Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Web Development Bootcamp Hack Reactor Part 2: Myths - Rails + Curriculum + Interview + More

In my recent preview post, I highlighted some commonly asked questions about Hack Reactor :
Find the post here

The price tag? The venue? The instructors? The interview and selection process?

I explained part of the price tag in my Human Factor post and explained that the instructors at Hack Reactor are from prominent local startups and will have a great amount of time with students. Check it out, ask any questions you want.

In this post, I compiled some of the small surprises I have researched and found out about Hack Reactor during my onsite visit.

1. Hack Reactor : teaches Rails!
Hack Reactor does have Ruby and Ruby on Rails  sprints built in its curriculum. It actually makes an introduction to Ruby and RoR. Students will already have introductions to basic MVC frameworks in JavaScript before arriving at Rails. And they will do a lot of building block, basic scripting, and logic exercises with JavaScript (JavaScript being a less high level language, forces developers to be more detailed oriented. It's like building with lego pieces rather than sets of readily constructed lego buildings, as in Rails).

[Update - 12/24/2013] This section is pending further research, because the Rails sprint might be much shorter and lighter than I perceived in my visit. If you can help answer this question, please contact me.

2. Hack Reactor is full stack
Students learn full stack engineering skills. JavaScript is no longer just front end. And that's the big trend in the Silicon Valley. Front-end designers and engineers to be aware, this means the curriculum will be much harder than other regular HTML CSS JavaScript website building intensive classes, which mostly covers front end javascript, and sometimes without frameworks like Backbone.js

3. Hack Reactor interviews have gotten more intensive
The requirements have changed. Hack Reactor used to do one round interviews, but has since then improved its interview process to be more selective and has a technical component. Where students will need to get face time and work through exercises with instructors. In fact, this is the trend I am seeing in all bootcamps, App Academy being one of the first and harsher one.

4. Hack Reactor actually is similar in size as  Dev Bootcamp in its current venue, but the office is so well organized that it feels much bigger!
It's very clean and spacious, includes a clean accessible kitchen, and an open lecture area away from the desks. I was surprised how little space the instructors save for themselves besides a medium-small conference room and small tiniest offices. This makes plenty of instructors and staff sit outside the office, closer to students, i.e. more accessible. Only one set of bathrooms though.

5. The classes are small.
Maybe the price tag had made the camp  too "elite" to afford, but one benefit for the student is small class-size. And high teacher-student-ration. As mentioned in my Human Factor post, the student size max seems to linger at 25, but usually it is smaller, they even had 15-16 at one point. HR does not rule out the possibility of expanding with one more overlapping class of students.

6. Hack Reactor claims to have 100% hiring rate.

Being an Economics major, I am highly suspecting of stats. That being said, during my onsite visit, we exchanged anecdotes. Alumni are allowed to stay after the bootcamp until they find a job, and will get help. In fact, one extreme case has lasted for a while due to a combo of reasons, but the staff has supported him throughout the process, even threw him a party when he finally got hired. During the demo day that I visited, 50 companies are said to have signed up. I usually take a 30% deduction of no-show for Silicon Valley, especially Stanford events, that's still 35 companies. Which is much larger than Coding Dojo for example.

Students have been receiving salary as high as recently 110K, but that's more of an extreme case. Hack Reactor does not have the same level of confidence for its international students, citing Visa to always be a tough external factor.

While I am weary of all small-sample, business-driven numbers, upon checking out the students' projects (which I will feature and write about), they are obviously very skilled, look great, and very impressive, I would considered them way above what I have seen in other bootcamps. I will say more about this later on. The student projects make me believe that the claim seems to be somewhat valid.

During the day I also met students that have designed instagram display gallery views as a contractor/free lance (which they can work on as a part of the bootcamp, at times, Hack Reactor even help them find those positions), one guy who's going to study at MIT's prestige Media Lab, and seen the inhouse apps that HR has, curriculum platform, and student's reddit projects (which I will highlight later). The success of the bootcamp becomes convincing.

The bootcamp asks to be cc'ed in student application email at times, and will provide feedback on career communications in addition to offering interview prep. What impresses me the most is that, being so entrenched in the Silicon Valley, Hack Reactors' instructors have the direct experience of working at many prestigious Silicon Valley companies, making their "care" and advice much valuable than any Human Resource or Recruiter Correspondent at other bootcamps.

Update :  July 18: Hack Reactor isn't going public with their numbers yet, but the recent class cohort has a much higher average salary than previously stated on the website. Currently it says "some students" even get "six-figure salaries".  And the new result seems to make that more towards the norm. 

Read the previous section of this Review Collection





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