How I Ended Up at Hack Reactor
"Do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone!"
It's been exactly a week since the Hack Reactor graduation
I've talked to a number of people who are unhappy with their current career choice and say they want a change, but 9/10 people I've talked to don't have the courage to make that leap of faith. This purpose of this post is partially to let you know that you CAN do it. The journey might be a little rough, but in the end it's definitely worth the ride. In addition to providing my backstory and experience, I also want to outline the vague timeline of how I remember the experience of Hack Reactor in a later post.
This first post is basically a testimony on the leap of faith that I took
A brief background on myself.
I graduated from UCSC in 2014. Soon after my graduation, one of my good friends (a manager at Wells Fargo) said he knew I was good at sales and he needed help at his branch. Since I didn't exactly have plans after graduation, I took him up on his offer. I went to Marshall's, bought a few suits, a couple of ties. Next thing I know I got a job as a Teller.
Fast forward through training. A month in, my new manager (manager friend got promoted to a different branch) and my District Manager saw potential in me (and the number of sales I got in my very first month) and decided to give me a raise. A couple months later, after hitting Gold in sales two quarters in a row, I got my first promotion to being a Customer Sales and Service Representative (CSSR). Three months later, after hitting my sales goals again, I got promoted to Personal Banker I.
This felt like a huge achievement to me - getting a raise and two promotions within one year of joining the company. The very first job I've had and already doing "so well." The job was pretty cool. I got to meet alot of people; talked to a number of different backgrounds; and the work I had to do everyday was fairly easy. I even had a fairly bright future in front of me. While my manager was on maternity leave, I felt like I was taking on a number of responsibilities and by the time she got back, I would've tried for the Assistant Manager position in the store
But as the days passed, the sales got much harder to land. The Fall/Winter seasons are particularly difficult for banks just because people are saving money for the holidays and typically don't want to hear too much of your sales pitch. I started becoming more and more stressed out and I started making a plan for how my career at Wells would look. Somewhere during this time, a relatively long time friend, Richard Kho, told me about how he sold a huge portion of his MTG collection to attend a coding boot camp called Hack Reactor. And during the time of my stress, he had just graduated and found a job at Capital One as a software engineer. The thing is, last time I talked to him he was working at the Apple store at the Genius Bar or working at Postmates handling phone calls or something.
It came to a point where there was a day where I knew I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to continue pursuing my career at Wells or to go to Hack Reactor to become a software engineer.
So as a Personal Banker, I'm not exactly required to have a cash box. I just kept the one I had as a Teller just to help the line out whenever the teller line really needed it. So the line was really long and our Service Manager, Frank, asked me to go help out with the line. My next customer was an older Caucasian woman and our conversation went something like as follows:
Customer: I need to withdraw $2,500 in cash.
Me: No problem, could you start by swiping your debit card for me please?
Customer: I don't have a debit card. I don't believe in them.
Me: (Being in sales, I figured I'd probe for a little information) Oh, I see. Why don't you believe in them?
Customer: Look. Me standing in front of you is your job security. You can be replaced by a chip. But me standing here is what's keeping your job. So how about you go and do your job and stop trying to sell me a debit card
At this point I looked her in the eye, smiled and said "How would you like your cash, M'am?
I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a religious person, but if there was a sign from God to help me make my decision about Wells Fargo vs. Hack Reactor, that was it. I made my decision to quit, and put in my two week notice shortly after and started studying full time to go to HR
Pre-acceptance Hack Reactor.
During the last month or so while I was still at Wells, I had my first on-site interview to being accepted to Hack Reactor. The main reason I knew I had to make a decision on whether to quit Wells to study "full time," was because I had failed my interview (in my mind, VERY miserably). I was pretty confident in my ability going into the interview but (in hindsight) I just wasn't ready. I was good enough to know what I was doing to get the answer, but I didn't know any vocabulary in terms of coding. I knew the difference between console logging something and returning it, but I couldn't explain it. My interviewer told me to do something with an argument, and I had no clue what an argument was. My analogy for this was: imagine you're cooking and someone tells you to chiffonade some basil. I had all the technical ability to actually perform the task of cutting it into long thin strips. But I had no clue what any of the words meant. I didn't know what saute meant, I barely even knew what the word pre-heat meant.
After my rejection, they told to work on a study project for a month and reapply for the interview. This is when I quit Wells and worked on my project.
I eventually settled on creating something that I previously used at a Wells Fargo job. Creating a Loan Amortization Calculator function. When I finished that, I submitted and it got rejected as well for not using enough higher-order functions and not enough modularity. I spent another week or so adding some Underscore functions, and adding another feature that gave you information on how much money you saved by adding extra payments. And it got accepted. I set my interview day online for the first available day (I think was the Saturday a few days later)
So going into the second interview I knew what to expect. I was going to go in, talk to someone. Code for about ~50 minutes. Then I get to ask my interviewer some questions. Going into the interview this time, I had near unshakeable confidence. Going into it the second time was much more relaxing.
I took time to explain my code. We went through a bunch a number of higher-order function stuff. Created some functions. Did some other things. Next thing I know, the interview was over and I was asking him some questions
I got my acceptance to Hack Reactor the next day. I was really excited to know that my decision to quit Wells was the right one
The key takeaway from this is that anyone can do it. Your background doesn't matter. Your past doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where you come from. If you care enough and want to do it. You can go to Hack Reactor too
In my next post, I'll talk briefly about my whole experience at Hack Reactor
tl;dr: Sam Altman said on Twitter "Everyone should have the opportunity to learn to code." People come from a variety of different backgrounds. It doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter your background. As long as you have a passion to learn, there are ways to do it
tl;dr tl;dr: It doesn't matter your background, if you have the passion, you can become a software engineer, too