Located on the top floor of a five-story brick building in the heart of San Francisco's downscale Tenderloin district, Hack Reactor is as far removed from the ivy-clad walls and rolling lawns of top-tier universities as you're likely to get.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Tech boom! Inside the war for top developer talent and 7 simple rules for hiring great developers. | Work smarter, not harder -- download the Developers' Survival Guide from InfoWorld for all the tips and trends programmers need to know. | Keep up with the latest developer news with InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]
But Hack Reactor shares two common traits with other top schools. First, it's incredibly selective about whom it allows in; only one out of every 30 applicants is accepted, says co-founder Shawn Drost. Second, high-tech companies are scrambling to hire its graduates.
"While I was at college I never learned the fundamentals of software engineering, never wrote code in the same room with an instructor, never learned the tactics and tools of debugging. There's an amazing amount of wasted time in the college system. We don't waste time here."
--Shawn Drost, co-founder, Hack Reactor
Hack Reactor aims to provide a "computer science degree for the 21st century," says Drost, a former software engineer at dating site OkCupid who co-founded the school along with language instructor Tony Philips and his brother Marcus Phillips, a former senior software engineer at Twitter.
Photographs of recent grads, all of whom are now employed by Bay Area tech companies, line a whiteboard on one wall. Hack Reactor offers no guarantees of employment after graduation, but so far it hasn't needed to. Of the 80 students who completed Hack Reactor's first four sessions, says Drost, all but one has snagged a job in Silicon Valley's intensely competitive environment, garnering an average salary of $110,000.