Kevin SmithWeb Software Engineer

Hack Reactor Prep Work

I spent the last few days visiting San Francisco to check out Hack Reactor in person, and to secure housing for the next three months. I was able to find a great place to live bordering the Presidio Park in Richmond, which should be a fairly easy bike ride downtown to Union Square and Hack Reactor. I also met a few of the Hack Reactor instructors in person. Marcus took the time to work with me one-on-one to answer some questions I had about the prep work, which was super cool of him to do.

The prep work for Hack Reactor is designed to bring all of the students up to speed on some building block topics we will be covering during our first week. It is designed to be completed over 2 weeks, with Skype check-ins along the way to monitor our progress and help us out with sections where we may be stuck. Over these weeks I easily spent 100 hours on research, online tutorials, and writing the code for each section. The three main projects are to be submitted via a GitHub pull request so that the instructors can go over our code with us.

The first major component of the prep work included an introduction to Git, the version control software used in most professional environments. It allows engineers to work on separate sections of the same code base at the same time, and then merge their changes together without conflicts (hopefully). I worked through a number of online tutorials, the most helpful of which was the Git Real course on Code School. This course really cemented in what Git was, and how to use it.

Next up was re-building the popular underscore.js library components using JavaScript. I learned about all kinds of basic JS programming structures like loops, functions, callbacks, arguments, and conditional statements. This was the section I most struggled with because some of the underscore components are quite tricky. If you’re not familiar with underscore.js, go check it out and run through the wiki. I guarantee it will save you tons of time versus writing these building-block components from scratch.

The next major component of the prep work was building a more advanced version of the Twitter clone I built for my entrance exam. This one is called Twittler, and it required quite a bit of jQuery DOM manipulation. I completed both of the Code School jQuery courses to become more familiar with how to use selectors, animations, and DOM insertion/deletion. You can check out the my final version of Twittler online, which uses randomly generated tweets from a javascript function.

The third component was a basic computer science module where we learned about recursion and how to use it in JavaScript. Once I wrapped my brain around what was involved with recursion, the actual assignment did not take too much time to complete. However, there is still much to learn about this topic and how to leverage it in more powerful ways.

I just got back to Utah, but I’m looking forward to being in SF next week!


  1. September 6, 2013

    Awesome. And helpful. I’m applying now for 11/11/13.

  2. Maria
    December 18, 2013

    I was wondering what I should research beforehand. Thanks! Super helpful!

  3. Corey
    December 21, 2014

    Hi Kevin, stumbled upon your blog while researching Hack Reactor :) . I was wondering if you knew any Node before applying to hack reactor? I come from an Econ background, so no programming experience. I’ve been learning JS for a few months now, and have built a simple quiz app with Backbone and RequireJS. Would you recommend I learn Node next, or brush up on my javascript concepts for applying to hack reactor? I barely know anything about the command line or working with the back end. Would this be okay to get into hack reactor, or should I learn node/ command line/ backend stuff first? Thank you in advance!

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