Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hack Reactor Interview

Had my technical interview with Hack Reactor!

I think it was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my entire (recallable) life. The interview itself, in retrospect, was not that nerve inducing, but I was so anxious/nervous that I gave myself a stomachache from 20 minutes before the interview until about three hours later. Unpleasant feeling. It was my own fault, of course, but it made me realize how much I wanted to be accepted. Even when it came to college acceptances, I was pretty confident I would get into at least one good school, and didn’t have one top pick that I was desperate to get into. At Hack Reactor, I psyched myself out before the interview even started, which definitely affected my performance. I also definitely spent way too much time beforehand studying things that were much more advanced that never got covered in the actual interview–like regular expressions, recursion, etc. I don’t regret studying those things, as I enjoyed it, and would want to study them anyway, but I think I could have prepared for this technical interview a little bit better had I not spent so much time on those concepts. I’m still kicking myself for not getting things as quickly as I normally would, and making some stupid mistakes. That was my first real experience coding under pressure–many more to come I hope? :)

As for the interview itself: My interviewer was a bit late due to catching a train up, which was fine, but then she walked in a bit frazzled and hurried, and then that made me feel frazzled and hurried too, instead of calm, which is what I so desperately wanted to feel at the time. The interview process has since changed, and is now just the preliminary admissions challenge, the coding project, and then one technical interview… so the main majority of your acceptance ends up resting on the interview. My interviewer started out by leading me to an open computer on which she opened up Sublime. She then asked me to describe my background, where I was coming from, etc. This part was easy for me–I could probably talk for 20 minutes about my path and what I’ve experienced and what made me decide I wanted to be a full stack developer (maybe another blog post some other time). I gave her the condensed 5 minute version though, but I’m pretty sure I conveyed the very true fact that I am 100% dedicated to this career goal, I very wholeheartedly would love to do Hack Reactor, and I am willing to jump all sorts of loops and obstacles and difficulties to reach my goals.

The technical part was actually fun, though I was also nervous and my brain betrayed me a few times, so it could have been more fun. However, my interviewer was very patient and walked me through parts I didn’t understand. She gave me hints towards my answer, without ever giving me the direct answer, which I really liked. If I hadn’t felt so much pressure from her watching me, I probably would have just sat and chilled there and just more slowly thought things out before typing, but oh well. I tried to talk out loud too so she could understand my thinking process, but the talking out loud skill is something I have to work on. I usually take a minute to think, and then talk. Instead of just think-talking, which is what I ended up doing. -_-

In any case, the questions themselves weren’t all that complex–I’ve written much more complex algorithms. They were interesting, required a neat way of thinking, and mostly required writing functions/callbacks. I completely understand how they work, even though my versions were usually a bit more complex than they needed to be. It was pretty awesome to see my interviewer turn 4 lines of code into…one. Coderbyte ended up being wholeheartedly useless, but I guess it would have been useful had I had a first interview.

After that, she let me ask her any questions I had, and so I asked her a few, but to be honest there is so much online literature out there in blogs and the HR site that any questions I did have, I’d already done a good bit of research on. I enjoyed speaking to her, but for some weird reason I just kept getting the impression that this part was rushed and like it must be a pretty automatic process for her and she just needed to be somewhere else. Maybe that was all in my head–she was very nice, but she just spoke quickly/hurriedly. In any case, by the end of it I can’t say I really have a clear idea of how the interview went. She basically said that in terms of personality fit, I have no issues. In terms of technical, I think she said I did fine, but I guess I won’t know for sure until I hear back!

I will be checking my email a lot for the next week…

You’re Only Here Because You’re A Girl

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.02.49 AMThe other day I was browsing Quora and came upon this question:

What’s the Single Most Mysogynistic or Chauvinistic Thing a Man Has Said to Your Face?

Having partaken in a few pro-feminism classes as well as many discussions of feminism, there were a lot of answers I expected (“Sons are better than daughters, etc.”) but I was particularly struck by this answer:

“You only got those offers because you’re a girl.”


This sentence was stated, apparently quite harmlessly, by a male to his female friend who was studying computer science. Gender stereotypes exist, and I have a feeling they will always exist, but statements like these are the worst when they are said by someone who doesn’t mean to offend, but honestly, truly believes them.

The other day, someone said to me along the lines of: “You don’t have to worry. You went to Stanford, you’re smart, and you’re a girl programmer.” While it was flattering that he called me a programmer (I like to think I’m more of a learner right now), I was a bit irritated that my being a girl appears to play a role in my success. I’m not going to argue that places like tech companies don’t try to actively hire more girls in engineering, because I know for a fact that they do, but I will argue that there is something wrong with the mindsets that are created as a result.

Men, and probably women too, end up feeling like girls have it ‘easier’ — but that’s not what upsets me. What upsets me is that as a result, when someone meets a female engineer in the field, what is going to stop him from thinking: “You are not as intelligent or as capable as men.” Many would assume that her being a female gave her a major advantage, instead of assuming that she truly is intelligent and good at what she does.

In the end, it boils down to developing “impostor syndrome” where women in engineering feel like frauds, like they don’t really belong there, like they’re not as worthy as the men around them. What do you think? When you see a female engineer working at a successful company, what do you assume about her?

To all the women who feel or have ever felt impostor syndrome, take a look at Malaysia’s culture, where women in computer engineering make up 50-60% of the industry. In Malaysia, computer programming is seen as very woman-friendly, and every woman is seen for her success and her intelligence, not her gender.

Let’s teach the rest of the world the same.


Applying to Hack Reactor

I think I have literally read every single scrap of online information on Hack Reactor–blogs, quora, twitter feeds–you name it. I’ve looked into other dev bootcamps, but so far Hack Reactor fits all my wants/hopes:

  • Intense and immersive
  • They seem to actually care about their students
  • Emphasis on computer science aspects and software engineering–not just making web apps
  • Loving their curriculum and that they give you a TON of pre-course work
  • They don’t start at the beginning — I don’t want to spend the first two weeks re-learning the basics
  • Generally successful job placement
  • I’m fairly new to Javascript, but so far really enjoying the language!!
  • High quality instructors
  • They’re dedicated to selecting the best, so I would be among and learning from the best :)

The application process has made me realize how impatient I can be when I really really want something. I submitted the online application, which was a pretty fast check of whether I know the Javascript basics, and waited impatiently for 5 days. Apparently you’re supposed to get an automated email response, but I never got it, so I had to email admissions and then they sent me the info for the take-home project. Maybe I completely missed something, but reading some others’ blogs and their struggles with the project made me think it was going to be ridiculously hard… It was a fun little project. I finished it in less than a day and sent it in, and then waited another anxious 5 days for another email with a link to sign up for an interview.

And so here I am, waiting impatiently for the interview date, and studying in my free time. :) My goal is to finish ALL the coderbyte problems (hard included) but I still have about 6 of the Mediums left… and the hards look tough. Fun, but tough.


iOS Build An App Workshop!

It ironically never occurred to me to try to teach myself how to program mobile apps–considering I work for a mobile app startup. I think initially I thought something like that would have been too advanced for me, but I’m starting to learn that if you think something is too advanced, then you just start at the beginning. :)

At the suggestion/encouragement of my fellow coworker/designer, I’m going to try to learn objective-C so I can help out with the iOS front end of our app! That’s a great plus about start-ups… you can make the job be what you want it to be (as long as it aligns with the company’s goals, of course :P). Am going to go to the Women Who Code SF iOS Build-An-App Workshop with my coworker!

Super excited!!!

Time to learn some Objective-C and peruse their other suggested resources

First post!

First post on the journey to web dev and cs, but definitely not the first day. I wish I’d started when I was younger, but alas I can only project my wishes onto my 13 year old brother. For his birthday I did some research and bought him two great intro to programming books for youth: Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python and 3-D Programming for Kids with Javascript. As you may have noticed, there’s a clear pattern–I’m trying to appeal to his gaming nature. He’s also a bit of a math genius (winning math competitions here and there), and he actually listened to me when I asked him to take the codecademy courses on html/css and javascript.

Hoping to turn him into a young programmer, while I turn myself into a (not old, but oldER) programmer :D