Hackbright: Week One Completed!


Balloonicorn Jones (top left and bottom right) is a regular presence at Hackbright. #changetheratio #ofunicorns

I quit my full-time job in order to attend a full-time, 12-week, immersive coding bootcamp called Hackbright Academy in San Francisco. The first day was Monday, September 26, 2016. We’ll be completely done by Friday, December 16, 2016.

By that date, I will have learned Python, CSS, and HTML, built a web-app on my own from the ground up, and, hopefully be close to securing a full-time job as a front-end or full-stack developer.

First Week Summary:
Now that the first week has wrapped up, I really wanted to jot down some thoughts about the experience so far before I forget them altogether:

  • The daily schedule is deceptively comfortably paced, but quite intense. One of the reasons why I chose Hackbright was because of its emphasis on work-life balance and self-care (which comes up a lot). We start at 10 AM and end at 6 PM, Mondays through Fridays. Lectures and lab time are quite structured. There are plenty of breaks (“bio breaks”, hour-long lunch). On paper, it sounds not too bad. But…
  • I have a suboptimal commute from the Peninsula to San Francisco. It’s not the worst by any means, but it’s also not driving 5 miles (which was my previous commute to work). BART is ridiculously noisy (for which I’ve started wearing ear plugs every time). It’s taking some time to readjust.
  • We have homework every single night.
  • We have weekly skills assessments (required). The first one was due this past weekend and it took me about 6 hours. The estimate was 1 to 6 hours, so I guess I maxed out there.
  • Coding is a very mentally taxing activity that I can’t really do for hours on end without a break and/or deterioration to the quality of my work. It’s basically doing math and puzzle-solving while explaining the results using a foreign language, which I’ve yet to learn all the vocabulary and syntax for. It’s a very interesting challenge.
  • I pair programmed for the first time, and throughout the week with different pairs. I knew this was coming and somewhat dreaded it, but it was a really amazing and educational experience. Not to mention humbling. When my pair was more experienced with coding, I learned a lot from her in terms of how she worked. When my pair was less familiar with the approach I was proposing, it forced me to be more communicative with what I was suggesting and forced me to practice the lingo.
  • I git committed and git pushed code to my GitHub for the first time this week. I really can’t quite explain how giddy (gitty? :-P) I am about it, actually. When I first started learning all this on my own, I COULD NOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out what GitHub was for. Now I know! Yay!
  • All the things I learned this week: command line, git, GitHub, computer memory, lists, functions, collections (lists, tuples, sets).
  • How I’m feeling right now: so humbled (the computer is NOT wrong; it’s a problem with my code and half the fun is figuring out what went wrong). So lucky to have the opportunity to just “take a break” and dedicate all day, everyday to learning something new. So tired, but excited to learn more new stuff tomorrow!

Women @ Nest: Tech Open House


Women @ Nest: Tech Open House

On August 10, 2016, I attended a tech open house event at the Nest office in Palo Alto. The event was amazing for a lot of reasons: beautiful office with delicious food, the entire event was incredibly efficiently run, and had wonderful speakers and attendees.

The panel was filled with women at Nest in technical roles (managerial levels and independent contributors) at various stages in their careers. It was really helpful to hear about how they came to tech and then Nest specifically.

I learned a lot, but these were the three main things I’ve retained:

  • One of the speakers recommended having people in your corner who are looking out for you. And she said that men can make great allies in your career trajectory. In her personal history, a lot of men looked out for her success; pushed her into roles they knew she was ready to tackle, even when she didn’t yet believe in herself. (She noted that they tended to be men with daughters, which made me think about Darrell, the UserTesting CEO, who has daughters and is very supportive of women’s issues.)
  • Impostor syndrome came up a lot. It’s not like I felt like I was the only one who sometimes felt like an impostor, but I’ll go ahead and admit that it feels good to not feel so alone in the world. Apparently this is a thing but you know what, keep doing what you were going to do anyway, despite feeling like you don’t belong. Eventually you’ll let yourself belong.
  • That Nest would host such a large event in support of women in tech says a lot about the company’s priorities, which definitely elevated this particular company in my eyes in terms of wanting to consider working there as a woman in tech. Yay, Nest!🙂


PyLadies SF: Lightning Talks Meetup at Yelp


On Tuesday August 9, 2016, I attended my very first coding-related Meetup. It was organized by PyLadies of San Francisco in collaboration with Women Who Code SF. The theme of the meetup was lightning talks, so speakers had 5 minutes to do their presentation. It appealed greatly to my short attention span!

You can see the full list of speakers in the Meetup listing, but here were some standouts for me personally (although most were really interesting!):

  • Xun Tang from Yelp spoke about using Yelp’s public dataset to predict how likely a random (anonymized) user is to give a business a five star rating (link to slides). As someone who relies on Yelp for a lot of things, I’d love to dig into its dataset once I get my bearings.
  • Lena Gunn spoke about working remotely. She had a lot of great advice about successful collaboration and I will butcher it in my summation here, but, here goes:
    • Be direct.
    • Ask effective questions.
    • Own your own time.
    • Learn to facilitate meetings, even when they’re not yours.
  • Lisa Ballard spoke about the site she built out of a fascination for space, wherein she used Python to track where the space probes are: http://spaceprob.es/
  • Liz Lee talked about her non-profit to help people dealing with online harassment: http://www.onlinesosnetwork.org/
  • Rachel Thomas gave a great talk on deep learning, something that I knew 0% about prior to her talk (link to slides). My favorite quote from her talk: “An image is just a matrix of numbers.” Mindblown. Seriously. (Apparently TensorFlow is a good place to get started on learning about this.)
  • Melissa Skevington talked about how she took Gmail data of her family’s group emails and made this site: http://www.skarkov.com/ And from the data, she was able to prove that her parents loved her the most due to the response rate to her messages specifically (versus her sisters). Irrefutable. And easily, the funniest talk of the night.
  • Michelle Glauser, hostess with the mostest, recently started Techtonica to provide free tech training for underrepresented populations in the Bay Area. For free. If you’d like to volunteer, I know she can use the help!

Outside of learning a lot of random, cool things from these wonderful speakers, I also met some great women. So nice, so welcoming. It was an awesome experience overall and I’m really excited about future events!

Black Mountain Backpack Camp in the Monte Bello Preserve

I’ve lived most of my life in the Bay Area and only really started backpacking in 2015. Now that I have all of my own backpacking gear, I’m trying to do it more. But it’s hard sometimes because it can take a long time to drive to the trailhead itself.

Enter: Monte Bello Preserve. I initially saw this listed on Brice Pollock’s post and thought it’d be worth checking out.  Then I bought the One-Night Wilderness book and it was listed in there, too.

Some random tidbits from my night away alone:

  • The relatively short hike to the backpack camp was easily one of the most brutal I’ve ever experienced in my life. EVER. (And I’ve hiked Half Dome.) I did this on July 24, 2016 and the weather was hot and most of the trail was exposed. The heat reflecting off the dirt made Earth feel like a sauna with every step I took. Whenever I reached a small shady spot, I had to psyche myself up to keep hiking. It was so hot.
  • With that said, I’d recommend doing this in late fall or early spring.
  • I took a nap as soon as I got there and set up camp. Naps rule!
  • I really wanted to test out my new hammock. Yes, I finally camped without a tent (though I carried the tent anyway, just in case there were no trees). It was so comfy and afforded a beautiful view of the sun setting and the stars rising.
  • It got so hot in the middle of the night that I had to get out of my sleeping bag.
  • I tried the Knorr Pasta Sides for dinner (yay, $2 dinner). As I didn’t actually hike that much (about 2 miles) and it was so hot, I ended up not finishing the meal. Overall, pretty delicious.
  • As you can see in my rig, I had to use my sleeping pad to shield the wind from the stove to cook dinner.
  • As I was milling around the camp around 6 PM, this random male hiker came over and talked to me about the camp. He seemed friendly enough, but since I was there all by myself and, well, no one else was around for miles, my spidey senses kicked into high alert immediately. I think I acted pretty normally, but do wonder if other solo female hikers experience this feeling. The thing is, I’m usually not the kind of person to think that strangers are out to harm me, either. It was weird that I felt that. Or maybe not?
  • I had work the next day (Monday), so as soon as I woke up at 6:19 AM, I packed up and hiked out. I’m secretly obsessed with how efficiently / quickly I can do things, and noted that it took me about 10 minutes to pack everything up. Woohoo!🙂