Life at Hack Reactor: Students Blog About Their First Week

What is it like to step from normal life into the whirlwind of the Hack Reactor program? Occasionally, students take the time to blog about their first week, and their experiences, intense as they are, might reassure anyone thinking about taking their programming skills to the next level at Hack Reactor.

Emily Dong tried a number of online coding courses before she applied to Hack Reactor. Aspiring coders should take note, as her experience could save you a ton of time

I started by jumping into lots of online tutorials that promised to be the easy, quick way to learn programming. It was a complete waste of time and none of it made sense until I took the time to learn some basics about CS. There are many MOOCs out there that from elite universities and many different languages that can help you do this. I personally took and recommend Stanford’s CS106a: Introduction to Computer Science because the professor is hilarious and keeps you engaged but any intro class from a university will serve this purpose.

Emily Dong started the
Hack Reactor program
on April 13.

For Jeff Lee, now a Hack Reactor alum, the leap into the program loomed large just before he took it. Here are his thoughts the night before he started at Hack Reactor:

Tomorrow is a huge day for me. Tomorrow is when I start attending Hack Reactor. I’m about to go from funemployment (going to bed at 4am; waking up at 12pm) to immersive student life (spending 80 hours/week on 'campus').

Jeff Lee finished the Hack Reactor program in 2013, and is now a Software Engineer at MindJet

Jeff Lee finished the Hack Reactor program in 2013, and is now a Software Engineer at MindJet

So, what is life like on the other side of the threshold? Here are Emily's impressions so far:

Hack Reactor moves at a lightning pace - cramming what would likely be a month of class in college into 2 day sprints. And yet, it seems everyone in class is able to take in information at this speed and apply it. In my opinion, this is made possible by how succinctly the instructors present each concept . They are constantly refining the course material to get to the heart of a concept and remove the fluff around it.

Jeff was also very impressed with the lectures:

Week 1 is very different from most weeks due to the amount of lengthy lectures we have to sit through, but ya know what? I really liked the lectures. The main instructor for week 1 is Marcus, and he’s pretty great at teaching. Students constantly ask questions during lecture so it feels much more interactive and much less like being force-fed information.

I like that lectures involve plenty of analogies, live coding examples, industry best practices, and “every interviewer will ask you about this” moments. You’d think students would get pretty tired of all the lectures, but they’re too good to be off-putting. Also, 5+ hours of lectures per day isn’t a lot when you consider we’re spending 12+ hours per day at the school.

Emily had some kind words for Marcus as well: "A couple of Marcus's jokes have made my day. Can't put a price on an engaging teacher!"

Jeff is now a Software Engineer at Mindjet. Emily is currently in her first weeks at Hack Reactor, and she is optimistic for the school going forward:

I'm really surprised and impressed by how much thought has been put into the curriculum and the feedback/refinement process here. I think Hack Reactor can only get better even from here.