Seven Books to Launch Your Career in 2017

In the New Year, we often re-dedicate ourselves to self-improvement, re-invention, and to taking our career to the next level. To support that process of leveling up, Hackbright staff and instructors have recommended a few books for our readers!

The twist to this list is that all of the books were authored or co-authored by women, and they all offer ways to improve your “hard” or “soft” skills as a software developer or tech worker.

Note: Hackbright did not add any affiliate links to these book reviews (you’ll have to Google them!), and we are not receiving any revenue or other compensation for these recommendations.

Here’s our list of 7 books to launch your career this year:

#1 Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Recommended by Meggie Mahnken, Hackbright Director of Fellowship Education

Author Gayle Laakmann McDowell is a software developer, and she describes her book as a way to navigate the sometimes tricky coding questions that arise in interviews for software developer positions. The book’s purpose is to provide you with the opportunity to practice tackling 189 potential programming interview questions via her approach for breaking those questions down into manageable modular-sized chunks. Gayle’s ultimate goal for each reader is to develop a comfort level with these types of questions so that she or he can whip up flawless algorithms on the whiteboard during an interview!

Hackbright’s Meggie Mahnken’s quick take on the book: “It’s a no-nonsense overview of many topics that would otherwise be intimidating to tackle. The introductory chapters on different types of technical interview questions, runtime, and other fundamental topics never fail to motivate me to enjoy the process of whiteboarding. Technical explanations are peppered with ‘real world’ interviewing insights. Even though it’s not in my primary language (python), the Java code snippets are incredibly approachable and informative.”

#2 Cracking the Tech Career by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Recommended by Meggie Mahnken, Hackbright Director of Fellowship Education


Following her book on acing the coding interview (#1 above), Gayle new book offers targeted career advice for landing a job at a top tech company like Google, Apple, or Microsoft. She provides guidance on potential career paths, and how to develop the right type of experience, mindset, and skills so that you’ll be a good cultural fit at these companies.  Bottom line, this book shows you what the hiring committee wants, and how you can develop a career path to achieve it.


#3 Hello Web App by Tracy Osborn

Recommended by Hackbright VP of Strategic Partnerships & Mentoring Angie Chang


Tracy Osborn’s book “Hello Web App” is geared towards non-programmers (or newly minted developers) who would like to build and design their own custom web app using Python and Django. The book supports readers through the process of choosing a project, setting up a database, creating templates, and launching your app.  Tracy is also planning on releasing a new book, “Hello Web Design”, later this year which focuses on web design fundamentals and shortcuts for non-designers.


#4 Two Scoops of Django by Audrey Roy Greenfield 

Recommended by Hackbright TAs Jennifer Griffith-Delgado and Meg Bishop

Image result for two scoops of django
 In this third edition of her book, Audrey Roy Greenfield provides tips, tricks, patterns, code snippets and techniques that will help you master Django. The book is not designed as a Django tutorial, however, so you should be somewhat familiar with Django first so that you can leverage this as a valuable Django resource.  A few example chapters include: optimal Django environments, fundamentals of Django app design, queries and the database layer, building and consuming rest APIs, testing best practices, finding and reducing bottlenecks, security best practices, logging and debugging, etc.

#5 Doing Data Science by Cathy O’Neil and Rachel Schutt

Recommended by Hackbright Instructor Henry Chen

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“Doing Data Science” is based on lectures from the Introduction to Data Science course taught at Columbia University. In many of these chapter-long lectures, data scientists from companies such as Google, Microsoft, and eBay share new algorithms, methods, and models by presenting case studies and the code they use.  If you’re familiar with linear algebra, probability, and statistics, and have programming experience, this book is an ideal introduction to data science. The book is collaboration between course instructor Rachel Schutt, Senior VP of Data Science at News Corp, and data science consultant Cathy O’Neil, a former senior data scientist at Johnson Research Labs. Cathy just released a book in 2016, “Weapons of Math Destruction”, about the dangers of Big Data (it was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award).

#6 Probabilistic Graphical Models by Daphne Koller and Nir Friedman

Recommended by Hackbright Instructor Henry Chen

Image result for Probabilistic Graphical Models by Daphne Koller

This book complements the same OpenClassroom and Coursera courses by Stanford Professor Daphne Koller and her co-instructor Nir Friedman. The introduction to reasoning algorithms (machine learning) is based upon probabilistic graphical models that capture and analyze uncertainty. From the Coursera course, the content covers probabilistic graphical models (PGMs) as a rich framework for encoding probability distributions over complex domains. These representations sit at the intersection of statistics and computer science, probability theory, graph algorithms, machine learning, etc. They are the basis for a wide variety of applications, such as medical diagnosis, image understanding, speech recognition, natural language processing, etc.

#7 Program Development in Java by Barbara Liskov and John Guttag

Recommended by Hackbright Instructor Henry Chen

Image result for Program Development in Java by Barbara Liskov

“Program Development in Java” is aimed for students who know how to write small programs, and are at the stage of enrolling in a second or third programming course. Readers should be familiar with Java, but this is not a “how to code in Java” book. Java is just the “vehicle” for teaching key concepts for the whole process of developing production-ready software. The book is written by Barbara Liskov, an MIT Professor (and winner of the 2008 Turing Award), and John Guttag, also a professor at MIT. The focus of the book is on modular program construction: how to organize a program as a collection of well-chosen modules. It centers on four main topics: requirements analysis, iterative program design, debugging and testing, and design patterns.

Like these books? There are dozens more! 

Finally, if you’d like to discover more tech books authored by women, an invaluable resource is Etsy Engineering Director Lara Hogan’s list of tech books authored by women.

And if you think we should feature other books in a future list, please add your suggestions via the comments below!

Hackbright Alumnae: Teaching and Reaching Together

Emma FergusonEmma Ferguson is a software engineer at Eventbrite, which claims to be the world’s largest self-ticketing platform. She graduated from Hackbright in March of 2016. Before Hackbright, she worked as a data analyst for four years. When not coding, Emma skis, bakes, walks shelter dogs, and loves to hang out around museums!

In 2016, Emma volunteered as a Hackbright mentor. This year, she serves as one of Hackbright’s first ever alumnae Ambassadors.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a software engineer until I was well into another career. I had been working as a data analyst at a startup for nearly two years. That mostly meant working in Excel all day, every day. There were maybe 40 people, and I was the only analyst, so I was doing work for just about everyone else — everything from business and financial reporting to customer use analysis for our products.

My data scientist coworkers sometimes pointed out that if I knew Python, I could automate my work. When I began my second year, I realized just how much duplicate work I was doing, and decided to take their advice. I went into this weeklong Python course, but found myself in over my head. I jumped back, and took Codecademy’s online Python course. It was a good course, but I already had 40 to 60 hours a week of work to do before even looking at it.

So I looked at different options. It seemed the evening classes I found wouldn’t teach me much I couldn’t learn on my own. Yet as I taught myself more about Python, the data scientists I worked with told me I was over-engineering my projects, coding up more automation and features than I needed to. But’s it’s fun! I protested. They responded: Maybe you should just be an engineer.

We’re in this together

Emma FergusonTo do that, I needed a more formal education — not years of college, but months of full-time focused training. Hackbright taught Python, and had a good reputation for alumnae among my friends in tech. I did not pick Hackbright because it was all women. In fact, didn’t see the benefit of that until the pending students in my cohort began emailing one another to get to know each other before classes began. It was intimidating at first — so many of my cohort were, like, “I have a masters in bioengineering, after completing my undergrad in theoretical math.” I was a theater major!

But then we all met in person at the start of the semester. Normally, when I’m in a room with lots of people I don’t know, I get nervous. But for once, it was so easy! We were all women who wanted to switch careers into software engineering, so we had a lot of the same dreams and the same worries. We talked about how we were all a bit nervous to be there. It felt great. The alumnae network wasn’t just a selling point. It was obvious from day one that everyone was willing to support each other and teach each other as we learned.

Value your past

emma ferguson 2

Women who want to be pro coders often worry they’ve spent their time learning other skills and experiences that won’t help at all. Not true! Look at me: I don’t have any academic background — I was a set design major. I did professional scenic design during and after college. Being an up-and-coming scenic designer, you’re used to working with little or no budget, so you constantly have to make something out of nothing. Software engineering can be a lot like that. You have an idea and a blank screen. Now make it real!

Also, as a set designer you must be super-responsible that what you do is not only good in itself, but fits in with the rest of the production. It’s the same for software engineering. If your APIs don’t connect to the right functions, or if you yourself aren’t really part of the team, your work will fail.

If you’ve worked in the real world, you already know that you can love a job that’s incredibly hard, if you believe you can win at it. At Hackbright, I was exhausted for 12 weeks straight. But every time I was ready to give up, I found that after I went for a walk to cool off, I started thinking about how to approach a coding roadblock differently. I found myself heading right back to my keyboard to make it work.

Alumnae – The Extra-Curricular Teachers

Hackbright also introduced me to mentors from the happening part of the local tech scene — different people with different jobs and backgrounds. In fact, my original alumna interviewer for Hackbright was a data engineer. I knew that I wanted to keep working with data, just not with spreadsheets. My interviewer explained how data engineering was different from back end, front end, or full stack engineering roles. This, I realized, was the thing I wanted to do after graduating. I just hadn’t known what it was called.

My interviewer kept in touch with me through my twelve weeks, advising me on how to approach my project (Called NextBook, it’s a good example of how code runs the world now. The interface is a basic mix of JavaScript, CSS, & HTML, but behind the scenes is a Python machine learning app feeding you personalized book recommendations, based on your reading history and associated book data pulled in from a bunch of APIs.) My assigned mentors helped me prepare for the tech industry, giving me space to discuss how our in-class concepts function in the wild, or providing one-on-one coaching for interview skills.

Just as important, they opened up about their own career journeys, some of which involved way more hopscotch than mine. I learned from them that becoming a software engineer doesn’t mean you get a badge. All it means is you are constantly coding. The job title doesn’t make you good at it — you just have to keep coding until you are. My mentors let me see their own work wasn’t perfect — they made what they do seem accessible to me, rather than beyond my reach.

Now it’s my turn!

emma ferguson 3When it was time to interview with companies, I was ready: Eventbrite, one of the Hackbright partner companies who came by to meet graduating engineers, was a company at which I’d interviewed for an analyst job, but had turned down their offer to go to bootcamp instead. I let them know how much I’d love to join their fabulous team — as a data engineer.

While Hackbright’s classes and curriculum are undoubtedly excellent and launched me into this profession, the network of alumnae and mentors is what will continue to push me to advance my skills and career. As my cohort-mates showed me from our first day, the Hackbright community is made up of people committed to improving each other and our profession, not just learning for ourselves. My mentors opened doors for me by opening my eyes to what’s possible in the world of software engineering. I look forward to doing the same for other women, showing more aspiring programmers that there’s no magic moment when you “Become An Engineer” — if you want to code every day, and you’re willing to work hard, you already belong here.

10 Black Female Leaders in Tech to Watch

WilliamWilliam Hill is a Software Engineer at Lawrence Livermore Lab and former Senior Instructor of Hackbright Academy’s part-time Intro to Programming night course. He developed a passion for teaching while earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science from Mississippi State University.  He has a drive for increasing diversity in tech and has volunteered with Black Girls Code, the Hidden Genius Project and is a member of /dev/color. When he isn’t churning out code, he enjoys playing basketball, strength training, and playing video games. Follow him on twitter at @emjay_hill.

“I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”

Despite becoming one of the most educated segments of the population in the past decade, black women continue to be woefully underrepresented in the tech industry. According to recent reports by NCWIT, black women only hold 3% of computing jobs . The problem is not being ignored, though. Organizations such as Black Girls ROCK! and Black Girls Code are doing tremendous work in exposing black girls to coding to strengthen the pipeline. Industry professionals have gotten in on the act as well by using their energy and expertise to create opportunities for younger generations. Here we highlight 10 dynamic black women who are making an impact on their company and community!

Sheena Allen


Sheena Allen Headshot

Sheena Allen is a founder and CEO at Sheena Allen Apps and InstaFunds. She earned her B.A. in Film and B.S. in Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Sheena Allen has grown her app company, Sheena Allen Apps, to have millions of downloads and is featured in She Started It, a documentary that focuses on 5 women working on their startups . She has successfully completed an internship program back in her home state of Mississippi for local college students and often speaks to minorities about the possibilities in the tech industry.

Follow her on Twitter at @whoisSheena.

Jasmine Bowers


Jasmine Bowers

Jasmine Bowers is a PhD student at the University of Florida. She earned her B.S. degrees in mathematics and computer science from Fort Valley State University and an M.S. in computer science from North Carolina A&T State University.

Over the last year, Jasmine was named a GEM Fellowship scholar and a Committee of 200 scholar finalist.

Over the years, she has worked with several community organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Recently, she served as a guest speaker at the InTech one-day tech camp for girls. In addition to her interests in computer science and cyber security, she also has a passion for financial education. After graduating, she visited her alma mater FVSU to teach students about budgeting during their annual iLead Leadership Conference.

Follow her on Twitter at @JasmineDBowers.

Khalia Braswell

 N7wWGrdcKhalia Braswell is a User Experience Designer at Apple, Inc. She earned her B.S. in Computer Science from North Carolina State, and her M.S. in Human Computer Interaction from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Last year, Khalia had the chance to attend The White House’s first annual Computer Science Tech Jam to kick off Computer Science Education Week. She was afforded this opportunity, in part, because of her non-profit INTech, whose mission is to inform and inspire girls to innovate in the technology industry.

Follow her on Twitter at @KhaliaBraswell.

Dr. Jamika Burge



Dr. Jamika Burge owns a startup, Design and Technology Concepts, that specializes in computer science design and education, where she has worked with Google and the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to develop strategies for technical inclusion. She is also the new Senior Manager for Research Curriculum and Outreach at Capital One. She earned her PhD in Computer Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she won an IBM Research Fellowship.

Jamika has worked across multiple sectors, from IBM Research to Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and she is active in computer science education and STEM preparedness efforts, providing expertise for a host of funded programs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Computing Research Association (CRA).  

Follow her on Twitter at @JDBurge.

Lauren Frazier


Lauren Frazier

Lauren Frazier is a Software Engineer at Google. She earned both her B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania. have been a professional iOS developer since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. Lauren was the lead engineer on Google Wallet for iOS before moving to the Android Wear team. She is a member of /dev/color and a tutor with the Second Start Adult Literacy Program in Oakland. She was recently featured in Techies, a photo project focused on sharing stories of tech employees in Silicon Valley.

Follow her on Twitter at @laurenfraz.

Hadiyah Mujhid



Hadiyah Mujhid is the founder and developer at Playpen Labs, a software and design company. She earned her B.S. in Computer Science from University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Hadiyah has fifteen years experience working as a software engineer. Her experience spans from working with government agencies to launch satellites into orbit, to more recently helping startups to launch web products. In addition to being an engineer, she’s an advocate for underrepresented groups working in tech. She created a non-profit called Black Founders to increase the number of black tech entrepreneurs. She’s also the founder of HBCU to Startup, which serves as a bridge for students and alumni from historically black colleges interested in working in tech.

Follow Hadiyah on Twitter at @hadiyahdotme.

Tiffany Price


Tiffany PriceTiffany Price is the Community Engagement Manager at the Kapor Center for Social Impact. She earned her B.A. in Chemistry and International Studies from Emory University and an M.A. in International Comparative Education from Stanford University.  She also graduated from Actualize, a Ruby on Rails web development bootcamp.  Tiffany serves on the advisory board of /dev/color, a network for black software engineers, and is a mentor for STEMinist, a new data science program for underrepresented women at UC Berkeley.

Follow her at @thoodprice.

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge


Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge is the Founding Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital. She co-launched the first ever VC-backed diversity pledge, called the Founders’ Commitment. In less than one year, 84 Kapor Capital portfolio companies signed on. Mandela works with diversity and inclusion expert and Kapor Capital Partner, Dr. Freada Kapor Klein, to develop custom workshops and resources to help these companies fulfill their commitment to build diverse teams and inclusive workplaces. Mandela earned her B.A. in Intercultural Communication, with a minor in Spanish, from Pepperdine and her M.A. in Education, Administration & Policy from Loyola Marymount University. In 2014, Mandela’s name graced the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Education list, in 2015 Mandela gave her first TEDx speech, and in 2016, Mandela was named to the Case Foundation’s Top 50 Inclusive Entrepreneurship Champions list, The Registry’s 40 Under 40 Tech Diversity: Silicon Valley list, and LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Venture Capital and EntrepreneurshipShe’s the author of three Top 20 Medium Posts, and My White Boss Talked About Race in America, This is What Happened, a piece that went viral and has been featured in Medium, LinkedIn, Huffington Post, and Black Enterprise magazine.

Follow Mandela on Twitter @MandelaSH.

Kamilah Taylor


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Kamilah Taylor is a Senior Software Engineer at LinkedIn. She earned her M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and her B.S. in both Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus (in Jamaica).

While at LinkedIn she’s worked on multiple project launches, most recently the new LinkedIn Learning app, an online learning platform. Other projects include the complete rewrite and redesign of LinkedIn’s flagship app, messaging, mobile accessibility and infrastructure. Previously she did robotics at Wolfram Research and in graduate school at UIUC. Kamilah is a co-author of the recently released “Women in Tech: Take Your Career to the Next Level with Practical Advice and Inspiring Stories”, and is helping to organize the inaugural Tech Beach Retreat in Jamaica. She volunteers for many organizations aimed at encouraging more women and people of color to choose STEM as a career field, including Black Girls Code, Technovation, MEDA, and the Palisadoes Foundation.

Follow Kamilah on twitter at @kamilah.

Rachel Walker


Rachel Walker is an engineer at Chalk Schools. She earned her B.S. in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Rachel helped build out the part-time educational program at Hackbright Academy that served over 100 students and recently made her first open-source contribution. She is regional director for Lesbians Who Tech East Bay and regularly volunteers at hackathons for local youth.

Follow her on Twitter at  @Raychatter.

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.