engineering.
I ended up in a project management role at Apple where I managed external vendors. I had a great relationship with the Apple developers, but I always felt like they were having more fun than I was! Every time I brought them a new requirement or feature, their eyes sparkled and I could see they were having a lot of fun. I'm a lifelong learner, so after a few years, I looked at the engineers’ enthusiasm and thought, "I want to do what they do and be a proper engineer." So I started looking at coding bootcamps.
How did you decide that a bootcamp was the best way to learn, rather than college or teaching yourself?
I'm a huge advocate of schools and institutions and I love education and learning. But I also didn't want to spend another four years at school, so a bootcamp was the right answer for me.
Knowing my own learning style, I knew I couldn’t learn effectively if I only studied a couple hours each night. I knew that facilitated learning was the right thing for me as opposed to teaching myself. I had to make the commitment to a fully immersive program, where I had to show up each day. It's the same idea as exercising – you work out harder in a class with other people than you do alone. I needed a program with strict hours, curricula, and a responsibility to other people as well as myself. In a classroom environment, students infect each other with their enthusiasm.
Why did you choose Hackbright specifically over other immersive bootcamps?
I had some conversations with other coding bootcamps, some of which had this old-school approach and said, "We're going to kick you down and if you can take the pressure, then you'll be amazing." On the other hand, Hackbright said, "We're going to set you up to succeed." You pay a lot of money for these coding bootcamps so I wanted to choose a school that would guide me to the finish line, not push me down to see if I'd get up.
At Hackbright, you feel like you're in it together, and you're showing up to support the other people in the program as much as you are there to support yourself. 12 weeks was the right time frame – there's no way I could do a shorter program.
The fact that Hackbright Academy teaches Python was also a factor. My engineer friends with CS degrees told me that Python was great, and was the language that all their early CS classes were taught in. I know that the underlying skills apply to all programming languages, but Python seemed like a more accessible language to learn, so you're not focused on the oddities of the language. Instead, you're learning the concept of programming.
Before Hackbright, I had never participated in all-women’s education, but I could see that it would be a different learning experience. I'd spent a lot of time working with male engineers and I know they're very knowledgeable and generous, but I also knew they had a different way of talking, and sometimes didn’t answer the question that had been asked.
What was the learning experience like at Hackbright Academy?
There were 26 people in my cohort and we were all in the classroom by 10am. We had lectures in the morning and a lab in the afternoon. The lecturers were really great and had good ways of explaining things. One of the lecturers stuck Post-it Notes on objects around the room to explain classes and inheritance, which we found way more useful than a PowerPoint. Everybody was engaged, it wasn't a shy group. People were asking questions to get deeper into the topic.
The day was well-structured; we alternated between consuming information and implementing information. We did a lot of pair programming, and that forces you to articulate – that's a really important soft skill.
Was there anything you didn’t expect during the bootcamp? Anything that surprised you?
In addition to the quality and accessibility of the instructors, Hackbright has great relationships with partner companies who took the time to have their engineers come talk to us. They brought in successful women who presented very motivating inspirational topics to help us see ourselves in their shoes. I thought that was a nice part of the curriculum. Before Hackbright, I don't think I knew that I needed those role models, but it was definitely a benefit.
Do you have advice for future bootcampers who want to graduate at the top of their class?
You should definitely take advantage of free classes and get familiar with coding. If you do some Codecademy and you actually enjoy it enough to get to the end of a free class, then you probably like coding.
For women, we have a lot of negative talk in the back of our minds, so my advice for women is instead of focusing on why you can't do it, focus on why you want to work in this career. In my head, I had a picture of people who loved their work – my former engineering team who showed up every day with enthusiasm. I wanted to have that much fun. And it can be fun! It's still a job, but it's really interesting work – you get to feel smart, and solve problems. If you choose to focus on why you want to do it, that'll really help you along because it's easy to get stuck with all of the reasons why we can't do something.
How did Hackbright Academy prepare you for the job hunt?
Hackbright does an amazing job teaching you the basics and building up your GitHub, so that you have work to point employers to. Hackbright also prepared us for the technical interview with algorithms and whiteboarding, but I found personally that I needed another month of practice after graduation before I actively started interviewing.
Hackbright Academy introduced me to the company where I work now, but they did not “get me the job.” In general, I found it most useful to go out and talk to people myself.
What advice do you have for other bootcamp grads who are looking for jobs?
My advice is first to be confident about the fact that you are an engineer, and that you can figure out anything you don't know. No engineer knows everything, so the skill you're selling is that you know how to solve problems and find solutions. That's what Hackbright is preparing you to do and that's what you're offering an employer, so lead with that skill.
Secondly, be honest with yourself about where you're at. Go to a couple of interviews with companies that you don't care about to understand what it feels like to interview. Then be prepared to work as hard as, if not harder than you did during those 12 weeks of bootcamp to get your first job.
Congrats on your role at Reddit! Are there any other Hackbright grads working there?
Thank you. Hackbright Academy and Reddit are very close partners, and they made the connection. I was the second Hackbright grad to work at Reddit. And because we’ve been successful in our roles, we opened the door for the others. Since I started 1.5 years ago, we have hired four additional Hackbright grads, so we're up to six total.
Reddit also has a lot of employees who volunteer as mentors at Hackbright. They've been a huge supporter of Hackbright grads. They host whiteboarding events and to help students prepare, which is also nice. You pair up with an engineer and practice algorithm questions.
Reddit is partnering with Hackbright to offer a scholarship. Do you think companies like Reddit have an obligation to offer scholarships like this to help women get into tech?
As a company, Reddit is super committed to diversity and inclusion, so opening a path for women to join the ranks of engineers is really important to them.
I think the Hackbright scholarship is amazing. It's scary to make a job change, it's scary to envision yourself doing something you haven't done before, so any kind of support, whether it's mentoring or financial aid, is great. It's just nice to know there are people out there who believe you can succeed – and being able to see that in a scholarship is incredibly important.
The lack of women in tech starts in Kindergarten and we're not going to solve that overnight. But the more that little girls can see adult women working in the field, the more they might imagine it for themselves.
What is your role at Reddit and what kind of projects are you working on?
I work on the Infrastructure team, which means that I help keep the site live so our users can always access Reddit. Reddit is the sixth largest website in the US, so we have a lot of traffic to maintain. When I started, there were eight people on my team, and we're up to 15 now. We use tools like Terraform to bring up server instances (we run 2,000 servers) and use tools like Puppet to configure all those servers, and manage hundreds of different microservices that all connect to make Reddit run. I also work on a team called Core Services, so I'm building internal tools that allow other Reddit developers to be more productive and work in a consistent and scalable way.
Since I was hired, I have been promoted but I'm on the same team in the same role. As we've grown, I am now more focused on the services side – writing services for other teams as opposed to the DevOps side. Actually, the work I’m doing now is more relevant to what I learned at Hackbright.
Did you learn about infrastructure at Hackbright or are you learning on the job?
Infrastructure technology is not at all what we learned at Hackbright, but I am working in Python at Reddit, so that’s perfect. Hackbright really prepared me for that. There have been so many new things that I've learned on the job and Reddit has been amazing in helping me learn.
What other technologies have you learned so far?
Because we're such a large website, we use a lot of distributed management. At Hackbright we learned the very simple concept of the “queue” but at Reddit, we use RabbitMQ and AMQP Processor and put millions of messages in the queues and process on downstream all the time. So I had to learn about RabbitMQ.
At Hackbright, they teach you the basic concept of a “least recently-used cache.” At Reddit we use Memcached, local cache, and load balancers. At Hackbright we learned how to make one service, one application, and then on the job, I've had to learn how to allow 2,000 instances of an application talk to each other and what kind of tooling you use to make that possible.
How has the Reddit team helped train you on those new technologies?
There's no formal training program, but there is a lot of documentation so you have to spend time reading code and asking questions.
At Hackbright, there was a very specific format for how to ask questions. Hackbright taught us to be very thoughtful about framing a question, saying, "This is the problem I'm trying to solve, this is how I'm approaching it, here's the code. Can you tell me how to debug it or can you see an issue?"
That approach has been useful because during my first six months on the job I was always asking questions. It made a difference to be able to ask good questions of my team members.
There is enough work at Reddit that they were able to find bite-size issues for me to learn with. For example, they gave me a small tasks to help me get familiar with Puppet and with using the Amazon console. Those smaller tasks helped me understand all the different pieces, then I gradually started working on bigger tasks.
Since you joined Reddit, how do you feel you've grown as a developer? Would you still call yourself a Junior Developer?
Oh, I definitely feel I've progressed from a junior developer. The fun thing about seeing fresh Hackbright graduates start at Reddit is that I can answer all their questions and I realize how much I now know.
When I first started, I felt like my job was to learn really fast, so my instinct was to just listen. Now, I notice that when I’m in meetings, I’ll speak up and make suggestions. I work on a team with some incredibly knowledgeable, tenured, really smart engineers. I'm nowhere near their level, but they ask me questions and listen to what I have to say. I can see that I've come so far.
Do you think your background at Apple and working in project management has been useful in your current job?
I think it's been invaluable. I don't know that I would've been successful without it. As a project manager, you're aware of all the constituencies you're serving – your business owners, your internal clients, and your external clients. At Reddit, our internal developers are our clients, but everything we build is about affecting the experience of our end users. Bringing that focus into an engineering team is really important. Understanding that connection between the work you do and users’ experience has been very helpful.
When you look back over the last two years, what kind of role do you think Hackbright has played in your success? Could you have reached this point by self-teaching?
I don't think I would have made the jump or succeeded if I had tried to do it by myself. I think I found the right program in Hackbright. I had a very clear career goal vision and I knew I needed help to get there – Hackbright helped me get there.
In our April 2018 technology bootcamp news roundup we saw four overarching trends – bootcamp acquisitions, employers putting their own employees through bootcamp, a continued debate between college vs bootcamp, and efforts to expand accessibility to coding education for underrepresented groups in tech. We also look at apprenticeships, the evolution of bootcamp curricula, life after bootcamp, and new bootcamps! Read the roundup below or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
In our March 2018 technology bootcamp news roundup, we discuss all the industry news that we've been talking about at Course Report! We have some fun celebratory announcements, we looked at news about the positive impact bootcamps are having on individuals and companies, and the debate continued between coding bootcamps and computer science degrees. We heard about some great student experiences at bootcamp, some wonderful diversity initiatives, and new scholarship opportunities. Plus, a good number of new coding bootcamps and campuses launched in March. Read the roundup below or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
Not everyone gets into coding bootcamp on their first try. Even though Valerie Moy had been working in tech operations for five years, and had taught herself some code, she struggled in the Hackbright Academy coding challenge interview. Valerie needed stronger foundational knowledge, so she enrolled in the part-time Hackbright Prep program to strengthen her Python skills. Valerie tells us how she juggled her busy schedule to make the most of the Hackbright Prep and how the Prep Course prepared her for the technical portion of the Hackbright application when she re-applied.
What is your background and how did that lead you to Hackbright Academy?
I went to school for English literature and worked in publishing and nonprofits. About five years ago, I started working in the tech industry in operations and client services. My job was problem solving, using people power and organizational processes, to make our company and product more efficient to better serve our clients and internal stakeholders. I was exposed to the technical side of the business, and worked closely with engineers and product managers throughout my experience in the tech world.
At some points in my job, I would hit a wall and need an engineering solution. I didn’t have skills to create that change myself, and I found that a little frustrating. I started peering over the engineers’ shoulders to see how they approached problem solving, and got really interested in engineering. I realized they were using the same logic-based skills that I already used, just with different tools and languages.
Did you try to learn on your own, or from your co-workers, before you researched coding bootcamps?
A little bit. I found the most effective way to learn a concept was when I needed to solve a specific problem. For example, in operations there were some metrics we couldn’t get without running a SQL query. So I used some SQL resources my last company provided, and taught myself some SQL through trial and error. I also tried to do self-study and online courses in Python, which were helpful to some degree, but they lacked a lot of the “whys,” which is very important for me. It’s hard to retain something if I don’t understand why it works.
How did you come across the idea of a bootcamp and what attracted you to Hackbright?
I knew I wouldn’t get where I wanted to go through self-study; I’m not that kind of learner. I had heard about coding bootcamps and I started to meet bootcamp graduates who were working as engineers, which was a confidence boost for me to pursue that path. I did some research on Course Report, as well as looking online.
A couple of people whom I worked with had been to coding bootcamps, including one who went to Hackbright Academy. Part of the reason I picked Hackbright was their focus on women – I liked the mission to increase the percentage of women, non-binary, and gender non-conforming programmers in the industry. But I underestimated how amazing it would be to learn in an environment where I don’t have to worry about gender politics and microaggressions based on gender. It’s a totally different learning environment – it’s been really great.
Why did you decide to take Hackbright Prep if you already had a bit of coding knowledge?
I originally applied for Hackbright’s Full-Time Software Engineering Program for the October 2017 cohort. The pre-work was in Python, which I had touched several years earlier, but I didn't remember very much. When I did the Hackbright coding challenge interview in Python, I didn’t feel very confident in my knowledge, and I think that showed in my approach. Meggie, who I interviewed with, said I had a strong skill set, and would be a really good fit for the program, but I could use a bit more foundational knowledge to really succeed. She said I could strengthen those foundational skills through their Prep Course or on my own, but I decided to do the Prep Course and re-apply in January.
How did you fit the Prep Course into your own schedule – was it a huge time commitment?
The schedule for the eight-week prep program was two days a week from 6:30pm to 9pm, with optional code brunches on Sundays to work on our projects.
I definitely had to make space for the course in my schedule. I do a lot – I was working full-time, I’m a choral singer with some groups in the Bay Area, and I teach fitness classes at a barre studio. I wanted to make as much space and time as possible for studying for the prep program, but I didn’t want to give up other parts of my life, so it took some adjustment. For example, I went from singing in two groups, to just one group.
Other than revising my schedule, it worked out really well. I’m an evening person, so taking the class after work was good for me; my brain was already warmed up and I could dive right in.
What was the learning experience like at the Prep Course? Can you tell me about a typical session and what sort of projects you built?
Each evening, we had a lecture and then a lab. Sometimes, we would have a couple of short lectures rather than one longer lecture. In the labs, we pair programmed to tackle an exercise related to that evening’s lecture. We were learning skills, then solidifying those skills. We covered Python, pair programming, developer tools like Terminal and IDE, logic like Loops, and basic data structures like Lists.
Pair programming was an interesting aspect of Prep and is something that continues in the Full-Time Program. We paired with fellow students, and worked with someone different in every class. Two engineers work with two keyboards, two monitors, two mice and one computer. One person drives and one person navigates, then you switch places. Pair programming is challenging, because if you have an idea, it’s tempting to just jump on the keyboard and do it. But you both get more out of it if you take a moment to say and explain, “I have an idea, what if we did it this way?” Explaining your thought process to someone else really helps reinforce the learning process.
Outside of class, we each had to build a project – a relatively simple, logic-based Python game. I built a very trimmed down version of Oregon Trail, which was really fun. The instructors and advisors were really good about helping us choose a project that was doable. And if we completed our MVP, we could add on other additional features. They really tried to set us up for success rather than setting a stretch goal.
Who were your instructors and mentors?
The director of the prep program is Maggie Yang, a full-time staff member at Hackbright who leads the Prep Course curriculum and does some lecturing. Also, because it’s after work, some of the instructors are working engineers who teach after work. It was really great to get some perspective from real, professional engineers. They could tell us if a concept was more for foundational understanding, and that we’d never actually use it on the job. They could also give context and a preview of what was up ahead.
The lectures rotated between the different staff members depending on who had a particular interest or expertise in a certain topic. Then during lab time, everybody is there to help.
How hard was the Prep Course? Could you keep up easily with the material?
I found the Prep Course very doable. The way it was presented felt very intuitive. Python is a very intuitive language and it reads like English, so it’s a great first language to learn. And the way Hackbright instructors broke it down made it so much easier to understand. I had seen Python before, but when Hackbright taught it, I understood it in a way that never made sense to me before. I was like, “Oh, now I get it!”
Some of my classmates in Hackbright Prep had never done programming before; they had more of a learning curve than me, but Hackbright did a great job at building a foundation for us, and then building concepts on top of that.
Once you finished the Prep Course, did you feel ready to re-apply to Hackbright Academy?
I felt so much better doing the coding challenge interview the second time around! The first time I did the challenge, I felt like I was grasping the concepts by my fingertips. I could talk about the concepts a little bit, but didn’t really know anything deeper. The second time around, I saw the challenge and said: “I know how to solve this problem in two different ways.” I could talk through one way, and it worked, and the staff member asked how I would do it the other way, and I showed her. After Prep, I felt like I really understood the coding challenge in a way that I hadn’t before.
After completing Hackbright Prep, I didn’t have to re-do the full application; I only had to do the coding challenge interview. Hackbright already had evidence of our skills and already knew why I wanted to do the full bootcamp. We did have to let admissions staff know we were interested in applying for the January cohort – not everyone was, some people wanted to apply for a later cohort or didn’t want to continue.
Now that you’ve started the full-time program, how is it going?
I started January 2, 2018, and it’s definitely challenging. It’s different to learn all day, every day. Your brain gets tired, but the Hackbright team is very aware of that, so they’re good about scheduling breaks and making sure we take care of ourselves. The first few weeks felt challenging but almost comfortable, and then from weeks four and five onwards, it has really ramped up. I can feel my brain changing shape, which is not comfortable, but it’s exciting!
Are you glad that you did the Hackbright Prep before starting the full-time bootcamp?
Around week three, towards the end of our Python unit, I could tell that Prep was worth it. We had to put everything we’d learned about Python together, and I felt like I had such a solid foundation in Python because of the Prep course. The challenge was to understand how all of these things work and to choose the right solution to solve a problem. I felt really glad that I had such a good foundation in those concepts to begin with.
Having done pair programming before was also useful. It can certainly be a challenge – pair programming takes a certain type of energy.
What has been your favorite project so far at Hackbright?
My favorite project was building Markov chains. We took a piece of source text, and programmed simple predictive text by chopping it up into blocks. Then we combined that with the Twitter API and created Twitter bots to tweet random, absurdist things, based on various source texts like "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Gettysburg Address." That was very silly and fun to have a taste of doing something in the real world, as ridiculous as it was.
The project we are working on now is a ratings site for movies based on a data set with different users and their ratings. Eventually, we will implement very simple machine learning to predict if a user will like a movie based on their previous ratings.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far at the Hackbright Academy full-time program?
What are your goals or plans after you graduate?
I came into Hackbright Academy knowing that I was interested in coding, so I’m trying to keep an open mind about what I want to do after I graduate. The more I code, the more I’m enjoying this work, so my plan is to start looking for programming jobs or internships.
I want to be in a company where I can to learn as much as possible. A startup like my previous company had a very scrappy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach, and I would love to go back to that eventually, but for my first role in development, I think I would like to be somewhere with more structure and support so I can continue to learn in a purposeful way. I want to build my skills more before I move into a more flexible, fast-paced startup job.
What advice do you have for other people who are considering taking a bootcamp prep program?
Try to make the prep work a priority. When you do a full-time, immersive bootcamp, it’s easy to commit. When it’s part-time, you’ll try to fit in other commitments. But I think you need to be just as serious about the Prep Course as you would be for the full-time program. You want to get as much as you can out of that prep time, whether or not you end up continuing with a coding career. The more you build your foundational skills, the better off you'll be. Programming skills are incredibly useful in today’s job market, no matter what industry you work in.
Welcome to the first News Roundup of 2018! We’re already having a busy 2018 – we published our latest outcomes and demographics report, and we’re seeing a promising focus on diversity in tech! In January we saw a significant fundraising announcement from an online bootcamp, we saw journalists exploring why employers should hire bootcamp and apprenticeship graduates, we read about community colleges versus bootcamps and how bootcamps are helping to grow tech ecosystems. Plus, we’ll talk about the newest campuses and schools on the scene, and our favorite blog posts. Read below or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
Women make up only 24% of the tech workforce, and this number could shrink to 22% over the next 10 years. The US isn’t just lacking women in tech, there’s a general shortage of tech talent: universities only graduate about 52% of the technology workforce needed to satisfy a growing job market. Without alternative education funnels like coding bootcamps, which are particularly conducive to women, (the result of lower cost and flexibility) we won’t meet those requirements. To measure these impacts, Course Report surveys real coding bootcamp graduates to understand who is graduating from coding bootcamps and how successful they are. In our first post of this series, we explore the illuminating data we found about gender in coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
A 12-week, immersive bootcamp is a long time to be away from a job and personal commitments. After hearing feedback from students, Hackbright Academy wanted to offer their students a chance to learn and change their careers, without compromising their income and work-life balance. Hackbright Academy’s Senior Director of Education, Meggie Mahnken, tells us about the curriculum in their new 24-week, Part-Time Software Engineering Program, the pros and cons of learning part-time, and how Hackbright will support the unique goals of their Part-Time Program students.
What you need to know:
- The curriculum and admissions process are the same as the Full-Time Hackbright Academy bootcamp that people know and love.
- Expect slightly different career preparation, as Part-Time students may have unique goals (like getting a promotion at their current company)!
- You’ll be learning Tuesday & Thursday evenings, and Saturday days
- The next part-time course starts February 6th – apply here!
As the Senior Director of Education, what are you up to at Hackbright Academy?
I primarily work with the education team to maintain the Hackbright curriculum and make sure our instructors and TAs have what they need in the classroom. I was originally an instructor at Hackbright so I still do some lecturing and hang out in the labs while students are pair programming to see them in action. I help students build projects, and give advice on some of their bigger technical questions. I also work with all the teams at Hackbright to ensure we accept the right people into our programs, and that we’re finding more women who are interested in tech.
Overall, I contribute to the long term strategy for Hackbright Academy by figuring out how we can more efficiently educate women, creating a curriculum that stays up-to-date and marketable and offering our alumnae more resources for their job search.
What inspired you to join Hackbright Academy?
I attended Hackbright as a fellow in 2013. I studied Gender and Women's Studies in college, so I knew I wanted to do something related to women in the workforce. Attending Hackbright as a student was really about my love of programming. When I started learning Python I thought, "Let me put down my other aspirations and follow my fascination into a career."
When I graduated, I realized what a unique organization Hackbright Academy was, and I was really impressed with Hackbright’s curriculum and goals, and that drew me to work with them. I started out on the engineering side, building internal tools, then I became involved in the classroom. Meeting these women who are courageous enough to change careers, learn new skills, do something really hard like a coding bootcamp and then get a software engineering job – is illuminating. There are ups and downs and it's hard, but it's one of the most rewarding jobs that I could have ever hoped for.
Also, it's not hard to find people who want to be mentors at Hackbright. People find it inspiring to work with these curious, highly-motivated women who are doing this course. If you like teaching, you’ll have such a captive audience with these women. They want to get to the heart of every topic that we cover.
Why did Hackbright Academy decide to offer this Part-Time Program? Did you see a demand from women who needed a part-time option?
We ask for and get, an immense amount of feedback from our prospective students, current students, and alumnae – it’s at the heart of the education team’s work. We noticed that people were explicitly asking, "Is there any way that this program can be less disruptive to my life?"
We try to maintain a boundary between 10am to 6pm so that women can still try to have a life. But people would continue to comment that the course takes over your life as you juggle your schedule and responsibilities outside of work. You have to quit your job, and put everything on pause.
We've had this part-time idea for a long time – a notion of creating something similar to the executive MBA where people continue with their job, and maybe their employer is even an advocate for them to attend the course and will pay for it.
Have you heard feedback from employers?
It can be hard for the employer to say, "Yeah, we are going to give up our excellent worker, have them take a break or quit, and we may or may not get them back after they graduate. We want her to blossom into an awesome software engineer, but what does that mean for us?" We hear from employers who have female employees that want to do Hackbright Academy. A part-time course opens up that option.
How is the Part-Time curriculum different from the immersive Full-Time Software Engineering Program?
The part-time course is exactly the same, apart from the schedule. Classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-9:30pm and Saturday 10am-6pm. Students are going to have more time to marinate in the material by nature of the fact that the course is twice as long.
We know that the dynamics of the nights and weekends course will be different from the intensive, immersive program. A 24-week course might be an advantage because students can study more; on the other hand, because students have more time between lectures, it could take longer to get back into that headspace.
The only aspect of the curriculum that is changing is the career services portion at the end. Currently, the last two weeks of the Full-Time Program are career-oriented if you want to start a full-time job search. We recognize that for people continuing with their full-time job and doing a part-time course, the topics might need to shift towards advocating for oneself in the workplace to get a promotion or move into a technical role. We’re rethinking some of the career training to tailor it to the actual goals and career plans of each student.
Do Part-Time students need unique types of support from the Hackbright team?
There are a couple of mechanical ways that we're going to tailor this course for people who have a lot of other things going on in their lives. First off, we've created the schedule for this course so that it honors three-day weekends when there is a public holiday. The course runs Tuesday, Thursday, and then most Saturdays. There are no classes on Saturdays that fall on a holiday weekend so that students can plan a longer break for themselves.
We’re also adding remote advising appointments so students won't have to be in person at the Hackbright campus to do their regular 30-minute advising meetings. We can schedule meetings during a student’s normal day – during lunch or on a Saturday afternoon. That cuts down on students’ commutes.
Overall we have an eye towards students' other obligations throughout the course. We'll be creating a deadline for assessments, and assigning homework in a way that doesn't expect that you're going to drop everything in your life to get a project finished in one night – that will be baked into the various deadlines.
How many instructors are teaching the Part-Time Program, and what is the student to instructor ratio for the Part-Time course?
This is exactly like the Full-Time Program. We typically have two core instructors throughout the course who are giving the majority of the lectures with the help of another instructor. That might be me or an instructor from the Full-Time Program who gives guest lectures. We may incorporate different people like teaching assistants, but there will always be those two core instructors for each class.
What’s the ideal student for the Part-Time Program?
The part-time student is likely already in a professional job – maybe she works in publishing, maybe she’s a lawyer, or maybe she works at a tech company in a nontechnical role. Many students may have weekly family obligations to participate in and may need to keep their job, so they are trying to skill up while not completely putting everything on hold. This course is for someone who wants to take a different financial approach to skilling up. With the part-time program, you can continue to earn your regular living while also contributing some of that towards your education.
Like the Full-Time Program, we’re looking for applicants who like coding and have tried coding enough to know they like it. And we're still looking for people who want to become software engineers, but they might be looking for a longer path into that role. Or someone who has the wonderful opportunity to possibly shift roles within the same company.
Is the admissions process for the Part-Time Program different?
The admissions process is exactly the same as the Full-Time Program. It's basically two interviews – one qualitative interview with our admissions team, and then there's the technical interview. The technical interview is remote, over the phone, using a collaborative coding tool in a web browser where you work on a problem with me or another member of the education team.
How does Hackbright assess student progress and support part-time students who might fall behind?
First, we try to put in the hard work during admissions – the technical interview assesses if a student has the fundamental core skills to fully take advantage of Hackbright. We want to make sure that students’ time, energy, and money isn't wasted because they weren't completely ready. A lot of the problems with “falling behind” can be mitigated if you really find and encourage all prospective students to be ready to hit the ground running on day one. That's been a challenge for all coding bootcamps, but it's disruptive for students and their learning.
However, this course is incredibly challenging, and every student comes in with less experience/readiness in certain areas than others. For each student, there will be tougher days and easier days. We’ve designed lectures and exercises that clearly outline the required content, but provide “further study” opportunities. There are also regular 30-minute one-on-one advising meetings which can include tutoring. When someone starts to fall behind, those meetings can shift to 100% tutoring so that students better understand a topic. You can’t repeat a segment at Hackbright, so we make sure to provide regular assessments so that it’s easy to identify what a student needs to work on versus what they understood.
Will part-time students see similar job search outcomes as full-time students do?
Honestly, I think the Part-Time Program will only make the job search easier. Taking off three months and then having that hanging over your head thinking, "I haven't worked for three months and now I need a job," seems more overwhelming than, "I have been working for the last six months. I have this new skill, I’ve been saving money, and I can stop and now fully dedicate a good couple of months to really interviewing and applying.” I hope my hypothesis will be true but we don't know yet – our first Part-Time course launches February 6, 2018.
Is there a big lesson that your team learned throughout the time of operating the Full-Time immersive course that you applied to the Part-Time Program?
We’ve been operating for five years and we have a lot of skilled people on our education team that help us replicate results and build our wisdom over time. One of the lessons we’ve learned is about the Independent Project, and we’ll bring that to the Part-Time course. The major goal of the Independent Project is to learn, not to create a project that you’ll take to market when you graduate. The Independent Project is designed to solidify the core agile web development skills presented in the first half of the program, in a way that honors student interests and passions.
We’ll also keep an eye on work-life balance, which is especially important. We want to know students’ external stressors and keep a constant dialogue going to make sure the entire class is happy and learning. We already have to battle imposter syndrome – everyone does, whether you're in an all-women’s bootcamp or not. When you work with women who are changing careers through a bootcamp, you have to provide a really positive and encouraging influence on regular basis. Plus we’ll always take feedback – there's always something that we can improve. The Hackbright Academy team listens and is thoughtful about what people are asking for.
What is your advice for students embarking on a part-time program? Any tips to get the most out of a Hackbright’s Part-Time Program?
Have a routine and a strategic plan to fall into throughout this six-month experience. Ask yourself, "What do I need when I get stressed out? How can I keep myself accountable?" Don’t get to the point where you’re losing out on your normal life (remember to eat)!
Even more important advice – interview software engineers. When you are about to make a career change, even if you’re unsure what role you want, interviewing people already in those roles could help you with imposter syndrome, and debunk any myths. Find someone via LinkedIn, someone in your network, or a Hackbright alumna and ask, "Hour by hour, what did you spend your time on today?" Sometimes that can help with your confidence. Just by hearing what their job is like, it can inspire you and help propel you forward. Then when you feel stressed out or overwhelmed, you can think back to these insightful conversations.
Do you have any tips for preparation for Hackbright Academy’s Part-Time Program?
Head First Python is a perfect book to delve into. If you want an online book that you don't have to buy, How to Think Like a Computer Scientist is excellent. Going on any site where you do muscle-memory type coding challenges such us HackerRank and any of those code challenge websites are also not bad places to start.
Yes, we get it – most high-salary industries need more diverse workers, and tech is no exception. But while the conversation about diversity in tech usually focuses on gender, diversity encompasses racial, socioeconomic, cognitive, and experiential differences. Think pieces and diversity reports show large tech companies admitting they have a problem and beginning to address the diversity in tech crisis, but do we really believe change is coming? Even if companies make public commitments to hiring more diverse candidates for technical positions, is the pipeline strong enough to fuel those hiring commitments? As we track non-traditional routes to tech at Course Report, it’s clear that talented, diverse coding bootcamp grads can fill that pipeline and play a role in shifting the demographics of the US tech industry.Continue Reading →
Is learning to code on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions List? It should be! There will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. And a coding bootcamp could be just what you need to make a fresh start in 2018 as a developer. We’ve compiled a list of 16 full-time, part-time, in-person and online coding bootcamps which have upcoming cohorts starting in January and February 2018. Most of these have approaching application deadlines, so submit yours quickly if you want to get a head start in 2018!Continue Reading →
In our End of Year Podcast, we're rounding up the most interesting news of 2017 and covering all the trends, thought pieces, controversies and more. Many schools are hitting their 5 year anniversaries – a reminder that although there is a lot going on in this industry, it’s still nascent and there is still room for new innovative approaches to the bootcamp model. We’ve chosen the most defining stories, and it was a very eventful year – a couple of big bootcamps closed, a ton of new bootcamps launched, some schools were acquired, and other bootcamps raised money.Continue Reading →
Working in Silicon Valley, Vannaro Lim is always trying to find ways to encourage more diversity on engineering teams – that’s how he was introduced to all-women’s coding bootcamp Hackbright Academy! He’s hired a number of Hackbright Academy alumnae, both in his previous role at Slack, and now as the Engineering Lead at Checkr. Vannaro tells us why companies should invest in mentorship to build diverse teams, what Checkr’s technical interview process looks like, and how Hackbright Academy grads contribute and innovate at Checkr.
Tell us about Checkr and your role there.
Checkr started off as an API-first company providing enterprise solutions for companies to automate background checking. Then we transitioned our product into a web application and started targeting more marketplace businesses, consumer-facing companies. Now, we provide compliance background checks for employment decisions or tenant verification.
At Checkr, I build out the technical recruiting process, from how we technically assess engineers to what we assess on the site.
What types of roles do you hire bootcamp grads for?
We have hired one Hackbright Academy alumna to work on our Full Stack Application Team. We’ve also hired graduates from General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp.
How did you first get connected with Hackbright Academy?
In my previous role at Slack, I was trying to find unique ways to help increase gender diversity amongst our engineering teams. As we were building out our diversity pipeline, we learned about Hackbright Academy. I helped create the Hackbright Academy mentorship program at Slack, and from that point on, our relationship just developed and grew. At Slack, we eventually hired 10-15 Hackbright engineers between 2015 and 2017. When I transitioned to Checkr, I wanted to create that same diversity here at Checkr.
Other than Hackbright Academy, how do you usually hire developers?
The most effective way I’ve found is to be part of groups that are trying to promote change in reshaping the landscape in Silicon Valley. Whether it’s being a part of a community organization or part of good, social-mission startups, we try to find our engineers through good networking.
What are you looking for in a new technical hire? Does your approach differ when you’re hiring bootcamp grads versus developers with more traditional backgrounds?
The profile of a new hire is going to be different when you’re assessing talent from a senior engineer compared with a junior or new grad. For a new grad position, we’re trying to gauge the probability or likeliness that a person will be able to succeed. We try to test for curiosity, their motivation and determination, and what they bring forward during the interview process. We like to base our hiring decision on a bootcamp grad’s potential rather than what they already know.
What sort of technical interview do you put Hackbright Academy alumnae through?
Our technical interview is no different from the challenges we give to our senior engineers. Our technical interview process generally happens remotely, in two parts. First is our technical exercise, which is meant to verify how well a candidate can communicate their thought process, and how familiar and comfortable they are in their set programming language. We typically give candidates a name matching exercise which revolves around the idea of name validation. Since we are a background check company, identity verification is very important to us. If they do well on that portion, then the next step is to bring the candidate onsite. Our onsite interview is unique because we try to make it directly applicable to what they will be doing on the job. Since we are a web application or SaaS company, we base our entire interview process around the premise of launching your own web application.
Did you ever have to convince your company (or yourself!) to hire a bootcamper?
Absolutely not. The lack of female engineers in Silicon Valley is a known problem. We strongly believe that if we can’t hire senior female engineers, then we need to take the next step and try to cultivate that talent ourselves. Making early investments in bootcamp grads is a really great way to help build that diverse engineering community, and cultivate that talent so we can mold them to be the engineers we need them to be.
At Hackbright Academy, students learn Python. Is your team at Checkr working in Python or do new hires from Hackbright need to learn new languages on the job?
You mentioned that you set up a mentorship program at Slack, and were setting up a similar system at Checkr. How do you help new hires learn quickly and ramp up?
First, the biggest thing we wanted to get right is assigning directed tasks for a junior engineers. Often times, as a software engineer, I have found that most companies never really provide learning opportunities. You end up stuck in the position you were hired for, and the ability to grow outside that is quite difficult. At Checkr, we want to make sure we have a growth strategy in place. When we onboard new interns or junior engineers, there’s a directed task, and a specific matrix they can following in order to level up to the next engineering level.
For example, Michelle has had the opportunity to move between different teams as she wants. We try to facilitate employees to have the freedom in discovering what they’re passionate about and what they’re great at.
In addition to increasing gender diversity, are there other benefits to recruiting engineers from coding bootcamps like Hackbright Academy?
Definitely. People who have graduated from a coding bootcamp have a very unique approach to solving problems, especially compared with the approach of a four-year CS graduate which is methodical and traditional. In our company environment, we are always looking for new ways to innovate, and sometimes you have to think outside the box. I think the best way to source innovation is to gravitate towards interns and bootcamps, because these bootcamps are teaching engineers a new approach that’s not really taught at universities.
What does the relationship look like between Checkr and Hackbright Academy? Do you have a partnership, or do you pay a referral fee when you hire their graduates?
Our relationship is both a partnership as well as a paid referral program. We sign a contract for every hire we make. But for us it’s a small price to have access to such a diverse set of talents. We also have partnered up with Hackbright to be a part of their Hack Demo Night, and we actually hosted their first graduation at our office space.
Do you have a feedback loop with Hackbright at all? Are you able to influence their curriculum if you notice your dev hires are under-qualified in a certain area?
Not consistently, but I have made suggestions to improve their process. For example, I suggested that they intertwine individual study with group-based tasks. Engineers should work on their own, as well as in a group setting.
The other piece of advice I offered them is to expose their engineers to a larger code base versus doing their own small micro projects. People can get overwhelmed when looking at large code bases for the first time, and they often don’t have that exposure until they start their job. So we suggested that Hackbright grab some sort of open source tech, and have somebody maintain that code base and add new features so that each new cohort can contribute to it.
Will you hire from Hackbright Academy in the future? Why or why not?
Absolutely. The caliber of students they have been generating in terms of engineering talent has been phenomenal, and we love working with Hackbright.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or Hackbright Academy in particular?
My advice is to take a chance. All it takes is one senior engineer to help bring a Hackbright Academy engineer up to speed in about three to four months. What they can bring in terms of their thought process and creativity, will speak volumes to the features they are working on.
October 2017 was a busy month for the coding bootcamp industry with news about growing pains in bootcamp outcomes, mergers, acquisitions, investments, a trend towards bootcamp B2B training, and diversity initiatives. To help you out, we’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. Plus, we added 12 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Is Python the “best” first coding language? What can you build and what types of jobs could you get with Python skills? Hackbright Academy’s Director of Fellowship, Meggie Mahnken, explains the origins of Python, how Python is used by real developers, and why Hackbright Academy teaches Python. Here’s everything a beginner needs to know about Python (plus some great free resources to get started).Continue Reading →
Just as they’ve developed disruptive education tools, technology bootcamps are also adopting payment plans which allow students to pay nothing or very little until they graduate and find a job. Deferred tuition and income sharing agreements (ISAs) are becoming more widely available, and give students who don’t have $20,000 in the bank, access to life-changing learning opportunities. This guide will help you sort through the details and differentiate between the terms; plus, we’ve even helped you start your research by compiling a list of coding and data science bootcamps that offer ISAs or Deferred Tuition.Continue Reading →
Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.Continue Reading →
Need a summary of news about coding bootcamps from July 2017? Course Report has just what you need! We’ve put together the most important news and developments in this blog post and podcast. In July, we read about the closure of two major coding bootcamps, we dived into a number of new industry reports, we heard some student success stories, we read about new investments in bootcamps, and we were excited to hear about more diversity initiatives. Plus we round up all the new campuses and new coding bootcamps around the world.Continue Reading →
With the closing of Dev Bootcamp (slated for December 8, 2017), you’re probably wondering what other coding bootcamp options are out there. Dev Bootcamp changed thousands of lives, and built a great reputation with employers, so we are sad to see it go. Fortunately, there are still plenty of quality coding bootcamps in the cities where Dev Bootcamp operated. Here is a list of coding bootcamps with similar lengths, time commitments, and curriculums in the six cities where Dev Bootcamp had campuses: Austin, Chicago, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.Continue Reading →
Hackbright Academy launched an 8-week, part-time Hackbright Prep program in San Francisco in April, and is now expanding the program to the Netflix campus in San Jose, South Bay. This is the first time Hackbright Academy has offered a class outside of San Francisco – does this mean we can expect a full-time bootcamp in San Jose next? We asked Director of Part-Time Education (and Hackbright alumna) Jessica Earley-Cha what students will learn in the Prep program, why they’re excited to bring Hackbright to San Jose, and what the Netflix campus is like (apparently it smells like popcorn)!
What’s your background and your role at Hackbright Academy?
Prior to Hackbright Academy, I worked for 10 years in the non-profit sector, primarily working with female youth and adults. I decided to change my career and I graduated from Hackbright Academy's 12-week fellowship program a few years ago.
My main role is leading the Part-Time Education Department, and we are expanding to different areas which is exciting. The idea of working with a population of women who are considering this career transition with Hackbright Academy has been really fascinating for me. I remember being in that headspace, and thinking I wanted to do this, but I didn’t know how, or what my steps should be. So my big goal in my role of redesigning the part-time curriculum has been to focus on how we give a woman the tools she needs, so she can be successful and make those choices.
I am also involved in a lot of meetups; I’m currently the co-organizer for Google Developer Group in San Francisco, a Women Techmaker lead, a teacher for Girl Develop It, and am active with Latinos In Tech. I write technical blogs on chatasweetie, as well as co-host DevelopHerDevelopHim, a YouTube channel about tech.
What is Hackbright Prep?
The course is designed to help women prepare for Hackbright Academy’s 12-week immersive software engineering program. We get many women who find out about Hackbright Academy and are excited but they may not have the technical understanding to do the full-time program, or they need help figuring out if they want to invest so much money and time. Hackbright Prep is an easier, lower-risk program to take, but it’s the same style of teaching as the full-time program so students are getting an immersive experience. This course format is so in demand that people want us to go to other locations.
Who are the women enrolling in Hackbright Prep?
We get a lot of women enrolling who want to become software engineers. They are excited about Hackbright and they want to learn programming. We have other women who are ready for the full-time software engineering program, but want to tighten up their understanding of Python. It’s 8-weeks, twice a week in the evenings, so the women who participate can work full-time, which is really convenient.
You launched Hackbright Prep at your San Francisco campus in April. How is it going?
Right now we are on our second cohort in San Francisco. It’s held at the same building where we teach the full-time software engineering program, and it’s in the evening, so when the full-time students are done with their class, they go home, and our prep students come in.
Why did Hackbright Academy decide to launch Hackbright Prep in San Jose/South Bay? Was there specific demand in that area?
San Jose is right next to Mountain View, and that’s where huge companies like Facebook, Google, and other large tech companies are. However, we noticed there were not many resources in that area for an all female, supportive learning environment. Most tech meetups are predominantly male – the very first meetups I went to, I could count on one hand how many women were there – so it can be intimidating. We want to provide an environment where we’re all here to learn, no one will talk over you, and we’re very purposeful to set the tone of the learning environment. We all try to be mindful of others and create an optimal learning experience.
We currently have students who drive from the South Bay area to take Hackbright Prep in San Francisco. These students have full-time jobs, they get in their cars, they drive up through traffic to get to class here at 6:45pm, stay here until 9:15pm, then drive home. So we’ve had commitment from that area before. When Netflix offered their space, it was a no-brainer. It gave us an opportunity to serve women that had been driving for hours to take the course.
How did you get involved with Netflix?
Netflix has been a big advocate for women in technology and they were more than happy to support the opportunity for Hackbright to expand in the South Bay.
What is the goal of the Hackbright Prep course? Is it only for people planning to enroll in the fellowship, or can people take it just to get some basic coding skills?
Our main focus is for those women who want to get into a bootcamp and ultimately switch careers. Hackbright Prep is geared towards women who have dabbled, and now want to take coding more seriously and build something. We don’t have a screening where we are limiting folks, but we do expect women to have about 10 hours of coding experience prior to applying for Hackbright Prep.
How can women get those 10 hours of coding experience before the class?
I recommend doing something online that’s free, because it’s low risk and you can dabble on your own. Check out some YouTube videos, and there are so many fantastic online learning resources, like Codecademy. Then try an in-person class, or go to a meetup, talk to people and see if it’s something you’re interested in. Ultimately, going into this field because it’s a big paycheck is not a good indicator of your long-term success. It’s more about whether you enjoy problem solving, and are excited about the work. So dip your toes in the water, and if you find you want to learn more, this Prep program is a great way to build your skills.
How is the course structured?
Classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:45 pm to 9:15 pm. In the last four weeks, we have Code Meetups on Sundays from 11 am to 2 pm, where students code together, and build projects.
Hackbright Prep mimics the fellowship style of having one hour-long lecture, then an exercise. So you can learn a concept, then immediately apply it. For the exercise, students work in pairs. True learning is in actually doing things, so by talking to somebody, telling them your thought process, listening to their thought process, and coding together, the learning is exponential compared to coding on your own. This also builds community, because now you know someone better after solving a problem together.
In the last four weeks of class, we have code workshops, which are structured a little differently. The lecture is shorter, about 30 minutes, and we talk about the problems we face. As a group we talk about the components we would need to build a particular project, then for the rest of class students are building projects. Students also build a personal project, so when they finish the course they have the skills to go home and build on their own.
Students also have homework on the weekends, which is more of a confirmation of information, rather than learning new materials.
What is covered in the Hackbright Prep curriculum?
The concepts we work through are devtools, using the command line, and using an IDE virtual environment. We cover the basics of programming, primitive data structures, collections, functions, and how to organize your code. The biggest part is problem solving – how do you break a problem down into manageable pieces. We try not to focus on aspects that are unique to Python, instead we want to teach them the general concepts of programming. Python is a wonderful learning programming language as well as a powerful industry language.
We also have the advising component. Each student is paired up with a member of the education team to go over your goals, your learning style, and to review your code. So students get one-on-one time, regardless if they want to or not. That’s something that some women want to avoid, but once they do it once, they are happy that we encouraged them. Having someone to spend time with each student and support them is key to what we do.
Who teaches the Prep course? Are they Hackbright instructors, or Hackbright alumni?
The majority of our education team are professional engineers. We have both alumnae and mentors from the Hackbright full-time immersive program. We also have a handful of folks from the tech industry who found out about our mission, and got in touch to ask how they can help. These engineers are doing this out of the goodness of their heart, and they enjoy it. A lot of these relationships are not just during the class, and they continue afterwards which is really nice. Students are building their networks in the course.
Generally, we have three tiers of our education team. We have a teacher assistant, a lab instructor, and an instructor. We teach in the style that Hackbright is known for. It’s this interesting balance of serious and fun – the concepts that they are learning can be challenging, then we make it fun using silly examples. When it’s 8 pm at night and you’ve worked all day, we have to keep it a little interesting.
It’s easy to get lost in a classroom of 30 students. We keep a ratio of 1 educator to 5 students, which is a similar ratio to the full-time immersive program. Even if students and advisors are not meeting one-on-one every class, we keep an eye on them. Each student is assigned to an Advisor so that they can ask questions about what it’s like to be an engineer and what the job looks like. We found that to be a really key component when you’re considering transitioning into a different career.
How often do people get into Hackbright Academy after the Prep course? Do they ever apply for other bootcamps?
We’ve only had one cohort graduate from Hackbright Prep so far, so it’s a small sample size, but it’s looking good. We’ve generally had a good ratio of admissions for students who completed our prior prep program – Intro to Programming.
What is the space at Netflix like where you are holding the course?
The Netflix campus is beautiful. When you go into any Netflix building, it smells like popcorn everywhere, and they have posters of all the shows they’ve done. The classes are held in a huge conference room, which fits 70 people. We cap our class to 30 people, and split the room into half, so half is for the lecture and the other half is for pair programming. It has huge windows, it’s gorgeous, and has all the latest gadgets. Everyone is fantastic there.
Does the popcorn smell make everyone hungry?
Well, what’s nice about our program is we include snacks. The last thing we want is for a woman to get out of work late, and if she is hungry, she might not come to class. So we have granola bars, oranges, and apples – that way they have no excuse not to come to class!
If this pilot is a success, what will be your next steps? Will you launch a permanent Prep program in San Jose? Or even a campus for the fellowship?
Our goal is to empower women all over the country so we are definitely just getting started.
Have you ever heard of a Hackathon? Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s a buzzword. Why? One, Hackathons are a great chance to meet people who are just as excited about programming as you are. Two, they can lead to great product creations, interviews, and even new jobs! If you thrive on creativity, enjoy free food, memorabilia, and cash prizes, then hackathons are worth checking out. Plus: you’ll be building a fully-functioning product that may be picked up! Here are seven benefits you’ll see from competing in your first hackathon.Continue Reading →
As a math and science teacher, Rebecca was always interested in using technology in the classroom, but it wasn’t until working in EdTech that she saw a career for herself as a developer. So in 2016, she enrolled at Hackbright Academy, the all-women Python bootcamp in San Francisco, to make the career change. Rebecca tells us how Hackbright Academy’s teaching style compared to traditional education, what she got from learning amongst women, and why she was admittedly picky while interviewing for her first job as a Software Engineer at Streak!
What were you up to before Hackbright Academy?
I was on the pre-med path in college before finally getting the guts to tell my family that I didn’t want to be a doctor. So naturally, I instead graduated with a degree in Spanish. But I had always had a penchant for teaching and working with kids, so I applied for Teach for America and taught middle school Math and Science in North Carolina.
After teaching for five years, my husband George was bitten by the startup bug and we decided to move to the Bay Area. I used that move as an opportunity to transition from the classroom to...literally anything else. I ended up finding a position in customer service in an EdTech company, which is where I started to get more technical.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a software engineer?
I was always interested in tech in the classroom and I had always had a propensity for math and science, but it wasn't until I joined that EdTech company that I started to actually parse JSON and work with a database or an API. I kept learning those things as a customer service representative, moved on to manage the team, and then I moved into product management. As a product manager, I missed debugging and doing the technological stuff. When I realized that this piece was missing, that was a huge part of my decision to go to Hackbright Academy.
How did you first learn to code on your own?
The way you learn to code really depends on your learning style and also the people who are around to teach you. Interestingly, as a customer service representative, no one expected me to be very technical. But I found that I could do a much better and more efficient job if I was, so I found some engineers who were willing to help me.
They later admitted that they only taught me because I was a quick learner and because I taught others once they had taught me. That actually brought an efficiency to the rest of the team and prevented engineers from having to answer the same question over and over again. They learned that it was to their benefit to answer my questions.
Whatever I couldn't figure out, I would try to figure it out online first. I spent a lot of time Googling little pieces and asking for help when I ran into a wall and didn't feel like I could go any further in the debugging process.
Did you think about going back to college or getting a masters degree instead of a coding bootcamp?
I found that the return on investment for a coding bootcamp was so much better than going back to college, which is a much bigger monetary investment and a much longer time investment.
Once you decided to attend a coding bootcamp did you research other bootcamps, or did you have your heart set on Hackbright?
I decided to only look at schools in San Francisco. I had really good friends graduate from Dev Bootcamp and eventually work there, so I knew a bunch about Dev Bootcamp. Another friend went to Hack Reactor. But most of my friends had been to Hackbright Academy, and I heard from them that Hackbright offered the most in terms of career opportunities, name recognition, mission, mentoring, and pedagogy – I had my heart set on Hackbright.
Was it important to you to learn with all women at Hackbright?
Actually, that was the aspect I was least excited about because I've always been one of the guys. I was actually pretty terrified that I wouldn't get along with anybody, but it turns out that I could not have been more wrong and I was delighted to be proved wrong. The women in my cohort are some of the best people in the whole world and I'm so grateful to have been surrounded by each of them.
Something interesting and unexpected was that we started recognizing and dropping the niceties that we put into place as a result of being women in the workplace. That was actually spurred on by the teachers at Hackbright. For example, one time my classmate answered a question with “I think…” and the instructor responded back, “Why are you prefacing your answer? You’re totally correct, so why don’t you just say the answer if you know it?” That’s a verbal nicety that women use in the workplace to seem less bossy and assertive.
Together we broke down some of those niceties that we had added into our language in order to fit into a mold. I don't think that we could have accomplished that in a co-ed environment. Being in an all-women classroom started a lot of great conversations between us as a cohort and women in the workplace and even personally. I continue to inspire those conversations between me and my friends of all different genders.
Since changing my career into tech, I had a conversation with my mom where she actually apologized for not pushing me towards computer science because it is so incredibly male dominated. I think that that's a really interesting reflection on her part. I just didn’t know that computer science was an option.
Was it hard to get into Hackbright?
With your background working in education and working for an EdTech company, what did you think of the Hackbright teaching style?
Overall, I really loved it. From a pedagogical standpoint, there was a great mix of learning and doing. There's a huge difference between hearing about a topic and actually doing it yourself.
When I was teaching in my own classroom, I very purposefully broke it down into I Do//We Do//You Do structure, and the most benefit to my students was when they actually got their hands dirty. I thought Hackbright allowed us time to get our hands dirty with enough structure and support that we never felt like we were flailing, which is the dangerous flipside of that teaching style. And their student to teacher ratio was very well suited to the environment.
The only critique that I could offer is that Hackbright didn't tell us their pedagogical method until the very end of the program. Their pedagogical approach works for motivated adult learners, which essentially means that they're going to throw more information at you than you could ever possibly absorb. Then, you rely on your own passion and interest to allow you to dive deeply into a specific technology that you’re interested in.
I knew it would be like learning from a fire hose, but since I had come from a background in traditional education, I assumed that if the information was presented, then I needed to know it. So I had this mismatch of expectations between the traditional schooling that I had received in the past and the pedagogy that they were using. It could have made it a little less stressful for me if I had known that up front, but I don’t regret the way I approached it.
What was your favorite project that you built at Hackbright?
We did a lot of little projects that were very structured and gave us an opportunity to dive deep into the lecture of that day. We also worked on a capstone project, which we displayed at demo night.
My favorite project was my solo capstone project, which was called Shnerdy. Shnerdy lets users search for very specific tee-shirts. The biggest thing that I learned was how to debug my own code and move forward on my own. I learned a lot of the broad strokes from Hackbright, but then if I really wanted to dive deep, I had to figure out how to do that myself and how to implement that technology.
What I learned through my project was how to manipulate the DOM, get specific information into a database from my front end or even transmitting information through Python on the back end.
Did you get a job during Demo Day? What are you up to now?
I didn't get hired from that demo day, but I found a job at a company called Streak and I absolutely love it. Streak is a Chrome extension, and it’s like a CRM for your inbox. I was very picky when I was interviewing with companies.
You said you were picky about choosing your first company to work for – what stood out about Streak as a new developer?
I wanted to work for a company where I could add value, first and foremost. The other thing I looked for was a supportive environment. And I don’t mean supportive in terms of, 'Tell, me what to do and when to do it," but supportive of my nontraditional background.
A lot of people will tell you to hide the fact that you’re a junior developer. To me, that sounds like a really good way to be very unhappy, very quickly. So I wanted to work for a company that didn't hold my hand but also had a realistic viewpoint of where I was coming from.
I have no regrets about being picky now. I cannot speak highly enough of the way in which Streak has incorporated my background into the role that I'm doing now to make it a good transition for me. I love the people I'm working with and I love the job I'm doing. It is incredibly challenging and I'm learning a lot. I also feel like I'm learning at a pace and a level that is appropriate to where I'm at, and in the long run, it's going to make me a really phenomenal engineer.
Do you think that your previous background as a teacher and working in customer service has been useful in your new job as a developer?
Absolutely. I've learned something different from each realm and each career that I've had up to this point, even though it's been very difficult. For instance, when I was transitioning out of the classroom and looking for different jobs, I cannot tell you the number of times when an interviewer said, "It's really interesting that you're interviewing for this role, especially considering that you're just a teacher."
I have managed and taught a class of 42 thirteen-year-olds at once – I challenge anyone to do that and not learn something about managing a team. I think that those skills will continue to be important throughout the course of my career. Having been a teacher, I have a greater understanding of what makes a good student and that has been really valuable as I go back to basics and learn about being a software engineer.
Do you feel like you learned everything you needed to know at Hackbright for your first job at Streak? What has the transition been like into the tech world?
I think Hackbright does a wonderful job teaching you as much as they can in the time window that they have. I discussed this with my CTO and one of the co-founders at Streak – I'm going to be learning at an incredible pace for at least six months.
Have you stayed involved with Hackbright after graduating?
Yes, and that’s a really big deal for me. I wasn't expecting to fall so completely in love with all of these women. Actually, my cohort and I have dinner every other week. And there’s usually a group of like three to eight of us, that will go to events together, which is really neat. I am also a mentor at Hackbright, which means that I am helping somebody through their current bootcamp experience. Additionally, I'm also an ambassador for Hackbright Academy, meaning that I represent them at various events when they need a voice.
Do you want to go back to working in EdTech at some point? What are your plans for the future?
Some of the best advice I got was from one of my mentors at Hackbright. I assumed that since I had a background in education, I would need to work in EdTech. My mentor said, "Becca, you are an engineer. Engineers are profession-agnostic. You have a great background in education and in tech, but as an engineer, you shouldn't pigeonhole yourself into one sector.” I took that advice to heart and so, no, it's not a personal goal of mine to get back into EdTech at all.
What’s your advice to other folks thinking about doing Hackbright?
Since graduating from Hackbright, everybody's been asking me, "So, do you like being a developer?" It's like they expect me to not be sure if I liked the career. For me, that was never something that I was concerned about because I had tried learning to code before and knew I would enjoy the technical part of this job. So my advice for anyone considering a coding bootcamp is to ask yourself, “How do you know that you'll like this?” I also say that in a slightly selfish way because there is a generalization about bootcampers that they won’t like programming and be good at their jobs, and that’s hurting the reputation of bootcamps.
Hackbright does a great job making sure that they admit people who are passionate about being a developer. This fights that stereotype, but it's really unfortunate that a lot of folks make this incredible transition and huge financial commitment only to figure out three months into their job that they don't actually like being a developer. So I would encourage folks to figure out how they know that they're going to like programming and to go from there.
Otherwise, I think that coding bootcamps, in general, show a really good return on investment and I would encourage anybody who is sure that they're passionate about this career to dive in.
Learning to code at an intensive bootcamp takes dedication and focus. And even though you’ll reach that finish line (we promise you will!), it’s important to remember that the learning doesn’t end at graduation! Whether you’re acclimating to a new technology stack on the job, or you’ve decided to add to your skillset through online resources, there’s always room to grow. A great developer's job is never done, and the learning will continue. So how do you stay on top of the ever-evolving tech scene? We’ve collected advice from bootcamp alumni and employers in our 8 steps to keep learning after a Coding Bootcamp.Continue Reading →
Frances Liu graduated with a degree in Business Analytics, then immediately enrolled at Hackbright Academy. She had gained some coding skills at college, but realized she needed more hands-on project experience to get a job in tech. Frances chose Hackbright Academy’s all women coding bootcamp for its supportive and friendly environment, and its Python curriculum. We asked Frances how her bootcamp experience compared with college, and about her new software engineering job at Teradata!
What is your pre-Hackbright Academy story?
I was a fresh college grad when I entered Hackbright Academy. I graduated in May 2016, and started Hackbright in July 2016. In college, I started out as a microbiology major, switched to computer science for a year, and then ended up graduating with a business analytics degree. I mainly focused on R, SQL, statistics, visualization, and presentation of data. I ended up going above and beyond and making my own website and interactive graphs and presentations on the web.
My first experience with programming was when I was 6 or 7 years old. My dad had a copy of The C Programming Language in our bookshelf. I read through it and enjoyed it, but didn’t comprehend the logic behind it.
Why did you go straight from college to a coding bootcamp?
I had college experience but didn’t have enough project experience. My computer science and computer engineering major friends had a whole bunch of projects from their college coursework and personal endeavors. I had many internships, but it wasn’t enough to get a job. The majority of jobs in the data analytics and data science fields required Ph.D. and master’s degrees.
Throughout college, I also didn’t have the chance to grow my network. I didn’t attend clubs, go to meetups, and wasn’t actively engaged in the community due to working full time and taking more than the maximum number of units allotted in a semester by dual enrolling in community college to finish my degree faster. Along with learning new skills, building a portfolio of projects, I felt that going to a coding bootcamp was a great way to build a network that I could tap into whenever I needed it. At the end of the day, a network of people, and relationships, are things you can’t buy.
Did you consider majoring in computer science at college?
I actually had an issue with the computer science classes at my college. The ratio was 10 women to 250 men in the lecture hall. That’s why I ended up choosing an all female bootcamp. I applied to App Academy and I considered Dev Bootcamp, Flatiron School, and Hack Reactor. But, ultimately, I chose Hackbright Academy because I knew how important and valuable it is to empower other women to go into engineering. After attending several female-only and co-ed events, I felt the female only events more inclusive when it comes to people of various backgrounds and experiences.
Other than being all women, what other aspects of Hackbright Academy stood out to you?
The fact that the curriculum was Python-based was very appealing to me. Python stood out to me when I was doing business analytics because R and Python are both very strong in the data science community. So I could always go back and work in data science/analytics. I wanted to keep my options open about going into a data science or software engineering direction, so the curriculum was a deal breaker for me.
Some bootcamps do group projects for their final projects, but at Hackbright Academy, that solo endeavor was really important because it let me assess my skills from end to end.
How did you pay for the tuition?
Hackbright gave me a partial scholarship because I was in student loan debt after college. Rather than taking out money via loans, a family member loaned me money to fund the rest of my Hackbright experience, and I used my cash on hand to pay for housing, living expenses, and food.
What was the application and interview process like for you?
Hackbright’s initial online application is like doing a job application– they ask who you are, where you’re from, and what your background is. Then there’s a coding challenge with an unlimited amount of time to complete. Other bootcamps I applied to had time-restricted challenges. I completed the coding challenge in Python, but the Hackbright admissions team said it didn’t have to be fully functional (their goal was to see my logic and reasoning), and any language would be sufficient.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of age, race, life and career backgrounds?
We had 25 to 30 people, and there were a large variety of backgrounds. Some people were less experienced in coding, so it was more challenging for them, and others were ahead of the curve, or understood the material from the get go. The students ranged in age from 23 (me!) to mid 50's. One older student had a CS degree and was well versed in Fortran, but wanted to learn something new so she applied and was accepted to Hackbright. We were also diverse in terms of backgrounds and cultures. We had people with design and art backgrounds, teachers, engineers, journalists, and project managers. It was extremely diverse, which was awesome. Everyone always brought different opinions and ideas because of their background and experiences.
What was the learning experience like at Hackbright Academy?
For the first four to six weeks, every day was busy with lectures. From 9am to 10:30am we had a lecture, then from 10:30am to 12pm, we had an exercise to do. After lunch, we had another lecture and another exercise. Sometimes certain students needed more time with the material, so the instructors would do the formal lecture, then during the exercise and through pair programming, students could ask questions and figure out exactly what they didn’t understand.
On Fridays, we had a study hall where the instructors would go over everything from the entire week, and you could ask any questions. If students felt confused during class, it was always clarified later on. We had homework every weekend; the homework load wasn’t crazy and it built on top of what we learned that week.
How did learning with only women compare to your experience at college?
I did not have a positive experience in my computer science classes at college, and as one of the only women, I felt secluded and singled out. At Hackbright Academy everything was a lot more collaborative and it was a friendly and accepting environment. You do form cliques because you bond with certain people more as everyone’s expertise coming in was a bit different. If I had a question pertinent to Python and C++, I would ask someone who had taken C++ courses. We also had formal front-end engineers in the course who brought very useful knowledge.
What is your favorite project that you built at Hackbright Academy?
My favorite one would be when we first started putting everything together with Flask and making a real application. It was a fairly straightforward shopping cart application with a database, backend, and front end. Prior to that, we were more focused on functional algorithms – this was the first one where we got to see the whole thing stacked together. Another favorite was when we did Markov chains. At the time I didn’t get it, and hated it, but looking back, it was pretty fun because we got to work with our first API, the Twitter API. We built a bot that posted tweets on its own, and seeing and understanding that process was very important to me.
How did the Hackbright Academy careers team prepare you for job hunting?
As a fresh grad I felt a lot of their advice wasn’t as pertinent to me, because I had no full-time work experience – I had only done internships.
Hackbright’s mentorship program was one of my biggest takeaways– I still talk to my mentor today. He helps me when I have any problems at work, or with study; whatever I’m working on, he is there for me. Mentors are really invaluable.
I found my job fairly quickly; I started applying the last two weeks of Hackbright, and had interviews lined up immediately after. I got the offer in early November and started December 5th. I could’ve started earlier, but I wanted to give myself some time to unwind.
Congrats on your role at Teradata! What does your role involve so far?
Teradata is a big data/analytics company for B2B. My official title for the company is software engineer. The first team I was put on was working on some new servers. Since the company was transitioning to use more Python, I quickly picked up how to read Perl to help with some “translations.” Moving forward I want to do web development and teach, so I joined Toastmasters to practice my oral speech skills. I presented at our internal Python meetup about Flask, which is what I learned at Hackbright, and it caught the attention of a CTO. He brought me onto his project, a Flask RESTful API, and transitioned into my second position.
What kind of onboarding or training did Teradata give you?
I didn’t do onboarding until mid-February, and it was mostly business focused because Teradata is changing their business model. For the most part I had to learn on my own.
How do you stay involved with Hackbright Academy? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
The were a few things I wanted to do when I graduated – I wanted to be successful, which I defined as completing interviews and finding a job. Then I wanted to learn the nuances of being a full-time employee, since it was my first full-time job. After that, I wanted to contribute back to the community by being involved in being an ambassador, writing blog posts, and teach the community.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
A lot of people focus on, “What will this bootcamp give me, will it help me find a job?” And I feel that’s not the right way choose a bootcamp. You should look at what you want to accomplish going in, and when you graduate. I went in with the mentality of wanting to learn and build up my network. Having a network is invaluable – you can’t put a price tag on human relations. I knew I was going to be in a smaller work environment, so I could practice things like speech skills in lightning talks, and the mentor program helped me accomplish my goals.
Remember that the learning never stops. Just because Hackbright Academy started your learning does not mean that’s it. You have to keep going. For those who do Hackbright then stop coding and practicing, they may reflect back, and say it’s not worth it. In reality, Hackbright is a valuable platform and foundation where you can start your learning and figure how you learn best.
After a liberal arts degree, Laurel Korwin wasn’t sure what career to pursue, so tried her hand at financial research. Living in San Francisco, she eventually transitioned into a technology company but became frustrated that she didn’t have the tech skills to solve problems. A friend told her about Hackbright Academy, so she tried out some Python and decided to enroll. Laurel explains why it was important for her to be surrounded by women while learning to code, how she budgeted to get through bootcamp, and how Hackbright Academy’s careers team worked so hard to help her get her job as a developer at Redfin!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What is your educational background and last career path?
I studied political science and Latin American studies at the University of California, San Diego. I’ve always had a love of natural language. I graduated in 2008 and worked on a political campaign briefly, then after the election I was looking for my next steps. 2008 was the depth of the recession so there wasn’t a lot available. I ended up working at a financial research company, in an industry called corporate governance. I wrote reports on companies around the world and managed a portfolio of clients. Then I moved over to a consulting firm which provided advice to public companies, in terms of how to engage with shareholders, executive compensation, board diversity, environmental issues. That was all interesting, but it was night and day from what I thought I would be doing for a career.
I was living in San Francisco and had many friends who worked in tech, so I was eager to explore that side of things. I eventually got a project management role at a health care tech firm, Zenefits. I worked on a cross functional team where we would liaise between internal teams, business partners, and clients to resolve big problems. It was kind of a crash course in tech, which was really interesting, but I felt like I wanted to have more agency in a technical role to build or fix things myself. That spurred me to consider Hackbright Academy, or a bootcamp. I had a friend who did Hackbright a few years earlier, so I had it in the back of my mind all along, but that was the final push that made me say, “I actually want to do this.”
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp? What types of resources did you use?
I worked through some of Learn Python the Hard Way, and went to some Girl Develop It meetups, which were really fun. Yet, I felt I would learn more in a structured environment, where I was devoting all my time to learning to code. When you’re working 9am to 5pm, it’s hard to find time to devote yourself seriously to it. I felt I would have more impact and more opportunities if I had more formal training on my resume. I also told myself this could be my version of “grad school” since I hadn’t attended a more traditional one.
Did you research other coding bootcamps or did you have your heart set on Hackbright Academy?
I had my heart set on Hackbright Academy for a couple of reasons. As I said, a girl who had gone through it told me really good things about the program. I also really believe that single sex education can be a great thing. I went to an all girls middle school and had a great experience. I was entering an industry where the ratio of women in technical roles is so small, and would be learning all of these new and challenging things, and felt it would be a good environment to be surrounded by women. I also went to some co-ed bootcamp meetups, and felt discouraged by how students interacted. I wanted a really supportive and inclusive learning environment.
Was it important for you that Hackbright Academy teaches Python?
Not in particular, but I had been learning Python before I knew that it was taught at Hackbright Academy. My partner is an engineer, and from his advice, I came to the conclusion that Python is one of the most beginner friendly languages. It’s intuitive, things make sense, and there aren’t a lot of mid-advanced level concepts that you have to understand to start coding. I felt it would be a good thing to learn and build on, and it just so happened that Hackbright was teaching it.
Did you think about going back to college to study computer science?
I looked at a few different masters programs. What dissuaded me was that because I did not have a background in math and science, I realized I would have to do a lot of supplemental course work before I was eligible to apply. And also, although bootcamps are not cheap, an actual degree would be a bigger investment timewise and financially.
How did you pay for the tuition? Did you use a financing partner? Did you get a scholarship? Any creative tips you can share with our readers?
I was fortunate to have saved quite a bit of money in my past job. So I had a decent amount in the bank, and I also took out a loan from someone in my personal life. I could’ve paid the entire amount from savings, but I was cognizant of the fact that I didn’t know how long it would take me to find a job. I put together a spreadsheet looking at how much I could spend per month, because it’s not only the tuition, it’s also living expenses– you don’t get a job on day one after the bootcamp. So I made a thorough plan as to how much I could spend per month, and how long I could afford to be without a job after the program.
What was the Hackbright interview and application process like?
How many people were in your cohort? Was the class diverse in terms of race, life and career backgrounds?
My cohort was about 26 women. There was another cohort there at the same time with around the same number, but we attended classes separately, so we got to know the women in our own cohort more than the other. It was a really diverse group of people. There were people who had done finance and banking, people who had worked in architecture, people who had been teachers, all sorts of things. When I was first introduced to my cohort, I remember thinking, “This is the coolest group of women with the most interesting and diverse backgrounds and experiences.” It was really interesting to have so many different perspectives, especially at the end of the program when we were talking about careers and job searches.
What was the learning experience like at your bootcamp— typical day and teaching style?
The program was split into two sections, the first five weeks were lecture and pair programming intensive. We’d have lectures in the morning and the afternoon, and afterwards we’d pair on concepts we had learned that day. Lectures were on things like basic concepts in Python, different data structures, and object orientation. In the second half of the program we had lectures in the morning, then would work on our capstone projects for the rest of the day. In that section we learned about developer tool boxes: APIs, different tools you could use, as well as core CS concepts like linked lists, and recursion.
How many instructors did you have?
We had two lead instructors who taught the bulk of the lecture. We also had two lab instructors and two TAs. In the first five weeks the lab instructors and TAs came around as we were pair programming, helped us debug, and answered questions. It was really great. During the project season, we had a help queue where someone would come around and help you debug, and that was so nice. Sometimes in my professional life, I wish I still had the help queue.
What was your capstone project? Was it a group project?
What was it like studying in an all-female environment? How did it compare to college or other learning environments?
It was really great. Not having had the experience of doing the same thing in a coed environment, I’m not sure exactly how different it would be. My Hackbright Academy cohort was a very supportive group of people. There were times when I got frustrated, or found certain topics harder than others, but people were very open about talking about those things. We said if we were frustrated, or if we didn’t understand something, or asked for help from a peer or TA. I definitely felt like there was a really great, open listening environment.
How did the Hackbright Academy’s careers team prepare you for job hunting?
They had career coffees which started in week 2. Every week a member of the career services staff would give a lecture on things like building a personal brand, or fine-tuning your resume and cover letter. Then we also had one-on-one meetings with members of career services to talk about what kinds of companies we wanted to work for, to look at our connections to see what’s feasible, and to talk about different companies Hackbright had connections with.
We then demoed our capstone projects to various companies. After that, the official education part of the program was over, and the last two weeks were dedicated to career services. Hackbright Academy brought in a lot of guest speakers to speak about technical topics, as well as job search, and interview preparation. I found it really helpful to do interview practice nights, including technical and behavioural questions with different people in the industry.
Congrats on your new job! Can you tell me about what you do and how you got the job?
Redfin was a Hackbright partner company, so I met them there and started the interview process. I’m a developer on the tour automation team. Redfin, in addition to being a platform where you can search for homes, is also a real estate brokerage– we have 1,200 agents across the country who can meet with clients and take them on tours of homes. My team is building software to streamline the touring process, which is actually more complicated than people might think. It involves calendar times, home availabilities, different local partners and agents. We are working out that architecture on the backend, so that it’s easy for the customer. Our goal is to make seeing a home as easy as it is to order an Uber.
What was the interview process like after you initially met Redfin at Hackbright?
I loved their interview process. They contacted me and said they were interested in bringing me in for an interview. First I had a phone screening with my manager, which was a more typical coding question. They code in Java, but I went through the process in Python. Once I passed that, I went in for a full day of interviews. It was really progressive compared to other coding questions and interviews I’d seen.
There were four panel interviews. The first one was whiteboarding a brain teaser to see how I approach a logical problem, and how my mind works. I also had to explain something technical, so with my background, I explained how health insurance works from an employer’s perspective. In the second interview, I did a code review of sample code and pointed out errors. l also talked about my project and the architecture behind it. Then there was a lunch interview, and two pair programming interviews.
You mentioned Redfin uses Java. How do you learn a whole new programming language?
I started learning Java when I got there. I also started a bit beforehand, doing some online tutorials on basic syntax, but I’ve learned mostly on the job and by reading books. Redfin has a wonderful onboarding process; they have a series of what they call “new hire labs” for everyone from entry level to senior engineers, to get you acclimated to their structure and how they do things. There were front end labs, back end labs, and a database schema lab, which consisted of pre-reading, online tutorials, and exercises. Those were really great, and really helped me dive in into Java and into Redfin’s giant code base that has been around for 10 years.
How has your previous background been useful in your new job?
I think my perspective is useful. Having worked on the side where you are using products that people put out, and asking “why is this done this way”, has inspired me to understand the people who use the software, and to make things as useful as possible in terms of UI and the way things work. There are also some transferable soft skills from my background in consulting– attention to detail, the ability to dive into something and tackle a problem without knowing anything about it, and knowing when to ask for help.
How diverse is your team at Redfin? Are there many women?
I’m in the San Francisco office and the diversity there is pretty great. My team is actually majority women which is pretty rare! My manager is a guy, and then we have one guy who works remotely and one guy in the office, but otherwise there are four or five women on the team. I also have two mentors whom I pair with quite a lot who are both women.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
The most challenging thing is coming from an untraditional background. Sometimes I struggle with knowing what are good questions to ask– is this something I should know or be able to find out myself? Does the way I’m phrasing or thinking about this problem make sense? There are a lot of feelings of imposter syndrome, and it’s certainly challenging to be among people who’ve studied this for years, or worked in this field for so long.
How do you stay involved with Hackbright? Have you kept in touch with other alumnae?
In terms of alumnae, our cohort tries to keep in close touch. We have a cohort Slack channel that we still use, and we try to do happy hours once or twice a month. As far as Hackbright itself, I’m mentoring a Hackbright student this quarter as part of Hackbright’s mentor program where they pair students with people in the industry. I also participate in the ambassadors program, where I’m on call to answer questions from prospective students and go to conferences.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
On the practical side of things, make sure you feel comfortable with your ability to get through a coding bootcamp, because it’s an expensive decision. I feel so happy with my decision, but after doing budgetary and technical pre-work I felt comfortable going through the program, and knew I would feel comfortable in the job search. So do your homework in advance to find right program that suits your needs.
You also need to realize that there will be a lot of situations where aspects of the curriculum seem weird, confusing, complicated, or might not make sense at first glance. You have to really dive in and be challenged, and know that some things might not make sense right away. You might work on a problem for three hours and get really frustrated, then when you step away and come back to it and it makes a lot of sense. Being comfortable with being challenged and having the feeling like you don’t know how to do everything all the time is a really important thing to go in with.
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)... Here we’re highlighting 8 forward-thinking companies who are psyched about the bootcamp alumni on their engineering teams. Each of these employers have hired multiple developers, and are seeing their investment pay off.Continue Reading →
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 →
Many competitive coding bootcamps want you to have some programming knowledge in order to be accepted into their programs – whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
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 coding bootcamps get acquired by a range of companies from for-profit education companies (Capella Education), to co-working companies (WeWork), and other coding bootcamps (Thinkful + Bloc)! With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are taking note. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise, and some have been very successful, with schools going on to increase their number of campuses and course offerings. As coding bootcamps become more mature, we are seeing them get snapped up by more well-known companies, for increasingly large sums (e.g. General Assembly for $413 million!) 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.
How much do coding bootcamps cost? From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,906, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
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 →
While quitting your job and diving headfirst into your coding education can yield impressive results, we also understand that not everybody can commit to a full-time, 12-week programming bootcamp. Jobs, school, families - life, in general, can prevent that kind of commitment. For all the students who can’t give 40 hours a week to a code school, we’re outlining some of the best part-time web development bootcamps around. With a variety of price points and locations to choose from, you'll find an in-person program that can get you coding, even with your busy schedule.Continue Reading →
Python is often hailed as one of the best programming languages for first-time coders to learn as they break into programming. It’s the main technology powering big data, finance, and statistics, and its clean syntax reads like English. Python developers are in demand, not to mention the average Python developer in New York City earns $140,000 per year! Companies like Amazon, Dropbox, and Dell are built on this powerful language, making it a great time to learn Python bootcamp. We’re breaking down Python bootcamps, across the country and online, for a range of price points and time commitments.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! email@example.com.
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.
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