[HackR Diary] First Impressions

- - posted in Hack Reactor, HackR Diary, JavaScript, TIL, coding bootcamps | Comments

Last updated on Sep 28, 2013 to edit section on guard operator.

It’s the end of day #3. I don’t have much time to write, so this blog post is a smattering of thoughts from a fresh Hack Reactor student.

Initial Observations


  • Day 1 and 2 are just review days covering topics and challenges covered by the pre-course work. Day 1 covered ettiquette, expectations, and recursion. Day 2 covered passing functions, a lot of JS fundamentals, and awesome advice for being successful (e.g., we talked about impostor syndrome, Hack Reactor’s motivations, some job-hunting advice, etc).
  • Day 3 covered paired programming, object-oriented programming (OOP), and classes (e.g., functional instantiation vs. prototypal instantiation vs. psuedoclassical instantiation).


  • Week 1 is full of lectures. Each day is about 50% lectures, 50% coding.
  • The first 6 weeks will have plenty of lectures and structured challenges. Then there is an interim week where you work on a project from home, which gives you the flexibility to travel, but the Hack Reactor staff will be offline (they basically get a 1-week vacation every 7 weeks). After the interim week is more time for your individual project, time for a group project, and time for job prep.


  • Lunch breaks and dinner breaks are often cut short due to lectures running long.
  • Lectures run long due to people asking questions.
  • All teachers advocate for students to ask questions. At Hack Reactor, the students ask a TON of questions because the class atmosphere is very comfortable.
  • The students are really nice. Everyone’s excited to meet new people (even the quiet ones are clearly motivated to be social).
  • I’ve heard stories of students of other bootcamps going out at night to hang out and have fun. I could be wrong, but so far it seems like there’s no time/energy left for going out at night.
  • That said, students don’t stay here that late (so far). A lot of us leave by 9pm. I thought it’d be common to leave no earlier than 10pm, but there aren’t even that many students from the senior cohort by the time the clock strikes 9:20pm (which is the latest I’ve stayed). I have a feeling this will change in a few weeks (beause that will be crunch time for the senior cohort).
  • Nothing’s perfect. Some equipment is broken, some chairs are shitty, some online resources are buggy, etc. None of these issues have been big issues.

Nuggets of Knowledge

I’ve picked up a lot of cool (and oftentimes valuable) advice/facts in just 3 days.

Life Nuggets

Re: Education

Passive learning is deceptively similar to true understanding. When you just observe a correct solution, it can give you the illusion that you learned more than you really did. For example, you might watch someone code up a good solution. When you walk away, you’ll think you understand everything necessary to solve the problem, but all you learned was some code without its meaning.

Re: Starting a new tech career

Everyone thinks starting a new tech career with a tiny startup is really exciting. That might be true, but people tend to forget an important caveat: less structure could lead to a less efficient roadmap to individual success.

In less formal terms, you might work for a tiny startup on something you truly care about, but the startup could easily be too small or too young to provide an environment with superiors/peers that can help you develop your programming skills (or any job-related skills).

JavaScript Nuggets

Guard operator

Marcus, the primary instructor, warned us that some devs dislike the guard operator, but it’s really concise (which is cool to him). The guard operator is a logical-AND or logical-OR that “guards” a small bit of code the same way an if statement would guard it. For example:

if(goodStudent === true){

// The above code could be refactored into the following:
goodStudent && candy++;

The following is a more practical example:

// Let's say you want to only call a function with an array if the array is NOT undefined (i.e., you want to guard against a scenario where you pass an undefined argument to a function).
arg && myFunction(arg);

You can also use a logical-OR in a guard-like fashion. This is sometimes called the default operator rather than a guard operator.

// if no name was passed into the function, just give the name variable a default value of 'friend'

var sayHello = function(name){
  if(name === undefined){
    name = 'friend';
  console.log('Hello, ' + name + '!');

// the function above could be refactored to use the OR-guard as follows:
var sayHello = function(name){
  name = name || 'friend';
  console.log('Hello, ' + name + '!');