[Redacted] Academy – Weeks Three / Four

I know I am a little late with this post, and I apologize, BUT I’ve been busy coding, y’all!

A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks; we’ve covered SQL, HTML, JavaScript, and building/deploying our first web apps…

That’s a fucking lot to learn in only two weeks… and honestly, I can’t tell you a single thing about any of it. Wait, that’s a lie; I can tell you that <div> </div> is a container in HTML – I hope you’re impressed!?!

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One of the reasons it’s taken me a while to post about [Redacted] is because I’ve bonded with classmates and most of the staff. While I adore all of them as people, I don’t have fluffy things to say about the program. Sometimes this makes me feel like an asshole and super unpopular but I only blog honestly; I will not put glowing things up here unless glowing things happened.

So, let’s talk about the truth of attending [Redacted]  (as harsh or happy as that may be), because I believe there is good in admitting the bad.

Before coming to [Redacted] , I did a lot of research (blogs, articles, social media), and only found flattering and impressive things said about the program. If you do your research on [Redacted] , you too will find lots of inspirational and idealistic content, but you will find only that. As a result, my expectations upon entering [Redacted]  were very high (their own publications put them on that pedestal), but the reality of my experience is very different. Had my expectations been lower, perhaps things would be different, but here’s MY personal experience (and it’s different for everyone).

If you are considering [Redacted]  or researching it, I want to make sure your expectations meet the reality. These are the things I wish I had known about [Redacted] :

1) It’s fast paced (like, lightening quick):

Make sure that you’ve done ALL of the pre-work. You should have a firm grasp on basic Python, sharpened logic skills, and confidence in basic math.

P.S. give extra special attention to learning dictionaries and if the below doesn’t make sense to you then you haven’t studied enough.

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2) There is no structure, curriculum, or lesson plan:

There is no real structure to the lessons. What will be covered each day, and which instructor will cover it, is determined moments before lectures start. Most lectures have no clear context, direction, or established objective, and new terms/concepts are not defined in advanced; you are expected to understand them only from the live coding being done for the class. Instructors don’t plan well; the skills required to complete that afternoon’s exercises, may nor may not be covered in the lecture.

Diversions and personal opinions are a frequent part of most lectures (ex: “Well…. in Ruby, we deal with objects like this….” except none of the students know Ruby, and we barely know Python, so the 15 minute example which follows this type of comment, is lost on everyone. Soon after, another instructor will chime in with why Ruby sucks, and so on).

Understand that for the most part, the lectures are not lectures or lessons, but live coding examples in Bash. Your ability to follow live coding, and understand/read code from the command line, is critical in your ability to understand anything being covered in the “lectures”.

3) There is help:

While the lectures and overall direction of the class is inconsistent and unclear, when you go to the pair programming room, there are instructors walking around and they are eager to help you. I’ll admit that I don’t ask for help as often as I should, but most of the time it’s because I don’t know enough about what I am doing to know what questions to ask.

4) Most instructors are new. They are programmers, not teachers:

In previous [Redacted]  sessions, Instructor1 and Instructor2 were the primary instructors, with solid teaching skills and brilliant resumes as developers. Unfortunately, in this session Instructor2 was absent for the first 3-4 weeks, and Instructor1 only lectured intermittently. The overwhelming majority of instruction at [Redacted], was suddenly from new instructors with less experience; I did not expect this.

While all of the new instructors are genius-level developers, they are very inexperienced teachers, and that creates very confused students. I feel like they have a hard time relating back to mindset of new developers/students like us, and so much gets lost in translation.

Last week Instructor2 stepped back into the classroom, after realizing the class was not grasping concepts, as the result poor instruction. Instructor2 did a great job at handling the unfortunate truth of many student complaints, but as a result of the not so clear instruction, I feel like my first few weeks were null… and I am not alone in that feeling.

Fortunately, Instructor2 is attempting to fix this by coming in to lecture more himself, and offering to re-teach any concept, to those girls who want it.

THEY DO CARE!

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5) The community is AMAZING. You’ll get great mentors:

[Redacted]  has a very tight knit community; access to this community, is really what you’re paying for. You’re paying to learn to code for sure, but you’re also paying to have the ability to connect with a network of alumni, mentors, and friends of the program. Every time I tweet I get a message from an alum who wants to help.

[Redacted]  will also pair you with three mentors, typically this includes: a C-Level, a Sr Developer, and a Jr Developer (which is great!). Your mentors will check in with you at least once a week, and answer any questions they can. Once project time rolls around we will be relying on them a lot.

7) Don’t expect to be an expert. You’ll leave [Redacted]  as a well-rounded beginner (but still very much a beginner):

You shouldn’t even expect to be a novice, but depending on the skills/background you enter [Redacted]  with, experiences vary. Some girls are already working at the novice level, or have engineering backgrounds in other areas, that are much easier to build on.

Your expectation should be to come to [Redacted]  with a generic eagerness to learn, network, and have fun; if that’s your mindset, your expectations will be met. If you enter [Redacted]  expecting college level instruction and the ability to write software … your expectations are too high.

Mind you, all of these expectations above could change as the weeks go by but, as it stands right now, that’s where I am.

Having said all of that… I will say that learning to code is hard, really really fucking hard. I think I could spend years learning and still not feel like I know anything, so I can’t stress enough about the prep work. You can technically come having skipped it, but if you do, you’re going to be super disappointed.

[Redacted] is great at a lot of things (taking feedback gracefully, making changes as needed), and as it stands right now, Instructor2 is back in the classroom as an instructor. There is a lot of student demand for more structured lesson plans and better teaching overall, and rumors that those things will soon come true. Instructor2 is coming in early every morning to help those who are behind, and the instructors have started drawing pictures and diagrams for us visual learners and sometimes I make my own.

 

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It’s important to remember that [Redacted] is still kind of in its infancy, and growing rapidly. I hope to grow with them, but sometimes that means I’ll fail with them too. The failures are okay though, when you have people like Instructor1, and a community around you, like the one [Redacted] has built.


  • Anna

    Thanks so much for writing about your experience! I’m really, really hoping to be a Hackbrighter this summer (my first interview is next week!), and it’s been so useful to hear about the specifics about the program — particularly the non-gushy, completely positive kind. I’m a visual learner too, and that’s probably why my first experience in a comp sci class in college was hard. Thanks for the tip on dictionaries! I’ll add it to my list of prep work.

    Good luck with everything, and please continue posting when you can! 🙂

    • Ashley McNamara

      I am glad the posts are helpful and i’ll continue to post for sure.

      • Brandy

        I’m with Anna, thanks so much for posting about your experience as you go. I’ve been considering applying, so it’s great to hear another perspective. Good luck to you as you continue through the program! I look forward to reading more. 🙂

  • lizTheDeveloper

    Hey Ashley! This is actually Liz, your friendly neighborhood Hackbright Instructor.
    Thanks for writing about us. I rely on our students to put out the truth about Hackbright and what we’re good at (and what we’re not). I love that you shared this feedback with us, and I love that you shared it with the world too.
    We’re not perfect. We’re trying to be, and we do listen, so blog, email, tweet all the things that give people the most real impression about what Hackbright is.
    I love it when people gush about us, but I also want everyone to go into Hackbright with their eyes open about how freakin’ hard it is, and where they might personally face challenges based on how we’re (dis)organized.

    Keep writing, and stay badass.
    -@lizTheDeveloper

    • Ashley McNamara

      Reason 146858754 why you’re my favorite person, Liz! Xoxo

  • Pao.So

    Hi!
    I don’t know if you still read comments for these posts. I hope you do!!
    In general, were the concepts above the ones you had trouble with? Which particular concepts did most of the class have trouble grasping? And was it possibly to learn technologies not covered in the program at all? Like Ruby for example.