I’m going to Hogwarts, Ma!


2 weeks ago I decided to drop out of college and take my first step towards being a full stack developer: Getting into Hack Reactor.

For those that don’t know, Hack Reactor is 13-week coding bootcamp that takes you from zero to full stack hero. I heard about this program from a friend that asked me to go through this process with him earlier this year. Its instructors aren’t like the industry failures you would find in academia. These instructors are the people that have helped to create many of the web applications we use today, such as Twitter, Google, Adobe, and even OkCupid. To put into terms of how selective this program is, Harvard’s acceptance rate is 6%, while Hack Reactor’s is 3%.

TL;DR Hack Reactor’s acceptance rate < Harvard’s acceptance rate.

I started learning Javascript early this year in January, and had my first interview with Hack Reactor on February 24th, 2014. I didn’t do as much studying as I should have, and failed miserably. How miserably you ask? I didn’t even know how to implement a basic for-loop to iterate through an array. I was really bummed out that I wasn’t able to get into the program of my dreams, and kind of put that dream on hold for a couple of months. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my stupid Management class in June that I really asked myself, “What the heck am I doing here?” and started again to pursue my web development dreams.

TL;DR Failed in the first interview, got discouraged, hated school, encouraged again.

Before I threw myself whole heartedly into this whole affair.. I felt like I needed something to motivate me, so after OutsideLands (the music festival up in San Francisco), I stayed with my friend (the guy who introduced me to this whole biz) and checked out the fast paced tech culture of San Francisco. We went to meet-ups, visited the big companies (Google, Adobe, etc.), and even checked out a couple of the other coding bootcamps. That’s when I was 100% positive that this industry is where I belonged.

TL;DR Went to SF. Found motivation.

It was mid-August, and I set my interview for September 22nd. By this time, the interview process for Hack Reactor had already changed twice! They went from 2 interviews and 1 project, to 1 interview and 1 project, to just 1 final interview. There were no more baby interviews, just the one final technical interview. For a good solid month I would bunker down at various coffee or boba joints and study my bee-hind off. I remember one 10-hour study session on August 30th where everything clicked. In that one study session in Canabru, I grasped the knowledge of callbacks and closures, and at that moment in time I felt invincible. For the remainder of the time leading up to the interview, I rewrote and tried to understand as many of the functions from the Underscore Library as I can, did all the easy and some of the medium problems on Coderbyte, and hashed through as many katas as I could on Codewars.

TL;DR Studied like crazy. Many hours. MANY MANY HOURS.

2 days ago was my interview, and I was a nervous wreck. My heart rate the whole week of the interview was up in the high 90s (which is super bad), and I was not getting much sleep. Before the interview, I prayed that God’s will be done in my life and for Him to open this door if He wanted to. I sang a couple of worship songs, and practiced to control my breathing to slow down my heart rate. Finally, the Skype call came.

TL;DR Super nervous. Anxiety is no joke. Prayed like crazy.

The first 10-15 minutes was a culture fit test, and my interviewer and I just chatted about why I chose Hack Reactor, etc. My interviewer told me to explain my process while I was going through the problems, and to pretend like I was explaining Javascript to a 10-year old who knew the basics of Javascript. I found out that all that studying had paid off! My understanding of callbacks allowed me to blaze through most of the problems with ease! I got stuck at the last problem, but my interviewer nudged me the right way until I eventually got it. It was an amazing learning experience, although it was extremely nerve-wracking. After the technical part, was an informal Q&A session.

TL;DR Interview went well. Long hours of studying paid off.

I was pretty happy with my interview, so I went about the rest of my day in a pretty good mood. Now for the waiting game.. the result would come in about 24-48 hours via e-mail.

22 hours later, September 24, 2014, the email came. I was at work on my computer when I saw it. “Hi Michael, We are excited to say that we would like to welcome you to join our February 2nd program”. I started to hyperventilate. My co-workers saw me and knew exactly what happened (they knew what I was going through and were extremely supportive, especially my supervisor). I began to tremble with joy, and that was that. I GOT IN. High fives and hugs all over. I found out a week before that moment that I only had 3 weeks left at work because I decided to not re-take any of my classes (student positions require you to take at least 6 units to be able to work there), so I unexpectedly made the announcement then and there to the rest of the office. This job at school was the only thing keeping me sane from the mundaneness of college. I have been there for three years, and am the student employee that’s been there the longest. Some tears may have been shed.

TL;DR Found out at work. Freaked out. Announced I was leaving. Tears.

I did it though! I am now in the program and I am dropping out of college to actually learn something. Thank you to all those that prayed for me and supported me along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you. I’m going to Hogwarts, Ma!

If you’re applying to Hack Reactor here’s what I suggest you study:

1. Eloquent Javascript - Functional Programming

2. Understanding Javascript Callback Functions and Use Them

3. Rewriting, understanding, and using the Underscore.JS Library

4. Build algorithmic logic with Codewars and Coderbyte

9/12/2014 - 4:50something AM

I just found out that all my classes got dropped because of an issue with my financial aid. I should be tripping balls right now and worrying, but I’m not, and do you know why I’m not? Because I’m dropping out. Yep. You read that right. Why you ask? Because it’s the right thing to do.

"But Michael, you’re already in your third year and you only have two more years to go in your five year track!”.
Do you have any idea what can get done in two years? A LOT. A LOT CAN GET DONE IN TWO YEARS. I have been mentally checked out of college since Fall quarter, Freshman year of high school, and every second I spend in a classroom KILLS me. I love learning, but being forced to sit in a classroom and learning about things that don’t matter to me makes me want to go punch something. Also, so many professors I had in my college (Cal Poly Pomona) haven’t the slightest clue of what they are teaching about, and it bugs me.

"But Michael, without a college degree you won’t have anything to fall back on if your current plan doesn’t work and nobody wants to hire you!"

There’s a scene in the Dark Knight Rises where Bruce Wayne is in an underground prison after Bane beats him up. The only way out of that prison is by climbing the walls, and jumping a gnarly gap that no one (with the exception of one little girl) has ever cleared. Every time Bruce Wayne attempts the jump, he is wearing a safety rope so that he would not die if he were to fall. He fails every single time until he finally decides to jump without the rope. Without the rope, there is no safety, no backup plan, no other way. Bruce Wayne realizes that if he did not clear the gap, he would die, and that reality allowed him to clear the gap with pure willpower. I want to do the same. No safety nets.

My next step is to get into a Web Development Bootcamp called Hack Reactor so that I will have the knowledge to be able to bring my ideas to life. I ultimately want to benefit the human race via the web. I have been studying for awhile now, and I feel like I am ready for my interview on the 22nd of this month. Thank you Lord for giving me peace. Wish me luck.

I had the privilege of shooting Ellen & Nelson’s wedding last week. They’re such an awesome and down to earth couple, and I can’t wait to edit the photos to share with you all! For now, here are some highlights from our engagement session last October.

Blog is live!

I have finally finished styling my blog! I chose Tumblr as my blog’s backend because of its simplicity and awesomeness. I will be posting all my work on this Tumblr regarding photography, videography, webdev, animation, etc. If you haven’t checked out my website already, you should totally do so here.