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Find Out How 11 Women Learned To Code – Watch These Videos On “Becoming A Software Engineer” (Tech Talks!)

Thanks to our generous supporter GitHub for hosting and recording the tech talks on December 10, 2013 – and for participating in the Hackbright Academy Dinner series for women in tech!

Lightning tech talks focused on the topic of “becoming a software engineer” and were given by women who code, as accountants and software engineers!

Watch as 11 women talk about learning to code and becoming software engineers in the videos below:

Tech Talk: “Bootstrapping your Career – from Employee to Engineer!” by Megan Anctil & Kate Heddleston

Hearsay Social software engineer Megan Anctil and freelance software engineer Kate Heddleston talk about how to bootstrap your career into engineering!

Megan Anctil is a Software Engineer at Hearsay Social. Starting with a Bachelor’s degree in Japanese from Stanford University, she taught herself to code while working in Customer Support at Hearsay Social. She continues to be drawn to the thrill of solving logic puzzles and the artistic side of coding that manifests itself in elegant, well-structured systems. In her free time, Megan can be found continuing her coding education (it’s a lifelong process), learning new skills and bits of trivia for fun, exploring the city with friends, and planning next-year’s Burning Man costumes much too far in advance.

Kate Heddleston is a web applications developer (Python & Django). Kate earned a Master’s degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, both from Stanford. She enjoys using open-source tools to build web applications, and especially likes building product features that interface with the user. Kate believes open-source technologies are the foundation of our modern tech-driven world and that automation is one of the core values that technology offers us. Thus, open-source automation tools are some of her favorite things in the world, just below puppies and just above shoe shopping.

Tech Talk: “The Development Process” by Ashley Lorden

Ashley Lorden is a software engineer at Lyft. Although she never took a CS course and formerly worked in non-profit, Ashley proudly introduced herself as a software engineer after taking part in the first class of Hackbright Academy. After participating in Hackbright, an engineering internship at SurveyMonkey and international travel, she’s now part of the engineering team at Lyft, where she gets to use Python, Angular.js, PHP and a bunch of other fun stuff to help connect people in cars. Engineers don’t tend to like bureaucracy, but a bit of structure is crucial to ensure the code you produce will be useful. Ashley will talk about the agile development workflow and organizational tools that provide clarity and make your time developing more effective, whether as part of a large team or for a project on your own.

Tech Talk: “How I Use GitHub To Start Coding” by Alyson La

Alyson La is an accountant at GitHub who hacks on the side. Her focus in learning to code is to bridge the gap between the worlds of finance and web development. She is inspired by the open source community and with the help of some of her fellow hubbers has created and contributed to several open source projects as well as internal apps.

Tech Talk: “Failure Driven Development – How learning from failure helps us build better systems, products, engineering culture” by Mercedes Coyle

Mercedes Coyle is a software engineer at Real Gravity, working with data processing, storage, and analytics. She is a Hackbright Academy Fall 2012 alumna and mentor for Hackbright students. Before becoming a software engineer, she worked in the photographic industry as a different type of developer, and got started in tech working in IT and systems administration. On the off chance that she’s not hacking or breaking code and hardware, she cycles around San Francisco or hacks motor vehicles.

Tech Talk: “Functional Programming” by Kelley Robinson

Kelley Robinson is a software engineer at Versal. After getting a Business degree, Kelley began working in financial operations but soon started looking for something more challenging. She made the transition to engineering by attending Hackbright in the Spring of 2013. Now Kelley works as a Scala developer and is learning to like California.

Tech Talk: “A Day in the Life of a Hackbright Student” by Siena Aguayo

Siena Aguayo is a Fall 2013 Hackbright fellow and graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 with a double major in English and East Asian Studies (focus on Japanese language). She always loved working with computers and found herself drawn to them from an early age. Her experience with Java in college and her soft skills as a liberal arts graduate helped Siena land a job as a project manager after she graduated, where she taught herself JavaScript, jQuery, advanced CSS, and a host of other related technologies that helped her deploy the company’s software both on their hosted network and in-house for customers. She loved learning how to build things for the web and now after Hackbright Academy, has an arsenal of Python to back her up on the server side and is a full-stack engineer.

Panel of Hackbright Alumnae Answer Your Questions!

Nicole Zuckerman is a software engineer at Eventbrite. She is a reader, dancer, cheese afficionado, Veronica Mars fan, and graduate of the Hackbright Academy Fall 2012 class. She transitioned from a career in college textbook publishing as a Program Director to a career in software development and has never looked back.

Marissa Marquez is a software engineeer at Trulia, a real estate site, where she’s part of the consumer search team. Marissa is a Hackbright Academy Spring 2013 graduate. She originally designed web sites and then started coding the HTML for them. As her role became more technical, she wanted to learn how all the pieces of a web app worked together. A desire for more formal training led her to Hackbright Academy where she learned full-stack development. She also enjoys hiking, snowboarding, painting and print-making.

Rebecca Bruggman is the newest member of the POPSUGAR software engineering team doing web development in PHP and Sass. Prior to graduating from Hackbright’s Summer 2013 cohort, she was in tech on the sales and PR side. After being involved in the tech community for several years, she realized she wanted to be a part of the building and innovation process, which lead her to make the awesome decision to apply to Hackbright. In her non-coding life, Rebecca loves to travel, ride her bike, and conquer every brunch spot in SF – one mimosa at a time.

Meggie Mahnken (moderator) hails from New Hampshire by way of Tucson, Arizona. She studied psychology and critical theory at UC Berkeley, reveling in postmodern theory but truly shining in a single technical role at an auditory research lab. She began to coding in her spare time as a mere curiosity, eventually meeting with other women in San Francisco to take a coursera course in Python. She quickly moved from building games and calculators to studying data structures at a hackerspace for another Python class. These experiences convinced her to embark on the path towards software engineering, arriving at Hackbright Academy to become a software engineer. When not coding, she’s coaching for the Cal masters swim team.

Tell us your story about learning to code!

View our photo gallery from the Hackbright Academy event at GitHub HQ here!

Definitely Does Compute – Hackbright Girl Geek Dinner

This summer, Hackbright Academy celebrated our one year anniversary and hosted our fourth Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner.

On Wednesday, August 21 at Pivotal Labs’ San Francisco office, Hackbright Girl Geek Dinner attendees enjoyed Chinese food (dim sum in kari-out boxes) and beverages from Pivotal Labs’ ample supply (there was also a beer fridge and an ice cream fridge!).

Attendees listened to tech talks from Hackbright instructors Cynthia Dueltgen and Liz Howard, as well as Hackbright graduate and Versal software engineer Kelley Robinson. She is currently working as a Scala developer at Versal and for her Hackbright project learned a new language (Go) instead of resting on her programming laurels (Python).

More tech talks were delivered by Hackbright students. Cara Marie Bonar and Meagan Gamache gave a talk together on kernel programming, and Allison Deal (pictured below) talked about her Hackbright project on video processing. Students gave more demos offstage after the talks.

More pictures are online at our Facebook page. Thanks to everyone for joining us for the Hackbright Girl Geek Dinner!

From Novice to Skilled Developer in “Two and a Half Werewolf Cycles” – aka Hackbright – The Epilogue

By Kelley Robinson (Hackbright Academy – spring 2013 class)

Kelly RobinsonIt has been seven weeks since graduating Hackbright Academy and I can officially announce that I am gainfully employed. My job search was an overall positive (read: exhausting) experience, even if the reactions at every level varied as much as Stefon’s wedding guests. I saw everything from hesitation to accept boot camp graduates as “real developers” to requests to be a technical cofounder. I tried not to let the rejection phase me, especially when the job “went to the founding partner’s neighbor’s son.” The important conclusion is that I did receive job offers.

My experience post-Hackbright hopefully adds another anecdote to the pile reinforcing the point that traditional education is changing.

Hackbright co-founder and instructor Christian said it best:

In the past three weeks, some nineteen job offers* have been made to Hackbright students. For those of you unfamiliar, Hackbright is a trade school with an atypical proposition: the total time to go from complete novice to skilled developer clocks in at just under three months, or two and a half werewolf cycles. I’ll qualify my use of ‘skilled developer’. In honesty, the phrase is a bit of propaganda; the reality is that a Hackbright student is competitive with a new graduate armed with a four-year computer science degree…Now it sounds even more preposterous.

But is it that unbelievable? If you take a typical college student, estimating that they retain only about half of what they learn, some fraction of which is medieval studies, the bar seems much less altitudinous. Mix a healthy dose of computer science, practical system administration, and modern software development practices, and the playing field is level. With a small class size (less than thirty), Hackbright is essentially the small-batch artisanal house blend of IT. You’ve probably never heard of it.

You have, however, heard of the employers who believe in our process and our students. Eventbrite, Survey Monkey, New Relic, Facebook, Bitcasa, StubHub, Facebook…. Facebook! Let me assure that none of these organizations are making special dispensation for our students and no punches were pulled during the interview process. If they were lowering their standards at all, I would be employed at one of these places.

*the total number of job offers has nearly doubled since Christian’s post was originally published

He’s right about the lack of special dispensation. While some of the offers I received were from our hiring partners, many of my interviewers had no idea (or were not phased by the fact) that I had only been coding for three months. I received the same phone screens, code challenges, and technical interview questions as a recent CS graduate or other junior developer.

Since I haven’t fully beat my impostor syndrome, I will acknowledge the possibility that I was just really good at fooling these companies into thinking that I was capable. But it would be hard to argue against the fact that some 50 of my Hackbright peers have all accomplished the same feat. Perhaps the need for developers in the current environment got my resume a second glance, but we all have been able to prove our competence in the interviews themselves.

Hackbright and other coding schools fill a very specific niche of vocational training right now. My hope is that the current environment will encourage more students to pursue computer science as a degree instead of as an afterthought. (As Christian also notes: “Go to college. Seriously. HBA is not a replacement for college.”)

The unfortunate truth is that we don’t always know what we want at 18 (…or ever). Options for post graduate study come with a variety of financial burdens and outcomes, but the discontent with the status quo and popularity of education alternatives show that the sector is ripe for disruption.

This is one of the many reasons why I chose to join Versal, an education startup in San Francisco whose mission is to show that one idea can launch a million more.

As of July 15th, I am joining their team as a backend software engineer.

With my love of New York City in mind, I swore not to return to San Francisco without the right opportunity and Versal has convinced me that it is that opportunity. My potential for personal and professional growth there is enormous and I am confident that I will continue learn an immense amount. As an early stage company, I will be able to add real value to the product and though small, the team has decades of combined experience from companies like Zone Labs, Google and Palantir to help guide me along the way.By the time I concluded job searching, I was weighing the pros and cons of job offers in three different cities. After picking the wrong career before, I wanted to be confident in my decision this time and forced myself to be patient in the process. It was not an easy decision, but I realize how fortunate I am to have had a decision at all.

If you’re still unconvinced about the success potential of programs like Hackbright, stay in touch, I’m determined to prove the doubters wrong. In the meantime, I am off to go teach myself Scala, move across the country, and enjoy the rest of my summer. Au revoir!

This post was originally posted at Kelley Robinson’s blog.