Hackbright as a TA

I was accepted into Hackbright, a highly competitive fully immersive Software Development bootcamp for women, and I graduated in the Fall 2015 cohort. I loved my experience and I learned so much. Before I graduated, the school offered me a position to work for them. I was honored and flattered because my cohort was full of amazing, brilliant, accomplished women and I honestly thought of myself as fairly simple.

I accepted the offered and I was a Teaching Assistant for the Winter 2016 cohort (go ). I had an amazing experience. My prior career was very helpful on being able to do this position (I managed a Mental Health Center for Adults and Youth), so working with people that are going through a transition and changing their lives wasn’t foreign. The biggest difference is the type of transition, I was used to people working on getting clean(from substance abuse), reducing self harm, working on their depression/anxiety, getting on or off medication, etc. So I had a upper hand going into this position of not letting other people’s perceived crisis become my crisis which was important for my self care.

The Perks of Being a TA:

  • Getting paid to go through the curriculum again! Its so much different going through the curriculum a second time. I thought that I understood the majority (especially since HB offered me the job, I assumed that I was knowledgable), but OMG, the things that I missed that I now understand. I love that my foundational knowledge is so much stronger and deeper. Plus, I can ask so many more questions to the education team too!
  • The relationships with the education staff is different. Now I am a colleague and I get to pair program with them and they are such amazing people. I have better relationships and I closer support system.
    • Having weekly meetings with Joel, VP of Education. He has such a wonderful way of explaining things that feel so personalized. A huge reason for taking the TA role was to be able to learn more from him. Its also been a blast to get to know him as a person and to see him in a different light.
  • Growing my network! I now have 35 new amazing women from all different walks of life who I part of their transition. Before the cohort starts, the ladies introduce themselves via a google group that we create. I was impressed by their accomplishments and was super excited to met them. As the program went a long, it was fantastic to see light bulbs turn on when new concepts were introduce.
  • It was a wonderful feeling giving back to the community that helped me. To be able to go through the program and turn around and give back is really rewarding.
  • I felt like I was a contact person for my cohort to Hackbright and whats going on. Since I am working there, if anyone had any questions several of them would ask me. Most of the questions were “can you send me the lecture that was about x” or “I am thinking about learning x technology do you know of a good tutorials or libraries I can use?”
  • Something that I felt that was missing during my experience as a student was learning to read other people’s code. As a TA thats pretty much all you do. During Project Time (when the students are working on their personal web application), I became a master debugger. To be able to go to a project that you know very little knowledge about and pair-program with the student to troubleshoot. It was a lot more fun than I originally thought. Plus working on Hackbright’s repo too was a lot reading.
  • Working on FRODO – Fellowship Resource Of Daily Operations – the Fellowship website that students use get their lectures, notes, exercises, input their personal data for business cards, allergies, emergency contact, etc. The staff uses it to manage these resources as well other super secret things.
    • FRODO uses Django so learning a new framework has been great!
    • 2 weeks ago I triad-programmed with Leslie and Bonnie on creating an admin view of staff’s time off to be reflected on our internal schedule.
    • Last week I was pair-programming with Meggie on a new feature that will allow the students submit their weekend assessments via FRODO that connects to an exciting assessment view that only staff has. This will make it easier for both students and advisors to communicate effective about the assessments as well and documents the transaction.

The Hard Parts 

  • The first few weeks, students on average are not as interested in you compared to the Instructors or Joel – speaking from my experience, I wasn’t as interested in the TAs when I was going through Hackbright because I had a finite amount of time and I wanted to ask questions to people who have worked in the industry. I got a similar sense from some of the students. This can be hurtful when students dismiss what you are saying and ask someone they perceive to have more power/knowledge. But it wasn’t too bad, I had this similar experience in my prior career, so it wasn’t foreign.
  • Along with that, the first few weeks student expect you to know EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING. During lab, many students have questions on their code and would ask “does this work?” Its super funny because usually you haven’t had a chance to even read it, much less run your built-in complier that Hackbright installed in our brains to process code during on-boarding 😉
  • My most challenging thing was when my cohort was getting amazing software development jobs! The sense that they were moving on and I was still at Hackbright – I grew a little jealous.  There was a particular hire that made me question my decision – she was offered a position at a company that I was interested in. I just thought “wow, I could be doing that right now, but I’m still here…” The following day at work I was working on one of my first git hub issues and I spent some time with Joel trying to solve it. Of course, as we were working, he went into explaining the bigger picture of Django and framed how Django works. To be able to work with someone that not only has technical depth but is an amazing teacher. Later that day I met with one of my advisees and she was feeling insecure about her project and shared that she thought “it was lame” compared to everyone else’s ideas. Her project was in fact not lame and totally amazing. I was able to support her on reframing that the purpose of making a personal project is to learn and that she is going to learn to so much from what she has planned (then I listed all the cool things that she most likely will learn). At the end of our meeting, I think she realized that her project was more complex than she originally thought. After those two experience, I knew that I had made the right decision for me.

Overall, this was a great experience and I would highly recommend to anyone, if they have the opportunity to TA after a bootcamp, do it!

This was my first cohort that I have been on the education team and I am going to continue with Spring 2016. I’m super excited to meet a whole new group of women, to have more time to work on FRODO and to learn more!

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