Hackbright Academy is a leading software engineering school for women in San Francisco, founded in 2012. The school offers a full-time engineering fellowship that takes women from beginners to software engineers in 12 weeks. In addition to the fellowship, they offer part-time Intro to Programming night courses for beginners. Alumnae are at major tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Slack.
After graduation, Hackbright Academy connects graduates with Silicon Valley companies looking to expand their engineering teams. Graduates who accept a full-time job from one of the companies in the Hackbright network will be refunded a portion of their tuition. Payment plans are also available. Hackbright's ideal candidate has an inspired desire to learn software development and has prior exposure to programming.
Recent Hackbright Academy News
- July 2016 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- Instructor Spotlight: Bonnie Schulkin of Hackbright Academy
- Alumni Spotlight: Wendy Zenone of Hackbright Academy
Recent Hackbright Academy Reviews: Rating 3.7
Introduction to Programming
This is a 12-week night course designed to help complete beginners learn the basics of programming! Knowing one of the most important skill sets in today’s tech marketplace will be an invaluable asset to your resume and we want to help you get there.
- $250 non-refundable deposit due upon enrolling
- We are partnered with lending partner Affirm to provide alternative payment options. You can enroll in the payment program here or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
- Minimum Skill Level
In PersonPart Time5Hours/week
Application Deadline:September 19, 2016
In PersonPart Time5Hours/week
MONDAYS & WEDNESDAYS 6:30PM - 9:30PM
Application Deadline:September 19, 2016
Software Engineering Fellowship
Application Deadline:August 1, 2016
- Payment Plan
- We’ve partnered with leading lending partners Pave and Skills Fund to provide you affordable payment alternatives. Feel free to email email@example.com if you have questions!
- $3000 if placed through the school's job placement program.
- A list of scholarships available at this time can be found on our Empowerment Fund page. We would also recommend reading the Hackbright Academy financial aid and scholarship FAQ to understand the various opportunities.
- Minimum Skill Level
- 20 hours of coding practice
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 5-10 hours remote work per week for the 3 weeks leading up to the start of fellowship
Hackbright Academy Reviews
The last reviewer did a good job in summarizing my unhappiness with Hackbright. I only have the below to add:
I graduated with the June 2016 cohort. Only 5 girls out of our graduating class have been able to find jobs and it's been 2 months since graduation. One of them went back to Hackbright to be a lab assistant, another already had a job lined up outside of Hackbright, another picked up what she'd been doing previous to Hackbright, and I'm not sure what the remaining girls are doing.
By the project phase of our cohort, many of the girls were expresssing malcontent with the program. In particular, career services. If you are struggling with the material, they turn the onus onto you. Meaning, they said that you weren't doing well because you weren't working hard enough or something like that. But seriously! My advisor and my instructors never had time to answer my questions and I got the same, "We don't support tutoring." They didn't give me any personal attention. If a girl wasn't doing well, they would say that it was failure on her part. Not the instructor. And! There was never any personal attention given even if so to help that girl out.
They have unusual and almost unethical practices at Hackbright. At the end of every cohort/class, they offer jobs to the girls with the caveat that if they accept a job at Hackbright - they're not allowed to participate in career day.
And! During career day, companies are not allowed to ask the girls technical questions about their projects. This seems really shady as it would be the perfect opportunity for the girls to show off what they had learned during the Hackbright 12 week class. It serves to do two things: 1) cover Hackbright ineptness 2) protect Hackbright reputation in case the girls don't do well. I was raised to believe that the student's faults were that of the instructors. Hackbright does all sorts of things to cover itself. It doesn't stand up to the things it purports to do.
What really upset me the most is that career services told us all sorts of things about being able to find a job within 3-6 months of graduation. Then, a month before graduation, she tells us not to expect to find jobs soon, but it would take about a couple months of study to really 'get it down.' Some of these girls cleaned out their savings to attend Hackbright! They're owed more than the inflated marketing!!
And! Hackbright was recently acquired by Capella University. This is an online centred learning business that 'takes advantage' of women and minorities. Much alike University of Phoenix that went down for marketing cheaper and more convenient sub-standard MBA programs and catered to women and minorities. When these demographics went for jobs, they were told their MBAs were not competitive. So now the graduates owe money from tuition and they are jobless.
Take your money somewhere more deserving! Hackbright is NOT!!!!
Hackbright Academy is an all female bootcamp which seeks to "Change the ratio," but what the start-up really does is "line their pocket books" via taking advantage of a niche market.
For $16,570, I'd expect a learning environment geared towards the individual students needs. At least this holds true for costly private institutions. Even in public institutions (community college class is roughly ~$300), students are guaranteed the professor's time by office hours, one on one appointments, or at least the tutelage of the teacher's aide. Not at Hackbright. Students are given two one and a half hour lectures daily, assigned daily homework, and weekend assessments in which none of the above are graded. They are mandatory assignments, yet none are scrutinized carefully nor corrected by the student assigned advisor. Upon requesting more individual help, we were told that the school did not support such a structure. The most I ever got was 20 minutes of tutorial per week. When I asked a question, the advisor would conveniently Google the answer and then send me the link. There is 30 minutes of advising per week for the project, but we were told it's mostly for 'strategy.'
Now one might argue that debugging is an important skill to master. This is true. However, for a beginner, it is far too easy to get caught up on a programming idiosyncrasy where one might spends hours debugging as opposed to having an instructor help that student past a simple blockage point and explain what she is doing incorrectly. In Python, it could be a silly indentation error, or forgetting a colon at the end of a loop statement. Plus, it's helpful often to 'talk through' the issue with a more experienced person. For the same amount of tuition ($16,570), Hack Reactor offers 24/7 online help to it's students. CodeAcademy Pro offers the same for 12 hours a day EST for $20/month.
The quality of instructor also followed the Gaussian curve at Hackbright. While there are some very gifted coders, the majority were non-industry teachers. Some of which had just graduated from the last cohort. If they did not know the answer to a question, it was often heard, "That's not within the scope of this lecture." My most poignant memory was a student asking a question and the instructor saying, "That's not within the notes" to which the student pointed out, "It is here in the notes" and pointed out the section. The instructor then answered, "I don't want to answer that right now." Seriously. An "I don't know. I will research it and get back to you" is a perfectly acceptable answer. Or, if the instructors sometimes didn't know the answer, they just kept deflecting until the student got tired of listening to it.
At this point, one might ask...would the $16,570 tuition merit a high return on investment in career services? Sadly, no. What 'Career Services' does is simply surf LinkedIn profiles. The student gets secretive 1:1 meetings with the career services counselor who 'coaches' them on how to hone their skills to target their employment goals. Now, what this really means is that the woman spends time surfing LinkedIn profiles for recruiters...something one can do oneself without paying $16,570. She also advises the student that she has 'connections' and not to tell the other students about them. These 'connections' are easily gotten off surfing LinkedIn profiles.
Additionally, Silicon Valley media has much highlighted the disparity of male to female engineers. So much so that companies are moving to sponsor diversity fairs and events in which to hire minority engineers. Hackbright career services is not attuned at all to the various Silicon Valley company sponsored diversity fairs. This is a shame considering Hackbright's slogan is to "change the ratio." One would think career services would be working extra hard with companies to truly "change the ratio." When prompted during a Q&A session, the counselor had no clue that these programs existed whatsoever.
There does exist a Career Day where the students can show off their projects to prospective employers. However, the catch is that Hackbright does not know who is attending the event until the day before and the companies may not be hiring. If they are hiring, what you will get is a prospective interview...but then you need the skills to pass that interview.
Hackbright boasts that ~90% of it's 'engineers' get hired within 3-6 months. Yet, what is the break down? Is it 3 engineers within 3 months and the rest within 6 months? And, 6 months is a LONG time to find a job. Within that 6 months, the student could have studied a lot with free online resources on her own. Don't be fooled by the marketing of these statistics. Many Hackbright graduates feel unprepared for the traditional computer science interview.
Financial Aid: For a school that is focused on "changing the ratio;" Hackbright only offers loans through partners, one full scholarship for one woman out of 52 women, and for the rest $500 owing to financial need. They do not offer to help look for scholarships through private funds which any solid university or community college would offer if they were truly trying to help a student out.
Students are assigned short 8 minute presentations in which they are to get up in front of their cohort and talk about a pertinent topic. The point of this is to learn to communicate technical ideas clearly and to be able to speak to an audience. While in theory this is a good idea, the talks were never critiqued by the instructors and therefore not useful to the student. What is useful is the information shared with the other ladies in the cohort when it was a good presentation.
While the program does cover many of the items that industry professionals utilize, the items are covered in breadth and not in depth. Students are only given the chance to ask questions during the lecture and once a week during an hour long 'study-hall.' Many of the graduates and current students expressed feeling unready and confused. The students are able to code simple algorithms, but when prompted 'why' and if they can optimize...many students fail in this regard. This is due to instruction failure.
One thing that Hackbright does well is assigning industry level mentors to each of it's students. These are tried and true professionals whom volunteer their time to help get students on their way to careers. My mentors in particular help with my code, project, resume evaluation, and invited me to tour their companies and network. However, I'd say this is more on the part of those individuals than Hackbright as an institution.
All of this makes it hard for a 12 week bootcamp graduate to compete with the many four year bachelors degree graduates from traditional computer science backgrounds. Silicon Valley suffers from no shortage of engineers from all around the world vying for engineering jobs. While it's not impossible to find a good bootcamp and to develop web savvy skills to become a full stack developer, I would recommend doing it at a school that actually has a solid curriculum and in which the instructors are competent and readily available. Good luck on your search!!
I was deeply impressed by the community at Hackbright, and the structure and support was invaluable to starting my new career. My understanding is that as a young program, Hackbright is still changing form cohort to cohort, and with the recent acquisition, more changes are likely on the way -- I would encourage you to attend an in-person event if at all possible to help inform whether Hackbright is the right choice for you. For my piece, Hackbright gave me the tools and support to break into engineering, and I do not doubt that I would not be where I am today without them. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn at Hackbright, and even more so for the opportunities that leaning at Hackbright opened to me.
Hackbright was an incredible experience. Much of the time, I was surprised---by the quality of the education I was receiving, and especially by the competence and creativity of women I was surrounded by. I made some of the deeper friendships I've ever had and was trained in a domain that allowed me to get a job making great money, in the location I wanted, close to family. The only reason I rate job assistance slightly lower is that there is not as much support for you if you're looking for a job outside of San Francisco and not in Hackbright's network---but it's still possible as my experience shows!
Hackbright is an incredible program. While it has already changed a lot since my time there, there are a few key aspects which feel central to the Hackbright experience:
1. Hackbright fosters a supportive, respectful, creative, and fun environment where students are encouraged to push themselves and make mistakes to further their learning.
2. Work/life balanced is highly emphasized and students are encouraged to not only focus on coding but also build relationships and take care of themselves mentally and physically.
3. Hackbright students and staff are amazing people with a diversity of backgrounds and interests. In my cohort alone there were lawyers, librarians, financial analysts, artists, folks who had worked at non-profits, startups, and large corporations. I met incredible people and made wonderful friends with some of the most interesting, smart and hardworking people in tech.
While I had a great experience at Hackbright, everything wasn't perfect. I thought the job finding process was the weakest part of the program. I did most of my job searching on my own. I do know that a lot of the students found it worked for them, especially if they wanted to work with a partner company. Additionally, Hackbright is still in its growing phase so sometimes lessons were chaotic, or things wouldn't go as smoothly as planned. However, the team was good at receiving feedback and adapting to the needs of the class.
I am so glad I decided to attend a coding bootcamp, especially Hackbright. I didn't fully believe it was possible, but I was able to successfully transition into a software engineer from a non-technical background prior.
Hackbright, like most programs, will have challenges, such as leveling differences between students. You'll set yourself up best if you complete the pre-work beforehand and start picking up some interviewing practice about midway through the program. The most challenging part of the program is definitely the job search, but it also happens to be the part where we had the least support. Instructors are already ramping up for the next class, so I think that there is room for improvement here.
With that said though, the experience, instructors, and classmates throughout the program were exceptional. The women who choose to attend Hackbright are motivated and bright, and that continues with a very supportive alumni community after graduation. The environment is extremely encouraging, as instructors will help you both if you are ahead or behind. Most importantly, Hackbright has built up a great reputation and has the added benefit of being all-women in a field that is severely lacking women. This shows in the highly reputable companies that attend Career Day.
Our latest on Hackbright Academy
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Before becoming an instructor at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco, Bonnie’s career took her from astronomy, to teaching physics at a high school, then working as a developer for 11 years. She is absolutely passionate about teaching and jumped at the chance to help #changetheratio of women to men in tech by teaching at Hackbright Academy, an all women’s coding bootcamp. Bonnie tells us about why she likes the bootcamp model of education, her interactive teaching style, and the warm sense of community at Hackbright.
Tell us about your background and experience before you joined Hackbright.
In college, I studied astrophysics and computer science, and have always been interested in teaching. I actually really wanted to go into astronomy education after college, but I ended up doing computer work for an x-ray telescope in Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight center. I spent a year there, and then an opportunity came up for me to do education work for the telescope, which was more aligned with my interests. So I worked in that position, but it turned out to be more marketing than education.
I met some teachers at a conference who needed a physics teacher at their school. So I then interviewed and ended up teaching physics for a couple of years at an all-girls high school. I liked the all-girls environment, especially in physics. I liked that physics wasn’t something that girls didn’t do, because there were only girls and if there was a physics class, then girls were doing it.
High school teaching is a hard job. After a couple of years, I decided to move to California to be closer to my family. I worked at a planetarium doing education work, then I ended up working for some software companies. The first company I worked for was a really great company and I worked there for 11 years. The company got sold so I started looking for another software job. I didn’t feel like I was learning as much as I wanted to, and I really missed teaching. One of my colleagues was a Hackbright alumna and she told me they had an opening so I applied!
How did you learn to code? Did you teach yourself the fundamentals of software development?
When I was in elementary school, my dad got an Apple 2 and taught me how to code in basic. So I was pretty interested in that, and I would make little quizzes for my brother. In high school, I spent a lot of time tutoring other students. I was more interested in teaching than coding at that point, and to be honest I am probably still more interested in teaching than I am in coding. I like coding and I do it, but I really love teaching, teaching is my passion. It wasn't until I got to college that I started writing code again.
How did you become aware of the bootcamp model and what did you think of it?
For a while, I thought college is probably overpriced for what you get out of it. It’s good for social development, but as far as professional development, unless you’re going into medical school or academia, it’s not a great place to learn job skills. So I really liked the bootcamp model and how it’s focused on getting people the practical skills they need to actually be a programmer.
I definitely did have my doubts about the short amount of time, and whether people could learn to code that quickly. However, I’ve found it’s pretty effective. You give people the tools in the first half and then in the second half, they reinforce tools by working on a long project. Most women are ready to get a job when they leave, and some women have more work to do after they leave the bootcamp. Students definitely have a foundation in the fundamentals, and they’ve learned how to use other resources so they can continue learning on their own.
What made you excited to work at Hackbright in particular?
When I came here to interview, I could tell it was a really great place. You go into the bathroom and there are Post-Its saying “you got this” and “I believe in you.” It sounds kind of corny, but I got such a warm feeling from the place. I love that Hackbright really looks after its students’ emotional wellbeing, in addition to their academic learning. It really has a great sense of community, and when I came here I thought, “this is a community I really want to be a part of.”
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
My teaching style is very interactive. I like to stop and quiz the students really frequently. Firstly, because it’s more interesting and fun for them if they are participating, rather than just sitting there receiving; and also because it gives me a sense of where they are. If everybody just blurts out the answer, then I know that’s something I don’t need to linger on. If there are no hands up, I know it’s something I need to work on. Then I also like to have fun when lecturing so I make a lot of jokes and hope the students laugh!
What’s the structure of the program?
The first five weeks of the Hackbright fellowship are different from the second five weeks. During the first five weeks, there is a lecture and then a lab in the morning, then another lecture and lab in the afternoon. The labs are all done through pair programming which we find particularly effective because it allows the students to talk about what they have learned. They need to be able to communicate verbally as well as being able to code. On Fridays, we have a study hall in the afternoon where people can either review the week’s material or learn about some advanced material.
Then the second five weeks there is only one lecture in the morning, and the rest of day is working on independent projects. These are a big part of Hackbright and they allow students to pursue something they are interested in. Students solve real world problems, using the skills they have learned. The way I think people learn best is if I want to do this particular thing, I wonder how you do it. Every student has an advisor, so we work with them on projects, and they can ask for help in the slack channel. Students come up with project ideas themselves and then we often coach or guide them on scope.
What’s it like teaching a group of only women?
I’m used to teaching women from teaching at the all-girls high school. I did teach in some summer programs in college, and there I taught both girls and boys. Most of my teaching has been with all women and I like it. I think it’s probably different for adults, but in high school there is definitely less posturing and showing off to the boys or trying to be a certain way. I think most adult women are over that, but I do think it is just more of a collaborative atmosphere, and less competitive than it might be if men were present. At Hackbright, part of that has to do with all women and part of that has to do with the very deliberate work that Hackbright does to foster community.
Is being surrounded by women in your job different from other experiences you’ve had working in tech?
Yes. Usually my colleagues have been men, and I actually like working with men, they tend to be fairly easy to work with. I haven’t had experiences where people have been down on me because of my gender. At Hackbright, our hashtag is #changetheratio, and that is what really makes me believe in working with just women. I really do want to change the ratio, I really want it to be half women and half men in software. This is something I can contribute to here, that I wouldn’t be able to do at another school.
How many students are you teaching at any one time? How many instructors are there?
It’s a small group of women. We have cohorts with anywhere between 30+/- students, running simultaneously. The teacher to student ratio is 4 to 1.
How do you and other instructors contribute to the Hackbright curriculum? How often do you update it?
How do you assess student progress?
We have weekend assessments. Every weekend, students get one or two assessments where they do the work on their own. Then, they turn it in and their advisor reviews the assessments and gives very specific feedback. Students meet with their advisors weekly.
What happens when students are struggling to keep up with the pace?
I’m responsible for people I advise, so I watch them in labs and in lectures, and make sure they are keeping up. If it seems like somebody is having a hard time, then I can schedule extra time with them.
In general, we will give students guidance about how to study on their own, and their advisor will spend time with them. I’m meeting with a student this afternoon, even though it’s not her advising time, because she had trouble with last weekend’s assessment. We scope the students’ projects based on the level they are at. So by the time we get to the second five weeks of projects, we try and set every student up for success at her own level.
How many hours per week do students usually commit to Hackbright?
The students are asked to be here 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Then they tend to spend another hour or two in the evening on homework and review of lecture notes. On the weekends they will probably spend 6-8 hours on weekend assessments. Some of them will only work on projects during school hours, some work on their projects outside of school hours simply because they are so interested in them.
Who is the ideal student for the bootcamp? Are Hackbright students mainly absolute beginners?
We do require that you have some coding experience, at least 20 hours of experience before coming. We give pre-work – some online courses, reading and exercises. But in general we start pretty much from the ground up. Hackbright isn’t for somebody who has been programming for years and just wants to learn about web programming.
We look for students who have interesting backgrounds that they can use to distinguish themselves when they are looking for jobs _ for example lawyers and accountants. We also look for students who are going to have the tenacity to stick with the program. It’s not an easy program. It’s a lot of material and not a lot of time. We really need people to be self motivated to keep up with material and to do the work necessary to be successful.
How does Hackbright prepare students for job hunting?
We have a great career services team. It’s a 12-week program. Ten weeks are academic and then the last two weeks are intense career development focused weeks with career services. Throughout the academic portion, students also get career service coffees every Tuesday where career services does a presentation. Students receive salary and negotiation, equity, and career development workshops, technical interview preparation, whiteboarding practice, mock interviewing, and more. We also offer field trips to tech companies and employer meet and greets during these two weeks.
What sort of jobs are Hackbright grads prepared for when they graduate?
Most graduates of Hackbright are prepared for junior engineering jobs. Because it’s a junior engineering job, the employers are not expecting them to be at the level of general engineer, so the employers know students need some mentoring and other support.
Is there anything else that you want to make sure our readers know about the bootcamp?
Every Friday night we have a social. Some of the socials are hosted by staff and some are hosted by students. It’s a really nice opportunity for the students to get to know each other better socially. We say that your first job you’ll get through Hackbright career services, but your second job you’ll get through your network, so it’s really important to form strong connections with your fellow students. Plus they're really fun! You haven't lived until you've watched a bunch of grown women playing musical chairs.
Wendy Zenone is not only a Hackbright Academy success story; she’s also a testament that coding bootcamps are not a “quick fix.” Wendy’s journey shows that it takes hard work, determination, and grit to make a successful career change into tech. We chat with Wendy about her experience at Hackbright, her advice to other women breaking into the Application Security field (don’t worry, Wendy also explains what App Sec entails), and how her calculated risks are paying off.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Hackbright Academy.
Before I got into tech, I was working as an aesthetitian at MAC Cosmetics, but that was not my dream. I had a small child at the time, the pay was low, and it was overall underwhelming. I was encouraging my son to go into tech, and I lived in Silicon Valley- I had to find a way to improve my life.
I had gone back to school late in life, doing an online Bachelors in Communications at the University of Massachusetts. Education is very expensive, and as I started calculating, I realized it would take me six years to graduate at $1,500 a class. So I started looking at internships where I could get experience without having graduated. I found an internship at a public relations firm where we represented small Silicon Valley tech startups. I worked directly under the founder, Xenia, and she just taught me so much. I learned terminology that was very specific to tech and startups and that I had never learned before, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities in tech. At one point, we represented Zoom, when they were just starting as a video conferencing company!
From there, I took a job at Facebook in their ads department, creating a tool that helped customers customize their ads. The role was not technical, but I worked with a team with engineers. Essentially, I sifted through ad topics to ensure that they followed our global legal policy.
What drew you to wanting to work in Security?
At Facebook, it was very new and exciting to be at such a big tech company, and it fueled a fire. I didn’t just want to work for the tech company, I wanted to be part of the tech team. My husband has worked in the security industry for a long time, and through osmosis, I had learned to love and appreciate cybersecurity and information security.
I reached out to Jen Henley, who is the Director of Security Operations at Facebook, and told her about my dream. Remember that at this point, I have no formal education or tech background. Her advice to me was to get involved and volunteer with Facebook events for cybersecurity awareness month. I got more involved by volunteering, but I was still looking for the perfect position in security.
Eventually, I found a social media job with WhiteHat Security, an application security company. It was still in the communications marketing area, but I was able to work closely with the founder, Jeremiah Grossman. Once he found out that I wanted to do more, he said, "You should learn to code. It's magic."
How did you factor Hackbright Academy into your journey to learn to code?
While I was working at Facebook, I actually started my Hackbright application. Once I started at WhiteHat, I got an automated email asking me to finish the application. I talked to my husband, and we had some concerns- Hackbright is in San Francisco; it costs a lot of money; it would mean three months without a salary. But ultimately, his opinion was that coding is the future, and it’s something we needed to make happen.
How did the Hackbright application go for you?
The first time I applied, I got through to the second interview, but I was not accepted. When I got that rejection email, my heart just dropped. It hurts regardless of how old you are, but I was in my late-thirties, and I knew I didn't have another four months to get started!
I wrote my interviewer an email, and said honestly, "I was very nervous. I do not feel that my interview properly conveyed who I am and my interest in Hackbright. Please just give me another chance to do another interview."
The Hackbright team said that they have never given someone a second interview after being declined (and they’ve since changed the process- you must reapply if you’ve been rejected), but they admired my persistence and gave me another interview. This was my last chance. I did the interview, and I was much more prepared, calmer, and had a little bit more pressure.
Tell us a little more about that interview process- was there a coding challenge?
The application itself was a series of essays and then a small coding challenge. When I applied, they say the coding challenge is “optional,” but here’s a tip: it wasn’t! If you skipped the coding test, it showed that you aren’t up for a challenge. Since then, the coding challenge has actually been made mandatory.
Note: for an updated look at the Hackbright application process, check out Cracking the Bootcamp Interview: Hackbright Academy!
What other resources did you use in your journey to learn how to code?
Prior to Hackbright, I had taken Girl Develop It courses. I also did Codecademy and some free classes offered at Facebook.
Why not continue with those free resources? What made a coding bootcamp worth it?
I am a creative person, but I was not born with a super logical brain. I needed discipline, structure, and to have everything else in my life shut down so I could just focus on learning to code.
Girl Develop It is a great resource for someone who really wants to immerse themselves for a weekend. But if you want to learn a language, you can't go to class once a week. You're going to have to move to Italy, buy bread every day and figure out how to speak the language.
The online classes don't teach you how to structure your code from scratch or even the basic things like how to get your environment set up. At Hackbright, you’re learning everything you need to work as a developer.
Was the fact that Hackbright Academy is all-women particularly appealing?
I actually didn't look at any other coding bootcamps. I thought back to PE class in high school, and I thought about how there were certain activities that I felt intimidated doing in front of men. I knew I would be more comfortable in an environment learning with all women.
I didn't grow up loving video games and building Legos. I have female friends and relatives that have that background. They love computers and games, and they are totally fine going in with a blended cohort, but for myself, I wanted that comfort of not feeling intimidated or pressured. Hackbright was better for me.
Once you graduated from an all-female bootcamp, were you caught off guard by the “real world” gender imbalance in tech?
There are two parts to that answer. The first part is in regards to the gender ratio. I came from a few tech companies prior, and I saw that there were very few women. My team at Facebook had only two females out of 25 people. I was used to it. Specifically, the security field has even less females in general. I was used to working with just men and so I was comfortable with it. It didn't bother me.
Coming into my job right now, on my specific team, I'm the only woman. In the larger Info Sec organization, there are definitely fewer women than there are men. I don't personally have an issue with it, but talking to other alumni that I graduated with, it’s clear that some people can have a hard time with that transition. They can tell that it’s a boys club, and aren’t comfortable being the only female in a meeting. From my perspective, the only way that women can change that ratio is by continuing to become developers. We have to continue and push forward, and eventually there will be an even ratio.
Did Hackbright Academy include a lot of “soft skills” training, or was it a strictly technical program?
The first 10 weeks is a very technical program. You also have a career services meeting every Thursday and your advisor goes over your resume and job skills, how to look for a job, and update your LinkedIn. You’re also learning how to negotiate your salary. The one piece that was missing for me was preparing for what it's really like to start a job. We were prepared to write code, to understand how to build software, etc, but nobody could prepare you for your first job and you’re alone in your new company, and you feel completely inadequate.
I actually spoke to the Hackbright team about this, and I went back to speak to Cohort 13 about how lost you can feel at your first job. I'm going on five months at Lending Club and I'm still learning a ton, but I was fortunate enough to choose a company that appreciates that I have very little experience.
We all go in with different learning abilities, different brains, different backgrounds, so everyone goes into their first jobs differently. Some take off and fly, while others are doubting themselves, and their new career is foreign and scary.
So where are you working now and what's your job role?
I am an Associate Application Security Engineer at Lending Club.
Did you feel technically prepared for your first job?
Once you graduate, you will feel like you've been prepared enough- at least as well as they could prepare you in 12 weeks. In that 12 weeks, I learned so much that I didn't know before. I learned how to create a piece of software, what the full stack is, what a database is, how to query a SQL database.
How did you find your first job after graduating?
What got me to this position was acknowledging what I didn't know and having that desire to learn. A lot of companies look for that. If students graduating from any bootcamp go in with that mindset, it will make things a lot easier instead of feeling like you have to pretend.
When I graduated, I was only the third person out of the Hackbright Academy history to go into security. The field is becoming a little more prominent at Hackbright now- for example, they have a small Security Study Group.
One very important thing in tech is who you know. Graduates need to not only initially rely on sending in resumes, but also to network and meet people in the industry. Go to Meetups and events that are focused on what you want to do. Those connections will greatly improve the trajectory of your career going forward. My job was found by networking and not solely relying on the partner company network of Hackbright. Bootcamp grads need to lookout for themselves and learn to stand on their own without using the bootcamp as a crutch. Go out, meet people. You never know, you may connect with someone down the road for job #2 or 3!
I think you’re the first bootcamp grad I’ve talked to who is working in Application Security! What does your job entail?
On the application security team, we work with everyone who creates the Lending Club website and the platform- engineers, developers and the QA team. We look at internal and external applications to ensure that they are secure. We make sure the code is secure and that there aren't any holes in the applications that could allow our data to be compromised. Basically, my job is to keep the hackers out.
How does the Security team interact with application developers? Are you involved in the entire development cycle?
Ideally, developers work with App Sec team before they even start a project. With that being said, products need to roll out, and meet deadlines, so sometimes we'll have to jump in mid-cycle and take a look at things and advise. Unfortunately, sometimes things will get caught in the end of the cycle as well.
Security is a mix between trying to educate and evangelize. But security is gradually becoming more prominent in companies as you see people getting hacked. We do have to convince companies that security is something you need to put time into- companies are just starting to see the benefits.
What did Lending Club do during your first month on the job that helped you ramp up into your new role?
When I started at Lending Club, they were very patient. They understood that I basically knew nothing. I knew Python from Hackbright but security is a whole separate field that I was not familiar with. They started giving me small projects, integrating me into little things, but not overwhelming me. For example, I had never worked with Jira, which is our ticketing system. When I first started, I was constantly in a state of sweating because I had no idea what anyone was talking about.
During my first few weeks, I asked to be invited to every meeting that I could be invited to. I write down things that people talk about, and I Google them. Every day I learn a little bit more, and what helped me the most was being honest in the beginning about what I didn’t know. My manager, Paul, gave me that advice during my interview, and I believe that part of why I was hired was that I had that ambition, I had that drive, and they saw that.
For other women (or people) who want to break into security, what are some good resources to get started?
Applications Security has a group called OWASP (Net Open Web Application Security Project). On that website, there are tons of resources for people that just have questions about application security in general. It is a great resource.
Then there are meetups all over the United States but specifically there’s one in San Francisco Bay Area with a mentorship program for those who are new to security.
Another resource is Women in Security and Privacy (WISP), where you’re assigned to a mentorship called a “tandem.” You put in what your skills are, and they match you with someone that matches the skills that you're looking for.
Looking back on your time at Hackbright, what is your advice to other women who want to change careers and get a technical role?
My main advice is to ignore the self-doubt. I had a lot of self-doubt, but every time I felt that doubt, I would replace it with, “What's the worst that can happen?” Just try everything you can- from applying to jobs to internships, all they can say is no. Apply to a coding bootcamp, try Girl Develop It classes. There will be times when you feel like you don't belong there, but you’ll realize that everyone started somewhere. Every day that you stay on this new path in your life is one step closer to becoming a senior developer or senior security engineer.
I never thought I would finish my final project at Hackbright because I felt like I never would know enough. I never thought I would be a security engineer and here I am. I still feel like I’m Jon Snow and I know nothing. But I am still here!
Welcome to the June Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world, including new bootcamps, what we’re seeing in bootcamps internationally, outcomes, and paying for bootcamps. Plus, we released our big Bootcamp Market Sizing and Growth Report in June! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Pat Poels is the VP of Engineering at Eventbrite, and since 2012, he has hired several software engineers from Hackbright Academy, a Python coding bootcamp for women in San Francisco. Here, Pat answers all of our questions about his experience hiring from a coding bootcamp, why he values engineers with non-traditional backgrounds, and how Eventbrite helps those new hires from Hackbright keep learning and growing as engineers once they actually join the team. Watch or read our interview with Pat.
Pat, tell us about your role at Eventbrite!
Eventbrite is an online ticketing platform that works with companies in all different categories. We've been in operation for 10 years and I've been leading the Engineering team at Eventbrite for over four years. Before Eventbrite, I was at Ticketmaster for 15 years, and I’ve played Poker for a living in between. That’s a different story altogether!
How large is the dev team at Eventbrite now?
Our company is growing like a weed. There are 145 engineers on the team across three different offices (we have 11 offices total in 8 countries), and that ends up making up about 30% of the overall staff in Eventbrite.
That's pretty impressive. How did you get connected with Hackbright Academy?
Interesting story. The Girls Who Code group was having a meetup in our office, and a couple of instructors from Hackbright were teaching that class. I got a chance to meet those instructors and get close to the program, and I thought it was a terrific idea. The Hackbright team invited me to their second Grad Day to hear the pitches from their new engineers. I've been pretty attached to the program ever since.
That second Grad Day was probably back in 2012! Since then, what roles have you hired Hackbright graduates for at Eventbrite? Is there a junior developer role at Eventbrite?
We call that “junior developer” role a Software Engineer Level One. Most of the engineers that we've hired have been for “fullstack” roles. Some will be stronger on the front end, but for the most part they have to work on a pretty wide and various set of tasks. There are a lot of interesting problems to solve at Eventbrite, so we don't really look for a certain kind of engineer from Hackbright Academy. We're looking for people we think are a good fit for the company, people who we think are really smart and have a great potential to learn.
Hackbright is unique in that they teach Python. Is Eventbrite also built on Python?
Yeah. We use a lot of different databases, but for the web, we're doing our development in Python and we use Django as our framework. It doesn't hurt that when I talk with candidates from Hackbright, I get to tell them that one of the co-creators of Django actually works at Eventbrite.
Other than Hackbright, how do you usually hire developers? What are you looking for in a new hire?
It's really the lifeblood of a company like Eventbrite to have great engineers and to find engineers to create innovative solutions. We don’t want to do the same things that other companies have done in ticketing. We really try to exhaust every potential channel for hiring. That means having connections to universities, connecting with friends and personal referrals, past coworkers who our team knows are really brilliant, etc. Those are still our biggest channel for new hires, but we love interesting programs like Hackbright Academy as well. I don't want to hire only very senior people who've been in the industry for 10 or 15 years. I want to have a mix of new ideas and new developers as well. Hackbright is a great channel for that.
Do you notice differences in hiring from Hackbright Academy versus hiring from a university CS program or from recruiters?
There's an element of fearlessness that exists for people who have self-selected into a bootcamp like Hackbright Academy. Hackbright grads haven't all necessarily had traditional schooling or backgrounds. I know about having nontraditional backgrounds because I have one myself, and I think that developers who have shown fearlessness tend to be really strong. They tend to be really great at learning and working through whatever problems they may have.
Of the candidates that you’ve hired from Hackbright Academy, have they had CS degrees or have they been mostly non-technical before Hackbright?
There has been a wide variety. A couple candidates have had CS degrees or were already working in the field around the periphery of tech. But for the most part, no. We've had a chance to meet and see a lot of potential candidates from Hackbright, and we've been able to find the ones who were terrific fits for us. That doesn’t mean that those candidates have had a CS background or have worked in the industry before.
So you're not looking for one specific background, but a CS degree isn't necessarily a requirement to work in the engineering department at Eventbrite?
No, not at all. Even with regards to knowing the Python stack. I find that a lot of our really great engineers didn't actually have Python experience when they came in the door. There are a set of things we look for in a candidate, but that has less to do with a knowing a certain technology stack or having a specific computer science background.
What are those qualities that you’re looking for in an engineering candidate? Of the Hackbright Academy grads that you actually hired, what stood out about them?
Every candidate's process is going to be different. Certainly, the projects that Hackbright graduates presented were really incredible, and they're learning interviewing skills so that the interviews go well. But really, we're looking for people we think have incredible potential. We use the interview to figure out who is really bright, inquisitive, hard-working, and who will fight through the hurdles that you're invariably going to hit as you're learning to become a new engineer.
If that means that the rampup is a little bit slower because they haven't had a traditional background or because they aren't necessarily familiar with a certain technology, we're less worried about that.
Company fit means a lot to us as well. Company culture at Eventbrite was carefully cultivated from the start, and so we make sure that candidates are people we want to work with.
Do most Eventbrite developers work in offices or do you have remote options?
We have three engineering offices; one here in San Francisco, one in Mendoza, Argentina, and one in Nashville. For the most part, our engineers work in one of those three locations.
What does the relationship look like between Eventbrite and Hackbright?
We try to attend all of the Hackbright Academy Career Days. We also have engineers from our office mentoring in the Hackbright classroom. We have at least one engineer from our team who has mentored for pretty much every Hackbright class so far. I've also been over to talk with the students and do longer Q&As. Hackbright is a terrific program, and it's something that we want to be attached to and help further, regardless of whether or not we’re hiring engineers.
I'm assuming that those eight hires from Hackbright Academy went through a technical interview at Eventbrite. How did they do? Have you ever thought about modifying the technical interview for coding bootcamp grads?
It's my philosophy that if you have a one-size-fits-all interview process, you're going to miss a lot of important things on both ends of the spectrum. If you’re asking very serious, heavy questions of someone who doesn’t have a CS background, you may not expect them to do well in that interview. Even someone who has been in the industry for 15 years may not do great in an interview like that.
You have to find ways to get answers to the right questions: How well will this candidate do at Eventbrite? What kind of potential do they have? How hungry are they to learn? Are they somebody you want to work with? You have to figure those things out in different ways based on different levels of experience. I'm not going to say that we've perfected it, but tailoring interviews is something that we've spent a long time learning how to do.
You mentioned that Eventbrite uses Python, which is a great fit for Hackbright Academy grads. But a bootcamp grad is going to need to continue learning when they start a new job! How are you ensuring that new hires are supported in their first few months on the job?
This is something we’ll continue to get better at over time, but it starts with having a mentor assigned to work with you on your first day. That person is there to answer your questions.
The environment is important as well. On a team of 145 engineers, we all know that we're successful based on the success of the rest of the team. It's not a competitive environment where you have to step on somebody else in order to get to the next rung of the ladder. We're all here to answer each other’s questions. We use Slack channels very well, so those questions get surfaced out to everyone, and you have a strong ecosystem of great engineers to help with those questions.
Also, we've found documentation of our products and our engineering environments and processes very important. Finally, we do internal bootcamps and training pretty often on particular technologies. For example, right now we have 25 people in a room down the hall learning React, which is a technology that we're pushing into. All of these things help our existing engineers get better, and also help new engineers to onboard faster.
It sounds like you've developed a very strong culture around learning and growing as developers. That’s awesome.
A culture of learning makes it exciting for all of the engineers. Of course, everybody likes working for a company that's successful and growing and sees their stock price go up. But really at the core, the Hackbright candidates have shown that they enjoy learning.
The people that we really enjoy working around the most are the ones who want to continue learning, getting better, and teaching each other. We try to create that culture here.
Are there any interesting stories about Hackbright Academy hires who have advanced in their careers since starting at Eventbrite?
We have a few but one story is about a candidate named Sandy Lee, who was one of the first two hires out of that second Hackbright class. She worked with us for a while and then decided that she really wanted to have a deeper understanding of computer science, and so she decided to go back to Stanford and get a Masters in Computer Science. She actually interned with us while she was going to Stanford, and she's graduating from her Master's program in June, and she's coming back to work for us which I'm super excited about.
Do you have a feedback loop in place with Hackbright at all? If you notice that your new hires are missing a certain skill, are you able to influence the future curriculum?
Nothing formal, but every time I go to Hackbright for a Career Day or another function, I find instructors or administrative staff to talk through what we're feeling and seeing. They're really responsive to that feedback, and they've tailored their program over time based on our feedback and, I’m sure, what they hear from all of their employers. They're pretty open and receptive to it.
That is something so unique about bootcamps, which you may not get with other talent sources- bootcamps are able to iterate on their curriculum so quickly.
That’s a great point. We have a team in Mendoza, Argentina; I would love to be able to talk to the University of Mendoza and give them feedback on what their grads are learning! I get a much more direct channel for feedback with Hackbright than I do with University of Mendoza.
Will you plan to hire from Hackbright Academy in the future?
Oh yeah. We just hired three people from the last cohort which is the most we've hired to date. We’re pretty convinced of the effectiveness of the program. Hackbright has helped us in hiring developers quite a bit, and hopefully we're helping them as well!
Finally, since you’ve had a great experience as a hiring partner, do you have any advice for other employers who're thinking about hiring developers from a coding bootcamp or from Hackbright Academy in particular?
My advice to other employers is to think of this as an investment. There’s a possibility that employers may look at a bootcamp like Hackbright and say, "The learning curve is too steep; bootcamp grads don’t have the background I want, etc." But if you make the investment, you choose the right people, and you invest in them the right way, it's going to pay off. Those bootcamp grads will be worth so much more to you down the road. Think beyond the next six months; what can these new hires mean for the next six years?
We've definitely had great success stories from the Hackbright Academy grads that we've hired. I can’t make a greater recommendation than that!
Welcome to the May 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world, from acquisitions, to new bootcamps, to collaborations with universities, and also various reports and studies. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup podcast.Continue Reading →
Since the first bootcamp acquisition in June 2014, we’ve seen several bootcamps acquired by for-profit universities and even other schools. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise. With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are beginning to take note. And as existing coding bootcamps think about expansion, consolidation through acquisition is certainly on the horizon. We’ll keep this chronologically-ordered list updated as bootcamps announce future acquisitions.
Continue Reading →
Hackbright Academy has been transforming driven, motivated beginners into Python developers since 2012. So what does it take to get into the selective engineering fellowship for women? We got the scoop straight from the Hackbright Admissions team- read on to learn everything you need to know about the Hackbright coding challenge, interview questions, and application process!
Hackbright Academy Application
How long does the Hackbright Academy application process typically take? What steps should applicants expect?
The great news is Hackbright’s Admissions process only takes 4-6 weeks. Students should expect to receive a decision to their application in no time.
We have worked hard to simplify the application process and now it only consists of just a few short steps:
- You submit a one page application for the selected term along with a coding challenge.
- Within two weeks of Hackbright receiving your completed application, you will receive an update to your application.
- If selected to move forward, you will be invited to interview. (There are two rounds of interviews: Round 1 interview is with an alumna and Round 2 interview is with a member of the Hackbright Team).
- Best of all, within two to five days of your last interview, applicants will receive their final admission decision.
What goes into the written application?
There are two quick parts to the application and before you know it you will be done and ready for review!
Our goal is to learn more about you, so take the time and share with us an honest and clear picture of who you are - we cannot wait to get to know more about you!
PART I - The Application: We just need you to share with us a little information about the following topics: basic biographical information, educational background, recent employment information and “share with us a particular area of expertise in detail.”
PART II - The Coding Challenge!
Does Hackbright Academy require a video submission?
We do not require a video with the application at this time. Something to keep in mind is that all of our interviews are conducted by video chat.
Is there a coding challenge? If so what does it involve? How long should it take?
Yes! The coding challenge is a technical problem for which you need to provide us a solution. The key to the coding challenge is not necessarily whether it’s right or wrong; it’s the logic behind attempting the challenge that we are most interested in. Be aware that we rotate coding challenges, so if you begin the application process, but do not submit, the coding challenge for the next quarter may be different. The challenge can take somewhere between 1-20 hours depending on the technical skillset of the applicant. Programming is fun and we want you to feel challenged (no pun intended) and have fun with this part of the application. Test and debug away!
Can applicants complete the challenge in any programming language or does it have to be in Python?
Applicants can complete the coding challenge in any language and we encourage students to complete the challenge in whatever language they are learning (or have learned). Even though Python is a big part of the Hackbright experience, choosing not to code in Python for the challenge is not a factor in determining one’s acceptance or denial. Again, don’t sweat it and have fun!
The Hackbright Academy Interview
How are the interviews conducted and with whom?
All interviews are conducted online. We use different online platforms; whichever is easiest for you. As mentioned above, we request that the interviews be conducted with video. This is an opportunity for us to meet you face to face…and we can't wait to meet you!
What sort of questions are in the interview? Can you give us a sample question?
Both interviews are designed to be like a conversation with a friend. We keep it casual at Hackbright. The interviews are an opportunity for us to get to know you as well as for you to learn more about Hackbright. It is a two-way conversation.
Here's a sample question: Tell us about yourself and why you decided to apply to a full-time coding bootcamp? In the interviews, we do discuss your submitted coding challenge. Candidates may want to have a copy handy when invited for an interview. Our goal is to understand your logic behind the coding challenge.
Will interviewees need to walk through a technical problem during the interview? If so what does this involve?
Yes but do not worry! In the interviews we discuss the coding challenge that you submitted. Something to remember is when invited to interview, to have a copy of your coding challenge ready as it will be reviewed and discussed. Again, we want to better understand the logic behind the solution you provided to us.
How can applicants prepare for the interview? What are a few resources that you suggest applicants use to really ace the technical interview?
The best way for you to prepare for the interview is to just relax and get a good night's sleep beforehand! Again, the interviews are meant to be a conversation and we want to get to know you as much as we want you to get to know us. Hackbright is a very much a community and we want you to be good fit for Hackbright as much as Hackbright needs to be a good fit for you. We highly recommend our applicants attend one of our Hackbright Academy Info Sessions in person or remotely to get a strong sense of the program and more Admissions tips.
There are no specific resources that we share with students on how to prepare since it is not just a technical interview. That said, we do discuss the coding challenge with students; however, that is only one question of many in the interview.
What are your favorite free beginner resources to learning Python?
These are some of the resources that we recommend to our students:
Think Like a Computer Scientist. There’s a lot there. If you can identify where you’re having trouble, then go to that topic and do the exercises, otherwise I would recommend the following sections:
What types of backgrounds have successful Hackbright Academy students had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
We have women coming from diverse backgrounds and a majority of them are coming from outside the tech industry altogether. Women who tried coding, enjoy it and are ready to work hard in order to pursue software engineering as a career. You can read about some of the career transitions of Hackbright alumnae here - it’s an inspiring group!
How do you evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?
When interviewing applicants we look for a number of qualities. That said, due to the amount of pair programming that is conducted in the Fellowship we look for students who are strong communicators, collaborative in nature and prefer to work in a team environment. Other qualities we look for in applicants are: resourcefulness, risk taking as well as those showing an introductory knowledge to some of the programming languages and/or relatable computer science topics.
What is the current acceptance rate at Hackbright Academy?
We are selective in the admission process. However, we encourage applicants not to focus on the acceptance rate, more importantly to focus on providing an in-depth and candid application highlighting yourself and your interest in coming to Hackbright.
Are students accepted on a rolling basis?
Yes. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, which is why we strongly encourage you to submit your application sooner rather than later. If prospective students apply late, there is a possibility that you can be waitlisted or your application may be deferred to the next term. Past cohorts have filled before the deadline date. Please note that candidates can only apply to one cohort at a time.
Does Hackbright Academy accept international students? Do international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?
We do! We accept a small number of international students into the program each term. We do not provide any visa support. Any international applicant who is admitted into the program is responsible for securing their visas to enter the US.
Can rejected applicants reapply? If so how many times?
Yes! We encourage applicants who were denied from previous terms to re-apply. Term over term, we have applicants who have been denied, then reapply after getting more coding experience and are then admitted into the program. There are no limitations to reapplying.
At Course Report, we field a lot of questions about coding bootcamp cost. From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,063, bootcamp tuition can range from $5,000 to $20,000. So how do you decide what to budget for? Today, we're breaking down the costs of several popular coding bootcamps.
Coding Bootcamps are expensive. The average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $9,900, with some bootcamps charging up to $20,000 in tuition. We'll talk about how to calculate your ROI, available scholarships, when to use financing or payment plans, and unique payment models. We'll also explore the nitty gritty details about bootcamp loans with Zander Rafael of Climb Credit. And Hackbright Academy graduate Shannon Burns will talk about getting creative when paying for bootcamp tuition.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the June News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)Continue Reading →
Welcome to the October News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Siena Aguayo was a project manager at a tech company when she decided it was time to pursue programming- she chose Hackbright Academy because of the supportive community. We chat with Siena about why she chose a Python-focused school, how she prepared for interviews, and how Hackbright's women-only policy is helping change the face of the tech world.
What were you doing before you attended bootcamp?
I was a project manager at a tech company in Sunnydale, so spent most of my time talking to clients and configuring the software to their specifications, but also some front-end development. I always did a lot of stuff with computers growing up, and I took some Computer Science in college.
Which bootcamps did you apply to? Why did you ultimately choose Hackbright?
I also applied to Dev Bootcamp. I ultimately chose Hackbright because of the community- it became really apparent after poking around on social media, that Hackbright has an incredibly strong community and that would be a huge asset to me as I launched my career.
Did the fact that Hackbright teaches Python affect your decision?
At the time, I asked all of my engineering friends, and people were pretty neutral. But now that I understand it more, I’m really happy that I went somewhere Python-focused and more focused on CS fundamentals than just learning Rails as a web framework. Now, it’s going to be easy for me to pick up Ruby and Rails, whereas it might be less easy to go the other way. I think it’s probably likely that where I end up will be a Rails shop, but I’m glad that I learned Python first.
What was the application process like for you?
There were two rounds of interviews. One was more of a culture fit, and the other was trying to gauge your technical aptitude. There were brain teasers- they don’t put you on the spot, but they’re looking to see how well your learning style mixes with their teaching style.
Ok, so you’re accepted to Hackbright- what was the pre-work like?
We had to use Learn Python the Hard Way. They sent it out a month before class started and said to try to get through all of it- the secret there is that nobody gets through all of it.
What kind of students were in your cohort? Did you find diversity of the group?
Hackbright has an apprentice program, so if you are a software engineer but you want to do a bootcamp, they’ll accept people with a higher level of skill. You’re learning side by side with those people. For the first half of the program, you’re pair programming- so sometimes those apprentices would want to work by themselves
How large was your cohort?
28 people. There were 5 instructors- Christian Fernandez was our lead instructor. Any bigger and it may have been a problem, but it didn’t feel that big.
Did any students find that the program wasn't for them and choose not to finish?
We actually had the opposite. We took on a woman who had decided that GA wasn’t for her. Everyone finished. Hackbright tries really hard to not let people fall behind.
What was the curriculum like?
The first half of the program, there is a morning lecture, then we would break off into pairs and work on an assignment. Then after lunch, we might have another lecture, and more pair programming. There is a pretty solid structure.
Did you (and your cohort) complete a capstone project at the end of the program? What did you choose?
The whole second half of the program is doing your own personal project. I built an OCR engine from scratch for Japanese. I haven’t deployed it yet- my database got too big to deploy to free hosting options.
Describe your experience after Hackbright- how did Hackbright prepare you to get a job?
At the end of Hackbright, during the last week, there’s a career day. It’s kind of like speed dating - you talk to each company for 7 minutes. You show them your project and try to talk about what opportunities are available at their company. Then you schedule interviews. I can’t even count how many companies I’ve interviewed with- it’s been a lot. And this past week, I got my first two job offers. (Update: Siena took a job as a developer with Indiegogo! Congrats!).
Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
Yes, I felt really well prepared. Hackbright has an end date but it doesn’t really end. Our last day was in December, but I came in almost every day after it ended. We’ve been practicing interview questions and commiserating through the job search process.
A lot of bootcamps offer a partial refund if you end up accepting a job with one of their partner companies- was that part of your experience?
For my class, if you accept a job with their partner companies, you get $3000 back on your tuition. This is something that has been fluctuating.
What are you up to today? Are you working on any side projects?
Right now, I’m pretty focused on getting a job. I started to learn Ruby on the side.
What has been your experience as a woman in the tech industry. Do you feel it changing?
I definitely do. I’ve heard some comments about surrounding yourself with only fellow women being detrimental since it doesn’t mimic the real world. I feel that completely misses the point of all-female engineering schools in the first place. I feel like we’re really changing things- people are talking about the problem of women in tech a lot more. And that opens the door to talking about racial diversity and income disparity as well. I don’t think it’s a lost cause. Hackbright graduated more female engineers than both Stanford and Berkeley combined this last year.
What kind of person would you recommend attend a dev bootcamp? What kind of person won't succeed?
Aside from knowing that you’re good at CS, people who are comfortable in a really collaborative setting will be successful. You can be competitive, but you can’t let that get in the way of helping your classmates. Pair Programming is a huge part of the program, so you probably won’t be successful if that sounds horrible to you.
Shannon Burns was pleasantly surprised and financially unprepared when she was accepted to Hackbright Academy. Coming from a low-income network, Shannon had to think fast, so she founded Hacking for Women and the CodeShannon Scholarship to finance her own education, and she’s not stopping there. Shannon will “fund-it-forward” by donating 10% of her first year’s salary to support another woman’s coding education.
We talk with Shannon about her journey to Hackbright, her goals as a developer, and how her Fund-it-Forward model is going to help women around the world.
What were you doing before you decided to apply to Hackbright?
I got my degree at San Francisco State and I ended up getting a job at a small startup working in an attic. One of my buddies suggested that I try computer programming, so I went to a Women Who Code event and made my first program, fell in love with it, and realized that this is what I want to do with my life.
Which bootcamps did you apply to? Why did you ultimately choose Hackbright?
I spent a good six months researching coding schools- I interviewed students and teachers, checked out placement stats and average salary stats. I had found this thing that finally fit for me, so I wanted to make sure I was preparing myself the best that I could by choosing the best school for me.
How much did the all-female aspect of the camp factor into your decision?
When I first heard about Hackbright, I was actually really turned off. I was concerned that it was all women, and that it wouldn’t prepare me to work in the real world, which is mostly male-dominated. My perception didn’t change until I interviewed. As soon as I walked into the office, all the preconceived notions that I had about being a coding school for women just melted away- it was such a positive environment, and that really sealed the deal for Hackbright for me. I had been to Hack Reactor, App Academy, and Dev Bootcamp, but the visit to Hackbright cemented my decision.
Did the fact that Hackbright teaches Python have an affect on your decision?
What was the application process like for you?
Ok, so you’re accepted to Hackbright- what’s next? How did you come up with the idea to use GoFundMe?
Well, I didn’t think I was going to get in, because I had heard that Hackbright only accepts 2% of students. So when I got in, I was in shock, and thinking about my options- how was I going to come up with a 5K deposit and 10k tuition. At this point, I had two months. I looked into all of the traditional methods. Since these coding schools are so new, they’re not accredited or considered university programs, so you can’t qualify for FAFSA or government aid, and you can’t even take student loans out. So the only loan options are to get a high-interest credit card with a very high limit, or getting a personal loan, or just asking somebody. I come from a very low-income background, and a low income network, so there was nobody in my network who had $15k to lend me, and on top of that, I couldn’t even find a cosigner to get a bank loan. I started crowdfunding and raised about $300. It wasn’t working, because it didn’t make sense for me to ask people to give me money to increase my own salary, so how can I solve this issue? It’s going to come up for a whole bunch of people, especially for women and minorities who are more likely to have lower-income networks.
So tell us about the “Fund-it-Forward” model?
It hit me all at once- I thought, “What if I donated 10% of my first year salary to enable someone else to go to code school too.” So now, instead of just funding myself (which I am!), after I graduate and get a job, I’ll donate 10% of my first year salary to the next woman, who can use it for coding school. Then she donates to the woman after her, and so on. The scholarship fund is called the CodeShannon scholarship, and the organization is called Hacking for women.
There’s also a mentorship aspect of the program, because I’ve noticed that there aren’t a lot of mentor relationships for women in tech. I want to make it a community, a place to go with a lot of resources in case you don’t know where to start. Like, don’t start with 5 languages at once! Nobody told me that.
To my knowledge, this is the first “Fund-it-Forward” scholarship. The women I know in my situation aren’t looking for handouts. I know that so many people have contributed to me change my life for the better, and all I want to do is give that to somebody else too.
How close are you to your goal? Why did you choose GoFundMe?
I’m about half-way to my goal. As of right now, I’m at $10,716, and my goal is $25,000. Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to fundraise, and IndiGoGo charges up to 9% on top of PayPal fees. GoFundMe’s fees were a bit less, but it was still a lot.
So, not only have you decided to attend Hackbright, but are you essentially setting up a scholarship program for Hackbright?
I want to make it very clear that this scholarship is program agnostic, and for women anywhere in the world. I want to encourage women abroad to apply as well, because I know there are even less resources for women abroad. So it’s not just for Hackbright, it’s for any woman who wants to go to coding school.
What are your goals after the program?
Well, I would love to come back to Lyft, but I’m really excited that I’m in a position where all of these doors are opening up. Hopefully I have more than one job offer, so I can make a choice.
How can people contact you or donate to your GoFundMe campaign?
You can donate directly on my website, www.hackingforwomen.com (preferrable). Or you can donate on my campaign at gofundme.com/codeshannon. If you want to follow me on twitter, i’m @karishannon and @hackingforwomen. And I like emails too! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since we interviewed Shannon, she has already sent us an exciting update- Women Who Code has graciously offered to merge with Hacking for Women. While the details are still being worked out, Hacking for Women officially has non-profit status and can offer tax deductions for all donations.
We’ll follow up with Shannon about her Fund-it-Forward campaign and her experiences at Hackbright Academy, so stay tuned!
Ksenia Burlachenko is a Hackbright Academy graduate who completed her program in Spring 2013.
She now works as a Software Engineer at Perforce and considers Hackbright to be “one of the best experiences and best decisions of [her] life.”
What were you up to before you applied to Hackbright?
I came to the US six years ago from Russia to study. Before Hackbright, I had graduated with a degree in Economics from USC. And I really loved economics- I loved problem solving and hard analytical skills, but I couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life. One of my friends just mentioned programming to me and suggested I try to pick it up. So I tried a few courses online and I really enjoyed it, and started to consider a boot camp. Hackbright was the first boot camp that I heard of- I applied and got accepted right away. I looked at other Bay Area boot camps, but none of them looked as interesting as Hackbright.
What was the application process like for you?
After I filled out the online application, I got a Skype interview with one of the cofounders, David, where he asked me about my story. Then my second interview was with Christian, the other cofounder. That interview was more about problem-solving and logic questions. He walked me through a technical problem and we used pair programming to approach it- I think it was about Statistics or Probability. I ended up solving it in 20 minutes, and it was actually the first time I tried programming outloud- I realized then that I should definitely pursue it.
What was the Hackbright prework like?
We went through Python the Hard Way. Since most of the students have no programming experience before the class starts, it’s recommended to try to work through the book as much as possible. I also looked through some computer science books- I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing though!
Did you have a preference for learning Python?
I did have a preference for Python. Actually, it was more of a coincidence, because I was really considering doing something with data analysis, since data analysis and the fundamentals of research were part of my undergraduate degree. Python is really popular in data analysis, and even though I don’t do data analysis now (in my current job), I strongly believe that Python is a better “first language” to learn. You can pick up the fundamentals of Computer Science through Python. I do like Ruby as well, but Python is better if you’re very new to programming.
What kind of students were in your cohort?
I’m sure you know that Hackbright is a program only for women, but everyone came from a different background. A few from finance, a few from the East Coast, people who had established careers and some just out of college. We all connected really well- one of the great things about Hackbright that I’m not sure if other bootcamps have is that it’s a really strong community and everyone is very supportive of each other- we share resources, job postings. There is a huge network of alumni. You’re spending so much time together during the class and you ultimately become best friends, and at Hackbright, I found some of my best friends. I consider Hackbright one of the best experiences and best decisions of my life.
There are a number of online boot camps and online classes that teach Ruby and Python. Why did you choose an in-person class?
For me, it was a very clear decision. I think some people are really smart and disciplined and can learn and structure a program by themselves. But I need to be with an instructor and have more human interaction. I don’t like to be stuck and spend three days looking for an answer on stack overflow when I have an instructor who can, not necessarily give away the answer, but just lead me in approaching the problem. I don’t think you get this with an online course.
I learned other programming languages after Hackbright on my own, which was much easier. But it was important to me to get my first programming experience with an instructor. Also, Hackbright instructors are just amazing- incredibly smart and supportive. Nobody is pitting us against each other- they really want everyone to succeed. Christian was our lead instructor, and Liz & Cynthia were assistant instructors in my program.
Can you describe the curriculum? Did you complete a project at the end?
During the first half of the course, you learn fundamentals of computer science and utilize pair programming. You pick small exercises and complete them with another person. Then, for the next five weeks you work on your personal project. My project was a bit unique, in the sense that it wasn’t a practical project- it wasn’t a web app. I implemented a singular value decomposition from scratch in Python and applied it to movie ratings data. Basically, it’s a prediction algorithm- and it was my first try with machine learning. In my class, everyone had their own preferences for what they would do after Hackbright, and I thought I wanted to do data analysis, but I wasn’t sure, so I tried different things. I realized that I like back-end development more than web development. I got so much support from instructors figuring out what my strengths are.
Describe your experience after HackBright- how long did it take you to get a job? Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
At the end of Hackbright, there’s a career day. It’s like reverse-speed dating: each Hackbright student has their own station, and 20-30 companies switch from station to station, learning about each candidate’s projects and what they want to do. Then, maybe after that they bring you in for interviews. I got hired by Perforce within one month of graduation, which was a partner company with Hackbright (I actually only interviewed with Hackbright partner companies). Right now I work as a Software Engineer. Their policies have changed since I graduated, but when I took a job with a partner company, I got my full tuition refunded.
What does your job entail now?
I work for Perforce, which is source version control system (a similar project is Git). The project I’m working on is called GitFusion; it’s an integration tool that let’s you use Git with Perforce on the back-end. I really like my company and my teammates, and I’m still learning every single day, which I think is the most important part for me. I use several operating systems, like Linux-based systems, in my new job, which is something I didn’t learn at Hackbright. And I had to pick up Perl.
Do you feel like at HB, there were specific programs geared towards combat the imposter syndrome and prepare you to be a woman in this industry?
Absolutely. Every week, we have tech talks, and several were focused on being a female engineer in a heavily male-oriented field, which helped a lot. There were also sessions on how to go through an interview, present yourself, and negotiate your salary. A year ago, I didn’t know what Python was, and I’ve made so much progress. I always felt that for women, it’s hard to get into programming because we get discouraged and we feel like imposters. You’ve heard of Lean In, but when you’re actually a woman experiencing it, you may not understand that it’s even happening to you. Whereas at Hackbright, I got so much support and eventually, I realized that I really am awesome and have the skills for this.
Since you’ve graduated from Hackbright, what has your experience as a woman been in the tech industry? Do you feel like the landscape is changing?
I feel like it’s still a very male-dominated industry. I’ve never really faced discrimination in the workplace- it’s more like little things that other people don’t notice. For example, when someone tells you that you should be preparing more for a presentation, and you start doubting yourself. It can slowly crawl up on you. And I have to say that everyone at my company now is very supportive, but sometimes, when you’re socializing with engineers or at conferences, you see that it’s very male-dominated, and you have to work harder being a woman. You’re in a battle with yourself every single day, but I still know that I should be programming and have the skills for it.
Have you noticed that colleagues or companies have looked down on having a boot camp education, as opposed to a Computer Science degree?
In the beginning, when I got hired by my company, it was a leap of faith for them. But I think right away, I blew away any concerns that they had, and it was clear that I was going to be successful in this career. They saw that my level of preparation and skill was just as good as someone graduating from college.
Any advice for students considering applying to Hackbright or a coding boot camp?
I think that programming is a skill that you can learn in an intensive setting in 10 to 12 weeks. If you learn the fundamentals and if you enjoy it, then you can learn programming. I really don’t think that getting a masters in CS is worth it, if you want to be a web developer. Just get your stuff together, work really intensively for 12 weeks, and you’ll be prepared to be a software engineer in this industry.
Want to learn more? Check out Hackbright Academy on Course Report for courses, costs and reviews.
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