Cofounder Shawn Drost Talks Influences, Hobbies & Plans in AMA

Hack Reactor cofounder Shawn Drost did an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session at Career Dean, a site dedicated to asking and answering questions on the life and careers of Software Engineers. Drost answered a wide range of queries from his typical day, to Hack Reactor’s past and future, to teaching his future kid to code.

There were several people who asked about how Drost spends his time. In short, his life bounces between the highly scheduled and the consciously unplanned:

“I generally have 10-20 meetings or lectures per day on Mon/Tue/Th/Fri, and then I have huge blocks of time to concentrate and get big projects done Weds/Sat. I hold classroom events (lectures, reflections, etc) with students in the Remote Beta and Code.7370 classes. Today we had project presentations for the second Remote Beta cohort, which were AWESOME.

“I'm on the six-day schedule, which means that I work Saturdays and get a week off every six weeks. (This is an option for everyone that works at Hack Reactor, but not a requirement.) I'm headed to New Orleans next week, where I have a side project going... I'm building a writers colony with some friends.”

ama, hack reactor, coding school, shawn drost, careerdean, software engineer, coding

Cofounder Shawn Drost answered a wide range of questions at an AMA hosted by Career Dean.

This warranted a couple of follow-up question on how he can get so much done (“mad asana/gmail/gcal game” plus “brevity”), and what it’s like to work that much:

“I am in a very lucky situation right now where I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job and I can't focus on anything else. However, when I get bored of it, I stop working and go snowboarding or something. Do whatever excites you, and try not to worry about whether other people call it work.”

One person asked if Drost would teach his future kid to program, which gave him a chance to explain how he views coding at a broader level:

“Oh, yes yes yes. Coding is what we call expressive humancomputer communication and computers are fascinating things that you can use to create art, shape society, nerd out, entertain your buddies, solve puzzles. I hear that the youngest coder is 5, so I guess that's the number to beat. I'll have to start a school called Diaper Reactor.”

Though, of course, there is more to life than coding. In response to a question about what else he does with his time, Drost explains that he carves out time away from the screen:

“In my free time, I focus on non-coding (non-computer) hobbies just to get into another headspace. I like travel, the outdoors, music festivals, brunch with friends, dinner parties with friends, anything with friends, hanging out at my parents' house near Yosemite, playing guitar with my nephew Simon, who is a cutie that likes to bang on his ukulele and dance all crazy.”

Many people had questions geared toward their own personal development as a programmer. Drost took questions on the best programming language to learn first (“Whatever your best friend knows. Otherwise, JavaScript.”), and how to stand out in the Hack Reactor interview:

“1. Write the code. Study up on eloquent js. 2. Be someone you want to pair with -- see my other answer on soft skills.

As for the soft skills Drost mentioned, he produced this list:

  • Joy of learning
  • Joy of teaching
  • Intellectually curious
  • Humble
  • Someone you would want to pair program with
  • Good interviewer
  • Introspective
  • High EQ

Drost also works on Code.7370, a project that Hack Reactor is involved with in which prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are taught to code, and many people were curious about that.

“Heads up, btw, inmates are way more normal than you might expect. Don't expect prison to be a nice place, but also be aware that you or any of your friends could be in there (or maybe one of your childhood friends is in prison for something very terrible and dumb that they did, I have a friend like that) and that a class in coding would be extremely powerful, fun, and life-changing for that person (or you).”

Both Drost and Hack Reactor have big plans for the future that involve changing the basic structure of education. After noting the arbitrariness of the four-year college model, Drost laid out this vision:

“1. Build a network of really awesome coding schools by helping others to start their own.

2. Help people build schools covering other subject matter.”

“There is no 3. 1 and 2 will take like fifty years to spread across the world. In my head there is a graph with colleges in a steady, horizontal line, gradually declining, and accelerated learning programs pick up a bit every decade.”

Check out the full AMA to find more about life at Hack Reactor, our alumni network, Drost’s ideas on education, and what it’s like to use OKCupid as an OKCupid employee.

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Code.7370 Teaches Inmates to Code at San Quentin State Prison

Want to Start a Coding School? Want a Coding School in Your Hometown? Check Out Hack Reactor Extensions