Scaling a world class education

HackReactor, a coding bootcamp focused on career acceleration for its students, is known for providing a world-class education to the thousands of students who walk into their schools.

“The big challenge of any service industry is actually ensuring amazing service,” says Hack Reactor CEO Tony Phillips. This is especially true when the team is fragmented—HackReactor runs classes across 6 different campuses across the US.

For Hack Reactor, getting every detail right at each location is their focus. “One of our calling cards is making people feel like meticulous care has been applied to their education; even tiny things like making sure all the information and spelling is correct on name tags come orientation day. This is what sets a great service apart. All these little things that really strong service companies pick up and execute on. It’s in the details.”

Getting information out of brains

When Hack Reactor was just starting out, it was easy for Tony to keep his eye on all the moving pieces—large and small. But as Hack Reactor opened more locations, adding staff and students, scaling this level of meticulous care was a challenge. It was difficult for Tony to feel confident that all the details were taken care of.

“We needed to standardize a lot of different things and debut them across different locations at the same time. We have locations in New York, Austin, LA, San Francisco, and online. Getting the same thing to happen in New York as San Francisco—the same types of events, the same types of feelings, same types of emotions—is not easy.”

As the team built out their process they needed a central place to store information to help them repeat that process across new locations, all while providing the visibility Tony was looking for.

Tony was ready to “get information out of his brain” and into a place where his growing number of employees could act on it. “We take in a lot of information. Our brains are awful at storage but very good at thinking; you really start to want some third party to store your information so you can do something with it.”

When choosing a tool for the job, here’s how Tony thought about selection:

  • As a CEO, how can I be confident that every necessary detail is taken care of?
  • How can we be sure that detailed processes can be standardized in multiple locations without fail?
  • How can we save time executing on repeatable processes?

From mind-meld to modus operandi

Tony rolled out Asana to the whole Hack Reactor team, after using it personally. “The trigger that caused us to debut Asana company-wide was when the ‘mind meld’ stopped working. As soon as that telepathy that you have in a small group of people breaks down, all of a sudden you have a strong sense of insecurity.”

First they took their detailed documentation on key processes—like course development or facilities—and made it available to everyone in the company. By offloading information into Asana, Tony became confident his team had the information they needed to do their jobs well.

It was also important that the tool would allow them to become more efficient as they added schools, so they were excited to make use of Asana’s API.

“There’s a huge differentiator between Asana and other tools, and that’s the very easy API access. Even if Asana isn’t the perfect fit for a workflow, someone like me— relatively mediocre software engineer—can add functionality via the API to build a custom solution that helps a team get more done.”

After using Asana’s template feature to copy projects and process, the HackReactor team added even more custom functionality through the API and created a program they called Show Runner. “We’ve got this giant class template; we wrote a system with the Asana API that automatically copies over all of the tasks needed for a new class and and then automatically assigns those tasks. What we’ve built on the API has allowed us to assign repeatable tasks to all the right people, all the right things at the right times. Every detail is covered.”

Everything goes through Asana

Now, Hack Reactor’s staff of over 200 are using Asana for a host of different workflows. “Our management processes go through Asana. Our performance reviews go through Asana. Our standard operating procedures go through Asana. Our HR policies are in Asana. Our events that we run for staff morale, that’s all through Asana. Everything goes through Asana.”

  • Documentation and templates: “Asana helps us because you can duplicate. We do A LOT of templating in Asana. You have an entire project or you have an entire process and you could just make a copy and just send it to over here and be like, ‘Do it exactly like this.’”
  • Performance reviews: “With Asana, I can see where we’re at and how we’re making progress. Asana helps me calibrate my understanding of who I need to worry about and how often I need to check in on them.”
  • 1:1 Meetings: “Private projects are great for 1:1 meetings with each team member or for discussion items with the executive team.”
  • Facilities management: “We have checklists for our operations and facilities tasks, which we call “Space Ops.” There’s an Asana task to make sure the plants get watered.”
  • Admissions: “All prospective students are a task. We use Asana to track students through their application process to a program.”

“We really can’t live without Asana. Everybody is using Asana, all over the company.”

— Tony Phillips, CEO at HackReactor

Using Asana wall-to-wall has been crucial in helping Hack Reactor scale. As Tony puts it, “We’ve cut our operations costs in half because we’re able to execute more efficiently with the processes we’ve set up in Asana.” And as costs go down, the quality class experience—and the post graduation experience— goes up. Graduates from Hack Reactor are hired at a 98% rate.

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