If you didn’t already see the post on Intagram announcing it – I was accepted in the Dev Bootcamp 19-week web developer education program this week!
For months I’ve been talking about my efforts to get into a coding bootcamp in the San Francisco Bay Area called Hackbright (*see below for a list of blog posts related to my bootcamp application process). I applied in February of 2015, was declined, and submitted another application in May. While I waited a very long two months to hear back from them, I signed up for a prep course from a different bootcamp program called Hack Reactor. I enjoyed the Hack Reactor prep experience, and I started to wonder if Hackbright might not be the best fit for me.
Currently there are hundreds of bootcamp programs in the Bay Area, with new ones popping up all the time. I wanted to keep things simple, and I really liked the idea of a program geared specifically toward women because I think it’s important to have supportive and safe environments for women to train in as they prepare to enter the often-hostile world of tech. I talked to several Hackbright alumna who were very happy with their bootcamp choice, but the amount of time it was taking to get to my application bothered me, and I talked to several people who urged me to reconsider an option that, in their opinion, would lead me to an internship but might not lead me to the sort of full-time work I would need to recoup my costs as quickly as I’m hoping.
Canon AE-1, Fuji Superia 800s
The more I talked to the alumni and instructors from Hack Reactor, the more it sounded like something I wanted to go for. It’s somewhat known as “The Harvard” of the bootcamp programs and the admissions interview is very difficult, making their students some of the elite out there in the race to redefine the software engineering profession. I knew it would be an incredible commitment, with six days/week of in-person instruction instead of the usual five, but it felt like it would set me up for career options I might not have otherwise. Just as I was about to make my move and commit to the application I asked one more alum who responded to my query about what makes the program special with “You’re going to feel like you’re the least intelligent person there, and everyone status until almost-midnight every night.” I want to be challenged, yes, but that’s not the environment and mindset I’m looking for as a mother of two young children living an hour train-ride south of the city. I realized if I attended Hack Reactor I would never see my family. I would barely have time to sleep!
On Thursday morning, July 30th, I had my second interview with the Hackbright program. I thought it went pretty well, though there were some technical problems with the video/internet at the end and I was left wondering what the next steps were. After that interview I showered and went up to the city for a lunch with a friend of TH who is currently attending a program called Dev Bootcamp. I initially had ruled out Dev Bootcamp as an option (even though it comes up frequently on best-of lists for coding bootcamps in the Bay Area) because it is 18-weeks long with the first half of the program done remotely before the in-person learning section at the end. I didn’t want to spend nine more weeks by myself struggling through code, but my lunch date told me that all of the remote programming is done via pair programming and that I might even be able to set up in-person time with people in the SF area. She gave me a tour of their space and talked about the ways they integrate emotional intelligence and mindfulness practices like yoga into the curriculum. It felt like a program that cared about providing a meaningful growth experience for developers on top of teaching them what they need to know in order to succeed in the current world of software engineering. Also very important to me was the ability to repeat portions of the program if necessary. This gives me the cushion I need to feel like my family can still have their needs met if something arises, because I’ll have a chance to catch back up and fall behind. I, of course, don’t want to be doing this any longer than necessary and don’t plan to any repeating, but it’s nice to have it as an option on the table.
The last thing I asked during the interview was what happened next. I had mistakenly thought that there would be a second interview, and was a little nervous when he said this was the only one. That was my one chance??? After my Hackbright response times I was anticipating waiting a week to hear back, but he told me I would have an answer that same day. Four hours after I signed off I saw an email with the subject line “Congratulations!”, something so unexpected that I initially thought it was an email congratulating me for attending and completing the interview. I stood in my kitchen with the chicken gravy burning on the stove and read the email three times over to make sure that they were really offering me a spot, and not just offering me the opportunity to do more application stuff. I called That Husband and cried, feeling overwhelmed by his mutual excitement and the myriad of ways he has supported me thus far (and because I knew he would be right there with me through the rest of the (difficult) process as well).
I signed some agreements, paid a hefty deposit, and was able to secure a spot in the cohort that begins in-person coursework on October 19th 2015. There’s a lot of childcare and housework outsourcing arrangements that will have to be made between now and then, but for now… I celebrate! I started this process at the beginning of January 2015, and now, on the last day of July, I finally get to move on to the next step. Hopefully all of my time on the Caltrain back-and-forth between classes will give me some opportunities to keep you updated throughout the process. It would make me really happy to hear that I convinced other women to give coding a try as well!