When deciding how best to advance my software engineering career, I faced many choices. Ultimately, I decided on the Advanced Software Engineering Immersive at Hack Reactor Remote. After passing my second technical interview (yeah, it's to that level) and finishing my pre course work, I embarked on the best three months of solid, intensive learning.
I set the bar high before I started. Hack Reactor Remote just laughed as we passed the bar in the first few weeks. If you are passionate about coding as a lifestyle and want to make lifelong friends with your cohort-mates, class leads, tech mentors, and Hack Reactor Remote staff, apply!
Hack Reactor is the best software engineering program out there, and it's not even close. I wanted to develop my programming skills as fast as possible and HR was (and still is) the best opportunity available. Attending HR has been one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. A lot of people say that in their reviews because it really is true. If you manage to get accepted, you should go.
You will learn A LOT, just by being around so many smart people, but there are 2 main things you will definitely learn from Hack Reactor:
You will learn how to learn. The intensity of the curriculum is no joke. They throw you into new frameworks and libraries and within a day or two you will be able to make something cool. Sometimes you will feel very, very stupid, but that's ok. You get used to feeling lost, you figure things out, and in future projects you won't panic because you've been there before multiple times and figured things out.
You will learn how to communicate. Pair programming is a great learning experience, and HR emphasizes the communication aspect of it. Later, in group projects, you will be put together with a variety of personalities for weeks at a time. You'll have to deal with issues as a team, and it prepares you for the real world. Learning to accurately and coherently convey what's on your mind to others, with empathy and assertiveness, is extremely valuable. Hack Reactor puts you in positions to develop these skills every day.
Another thing is how much they help you get a job. If you want a job, you will get a job, because these guys are relentless at helping you accomplish that goal. If you want to do a startup or something else, they have you covered too. HR keeps expanding their student outcomes department and no other school compares. The alumni program is also awesome and is constantly growing as well, with perks like the alumni lounge and coworking space.
These are just a few reasons why Hack Reactor has been one of the greatest, most educational times of my life. It's legit, and it's worth it.
When I applied to Hack Reactor, information about the program was hard to come by. I was cautious and skeptical, and wished more alums had written about their time. Now that I’m two months in, I’d like to offer a description of my experiences there and, in particular, why I think the school has done a fantastic job.
What happens at Hack Reactor?
TL;DR: Your life becomes full-stack web development for three months.
How can you become a developer in three months, let alone well enough to get a high-paying job?
Hack Reactor focuses on a specific coding skill set: web development. This is a skill set that is currently in high demand — schools don’t emphasize it, but a well-designed website is crucial to a company’s success. It is not a CS degree. I have little to no knowledge of operating systems, hardware engineering, or graphics processing. I don’t know C, and I only have a smattering of Java, Python, and Ruby. However, I have far more experience with current web development frameworks than a graduate of a standard CS program would. I’ve built and deployed real projects; some individual, some with clients. A team of myself and three friends made the finals at the recent Launch Hackathon, with over 150 entering teams. We’re not just building to-do lists and blogs.
That being said, the school covers plenty of material from outside of web development, as long as that material is crucial for a coder to know. Students get about as much theory as a good Data Structures and Algorithms course would teach. We learn git, test-driven development, and how to use the command line. We have daily warm-up problems of the type seen in interviews (“traverse a square matrix in a spiral pattern”, etc), and are constantly being asked about big-O for everything we write. And most importantly, we learn that a developer relies the ability to look for solutions independently, piecing together docs and bits of code from StackOverflow and blogs.
TL;DR: HR focuses on web development, which is in high demand, and supports that with the most vital parts of a CS degree.
Who does this, anyway?
One of the most amazing parts of Hack Reactor is the students. The program is incredibly selective. Harvard’s admissions rate is about 6%; Hack Reactor’s is around 3%. My class of 28 students has alums of MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Brown. It has refugees from high-powered jobs in finance, consulting, and law. There are several PhDs, and several more who abandoned their PhDs to attend. It has self-starting hustlers who have founded multiple companies. The common thread is that each student was unsatisfied with their old job, wanted to make things instead of push papers around, and wanted to start as quickly as possible.
After graduation, nearly everyone gets a job. You can check out the current positions of Hack Reactor alumni here (scroll to the bottom). Keep in mind that these are only the students that have been out for at least three months; the two most recent classes’ results have so far been even more impressive.
On a personal note, I moved to San Francisco from China, and knew about three people on arrival. Through Hack Reactor, I’ve met amazing people who I will remain friends with for the rest of my life.
TL;DR: Really impressive people.
Why pay $18k for something like this? Couldn’t I just teach myself?
This is a very common question that I’d like to address. There are a few reasons why I think Hack Reactor is worth its price tag.
1. Some people suggest that a prospective student should instead study independently, without anyone else’s help. However, this is not a skill that most of us have. I, for one, could be better at independent time management, and a structured environment allows me to learn much more efficiently. Should this disqualify me from working as a developer? I don’t think it should.
2. Some people suggest that a community or technical college would teach the same skill set for far less money. If you can find a course at a community college that teaches Angular and Node, with a senior developer from Twitter as its lead instructor and classmates with multiple graduate degrees, I’ll concede this point; until then, I think the comparison is ludicrous.
3. Many people think the price tag is absurdly high. Note first that the school’s teaching staff is made up of experienced engineers whose hourly rates at a development job would top $100 an hour. These people are on call, helping you learn, for at least 8 hours every day. Also know that students can defer much of their tuition until after the program. An upfront payment of $18,000 is not required. Grants are also provided to promising students with difficult financial situations.
4. Finally, Hack Reactor has a proven track record in securing excellent jobs for its graduates. The interview and resume prep and the network of connections the school provides would by themselves be worth the price of tuition, in that they enable graduates to secure jobs that pay far higher than they would otherwise be able to get. If attending Hack Reactor nets you a starting salary $18,000 higher than going alone would, how could it not be worth the price of admission?
TL;DR: Because it pays off in the long run.
CONCLUDING TL;DR: Hack Reactor picks the best and brightest students and teaches them a skill set that is in high demand, along with the theory to back it up. It costs a lot of money but entirely justifies its price tag through its results.
As is evident from all of the other reviews, if you are considering applying or have applied and gotten in, I would unequivocally recommend doing it. Hack Reactor is a software engineering accelerator, and as such you will be learning at a crazy accelerated pace. Generally, people that thrive at Hack Reactor are those with experience coding, but looking for more experience building modern, dynamic web apps.
It has been such a positive experience for me. I won't kid you, though: it ain't easy! They mean it when they say to tell your friends that you'll see them again when you're done with the course. The good news is that if you are excited and motivated about what you are learning, it goes by really fast and you find yourself coding 13 hours a day, 6 days a week no problem.
- Expensive: lots of money to pay up front and SF is the most expensive city in the U.S.
- Time-consuming: You will not really have a life outside of HR for the 3 months of the course.
- It would probably take years of learning on your own to get to the level of proficiency and comfort that is packed into 3 months.
- The quality of the lectures is as good as I've ever experienced, and I have taken C.S. courses at a top-ten school for C.S. The instructors put a lot of effort and attention into the curriculum and it shows.
- THE PEOPLE. People often think, "Oh I can learn all of these concepts and build things on my own, why pay the money for Hack Reactor?". One thing that is often overlooked is the amazing network of fellow engineers and alumni that you will gain after going through the program. From your fellow group members to the staff and instructors, network and connections are worth a lot(!) when it comes time for a job search.
I have to say that Hack Reactor came through with flying colors on the job searching aspect as well.
Toward the end of the program, we had a "hiring day" where interested companies came by and we had a sort-of speed dating 10 min screening with the companies that interested us. It was a great way to learn a little bit about each company and for them to learn a bit about us.
Well, after just the hiring day, most of my class had a very packed next week lined up of onsite interviews with the hiring day companies and with other companies that we found on our own. The week after meeting on-site with the hiring day companies that interested me, I was lucky enough to have multiple good offers to choose from, as I know many of my peers did as well.
So all told, with the preparation that Hack Reactor provided, only a couple of weeks after finishing at Hack Reactor, I - along with a several of my classmates - had already accepted a software engineer job with a nationally recognized organization.
Before starting Hack Reactor, I was very skeptical that it was possible to land a job so quickly after finishing, but it is very much possible and I couldn't be more thankful to Hack Reactor for all the help they provided. So yeah... best career decision I've ever made. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!
Hack Reactor was an awesome experience and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
I graduated from Hack Reactor in early November as one of the 29 students in the 6th cohort, which started in August 2013. As a testament to just how great and effective Hack Reactor is, by the end of the 2nd week after graduation, I already started getting job offers with 6-figure salaries. The statistics on their webpage aren’t kidding around. At the time that I applied, they bragged about the average graduate getting $85k salaries. I was already skeptical of that at the time that I applied (but it was still a lot better than what I earned before). After we’ve graduated, as other students in my cohort got offers, it became apparent that the average salary has been increasing with each cohort and a 6-figure salary was the new norm.
What sets Hack Reactor apart from the other immersive schools out there, like Dev Bootcamp and App Academy? There’s a few things:
At 12 weeks long (technically 13 weeks, more on that later), 11 hours a day (I stayed 13), and 6 days a week, you’re investing a lot more time into the program. This means you’re more thoroughly immersed in the curriculum and you get to spend 3.5 weeks on developing awesome projects: one to show off what you can do on your own, and one amazing one to show off what you can accomplish as part of a team. Both of these projects give you the opportunity to demonstrate what you’re capable of doing, once you start applying for jobs.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention cost. Hack Reactor (at the time of this review) costs $17,780. That’s a hefty chunk of change, but it’s easily the best investment I’ve ever made. The salary difference between my job prior to Hack Reactor and afterwards more than makes up for the cost of tuition. Also, if you wished Hack Reactor did something akin to App Academy, where they garnish 18% of your first year’s salary, consider this: 18% of the average Hack Reactor graduate’s salary (which at the time of this writing is $110k) comes out to $19,800, which is even more expensive!
Hack Reactor also does a great job of screening applicants for culture fit. Every student comes into HR because they genuinely want to learn to build applications and tackle new challenges; they’re not just there because they heard that HR graduates make a lot of money. Once you’re in the program, you’re surrounded by people who are just as driven and inspired as you are, and it encourages you to do even better.
After the group projects are done, HR kicks off the job search period by hosting a Hiring Day event where they invite recruiters from various companies (including Salesforce, Yahoo, Pandora, Udacity, Inkling, and Walmart Labs) and students get to talk to each company for 5 minutes, speed-dating style (because if you think about it, job searching is really similar to dating, in the sense that both parties are looking for the best fit and determining if they can make the relationship work). From this day on, HR helps you with all aspects of the job search, from boosting your online profile and resume, to one-on-one practice interview/whiteboarding sessions, reaching out to give you advice on each step of the way. This is probably the most underrated part of Hack Reactor, but it’s crucial to its success, because college career services don’t offer anywhere near this level of personal support after you graduate.
Of course, Hack Reactor isn’t without its flaws. The main issue: class sizes are starting to exceed capacity, and they currently don’t have enough physical space and staff to deliver the full level of support they’re aiming to provide (which includes very limited restroom stalls, which meant waiting in line for a few minutes after lectures). At least, they didn’t when I was there, but I’ve heard plans that they’ve acquired another floor in the same building, with plans to use it in early 2014, and they’re constantly hiring more staff to deal with their growth.
I took a gamble when I decided to attend Hack Reactor, a program that none of my peers had ever heard of, let alone attended. I had quit my stable, full-time job, drained my entire savings account to pay for tuition and living expenses, and moved nearly 200 miles to SF. After months of intense (but rewarding) work, I’m thrilled (and relieved) that it all worked out in the best way possible and proud to say that going to Hack Reactor was the best life decision I’ve ever made.
I attended Hack Reactor from August through October 2013, and it was the most useful educational experience I've ever had. I don't say that lightly, as I've attended two highly ranked universities.
Hack Reactor's value stems from both the sheer amount of knowledge they stuff into your head and the "how to solve problems like a programmer" ethos they distill into you. On the knowledge side, I'd say there are five distinct phases of the course: Precourse work, structured learning, individual projects, group projects, and the hiring phase.
The precourse work is intense and ramps you up to a speed at which you could probably go ahead an get hired as a junior developer (!!!). You learn the basics of the distributed git workflow, reimplement the wildly popular Underscore.js library, build a twitter clone, and master recursion in a way that makes you familiar with the DOM.
After that, there's an individual project phase - at this point, you're turned loose to work on a personal passion project (which they must approve). There are also paid client projects available for those who want them. This is a great time for people to work out kinks and learn how to hack on their own.
Once you've had this experience, students form groups and unleash their combined brain power on creating apps. Some really impressive stuff has come out of this, e.g. redditInsight.com.
After that is the hiring phase. Hack Reactor hosts a hiring day at the start of the 11th week of the program and then provides interview support until, well, everyone gets a job... which doesn't usually take very long! Most people in my class got multiple six-figure offers. Interestingly, a massive amount of learning seems to take place during those two weeks, too, as people all go nuts solving ridiculous toy problems that interviewers threw in front of them together.
The 3 months I spent there have launched me into a more productive, high-paying, and satisfying job than I could have ever gotten otherwise.
I've just finished an amazing 3 months at Hack Reactor. I wish I didn't have to leave!
I chose Hack Reactor because I value high quality education. I wanted to come out feeling confident and able to take on challenging projects. I have extremely high expectations of what I want to achieve, and wanted to get to a point at which I could start implementing the kind of things I've been trying to build for years.
I used to struggle to implement anything that wasn't an easy method provided by JQuery. Now I can build large interactive applications with a rich feature set.
I was employed by an awesome company that I got in touch with at Hack Reactors hiring day. I'm now working as a Core Engineer, building the type of product that I've dreamed of building for years.
Hack Reactor was an incredible experience. I've never learned so much high quality information in such a short amount of time. I was so inspired in that environment, and came out of there having met amazing people and produced many projects I was very proud of.
Attending Hack Reactor was certainly one of the best decisions I have made in my life, and I am loving my current job- a job I would have never even heard of had it not been for another HR alumni working there and referring me, and a job I would not have had the skills for had it not been for the amazing instructors and peers I worked with during my time as a student there.
The value of the alumni network continues to increase with every passing month. They also keep iterating on the curriculum so I think it's gotten even better since I was a student. Currently I'm contracting building virtual reality experiences for the web, which is super fun.
Hack Reactor is a game changer for education. If you are accepted to Hack Reactor and enjoy programming, enroll in the earliest cohort possible.
Check out a blog post I wrote comparing all of the Bay Area bootcamps. What I said pre-Hack Reactor is still true post-Hack Reactor: http://shanemkeller.com/coding_bootcamps-2/
I second everyone else's reviews. You will probably learn more than you've ever learned in your life in three months (or probably years, for that matter). Your peers will amaze you. The staff's dedication to the students will inspire you. You will never think about education in the same way again.
The second 6 weeks of the course has some improvements that are still being made, such as the lecture content and scheduling. I also didn't receive as much code review from the instructors and older students as I would've liked. More code review may not be feasible for HR's price to remain what it is. But hey, HR's only been around for 1.5 years, and HR practices agile development as an organization so they're constantly iterating. You could wait for 6 months from now and get an even better experience, but I would get on this train while you can because it's only going to get harder and harder to get in to HR.
I’m an intern at Khan Academy now and having a blast and learning a ton. All positive. Hack Reactor’s students and programs keep getting better (I’m on the alumni board and there’s a ton of exciting new projects planned). The alumni network is getting stronger and already alumni are bringing in more companies to hiring day. Which means it’s getting easier to find a job post-HR.
I spent three years doing what's supposed to be one of the most challenging and rewarding undergraduate degrees at what calls itself the best, most challenging university in the world. Those three years were a ludicrous waste of time compared to the last three months at Hack Reactor.
It's difficult to summarise just why this is so, and this response is necessarily skewed towards my opinion. Here's my attempt at it:
The curriculum--This is something that the team at HR clearly spend a stupendous amount of time working on and is constantly in flux. The curriculum is designed to be as information-dense as possible and is an amazingly effective scaffolding upon which student's learning experiences are based.
Your peers will be the cream of the crop. I spent most of the time feeling like the stupidest kid in the class. And that's fantastic. It meant that I was surrounded by people who were aces to hang out with and whom I could learn from. There's some genuine savant-level intellect floating around in each class and its an honour to work with them. That Hack Reactor has spent a lot of time filtering for niceness is an added plus.
The environment is all about learning. Something I appreciated a lot is that the school takes very seriously the idea that there are no stupid questions, and that nobody should feel intimidated by anything, or anyone. The culture is rabidly inclusive and anyone, from any background will find him or herself part of a family with one goal, and that's to take care of each other and nurture the collective technical wisdom of the crowd.
The alumni network has more potential than anything similar I've seen before. Mike has done an unreal job of assembling a cohesive network of Hack Reactor alumni and is the pivotal moment in the midst of it all. Alumni are privileged to a whole host of goodies, meetups and exclusive infrastructure, all with the goal of keeping the community as tightly-knit as possible. I'm not sure how much of this is under wraps, but suffice it to say that any true hacker would probably give a kidney for the stuff you get access to. You really do feel like part of a family, and joining the alumni network feels a lot like Christmas.
Lastly, but most importantly. Hack Reactor is aware of any and all flaws I'm about to mention, and they are incessantly working at improving themselves. Every cohort gets a better experience than the last and this happens so damn fast that I just can't imagine how any school could keep up. Yes, I think Hack Reactor is the best software engineering school there is right now, and I think it's setting and raising the bar so fast that it's very, very hard to beat.
So what sucks about it? More petty things that you'd care to hear. The elevators don't always work, sometimes the microphones run out of batteries, one floor doesn't have a dishwasher, there's a lot of reply-all email. The magnitude of these should be clear. To me, it's negligible. They're all fixable and for all I know, they've already been fixed. To me, the fact is that when I look back on the last three months, they're front-runners in the competition for 'best months of my life'. The school, the environment and the experience have captured my mind and imagination like some sort of educational imperious curse. It's taught me how to teach myself things I never thought I'd be able to do and I'm immensely grateful for it.
Hack Reactor has been one of the best experiences of my life. I say that from the position of someone who has a lot of experience from which to compare. Whereas many of my fellow students are fresh out of college or coming from a few years of work experience, I have been in the software industry since the 1980's and have founded multiple startups and worked at Microsoft, Yahoo, Fujitsu, Atari and others. I have learned more in a few months at Hack Reactor than in any other year of my life. It has had a profound effect not only on my technical knowledge, but has, remarkably, reduced my level of stress and anxiety. That was a surprise for me given the intensity of the program. I have built bonds with my fellow students and staff that I expect will last a lifetime. Everyone here cares. Cares about learning. Cares about teaching. Cares about each other. I don't think anyone would do this just for the money. There are easier ways to make a buck. (Reposted with permission from Patrick)
I've had some good and bad experiences here, but overall I would recommend others to join.
Hiring day was pretty meh. There were a bunch of companies, but none seemed overly excited to meet up. The interviews they drilled us on were pretty 'eh' too.
Good school. A little expensive but seems to stand out from the pack. Heavy emphasis on JS. Lots of emphasis on personal projects. One downside is that class sizes seem a bit large right now but hopefully that will get better in the future.
Alumni here--definitely a good program and worth the investment. I have a job I'm happy with, and definitely learned a lot during the course. The other students in the program were great, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well I was prepared for the job hunt. There are things I dislike about the program, but they're minor quibbles.
i'm currently a student @ hackreactor and i can't speak highly enough of the school. from the student community to the instructors and hackers-in-residence, it's awesome to be surrounded by such a diverse group of talented and highly-intelligent people. the instruction is fabulous and i'm really impressed by the level of professionalism among the administrative team.
it's relevant to know that i came to the program skeptical and prepared to take advantage of their cancellation policy if i had any hesitation during the first week. i'm tremendously satisfied by my experience at hackreactor.