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Five Unique Questions from a Computer Programming School Applicant

Anthony Phillips

Hack Reactor's computer programming school has many astute readers and followers. As such, we're always looking for great opportunities to answer their questions and quench their curiosity about our program. Co-Founder Tony Phillips exchanged a Q&A with a prospective developer who had five unique questions about our computer programming school that we're pretty sure haven't been answered in a blog post before.

These questions involve technical interview preparation, a comparison of our alumni to Stanford and Berkeley's CS grads, what an applicant with a master's degree or changing careers to computer programming should consider, and the structure of our program as it applies to hands on and hands off teaching.

Prospective Student: How do you help candidates with technical interviews that involve computer science theory and background? 

Tony: We do a couple things that help students.  First we have toy problems every morning which help students both to work on interview type questions but also to focus on the more CS-y type stuff.  We also do mock interviews during the hiring curriculum. Even after graduation, alumni come back and inform us of interview questions they didn't feel confident answering, and we continue to tutor them and provide advice.

(Read about the diminishing value of a CS degree here.)

PS: In light of technical interviews, what do you recommend Hack Reactor students do in order to remain competitive with UC Berkeley/Stanford CS grads? 

T: Our students tend to do dramatically better on average than either of those schools both based on percentage of students getting jobs and starting annual salary. We have a 100% hiring rate, with many students attaining six-figure starting salaries.

PS:Given that I recently graduated with a Master's degree, what do you see as advantages/disadvantages to going through a program such as Hack Reactor?

T: Hack Reactor's computer programming school tends to give people a ton of the practical experience that they would not have otherwise received in a Master's degree.  In addition to that, the instructors you will be working with here either are currently working for or have recently been working for places like Adobe, Twitter, Google, Mozilla, OKCupid Labs, etc.  You can't get much closer to the action than that.

They have advice from a very real world perspective that can instill both theoretical and practical best practices that you might not have discussed in your Master's degree.  The downside is the time and money.  It will increase your earning potential significantly, but you will have to spend some time and money to tap that delta.

PS: Since tech favors young talent and given that I am a career changer in my late 20's, I was wondering what your thoughts are regarding employability after going through your program?

T: We are actually not seeing the phenomenon that you are talking about.  I have read it in the articles, but we are not seeing any difference in hire-ability between a twenty-something and a forty-something.  That being said, my stats are mainly anecdotal because we don't actually ask the age of our participants.

PS: Some programs I've spoken to are half teaching/half students working on their own projects. Is the structure of Hack Reactor similar? 

T: I'm so curious which program that is.  We don't do the half learn, half teach model.  We have you working with instructors on some level throughout the course.  We work to get our students to autonomy by week seven such that they can dependably tell employers they can 'fly on their own' and be truthful about it.

This definitely will feel more like a rafting ride with instructors as your 'guide' than a personal tutoring service for twelve weeks.  There are significant amounts of lectures, activities, curriculum, and people walking around to answer questions, but Senior devs cost around $75/hour and having a senior dev as a personal tutor (even without the space, the support staff, the computers, etc) would cost about $60,000 in each student's tuition for the number of hours our course runs.

(Read more about how Hack Reactor invests tremendous resources into its students. )