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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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 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!

Throwin’ It Back to 2017: Holberton School’s Year In Review

The past year has been notable for Holberton School in a variety of ways. We’ve welcomed growth within our student body, forged new relationships with a tech heavy hitters, and even received rave reviews from industry titans. In addition to these newfound relationships, our students are succeeding in all of the way we had hoped. Holberton students are landing jobs and internships at great places including but not limited to Tesla, LinkedIn, Apple, and IBM! We’ve narrowed our list to 5 memorable moments, check out the highlights below:


5. Home is where the students are…

We are excited to be settled into our new home in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood! Our new spot boasts plenty of comfy nooks for studying, meetings, and even relaxing. Our spacious digs provide us with plenty of room to grow and welcome more students into the Holberton School family. We feel right at home in our new space, located on Mission and 5th/6th. With neighbors like Slack, Eventbrite, Yahoo, and Y Combinator, the networking possibilities are endless!

Soft seating and iMacs abound in Holberton School’s new space!

Located at Mission and 5th/6th in the SOMA district of San Francisco, the new location is close to tech companies including Slack, Eventbrite, Yahoo, Y Combinator and more. Location is critical because students are required to intern for as much as half of the school’s 2-year program. The 28,500 sqft is in a six story building (61,000 sqft), with an option to take over the entire building.


4. If you’ve got it to give, give it away…

It has been with tremendous gratitude that we have partnered with Google, Scality, Accenture, and CloudNOW to present Holberton students with scholarships to alleviate the cost-of-living associated with the San Francisco Bay Area.  These scholarships were presented to students at Google’s annual #TopWomenInCloud event by Vint Cerf, father of the Internet and inventor of the TCP/IP technology.

(L to R) Sylvain Kalache, Vint Cerf, Kristen Loyd (student)

3. Talkin’ the talk while & walkin’ the walk…

Holberton School students are tenacious by nature. Student, Elaine Yeung, caught the attention of Linus Torvalds, the inventor of the Linux Kernel system, with her rap all about bash. So, when Holberton School co-founder, Julien Barbier, challenged Elaine to take a selfie with Linus in a Holberton t-shirt it was game on. Torvalds graciously obliged Elaine with a selfie and conversation. She walked away from the meeting elated to have been able to meet an innovation legend.

Linus Torvalds w/ Holberton School Student, Elaine Yeung

2. “We’re a movement by ourselves, but we’re a force when we’re together…”

NEYO joined Holberton School’s Board of Trustees. “I just love the fact of what they’re doing with the school — that they’re making it easier for underrepresented people in the world of tech. They’re giving them a platform and access to this knowledge that they probably wouldn’t get otherwise. I think that’s one of the coolest things about this whole situation.” With his support and guidance we are proud to have a diverse student body. In addition to growing our Board of Trustees, we welcomed the support of LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, as an investing advisor. We are thrilled at the opportunity to be under the tutelage of Jeff and look forward to working together with him towards fulfilling our mission to provide quality education to the most!

(L to R) Sylvain Kalache, Jeff Weiner, Julien Barbier pose for a #selfie
(L to R) Sylvain Kalache, NEYO, Julien Barbier

1. They like us, they really like us…

We were sincerely honored by Business Insider’s decision to include Holberton School on it’s list of the 19 hottest San Francisco startups to watch in 2018. Recognizing us as an organization that “flips education on its head” is something the Holberton team is profoundly proud of. We are currently hiring, check out our open positions!

Holberton School staff pose for Business Insider’s list of 19 Hottest SF Startups!

Thank you to everyone who played a role in the school’s success this past year, we truly appreciate each and every one of you! We look forward to an even more exciting 2018!

Let Me Upgrade Ya: Holberton School Moves Into New SOMA Location!

Everyone in the Holberton School family from staff, to mentors, to Holbie fans are delighted with the move from San Francisco’s FiDi to it’s SOMA- or, South of Market- neighborhood! Located at Mission and 5th/6th in the SOMA district of San Francisco, the new location is close to tech companies including Slack, Eventbrite, Yahoo!, Y Combinator and more. This move comes at the perfect time as staff and students get ready to welcome the January 2018 cohort. The building can eventually accommodate up to 1,000 students and we are looking forward to opening the space to many more future software engineers.

In less than two years, the school has grown from 35 students in January 2016 to more than 150. With an expected January incoming class of 65, the previous space, even with a generous donation of space from tech neighbor Gandi could no longer accommodate the growth. In January, Holberton will graduate its first “cohort” of students, 90% of which are already working at companies like Apple, LinkedIn and Dropbox.

The upgrade is made notable by more than doubling the amount of space of the school’s original site. The new spot already feels like home to Holberton, complete with hardwood floors that glow in the natural light provided by the space’s sizable windows. We’ve decorated the space with both comfort and functionality in mind- as whiteboarding is one of the foundations of solving any programming problem, we’ve outfitted the space with enough whiteboard space to satisfy even the most voracious dry-erase-programmer!

While the average classroom setting is configured with desks in neat rows, facing the front of the room. Holberton has sought to accommodate all types of learners- are you the type to be most productive curled up in an armchair, sofa, or even a bean bag chair?! No problem, Holberton has a variety of options in that department with various living room-style vignettes. However, if you’re one to appreciate the typical desk/desktop setup we’ve got you covered, too. We’ve equipped our space with brand new iMacs accessible to all students.

The community vibe has not been lost in the larger space thanks to the finer details. Students can be found collaborating in the kitchen over a meal or sipping coffees, and even gathered in the meetup area bouncing around ideas with a student-led peer learning session. The ample space for collaboration lends itself to the peer learning model Holberton has founded its success upon. There are plenty of conference rooms for groups to work on projects if the open space doesn’t provide the vibe you’re looking for. 

If you’re curious about the new digs or just want to check out what Holberton is all about, our doors are always open for a visit and a chat. We’d be delighted to show you around and give you the 4-1-1 on Holberton’s curriculum and the opportunities in software engineering! We’ve even got an Open House scheduled for Thursday 1/18 @ 6:00 PM! This is the perfect excuse to come check out the school and chat with Holberton students, staff, and mentors!

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

One of Holberton’s goals is to eliminate barriers to high-quality education. On top of having a no upfront tuition approach, we are going further with fundraising to help our students in need pay for living expenses. Holberton was invited to the Annual Top Women in Cloud Innovation Awards event hosted this year at Google where four students were awarded with Cost-of-Living Scholarships.

We’ve had the pleasure of teaming up with Google, Scality, and Accenture with this goal in mind. The total cost of living in San Francisco is 62.2% higher than the national average. When you take a look at the cost of housing in the San Francisco area — it’s about three times more than other cities in the U.S. Each of these organizations has helped alleviate the city’s cost of living for the four scholarship recipients. This initial round of scholarships were organized by CloudNOW’s facilitation of the fundraising. The CloudNOW STEM Scholarships are funded by Accenture, Google and were first announced in September, as a way to help students to pay for living expenses while attending Holberton.

Holberton believes that the cost-of-living should not hinder a student’s ability to attend the school and focus on their studies. “Holberton gave me another path after my goals were no longer served by traditional education, despite leaving me with a mountain of debt,” said Kristen Loyd, 26, of Brentwood, CA. Loyd is a former account relationship manager at an investment firm. “My only challenge was making ends meet until I could find a job and now Accenture has stepped in and relieved me of a great burden, for which I thank them.”


(L to R) Sylvain Kalache and Vint Cerf present Kristen Loyd with her scholarship.
(L to R) Sylvain Kalache, Vint Cerf, Tope Agboola, and Siki Giunta pose for a picture while presenting Tope with her scholarship.

Another scholarship recipient, Tope Agboola, has been juggling her time between Holberton’s intensive curriculum while maintaining a full time job. Her motivation and dedication made it a no-brainer for us to acknowledge her hard work with a bit of financial assistance.

We could not let Lindsey Hemenez’s dedication to her newfound passion go unnoticed. Lindsey was living in Elk Grove, California. Doing the math for you folks, that’s 6 hours of commuting a day. Lindsey was a rockstar at budgeting her time on the train so she was able to work on projects. The 6 hour commute soon became untenable, resulting in Lindsey having to move closer to the city. Although her commuting hours have shortened, the close proximity to the city has increased her financial stress.

New to the Holberton family, Miranda Evans is someone to keep an eye on! She’s decided to pursue a path to being a full stack software engineer via Holberton School. This decision, however, comes with it’s sacrifice of putting a pause on receiving an income in order to place her full attention on the curriculum.

All of these women strive to push the ball forward in integrating more women into the field of software engineering. With the helping hands of our corporate partners we are confident that they will find their way to success!

Shoutout to Jocelyn DeGance Graham who played an integral role in organizing not only the funding for the scholarships, but also in coordinating the Top Women In Cloud event, along with Susan Wu. We look forward to to our continued work towards the goal of eliminating barriers to high quality education.  Want to help us with training a highly qualified and diverse group of Software Engineers? Become a Corporate Partner and help by funding or recruiting our students.

Holberton School & the Three Engineers, Part 3: The Experienced

This is an ongoing series of interviews with Holberton students sharing their journey through the program. Holberton students come from many different backgrounds. These interviews are an inside look at each student’s unique journey into software engineering.


Mason: The Experienced, Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Mason joined Holberton School with considerably more experience in software engineering compared with
Dora and Rona.


Q: How did you hear about Holberton School?

Mason: My mother’s friend from work had heard about Holberton and she knew that I was interested in some type of computer science education.


Q: What was your experience with computer science?

Mason: I had already been teaching myself computer science for about a full year starting with just html, css, javascript, a little bit of php, and eventually I began studying python. It was just a hobby I had gotten into on the side. I actually had a job teaching guitar.


Q: Did you study music in school?

Mason: I did! My bachelor’s and master’s degrees are both from music conservatories. After graduating, I had worked for 5 years as a professional musician. My primary income came from teaching, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as the performing I also did, and I figured if I could replace my teaching day job with work as a software engineer then that would be ideal, especially since my interest in that field had already grown so much. Conveniently, San Francisco is a great city to be employed in that kind of work and also offers several educational opportunities for that type of position. I also thought that this career would allow me to maintain the performance side of my music career, which is still very dear to me.


Q: Why were you drawn to computer science?
Mason: I was drawn to computer science because the kinds of problems that you solve as a software engineer are actually really, really similar to the problems you solve as a music performer. People tend to think of music as a very right-brain, creative sort of activity and they think of software engineering as a left-brain analytical activity but the truth is that both… are both! I started out teaching myself online. That’s where I first learned about HTML, CSS… just what I needed to know to build a very simple static website.


Q: What was the reaction from your friends and family when you made this unexpected career pivot?

Mason: My father is a musician and my mother and my brother are both engineers. My mom is a software engineer and my brother is an electrical engineer. My other brother is a mathematician…so there’s a lot of music, math, and engineering in my family and none of them were terribly surprised, although I think my parents were a little concerned that I was letting go of music. My friends, especially the other members of my ensemble, were especially concerned about disbanding. I just had to explain to them that I was looking to replace the teaching portion of my music, not the performance aspect.


Q: Do you think that you’ve been able to maintain a balance between your music and your new career?

Mason: Perhaps these careers are easily balanced by everyone, or I may just be especially lucky that I have been able to keep a balance between the two. My manager I has brought up that it’s really important to her that I’m able to keep a balance between my music and my software careers, and I am very grateful for that.


Q: Do you think Holberton was able to dive deeper into languages you had previous experience with?

Mason: There was definitely a lot of validation. When you’re learning stuff all on your own, you don’t know how accurate the information is. Until you’re learning from and talking to industry professionals. Being able to communicate well with other students and mentors was validating in itself. I think that’s one of the strongest aspects of Holberton, and the mentor side of the program really strengthens that. It’s a curriculum that’s very adaptable. There are so many opportunities to go beyond the minimum requirements of an assignment. I tried to do every assignment and optional assignments. I liked that flexibility, and it absolutely enabled me to deepen my previously superficial comp-sci knowledge.


Q: Tell me a little about your experience with Holberton School mentor program.

Mason: The biggest benefit I got from the mentor program during my first year was the coordinated events: the fireside chats, and the workshops. Hearing professionals talk about technical knowledge helped me think about technology in a different way. To develop fluency in any field you really need to be immersed around other experts, adopt their language, and to an extent adopt the way they think about the subject. The mentor program facilitates that very well.



Q: What is your role at Docker?

Mason: I am a full-stack software engineer on the Distribution Services team at Docker, Inc. I help build and maintain the SaaS-related back-end services that enable users to use the Docker platform. I also work on the front-end of the Docker Store.

Holberton School & the Three Engineers, Part 2: The Intermediate

This is an ongoing series of interviews with Holberton students sharing their journey through the program. Holberton students come from many different backgrounds. These interviews are an inside look at each student’s unique journey into software engineering.


Rona: The Intermediate, This Could Be a Great Opportunity
Rona comes to Holberton School with a bit more insight into the tech industry than perhaps someone like Dora. Coding had been a hobby of Rona’s younger self, having played around with html and CSS.

Q: How did you find out about Holberton?

Rona: I actually heard of Holberton through word of mouth, from my sister. She knew they were just starting up and she had seen their TechCrunch article. She came back to me and suggested that I apply. There were a few reasons for that, but mainly because I was unemployed and I was still figuring out what my next steps were. When my sister and, in turn, myself, heard  that it was free, it was two years long, and that they had this big, almost radical vision about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to rethink education, specifically educating people for tech careers  it just seemed cool. It seemed hard to turn down.


Q: Tell me a bit about the application process.

Rona: It wasn’t that painful. It was a series of challenges to find information. There were two types: going out and finding the information to solve a problem and then sharing information about yourself. I think the biggest part was [building] the website. I remember thinking this is a promising area to go into, because I got really into the project. I took a course for intro to programming when I was in college and it went alright… I managed to learn whatever they were trying to teach me but I wasn’t sure if that meant I was good at coding or I just took a college class.


Q: What are the main differences between the previous course you took and Holberton?

Rona: The main difference is that the instructor would walk us through the whole approach from the beginning and you kind of watch and see ‘ohhh, that’s how you do it’ and barely keep up with their problem solving approach… then later when you get to the problem step, you apply that yourself… which is very different from the Holberton style. It worked but I’d have to say that watching someone solve it for you made me insecure around whether I’d be able to come up with the pieces to solve the problem on my own.


Q: How does Holberton have you approach a problem

Rona: At Holberton it’s a lot more of an intimate process where it’s you, and the problem, and your peers … I’ve really enjoyed having a lot of freedom in approaching every problem myself. Basically they say ‘this is what we want to see at the end’ and you have to work on the problem from there.


Q: When you were applying what was the mood amongst your family and friends?

Rona: We mostly discussed with my mom. We weren’t sure how she would take it since there were no previous students [Batch 0]. She wondered if I was going to be able to get a job. We had to convince her it was the right decision.


Q: How did you convince her?

Rona: We just talked about the people who were founding the school, and our brother was in the tech industry so I think we were also relying a bit on knowing that people went into tech that were just self taught and managed to have very good careers. She started off at ‘oh, I don’t know if this is right’ but now she’s happy we did it.

Q: What were you doing at Dropbox?

Rona: I was there under their apprenticeship for SRE so I was embedded in their databases team. I had one real big project in the beginning. It was cool because I got to walk through all of the steps- thinking through how to code, to deployment, then monitoring, and patching when necessary.


Q: Walking into Dropbox did you feel confident with your skillset?

Rona: I felt pretty confident. I would almost say I had some hubris because at Holberton we break things down all the time, making me feel like I’m going to do great but, walking into Dropbox I realized the depth of technical knowledge that can be had and how people have an expertise after being in the field for 5-10 years it kind of reset my thinking to realizing there is so much room to grow which is both intimidating and cool. I do think Holberton put me in a good place to tackle the challenges that came, though.