Interview with Hackbright’s Program Director, Ashley Trinh
We recently sat down with Ashley Trinh, Hackbright’s Program Director, to talk a little about Hackbright Academy, our coding bootcamp courses, and Ashely’s role at the software engineering school. Here are some highlights from our conversation that we think you’ll enjoy.
What Led You to Hackbright Academy and How Has It Changed Your Life?
I love sharing my Hackbright journey because I find it a little amusing that I applied for a position at Hackbright in pursuit of a silly childhood dream. Anyways, buckle up because it’s story time.
One morning, while experiencing the effects of a premature midlife crisis, I got it in my head that I really wanted to revisit my childhood career goals. You know, the ones you have as a kid where you’re like, “When I grow up, I want to be a superhero!”
So when I was a kid, besides wanting to grow up to be a grizzly bear (don’t ask), a figure skater, a cartoonist, and other things like that, I’d also wanted to be a puzzle master. I’m not even sure if that’s an official job title but, according to me, puzzle masters are people who design crossword puzzles for the New York Times or logic puzzles found in video games like the ones in the Professor Layton series. I must have been on my second or third cup of coffee when I thought — hey, you know what’s pretty similar to puzzles? That’s right — writing code challenges.
So yeah, part of what led me to Hackbright was that I wanted to be a code-challenge-writer, which, by the way, is not a real job title. Luckily for me, “Hackbright Teaching Assistant” is a real job title and yes — I do get paid to write code challenges!
To answer this question completely (and I’ll try not to ramble), Hackbright has changed my life in more ways than just allowing me to achieve a childhood dream.
I’ve had a lot of “firsts” at Hackbright.
I had an open source contribution published for the first time while I was at Hackbright.
I built my first Sphinx extension at Hackbright.
I taught my first cohort at Hackbright, managed my first team at Hackbright, developed my first opinions on programming at Hackbright.
In fact, my time at Hackbright made me realize that my goals and aspirations weren’t nearly as ambitious as they should have been!
My fondest Hackbright-related “first” happened during a social gathering on campus. A handful of Hackbright alum were there and one of them pointed out to me that, “isn’t it cool that you can say you’ve been involved in the start of an engineering career for every woman in this room?” Her comment made me realize that Hackbright is the first place I’ve ever worked at where I truly love my job.
In a Nutshell, What Can Students Expect From Hackbright’s Programs?
Students can expect the regular sorts of things people expect from a bootcamp — that you’ll learn, that it’s fast-paced, that it’s hard but totally worth it — but let’s talk about some Hackbright-specific things.
Here’s a huge one — prospective Hackbrighters can look forward to being a Hackbrighter for life. We will always be there for you if you need us for career advice, technical help, or even something as simple as an email introduction. It doesn’t matter if it’s been one month since you’ve graduated or three years.
Another perk of being a Hackbrighter is being a part of our amazing alum community. They’re amazing, smart, and very, very generous with their time, connections, and experience. So much so that we tell incoming students that they’ll get their first job from us and their second job from their connections in the alum community.
What Are Your Thoughts on Choosing to Learn Python as a First Programming Language?
This used to be a question we’d get a lot — deciding to choose Python as a first programming language used to be a controversial opinion — but times have changed because we don’t get asked that so much any more. This is largely due to the fact that Python has been used as an introductory programming language by universities for a while now and that Python is rising in popularity in the industry.
As the Program Director, What Advice Would You Give to a Prospective Hackbright Student?
I believe the ability to learn is the best skill an engineer can have. This is because professional engineers are frequently expected to learn new technologies by reading technical documentation and tutorials. Since this is something unique to software engineering — there aren’t many other disciplines out there where you’re expected to learn on the job — it can be an unexpected, informal barrier to entry.
My advice to any software engineering or computer science student is to keep that in mind. The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to learn because that is a skill you’ll always need, no matter how much the technological landscape may change.
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