Welcome to the Interwebs (Hackbright Academy – Week 5)

O hai! We finally made it to the web development section of the class. Actually, that was over a week ago, and I’ve had this half-finished draft of a blog post saved on my Tumblr dashboard for the same amount of time. Sorry! I’ve been busy (see below).

By Katherine Hennes (Engineering Fellow, Hackbright Academy – summer 2013 class)

We began with a brief lecture on HTML and CSS, then moved quickly to Javascript (HELLO CURLY BRACES, so nice to see you). I’d attended a lot of front-end workshops over the past year (most of them sponsored by Girl Develop It), so this was mostly review, but it was great reinforcement, and I clearly needed the practice with DOM manipulation.

We’ve spent most of the last week assembling tiny, primitive web apps with Flask, Bootstrap, and SQL/SQLAlchemy – tying up everything we’ve learned so far in a nice little box. Working with an ORM => more practice with object-oriented programming, as well as a relief from some of the more tedious SQL scripting. Also, having had some (very limited) experience with Rails prior to Hackbright Academy, I really enjoyed the process of building an app from the ground up, in Flask, rather than poking around and trying to make sense of an automagically-conjured-but-super-opaque prefab directory tree à la Rails (or Django, apparently).

In fact, I like Flask so much that I’m planning to build the web interface for my final project in Sinatra, Flask’s rough equivalent for Ruby.

On that note, I decided on my final project, though I have a huge pile of research to burrow through (and soo many rabbit holes to jump down) before I can make any concrete decisions about what it will look like. But I’m really excited about all of the possibilities, in addition to the fact that I’m going to learn SO MUCH.

It doesn’t even matter whether or not I manage to accomplish everything that I’m aiming for (though I’ll get there if humanly possible), I’m going to get to learn a ton about computer science theory and implementation.

Another thing that I think is worth pointedly mentioning: I’ve been hella busy.

Maybe busier than I’ve ever been in my life. There are always more Meetups, tech events, or mentor meetings to pencil in, and it often feels like I’ve been going nonstop for the past month, especially since I usually spend my “nights off” coding or researching. And I imagine that, as we enter project-, then interviewing mode, things will only get more hectic.

I was reflecting on the fact that the program is strangely almost half over, and I came up with a few things I’m excited to do, post-Hackbright:

  • * Become a full-time, full-stack developer!
  • * Resume my membership at Planet Granite, the prettiest and least smelly climbing-gym-with-a-view-of-a-famous-bridge. I fell hard for rock climbing (heh… heh) earlier this year.
  • * Once again enjoy my daily espresso macchiato from fine artisanal coffee purveyors of the Bay Area.
  • * Start taking long bike rides/bike touring again on the weekends.
  • * Turn my back on freelance SEO writing. Forever.

Things I’m not excited about returning to, post-Hackbright:

  • * No more Hackbright :(
  • * Student loan payments :(


This is already long, so I think I’ll end here. P.S., Python has really grown on me.

This post was originally posted at Katherine Hennes’ blog.

Where to Begin – The First Two Weeks of Hackbright Academy

By Katherine Hennes (Engineering Fellow, Hackbright Academy – summer 2013 class)

In the last two weeks, we have covered so many things. I’m flipping through 60+ pages of notes to try to remember it all. Ack! So much. To quickly recap:

We started whiteboarding cold calls at the end of Week 1. Everyone who’s been up there so far has pretty much killed it.

Lots of alums come and talk to us, usually in the evenings when my brain, as prev. discussed, has started to melt out of my ears. They’re awesome, I want to make them all my friends, etc., but it’s also just reassuring to see their deadpan expressions in response to our questions/collective anxiety about hiring. (“You’ll all be fine. No really, you’ll be fine.”)

We learned about dictionaries, Git, binary trees, recursion, sorting, classes and objects, and regular expressions. We wrote Markov chains (predictive text generators — you can see my pair partner’s and mine immortalized @markovalice on Twitter), did some Euler problems, and learned what a FizzBuzz is and how to solve the Tower of Hanoi problem.

On the social/networking side, we finally met our mentors last week at an evening mixer (after a round of $4 happy-hour sangria at the cafe downstairs). I have two, and they are both great — I can’t wait to start picking their brains and bouncing project ideas off of them.

I signed up to do a short (5-10 minute) tech talk on Tuesday about shell scripting, failing to realize until yesterday afternoon how boring (sorry, complex) shell scripting is. I’ll have to figure out a way to spice up my Powerpoint slides.

On another note: so far, one of the challenges of this program has been to stay focused in the afternoons. I’m definitely a morning person, best at highly-focused work like writing code and problem-solving before lunch, so it’s tough to start on more than half the day’s work after 2pm. Once we transition into project mode (in 2-3 weeks), I’ll probably try to get there much earlier in the mornings.

But overall, I’m still just as excited to be here as I was on Day 0, and Hackbright still feels like one of the best decisions I’ve made.


This post was originally posted at Katherine Hennes’ blog.