Personal blog of Gunnari Auvinen. I enjoy writing about software engineering topics.

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Review of Hack Reactor Remote Beta 2 Experience

January 30, 2015

I just completed Hack Reactor's Remote Beta program in their second cohort and the experience was incredible! When we went onsite to present our final projects the only reason people knew we were from the remote program was due to the fact that we were faces they didn't recognize. That alone speaks volumes to me about the quality of the remote program.

Your time throughout the program is very structured, which I considered to be extremely beneficial as it allowed me to focus on learning. One thing to note is that while the core hours are from 9am to 8pm PST Monday through Saturday, I frequently spent many late nights reviewing material or diving deeper into areas that interested me. In many ways you will get out of this program what you put in, so long days and nights aren't uncommon.

Taking an immersive program remotely is definitely different than an onsite experience. Instead of attending lectures in a classroom I watched top-notch pre-recorded lectures. The quality of the lecturers and the lecture content are amazing. I can't remember a lecture that went by where I didn't pick up a little detail or major concept that I hadn't known previously. There were some lectures that were given live, but those were less frequent.

When our entire class would gather we used a video conferencing service called and when we were working in smaller groups or pairs we'd use Google Hangouts. It's certainly a different experience using video conferencing software to interact with classmates rather than physically sitting next to each other in the same room, but it becomes second nature extremely quickly. For pair programming remotely we used floobits which allows multiple people to work on the same document at the same time.

Hack Reactor's program is split into two six-week sections, the junior and senior phases respectively. The first half of the program is spent introducing you to JavaScript concepts, frameworks, and libraries. During my junior phase I was exposed to data structures, instantiation patters, algorithms, D3, Backbone, Angular, node, express, jQuery, recursion and more. Prior to this program I had a difficult time with implementing recursive solutions, so it was terrific when it was extremely well explained early in the program and there were ample opportunities to create recursive solutions. In many cases there was an iterative solution available as well, but as time passed it was easier and easier for me to see when recursion was the better choice and also how to implement that solution.

The second half of the program is more project oriented. In the second half I wanted to work with React and Flux quite a bit and fortunately my groups were also interested in them. In my senior phase I ended up creating a brainstorming application in Angular and then re-doing it in React and Flux. While working on that project I discovered many pain points and decided to create a framework built on top of React and Flux, called TuxedoJS, with my group as our final project. The project period was amazing and it was fantastic to see everything that our class came up with and created.

Something that may not be obvious at the beginning of the course is that Hack Reactor teaches you how to learn. Sure they're teaching you how to work with JavaScript across the full-stack, they're also teaching you how to approach unfamiliar technologies. When I would start with a project or sprint at first I would think "I have no idea how to solve this" and as I worked through the program that changed to "I don't know how to solve this yet, but I know that I can figure it out with a little bit of time and research". After the course I feel extremely comfortable working with a language or technology that I'm not familiar with, as I now understand how to approach them. Prior to this immersive program learning a new language or library would seem daunting, cause discomfort and confusion in me, and now I know how to handle my discomfort and confusion. I've also discovered that when I am confused and discomforted that working my way through those things will lead to great personal and professional growth.

The program's job preparation has been incredible. We started working working on toy problems very early on that are similar to the types of questions you may get asked in a job interview. In the second half of the program, we started to get great lectures from the job placement team at Hack Reactor, where we spent time learning about resume writing, job hunting, and how to represent yourself online and in job interviews. The job search support after graduating has been terrific so far.

As Hack Reactor uses an iterative approach to their immersive program's curriculum your experience may not be the same as mine, so bear that in mind when considering what works best for yourself. Hack Reactor's Remote Beta program was everything I wanted and more. Throughout the course of the program I was continually amazed by the care, effort, and quality of the program's staff and curriculum. The feedback from our class was listened to and acted upon to make our experience better. Early on there were issues with the audio quality in some of the video lectures and after Hack Reactor heard that feedback they fixed the audio in future lectures and gave us supplemental Q&A lectures to answer questions from the lectures that had audio issues.

One thing that I wasn't expecting from the remote program was to bond with my classmates the same way you would in an onsite program. After all you're working remotely and only see each other in computer monitor screen for the majority of the class, yet by the end of the final project period I knew that I had made long term friends. Even though you're working from all different parts of the world, when you spend that much time working with each other you get to know one another pretty well and I definitely felt a great sense of community. As everyone presented their final projects, I was extremely proud of everything that we had accomplished as a group.

For anyone that wants to attend Hack Reactor I happily and enthusiastically recommend their remote program!