holberton school sylvain kalache

A Holberton Salute: Best Wishes to Our Co-Founder and Good Friend Sylvain

A couple of weeks ago, Sylvain, my co-founder and friend, made the decision to take a break from Holberton after six years of dedicated hard work through a single-minded commitment to growing this company into what it is today. In explaining this to me and the team, he ended with these words:

“Building Holberton with you and the team, empowering over 2,000 students with high-quality and accessible education in nine countries, is among the greatest accomplishments that I have done in my professional career and I am grateful for the experience.”

After six years working together at Holberton, I never imagined that I would one day be working on our mission without him. During the transition, I couldn’t help but remember key and fun moments of our adventure.

If you know Sylvain, you probably know that he is a gourmet (some would argue gourmand), so it won’t come as a surprise that our adventure started with a cake and a glass of champagne to celebrate the birth of Holberton in mid 2015.

After the celebration, it was time to build. With the help of our friends, Sylvain and I literally spent days and nights building the school. Everything, from the RJ45 cabling to the desks to the servers, was built from scratch to make sure our students would get the best experience possible.

Rare picture of Sylvain’s first Holberton desk

A few weeks before the official launch, our school was looking like this:

Rare picture of Sylvain’s second Holberton desk

In parallel we were having many discussions with software engineers in Silicon Valley to build the best curriculum and tools possible for our students.

And this is how, after several IKEA trips and many sleepless nights later, in January 2016, we welcomed our first students.

To be able to put all these all-nighters, you need to stay fit. But while most of us go to the gym without style, Sylvain is always classy, no matter what.

And he needed to stay fit, because more schools had to be built. Here’s a picture of Sylvain visiting the construction site of Tulsa a few years later.

Sylvain, always classy, even on construction sites 🙂

Sylvain was also the face of Holberton. I remember watching his first appearance on TV in September 2016. It was a big step for the school whose reputation was starting to take off.

Thanks to his work, many schools and universities in the US and around the world are now offering affordable and accessible education to their students. This was a trend that Holberton helped start in the U.S., and a big part of that was the result of Sylvain’s work. Oftentimes he was traveling to speak at conferences to represent the school and to make sure more people could hear about our mission. Sometimes we got to travel together. On these occasions, we had a very important ritual: as soon as we landed at SFO, no matter how tired we were, no matter what time it was, we had to go to In-N-Out. Yes, we often ordered off the secret menu!

While building Holberton together, we met with a lot of incredible, sometimes famous, people who helped us build Holberton: NeYo, Priyanka Chopra, Jeff Weiner, and so many more. Most of the time, it was thanks to Sylvain’s work that we had the opportunity to meet with them. I remember that after he exchanged a few emails with Jeff Weiner’s personal assistant, she stopped answering. After a few weeks I told Sylvain “this is never going to happen, you should forget it.” It didn’t matter to him what I thought, he had to try and try again. Months later, he finally got an answer to his emails, and thanks to his tenacity we got to meet and then work with Jeff!

Sylvain with Jeff Weiner, who was the CEO of LinkedIn at the time, meeting with our students

Without Sylvain, Holberton and so many aspects of it would not exist. I am so glad and thankful to have had the opportunity to work with him over the past six years. The company, as well as my daily job, will never be the same. But we are all proud to continue what Sylvain and I started together six years ago.

Thank you Sylvain for the privilege of having shared all these incredible moments. Thank you for everything you have done to bring quality education to the many. The Holberton team, but also our partners, investors and students, will always remember your kindness, work-ethic, and booming laugh.

Keep being yourself: awesome, classy and gourmand and I can’t wait to see you soon for an In-N-Out burger! 🙂