The Epilogue of Hackbright and Career Transition: All the Feelings, All the Things, Live Them All

Jasmine studied International Relations and Economics at UPenn, working in investment banking and consulting after graduation. She always found herself perpetually slightly restless and itching to create. Now she is a software engineer at Change.org after graduating from Hackbright Academy in spring 2013. She loves the intersection of the arts and engineering, and has a special place in her heart for education-related causes in technology.Jasmine Tsai
Change.org Software Engineer & Hackbright Alum
Jasmine studied International Relations and Economics at UPenn, working in investment banking and consulting after graduation. She always found herself perpetually slightly restless and itching to create. Jasmine loves the intersection of the arts and engineering, and has a special place in her heart for education-related causes in technology.

By Jasmine Tsai (Hackbright Academy – spring 2013 class)

I had wanted to write a post about my career transition and Hackbright for the longest time, but it was daunting to try to do justice to something so big and so sweeping for my life. There were always a million things that I wanted to say about it simultaneously – a million pieces of fragmented sentiments and a million epiphanies and another million exclamations of just pure awe. It seemed difficult to capture precisely the magic, love, and good work that make up this experience.

But at some point I had to, before I unknowingly moved into the next phase of my life and the memory of this deep transformation faded in my mind. Many people have already written about the technical parts of the program (code a lot. code some more. and then more) and their love for coding (I have written something similar myself here). All of these go without saying and are the heart of what Hackbright is made of. I know these posts have all been tremendously useful to those curious about Hackbright and, more broadly, transition into a software development career.

But right now, I want to write about something else: feelings, emotions, fears, the steady happiness from doing good work. All of the undercurrents that propel us in what we do and color how we approach the challenges in life (invited or uninvited), as we try to pull ourselves up against our own fears and also those that others try to impose on us.

The reason why I wanted to write about this was because of what I had read in a fellow classmate’s blog and how it hit me in the stomach and made me tear up a little.

From Kelley’s blog:

And to Hackbright… Thank you. Thank you for teaching me ALL THE THINGS. Thank you for giving me some of the best friends I will ever have. Thank you for showing me that apathy is overrated.


That is the most valuable thing about Hackbright – that inarticulable personal transformation you go through when you work really hard for something against your daily fears, and the accessory magic that happens when you do so with a bunch of dynamic people equally passionate about life – many of who teach you the meaning of generosity. I was a stand-offish wreck during Hackbright, but I was lucky to be part of a truly one-of-a-kind cohort where everyone was deeply talented in their own way. There were girls that painted beautiful things, girls that baked us macarons, girls that made us delicious Russian cocktails, girls that wrote down the good things that happened everyday so they can remember appreciate life — the list goes on forever. They taught me that pride is overrated and ultimately an impediment to growth, and that you end up missing out on so much else if you are only self-absorbed in your own work. They also taught me that it’s COOL to want to learn everything and also be kind to everyone in the process.

For those that are attending Hackbright right now or looking to attend in the future: I truly believe that that is the most beautiful and rewarding part of the process, so don’t miss out on it. Don’t deny your fears just because they seem like they will swallow you up. Doing that will allow them to mutate into pride, insecurities, or an isolation from others. Instead, look them in the face and embrace the tremendousness of what you are trying to do and let what happens next change you. You will not drown in your fears just because you admit to them: instead, your honesty will allow you to be resilient against what may be challenging next.

For those that have attended Hackbright: we did it!….only to realize, for both those working and not working, that there is only so much more to come. So many more things to learn, so many more moments to feel stupid and unqualified, and so many future opportunities to fail again. Well, part of that is the nature of our career choice and we may be secretly masochistic (I mean, passionate believers in knowledge). Part of that comes with how we made our career transition, which sometimes places doubts in others as well as our own heads. Technical aptitude will come with time and practice, but as for the part about not believing in yourself: think about what you had to battle with to get this far — not just code, but your personal demons too. You have had to give up much more certainty and deal with much more cynicism than some of the people in your career tracks right now, and that already gives you a complexity that others cannot take away. You fought hard to be here. You chose to be here. You had to uproot the trajectory of your life and manually correct it, one line of code and one day of unemployment at a time. You didn’t simply “drift” into your position now. That makes you kind of awesome.

And with that — off to learning another million new things.

This blog post was originally posted at Jasmine Tsai’s blog.