First Two Weeks at Hack Reactor

tl;dr

Just over two weeks ago, I started at Hack Reactor, a three-month, 60+-hour-per-week JavaScript program. I’m hoping to learn how to create awe-inspiring, beautiful things from scratch and torture myself relentlessly. In my limited experience, programming generously provides an avenue for both.

A Longer Backstory

I got started in the working world by taking a few editing internships, and then a job at No Starch Press. Editing at No Starch was my first “real” job, which made it the first real job I had to quit. Leaving behind your source of income to do a three-month intensive program’s first cohort was an incredibly exciting, pants-crappingly scary decision.

Brief first impression of HR—it’s the best educational experience I’ve had so far, hands down. I really don’t think it’s a stretch to say that programs like HR and Dev Bootcamp represent the first viable alternative to the traditional, university-centric educational model. I’m grateful I chose to get my B.A., but the quality of my UC education pales in comparison. Small class sizes, high student-to-teacher ratio, highly reactive curriculum—nothing earth-shattering here, but turns out it works well. I’ve learned more in the past two weeks than I did in two years of self-study, which I think speaks volumes about what these guys are doing.

Braindump

After two weeks at HR, my brain is totally oversaturated with information and I need to externalize some of it before my CNS short circuits. Just a peek at some of the stuff we covered in two short weeks:

  • HTML and CSS refresher
  • Remedial control flow, JS primitives
  • Implemented basic data structures (trees, queues, stacks, etc.) without using native array functions
  • Learned how the DOM works and how to attach nodes to it
  • Implemented a Twitter clone from scratch
  • Checked out JavaScript’s take on classes—prototypes, inheritance, and relentless confusion over the keyword this
  • Re-implemented Underscore.js from its unit tests

I’ve spent the past two days learning Backbone (and MVC in general) by building a web-based music player. My pair and I figured out how to pull in search results and MP3 URLs from SoundCloud. Since we were trying to get acquainted both Backbone and SoundCloud’s API at the same time, we decided to figure SoundCloud out separately from our Backbone app and merge it once it was working. This strategy turned our code into potpurri, but it worked.

Even if our code does look like someone took an immersion blender to it, it feels pretty rad to have written what’s essentially a SoundCloud player after only two weeks of serious JavaScript programming.

One Last Thought

My brain is fully broken, but one last observation:

One crucial element of HR so far has been having guest teachers from companies like Mozilla and Adobe come in, speak, and help folks with their code. as a parallel to that, we’ve been attending meetups as a way to get a taste of what the dev community is like. One thing in particular that struck me is how supportive and helpful the folks I’ve met so far have been. I’m sure there’s an element of naivete in there, but being in a room full of people who are willing to talk to and take interest in relative newbies is a really cool thing to observe.