Jennifer Bland header image
≡ Menu

Hack Reactor Week 1 Review

Just completed my first week of training at Hack Reactor. Hack Reactor is an intensive 13 week long JavaScript programming boot camp. Classes run Monday thru Saturday from 8:30 AM PST to 8:00 PM.

My first week I spent a grand total of 75 hours in classes. I also did an additional 9 hours of studying and programming outside of classes. All total in the first week I spent 84 hours in training.

Before you start your first day of classes you have already completed an immense amount of pre-course material. If you want to know what is covered then you can check out my post about my pre-course work at Hack Reactor.

First Day at Hack Reactor

Classes started promptly at 9AM. Everyone was on an online video session. During the first hour we covered introductions of our instructors, our Hackers in Residence (HIR), our Shepherds and our Tech Mentors.

Once that first hour session was over it was game on. We immediately were assigned a pair and started with pair programming. Pair programming is an interesting experience. Two people work together on a single computer to solve the task at hand.

One student is designated the navigator and the other student is the driver. The driver actually types and the navigator is providing direction on how to solve the task. Generally the senior person in terms of skills set is the navigator and the junior person is the driver.

Many industries use a variation of pair programming. Airlines are a great example. The senior pilot navigates but it is the junior pilot with less experience that actually does the take-off and landing. That allows the team to arrive at their destination since the senior pilot guarantees that they get there based on his experience. The junior pilot is learning from the senior pilot while getting first hand experience.

Our first task in pair programming was to repeat some of the material that we were required to do during the pre-course work. This allowed us to share how we solved the material plus get a perspective on how your pair partner solved it which could be completely different.

The rest of the first day was spent mainly in lectures covering topics such as:

  • Recursion
  • Scopes
  • Execution Contexts
  • Effective Pair Programming

In addition to the lectures we spent 2 1/2 hours doing actual programming.

At the end of the first day I was amazed at the amount of material that was covered and how quickly the time passed.

Week 1 at Hack Rector

The first week is unique in that we spend quite a bit of time in lectures. This is understandably because we are working on learning new topics and concepts to build a solid foundation of knowledge.

One of the things that you learn very quickly at Hack Rector is to FFIO. That translates into f&*k figure it out. That takes some time to get use to since in most educational settings you have an instructor that is just giving you everything that you need. This is not the expectation at Hack Reactor.

When you are working as a Full-Stack Developer for a company, there will not always be a roadmap and very clear instructions on what you need to accomplish. There will be a general idea of what needs to be done like create me a program that will provide me instant access to our company financial data so I can do something useful with that information.

Your job will be to FFIO the solution to the problem and make sure your solution is viable. This is what Hack Reactor is teaching its students from day one.

Every two days we have what is called a sprint. This is based off the Agile methodology of development where you turn things around quickly and get feedback to make sure you are on track.

In one of our sprints out testing methodology was purposefully messed up. As you were developing you thought your solution was correct but the tests were returning results that said it was wrong. Until you FFIO that the tests were wrong you were not able to complete the exercise. This completely mirrors experiences you will have in your daily life at work so now you know how to resolve these issues.

Energy Drain

On the fourth day I realized that my energy was getting drained due to the 12 hours per day that we were putting in for training. That is a long time to stay concentrated day in and day out.

Luckily Hack Reactor is away of this and realizes that you are less effective in learning and programming if you are not sharp both mentally and physically. So every other day they have one hour set aside for you to visit the gym. In fact they will actually subsidize the cost of your gym membership up to $75/month.

During this time I actually go outside and run 1.5 miles. It is nice to get outside in the sun and get my body moving. Once I return from the gym break I feel re-energized and ready to continue with my training.

Battle Tanks Hackathon

On Saturday evening of our first week we got a chance to do our first Hackathon. We were paired up with the Senior class (the cohort that started prior to us that are in their 7th week of training).

There is a website called Battle Tanks where you can use JavaScript programming to design and build your own tank. You get to decide what features you want with your tank. Once your tank is built then you go into an arena and fight anther tank to the death.

We had a single elimination contest to see who built the best tank. This was a great exercise because you were doing something that was challenging and fun at the same time. In addition it was our first exposure to learning how to interact with an API.

by Jennifer Bland

I am a Google Developers Expert. Entrepreneur. Mountain Climber. Neil Diamond fanatic. World traveler. MBA grad. Software Engineer. Interested in hiring me? Contact me at

2 comments… add one
  1. I am interested to learn more about your experience with Hackathon. OVerall, is it worthed? I have a CS degree but has been away from development for 6 years and jumping right back into the IT field. I am wondering if HackReactor provide students with the modern stacks or is it like a traditional CS program?

    1. Hackathons are a great way to hone your skills. What is taught at Hack Reactor is JavaScript.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.