Hackbright Academy in San Francisco trains women to be developers. By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0)
Andree Brazeau moved to San Francisco from Canada and began teaching herself to code. A year later, she still wasn’t able to find a job as a developer, so she applied for Hackbright Academy. The Python training program was already full, but Andree persisted. Thanks to a last-minute dropout, Andree was admitted to the all-female software training program in June.
She was a motivated student - attending and winning two hackathons on her weekends off from the academy. After completing the 10-week training program, Andree was the first Hackbright Academy graduate to get a job offer - and she's not the only one courting job offers from Silicon Valley startups.
Teaching Women How To Code
Hackbright Academy instructor and co-founder Christian Fernandez explains how the program works: "Aside from curriculum, we emphasize visualizing data flow through a system. This is done by whiteboarding problems frequently before writing any code. The skills are the same whether the data is a byte-packed network protocol flowing through a state machine, or json-serialized data moving through a web stack. Everything else, as it's said in our field, is just an implementation detail."
Hackbright Academy co-founder David J. Phillips said, "We provided a fast-paced learning community where Christian taught her more about programming, best practices, and what would be expected as a professional developer. I think that gave her the additional skills and confidence to go and get a job she really wanted."
"The biggest change in students is their confidence levels. Most students show a spark of technical aptitude before joining the program and are generally very clever, but that's not enough. Hackbright Academy students are entering an industry teeming with child geniuses who wrote their first operating system at age four, and thus are understandably reluctant to assert themselves in conversations with other developers at first. By the end of the program, Hackbright Academy students are holding their own in technical debates, and in some cases, teaching new things to seasoned developers," said the Hackbright Academy instructor.
Learning To Be A Software Developer From Mentors, Speakers
Learn Python The Hard Way author Zed Shaw mentored the students about the realities of being a software engineer. He assured students that it takes both novice and experienced programmers a few months to get up to speed at a job. The expectation is not that you will be a pro in a team on day one - everything is a learning process.
Entrepreneur and software developer Leah Culver also talked to Hackbright Academy students, recommending the students build games and apps for fun while learning to program. She mentioned her experience pairing with women on projects in college, where her professor purposely paired women together.
Both Zed and Leah talked about ways to succeed as a software developer, from contributing to open-source projects to learning new programming languages - and working on side projects.
Hackbright Academy students met the creator of the Python programming language, Guido van Rossum. Over lunch, he talked about his early days as a developer and the story of the Python language.
How You Can Support Hackbright Academy
Hackbright Academy has trained 12 women engineers in its first class.
"We want to be able to teach more people, and we need more instructors to make it happen," said David. But they need more Python instructors and TAs.
Software developers who have a passion for teaching are encouraged to apply here for open positions as instructors and TAs at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco. From mentorship to recruitment, there are other ways for individuals and companies to participate.
A bigger office space in San Francisco (at least 2,000 square feet) is another requirement for larger class sizes at Hackbright Academy. The demand is high for women engineers, and there are many women on the wait list who would take the Hackbright Academy program if they had the seats to accomodate.
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Check out this video from a recent Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner featuring Hackbright Academy:
Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through our platform. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.