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From Little Coding Experience To Winning Google’s Summer of Code: Hackbright Part-Time Student Shares Her Path Into Tech

melissa f

Melissa Fabros is a community site director for UC Berkeley’s BUILD program, a literacy initiative that matches local children with reading mentors. Last year at this time, Melissa didn’t get into Hackbright’s software engineering fellowship, but she was determined to expand her tech skills and decided to enroll in Hackbright’s nightly coding classes available for all women. A year later, she developed a project that got accepted for Google’s Summer of Code! Melissa shares her story below:

What is your ultimate goal?

My long-term goal is to work in the Educational Technology or non-profit space as a software developer or program manager.

What made you decide to pursue learning to code at night?

This time last year, I was actually rejected from Hackbright’s full-time program–didn’t even get an interview. So I signed up for the part-time program.  At that time, I simply didn’t have the imagination or skills to attempt to apply for even a technical internship!

Can you tell us about your journey over this past year?

I was accepted for Google Summer of Code 2015 this week.  Over 6,000 projects were proposed, and about 1,000 projects were accepted. This definitely wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t participated in Hackbright’s part-time programs. The project was initially developed as my Front-End class project under Felix Yuan’s and his TAs guidance (which included Jennie Lees and Rachel Walker). The course gave me the skills, platform, and motivation to take on a project I wouldn’t have thought I could do beforehand.  The Back-End course (now the Full-Stack course at Hackbright Academy)  was also important to my Google Summer of Code project, because my proposal included working on the API as well. And I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try if i hadn’t encountered Jennie’s enthusiasm and support. After the Back-End course finished, she started running the Women Who Code Python study group, and she helped me with the initial application and proposal.

This time last year, I was actually rejected from Hackbright’s full-time program–didn’t even get an interview. So I signed up for the part-time program.  At that time, I simply didn’t have the imagination or skills to attempt to apply for a technical internship.

Melissa Fabros
Hackbright Part-Time Student

Can you describe the problem your Google’s Summer of Code project is solving?

I’m working on WebLogo, a biology tool designed to easily generate data visualization of RNA, DNA, or protein multiple sequence alignments. I’ll be working on giving the front-end a responsive design overhaul, and working on implementing improved data checks for WebLogo’s API.

What do you enjoy about coding?

I guess the play and problem solving side of coding is what motivated me to learn. I had previously dabbled in a little HTML. I could fiddle it just enough to make static websites to help with friends’ tasks. For example, a friend had to organize assigning writing assignments to many hundreds of writers, and he dreaded the idea of replying to each email about whether an assignment was taken or not. I proposed listing all the assignments on the web, and that he would refer all inquiries to the website. The little website spared his inbox of thousands of back and forth emails. A little bit of code can spare a person of hours of thankless toil!

A little bit of code can spare a person of hours of thankless toil!

But there’s a little element of play in coding. Something like playing with written language. Naming variables or functions, at least at the beginner level, is a place to be witty and experimental, as well as effective. With coding projects, you’re writing up how a little teeny bit of the world works for you. This can be fun and thrilling when you set up all your pieces of code, and then you can watch that project come to life.

What’s your advice to someone considering learning to code at night with Hackbright?

I hope this story helps people see how important Hackbright’s part-time programs are in providing access to tech opportunities to those who can’t afford the opportunity costs of the full-time program. And that access to Hackbright’s supportive network of Instructors and TAs can be incredibly powerful.

Due to popular demand, Hackbright has added new spots for its upcoming Front-End Web Development and Full-Stack Web Development courses. Classes begin next week. Enroll today to ensure your spot!