Week 1 – “Hell Week”

This article could easily be subtitled: Glimmering punctua of pure clarity and childlike wonderment. But then I’d be jacking my title from Marcus (our lead instructor/one of Hack Reactor’s co-founders). Hell week (as the instructors affectionately call week one) is semi-officially over and I am more content than I have ever been in my entire life. I will admit that as I got ready and rode the train into the city on Monday morning I had my doubts. Was I cut out for this, would anyone like me, was this program going to be totally not what I expected? Let me tell you my friends, it is more (any adjective is useless here) than I can describe.

On Monday morning I told myself not to be nervous, but the impostor syndrome and general unknown was super strong. The train ride was scary, the solo walk to the building was scary, the first few uncomfortable introductions in the kitchen area where breakfast is served were scary, but I have come to love this sight:

944 Market St

It’s so typical San Francisco. Teeny entryway wedged between a Payless Shoes and a sketchy looking pawn shop. It’s after you step into the elevator, which is typically a little creaky, and emerge on the top floor that the magic starts:

First Impressions

It's JavaScript all the way down

This week has been a blur. We had lectures that ranged from how to be an effective student to the principles of time complexity on different data structures. We implemented our own auto resizing hash tables (well some of us did, me and my excellent partner, Sara, who started out as a blog stalker apparently and ended up being an awesome lady and I’m glad to call her my friend, got through most of the extra credit work and so got to a point where we had to tackle resizing hash tables). We tried valiantly to learn 30ish names while trying to cram in as much computer science as possible (I can proudly say I know the whole junior class – my cohort). We learned the least and most reasonable places to eat and wander during the day and after dark and we all developed what I think will be a pretty awesome camaraderie that will definitely benefit me for years to come.

My life has been completely altered in ways I don’t even know how to quantify yet. We’ve covered computer science concepts in the past week that I learned over the course of a year back in college when I first tried to be a computer science major. The thought scared me at first. When I realized we were covering things I had learned before, I was afraid I would feel the same way about them, like I wasn’t good enough to get through them. That was always my fear in college, that I was just fooling myself and everyone around me.

So I spent at least half of this first week waiting for the other shoe to drop. Technically it did drop, but not in the ways I thought it would. It dropped when I realized that this thing that I can do with my brain and this keyboard is pretty damn amazing. That I am pretty amazing. I can have an off day, my recursion algorithm can go unexpected places and my crafted tests could not pass, but that’s the life of a software engineer. Things don’t just get done by typing out code as fast as your fingers can move, they get done by running into walls, refactoring, researching what other amazing people have done, and bouncing ideas off of your fellow engineers.

To sum up all that wall of text: Life is pretty damn awesome now and there was nothing hellish about this week.

Prequel – Week 0, Day 1

Hack Reactor starts next Monday, but that doesn’t mean I’m sitting around in my pajamas petting Ava’s dogs (that’s just what I do on Sundays).

Jabba

I’m having a bit of a “take your roommate to class” week. So I’m crashing Hackbright for the week. It’s really perfect timing for this because they are just starting on their projects so the aren’t as super formal right now.

Hackbright

Just hanging out in a space with coding going on has been amazing. The women are all spread all around the space working on code and randomly chatting. The instructors have been coming around and giving informal talks on subjects that people are getting stuck on (I’m currently listening to a talk on how 3D works). I’ve finished up some of the extra credit prework for HackReactor and I’m going to be going to some awesome tech talks and a Geek Girl Dinner this week!

I’m definitely less sad now that I’m busy. I’m worried it’s going to crash at some point, but it still hasn’t caught up that I’m actually here for any time longer than a couple weeks so I think the crash might also lead to some excitement about the fact that I’m in a place I want to be and have been working toward for so long.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an impostor or fraud because they think that their accomplishments are nowhere near as good as those of the people around them. Usually, their accomplishments are just as good, and the person is being needlessly insecure.

Geek Feminism Wiki

The lack of posting this week is entirely related to the above quote. I spent the long weekend working on my pre-course work for HackReactor. It was awesome and fun and sometimes frustrating but I was powering through it. Then somewhere on Sunday, I got stuck. It was a stuckness of monumental proportions and looking back on it now I find it funny.

I have a method to my madness with coding. I add things, test them and add some more until I get stuck at a point where either I’m not sure how to implement something to make it do what I want or something I thought I’d implemented isn’t doing what I expected it to. Then I do a bunch of Googling, look at some examples, hack those examples to fit into my code and all is well again.

And that’s how it should have gone when I got stuck on Sunday. Instead I kept banging my head against the brick wall of stuckness, moving some code bits, rewording some code bits, and finally starting all over again in frustration. By Tuesday night as I had a Google Hangout date with my best friends, I was freaking out. Please keep in mind that I’d received this homework on Friday and I don’t have to finish it until I start school in November and at the point of my stuckness I was about half way through with all of it.

So yeah, the freak out was definitely unwarranted. I made it this far but I’m still worried I’m making a bad choice/going to be that one person in their program who doesn’t get a job/nobody will ever love me. You know normal fears.

It’s a day by day process telling myself I’m good enough. Today I finally came back to the thing I was stuck on and sorted out my issues in about an hour. Now I’m on to the last step, my best friend recursion.

Acceptance

You are looking at a HackR! I just got word that I’m officially in the November cohort for HackReactor! I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited in my life.

On Track

2nd interview with HackReactor today! This time it was an actual tech interview so I was even more nervous. Once again my interviewer was a pleasure to talk to and very calming. I also picked up my new favorite phrase: “You nailed it with a nail gun.” This was in regards to one of the functions I had to implement. It’s crazy how different my experiences with interviewing for two different schools where. AppAcademy just was not warm and fuzzy at all which I guess is OK, but they just never seemed to care who I was, just what I could do with code. I did OK (got a conditional acceptance pending a final interview) but I felt like they put so much emphasis on logic puzzles, which, heck, shouldn’t they be helping me with in prep to get me a job? I’m also not sure how I feel about the lack of finding out whether I’m some crazy mouth-breather who can’t even interact with people. I just wonder what types of people end up in the class.

HR on the other hand has been surprisingly FUN to interview with. It hasn’t been exactly easy, but it has been fun to play with JavaScript. The first interview was nice and lite and I got to show off that I knew what recursion was (but forgot to add a base case initially – d’oh). Then the take home work was well designed and pushed me along to learn some jQuery and how to pull data using AJAX. Then the last tech interview had me creating my own versions of some Underscore.js functions which was fun and thought-provoking and definitely tricky but not in a gotcha sort of way but more of a pushing me in the right direction to learn it myself. If this is what the class feels like, sign me up!! HR just seems so nurturing and I love to learn.

I should know if I got in (or if I have to try again, because goddamnit I’m trying again if I don’t make it this time) by Friday. Keep your fingers and toes and eyes crossed for me!

Fresh Air

I had my first interview with Hack Reactor today. That was awesome. It was a 180 from my two App Academy interviews. Doug from HackR was amazing. First of all, he was on time! I figured that was a good omen. But then he was also funny and sweet even though my Skype was being funky initially. I felt very at ease by the time the initial coding assessment came around. It was actually kinda fun and straightforward and he told me I’d moved on to the take home and technical interview! We scheduled it on the spot and I took the first opening available (next Tuesday). We then chatted a bit more (I learned that they take about 30 students now and had 5 women the last go round).

Basically I’m just really, really excited and beyond glad I decided to focus on just this program. I think it is exactly what I’m looking for.

Coderbyte and Me

I’ve been practicing my JavaScript for the HackReactor interview on the 20th (wish me luck by the way). They sent around an email saying to be prepared so you didn’t have to reschedule (I’m suddenly glad I couldn’t get an appointment straightaway). They recommended being able to get through all the easy challenges on Coderbyte in < 5 minutes. Yikes? Surprisingly not. I’m having a lot of fun.

There are a couple things I’ve obviously forgotten (I had to look up the regex to keep only alpha characters, I suck at regex), but I’m pretty fast. I’m also realizing just how not amazing I am at the trickier puzzles. There are one or two in there that I still don’t understand, even after I caved and looked up how others solved them (Array Addition I, I’m glaring at you).

There are 26 easy challenges. I’ve decided to run through at least 10 a day, so I finished the first 10 today and uploaded them to my GitHub. My favorite one so far was the TimeConvert, which took a number (e.g. 126) and converted to the amount of hours and minutes (e.g. 2:6). I could have made it prettier by added a preceding 0 in the minutes, but the goal of these is speed and the instructions didn’t ask for that pretty extra. This was my favorite because I just have this weird love for modulus. The code to solve it:

function TimeConvert(num) { 
  var minutes = num % 60;
  var hours = parseInt(num/60);

  return "" + hours + ":" + minutes;         
}