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TL;DR: I graduated from Hack Reactor last year and received four job offers, the one I accepted was close to the average salary Hack Reactor advertises, and the 99.XX% hiring rate is actually true. I credit the program's success to their selectivity, the resources they pour into hiring instructors from the industry, and choosing to focus on JavaScript. You can read my review of HR on Quora: http://www.quora.com/Reviews-of-Hack-Reactor/review/Jake-McG...

I graduated from Yale with a history degree, then taught high school science in Mississippi, then stayed on for an extra year to lobby for charter school legalization in Mississippi. Given that background, I'd like to think I'm someone who can be thrown into new situations and learn quickly, so the bootcamp format was attractive to me. I agree that it's not for everyone though.

I found Hack Reactor through the Twitter account of a graduate in their second class. I was pretty skeptical about giving $17000 to some strangers in San Francisco, but I asked a lot of questions and was impressed with their answers: they didn't ask students to repeat sections like Dev Bootcamp, they've only asked students to leave for extreme failures to act appropriately towards students and staff, and the instructors (especially Marcus Phillips) have bonkers credentials. I decided to take the plunge.

The program is intense (6 days/week, 11 hours/day minimum) but if I was going to be unemployed for three months I would rather put all my efforts into learning than having free time. The first six weeks were instruction with two-day sprints, progressing from algorithms and data structures on to the front-end and ending with back-end (Ruby/Sinatra briefly, then a deeper dive into Node, then SQL and NoSQL databases). The second six weeks I did paid contract work through the program and worked on an open-source government transparency app using Angular and Node. When I went to interview it was great having a fully-functional Angular/Node app to discuss, and it seemed like employers felt a little better being able to inspect an actual product I had built.

Throughout the program we did practice interview problems every morning, several of which I got as whiteboard questions during my on-site interviews! (It's pretty cool to tell an enterprise interviewer "I'm happy to do that problem, but I just want you to know I've seen it before.")

Maybe the biggest surprise was that after the program was over, I picked up books like "Cracking the Coding Interview" and realized how much of it the program had already addressed without me knowing it. (I recently bought "High Performance JavaScript" and was genuinely surprised how much of it was just the way Hack Reactor taught me to write JavaScript.)

I was sort of worried the entire time I was in the program that it was all a big scam, like we'd show up one day and the office would be empty with wires dangling out of the walls and these guys had made off with $17000. I kept waiting for it to fall apart... and then it didn't. I got four job offers within a week of graduating and the final salary was well within the band advertised by Hack Reactor. I took on about $15000 in debt to do it and I'm on track to pay it all off within a year of graduating. It was definitely worth it financially.

I ended up at a startup (Ziploop) using the MEAN stack and I really love it. I wanted to be humble about my post-bootcamp professional development: I know that I have a lot to learn and so I want to collaborate with supportive senior engineers -- especially about CompSci fundamentals I missed out on in college -- while also building more expertise in JavaScript that a lot of CS grads don't have. I felt like I was able to contribute value to my employer my first week on the job without any hand-holding. We ended up hiring two more engineers from Hack Reactor as the company has grown and we're pretty impressed with the skills new Hack Reactor graduates are leaving with.

> engineers from Hack Reactor

Don't you think an engineer knows a bit more by spending 4-5 years getting his diploma?

At least in terms of starting salary and job prospects, Hack Reactor grads are significantly ahead of typical 4 year CS grads, even those from great schools. That said I think there's a huge difference in variance in CS degree holders.

Somehow, a lot of people graduate with CS degrees from respected programs without actually being able to solve typical software engineering problems. I don't know if this is due to cramming and forgetting, leaning on stronger classmates or something else. Nobody gets through Hack Reactor without doing a lot of problem solving and a lot of jumping into unfamiliar code bases and frameworks. Don't forget that due it its extremely intense schedule, Hack Reactor is actually 900+ hours of instruction.

Some CS undergrads go far beyond their course assignments. Much like Hack Reactor students, they regularly stay up until late into the night learning new things, working on open source and building projects. After four years of that kind of student life, these students have truly impressive technical skills.

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