18 December 2012

Hackbright Q&A with Kat L.

I'm a developer!
A happy introvert = in the zone alone.

Kat L., a fellow introvert, asked me some questions about Hackbright, so I've included the questions and answers below for the benefit of future Hackbrighters who may have similar questions.

Kat's 1st question:
It sounds like we have similar backgrounds: I did an M.A. in English, worked at a special collections/academic library, and made my way into tech at work piecemeal from there. I understand that the Academy supports a beginner level in terms of tech skills. But does the program assume familiarity with the tech community? And if not, was it difficult to absorb that social knowledge while also learning the skills component?

My answer:
I'm not exactly sure what you mean by the tech community--it sounds like you are talking about the people involved in tech? Because if so, you don't need to be well-connected at all--that will come with the program and with going to as many meetups and hackathons as possible. That part is tiring, but the heavy-duty learning is more so, and since you're already super-tired, you may as well meet other people who are looking at the same things every day as you are.

If you mean familiarity with technology in general, then I would say that what Christian is looking for is someone who has good logic, who learns fast, who is enthusiastic about technology. I would suggest that you cancel every single social interaction you have that isn't somehow tech community-related or Hackbright-related. You are going to need every night (or morning, if you're a morning person like I am) to go over what you learned that day and every weekend to review the whole week and see if you can delve into the next week. Seriously. There were several times when I thought, "Oh, I can just take a few hours to go see a friend," and I completely regretted it later. Your friends and family can be patient for ten weeks--just give them a heads up beforehand. Also, I would suggest having someone change your Facebook password. Facebook will suck away your life since you don't have time for one. ;)

Kat's 2nd question:
Does the academy track you specifically towards the "Junior Developer" position, or is the mentorship network designed to support a variety of related careers that require programming/development skills?

My answer:
Most of us are looking at junior developer positions right now, but I don't think we'll all work in that area forever. The skills we learned (and are still learning) will be good for any job, really, and I think most of us just want to solidify what we learned while gaining new skills and earning money. I mentioned at the beginning of the program that I might be interested in a project/product manager type position eventually, and so we had a few speakers talk about that.

Kat's 3rd question:
Your blog post "Michelle Glauser, Hackbrighter", makes it sound like you're a fellow introvert! (I.e. worn out by constant social stimulation.) Did you figure out a way to deal with the lack of time to recharge? Pair programming sounds useful, but also incredibly hard to concentrate.
My answer:
I'm glad you know the true meaning of introvert. So many people still think that it means shy. I'm not shy; I am quite comfortable talking to people when I need or want to, but I just can't do it all day or I will die. I know this sounds a little bit crazy, but go to bed as soon as you get home and have had dinner, then study in the morning before class starts. Or, if you're a night person, study at night and then sleep in until the last possible minute. Because I felt so worn out, I felt really cheated that other people seemed to be able to carry on normal lives in addition to the class, whereas I went home and crashed. Don't let it get to you, just know your limitations and try not to go past them. If you're like me, your ideal night consists of at least nine hours of sleep. The more sleep I was able to get, the better I could follow along and process what we were learning, but I also needed to have time to look at things alone. There's little worse than the cycle of being tired and not able to understand and then feeling discouraged and then being even more tired and understanding even less, etc.

Honestly, after about four and a half weeks, I was about ready to explode from the constant social interaction. At lunch one day, I'd had it. I told one of the instructors that I was THROUGH with pair programming and would never catch up if I didn't get some time to myself. After that, we were allowed to work by ourselves and I was finally able to catch up a little. I should have done that earlier. I mentioned to Christian that there needs to be at least a bit of alone time each day, and I think he agreed after he saw how many people liked it, so if he doesn't implement that early on, ask for it. When you do have to pair program, see if you can get Christian to tell you what you'll be going over each day, and read and try to understand it beforehand. That way you don't feel so rushed to understand while your pair partner is sitting there. Be insistent and aggressive about needing help, about needing more time to read things, about taking your turn, about asking questions, etc. It's tiring and sometimes it feels rude, but you're shooting yourself in the foot if you try to always do what seems like the "polite thing."

Oh, I kind of wish I could do it all over again with what I now know--I'd pick up so many more things that I couldn't make connections to earlier! You'll be great, and each class is just going to get better and better. I live close to the new Hackbright office, so you could come review with me if you need to.

Feel free to ask me more questions!


  1. Thank you so much for this post! I just learned about Hackbright on Friday and am really really into the idea of it, but per my strong introvert/Type A nature, I'm now doing somewhat obsessive research into what it's like and is it really the perfect fit for me that I think it might be or it's too good to be true etc. etc. It's really reassuring to have this kind of info from someone who seems similar to me in those respects but made it through and still believes it was worth it.

    1. You're welcome. I figured that others would want to hear about my experience, so I'm glad it has helped you. Don't hesitate to send me any questions I haven't answered yet. :) Good luck!

  2. Hello, I'm sorry to bother you but I have a question about their application process. How long did it take for them to get in touch with you after you applied?

    1. I replied right before their application deadline, so they wrote me an email a few days later and set up an interview for a few days after that. They are getting a LOT more applications now, so it may take longer. If you want, you can tweet to @Hackbright or write on the Facebook page and see if your application was received.

      Feel free to ask any other questions. :)