Holberton > Articles by: Charles Bathel

Black History Month #1: Historic Innovators in Tech

Here at Holberton School we strive to improve the diversity and representation of everyone in tech, and for Black History Month, we will be highlighting the tech contributions and innovations that were driven by African American innovators. From the earliest days of our nation to the modern computing era, the innovations of Black engineers and leaders have pushed technology forward, saved lives, and set the stage for many of the technologies we rely on for today.

And make sure to stay tuned to our next blog post, where we will highlight organizations that are working hard today to encourage more young Black and African American people to step into the tech roles of tomorrow!


Granville Woods 

Born just a few years before the Civil War, Granville was a self-taught mechanical and electrical engineer who developed nearly 60 patents in his lifetime. One of his most famous patents, the “Multiplex telegraph”, or a system that allowed trains to communicate with train stations by both voice and telegraph, increasing safety throughout the railroads and by allowing telegraphs to also be sent from trains on the move. Not only did this patent both improve safety and utility, but Granville was able to successfully defend two attempts by Thomas Edison to claim his patent. Unable to secure the patent through legal means, Thomas Edison offered him a job, which Granville declined.

Frank Greene

One of the first Black men to graduate from Washington University in St Louis, an Air Force Captain, a PhD in Electrical Engineering, and semiconductor designer, he was one of the first people to crack open the color barrier in the 1960’s Silicon Valley. Among his innovations is the patent for the fastest memory chip of the 1970s, and the development of NewVista Capital in 1986, which helped launch many startups with an emphasis on supporting women and minority led startups.

Valerie Thomas

A scientist and astronomer, she bucked the trend of young women not being encouraged to step into STEM roles. Self-taught in her youth, she kicked off her path by checking out the book The Boys First Book on Electronics when she was 8 years old. And in her time at Morgan State University, she was one of two women who were majoring in Physics. From there, she went on to NASA, where she worked on everything from the LANDSAT image processing program to her patent for a 3D “Illusion Transmitter”, which is a unique system of mirrors that can project the illusion of a 3D object in space, and this technology continues to be used by NASA today.

Jerry Lawson

It’s hard to imagine a single idea that would become the ubiquitous tech for a hundred billion dollar industry, but Jerry Lawson was the first person to invent a video game cartridge. Previously, games would either run on dedicated devices or launched computer code, but Jerry was the first person to come up with a scalable, easy to use way for people to switch between software using a removable cartridge with programmed chips. Part of the Fairchild Channel F home console, his game cartridge allowed home users to swap out games without risk of being shocked, which fundamentally changed the concept of how people bought and played video games. While the Fairchild Channel F was not a commercial success, the Atari 2600, which came out the following year, used this same cartridge technology and the rest is gaming history.

Melba Roy Mouton

Just like the other women featured in the amazing movie Hidden Figures, Melba was a mathematician who worked at NASA to calculate out the complex trajectories of objects in space. Later in her career she became Head Computer Programmer, then Program Production Chief at the Goddard Space Flight Center. For her work at NASA she would also receive an Apollo Achievement Award and an Exceptional Performance Reward; both a testament to her incredible contribution to technology and space flight.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of Black and African American tech leaders: Black and African Americans have been at the forefront of technological innovation despite systemic violence (Granville Woods was physically assaulted by the employees of a railroad while traveling as a ticketed customer) or systematic oppression (Annie Easley, another Black female scientist at NASA, also worked to help other Black people prepare for the Jim Crow literacy tests designed to restrict African American voting rights). And while this history exists as part of our nation, it’s up to everyone to help us work towards a tomorrow where people of all races and backgrounds have a fair and equitable chance to be a part of our new high tech economy.

Stay tuned for our upcoming part 2, where we will look at organizations that are continuing to work hard to improve representation of Black and African American people in the world of tech!

Let’s Talk Results: Reviewing Our Student Success Snapshot 2019

As we look forward to the future, we want to share the impacts we’ve already made in our students’ lives. After reviewing all of our student data, we’d like to share our 2019 Student Success Snapshot!

This snapshot looks at students from Cohort 0 (our first cohort) to Cohort 5, as these are the students that have been in the program long enough to go through our entire curriculum plus six months. But, to get an idea of how much we’ve grown, in January 2020 we will be opening Cohort 11 across all of our campuses worldwide, and we expect Cohort 11 to have even more students than Cohort 0 through Cohort 5 combined!

Now, without further ado:

Note: Career Track is no longer available in San Francisco.

To help us better understand these numbers, we’d like to share some background.

First, Holberton’s education is separated into two 9 month segments: Foundations, and Specializations or Career Track*. Foundations is the curriculum that every student goes through, and is the first 9 months of a student’s education. This curriculum teaches students, from the ground up, the skills that will become the basis for their education and their professional career. As a true Full-Stack software engineering education, Foundations at Holberton teaches not only the critical technological skills (low-level programming, front-end and back-end web development, DevOps, data-structures, algorithms, and more) but also the core soft skills that students will use throughout their careers. And through the Foundations curriculum, students will learn the most critical skill of all: Students will discover how to utilize our Framework to “learn how to learn” and use our methods to maintain their career throughout their lives.

After Foundations, students may pursue Specializations, where students will be trained in exciting technologies like Machine Learning or Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, or they may pursue Career Track*, where they may graduate from Holberton through professional reference and manager approval.

Nga La from Cohort 8 whiteboarding with her peers at our San Francisco campus.

NOTE: All of these numbers are for students from Cohort 0 to Cohort 5, and students who are working in the US. Also, all of these numbers are self reported by our students, so these numbers are accurate to the best of our knowledge.

With all Students who complete at least Foundations, but not the whole program, the median salary is $95k for their first full-time job. For students who have worked two years since their first job after Holberton, the median salary is $118k, and the median for all employed students who have completed foundations is $102k. The amazing takeaway from this? Not only are students earning great incomes, with 78% of students who have even completed just part of the program finding jobs within 6 months, but students who are working for two years after their first job see their income, on average, increase by over 20%.

For people who are used to traditional upper education, one fact may be really interesting right now: Students are being employed, as software engineers, before completing the whole program. At a traditional University, this would be counterproductive: The purpose of going to most universities is to get a Degree (For undergraduates; AA, AS, BA, or BS). At Holberton, the whole purpose is to get students gainfully employed as software engineers, so if a student opts to leave Holberton early to accept a role as a software engineer, then we’ve done exactly what we’ve set out to do. Our students work hard to become well-paid software engineers, and while we think students should continue within the program to pursue a Specializations, landing that first software engineering role and launching their new career is the true goal of Holberton’s education. 

The growth in student roles is also very important to us. For our students’ first job out of Holberton, 47% of students receive offers for standard full-time employment as their first role out of school, and the rest is split across Internships, apprenticeships, and contractor work. And the average current employment status of students in these early cohorts? That 47% becomes 87% in full employee roles. Holberton students have been able to very successfully convert these entry level and trial roles into full time employment, often within the first year of working as a software engineer.

And for students who complete the whole program? Their first income out of the program is over 7% higher than students who complete just Foundations, which over a lifetime of earnings, is a huge increase.

Heindrick Cheung, Cohort 6, San Francisco campus

What do these numbers mean for students who go to Holberton?

Holberton students have seen some incredible benefits, professionally and economically, from participating in our program. This success is in part due to our education, but it is also the result of our students’ hard work and drive to become software engineers. With the individual commitment that each student puts into the curriculum, we’re seen grocers, high school graduates, sports coaches, day laborers, restaurant workers, musicians, and even the unemployed and homeless become well paid software engineers. Holberton’s education is the framework that our students use to grow and develop their personal skills and abilities, and by leveraging this framework through the rest of their professional lives, will be able to maintain their competitiveness in this rapidly changing field of study (As evidenced by the median +20% increase in compensation our graduates see in 2 years). And we can’t wait to see the success of students in Cohort 6 and later; as these students around the world start to enter the workforce we can’t wait to see the continued positive impact that our graduates will have.

New school vs old school: How do these results stack up?

It’s tempting to compare Holberton School to a university, so let’s do exactly that! 

As a refresher, Holberton’s admissions process is dependent on three points: Passing our admissions test, being over the age of 18, and having a high school diploma or equivalent. We don’t ask for an SAT score, admissions is not dependent on any previous GPAs or previous coursework, or many of the other hurdles that universities put in the way of their potential students. And since we don’t use student loans, we can accept everyone into our program that meets our minimum requirements regardless of ability to pay or to secure a loan.

If you look at Holberton students who complete Specializations or Career Track*, the median early career income of $109K, and our students with 2 years of experience see a median income of $118K. Now, let’s compare this to the median income data for computer science graduates from the US’ leading universities:

(Source: Payscale.com, Dec 2019)

Payscale.com classifies “Early Career” as graduates with 0-5 years of experience. Since we are still a young school, we do not have many graduates with 5 years of professional programming experience, so our next best number is our median current income of all students who have completed the program, which is $109K, and increases to $118K for students with at least two years of experience as software engineers. So, we feel that our results speak for themselves: Our students can achieve Ivy League salaries without the prerequisites, the time, or the upfront cost. 

To the students who have been dreaming to go to one of these top universities, you will be well served by these incredible educational institutions and you should go where your dreams take you. For students who are looking to get a career started in tech, and want to focus with a curriculum 100% dedicated to the skills and knowledge needed to launch and maintain this career, Holberton School can provide that. 

And by focusing in on these career skills, our students are seeing great success in launching their careers, with 78% of our Foundations students, and 99% of our graduated students, seeing placement in 6 months. In contrast, the nationwide average is that 43% of students are underemployed in their first role, and even after 10 years, 32% of students are working in a position that does not require their degree.

Early successes from around the world

In 2019, Holberton opened up its first two new campuses in New Haven, CT, and Colombia. While the first students at these locations are just barely past their Foundations, we’ve already seen some amazing successes:

First, Sikorsky has already hired several Holberton students from our New Haven campus

Wolf Hopkins, Cohort 8, New Haven campus

And in Colombia, Holberton students are earning incomes that are double of what is seen by computer science graduates from local universities

An observation on the income success of a Holberton student at our Bogota campus in comparison to students who have 5 years of education at a Colombian university. Summarized? Holberton students make 2x as much.

So, to get an even better picture of our students’ success, make sure to stay tuned for our 2020 Student Success Snapshot!

*Career Track is not available in the San Francisco location due to CA regulation.

Building a Curriculum: Specializations

Our trustee Ne-Yo and Carrie Ybay, the Holberton software engineer who is working with our professional advisors to develop our AR/VR curriculum.

Of course, every education must have a strong foundation, so make sure to read our first part in this series: Building a Curriculum: Foundations.

After Holberton students complete the Foundations program, a whole new series of paths open up for them. Known as “Specializations”, students can pick where they will take their focus for the second half of the curriculum. The four Specializations we offer are:

Specializations as a core of Holberton’s curriculum

Holberton School is working to further many causes: Increasing diversity and representation in tech, removing the barriers to high quality education, and developing a global workforce of top-tier software engineers. But for the enrolled students, we have a single goal: to make our students as employable as possible in the high demand field of software engineering and to equip them with all the tools they will need to stay on top of their field for their entire career. Holberton’s Specializations help us do that. Students take their first year Foundations program and build upon that with career-specific knowledge in highly sought after fields. Students are also free to pick the Specialization they’re most excited about. For example, students who love to dive deep will pick the Advanced Linux Programming, Algorithms, and Blockchain course, while others that want to create new experiences will opt to challenge themselves with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Regardless of the Specialization selected, students will be immersed in the techniques and knowledge determined by senior-level engineers to be critical to succeed.

The Development of a Specialization

A Specialization is developed by three groups coming together:

  • Professional Advisors – Our Professional Advisor network is composed of experienced software engineers, CTOs and technical leadership, technological innovators, and thought leaders within the technical space. Our Professional Advisors bring their expertise, vision, and technical knowledge to Holberton’s curriculum development. They help us understand which technologies are going to be demanded in the future, what lessons and technical knowledge Holberton students should learn for these technologies, and help our Curriculum Team ensure that the information they are providing will help train the best software engineers possible. Professional Advisors, on certain topics, will also review the created instructional projects to ensure that the lessons accurately teach the skills that students need to learn.
  • Curriculum Team – Holberton’s Curriculum Team takes the Professional Advisors’ knowledge, input, and vision, and does the practical work for turning that into usable, accessible lessons for our students. The Curriculum Team specializes in the heavy lifting work of putting a lesson together: They develop the projects with support and knowledge from our Professional Advisors, create the test cases for our Checker to validate the students’ work, and build the actual projects that match our Processional Advisors’ experiences. The Curriculum Team is able to provide a lot of proprietary knowledge that would be inefficient for Professional Advisors to learn, but is critical for our educational model: We don’t need to force Professional Advisors to learn our particular code style, learn our lesson management tools, or anything else that is proprietary for Holberton. So while our Curriculum team are the ones actively putting our lessons together, they are doing this in step with some of the best, most talented software engineers around.
  • Students – When we develop a curriculum, select students will help us as volunteers to be the first through the new program. These select Holberton students take their Holberton experience and provide specific feedback on the beta curriculum. So before a Specialization is released to all of our students, some of our best students have already been part of this Specialization and provided feedback to tune the experience even more.

To create an entire 9 month Specialization requires a large amount of work and input from our Professional Advisors and our Curriculum Team. For example, the Full-Stack Web Development Specialization was built with 928 hours of contribution from our professional advisors and 1050 hours of work by the Curriculum Team. And by utilizing our Professional Advisors, we’re able to validate that our Specializations are teaching what students need to know. For example, our AR/VR curriculum has been developed with and approved by Unity, and one of our Machine Learning’s core advisors, Gregory Renard, is also on the Deep Learning & AI Technical Committee of NASA’s Frontier Development Lab.

Maintaining a Specialization

Technology moves fast, and our students need to learn the most up to date skills possible. Within our Curriculum Team, there is often a lead dedicated for each Specialization. Not only are they responsible for leveraging the Professional Advisors’ knowledge, but they’re also tasked with continually improving and iterating on the curriculum. Projects must be kept up to date, learning resources must be tuned and updated when necessary, and feedback from students, both current and graduated or employed, is taken into account. Our Curriculum Team manages all of this so that students can trust that they’re receiving an accurate, current education that is in step with the latest industry developments.

Which topics get a Specialization?

Specializations at Holberton are selected and developed based off of advice from professional mentors, requests from and discussions with CTOs, the vision of our leadership for future opportunities, and identifying key knowledge bases that will continue to be sources of well-paid employment for our students. A fantastic example of the later is our updated Full-Stack Web Development Specialization, releasing January 2020. Holberton’s curriculum is a true Full-Stack Software Engineering curriculum: Unlike bootcamps, our students are taught languages like C and critical professional skill sets like DevOps, but for students who want to focus on Web, the Foundations program only touches on some of the current web technologies. In conversation with students who wanted more web development knowledge, discussion with our mentors on the top technologies to teach for a full-stack web developer, and the knowledge that a true full-stack developer with full-stack web development experience would be extremely employable and well paid, a Specialization was developed for this topic. 


Who at Holberton helps make the Specializations?

Below, we’ve highlighted some of our staff and some of the professional advisors who have helped us develop each of our second year Specializations, as well as a preview of what skills our students would learn while pursuing one of these Specializations.

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

Holberton Staff: Carrie Ybay

Before she became a software engineer, Carrie was a UX and graphic designer, plus a passionate gamer, so her unique blend of expertise makes her the ideal Curriculum Team member to work on our AR/VR curriculum.

Example of a 3d scene development project.

Within the AR/VR curriculum, developed in partnership with Unity Technologies, students will learn languages like C#, skills like UX and UI for AR/VR experiences, digital asset management, title publishing, as well as exposure and experience into animation, textures and materials, and audio management.

Some of our professional advisors:

Machine Learning

Image result for alexa orrico

Holberton Staff: Alexa Orrico

Alexa is our Curriculum Team member who is driving our Machine Learning curriculum. Before she became a software engineer, she earned her Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering. Within the curriculum, her experience working with large datasets and drawing order from that data has helped her bring the Machine Learning Specialization to life. 

Example of an image detection algorithm identifying objects in an image.

Within this new field, students who go through our Machine Learning Specialization learn to build everything from a facial recognition system all the way to their own chatbot, and even a reinforcement learning project that has students train and develop their own game-playing AI similar to AlphaGo.

Some of our professional advisors

  • Gregory Renard – Chief AI Officer at xBrain, Deep Learning & AI Technical Committee of NASA’s Frontier Development Lab
  • Deon Nicholas – Founder of Forethought 
  • Clement Renault – Co-founder of Shone
  • Naeem Gangat – Manager of Operational Excellence at European Institute of Technology

Low Level and Algorithms

Holberton Staff: Julien Barbier & Alexandre Gautier

Julien Barbier, our co-founder and CEO, is not only responsible for large portions of our Foundations curriculum, but with his expertise in Low Level language programming, he has contributed greatly to our Low Level and Algorithms Specialization. Not only a valedictorian from the European Institute of Technology and an experienced software engineer, his vision for combining project based and peer based learning, along with his direct work on the creation of the curriculum’s projects themselves, has helped Holberton develop a curriculum that is driving a worldwide tech education revolution.

Alexandre Gautier, the other Holberton staff on this Specialization, shares a special connection to Holberton School’s educational style: He received his software engineering education at the same European educational institution as Julien Barbier. With his knowledge and experience in project based education, and years of C and C++ experience, he is working with our professional advisors to develop an education that builds further on our Foundations program to prepare students to become capable programming generalists who can handle code all the way down to the assembly level.

Our Low Level and Algorithm Specialization dives deep into technologies like public/private keys and blockchain.

The Low Level, Algorithm, and Blockchain Specialization dives deeper into skills developed in the Foundations program, from developing a more advanced Shell project to directly interacting with the Linux kernel. Students are also challenged with advanced data structures, in-depth C programming, assembly, and the development of their own blockchain.

Professional Advisors:

Full Stack Web Development (updated version arriving January 2020)

Image result for guillauma salva

Holberton Staff: Led by Guillaume Salva with the support of Athena Deng and Hemant Heer

Guillaume, our CTO, has been featured on our blog before for his work on our student grading system Checker, but with his degree in electrical engineering and computer science (with a focus on security and distributed systems), and over 12 years of active development experience within mobile and full-stack disciplines makes him well suited to lead this development of this curriculum.

The vision of the Holberton’s Full-Stack Web Development Specialization is less on focusing on a specific technology or language, or a surface level education in many frameworks, but a focus on the specific techniques, practices, and skills that maximize productivity and adaptability. This Specialization incorporates topics like SEO, site accessibility, Personal/User data protection, asynchronous processes/jobs, management of both front end and back end needs, web technologies like React, and to build web experiences both with and from the designer’s point of view.

Professional Advisors:

But what about Career Track*?

Career Track* was developed for our more employment-focused students; this was a path to help our students get a job as quickly as possible after Foundations. This is a great option for students who need to secure income as quickly as possible, but when feasible, we encourage students to select and pursue a Specialization.

Specializations to improve employability

Holberton students get exposed to many technologies and professional skills throughout their Foundations program, but it is in Specializations they are given the chance to focus in career accelerating skills. Through going through our Specializations, where students can tap into the experience of leaders in the technical world and learn the skills these leaders believe will best set up students for success, Holberton students can hit the ground running in some of the hottest software engineering fields around.

Holberton was designed to be a two year program, and continues to be a two year program. As our graduates complete their Specialization, they will unlock a lifetime of learning as a Holberton student: Students who complete the program will have access to each of Holberton’s current and future Specialization curriculums to pursue at their own pace. With this access, our graduates will be able to continually learn new, valuable professional skills throughout their careers as software engineers.

By offering these Specializations, we are able to train top tier software engineers with valuable skills, and prepare them to successfully enter the workforce. And by doing this within a curriculum that has a blind admissions process and does not require any educational prerequisites other than a high school diploma or equivalent, we are able to help a broader, more diverse group of people enter and succeed in this innovative, high-paying career field while they define the future.

*Career Track is not available in the San Francisco location due to CA regulation.

Welcome Holberton School Barranquilla!

Holberton School is proud to announce our fourth campus opening in Colombia! In partnership with Koombea, Socialatom, and Coderise, Holberton School Barranquilla will immediately start accepting applications for our upcoming January 2020 cohort.

Our fourth Colombian campus in Colombia’s fourth-largest city, Barranquilla will not only join our other local Colombian campuses at Bogotá,Medellín and Cali, but it will join a worldwide tech community of nine campuses across four continents. And with the same education that has prepared students with no prior coding experience to take on software engineering roles at the world’s top tech companies, Barranquilla will be an integral part of Colombia’s tech future.

Barranquilla, a city of 1.2 million people on the Carribean coast, is a cultural center for Colombia, and the Carnival of Barranquilla is a UNESCO recognized event. Barranquilla has also been a leader in South American innovation since the beginning of the 20th century, as it was the location of the first airport in South America. We cannot wait to be a part of this culture of innovation and rich history as we open our newest campus.

Holberton students at Barranquilla will enjoy many of the same benefits our students receive around the world: Bias-free admissions. A no upfront cost education that is repaid through a percentage of income. Intensive tech education designed to help people with no prior coding experience become well-paid software engineers. A curriculum designed and deployed in accessible English to help students develop international business skills. Critical soft skills training to go in parallel with the tech skills. Immersive, innovative, and accepting school culture. And so much more.

Image result for Jonathan Tarud  Koombea
“We have seen a lot of international demand for software engineering talent in Colombia, particularly Barranquilla has developed a strong industry of software companies and is growing rapidly. Partnering with Holberton is a crucial part of being able to keep up with this growth and the digital transformation of the city’s economy.”  -Jonathan Tarud, CEO and co-founder of Koombea

For all residents of Colombia and Barranquilla: Apply now for our January 2020 cohort! Don’t miss this opportunity to Define Your Future and take on a new, high paying career in software engineering!

Building A Curriculum: Foundations

Holberton’s curriculum is a learning experience like no other. Not only do we teach our students how to code and the professional soft skills that help students maintain their career as software engineers, but we teach our students new ways of learning and of personal growth. Our students “learn how to learn”, and do so in a way that will help them professionally stand out for the rest of their careers.

Actual Cohort 6 students during their Foundations year. We’re currently at Cohort 10 and will welcome Cohort 11 in January 2020.

To teach this new way of learning and drive the continual growth that defines our students’ results, we’ve built our curriculum around two key educational methods:

  • Peer Learning
  • Project-Based Learning

In a previous blog post we shared how peer learning helps students learn and retain knowledge better, so for this piece, we’d like to share how our project-based learning curriculum works. With project-based learning, our students learn through practical, hands-on lessons within a continually evolving curriculum. Most importantly, though, our project-based learning teaches a core life skill, and one that will help all of our students maintain their careers as software engineers: We teach our students a new way of learning. A hallmark of a Holberton student is more than just amazing technical skill with the technologies of today. Our students, through the practice of our project-based learning and peer learning, not only can grasp and self teach new technologies and methods, but our students can also help their peers learn and professionally develop as well.

Our curriculum is separated into two halves: Foundations and Specializations. Foundations is the curriculum and the method that helps us get people with no prior coding experience into software engineering roles, and it is the very foundation of each student’s education at Holberton.

Foundations is separated into three trimesters, roughly separated into

  • Low-level and C
  • Higher-level languages
  • DevOps, SRE, and more

The development of each of those trimesters is specific to Holberton, each spearheaded by Julien Barbier (co-founder, CEO), Guillaume Salva (CTO), and Sylvain Kalache (co-founder) respectively. The development of these projects and the curriculum was based not only their individual technological capability and experience, but also by utilizing a broad network of professional advisors.

Julien Barbier, co-founder and CEO of Holberton talking with students at our San Francisco campus.

Professional advisors and building our curriculum

Our advisors participate in our curriculum development by helping us understand the industry’s current and future technological landscape, what technologies and skills were professionally viable, and most importantly, by highlighting the same skills and knowledge that helped them on their path to becoming Sr (or higher) level engineers.

By bringing the best of what our co-founders and CTO had to offer, and the input of our professional advisors, we were able to create a Full-Stack engineering curriculum that goes beyond what most bootcamps offer. We have a curriculum that not only trains in core employable technologies and skillsets, but sets our students up with the tools, methods, and the practice to continue their own professional and technological growth throughout their careers.

Guillaume Salva, CTO of Holberton, sharing his experience with developing the Holberton curriculum

Education without lectures

When introducing people to our curriculum, this tends to be the most shocking concept: How can someone learn a skill if there’s no one telling them directly, and explicitly, what they should know? Or, more directly, how can you teach without a teacher? Well, with project-based learning, we ditch the lecture-then-mimic pedagogy. Our curriculum, and the projects that compose its lessons, are how we teach. Through encouraging discovery, self-reliance, cooperation, and applying the coding lessons through practical projects, this curriculum consistently develops software engineers of amazing quality and capability.

“How?” is a very valid question at this point, so let’s take a look at a student’s day:

  • The day’s projects are ready for students when they wake up in the morning, as they became available at midnight their local time.
  • Before accessing the projects, students are presented with effectively a pop quiz they must complete before starting the day’s projects. These quizzes are on topics the students may or may not know, and if they do not know the answers, then they must go and find the answers. Think of this as athletes stretching before the game, and since they’re the “warm up” of the day, incorrect answers here do not count against the project’s grade.
  • Now that the projects are unlocked, students can get to work in reviewing the reference material, reviewing their coding challenges and conditions, and start their day hacking away at the code!
Peer learning goes hand in hand with our project based curriculum.

Within the curriculum itself, students are carefully introduced to software engineering topics of increasing complexity. These concepts layer upon each other building a broader and deeper understanding of the languages and development techniques. And throughout this, students use a variety of resources, including recommended material from Holberton, content they find on their own, and collaboration with their peers to develop their knowledge. Then, using our projects and Checker to test their knowledge, students can grade their day’s (or in some cases, multi-day) projects before final submission. Ambitious students, those seeking more challenges, and students who particularly enjoy a particular topic they are working on will also find that every project has challenging advanced tasks that also provide extra credit.

Throughout this Foundations curriculum, students are taught topics that build upon each other. The goal is to build a deep understanding of not only the languages taught but also the theory and practice that makes a good software engineer great. Topics are continually revisited throughout the curriculum (much to the chagrin of the students who would never like to see C again) to strategically reinforce theory, introduce more complex concepts at a time where students are more likely to understand and retain the knowledge, or to reinforce their use and value in technical interviews.

Rewarding critical thought

As the program has evolved and improved over the years, we’ve worked to both incorporate student feedback, tune projects, and anything else that will help our students become better engineers.

Student feedback

Throughout the curriculum, we ask students for feedback and allow students to anonymously report on their mood, feelings, and more. What’s the purpose of this kind of feedback? While we want our curriculum to challenge students, we also want to make sure the curriculum isn’t unnecessarily difficult. We also want to make sure the curriculum is designed to help the students feel interested through their entire journey at Holberton. So, we constantly take the students feedback, review against anonymous mood data, and see what improvements we can make. 

Checking for optimization

Our Checker evaluates millions of lines of code each month, and to help each generation of our students become better coders, we have to continually improve this tool. In the early versions of Checker, the system dutifully evaluated student projects for accuracy, execute code and check results, review readmes to ensure that students were properly documenting their projects, and similar. Since then, we’ve updated Checker to perform even more robust tests, including even looking at and scoring for code efficiency.

Matching Industry Updates

The tech industry constantly changes, and so does our curriculum. As new technologies and programming language versions become more established, we update our curriculum to match what students are likely to see once they start their professional careers. This is a constant process that ensures as the industry matures and grows, our curriculum does as well.

How this leads to a career

At Holberton School, the education you receive in the Foundations becomes the basis for your work in our specializations. After completing your first year, students can select from one of four specializations that we offer:

Foundations gives you all the necessary tools to continue your education at Holberton with our specializations, and the professional and interpersonal skills to hit the ground running in your new career. After your Foundations at Holberton, you’ll be experienced in languages like C and Python, have the personal toolkits and techniques to learn any other language you want, experience in critical skills like Test Driven Development, DevOps, and project management, and a solid, fundamental understanding of what it takes to drive your career in software engineering.

Laura, a student who had never coded before coming to Holberton school, celebrating her first role as a software engineer after being hired while still in her Foundations year.

Holberton School comes to Tulsa, OK!

Today, with assistance from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Holberton School is announcing our latest campus, Holberton School Tulsa! And at our newest campus, in line with our dedication to improve access to our education, we are introducing both a need-based living assistance program and a discounted Income Share Agreement (ISA) for Holberton School Tulsa students who stay and work local.

Our need-based living assistance program is designed to help Holberton students focus on what matters most: Learning skills that will propel them down a new career path. Holberton students at our Tulsa campus can apply for a need-based $1500/month living assistance program to help pay for their living expenses. We want to help all qualified students make the most of their education here at Holberton, and instead of making education decisions based on affordability, we want to help students make their education decisions on what will help them achieve their dreams.

Our new living assistance program, in partnership with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, helps us deliver more on the challenge we give to every student who walks through our doors: The challenge to “Define Your Future”. By reducing or eliminating the economic burden to pursue a full time education, we hope to help even more people take their own future into their hands with Holberton School.

This $1500/month living assistance amount is a true game changer for Holberton students, especially in a city as affordable as Tulsa, OK. In Tulsa, where a single bedroom apartment costs approximately $600 per month, students who receive this living assistance will be able to utilize this assistance to cover most-to-all of their living expenses. This is an incredible opportunity for everyone who wants to come to Holberton and launch their career in software engineering.

An additional incentive will also be available to Holberton School Tulsa students who continue to live and work in Tulsa after graduation. For students who fall in love with the city and decide to stay, students could see a reduction in their ISA repayment amount from 17% to 10%. This means that students who stay and work in Tulsa will repay significantly less than if they were to move out of the city. And companies are already eager to hire Holberton students:

Pictured here is Zac Carman, CEO at consumeraffairs.com
“ConsumerAffairs cannot wait to hire engineers from Holberton. Holberton will help close the engineering talent gap in Tulsa which will help us compete regionally. ” Zac Carman, CEO at consumeraffairs.com

The best part is that staying in Tulsa is easy. A generous and welcoming community, Tulsa is not bound by traditional conventions. Nationally recognized as the state’s center for economic development, Tulsa has a diverse economy and employment opportunities in finance, aeronautics, telecommunications, and technology. Companies like Bank of Oklahoma, American Airlines, AAON, Helmerich & Payne, ONEGas, ONEOK, Quiktrip and Williams Companies, have established their headquarters in the metropolitan area of Tulsa.

Once named America’s “Oil Capital of the World”, recent revitalization has transformed Tulsa from a vital hub for America’s oil and gas industry to a diverse, vibrant community with room for all types of passions and vocations to prosper.

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A perfect blend of metropolitan life and open skies. Photo via JustTulsa.com

Tulsa’s fun and vibrant culture and entrepreneurial spirit have built a city that embraces inclusion and champions big ideas. It’s a city that intentionally builds itself around the people already here while making itself available for newcomers. Home to two world-renowned art museums, a booming nightlife, and a diverse food scene, there’s always something to do in the “Center of the Universe”. The city boasts short commute times, more than 125 parks, 180 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails, and a passion for supporting their local, pro and college sports teams.

And the employment opportunities for Holberton Tulsa students are bright: The “2019 Emsi Report on Computer and Mathematical Jobs in NE Oklahoma” projects an amazing 7,000 additional job postings for tech talent in Tulsa by 2025.

Tulsa will feature many of the same amazing facility perks that we have at our campuses around the world.

These awesome benefits, both the living assistance and the ISA discount, are available to both residents of Tulsa and to students who relocate to Tulsa. And for students to maximize their value from these programs, if the ISA discount will apply for every month they live and work in Tulsa, and any potential repayment of the living assistance program will be forgiven after just 2 years of residency in Tulsa. 

Thinking about how you can Define Your Future? Applications are now open for the January 2020 cohort at Tulsa! Start your application now, and you could start your new future as a software engineer!

Peer Learning, or “What do you mean ‘No Teachers’?”

“We don’t have formal classrooms or teachers — instead, our students collaborate, share their knowledge, and help each other.”

It’s right on our website, but do we really mean it? At face value, it’s a radical proposition: A school that trains top software engineers without teachers, without lectures, and without the classrooms that all of us grew up and loved (or, reasonably loathed). After all, what is a school without a traditional structure and someone else telling you how to learn?

Image result for lecture
Some may learn well in this, but we think we can do better.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lecture,_NSUEM.jpg

There, in that last sentence, is why we exist. Software engineering is a new field that lives on speed, flexibility, and iteration. It is a field that is constantly updating, and the best software engineers will have to be able to keep up with the times. And these best software engineers will not have the time to return to the classroom and be taught how to learn another language or technology. The best software engineers will be able to self-train, lead and learn from their peers, and keep up with the rapidly advancing and changing field they’re employed in. Beyond an in-depth knowledge of programming and development best practices, these lifelong skills are a key part of our curriculum, and why we teach our students through project-based and peer learning.

After all, If you do get a teacher in the workplace, it won’t be a lecturer but instead a peer or a mentor, and that’s why we teach our students the way we do.

Let’s dig into each of the pieces of our curriculum and share how they build upon each other to help drive a new generation of software engineers.

Project Based Learning

Traditionally, schools teach (usually with assigned reading and lectures), then test. Pop quiz: How much of this lecture-based knowledge did you retain? Project based learning is the concept that instead of being taught through lectures and tests, students are taught through actually doing the work. Proper project based learning isn’t just “here’s a problem, good luck”. A properly built project based learning curriculum carefully builds increasingly challenging tasks upon each other, with guidance on where or how to learn the skills, but leaving the final quest for discovery and application of knowledge to the students. Through this curated exploration, students are taught how to validate sources, test knowledge as they apply it, collaborate with peers to share their best learnings, and to develop and depend upon their own ability to learn instead of waiting for instructions from others.

The goal is not just to help students learn the knowledge that they will need to launch their careers, but also to maintain their careers through the ability to learn. In this way, time spent at Holberton actually mimics the work environment. Yes, Holberton students know how to code extremely well, but they also know how to sit down, use available resources, and to independently pioneer into new technologies. Companies that hire Holberton students are getting more than just a great developer; they are also getting a developer who can flexibly adapt to new languages and technologies in short periods of time.

Holberton students at our San Francisco campus.

This same ethos is built into our application process. Holberton’s whole application process requires no prior knowledge of programming, but instead a willingness and ability to learn. Through automation, our system does not take into account race, gender, age, or even ability to pay. Instead, what we are looking for are people who can learn something new and apply these new skills accurately. Before coming to Holberton our students were everything from professional chefs to musicians, paralegals to fresh high school graduates. What they all share is a willingness to learn. The whole application process is even designed to mimic our project based learning curriculum, and through completing Level 2 of our application process, students will code and launch a website from scratch using emacs, HTML, css, and javascript. So if you’re curious how our project based learning works, we welcome you to start an application today.

Peer Learning

Peer learning, or “learning by teaching” is an established method to improve retention and understanding of topics. When students teach other students, they show an increased retention of information and understanding of the core of the material. Through our curriculum, students are encouraged to share what they’ve learned through Peer Learning Days, where students will work cooperatively through problem(s) at a whiteboard. Ideally this process is entirely self-led, but our TAs and staff may step in to provide clarification, challenge students to “teach” back to the staff, or shape the conversation for maximum benefit. 

Peer learning in action

Students will also engage in group and pair projects, where they are placed together to tackle some of our more challenging tasks. Programmers often work as part of a team, and so our curriculum is specifically designed to mimic the work environments that students will find themselves in later on in their careers. Under these conditions, Holberton students learn when to be a team member, when to be a team leader, and how to step between these roles for the maximum benefit of the project they are working on.

Define Your Future

Holberton’s goal is to get people with no prior coding experience into new career that matches their ability. Our admissions process finds those who have the talent to learn without bias. Our curriculum removes the barrier of prior experience. And the use of Income Share Agreements removes the need to obtain credit for our education. We want to find people who have the untapped potential to succeed as software engineers, and train them not only in the core technologies they will use to get their first programming job, but help them develop the core soft and personal development skills that will turn their first job into a lifetime career. But, most critically, everything we do helps students realize their own potential and leverage their own personal strength to become great software engineers, which is why we invite everyone to Define Your Future.

Want to read more? Check out our other Introducing Holberton articles below:
Introducing Holberton #1: Checker & You

Chitra Rajeshwari Joins Holberton School Board of Trustees

Chitra Rajeshwari

Holberton School, a college alternative educating the next generation of digital workers, today welcomed Chitra Rajeshwari, executive director of Avasant Foundation, a private not-for-profit organization that empowers youth in emerging economies through education, employment, and entrepreneurship, to the board of trustees.

Rajeshwari joins the board to focus on the school’s sustainability, innovation, and its impact on society as a whole. Rajeshwari has been a leader in a number of industries, including banking and travel. She is joining the board of trustees to help Holberton bring affordable, quality education to the many, especially in growing economies across LATAM and Africa.

“Nearly 70 million youth are unemployed worldwide, and that number is only expected to rise further. Looking more broadly at the role of women in labor markets, we found a disturbing trend: the continued uneven progress toward workforce inclusion. The global rate of young women’s participation in the labor force has dropped to 48.5%. It’s imperative that we focus on getting more young people, especially women, into the labor force in order to dramatically improve their lifetime opportunities,” said Rajeshwari. “Businesses are desperate to hire more software engineers and we have a rare opportunity to bring Holberton’s world-class technical education to young people across the emerging markets to help them access today’s life-changing opportunities.”

Rajeshwari joins our collective of trustees which includes Grammy award-winner NE-YO, actor and social activist Priyanka Chopra, CloudNOW CEO Jocelyn DeGance Graham, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel, and Docker co-founder Solomon Hykes. 

“Our mission is to bring high-quality education to people and areas that may not have the opportunity — whether it’s because of geography, money, age, gender, ethnicity or even learning style,” said Julien Barbier, CEO and co-founder of Holberton. “Each of our trustees brings a unique set of skills, knowledge, and leadership to our program. We are excited to welcome Chitra who will help us expand even more rapidly into growing economies.”

Please join us in welcoming Chitra to the Holberton community!

Welcome Holberton School Cali!

Our third campus in Colombia, Holberton School Cali will be training the next generation of Colombian software engineers to help drive Colombia’s digital revolution.

If you’re thinking about how you can get a world-class software engineering application, apply now!

Our newest campus is located in Cali, the third- largest city in Colombia with a population of 3.4M and is home to many of Colombia’s top tech companies like Carvajal, Open Software, Delima, Datecsa, Eficacia, Colombina, Tecnoquimicas, Lafrancol, and more. Within Cali, our newest campus will be located at the local Zonamerica, a special Free Zone to encourage the development of global tech services and multinational companies in Colombia. 

Students who attend class at Holberton School Cali will receive the same Silicon Valley-level software engineering education that helped get students employment at companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Nvidia, and more. And with ourt special curriculum, which is designed to help people become world-class software engineers even without prior coding experience, Holberton will provide more incredible economic opportunities to the population of Cali.

Students who are accepted through our blind application process, which doesn’t test on existing coding knowledge but instead tests the ability to learn, will have the opportunity to join a worldwide cohort with students on three continents. Students at Holberton School Cali will be able to cooperate and learn in parallel with students in San Francisco, New Haven, Bogotáa, Medellíin, and Tunis. Not only will our students learn the fundamentals of programming and the ability to think like an experienced programmer, but they will learn critical international cooperation skills, be able to sharpen their English speaking and writing ability, and the ability to train others who are of a similar skill level. All of these skills will help Holberton students at Cali springboard their career the most well paying job opportunities around.

The Cali campus will feature many of the same great amenities as our other campuses, including collaboration spaces, conference rooms, rest areas, and places to watch content streamed from our other campuses worldwide. The Cali campus, with its location in Zonamerica, will place students in the center of Colombian technological development for the international market.

If you’re currently in Colombia, you’ll want to start your application now. The close date for September 2019 cohort is approaching rapidly, so if you want to be one of the first in Cali to achieve your dream and Define Your Future, start your application today!


To read our press release on our new expansion, please click here.

Holberton School Arrives in Tunis!

We’re proud to announce that our newest addition to Holberton, Holberton School Tunisia, is now open and accepting applications! 

Start our application process now to be ready for the September Cohort: Apply here


Located in Tunis, Holberton School Tunis is our first campus in Africa. In this city of 2.6 million people (across the greater metropolitan area), we are excited to be part of the digital future of Africa with Tunis leading the way. By bringing the exact same curriculum that has helped people with no prior coding experience land jobs at companies like Facebook, Apple, Tesla, and more, our education will complete an already strong education system to help Tunisia develop their own local, Silicon Valley level software engineers.

VERMEG has committed to hire 30 Holberton Students

This vision for the future of Tunisia has already attracted top Tunisian companies like VERMEG. VERMEG is a leading international financial and regulatory software services firm with over 1100 employees worldwide in 40 countries. Headquartered in Tunis, this exciting company has already committed to hiring 30 Holberton students. This highlights the quality that top tech companies see in our curriculum and the engineers that come from Holberton school.

Our curriculum will help develop the new wave of technological innovators and leaders in Tunisia. With 70% of the Tunisian population under the age of 29, a high-quality, innovative approach can help a huge portion of the Tunisian population prepare for the careers of today and tomorrow. And with our blind admissions process, which looks not at what people know about software engineering or anything about their race, gender, or background, but is specifically designed to help find the people with the potential to learn the Holberton way. In other countries around the world this has enabled us to bring in underrepresented populations into technology, and with Tunisia’s amazing 50% of professional Information and Communication Technology roles being held by women, Tunisia may be poised to have one of the most gender-equal software engineering populations in the world. Through this same curriculum in the USA, Holberton has helped people from farmers to retail workers to artists and musicians obtain high-paying software engineering jobs, and we hope to bring these same successes to Tunisia.

The curriculum is also designed to prepare students for international business. With a worldwide usage of English, the common language of software engineering, Tunisian students will be able to practice conversational English with cohort partners around the globe. Tied with a program that also targets soft skills development, the software engineers that graduate from our program are ready to engage in international business and cooperation.

To support the students’ learning environment, the Tunisia campus will feature many of the same amenities as our San Francisco campus, like 24/7 access to students, high-speed internet, meeting rooms, auditoriums, and rest and relaxation areas. All of these are present to help students make the most of their education, and prepare themselves for a career in software engineering.

If you’re in Tunisia and you want a better career or a high-tech future, begin our application process today. It’s free to apply, so if you’re ready to be part of the digitization wave of Tunis, don’t miss this opportunity to be a member of the first cohort at Holberton School Tunisia!

If you are a journalist and would like to learn more about our curriculum and how we’re planning to bring our Silicon Valley education to Tunisia, email us here.

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