If you found this blog because you're searching for more information about Hack Reactor, welcome! I was in the same position a few months ago. I appreciate you taking the time to read what I've written and hope it's of value.

Let's talk about programming camps.

I learned about Hack Reactor back in 2013. I don't remember exactly where, but I have a very good feeling it was from this Techcrunch article. At the time, I didn't think much of it. It seemed like a lot of work, a lot of money, but a lot of upside. It sounded too good to be consistently true and I certainly did not want to stray from pursuing a career in film/video production.

Around July of 2014, I started heavily considering my options. As I wrote earlier, I found a lack of opportunities to consistently get good paying film and video-related gigs. I was tired too often and completely stressed out from my full-time job. It was time for a change, and I needed one very badly.

I started researching more about these programming camps that I had heard so much about. A ton of names flew at me almost immediately. AppAcademy. Bloc. Coding Dojo. DevBootCamp. General Assembly. Hack Reactor. One thing you should know about this space, if you have any interest in pursuing it, is there is so much noise.

Every company wants to grab that same attention span from you and every comapny wants you to enroll in their program. You see a lot of things being thrown out there:

  • Our graduates are making (insert high-five-to-six-figure salary)
  • (Number between 95 and 100) percent of our graduates are employed!
  • Get this done in (10-12+) weeks!
  • No experience required!

Mixed perception of programs like these exist. That's perfectly reasonable. When you have so many different programs claiming the same, difficult to believe statistics, it can easily become overwhelming. Horror stories (sorry, the original post has been removed) exist that make you think twice about these programs.

I don't want to do a disservice and tell you the pros and cons of every program that I researched and ended up not going with because in the end, I never seriously considered any of them. I feel like others will do a better job of speaking about the other programs, since my heart was set on Hack Reactor from the start.

The factors that drew me to Hack Reactor were engagement through Quora and student blogs, the growth of Javascript, and the selective interview process. I wanted a program that would require candidates to have a specific level of Javascript knowledge going in, and Hack Reactor's claim of being a "20-120" program is what heavily influenced my decision to attend.

About tuition

Hack Reactor's tuition ($17,780) is nowhere close to small change. Combine this with the rising price of rent in the San Francisco Bay Area, cost of commuting (~$60/month through Muni), and any other personal expenses (food, cellphone bill, etc) the numbers game can be very overwhelming.

Hack Reactor offers tuition deferrals on a case-by-case basis, usually up to half of your tuition. This is something you'll be asked about during your technical interview and is something they position as a last resort. I was fortunate enough to have some savings lined up as well as secure some personal loans from family members.

Preparation

UPDATE (9/7/2016)!

I just noticed this post is gaining some traffic, so I want to forward you to this fantastic resource I've built on GitHub that encapsulates the links below along with a lot more resources. Hope you like it!

This is outdated content, check out the GitHub repo I linked to in the paragraph right above

Once I had decided that I wanted to attend Hack Reactor, I decided to get serious about learning Javascript. The following resources were very helpful in my preparation for the interview:

End outdated content

Hack Reactor Junior

I had the pleasure of attending two Hack Reactor Junior courses. The structure for the ones I attended was different from what's on the Hack Reactor blog. They were instead one-day workshops that started around 10am and ended around 7pm.

Getting to attend these two courses were a big deal for me. They let me re-evaluate exactly where I was in my Javascript knowledge (read: not very far!), tackle some really fun in-class projects while practicing Pair Programming, and make friends that I would study with after the course had ended. I personally feel that I benefited most from the networking that allowed me to find a reliable study buddy before my actual interview.

Rescheduling my interview. Twice.

It turns out, I felt much less prepared than I actually was (I know, shocker!) twice during my interview process. I didn't want to waste my interviewers' time, and so I rescheduled my interview twice.

My original interview date landed one day prior to the Hack Reactor Junior course on Callbacks, Scopes, and Closures. It was in mid-September and I did not feel anywhere close to ready, so I rescheduled one week out to the 22nd of September.

During this second Hack Reactor Junior course, I asked our instructor, Bianca Gandolfo, what the re-test waiting period was. So silly of me not to find out sooner. It was a recommend three-month waiting period, which would definitely have been catastrophic for me. In light of this newfound knowledge, I rescheduled my interview immediately to the end of the month to give myself an extra week to be prepared.

It turns out, those two extra weeks helped a lot. In that time, I completed the optional Chatbuilder assignment and completed a lot of Code Wars exercises to prepare myself.

The Interview.

No, not the one starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

I would be lying if I said I was completely calm and confident the day of my interview. Nervous wreck isn't entirely accurate either. I started the day studying at a nearby hotel lobby (they're great places to study. Nobody ever bothers you and it's usually very nice and quiet) before walking a block over to 944 Market Street for my interview.

Whoever was at the podium that day checking people in, thank you for that glass of water. It really helped my nerves. After waiting in the hallway for a few minutes I was introdduced to Rohan who was a Hacker-In-Residence at Hack Reactor and my interviewer. My impression of Rohan is that he is a very likeable and relaxed person that I could see myself befriending. In fact, my impression of everyone whom I have met at Hack Reactor through the Hack Reactor Junior courses as well as everyone in my cohort has been the same.

I'm not certain what I can and cannot reveal about the interview process and it's definitely not my intention to give anyone a clear battle plan on how to 'bypass the interview' or anything. Rohan made it very clear at the beginning of the interview that Hack Reactor wants you to succeed during your techincal interview. There are no bonus points or any quotas regarding number of candidates accepted or rejected.

Here's one very good piece advice about interviewing that I got from this blog post (emphasis mine):

Note, I didn’t pass the first technical interview because I wasn’t able to articulate my thought process and problem-solving methodology. It’s a crucial habit to learn to pseudo-code before jumping straight into code. Don’t do this: Brain Soup —> Code. Instead, do this: Brain Soup —> English —> Pseudo-code —> Code. After Joey, my interviewer, shared this advise with me, I was able to pass the second technical interview relatively easily.

The first thing I was asked to do was to go through some very basic-level Javascript knowledge. This was probably to immediately weed out anyone not serious about the program. I'd compare this to things learned during the first Javascript Road Trip course on Code School.

After that, we jumped into some looping which I finished with relative ease. Then came the more challenging part. I was asked to write some functions. Functional Javascript is a large part of the interview and pre-course work, and I feel that it's important to be aware of this going in.

The functions increased in difficulty. Eventually, we wrote functions that accepted other functions as a paramter (callbacks). Along the way, we both discovered something new about ternary operators and did a very fun last function exercise. I think we went through between five and ten functions before the interview concluded and we moved on to Q&A.

I think it's important to note here that during my interview process, I did not have access to the Javascript API. Additionally, things like missing semicolons were not of any concern. If you can articulate what you are trying to do and can show that you can execute it, I think that's good enough. The tests were not put through any sort of system to analyze.

The decision

I received my acceptance letter the next day, but have heard it can take up to five business days before you hear back. I was very excited to learn I had been accepted and am glad that my time spent studying really paid off.

Unfortunately, the December cohort that I had wanted to attend had been filled so I opted for the next cohort, which starts on February 2nd. We received our pre-course work in early December and I finished it just last week. In my next post, I'll talk a bit about this preparation period as we head closer to February.