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Learning To Code: Front-End Web Development By Night At Hackbright Academy

By Freya Rajeshwar (Summer 2014 – Front-End Web Development Student, Hackbright Academy)

The past 10 weeks have been some of the busiest, craziest, and most fulfilling times of my life. In a few months, I went from having minimal coding experience to confidently using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build my own websites. Looking back, I can honestly say that enrolling in Hackbright’s Front-End Web Development Course was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Why Hackbright?

As a product manager at a video platform company, I spend a lot of time designing new features or product enhancements. Until recently, however, I needed to work with our engineering teams to implement even the simplest ideas that I proposed. A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to be more self-sufficient, and started to look at how I could learn to code on my own.

I tried out a few online tutorials and researched full-time coding bootcamps, but neither approach seemed like a good fit for me. I wanted to learn in a more hands-on environment, but also didn’t want to take a leave of absence from work for 10 or 12 weeks. When I found Hackbright’s part-time Front End Web Development course, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Ready, Set, Go!

I showed up on the first day of class not knowing what to expect. After a few minutes of class introductions, however, I felt completely at ease.

“The women in the class were a diverse and refreshing group: we had product managers, UX designers, visual artists, and more — from a wide variety of industries.”

Some of my classmates wanted to make a career switch to software development and were trying the course out as a first step; others wanted to implement their own UX designs without depending on a web developer. The one thing we all had in common was that we were there to learn and excited to get started.

The next 10 weeks seemed to fly by. Looking back, I feel like I learned so much in such a short amount of time. I attribute a lot of this to the accessibility and flexibility of the course’s teaching style. Each class was a good mix of hands-on teaching (mini “breakout” sessions on particular topics) and self-paced exercises, especially in the beginning as we learned the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Three-hour class sessions had seemed a bit daunting when I registered for the course, but I often was surprised to realize that it was already 9:30 p.m. at the end of each evening class.

Putting it Together:

After a few weeks, we’d successfully worked through the basics of web development as a group. From then on, the lessons focused on building the course’s final project, which could take the form of any type of website. Since I work for a video platform company, I knew that I wanted to make a Netflix-style video site. I found that the first half of the course had given me the fundamentals necessary to undertake the project with a good degree of confidence.

During the next few weeks, I learned even more than I had during the beginning of the class. The learning process became more organic as well — I addressed parts of my project one at a time and learned how to implement specific features. And I definitely didn’t have to figure these things out myself — there were weekly office hours, Q&A sessions during class, and the professors were accessible via email to help as well. Also, I found that many of my classmates were going through similar experiences on their projects, or had already solved the problem that I was currently working on. On several occasions, trying to explain something to a classmate helped me understand the concept more thoroughly myself.

Our final class session wrapped up with a student open house where everyone showcased their final projects. Though I’d seen my classmates developing their sites over the past few weeks, it was amazing to see the final result of everyone’s hard work. As a class, we’d built personal blogs, business websites, and online art galleries – just to name a few.

What’s Next?

Our course wrapped up a few weeks ago, but I’ve been busy since then. I picked up some new ideas during our final open house session, which I’m currently adding to my site (just for fun). I’m also trying some Ruby on my own as a next step, and definitely want to stay involved in Hackbright by attending events and meet-ups. Most importantly, I’m confident that coding is something I want to continue doing long-term, and am excited to keep learning.

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