I got back from Hacker School 2 months ago, and people have been
asking me “How was Hacker School?” pretty frequently.
Firstly, Hacker School was amazing. It was one of the best experiences
I’ve had, and I owe so much to them. I find it a bit hard to
articulate exactly why it was so great, but I’ll try.
Hacker School is welcoming. On the first day of Hacker School, Dave
talked about how everyone is welcome at Hacker School. He asked us if
anyone felt like they didn’t belong, and a bunch of people raised
their hands. He talked about how everyone who was there belongs, and
we talked about things that we were excited and scared about. It was
an amazing way to start.
Hacker School is positive. When I had a bug that I didn’t understand
and asked one of the facilitators to help me out, they would
frequently say “Oh, interesting!”. The attitude was “Oh, is
something not working? How delightful! A learning opportunity!”.
People of course got frustrated by gnarly bugs, but the overall
atmosphere was relentlessly positive.
At Hacker School, people say “yes, and!”. If you just learned to
program and want to write a compiler, people will say “Great!
Awesome!” and give you some suggestions of how to start. I don’t
remember anyone ever being told that they couldn’t do something
because they didn’t know enough. The answer is always “yes! And here
is what you will need to know to do this thing!”.
Hacker School has amazing energy. Before I went, I worried that I
wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to program today or wouldn’t have
enough ideas to work. This was so wrong that it’s hilarious. Everyone
has so many ideas and is working on so many interesting things that
the difficult thing is saying no. I did more interesting projects in
the 3 months of Hacker School than I did in the rest of my life
At Hacker School, people do a lot of pairing, which is a fantastic
way to learn, for a couple of reasons. It helps you focus, because it
means you can’t go check Twitter instead of coding. It’s also a great
way to learn things accidentally. I’ve learned so much by watching how
other people code and learning new ways of thinking.
Hacker School’s resident program is fantastic. In my batch, I had
great conversations with
- Lindsey Kuper convinced me to use
Rust to build an operating system
- Yaron Minsky learned some of the
basics of Rust with me
- Philip Guo and I talked about tools for
automatically discovering experts’ workflows, and I built
this tool afterwards
- Stefan Karpinski answered tons of my Julia
questions, and gave a great presentation explaining how floating
point numbers work
- Mel Chua gave me great advice about
preparing a workshop and gave a fantastic talk about how to
structure your learning
- Jessica McKellar helped me debug
my TCP problems
The residents are all carefully chosen to be really approachable and
positive and have tons of things to teach. It was amazing to have the
opportunity to pair with all of them.
The Hacker School facilitators are wonderful at what they do. Alan,
Allison, Mary, Tom, and Zach are all amazing. I can’t do them justice
here, but I’m going to try to explain why.
- They’re all relentlessly curious. If you have a problem, they
genuinely want to understand it and how to fix it and will help you
- They have tons of practice at understanding why you don’t
understand. They do tons of teaching, and if you don’t understand
something they’re good at guessing why and working with you to help
you get there.
- They work really hard on being egoless – they’re very quick to
admit if they’re wrong and care about understanding, not about being
- They have a ton of knowledge. If you’re having a gnarly Clojure
problem or want to know about Python internals or want to learn how
- They’re also amazing at helping you with things they don’t know
about! Allison is a Python internals fiend, but she didn’t have a
ton of experience with operating systems or Rust. But if I needed
help I would ask Allison to sit with me and she’d ask me super
helpful leading questions and we’d fix my bugs! They are magicians.
- They’ve all thought a lot about how to become a better programmer,
and they’re very good at suggesting directions to go in if you’re
The facilitators work incredibly hard at helping people become better
prorammers and it really shows.
Hacker School is an experiment. The founders and facilitators are
constantly trying out new ideas and trying to make it better. Dave’s
blog post on
treating people like adults
talks about one experiment that didn’t work out.
The Hacker School admissions process is one of the most important
things. Hacker School works really hard on only admitting people who
are curious and friendly and wonderful. The other people in my batch
were amazing. I learned so much from them and I made some great
Hacker School’s motto is “Never Graduate”. Always keep learning,
keep being curious, keep building. There’s no such thing as a perfect
place so it’s not perfect, but they work really hard on always
improving, and I think they’re doing a great job.
If you want to learn more, the
manual is great, the
blog is great, the
FAQ is great, and you can