Feb 2016 - May 2016
Hack Reactor is a 13 wk immersive software engineering program that was damn hard and fun! Once completed, I was a proficient developer with a solid sense of programming paradigms and principles.
Joining the "Darkside"
Why would a designer leave his comfortable pixel perfect screens to a world full of ever-changing tools, bugs, and paradigms?... Put simply, because I love it.
I started my career in tech as a designer. Long story short, I successfully pitched an iOS app idea to an employer which was built and then sold. After that, I quit and went full time into design. Read my other case studies for more about my design career.
After a successful start to a design career, I found myself diving deeper and deeper into programming. I wanted to truly understand what the devs at the design studio I worked at were talking about! I knew some
CSS and enough
jquery to create basic interactions, but the entire flow of how an app communicated with a server was beyond me.
Enter Hack Reactor
hackerrank, and more. Heres a look at some of my profiles to prove it.
Codewars, my fav!
Codecademy, where it all started!
I did find a few great online resources to some of these topics like reactive.io and Kyle Simpsons You Don't Know JS. This is when I started to feel more confident in my abilities and decided to apply to HackReactor!
First off, applying to Hack Reactor is great fun! The closest thing to Hogwarts there is. If you've done it, you know why.
Let's get to it then... I got rejected. The interview was indeed as challenging as I anticipated. I hit a wall once they started asking me to implement certain higher-order functions and that was it. It was a big loss and I was pretty demotivated afterward. Except that fire to learn didn't go away. So I doubled down and got back to work.
Hack Reactor enforces a 3 month waiting period between interviews. I had my second interview a few days before NYE 2015. I was prepared this time. I'd met more devs, coded more hrs, and put in more work. At the end of it, they didn't wait and told me on the spot I'd passed and would be accepted!
Pack your bags
The cohort I was accepted into was starting in just a few months. I would leave my designer job in sunny downtown San Diego, sell as much of my stuff as I could, tell friends & family goodbye, and head out to Texas.
My life in 2015 all packed up
Hello, from Austin
I arrived into Austin with an address of an apartment I had rented online a few weeks before and no idea who my roommates where or what I was in for. I would spend the next few days settling in and preparing for what would be the second "Bootcamp" I'd attended in my life. The first was courtesy of an old company called "The United States Marine Corp". Hoorah.
12 hr days, 6 day weeks
Let me just re-enforce the rate of which this program was going. We would learn everything from Big-O time complexities to building a full-stack app in just 3 months. The amount of knowledge that was distributed to us is just sheer amazing.
Month 2: Introduction to Libraries
The first library we'd use was
backbonejs. It was a nightmare. Trying to wrap our heads around the
MVC pattern was difficult. In all honesty, I still don't care for backbone. Later we would run sprints with
AngularJS. My personal favorite was
Mithriljs, it just made sense to me. Looking back, it was the closest to react with its component-based architecture.
We would learn all about the world of build tools. At this time,
browserify was still hot and
webpack was just starting to take over. We would also dig into
gulp. This would open my eyes to all sorts of optimizations that should be made prior to deploying anything. I've personally used
webpack for the past 2 years and still love it.
For the backend, we started with making plain
xhr calls to our server. We also responded with pure
nodejs code. This was, convoluted. So many lines of code, so much lack of structure. Very low reusability. Then we got introduced to libraries like
axios and the best yet,
This made things click much faster for me. Soon enough I was handling
http requests and responses like a pro.
After building with plain ol
SQL and writing some of the longest queries to date, we were introduced to
postgres. Which I'm still personally a big fan of for tight relationship applications. We'd also explore
MongoDB with the
mongoose layer on top. This made much more sense to me since I'd been writing and learning all about schemas for the past few months. The
schema-less architecture didn't make sense to me at this point, in the coming weeks it would become clearer.
After we'd learned how to communicate from the front-end to our server and db, we needed to learn about
authentication and security. Just like before, they made us do things the hard way. We would hash our own passwords using
bcrypt and learned about techniques such as
SALT-ing your passwords.
After we'd struggle enough we would move into using a library called
passportjs. This was not as easy of an integration as
knex was. This had a lot of different moving parts and would require a lot of trial and error to understand. I still use
passport till this day.
MVP - HubHunt
It was time for us to put our new found knowledge to use. At week 6, we were tasked with developing an
MVP in two days. Me being the ambitious person I am decided to create a design to go along with my
MVP. This was a mistake... two days was short, I barely slept.
MVP I decided on an idea to fetch all the top repos within the last 6 months for
JS from Github. I'd use
Mithriljs for the front end and make calls with
nodejs on the backend. Below is what I was able to accomplish in this short period.
We met and discussed possible app ideas for our thesis. We knew the time constraint was going to make things interesting, but we were fairly confident in our abilities by this time. We decided to go with an idea I had for a
We bit off way too much. We had to learn
Redux, and how to build an interactive
kanban board. We also made a decision to leverage a very dense boilerplate, Rubix. With all of this and only a month, even our instructor doubted our ability to pull it off. It had to be deployed as well.
Farewell Hack Reactor
Soon after I completed the thesis project, a good friend convinced me to leave a week early and join his startup. I was the first to be hired from my cohort but many more would follow. I like to think our cohort was one of the tightest nit bunch to come through HR. A lot of us are still here in Austin working and meet up as often as we can. I've hosted a few parties for everyone actually! It's hard to go through something as long and intense as Hack Reactor and not form lasting relationships.