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.
On-Time Graduation Rate
180 Day Employment Breakdown:
Recent Hackbright Academy News
- Diversity in Tech: Why Tech is Poised To See a Change in 2018
- New Year, New Career? Learning to Code in 2018
- 2017 End of Year News Roundup + Podcast
Recent Hackbright Academy Reviews: Rating 4.36
Hackbright Prep Course
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.
- $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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
12 Week - Immersive Software Engineering Program
- $250 Non-Refundable
- Payment Plan
- 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
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 5-10 hours remote work per week for the 3 weeks leading up to the start of progrtam
24 Week - Part-Time Software Engineering Program
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.
- 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 email@example.com if you have questions! Click here to learn more.
- Payment Plan
- Minimum Skill Level
- 40 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 course
Hackbright Academy Reviews
44 reviews sorted by:
- Only Applicants, Students, and Graduates are permitted to leave reviews on Course Report.
- Post clear, valuable, and honest information that will be useful and informative to future coding bootcampers. Think about what your bootcamp excelled at and what might have been better.
- Be nice to others; don't attack others.
- Use good grammar and check your spelling.
- Don't post reviews on behalf of other students or impersonate any person, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity.
- Don't spam or post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings.
- Don't post or link to content that is sexually explicit.
- Don't post or link to content that is abusive or hateful or threatens or harasses others.
- Please do not submit duplicate or multiple reviews. These will be deleted. Email moderators to revise a review or click the link in the email you receive when submitting a review.
- Please note that we reserve the right to review and remove commentary that violates our policies.
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.
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!
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!
Hackbright has an extremely welcoming, inclusive environment. If you're looking for amazing support from your classmates, definitely go here. I found the other women to be intelligent and kind, which makes their network really strong. The curriculum is great for getting a complete overview of the entire web development world. I would say the biggest area that needs improvment is the mentorship program. Some of the mentors were amazing and some were not very good. It's a little hit or miss right now, but they are constantly making improvments. I also really liked the individual project method of learning. It was really hands on and was the best part of the program.
Hackbright is an inclusive and genuinely supportive environment. Career services is invested in your success and happiness both while in the program and as an alum (so grateful to have the career services team and resources available to me during the job search process). The course is challenging, but the skills, enthusiasm, commitment and support of the education team does an incredible job of bolstering confidence and helping you develop your technical skill-set and passions (the course has allowed me to believe in my abilities in ways I never would have considered possible). In just 12 weeks you will have the technical prowess to build a fully functioning web application completely on your own and from scratch, and develop some of the most meaningful and supportive friendships.
The program is intense and challenging, but a lot of fun. The space is safe and supportive and encourages and allows you to be vulnerable, opinionated and humble during a whirlwind period filled with an immense amount of learning and growth.
My 12 weeks at hackbright were some of the most infuriating, exhilarating and rewarding weeks of my life. I would 100% do it over again, and absolutely recommend it to any woman that is seriously considering a career as a software engineer!
I'm happy I chose Hackbright and impressed with the program. It's a very supportive learning environment that has a great alumnae network. They keep a tight schedule that definitely felt stressful at times, but it prepared me for my current position.
Hackbright's biggest downfall is that it is a bootcamp. Sounds strange, but it was hard to find a job after graduation in the Bay Area. There is a stigma attached to bootcamp grads and many companies won't even consider you knowing that "you're from a bootcamp." I rated Hackbright 4-stars (vs. 5) because I wish they provided a bigger/better network of Hackbright partner companies willing to hire recent grads. Hackbright's job placement team is great!
My advice to people considering bootcamps: find the best bootcamp that works for you and then budget extra time, finances, etc. to the post-boot camp job search.
I graduated from Hackbright in November of 2017 and I started work as a full-time software engineer at a startup in the city the same month! I had a long and successful career in tech in a non-technical role prior to taking the leap to Hackbright and I have no regrets. It was scary to quit my job and go for it, and I was wary of attending a for-profit institution at first, but for me it paid off. The educational experience was fine-tuned, worked for my learning style, and is very job relevant. Hackbright tailors the curriculum based on student feedback and industry feedback, to make sure they are teaching material that will be most useful in the workplace. Each lecture has a survey, and for the first five weeks you have an opportunity right after lecture to practice what you learned in lab. For anyone currently working and unsure about making the leap, don't be afraid to go for it! In case it helps you, this is the TED talk that finally helped me to make my decision and go for it. If you don't yet have any experience in tech, Hackbright also does a really good job of setting up field trips to tech companies, creating opportunities to connect with industry, and preparing you for the job search through weekly group check-ins and 1:1 meetings with a career coach. Even for someone with tech experience like me, I learned a lot more about start-ups through Hackbright. One aspect of Hackbright that was challenging for me was the schedule. After week five, there is only one lecture a day and you're just working on your project the rest of the time. Initially I treated it like a job, making sure to show up and be present each day while also optimizing for my own productivity - leaving a bit early if I was at a stopping spot or if I wanted to take a break and study later in the evening. Hackbright doesn't look well on this and really expects you to be there everyday until 6pm. I know for many in my cohort, especially those with children at home, long commutes, or other work or family obligations, this was a hurdle on the path to success. My hope is that Hackbright can work towards slightly more inclusive (and similar to the workplace) scheduling in the future! Overall, Hackbright changed my life and enabled me to career change with a top-notch curriculum and incredibly supportive culture. If anyone has doubts about which bootcamp to choose, if you're looking for excellent, structured curriculum that prepares you for work, with the additional opportunity to build a big project independently, with career help and tech exposure thrown in, all as part of a really supportive and friendly culture - then Hackbright is for you!
I attended Hackbright Academy this summer, graduating in the fall. I really loved the experience!
There is no way I could have learned everything I did in 12 weeks on my own! It was great to fully immerse myself in programming instead of continuting to try and learn it on the side. The staff is incredibly knowledgable, helpful, and supportive. They will answer a question three different ways if it means you understand. No question is too simple and they foster an environment where everyone can be heard. It kind of feels like going to a really nerdy summer camp. I can't stress enough what a unique opportunity an all-female program offers. There are few great aspects of the program I can't envision working in a co-ed space. The best way to sum up the environment is, there is no winning at Hackbright. No one is crowned the best Hackbrighter. Everyone is learning their own way with their own goals and supporting one another on their path.
I like the way the course is structured. The first half you will be focusing on labs building up your foundational skills. The second half is called "Project Season" and you will be building an app from scratch. It is an incredibly exciting experience to see something complex come together. You learn so much in those four weeks! You get to pick and choose what web services you want to use, what libraries of tools to implement, and you get to see your idea come to life. In the end, I was able to build something even better than I could have imagined when I started. Start thinking of ideas now!
All of that said, there is still a lot to learn once the program is complete. The program doesn't have time to expand on some of the core computer science topics that you will need to know for interviews, so prepare to spend some more time studying once the course is over. That is true of any bootcamp - but just something that you should know up front! Hackbright will teach you how to learn a language, so ideally you can find a role even if you don't know the languages the company uses.
I am really happy with my decision to attend Hackbright. I was able to lock down a job about a month after graduation. That said, the job market has changed and there are a lot of bootcampers out there right now and only so many junior roles. I was lucky to have some programming job experience, which helped in my search. So be prepared financially for your job search to take 3-6 months. I would also recommend going to meetups (PyLadies has a lot of HB alum) and tech events to start networking as early as possible, don't wait until you have graduated. It is the best way to get your foot in the door after a bootcamp! I ended up getting my job thanks to a referral from a woman in my cohort! There is a great alumni network and most people are happy to help another Hackbright woman!
I began at Hackbright as a prep course student. The course did an excellent job teaching the fundamentals of programming in Python. We learned about data structures, conditionals, for and while loops, and APIs, among other things. At the end of the course, we were asked to create a small project that ran on the command line in Python. I was impressed by how far all the women had come -- Hackbright had done an excellent job teaching us and the women had done an excellent job learning and applying the material and going the extra mile! By the end of the prep course, Hackbright encouraged us to apply to its full-time fellowship program. I was at first hesitant, nervous about the coding challenge and interviews. But, as I saw the confident and excited women around me who were part of the full-time fellowship (sometimes we would bump into them right before our prep class), I knew I wanted to be where they were at -- with the knowledge and skills to call themselves software engineers. The project had made more confident in my abilities as a prep-course-level engineer, and Hackbright made it easier for those in the prep course to apply (we did not have to re-do the application form bit). The coding challenge and the interviews were still challenging, but it was worth the pain to get the news that I had gotten in! The twelve weeks in the fellowship were definintely taxing, but worth it as well. We learned the foundational concepts and knowledge needed to build a web application, and learned fundamental computer science concepts as well. I am now in the job search process and am proud of the project I had completed in the fellowship, showing my skills, and am thankful I have so much material I can still review to make me more ready for interviews. Had I not pushed myself to transition from the prep program to the application process for the fellowship, I wouldn't be where I am, a junior software engineer! If you are wondering whether you should take that leap, do it! You can apply to Hackbright a few times, if the first time does not go well. And you will not regret looking to the horizon toward your dreams, motivated to run the race it takes to reach that horizon.
During the Hackbright Fellowship, the amount of learning that occurs on a daily basis is enormous. Their formula of teach, practice, review, assess provides a great scaffold for engaging multiple ways with the material and retaining information.
As a mother the time requirement initially felt undoable however, with support from my family and some adjustments in schedule, I was able to be successful with the required stduying and maintaining a balance of family/work. It was expressed to me several times that HB is aware of the challenges of being a student/mother and working toward making sure the fellowship is a viable option. It is not easy, but can be done!
The instructors have a variety of teaching and support styles. Not everyone felt that they were matched well with their advisors. I valued the different styles and knew when to ask a question to whom based on what I wanted back from them. Many of the instructors have backgrounds in education and their pedagogical knowledge was apparent in their instruction.
I am currently in the job hunt phase. The Career Services team is very supportive and the opportunities to engage with industry people to learn about interviewing is invaluable.
I graduated at Hackbright Academy last May 2017. Hackbright provided a very supportive learning environment enabling me to not fear failure as there were many times where my programs didn't work. I learned how to troubleshoot and ask for help sooner rather than later! This was the first time I was ever in an immersive environment and it was indeed very intense as I felt like I was drinking from a firehose every day. What I loved about Hackbright is that they go out of their way to provide an environment where I can learn from my classmates, teachers, and experienced engineers who are working in the industry. And the support continues even as I graduated. Hackbright gave me a strong foundation in software engineering that I can build on for the rest of my life. Thank you!
I truly loved my time at Hackbright. My cohort was a group of incredibly smart, passionate weirdos and I could never have pushed myself as hard without them. The instructors were amazing - I had an amazing relationship with my advisor. I loved one of my external mentors and I learned a lot from that experience. I would highly recommend.
I graduated from Hackbright's software engineering fellowship about a month ago. The program far exceeded my expectations and prepared me very well to obtain a job as a software engineer.
Instruction: I think Hackbright's instruction is really top-notch. The instructors are incredibly knowledgeable about software and very passionate about teaching. I think this is a large differentiator between hackbright and other bootcamps I've seen where recent grads from the program are serving as instructors. Many of Hackbright's instructors have graduate degrees in CS or related disciplines.
Curriculum: I was surprised by how well tuned the curriculum was. In 10 weeks you will learn how to build a full-stack web application as well as the fundamental CS concepts you would get from a year of college coursework. Hackbright's curriculum is split up with lab-work and pair programming during the first half and individual project work during the second half. Not all bootcamps have you work on individual projects. I found that in interviews it was really important to say that I had built a web app by myself from the ground up, and be able to discuss the challenges along the way.
Hackbright asks for feedback constantly, and they consistently update their curriculum and program to best meet the needs of their students and teach the most relevant tools. Hackbright is great for giving you some scaffolding to start your career. Now, I feel confident that I can teach myself new skills or concepts in my next and future jobs.
Career services: The career services at Hackbright are wonderful. My career coach met with me throughout the program to help plan my future career path and connect me with people in the Hackbright network. Hackbright has a very strong network of alumni and partner companies. Now, this doesn't mean that you will get handed a job upon graduation. Networking is really hard - you have to do a lot of work to put yourself out there. Depending on your existing network and previous career/educational background this experience will vary. But from Hackbright's end, I think they do everything they can to support you. You are matched with three industry mentors during the program. After you graduate, career services stays in touch on a weekly basis and there are weekly events to help you practice technical interviews.
Culture: Overall Hackbright was a really great environment to learn in. It is collaborative rather than competitive. The women in my cohort were from pretty diverse backgrounds (age, previous careers, culturally), but everyone was very driven and committed to entering a new career. Some people are drawn to Hackbright because they prefer to learn in a female-only environment or want to build up a network with other female engineers. The fact that Hackbright is all-women was not a big selling point for me, but I do think the mission of the organization - to change the ratio - fosters a really supportive and committed learning environment.
Cost: Hackbright is expensive. For me, the amount was a very worthwhile investment. I would not have the same job opportunities I have now without Hackbright. However, if you don't have means of supporting yourself during the bootcamp and for 1-6 months after during the job search phase, it is not that accessible. There are a few scholarships, but they are pretty small compared to the overall cost of the program. Searching and studying for a software engineering job is a full-time job. Don't expect to go back to your regular job after Hackbright and casually search for software jobs on the side. You need to be prepared to fully jump in and commit.
Reviewing the full-time bootcamp, not the night classes that people also review.
What drew me to Hackbright was partly the curriculum (I love Python but I was glad to see we'd get such an all-around introduction), but also the promise of career support, and I was not disappointed. Not only did we have two weeks of all kinds of meeting people and making connections, but we also had an hour during the first ten, to ramp up to that. As someone who is good at school settings and less good at navigating business, I needed that practical support and those initial connections made for me. Plus, they really are still there for you afterwards, and I think they've acted on advice from other alumnae on how best to support recent graduates.
Although only a few students get jobs from companies that send representatives to our career night (where we demonstrate our projects), it's definitely common to get interviews--I think all of my classmates who followed up with thank-you emails got interviews at at least one company, several have done well, and some companies are moving more slowly. Some of the companies were clearly there just to prove that they "wanted to hire women", but most really are hiring.
While learning and especially while preparing for job-seeking, I've also found my classmates to be great resources. We all have different enough career experiences and skillsets that there's a lot to learn, and the environment was surprisingly supportive. I mean, Hackbright clearly intended to make sure we supported each other but I was skeptical that would work, yet it did. I really like my classmates, even though we have different interests.
For the curriculum, Hackbright doesn't lie. You can see on their website what they teach, and that's what we learned. I think they structured it very well, lots of pair-programming in the first half, ramping us up to building a web application, then while we started out our individual projects, introducing us to other tools we may want to use. Then while we were "finishing" our projects, i.e. getting them ready to demo, we went over core CS topics, and immediately after career night we started whiteboarding practice. Even though I wish more of the core CS topics were at the beginning, we did have some really great lectures near the beginning, such as comparing and constrasting memory management in Python and C. I think each of the topics they taught us, with the exception of the two weeks of "extra developer tools", were a solid foundation. I feel so empowered to make things now!
What's going on with the "inexperienced instructors" is that teaching assistants, who advise students, give code reviews, run labs and contribute to curriculum planning, but never lecture (well, hardly ever), are Hackbright alumnae and junior TAs are usually hired right after bootcamp. This means they know the curriculum well, and have done their own project, but don't know as much about how to support a new student's project without looking things up.
Also, in independent project time, I found the "help queue" good for the first two-week sprint, but the instructors were busier during second sprint, so not everyone was available, which was unfortunate for a lot of us. We had put off some of the more complicated features to second sprint and then couldn't get enough dedicated time from the educational staff to help us implement them. However I did mention this concern, and Hackbright is always collecting feedback and making adjustments based on it. It gets easy to just click through a survey in ten seconds, but if we leave written comments in the surveys they actually act on them! For example after some of started writing "I wish they rotated instructors in the study halls" a couple of times, that happened. (Although I personally regretted it I know others were happy.)
I would say: this is expensive. If you can't afford it, don't do it; I think it's really worth it if you can, but everyone either had savings or a safety net. I hope Hackbright makes more full scholarships available in the future.
Hackbright provided a safe, inclusive environment to learn in. This makes it easy to pick up new topics and, for my cohort, gave us space to ask a lot of in depth questions. That being said a lot of topics are being served up at once, so being able to focus on the program while you're in it is essential to success.
The women I met are wonderful, smart and incredible human beings. The alumnae network provides access to jobs, events and support, but it is up to the individual how much they participate in this after Hackbright.
I was incredibly lucky, in that I had three wonderful mentors. All of who were there to encourage me and even now, in the job search, are valuable assets to have. That being said, not all my cohort mates were so lucky and often felt disappointed in their mentors ability to provide support.
For me, Hackbright provided materials to have solid understanding of Python, but significant studying after Hackbright was necessary to access jobs and have successful interviews at companies that specifically didn't have programs made for bootcamp grads. Having a thick skin after Hackbright is essential as getting rejected from jobs becomes the norm. Also, if you need to return to work after HB while searching for a job can be a taxing balancing act.
That being said, Hackbright was empowering and provided materials to set up a solid base for one to compound on.
If you're reading this, you're most likely considering attending a Dev Bootcamp of some kind. Awesome!
It's almost surreal to look back on the time when I was deciding between bootcamps -- having just graduated Hackbright in December '16, there's no doubt in my mind Hackbright was the best option for me, and the best option for anyone with determination, dedication, and grit looking to transition into the software engineering community.
Around the time I was looking at reviews in my own DBC search, I was reading these reviews thinking "Yeah, it's great to see happy reviews, but seriously tell me why this is a better option than staying at my paying, comfortable job." TLDR version: The return on investment (skills/experience, network, Hackbright name/brand, career services support) is absurdly high.
The longer version:
Before I start the longer version, let me state in glorious but brutal honesty that this is not a cakewalk. There will be days (or even weeks) when you wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea. You will be so tired and/or pressed for time that you seriously question your own ability to make good life decisions for yourself. However, you also get out of this program what you put into it. Simply showing up does not mean you'll be granted all the benefits the Fellowship has to offer. In order to get the most out of this program you must be ready to persevere through exhaustion, overwhelming amounts of information, and your own self doubt.
With that Surgeon General's Warning having been clearly explained, let's jump into all the reasons you should *definitely* do this: skills, network, Hackbright name/mission, and career services.
Skills: There are a ton of different ways to build or do or learn anything -- your own experience in life will tell you this is true. That being said, you can certainly have an opinion on the HB curriculum. Whatever your opinion, the point of this curriculum is to give you the skills to be a hirable junior developer, and it does. I loved how they paired the lecture with a lab where you could really dive in and get your hands on a topic...because having been in a classroom for 5 years I can tell you that listening to a lecture about it does not skills provide. You have to get your hands dirty and they provide you the time to do just that. You will also gain skills no matter your starting skill level -- the lectures and labs are designed to take you from your own point A to a new point B. How far your point B is from your starting point A is largely up to you -- remember, you get out of this what you put into it.
- Your classmates become part of your network. This is like Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring quality bonds here. They support you even when you're being pelted by all of the job-rejection arrows. (Side note: I don't usually make friends with women -- I've always been one of the guys. I was really concerned when I made the decision to come to Hackbright that the "sorority" piece you hear talked about negatively in other reviews would be an obstacle for me, but nothing could have been further from the truth. My cohort is my tribe, and I am just as delighted by that as I was surprised.)
- Hackbright sets you up with two or three mentors. Not everyone in my class had great experiences with their mentors, but this was definitely the exception rather than the rule. Most of the women in my cohort are continuing their relationships with at least on of their mentors, even through the Fellowship is complete. ALSO: The Hackbright Alumnae Community becomes part of your network. SERIOUSLY. I have nothing in common with these women other than that we went through the same program, and the amount these relative strangers are willing to support me, no matter my request, is worth so much.
- Demo Night. Hackbright sets up a time for you to showcase yourself to a room of potential employers. Terrifying? Absolutely. Value? Priceless.
- Hackbright coordinates field trips and other networking events outside the HB campus that allow you to make connection with beyond the Hackbright community. PLUS Hackbright gives you tips on networking, so if all this networking seems like something you can't do, they give you tips so can be better at it and make the most of it.
Hackbright Brand and Mission: Hackbright is serious business, and the employers who work with them know they have consistent results. You can certainly argue that bootcampers are not the "favored" employee picks, but no more so than learning on your own. Hackbright is a well respected name in the DBC community, and that goes a long way. Hackbright is also fiercely dedicated to their mission to #changetheratio. This is empowering at many levels -- I had only briefly considered the social impact of what I was doing when I signed up for Hackbright, but the mission is A Big Deal and brings together employers that you actually *want* to work for.
Career Services: This team organizes field trips and networking events, they work tirelessly to bring job opportunities to you, they give you 1:1 and coaching sessions to help you update your resume/cover letters while you transition careers, they tell you of opportunities (Hackathons, conferences, workshops, panels) in the broader engineering community, they aid in connecting you to the alumnae community, and they genuinely care for your success.
So let's get back to ROI for the program and why it might actually make sense to give up a paying gig to go back to Hackbright.
Many things you could do to switch careers or get up that professional chain also include mean back to school. Hackbright is across-the-board cheaper than an MBA or other schooling -- it's the clear winner in terms of time, overall cost, and opportunity cost.
Not convincing enough for you? Let's undervalue everything and crunch some more numbers:
At their root, most new jobs are gotten through connections. How much are all these connections worth? Let's say you're in a cohort of 20, and you value each of those connections at lifetime value of $100. That's $2000 of benefit you're getting right off the bat. High value networking events often charge admission, and Hackbright sponsors consistently high-value, free-of-charge networking events. Plus you've got connections to a growing network of alumnae -- let's call that a lifetime value of $3000.
It's not like going to Harvard, but recognition of the Hackbright brand and mission is also valuable. Let's say $1000 lifetime value.
How can I even begin to put a lifetime value on the support career services offers? The value there is stunning, but I said we'd undervalue everything, so let's go with $3000 lifetime value.
Given the value of the intangibles above, you're now looking at getting all those skills we'd discussed for about $8000. For a twelve week course. That will make you infinitely more marketable in a growing career field. And you will gain those skills at a pace you simply could not manufacture independently with support that is quicker and more tailored to you than anything you could get online with free tutorials or books.
I dare you to argue with me that you could do better for the money and time than you could at a Dev Bootcamp, but especially at Hackbright.
P.S. I'm not one of the magical HB unicorns that got employed right out of the gate. I'm unemployed while I'm writing this, but I'm still confident that it was the right choice for me, and the right choice for any gritty woman looking to get into tech.
I had a great experience in the Introduction to Programming course taught by Rachel Walker. I had enrolled in the course because I had been unhappy in all of my professional roles. When trying to just do something different, I realized that I don't have the techncial skills to have the job I think I want. I wasn't sure how I felt about programming (given my lack of experience), so I enrolled in the part-time course. It was great. The hours flew by in class. I enjoyed the labs. I knew there was help available, but I didn't take advantage of all the additional resources provided becuase I was able to absorb most/all the information in class. The class was a huge turning point in my life. From that, I knew I would want to partake in a bootcamp and become a software engineer full-time (spoiler alert - I did Hackbright fellowship, got a job, and I'm happier than I ever expected :) ).
You will learn - how to use the command line / terminal. Oh - and Python. But you also learn HOW to learn how to code. Sweet.
As a recent graduate, I was fascinated to stop in and read the reviews here. Having so few reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, especially given that this bootcamp has been going strong for several years and has an alumnae network of more than 500 incredible women upon which to draw support and inspiration.
To set the stage: I have a Bachelor's in Psychology and Masters in Marketing. I spent years providing data analytics, workflow and reporting for a non profit, and then worked as a consultant providing online brand development. I have very little coding experience behind me outside of Wordpress and oh yes, MySpace in the 90's -- but seriously, I had seen little code prior to stepping into the belly of Hackbright.
I applied to 5 bootcamps and was accepted 4: but I held out for Hackbright. Their interview and application process was simple, though their admissions team was a power of (an amazing) one and they took several weeks to give me an accept/decline. I was down to the wire, my second choice start date was a week later! Since then, they have brought on a second admissions staff member so I imagine it's now more streamlined.
I chose Hackbright Academy after doing an on-site visit and talk with all five of the bootcamps I was considering. Each has their own flair and flavor, offerings and perks. Your mileage will vary, your needs & desires are different than others: do your research just as you would choosing a college. I did, and I'm thankful for having done so.
Key differences that steered me towards Hackbright Academy:
Women-only while still being inclusive and accepting of those not constrained to the standardized binary of genderization. I personally value their understanding and appreciate their care around this subject matter.
They are creating community and want to see us support each other through time. They encourage the cohort to bond and recognize that we are in the act of solidifying a network of other women that (for the most part) are going into the same field. Networking is the key here!
Hackbright respects that you have a life and appreciates work-life balance. Unlike the other bootcamps that warned me of late nights and pointed out their nap rooms, our instructors encouraged us to step away and refresh. Studies show that quality, not quantity, facilitate greater learning potential and productivity.
You NEED to be your own best advocate. Step back and consider, then step up and state your needs! They genuinely do try to allow space for everyone's voice, but this is usually done in a group setting. For me, I found that the advisor format is full of holes: it depends who you get, if you are comfortable speaking up, how experienced that person may be, how involved that person wants to be, and other such factors that fluctuate on a per person basis. This was the weakest point in my Hackbright experience, by far; if I had one change to make, it would be in this arena!
The education team is warm, supportive, helpful and encouraging. Lead instructors are killer. They know their work, they know this program, and they want to know you as a person in order to better assist your growth. That level of interactivity can be difficult in such a large group, and I believe that is why they assign you an advisor.
You create an app independently, rather than in a group. The majority of bootcamps have you walk away with several little projects and/or a large project done within a group. Creating your own app serve many purposes: my favorite being that I got to choose for myself which curriculum topics called to me, and then dive deeper. Note that TAs do not have a lot of coding experience under their belts, and this really began to show during project time. Some are more comfortable than others at saying, "I'm going to need another set of eyes". My advice: practice timing your entrance into the help queue.
I'll speak of Career Services directly:
There are two ladies that handle this arena whilst you're within the program. They are outstanding in so many ways. I have been totally shocked to see people complaining about their job search! For each of the other bootcamps I was accepted into, I spent the majority of my on-site visit, grilling (one employee actually used that word when handing me off to their employment search staff for further questioning) them about this aspect of the bootcamp.
Learning the skills is one piece of the puzzle, but as a queer woman stepping into the bro-world of tech in San Francisco, I knew without a doubt that this would be the most difficult piece of my career change. At BEST, other bootcamps offer a week of support at the end of their program, to prepare you. Then a single point of contact for their alumni to help with the job search. Not so at Hackbright.
They started at Week One. And each week they gave us lots and lots of information to digest and action items to begin preparing ourselves, our online presence, and our networks. They provide "fieldtrips" to tech companies for panels, discussions, whiteboarding and even yummy meals. Then, the last two weeks of the fellowship are JAM PACKED with speakers who talk about negotiation techniques, product management, how to work with recruiters to maximize your potential, etc. I was shocked to see so many people not attend these informational talks. Even after week 12, you get an entire month of twice weekly whiteboarding sessions, job leads, and more.
I attended two Hackbright information sessions before applying: I was told point blank that most people find a job within 6 months, some within 3 and those typically already have ties and networks within companies to begin with. In my notes from the first week of career services, I can see that I asked about this and received the same answer. Throughout the fellowship I believe they have repeatedly told us that they are here to help, to support, to provide resources and help facilitate connections, but that it is up to us to really make the job materialize.
Is Hackbright built for underserved populations? Only just barely but really. Do they bill themselves that way...sort of yes. It's a sticky point for me, and has been since the day I came across their website. They are trying to make a change from a very specific angle: those women that already have the financial, educational, physical, etc. capability to take 6+ months out of their lives. Others are working to support women that have obstacles not accounted for here. If that's what you need: proceed on in your search. But if you are able to swing the commitment, I happen to think it is well worth the money, time, energy, and care
I was deeply impressed by the community at Hackbright, and the structure and support was invaluable to starting my new career. My understanding is that as a young program, Hackbright is still changing form cohort to cohort, and with the recent acquisition, more changes are likely on the way -- I would encourage you to attend an in-person event if at all possible to help inform whether Hackbright is the right choice for you. For my piece, Hackbright gave me the tools and support to break into engineering, and I do not doubt that I would not be where I am today without them. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn at Hackbright, and even more so for the opportunities that leaning at Hackbright opened to me.
Hackbright was an incredible experience. Much of the time, I was surprised---by the quality of the education I was receiving, and especially by the competence and creativity of women I was surrounded by. I made some of the deeper friendships I've ever had and was trained in a domain that allowed me to get a job making great money, in the location I wanted, close to family. The only reason I rate job assistance slightly lower is that there is not as much support for you if you're looking for a job outside of San Francisco and not in Hackbright's network---but it's still possible as my experience shows!
Hackbright is an incredible program. While it has already changed a lot since my time there, there are a few key aspects which feel central to the Hackbright experience:
1. Hackbright fosters a supportive, respectful, creative, and fun environment where students are encouraged to push themselves and make mistakes to further their learning.
2. Work/life balanced is highly emphasized and students are encouraged to not only focus on coding but also build relationships and take care of themselves mentally and physically.
3. Hackbright students and staff are amazing people with a diversity of backgrounds and interests. In my cohort alone there were lawyers, librarians, financial analysts, artists, folks who had worked at non-profits, startups, and large corporations. I met incredible people and made wonderful friends with some of the most interesting, smart and hardworking people in tech.
While I had a great experience at Hackbright, everything wasn't perfect. I thought the job finding process was the weakest part of the program. I did most of my job searching on my own. I do know that a lot of the students found it worked for them, especially if they wanted to work with a partner company. Additionally, Hackbright is still in its growing phase so sometimes lessons were chaotic, or things wouldn't go as smoothly as planned. However, the team was good at receiving feedback and adapting to the needs of the class.
Our latest on Hackbright Academy
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 require a certain level of coding knowledge or background in order to be accepted into their programs- whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
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.
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 $11,451, 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 →
(updated August 2016)Continue Reading →
Welcome to the October News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Siena Aguayo was a project manager at a tech company when she decided it was time to pursue programming- she chose Hackbright Academy because of the supportive community. We chat with Siena about why she chose a Python-focused school, how she prepared for interviews, and how Hackbright's women-only policy is helping change the face of the tech world.
What were you doing before you attended bootcamp?
I was a project manager at a tech company in Sunnydale, so spent most of my time talking to clients and configuring the software to their specifications, but also some front-end development. I always did a lot of stuff with computers growing up, and I took some Computer Science in college.
Which bootcamps did you apply to? Why did you ultimately choose Hackbright?
I also applied to Dev Bootcamp. I ultimately chose Hackbright because of the community- it became really apparent after poking around on social media, that Hackbright has an incredibly strong community and that would be a huge asset to me as I launched my career.
Did the fact that Hackbright teaches Python affect your decision?
At the time, I asked all of my engineering friends, and people were pretty neutral. But now that I understand it more, I’m really happy that I went somewhere Python-focused and more focused on CS fundamentals than just learning Rails as a web framework. Now, it’s going to be easy for me to pick up Ruby and Rails, whereas it might be less easy to go the other way. I think it’s probably likely that where I end up will be a Rails shop, but I’m glad that I learned Python first.
What was the application process like for you?
There were two rounds of interviews. One was more of a culture fit, and the other was trying to gauge your technical aptitude. There were brain teasers- they don’t put you on the spot, but they’re looking to see how well your learning style mixes with their teaching style.
Ok, so you’re accepted to Hackbright- what was the pre-work like?
We had to use Learn Python the Hard Way. They sent it out a month before class started and said to try to get through all of it- the secret there is that nobody gets through all of it.
What kind of students were in your cohort? Did you find diversity of the group?
Hackbright has an apprentice program, so if you are a software engineer but you want to do a bootcamp, they’ll accept people with a higher level of skill. You’re learning side by side with those people. For the first half of the program, you’re pair programming- so sometimes those apprentices would want to work by themselves
How large was your cohort?
28 people. There were 5 instructors- Christian Fernandez was our lead instructor. Any bigger and it may have been a problem, but it didn’t feel that big.
Did any students find that the program wasn't for them and choose not to finish?
We actually had the opposite. We took on a woman who had decided that GA wasn’t for her. Everyone finished. Hackbright tries really hard to not let people fall behind.
What was the curriculum like?
The first half of the program, there is a morning lecture, then we would break off into pairs and work on an assignment. Then after lunch, we might have another lecture, and more pair programming. There is a pretty solid structure.
Did you (and your cohort) complete a capstone project at the end of the program? What did you choose?
The whole second half of the program is doing your own personal project. I built an OCR engine from scratch for Japanese. I haven’t deployed it yet- my database got too big to deploy to free hosting options.
Describe your experience after Hackbright- how did Hackbright prepare you to get a job?
At the end of Hackbright, during the last week, there’s a career day. It’s kind of like speed dating - you talk to each company for 7 minutes. You show them your project and try to talk about what opportunities are available at their company. Then you schedule interviews. I can’t even count how many companies I’ve interviewed with- it’s been a lot. And this past week, I got my first two job offers. (Update: Siena took a job as a developer with Indiegogo! Congrats!).
Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
Yes, I felt really well prepared. Hackbright has an end date but it doesn’t really end. Our last day was in December, but I came in almost every day after it ended. We’ve been practicing interview questions and commiserating through the job search process.
A lot of bootcamps offer a partial refund if you end up accepting a job with one of their partner companies- was that part of your experience?
For my class, if you accept a job with their partner companies, you get $3000 back on your tuition. This is something that has been fluctuating.
What are you up to today? Are you working on any side projects?
Right now, I’m pretty focused on getting a job. I started to learn Ruby on the side.
What has been your experience as a woman in the tech industry. Do you feel it changing?
I definitely do. I’ve heard some comments about surrounding yourself with only fellow women being detrimental since it doesn’t mimic the real world. I feel that completely misses the point of all-female engineering schools in the first place. I feel like we’re really changing things- people are talking about the problem of women in tech a lot more. And that opens the door to talking about racial diversity and income disparity as well. I don’t think it’s a lost cause. Hackbright graduated more female engineers than both Stanford and Berkeley combined this last year.
What kind of person would you recommend attend a dev bootcamp? What kind of person won't succeed?
Aside from knowing that you’re good at CS, people who are comfortable in a really collaborative setting will be successful. You can be competitive, but you can’t let that get in the way of helping your classmates. Pair Programming is a huge part of the program, so you probably won’t be successful if that sounds horrible to you.
Shannon Burns was pleasantly surprised and financially unprepared when she was accepted to Hackbright Academy. Coming from a low-income network, Shannon had to think fast, so she founded Hacking for Women and the CodeShannon Scholarship to finance her own education, and she’s not stopping there. Shannon will “fund-it-forward” by donating 10% of her first year’s salary to support another woman’s coding education.
We talk with Shannon about her journey to Hackbright, her goals as a developer, and how her Fund-it-Forward model is going to help women around the world.
What were you doing before you decided to apply to Hackbright?
I got my degree at San Francisco State and I ended up getting a job at a small startup working in an attic. One of my buddies suggested that I try computer programming, so I went to a Women Who Code event and made my first program, fell in love with it, and realized that this is what I want to do with my life.
Which bootcamps did you apply to? Why did you ultimately choose Hackbright?
I spent a good six months researching coding schools- I interviewed students and teachers, checked out placement stats and average salary stats. I had found this thing that finally fit for me, so I wanted to make sure I was preparing myself the best that I could by choosing the best school for me.
How much did the all-female aspect of the camp factor into your decision?
When I first heard about Hackbright, I was actually really turned off. I was concerned that it was all women, and that it wouldn’t prepare me to work in the real world, which is mostly male-dominated. My perception didn’t change until I interviewed. As soon as I walked into the office, all the preconceived notions that I had about being a coding school for women just melted away- it was such a positive environment, and that really sealed the deal for Hackbright for me. I had been to Hack Reactor, App Academy, and Dev Bootcamp, but the visit to Hackbright cemented my decision.
Did the fact that Hackbright teaches Python have an affect on your decision?
What was the application process like for you?
Ok, so you’re accepted to Hackbright- what’s next? How did you come up with the idea to use GoFundMe?
Well, I didn’t think I was going to get in, because I had heard that Hackbright only accepts 2% of students. So when I got in, I was in shock, and thinking about my options- how was I going to come up with a 5K deposit and 10k tuition. At this point, I had two months. I looked into all of the traditional methods. Since these coding schools are so new, they’re not accredited or considered university programs, so you can’t qualify for FAFSA or government aid, and you can’t even take student loans out. So the only loan options are to get a high-interest credit card with a very high limit, or getting a personal loan, or just asking somebody. I come from a very low-income background, and a low income network, so there was nobody in my network who had $15k to lend me, and on top of that, I couldn’t even find a cosigner to get a bank loan. I started crowdfunding and raised about $300. It wasn’t working, because it didn’t make sense for me to ask people to give me money to increase my own salary, so how can I solve this issue? It’s going to come up for a whole bunch of people, especially for women and minorities who are more likely to have lower-income networks.
So tell us about the “Fund-it-Forward” model?
It hit me all at once- I thought, “What if I donated 10% of my first year salary to enable someone else to go to code school too.” So now, instead of just funding myself (which I am!), after I graduate and get a job, I’ll donate 10% of my first year salary to the next woman, who can use it for coding school. Then she donates to the woman after her, and so on. The scholarship fund is called the CodeShannon scholarship, and the organization is called Hacking for women.
There’s also a mentorship aspect of the program, because I’ve noticed that there aren’t a lot of mentor relationships for women in tech. I want to make it a community, a place to go with a lot of resources in case you don’t know where to start. Like, don’t start with 5 languages at once! Nobody told me that.
To my knowledge, this is the first “Fund-it-Forward” scholarship. The women I know in my situation aren’t looking for handouts. I know that so many people have contributed to me change my life for the better, and all I want to do is give that to somebody else too.
How close are you to your goal? Why did you choose GoFundMe?
I’m about half-way to my goal. As of right now, I’m at $10,716, and my goal is $25,000. Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to fundraise, and IndiGoGo charges up to 9% on top of PayPal fees. GoFundMe’s fees were a bit less, but it was still a lot.
So, not only have you decided to attend Hackbright, but are you essentially setting up a scholarship program for Hackbright?
I want to make it very clear that this scholarship is program agnostic, and for women anywhere in the world. I want to encourage women abroad to apply as well, because I know there are even less resources for women abroad. So it’s not just for Hackbright, it’s for any woman who wants to go to coding school.
What are your goals after the program?
Well, I would love to come back to Lyft, but I’m really excited that I’m in a position where all of these doors are opening up. Hopefully I have more than one job offer, so I can make a choice.
How can people contact you or donate to your GoFundMe campaign?
You can donate directly on my website, www.hackingforwomen.com (preferrable). Or you can donate on my campaign at gofundme.com/codeshannon. If you want to follow me on twitter, i’m @karishannon and @hackingforwomen. And I like emails too! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since we interviewed Shannon, she has already sent us an exciting update- Women Who Code has graciously offered to merge with Hacking for Women. While the details are still being worked out, Hacking for Women officially has non-profit status and can offer tax deductions for all donations.
We’ll follow up with Shannon about her Fund-it-Forward campaign and her experiences at Hackbright Academy, so stay tuned!
Ksenia Burlachenko is a Hackbright Academy graduate who completed her program in Spring 2013.
She now works as a Software Engineer at Perforce and considers Hackbright to be “one of the best experiences and best decisions of [her] life.”
What were you up to before you applied to Hackbright?
I came to the US six years ago from Russia to study. Before Hackbright, I had graduated with a degree in Economics from USC. And I really loved economics- I loved problem solving and hard analytical skills, but I couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life. One of my friends just mentioned programming to me and suggested I try to pick it up. So I tried a few courses online and I really enjoyed it, and started to consider a boot camp. Hackbright was the first boot camp that I heard of- I applied and got accepted right away. I looked at other Bay Area boot camps, but none of them looked as interesting as Hackbright.
What was the application process like for you?
After I filled out the online application, I got a Skype interview with one of the cofounders, David, where he asked me about my story. Then my second interview was with Christian, the other cofounder. That interview was more about problem-solving and logic questions. He walked me through a technical problem and we used pair programming to approach it- I think it was about Statistics or Probability. I ended up solving it in 20 minutes, and it was actually the first time I tried programming outloud- I realized then that I should definitely pursue it.
What was the Hackbright prework like?
We went through Python the Hard Way. Since most of the students have no programming experience before the class starts, it’s recommended to try to work through the book as much as possible. I also looked through some computer science books- I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing though!
Did you have a preference for learning Python?
I did have a preference for Python. Actually, it was more of a coincidence, because I was really considering doing something with data analysis, since data analysis and the fundamentals of research were part of my undergraduate degree. Python is really popular in data analysis, and even though I don’t do data analysis now (in my current job), I strongly believe that Python is a better “first language” to learn. You can pick up the fundamentals of Computer Science through Python. I do like Ruby as well, but Python is better if you’re very new to programming.
What kind of students were in your cohort?
I’m sure you know that Hackbright is a program only for women, but everyone came from a different background. A few from finance, a few from the East Coast, people who had established careers and some just out of college. We all connected really well- one of the great things about Hackbright that I’m not sure if other bootcamps have is that it’s a really strong community and everyone is very supportive of each other- we share resources, job postings. There is a huge network of alumni. You’re spending so much time together during the class and you ultimately become best friends, and at Hackbright, I found some of my best friends. I consider Hackbright one of the best experiences and best decisions of my life.
There are a number of online boot camps and online classes that teach Ruby and Python. Why did you choose an in-person class?
For me, it was a very clear decision. I think some people are really smart and disciplined and can learn and structure a program by themselves. But I need to be with an instructor and have more human interaction. I don’t like to be stuck and spend three days looking for an answer on stack overflow when I have an instructor who can, not necessarily give away the answer, but just lead me in approaching the problem. I don’t think you get this with an online course.
I learned other programming languages after Hackbright on my own, which was much easier. But it was important to me to get my first programming experience with an instructor. Also, Hackbright instructors are just amazing- incredibly smart and supportive. Nobody is pitting us against each other- they really want everyone to succeed. Christian was our lead instructor, and Liz & Cynthia were assistant instructors in my program.
Can you describe the curriculum? Did you complete a project at the end?
During the first half of the course, you learn fundamentals of computer science and utilize pair programming. You pick small exercises and complete them with another person. Then, for the next five weeks you work on your personal project. My project was a bit unique, in the sense that it wasn’t a practical project- it wasn’t a web app. I implemented a singular value decomposition from scratch in Python and applied it to movie ratings data. Basically, it’s a prediction algorithm- and it was my first try with machine learning. In my class, everyone had their own preferences for what they would do after Hackbright, and I thought I wanted to do data analysis, but I wasn’t sure, so I tried different things. I realized that I like back-end development more than web development. I got so much support from instructors figuring out what my strengths are.
Describe your experience after HackBright- how long did it take you to get a job? Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
At the end of Hackbright, there’s a career day. It’s like reverse-speed dating: each Hackbright student has their own station, and 20-30 companies switch from station to station, learning about each candidate’s projects and what they want to do. Then, maybe after that they bring you in for interviews. I got hired by Perforce within one month of graduation, which was a partner company with Hackbright (I actually only interviewed with Hackbright partner companies). Right now I work as a Software Engineer. Their policies have changed since I graduated, but when I took a job with a partner company, I got my full tuition refunded.
What does your job entail now?
I work for Perforce, which is source version control system (a similar project is Git). The project I’m working on is called GitFusion; it’s an integration tool that let’s you use Git with Perforce on the back-end. I really like my company and my teammates, and I’m still learning every single day, which I think is the most important part for me. I use several operating systems, like Linux-based systems, in my new job, which is something I didn’t learn at Hackbright. And I had to pick up Perl.
Do you feel like at HB, there were specific programs geared towards combat the imposter syndrome and prepare you to be a woman in this industry?
Absolutely. Every week, we have tech talks, and several were focused on being a female engineer in a heavily male-oriented field, which helped a lot. There were also sessions on how to go through an interview, present yourself, and negotiate your salary. A year ago, I didn’t know what Python was, and I’ve made so much progress. I always felt that for women, it’s hard to get into programming because we get discouraged and we feel like imposters. You’ve heard of Lean In, but when you’re actually a woman experiencing it, you may not understand that it’s even happening to you. Whereas at Hackbright, I got so much support and eventually, I realized that I really am awesome and have the skills for this.
Since you’ve graduated from Hackbright, what has your experience as a woman been in the tech industry? Do you feel like the landscape is changing?
I feel like it’s still a very male-dominated industry. I’ve never really faced discrimination in the workplace- it’s more like little things that other people don’t notice. For example, when someone tells you that you should be preparing more for a presentation, and you start doubting yourself. It can slowly crawl up on you. And I have to say that everyone at my company now is very supportive, but sometimes, when you’re socializing with engineers or at conferences, you see that it’s very male-dominated, and you have to work harder being a woman. You’re in a battle with yourself every single day, but I still know that I should be programming and have the skills for it.
Have you noticed that colleagues or companies have looked down on having a boot camp education, as opposed to a Computer Science degree?
In the beginning, when I got hired by my company, it was a leap of faith for them. But I think right away, I blew away any concerns that they had, and it was clear that I was going to be successful in this career. They saw that my level of preparation and skill was just as good as someone graduating from college.
Any advice for students considering applying to Hackbright or a coding boot camp?
I think that programming is a skill that you can learn in an intensive setting in 10 to 12 weeks. If you learn the fundamentals and if you enjoy it, then you can learn programming. I really don’t think that getting a masters in CS is worth it, if you want to be a web developer. Just get your stuff together, work really intensively for 12 weeks, and you’ll be prepared to be a software engineer in this industry.
Want to learn more? Check out Hackbright Academy on Course Report for courses, costs and reviews.
1/14/2014Continue Reading →