What is Programming? Start Learning Today (Free Course Guide)

Jessica-Earley-300x300Jessica Early is the director of  Part-Time Education at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco. Prior to working at Hackbright, she spent a decade working with nonprofits with at-risk youth in disadvantaged areas. She received her BA in Sociology and Education: Applied Psychology from UCSB. At home, Jessica loves to spend time with loved ones, her pets and
collecting strawberry knick knacks. 


You Don’t have to Be a Rocket Scientist to Code. 

Programming or coding isn’t just for hoodie-wearing, Doritos-eating math prodigies. People who write code come from all different backgrounds. You don’t even need a CS degree. In fact, 59.8% of software engineers, programmers or computer scientist titles do not carry a CS degree, according to Tech Crunch. So if you don’t have a Computer Science Degree and you’re interested in learning to code, you’re in luck!

Step 1: Watch this video

‘What is programming, exactly?’ you ask. We’ve got answers in this quick video on what programming is and how it relates to the computer. Video by Austin Olney.

Step 2: Spend 60 minutes with Python


Sign up for free at Codecademy, which hosts a free hands-on Python course that takes an estimated 13 hours to complete. (Look for the link to the course catalog to find the Python course, and to see the many paths a coding career can take. You don’t need to upgrade to the paid Pro membership.)

Why Python? Because it’s one of the most in-demand languages today in many areas of computing, from recreational websites to serious data science. That’s why it’s also the highest-paying language to know for new engineers. Once you’ve learned one programming language, learning others is much easier. So you might as well start with the one that currently maximizes your opportunities.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, start with just one hour of the tutorial. You’ll get an overview of concepts, and you’ll write and run your first simple Python program. That will give you a basic idea of how code works, and what a software development environment looks like.

Slow and steady learning will get you where you want to be. You’ll be spending a lot more time playing with Python — a lot, because coding is addictive rather than a chore. But before you do, there are some people you should meet.

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Step 3: Follow Online Classroom Resources

Online resources like Youtube have thousands of videos searchable, from every programming lesson possible. From beginner to advance, help ease yourself into the world of programming with instructors and teaching styles of our choice.

Start with Jessica McKellar, an amazing Python developer who has a great class you can follow right along. Free courses like our 10-Day Crash Course are also a great start to the world of coding.

Congrats, you’re coding!

That’s it! You’ve taken your first steps into a new life, and already have new friends with whom to make the journey. You’ll also find them — and others — online. Stack Overflow is where you can talk about coding. GitHub is the go-to place to peruse and share working Python (and every other language) examples with other programmers. Both are also places where managers looking to hire new engineers look for promising candidates.

Bookmark our list 7 Online Coding Resources For Beginners for more tutorial and help sites.

As you progress, you may want some classroom education. Hackbright offers a part-time Intro to Programming night course in San Francisco that runs five hours per week, for 12 weeks. You may find similar courses in your area.

Whatever you do, keep coding, whenever you have even a few minutes. Once you get rolling, it’s as addictive as Facebook. The more time you spend editing, running and debugging algorithms on your screen, the better — and better — you’ll get. Welcome to the club!

And lastly, apply for Hackbright Academy.

If you’re ready to change your career and become a coder or programmer, but don’t have the experience to get accepted into a bootcamp, apply for the Hackbright Prep by March 24. You’ll learn the foundations of programming, how to use necessary tools, and ultimately tackle the bootcamp application process. You’ll work with a one-on-one advisor to track your progress, create your own personal project, and expand your network in our community of like-minded women.


  • Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners is offering $1,000 scholarships | Apply here!
  • In honor of International Women’s Day this month, every student will receive a $500 scholarship for our Part-Time April courses!

Hackbright Academy is the leading engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry offering 12-week software engineering programs and night courses for women. 

From Dental Assistant to Genentech Engineer: Meet Ruba Hassan

Ruba Hassan is a software engineer at Genentech who graduated from the Hackbright Academy fellowship in September. Before Hackbright, she was a dental assistant. A single mom, Ruba wanted to make life better for her and her daughter. Here’s how she changed her life by learning how to code.  


Ruba Hassan, Hackbright alumna, has completely changed her life within the course of a year. Working as a dental assistant for 9 years, she realized she needed a change for her and her daughter. “I wanted a career change but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” she says. “I live in the Peninsula, so I wanted to get into tech. Knowing there were many tech bootcamps, I proceeded to look into what each had to offer. I wanted something that I would enjoy and a career that would give me the flexibility to work from home if need be to spend more time with my daughter. I started taking a few online classes: HTML, CSS, and found it fun. That’s when I found Hackbright. They had a part-time class called ‘Intro to Programming’. It was two nights a week, and I met some amazing women. Those women became my best friends and we developed a support system.”

After the class, Ruba felt confident enough to apply for Hackbright’s fellowship, a 12-week intensive that prepares you for a career in tech. “It was the part-time class that really helped me with the application,” she says. “My advice to anyone thinking about getting into tech is to take one or two classes to see if you would enjoy coding or if you’d understand it – and then go from there.”

Ruba was on vacation with her daughter at Universal Studios when she received the email that changed her life. “I got the email saying I was accepted into the fellowship program, and it was life-changing for both myself and my daughter. I knew I could provide a better life for her.”

“Emotionally, I feel more confident, stronger as a woman and that I can do so much more. I’m a part of a group of scientists that are building a huge project. It’s empowering.”

From there, Ruba quit her job and started the 12-week fellowship program.


“The fellowship experience was great, my classmates and I are best friends now and we got through the program together – no matter how challenging it got. The teachers are very helpful, the students are very helpful, and we learned from one another. They always said, ‘don’t worry, we’ll help you through it’ when things got challenging, and it really made me calm down and relax and realize that yes, I can do this.”

During the fellowship, everyone creates a project. The project that Ruba worked on happened to get her a job at Genentech after she graduated.

“I wanted to build a website for dental surgery. It’s an oral surgery scheduling app that’s built to allow patients to go online to the surgeon’s website to schedule the appointment on their own, texting a confirmation after the appointment has been made. It’s a real app based on my life experience in the dental industry.”

When interviewing with Genentech, the recruiters asked Ruba to “show them something you’re proud of” and that project is what got her the role as a software engineer at the company. Now, she’s building a website and working with scientists.

“Working at Genentech has been amazing,” Ruba says. “It’s a huge relief. Emotionally, I feel more confident, stronger as a woman and that I can do so much more. I’m a part of a group of scientists that are building a huge project. It’s empowering.” Ruba says her favorite part about her job is seeing her code live. “I’ve only been there a month and a half and I’ve seen my work go live on the website. That itself is more rewarding than anything else.”

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When it comes to the fellowship, Ruba says she couldn’t have found a better program. “As a mom, I had to go to school from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and make sure to drop off, pick up and take care of my daughter’s needs. It wasn’t easy, but I had support.  I would recommend the program for any woman or mother. People think they can’t do it because they have children – and that’s not true. It was a stressful 12 weeks in terms of picking up my daughter, but it’s a short period of time. Now I have the flexibility with work to spend more time with my daughter. I also will say that the Hackbright alumnae community was incredibly helpful with my job search.”

Hackbright Academy is the leading engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry.  Learn more about Hackbright’s 12-week software engineering program Ruba completed.

Engineering School for Women: Admissions Open!

Ready for a career change and feeling the world of programming calling your name? Then you’re just the person we’d like to meet! The leading engineering school for women is now accepting applications for January 2017! Hackbright’s first software engineering fellowship of 2017 is just around the corner and now is the time to start putting your interests and intentions to action. Dive into the details of our upcoming Info Session and application process to find out how you can become a software engineer in 12 short weeks!

Dates to Know:

Info Session: October 12th
Deadline for Application Submission: November 1st



If you’re too comfortable, it’s time to move on.
Terrified of what’s next? You’re on the right track.

~ Susan Fales-Hill


Got Questions? Get the Scoop!

RSVP for Info Sessionicecream

October 12th  |  6:30pm – 8:00pm (PST)

Considering our 12-week immersive software engineering fellowship? Our free Info Session is the perfect time to share your curiosity and questions.

Chat directly with our fabulous staff and incredible graduates.

If you can’t be there in person, don’t worry: you can tune into the livestream and submit your questions online.


Hear from, and talk with, all the people that make the magic happen:

  • The Fellowship Instructors will share:
    • An overview of the curriculum
    • Insights into the daily life of a Hackbright fellow
  • Our Admissions Director will offer:
    • Insights into the admissions process
    • Tips and Ideas for your application and interviews
    • Answers to questions most often asked during the admissions process
  • Listen to Graduates:
    • Share their experiences of the fellowship
    • Talk about living and working as software engineers
  • Career Services staff will provide:
    • Knowledge about partner company opportunities (such as Dropbox, GoDaddy, and Slack)
    • Details regarding the career services road map during AND after the fellowship
    • A peek into the incredible alumnae network you’ll join upon graduation
  • Learn about Mentorship benefits
    • Fellows are matched with engineers from leading tech companies (such as Google and Twitter)
    • We’ll review all of the benefits this unique advantage offers

If you want a deeper look into this phenomenal path to software engineering, RSVP and come by Hackbright Academy to feel out the space and get to know the smiling faces and helpful hands behind the curtain (remote option available!).



Application Process? Easy Peasy Pie!

Submit Your Application by November 1st


Ingredients for a smooth application process:

  1. Submit your one page application and a coding challenge (this is not a timed exercise).
  2. Within a few weeks, our Admissions team will reach out about your next steps.
  3. If chosen to move forward, you’ll have up to two interviews.
  4. Within a few days of your second interview, you’ll be notified of our final decision.

Don’t forget to save your spot for the Info Session on Wednesday, October 12th. We look forward to meeting you!