First day finished. Made it through, mostly without a scratch. The thrust of the days lectures centered around life and best practices at HackReactor. Given the intensity of the program, this front loading makes perfect sense.
My experiences in pair programming has me occupying different roles. In one, the student clearly felt overwhelmed and under qualified. I tried my best to be encouraging: there are many others in the same boat. I actually had fun playing the supportive role, it was my first experience mentoring someone in programming. The skills learned from dance are highly transferable, so I occupied the role comfortably.
I grow concerned this will be the norm at Hack Reactor. The first six weeks are organized into self-guided sprints where we dig into material on a particular topic. There is always extra credit and opportunity to go more advanced. I figured: if I *actually* know the material, I'll blaze through it and get to the extra credit. What no one ever told me through my extensive querying was that it's all done in pairs.
There's no way to know what the future might hold, but I now have a much more present fear about my room to move quickly. All my peers are truly amazing, inspired, and capable individuals, so I'm placing no value judgment on them. I'm simply acknowledging the fact of my more experience, and whether I will be able to challenge myself on a technical level.
Of course, I would still benefit from the program. Teaching someone material always gives you new insights and crystallizes understanding. But, did I sign up to do that 90% of the time? Not really: I still want to be moved forward technically in leaps and bounds.
These concerns are predicated on two unknowns: the speed at which my peers catch up, and the novelty of the material presented. I'm fairly confident I know much of what will be presented technically, at least for the first few weeks. I've heard similar sentiments expressed by other people that attended this program with a CS background.
My concerns are being thoughtfully considered by the team. I'm receiving support and insight and opinions from peers, people longer in the program (called "seniors"), and alumni. Much to contemplate.
I did have a particularly illuminating conversation with a senior that came into the program with experience similar to mine. The senior confirmed that they did not learn all that much on the technical side, certainly nothing they couldn't already do by themselves, but there were still clear benefits to HR:
1. Communication, collaboration, and related soft skills. Highly emphasized by Hack Reactor, any student graduating will be highly capable of speaking cogently and precisely about a topic. You practice communicating about code from day 1. While I don't have much experience explicitly with code, I'd say I'm a highly practiced communicator. The marginal benefit here is not tremendous.
2. Community. You're surrounded by high-performance individuals, all of whom are kind and passionate. It's an inspiring environment and you're building a community of programmers. As a more experienced member of my cohort, I will become known as a resource, teacher, and leader. This network will have lasting effects when they are all working jobs and recruiting others. A huge boon, but again the dance scene already offers a semblance of this. I know a staggering number of coders whom work self-employed, in startups, and at tech giants like Google. While they may not know my work in code, they know me which can be a foot in the door.
3. The hiring team at HR. Top-notch and dogged in their support of HackRs. A rapidly growing network of hiring companies, and a hiring day now often oversubscribed. Another huge benefit, but again -- is it not replicable on my own?
4. It's fun. For all the obvious reasons: community, learning, challenge, interesting projects. Another large benefit, but worth the tuition price?
Meanwhile, today I'm chatting with the CEO of a tech company, a connection made by someone reading my programmer's origin story. Further evidence that blogs are an excellent way to improve visibility. He offered to get me an interview. Hoo boy. That was fast.