Bootcamp Corner with Andrew Bresee

Andrew Bresee is an incoming Hack Reactor student and was previously a Team Leader at the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Program. He talks about why he wants to become a developer, his experience with the Hack Reactor application process, and his experience with WeFinance.

Bootcamp Corner with WeFinance is a regular series that looks at coding bootcamp students, their experience, and the lessons they’ve learned.

Andrew crowdfunded a loan to cover his Hack Reactor tuition and living expenses. You can see his campaign here.

Are you considering a bootcamp but worried about the tuition or living expenses? WeFinance for Bootcampers is the fastest way to crowdfund a personal loan.

You’re crowdfunding a loan to attend Hack Reactor. Tell us a bit more about the program.

Hack Reactor, a software development bootcamp, is a new type of school that trains people to gain skills that are in high demand today in a very short period of time. Hack Reactor itself is one of the best bootcamps in the world, from their iterative curriculum, to their success metrics, to the glowing reviews from alum.

What were you doing before applying to Hack Reactor?

Before Hack Reactor, and before I moved to the Bay Area, I was working for an AmeriCorps program. I spent a year at the Watershed Stewards Program (WSP), a program that connects scientific methods with education. WSP focuses on science education, watershed restoration, and publicoutreach. As a Team Leader, I was responsible for member support, creation of the education curriculum, and leading public outreach events.

Prior to joining AmeriCorps, I studied Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland. While there, I co-founded a non-profit called the Food Recovery Network that collects food from dining halls and sporting events and brings it to homeless shelter and people in need. The program has recovered almost a million pounds of food and has over 150 Chapters across the country.

How did you hear about Hack Reactor and why did you pick it over other bootcamps?

Funny story but I heard about Hack Reactor at Burning Man. In 2014, I drove across the country from DC to California to start my job at WSP and I stopped at Burning Man along the way. I knew I was going to enjoy WSP but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do afterwards. While at Burning Man, I met some people who had just graduated from Hack Reactor — they spoke highly of the program and about bootcamps in general.

I chose Hack Reactor because of the passion and motivation I saw when I met their students. Plus, the program focuses on JavaScript which has become incredibly popular for developers and technology companies.

So you heard about Hack Reactor in 2014, but what gave you the final push to do a coding bootcamp?

One of my goals is to maximize my impact in the world. While I was trying to figure out the best and most effective way to do that — originally I considered graduate school — I realized that it was better for me to develop some strong technical skills that can be used in different contexts. I figured that I could go to graduate school and I “might” be able to use the skills I obtained… or I could go to a bootcamp and gain hard skills that I can definitely use with almost any company.

At the end of the day, what pushed me to do a coding bootcamp was the realization that it would help me do the most good.

What makes you a good investment?

I have a good financial record and haven’t made late payments. I also have a great credit score (750+) and am a very reliable person.

Hack Reactor’s metrics (99% of their graduates get a job averaging $105k within 3 months) also makes me feel very confident that I can repay this loan. I feel the 5% is reasonable given the relatively low level of risk.

Finally, my long-term goal is to find a way for me to maximize my utility and help as many people as I can. So from a philanthropic standpoint, I’m also a good investment.

Are you worried about burning out during the intense 12-week program?

While I know it will be a challenge, I’m confidant that it is a challenge I can meet. I’ve had a lot of fun doing coding challenges with people this summer and studying it with other people — even if it’s challenging, I’ll have fun.

I’ve also been working on installing habits of stress management. I’ve read a ton of articles that talk about the benefits of meditation to manage stress and to improve overall productivity.

The last thing I’ve been doing is reading books that help me stay focused and overcome distractions. My favorite so far has been Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. It talks about different strategies you can use to remain productive and stay motivated, even when you’re extremely stressed out.

What was the application process like?

The first part is an online coding challenge. Basically, in order to schedule an interview, you need to do the challenge.

After that was the technical interview. I didn’t study as much as I could have because I was just finishing my term of service with AmeriCorps so I did not do well. My second interview I practiced a lot more — I did mock interviews, pair programming, and really studied the concepts that Hack Reactor wanted me to know.

The interview is a pair programming interview, which is exactly what it sounds like. You’re tackling a challenge with another person and instead of just looking at a challenge yourself, you’re going through and solving something with someone else. The first step involves explaining how you want to tackle the challenge, your logical reasoning, and the way you think what you built should work. The next step is to build it together.

Any tips for other Hack Reactor applicants?

Take the material they send you seriously. Try to really understand the information and don’t understand it just from a “test taking” standpoint. Instead, think about it from the “teach someone” standpoint. There are studies that show that when you learn to teach, you’re more successful in retaining and applying the knowledge (compared to learning to test). For my first interview, I was trying to learn to take a test. For my second interview, I was practicing with someone and learning from a teaching perspective.

Try to enjoy the process. There were a couple times I was unable to study because I was just focusing on one thing all day.

If you see that you are not motivated, move to something else. Try to integrate coding into your life and learn to love it.

How has your experience with creating a WeFinance campaign been? How did you pick your interest rate and deferral period?

It’s been a really positive experience, I’ve been reconnecting with family members I haven’t spoken to in a long time.

I chose my interest rate because the 5% interest rate is higher than investment grade bonds but lower than high yield bonds. 5% is also significantly more than someone would get in a high interest savings account.

I picked the 9 month deferral rate because I wanted to pick a date where I would most definitely have a job by.

Any tips or tricks for creating a campaign?

Figure out how much you need by sitting down and budgeting it out. Calculate living expenses and rent.

Next, go through your social networks to find friends, family, and mentors who you think would invest in you. Estimate how much they are likely to invest.