Reflections Halfway Through Hack Reactor

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I originally planned to blog each week at Hack Reactor, but…that turned out to be a lot more challenging than I anticipated. Hack Reactor’s schedule officially runs from 9am-8pm, but I’m actually here 8:30am-9:30/10:30pm on most days, coming in earlier to take advantage of the continential breakfast and socialize with fellow students, staying later to work on extra credit portions of our assignments. Often times, I won’t even realize how late I’ve stayed until I look at the clock around 8:30pm, thinking it was still 7:30pm.

Week 1, known as “Hell Week” for the back-to-back lectures and the insanely dense lesson plans, was probably the most I’ve ever learned in a single week in my life. We went through 4 different instantiation styles (Functional, Functional with shared methods, Prototypal, and Pseudoclassical), created linked lists, trees, sets, and hash tables, and discussed orders of complexity along the way, in addition to doing a brief review the roughly 40 hours worth of pre-course curriculum we had to complete prior to attending our first day of class and covering some orientation materials (such as basic policies, schedule, how to request help, etc.). By the end of the first week, the only regret I had was that I didn’t have enough time to reproduce the crazy red-black tree in Javascript that was part of the extra credit section of our data structures lesson. (Still, regretting that, by the way!)

As if THAT wasn’t mind-blowing enough, by week 2, we covered subclassing and algorithms, including tackling the n-queens problem in pure Javascript. It was one heck of a challenge coming up with a solution to it, and my second regret up to that point was that I didn’t have enough time to tackle the extra credit part of the n-queens assignment, which was to solve it using bitwise operators, which would’ve been amazing because it’s a challenging puzzle to solve, and bitwise operators are much, much, MUCH faster at solving these types of problems. I’m definitely going to have to come back and revisit that sometime.

Weeks 3-5 covered frameworks and libraries like jQuery, Backbone, D3, Coffeescript,, Node.js, Express, MySQL/MongoDB, Mongoose, and AngularJS. I’m sure I missed a few things in that list too, considering how much we covered. (Oh, how I wish I had enough time to blog about it while I was learning it!)

Week 6 marked the first week dedicated to personal projects, including coming up with an idea, getting the idea vetted, and deciding on our tech stack, and getting our tech stack vetted. Word of advice: think of your project way in advance, so you’re not caught off-guard when the time comes! If you need ideas, I’d suggest thinking of what you wish existed in your every-day life that doesn’t already exist. In my case, I wish I had a need for a tool that could help me and a group of friends decide where to eat (which has been been a challenge in the past), thus how I came up with the solution: NOMinatr. </shameless plug>

Then came “interim week”, which is the week where we’re left on our own to hack away at our projects while most of the instructors go on vacation (thus why it’s not part of the 12 weeks). It also officially marks the halfway point for Hack Reactor, where we go from being part of the “junior” class to being “seniors”.

And now begins the second half of my journey in Hack Reactor as part of the “senior” class. What kind of exciting things are coming around the corner? Who knows?!