Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My reasons for attending Hack Reactor.

In five days, I will begin (yet another) intense period of study. I'm joining Hack Reactor, the acclaimed 3-month full-stack Javascript boot camp in San Francisco.


I'm happy to return to the States after a successful six-week tour of Europe, to be in a familiar space where I speak the native language. As far as spending time with friends or exploring the city, however, I may as well still be in another country. The country of ... Hack Reactor. With 70 hrs minimum time commitment per week, I am for all intents and purposes not actually in the Bay Area. My only free day, Sundays, will largely be devoted to catching up on HR work, sleep, side projects, and other important personal maintenance tasks.

I am equal parts excited and apprehensive, a mixture of emotions reminiscent of departing for summer camp. Hack Reactor will undoubtedly be an inspiring, challenging space where I will learn an insane amount of material. In some ways, though, I'm not the ideal student for this group.

Hack Reactor is -- as with almost all bootcamps -- geared toward people with little to no experience with programming. I'd say ~90% of the HR students in my group come in with no background beyond tinkering with Coderbyte challenges and reading through Eloquent JavaScript. I suspect such students will experience the most intense and expansive growth through the program. With the lecture material likely being entirely new for them, they will get a massive jumpstart on understanding software engineering, deftly sidestepping the usual roadblocks and wasted time of trial-and-error that marks the growth of a self-taught programmer.

I am not being disparaging of the general lack of experience among my cohort. Every single person has impressed me with their biography, and I sincerely look forward to our future work together. They all seem exceedingly capable to tackle the challenges ahead. If anything, I am expressing slight envy: given my prior experience, I think my HR experience will not be quite so chock-full of ground-breaking learnings, which makes the cost more difficult to justify.

I went through with attending Hack Reactor because there is still tremendous value to be gained from the school. It will provide an intense, structured learning environment. I will revisit the fundamentals from a more seasoned perspective, thus solidifying my grasp of the basic principles of web development. As I will probably finish assignments ahead of schedule (if the precourse work is any indication, this should hold true -- it took me ~30% of the estimated time), I can take time to tinker with projects that highlight that particular topic, or dig deeper under the guidance of the teaching staff.

More advanced concepts in web development, such as authentication or server-side work, will be new to me as well. While I could certainly hack through learning materials on my own (such are the joys of widely available educational material on programming), I will no doubt pick up the essentials faster through HR.

Then, of course, there are the ample benefits of the community. First, it'll be thrilling to work alongside equally passionate and driven individuals. Second, learning from the talented teaching staff, all of whom receive accolades for the quality of their pedogogy. Third, the hiring network provided explicitly through HR. Fourth, the informal hiring network provided by all fellow HR-alumni as they spread throughout the industry. The network effect of HR is a powerful and beneficial one, without question.

My time at HR will be productive, no question about it. Hopefully it'll be $17,000 worth of productive.

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