[HackR Diary] Thoughts About Week #1

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

Last updated on Oct 1, 2013 (minor edits).

This post is a bit late, but it can be hard to find time to write up a thorough blog post when I’m studying at Hack Reactor for 70-80 hours/week. During my free time, it’s tempting to just play Hawken or catch up on YouTube (yes, I subscribe to some damn good channels).

Quick correction: In my previous HackR Diary entry, I said that the staff gets a 1-week vacation every 7 weeks (6 weeks of work followed by a 1-week break). This isn’t entirely true. The interim week can be used as vacation, but staff also use it to make changes to Hack Reactor. For example, the most recent interim week was used by staff to rearrange the lecture room, which involved installing a new projector screen.

Week in Review

I wake up everyday Mon-Sat at 7:30am. I should really wake up earlier so then I can arrive before 8:50am. I rely on the BART (subway) to get to/from Hack Reactor. I make my subway rides more enjoyable by saving YouTube videos as .mp4 files to my phone. I generally watch documentaries on cosmology and nature featuring British narrators. The accent is key. If you’re interested in such documentaries, check out this link and this link.

Ok enough of that. You came here to read about the intersection of start-up life and student life, not BBC on YouTube. Here’s a quick recap of what I was up to last week:

  • Learning: 2 “standard” sprints + 1 longer sprint
  • Reflection: Provided feedback on what students did and didn’t like about week 1.
  • Week 0 self-assessment: An ungraded quiz to force you to ask yourself how confident you are about what was taught in the pre-course work.
  • Code Review by seniors: The “upperclassmen” took a look at our data structures solutions.
  • Social Night: Visited House of Air, a sweet trampoline gym.

What I Learned

  • Sprint #1: Recursion
  • Sprint #2: Mini-clone of Underscore.js
  • Extra #1: Advice for Success
    • Hack Reactor’s role in students’ success
    • Students’ role in our own success
  • Extra #2: Debugging
    • debugger; statement
    • Sources tab in Google Chrome dev tools
    • Call Stack in Sources tab
  • Sprint #3: Instantiating Data Structures with various Class Patterns
    • Class Patterns
      • Functional (with and without shared methods)
      • Prototypal
      • Pseudoclassical
    • Data Structures
      • Stacks
      • Queues
      • Linked Lists
      • Trees
      • Sets
      • Hash Tables

What I Thought


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.

Paired Programming

I generally like the idea of paired programming so long as you have a good dynamic with your partner. That said, it can be really tiring because you’re constantly talking as you and your partner are coding. Not only are you exhausting your brain’s cognitive abilities by working on programming challenges, but you’re also exercising verbal comm skills and listening skills. It can be tough to listen to your partner explain his/her solution when you feel like you’re on the brink of working out your own awesome solution in your head.

The School

Hack Reactor is a fantastic environment, and I know every student of every bootcamp says this, but it’s just so amazing to be in a school where the students and teachers are all so pumped to be there. On top of that, the students are open-minded without being naive. Basically, Hack Reactor is filled with the positive vibes that should make every college wildly jealous.

It’s also worth noting that Hack Reactor is transparent. They’re a small company, and their small size allows them to build a tighter community of teachers, students, and alumni. I love that Hack Reactor staff is very honest and genuine. When cynics look at the relatively expensive tuition, it’s tempting for them to say HackR is “in it for the money,” but check out a lecture or listen to them explain their intentions and you won’t hear a sales pitch. You’ll hear earnest intentions to educate the next generation of developers using next-generation methods.