Holberton School is opening in New Haven, CT!

Our world is entering the fourth industrial revolution, led by software, automation and artificial intelligence. Companies, to survive, have to run at the pace of technology and leverage these tools, or risk becoming the next Blockbuster or Kodak. They need a workforce that is skilled and able to constantly retrain and retool.

Our post-secondary education, that was really developed during the last industrial revolution, is falling behind on equipping today’s students with the skills they need to thrive. Some institutions have managed to adapt – but only for the elite. Only a fraction of Americans can access this Ivy League club.

Tech companies, and really any company that is going through a digital transformation, is suffering from the lack of a trained and diverse workforce needed to take over 500,000 open positions. That’s what Julien and I decided to tackle by founding Holberton in 2015 – provide high-quality education to the many.

We took inspiration from progressive education, a movement that emphasizes learning by doing, problem-solving, critical thinking. A movement that leads students to develop their social skills and become lifelong learners. We wanted to make sure that the Holberton opportunity was accessible to anyone motivated to become a software engineer. We designed a free and blind admissions process selecting on grit, and made the school free until students find a job.

We welcomed our first cohort of 30 students in January 2016 and since moved to a new building that can accommodate up to 1,000 students every year. We have alumni working in Silicon Valley’s top companies including Tesla, Apple, LinkedIn and Facebook. Today, we are making the Holberton School opportunity accessible to even more Americans by opening our second campus in New Haven, Connecticut.

Connecticut has always been known for innovation. Leading in insurance, and a major actor for aircraft & parts manufacturing and ship & boat building. Technology-related jobs grew by an estimated 1,060 jobs in 2017 and contributed $16.2 billion to the state’s economy. In this context, Holberton will both help local companies to successfully navigate the digital transformation they are going through by providing the talent they need and also attract businesses to join the area, as the war for highly-skilled talent rages nationally.

New Haven’s low cost of living is also a big advantage. While the Silicon Valley is providing countless advantages, the cost of living can sometimes prohibit potential students from attending the program.

We have been working hard for months along with David Salinas and his team at District to make this happen, and we expecting to welcome our first cohort of students in January of 2019. Thanks to Comcast, CT Next, District Innovation & Venture Center, Indra and Raj Nooyi, Seedlings Foundation, State of Connecticut, and The Community Foundation for their support. Enrollment have started, apply here!

Docker + Holberton Hackathon = A Whale Of A Time

Holberton School students recently participated in a 24-hour Docker Hackathon! While there were various cool hacks, there were a few that stood out; placing these teams as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Let’s take a look at the hacks that won these budding software engineers tickets to the most coveted container community event in tech – DockerCon!

 

Third Place

Isaiah Becker-Mayer, Spencer Taylor, and Nick Teixeira: We wanted to make a container image that would act as a data science lab that you could work out of. It’s really hard for people who work with data to recreate the same circumstances that produce a given result.  Different operating systems and computer specs make this really difficult. Using the container you’re able to save a snapshot (Docker Image) of your current lab with the same operating system and specs,  and send it to your colleagues so they can reproduce the results.

 

Second Place

David Yoon, Sue Kalia, Yunju Chen: Docklio! (the name comes from Docker + Twilio) If you already have your Docker environment set up, how about deploying your app with a single push of the button? That’s what we want to achieve with Docklio — to make system admin’s lives easier. Docklio allows users to control their Docker containers by sending text messages and Docklio will send back a message to confirm the container status.

 

First Place

Katya Kalache, Kim Wong, Spencer Cheng, Stuart Kuredjian: Our goal was to learn more about how Docker can enable a scalable distributed system on both virtual and physical machines. We decided to run a image recognition model using three Raspberry Pis and set up a three node swarm cluster using Docker. One node was set up as a swarm manager which executes and distributes commands to the two worker nodes. We also explored the OpenFaaS framework, developed by Docker Captain Alex Ellis, a scalable framework for building server-less functions with Docker swarm.

Thank You’s

These hackers have skills and will soon be in search of their first software engineering gigs! Thanks to folks like our mentors and volunteer hackathon judges, these students are able to fine tune their skills with the advice of industry professionals! Shoutout to Mason Fish and Andrew Hsu for volunteering their Saturday afternoons to help judge the hackathon presentations! The support these two gave to the hacking efforts will not soon be forgotten!

Student Spotlight: Max Johnson

Camden, New Jersey, if you’re not familiar, has at times been branded as ‘America’s most dangerous city.’ Max Johnson, if you’re not familiar, has at times been labeled Holberton School’s hardest working student. What does one have to do with another? Max grew up in Camden, NJ and in true poetic fashion, as his city experiences some positive changes, so does Max’s career trajectory.

In spite of the fact that Max had earned a degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology he struggled to find a related job in the field. He decided he was not going to let his tough surroundings dictate his future path and began looking into the prospect of breaking into the tech industry. Max was rejected by every program he applied to up until being admitted to Holberton School.

(L to R) Holberton School co-founder Sylvain Kalache, Max, Holberton School co-founder Julien Barbier

We are not our past. With this notion, Max set off to the west coast with a few thousand bucks, and the determination that he would come out the other side a full stack software engineer. However, the path to success was not paved with ease for Max. During his tenure at Holberton he experienced a few personal hurdles. These struggles coupled with the challenging curriculum eventually taught Max, arguably, his greatest lesson- it’s ok to ask for help. “My classmates had my back. They helped me, they supported me, they stayed with me after hours,” The peer learning structure and collaborative nature of Holberton School’s curriculum allowed for the network of helping hands that Max needed.

The confidence Max has gained due to his hard work at Holberton is evident. With his first high- paying job in tech secured, he felt compelled to share his journey with our most recent cohort of students. The overwhelming take away from Max’s talk was one of perseverance and that above all, hard work wins out. He shared with us the below Les Brown quote:

“If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it,

to work day and night for it,

to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it…

if all that you dream and scheme is about it,

and life seems useless and worthless without it…

if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it

and lose all your terror of the opposition for it…

if you simply go after that thing you want

with all of your capacity, strength and sagacity,

faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity…

if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout,

sickness nor pain, of body and brain,

can keep you away from the thing that you want…

if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it,

with the belief in yourself, you will get it!”

Announcing Holberton School’s Summer Coding Camp: Take Deux

Due to the success of last year’s summer coding camp Holberton School will be sponsoring our second annual summer camp for students aged 15-18. Last year we facilitated introductory programs for high schoolers with no programming experience. Each of the campers were able to successfully construct their own website from scratch.

Salesforce Senior UX Engineer and Holberton School Mentor, Ayesha Mazumda, offers a summer camper some tips

This year, in addition to providing a track suited for someone with no programming experience, we’ve added an iOS/Swift curriculum to the mix. We’re excited to accommodate the novice as well as the tinkerer this year with our two separate curricula. The summer coding camp will closely resemble the structure of Holberton’s software engineering program by sticking with the peer based and project based pedagogy that’s made our students successful. You can catch campers working in teams sprawled across beanbags or huddled together around some computers. We’re excited to provide these high schoolers with a glimpse into what it’s like to work and innovate in the tech industry!

Campers will have an opportunity to meet with various industry professionals throughout the 3 week summer camp. Additionally, as eliminating barriers to a quality education is part of Holberton’s overall mission, we are proud to say we will be offering this program to campers free of charge. Providing high quality tech education is the goal, and we believe that this summer coding camp is one of the first steps to exposing these teens to a viable future. Apply here!

We Just Closed a $8 million Series A Funding

We are proud to announce that we have just closed a new round of funding. Our Series A, led by daphni and Trinity Ventures and joined by new investor Omidyar Network. This new funding of $8.2 million will allow us to provide the Holberton School opportunity to even more students.

The school’s population has increased 6 fold – enrolling to date more than 200 students. We recently moved into a new location that can eventually accommodate 1,000 students. While we are about to graduate our first cohort, many of our students have already found internships and jobs at companies like Apple, Tesla, Docker, Dropbox, LinkedIn, IBM, Scality and more.

As Julien, our CEO, says “Everyone deserves a first-rate education. Students at Holberton come from all walks of life, from cashiers to musicians to poker players  – as well as right out of high school – without the money, background and education needed to be ‘Ivy League material. With Holberton, they now have the same opportunity as the more fortunate and they leave with skills to learn for a lifetime. Our students compete with Ivy League graduates and get the jobs.”

Holberton School students celebrating
Holberton School students celebrating

We launched 2016, the school is free until students find a job. We use a project-based and peer-learning approach, where students learn by working on projects and helping each other. There are no lectures and no teachers, instead tech mentors who provide guidance to the students both on the curriculum and on their careers via keynotes and fireside chats.

Marie Ekeland, daphni co-founder says that “Holberton is not just supplying the STEM community with the highest level full stack software engineers, they are offering everyone, regardless of race, age, sex or family background the opportunity to be part of this amazing industry.”

Our students have published articles on popular websites and gone on to amazing jobs. Like participating in the future of self-driving cars at Tesla and even a coveted internship at NASA’s SETI Institute, protecting the earth from asteroids.

As our dear Board of Trustees member, NE-YO, said: Let’s make Holberton one of the biggest schools on the face of the planet.

 

Mentor Mania

Holberton’s curriculum is unique in the way that it’s continually iterating based upon feedback from mentors and industry trends. Mentors are professionals working in the Tech industry, from small companies like Gandi and Scality, up to the Facebook and Google of the world.  It is our pleasure to welcome new mentors to the Holberton family. We’re excited about the varying areas of expertise these tech professionals will be joining us with.

Without further ado, we introduce you to the newest additions to the Holberton School Mentor program…

Evelyn de Souza

Evelyn is a Data Privacy and Security Strategy leader who serves as an advisor to several startups and has been overhauling and re-institutionalizing security and privacy in the smallest to the largest organizations in order to protect user’s personal data, as part of her consultancy. She has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Women in Cloud by CloudNOW and as a Silicon Valley Business Journal Woman of Influence. During a sabbatical last year, Evelyn took six months to launch a non-profit affordable housing initiative in her community which has become the launch pad for her next generation community concept.

 

Michael Kehoe

Michael is a Staff Site-Reliability Engineer (SRE) at LinkedIn working with various teams within the company to improve their operability experience. Thanks for Michael that your favorite professional social network is always up and running. Michael has experience in systems engineering from frontend proxies to backend databases. Before joining LinkedIn, Michael interned at NASA working on the PhoneSat project.

 

Paul Guermonprez

Paul is an autonomous drone software architect and drone big-data analyst for Intel. One of his projects is working with Intel clients to analyze data gathered from drones with computer vision, 3D reconstruction and deep learning using Intel Insight, Intel’s drone data solution. Another one is designing autonomous drone solutions for complex cases like indoor navigation and delivery fleets. He started as bioinformatician in human biotech for 8 years, then moved to tech to focus on high-performance computing and IoT. He is now helping Intel partners build autonomous and data driven drone solutions. In his spare time, Paul is a pedagogical consultant for higher education and is teaching Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Toulouse University in France.

 

Han Yuan

Han, the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Upwork, has joined the mentor team at Holberton School. Han has a genuine interest in alternative education models. “Knowledge pays dividends for the rest of someone’s life.” In joining the mentor team, Han hopes to help pass along the valuable knowledge he’s gained over his 19 years working in tech. To Han, mentoring can be both personally and professionally gratifying adding that Holberton School is cultivating a strong and diverse talent pool.

We are proud to offer a malleable mentor program in which mentors have the opportunity to choose what areas they want to help with as well as how often they would like to be involved. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor at Holberton, check out the info here.

Student Spotlight: Corbin Coleman

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; the varied student body is an integral ingredient in our Holberton School’s secret sauce. We look forward to having more high school students like Corbin Coleman join the Holberton School community. I caught up with Corbin over a complimentary (and tasty!) lunch at Docker HQ to chat about his time at Holberton, his internship at Docker and how his hard work has recently paid off with a transition from intern to full time software engineer!

Corbin ringing the Job Gong @ Holberton School, signaling he landed an internship!

Corbin’s story starts like a lot of American students, he graduated high school and decided that he would attend a community college to complete his general education classes. “I was accepted to a four year university but looking at how much debt you have to go into, I thought it was ridiculous.” While community college can be a more affordable option than university, the education model is based on passive learning where instruction is mostly about theory.  Corbin was looking for a more practical education where he would learn by doing, preparing him for the industry. Holberton School was a natural choice for Corbin with its project based curriculum, and the fact that there is no upfront tuition sealed the deal for him. “I did not have to choose between quality and affordability, Holberton was offering both.”

Not unlike many 20-somethings, while attending community college Corbin was working as a server during the “in-between” time after high school. It was during this time Corbin discovered Holberton School. “My dad first introduced me to Holberton. Then he explained to me that this school was the direct opposite of everything I didn’t like about traditional education.” This was the type of program Corbin could see himself succeeding in being that Holberton’s education model follows a project based and peer learning structure.

Fast forward to the point of the internship period in Holberton’s curriculum. “One of the key elements that got me prepared for job interviewing was white boarding.” Corbin explains that the built in technical interview practice increased not only his whiteboarding skills, but his confidence.

Corbin helps the container crew @ Docker HQ!

“Beyond the technical concepts, Holberton does a great job of making it [school] feel like what work feels like.” Corbin noted that the peer based learning structure prepared him to work on the software engineering team he’s a part of now in one of San Francisco hottest startup, Docker. “I learned how to communicate with people that didn’t come from the same background as me.” We’re increasingly seeing the trend in Silicon Valley of skills, not (necessarily) degrees. The soft skills we bolster at Holberton School bring that phrase to life and Corbin is here to prove it.

Corbin’s seamless move from high schooler, to server, to Holberton School student may show an unconventional path but he seems satisfied with his ultimate decision. “Because the way Holberton is run, and the way the curriculum is written I now have a skill set available of being able to teach myself new concepts.”

A Day In The Life of a Holberton Student

Applying to a software engineering program can seem daunting when you look at the big picture. There’s this new subject you’re trying to learn that may seem abstract- pair that with all of the jargon and the logic-heavy problem solving and one might feel overwhelmed with fear. Well, fear not! We wanted to show you what a typical day in a peer learning and project based program looks like.

MORNING – PLD

Peer Learning Days (PLDs) are days where a given cohort is split into groups to review recently covered concepts. PLD groups are made large enough so multiple perspectives can be shared, but small enough to make each student feel individually engaged. These groups generate a positive amount of peer pressure to encourage students to share their thought processes. Students oftentimes spread out over living room style seating, or even bean bags to gear up for a day of collaboration.

Students begin their PLD with a clear whiteboard!

11:30 AM  – DAILY STAND UP MEETING

We simulate what it’s like working in a true engineering environment. The exposure to the working environment structure is invaluable to folks who will be entering the world of Silicon Valley for the first time. “Stand Ups” are used as an efficient way to ensure everyone on a team is on the same page. At Holberton School these daily Stand Up meetings are a chance for the staff and students to make announcements about upcoming events, projects, etc. Holberton School also uses these daily meetings as a time for students to practice their public speaking skills! Each day a student is gives a succinct presentation on a subject of their choosing. Public speaking doesn’t always come easy for people, and at Holberton we think it’s a soft skill that can help to set our students apart from other software engineers.

LUNCH

Students use lunchtime as a way to take socialize further with their fellow future software engineers. Whether folks choose to bring their own or explore the culinary world of San Francisco, you can bet that from during lunch hour the kitchen is electric with students buzzing about weekend plans, discussing concepts they’re touching upon that day, and of course any number of conversations around blockchain, AI, and other hot tech topics.

Students kick back with a laugh over lunch.

AFTERNOON- PLD: CONTINUED

Re-energized and ready for more review, the groups reconvene to continue their day of peer learning. After much whiteboarding, students extend this peer learning exercise to practical application of these concepts. This mix of understanding programming concepts and practical application is a combination paving the way to success for our students.

EVENING – POST PLD

It isn’t out of the ordinary to see students sticking around after PLD has officially ended. Students are either diving deeper into some of the advanced problems and concepts for extra credit or spending extra time reviewing the mandatory tasks of the day to solidify their understanding of the concepts. We are proud to have cultivated the “above & beyond” work ethic with many of our students resulting in after hours diving deeper with peer learning.

THE WHY

The peer learning model serves as practice for students who will be asked to collaborate with peers in a real working environment. Holberton believes soft skills are of equal importance to technical skills. Furthermore, students that fully gain an understanding of a topic are able to practice their coaching skills; tapping into Einstein’s theory that “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Conversely, PLDs are also one of the best times for students struggling with a specific concept to catch up. The mantra of teamwork makes the dream work” becomes personified through our peer learning days!

Student Stories: Swati Gupta

One of the most consistent themes at Holberton School is the diverse variety of backgrounds represented in our student body. We’ve had the pleasure of cultivating a true melting pot. Holberton student, Swati Gupta, makes an invaluable contribution to the melting pot culture, bringing her experience from a former career in India. Swati dove into the curriculum head first, quickly distinguishing herself as one of our hardest working students.

Swati originally pursued a career in psychology in New Delhi, India. After earning her master’s degree she began working as a counselor. Upon moving to San Francisco, a hub of tech innovation, Swati became interested in a career pivot. Having no prior programming experience, she enrolled in a community college’s computer science program to learn more. “I could’ve received my associate’s degree in computer science but there were general classes in English and social science that I was not interested in, so I didn’t get the degree” Swati explains. Realizing the community college structure was not for her, she reevaluated her options.

Swati Gupta (pictured front right) dines on a mentor led visit to LinkedIn with fellow students and Holberton School co-founder, Julien Barbier

“Holberton offered a more comprehensive software engineering training” was Swati’s reasoning for choosing Holberton School. We pride ourselves on focusing on the bigger picture. For example, many other programs focus on one specific language or technology, but at Holberton, students work across many different languages and levels preparing them to emerge from the program as a full stack software engineer. “Before Holberton I didn’t know how to use the command line, I didn’t know basic admin commands, how to debug my system when something goes wrong, or how to make my system more secure.” Learning these skills would soon help Swati in her search for an internship.

Swati poses with NVIDIA CEO, Jensen Huang

It wasn’t long before she was deciding between a SRE (site-reliability engineer) role with Apple and an engineering internship with NVIDIA. In the end, it was the exciting work that NVIDIA is doing around deep learning and AI that sealed the deal for her. Swati excelled in her internship role and has recently moved into a permanent full-time position as a Software Engineer. Although Swati made the journey look easy, she does have advice for folks interested in learning more “People should really be introspective. It shouldn’t be a one-off thing where they want to get a job and earn money. It’s not that easy. You really have to put yourself into it and keep learning.” Interested in a switch up like Swati? Check out more details about Holberton School here.

Mentor Spotlight: Ayesha, Senior UX Engineer at Salesforce

Holberton School’s curriculum places emphasis on mentor relationships. We have mentors spanning various verticals across the tech industry–from Senior Software Engineer, Ludovic Galibert at Netflix to Neha Jain a Software Engineer at LinkedIn. These mentorships are a win-win for industry veterans in many ways. For Ayesha Mazumdar, a Senior UX Engineer at Salesforce, mentoring has been a constant ever since her high school years. Opportunities to mentor has meant personal growth and, in turn, advancement in her career.

Ayesha (pictured here furthest to the left) poses with Holberton students after a tour and an animation workshop @ Salesforce

Ayesha started a Computer Science Club when she was in high school whose mission was to visit local middle schools and begin teaching students the coding basics. Her passion for mentoring continued throughout her college career, working towards a similar goal. After graduating, Ayesha was eager to get connected with her next mentoring relationship when Holberton School sparked her interest stating “the whole Holberton School system really resonated with me…” She explained to me she was drawn to the practical nature of the curriculum and wanted to help impact the next generation of software engineers.

This was Ayesha’s first time mentoring adults. “It helped me get a different sense of what it’s like to mentor your peers.” She goes on to explain “the experience is mutually beneficial since I get practice explaining technical concepts to adults.” Making the point that mentoring is of equally beneficial to the mentor and mentee, Ayesha credits some of her professional growth to the skills she was able to learn and refine through her participation in Holberton’s mentor program. “All the projects I see in the Holberton curriculum help to give me a sense of technology I should be keeping up with.”

Ayesha participating in a prospective student Q&A @ Holberton School

We chatted about what skills Ayesha relies on to do her job most efficiently, and it’s no coincidence the skills she highlights are paramount in Holberton’s curriculum. “Communication, definitely! You have to be able to communicate well with your technical and non-technical peers. Being comfortable speaking in front of a group of your peers is also super important.” Communication and public speaking practice are two hallmarks of our program.

Ayesha has a few words of wisdom for the aspiring mentor “One of the great parts about mentoring is seeing that each person has a very different perspective on how certain things work depending upon how they were brought up in the industry–I think that if someone wants to be a mentor they should remember that they can bring value to at least one person.” Ayesha’s even if it helps just one person it was worth it mindset is an asset to our mentoring program. It’s no surprise she’s experiencing success in the form of upward mobility in the Salesforce organization. We look forward to our continued relationship with Ayesha and commend her for all of her mentoring service. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor check out the info here!