Holberton > Articles by: Sylvain Kalache

Holberton cleared of fraud allegations in California

Holberton is delighted to announce that the California Attorney General has struck down ‘fraud’ allegations against our San Francisco campus and resolved all other outstanding matters of dispute, including claims of misleading advertising. California was the only market in which Holberton faced any regulatory challenges.

With this now behind us, we are excited to move forward with our original mission of providing affordable and accessible education to prospective software engineers around the world.

For the past four years we have focused on educating thousands of students to Silicon Valley levels of software engineering proficiency no matter their background, education, credentials or income. More than a third of our students are the first in their family to access post-secondary education, 20% of them are women, and they come from all walks of life: high-school graduates, former cashiers, cooks and artists.

The company has refrained from speaking publicly about the California dispute pending this resolution in order to not prejudice the legal process. Now that the matter is behind us, we feel it necessary to clarify for our students and partners and other interested parties exactly what was alleged and what was decided.

The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) brought 15 complaints against Holberton School San Francisco in recent months. The most serious complaints were that the San Francisco campus had used misleading advertisement and ‘fraudulently’ obtained its license.

These were the result of a misunderstanding of communications from the BPPE. The bureau’s parent agency, the California Consumer Affairs Department, subsequently found the BPPE’s communications to Holberton were “vague,” as we will further discuss below. 

TIMELINE

In April 2016, Holberton applied for a license to operate in California. Holberton’s model included Income Share Agreements, or ISAs, which allow students to pursue an education with no upfront costs and pay only after they are earning at least $40,000 per year, or $3,333 in any one month. They pay no interest and if students don’t find employment paying $40,000 or more, they pay nothing.

In March 2018, as Holberton’s application process with the BPPE was still pending, the BPPE sent a detailed questionnaire to Holberton asking for more information about its use of ISAs. Holberton completed the questionnaire and received an email from BPPE saying that the company’s “response is acceptable.” 

In the same email, the BPPE asked that Holberton “provide a new enrollment agreement and catalog that does not reference income sharing agreements,” noting that BPPE “will not approve an application that contains ISA/DTA in the application.”

The BPPE did not say that such a financing mechanism is forbidden, nor is there state or federal legislation restricting the use of ISAs in California. Holberton understood the BPPE communication only to mean that the reference to ISAs should not be included in the school catalog or enrollment agreement and that, while it may be considered as a tuition financing tool, it should not be included in the licensing application.

Holberton immediately complied with the BPPE request and, in July 2018, the BPPE granted Holberton School San Francisco a license to operate in California.

On January, 25, 2020, however, Holberton received a letter from the BPPE claiming that Holberton School San Francisco had fraudulently obtained its license because it continued to offer ISAs after removing reference to ISAs from its licensing application. 

The letter contained notification of an emergency action regarding Holberton’s San Francisco campus that, if confirmed, would have required Holberton to cease operations and stop enrollment.

At a hearing on the matter on February 4, 2020, the BPPE’s parent agency, the California Department of Consumer Affairs, determined that the evidence against Holberton School San Francisco did not support the need for emergency action, and Hoberton was allowed to continue to operate in the state.

With regard to the charge of ‘fraud,’ Holberton explained that it had not understood the BPPE to have banned ISAs and that it had never received an explicit request for Holberton School San Francisco to stop using ISAs. Below is the text of the email at the heart of the misunderstanding. Note, the reference to the ‘institution’s response’ regards Holberton’s answers to the BPPE questionnaire about Holberton’s use of ISAs:

Good Morning! The institution’s response is acceptable. Please provide a new enrollment agreement and catalog that does not reference income sharing agreements and/or deferred tuition agreements. The Bureau will not approve an application that contains ISA/DTA in the application.

Any questions, please feel free to ask.

Sincerely,

A subsequent review of these communications by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and then by the California Attorney General’s office, clarified the misunderstanding and the fraud allegations were stricken by the Attorney General, along with thirteen other minor causes for discipline brought by the BPPE.

The two remaining BPPE complaints are now moot as we eventually obtained the license to operate and withdrew the Career Track program that was at issue. Nonetheless, for the sake of clarity and transparency, we detail them below.

  1. OPERATING WITHOUT A LICENSE

The BPPE charged that Holberton School San Francisco operated for two years without a license, pending BPPE’s approval of its licensing application. 

However, Holberton took numerous affirmative steps to obtain a license to accept paying students by:  (1) attending the BPPE’s August 12, 2015 Licensing Workshop; (2) requesting information regarding the application process and licensure requirements; (3) submitting our approval application six months in advance of our scheduled opening; (4) hiring a BPPE application & compliance specialist with more than 30 years experience to ensure the quality and accuracy of our application and compliance with California’s laws; (5) promptly and diligently addressing all of the BPPE’s questions during the application process. 

Holberton enrolled its first San Francisco cohort in January 2016 and submitted its application to the BPPE in April 2016. The school’s first cohort was offered education completely free, in which case a license to operate is not needed. When Holberton realized that it wouldn’t obtain its license in time to enroll its paying cohort in October 2016, it decided to proceed because the BPPE had a well-established and publicly announced policy to allow institutions that were making progress towards approval (i.e., that had submitted applications) to begin operations pending receipt of a license. 

For example, DCA spokesman Russ Heimerich’s January 2014 statement to the press indicated that the BPPE did not plan to pursue disciplinary action against any coding institution operating without a license as long as an application was in process. This is in recognition of the fact that schools need to make substantial investments before accepting paying students and that sitting idle while waiting for the licensing process to be completed would create an unsustainable financial burden for the schools.

The BPPE was aware of Holberton’s operation during the application process, as acknowledged in a communication to Holberton School San Francisco on April 12, 2016. The BPPE didn’t take disciplinary action at that time because Holberton was actively taking steps towards obtaining the license. The BPPE confirmed receipt of Holberton’s application on April 27, 2016. 

Holberton obtained its license in July 2018, more than two years after applying, and subsequently attended a Compliance Workshop held by the BPPE on October 11, 2018.

Nonetheless, the BPPE reversed course in January 2020, seeking to discipline the school for allegedly having operated prior to receiving its license.

  1. CAREER TRACK

The second remaining BPPE complaint against Holberton regards Holberton’s Career Track program, allowing students to complete the Holberton program through on-the-job learning. 

In late 2018, Holberton began offering “Career Track” as part of its curriculum in response to requests from students who wanted to launch their careers before graduating. Given the many students who come to Holberton from disadvantaged backgrounds, the company understood the desire by some students to earn money before the end of the 18-month program. In response, it created the Career Track to enable those students to earn their certificate rather than having to quit the program in order to work, lose the benefit of Holberton’s alumni network and forfeit free lifetime access to Holberton’s complete curriculum. 

Holberton provided notice of this curriculum change to the BPPE, which expressly acknowledged the change without comment in June 2019. 

In February 2020, however, the BPPE claimed that Holberton had not followed the correct process to modify its curriculum and add the Career Track program. The BPPE requested that Holberton stop offering the Career Track. After receiving the BPPE notice, Holberton immediately stopped offering Career Track to their California students and refunded associated fees.

We regret having had to stop the Career Track program in California, which had proven extremely successful.

CONCLUSION

We are sorry for the disruption this incident has caused our students and community. We are heartened by the Attorney General’s conclusion after reviewing the evidence we provided in response to the various complaints. We remain committed to complying with the laws and regulations of each market in which we operate. 

We learned valuable lessons in California and hope to continue discussions with the BPPE and other regulators in hopes of making private education more accessible to financially disadvantaged students everywhere.

We are happy to have resolved these issues in California. We continue to believe strongly that Holberton’s vocational education solution provides value to all students eager to participate in the global tech economy around the world. Holberton’s employment-focused education can help address the world’s critical shortage of software engineers while making the tech world more inclusive. We look forward to continuing our core mission of democratizing access to world-class engineering education.

Thank you for your support. Join us in closing the global technology talent gap while bringing more deserving people into the knowledge economy.

The Future of Holberton

Holberton’s mission is to provide high-quality education for the many. With Holberton School, we provide employment-focused education to help address the world’s critical shortage of software engineers while making the tech world more inclusive. 

We started Holberton School in 2016 with a campus in San Francisco. Our methodology, curriculum, and platform – developed in close cooperation with Silicon Valley experts – trained students who were in turn hired by some of the world’s best tech companies such as Apple, Tesla, and LinkedIn. Wanting to make our education more widely accessible, we began expanding in 2018 by opening additional campuses. Holberton School today has a network of campuses that spans five continents across the globe.

This expansion was made possible by working with amazing local partners who operate the campuses and deeply understand their markets’ unique needs. By leveraging our Silicon-Valley grade education, they have provided their local economies with highly-skilled software engineers while democratizing access to the tech industry for their local population. They are changing, for the better, many lives.

While Holberton Inc. started as a school, our focus is now to empower our partners to provide the best experience to their students by continuously improving our platform and curriculum. To better achieve this mission, Holberton Inc. is exiting the operation of Holberton School campuses as a business. Therefore we have decided not to reopen our San Francisco campus, which closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and CA regulations preventing us from enrolling remote students.

Holberton Inc. will remain in San Francisco; we will continue to build our curriculum and platform by working with industry experts based in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs. We will continue to act as a gateway between Silicon Valley and all the local tech ecosystems our partners are building. We believe this is the best formula for serving Holberton School’s international community.

While the decision to close the San Francisco campus was not an easy one, we are excited to focus our efforts on further developing the ‘operating system of education’ and supporting current and future partners in delivering high-quality education to students worldwide.

Montevideo Campus Inaugurated by Uruguay’s Minister of Labor and the Subsecretary of Education

Holberton School Uruguay, alongside Fundación Zonamerica, hosted a ceremony to celebrate the inauguration of its Montevideo campus in Jacksonville – which welcomed its first cohort in September.

Fundación Zonamerica’s mission is to develop and promote innovative training programs and cultural activities that allow people to learn new skills that will enable them to work for the most prestigious and internationalized companies in Uruguay.

Holberton School Uruguay campus

Uruguay Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Pablo Mieres, emphasized the role played by Zonamerica and the foundation about training Uruguayans.

“The initiative of creating a Holberton School in Uruguay is a reaffirmation of a fundamental value of the country, which is having people always create innovative ideas. The experience of this establishment in Uruguay is a symbol that shows the way forward in the right direction to follow between training and employment for a wealthy, state-of-the-art country that looks toward the future.”

Uruguay lacks tech talent; while the country graduates 800 software engineers per year, companies need 2,500 of them. Therefore companies have to train internally or hire abroad. The tech sector is adding $1.7B to the economy every year.

“We do not have a digital gap in the sense of infrastructure, since we can count on fiber optics, a submarine cable, a data center, the Ceibal program, which are the base to continue building starting from them. That is why I welcome and congratulate this project because I consider that these types of initiatives, from the public and private sector, have to continue blooming”. Said Carolina Cosse, elected Governor of Montevideo.

The ceremony and campus were video-recorded via drone

The ceremony – that followed all sanitary precautions – was attended by The first lady of Uruguay, Lorena Ponce de León; Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Pablo Mieres; Fundación Zonamerica President and Vice-President, Alberto Fossati and Orlando Dovat; Executive director of Holberton School in Montevideo, Inés Jakubovski; Elected Mayor of Montevideo, Carolina Cosse; the Subsecretary of Education Ana Ribeiro and the President of the Uruguayan Chamber of information technology (CUTI), Leonardo Loureiro as well as other governmental authorities, foundation leadership, business chambers, companies, and Holberton School students.

Holberton School arrives in Peru!

Welcome Holberton School Peru! While Peru is known for its Machu Picchu’s stunning views – it is also one of Latin America’s fastest-growing startup scenes. In 2018, Peru attracted more impact-investment capital than Mexico, a long-time leader in the region. In 2019 a new record was set for the amount of capital invested into local startups, with a 24% increase compared to 2018. Before the pandemic, Peru already had a deficit of 17,000 software engineers, a number estimated to grow dramatically due to COVID-19 acceleration on digital transformation. 

This acceleration will affect all industries as stated by Juan Carlos Tassara, Edifica Executive Director:

“The real estate, as well as other traditional industries, increasingly need to introduce new technologies to differentiate themselves. Holberton’s proposal prepares the talent that Peru needs in a fast and innovative way, talent that will drive the country’s digital transformation.” 

Holberton School comes to Peru in alliance with social entrepreneurs Valery Vargas and Gabriel Bedoya. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus will first open as a remote program providing its education entirely online; facilities will open in Lima as soon as possible.

To help make Holberton’s education financially accessible, multiple ways to finance tuition will be available: upfront payment, monthly payments, loans, or Income Share Agreements. Also, scholarships will be offered. 

“For the first cohort, and because we know how this pandemic has impacted thousands of students that had to stop their careers, we will offer 15 full-tuition scholarships,” says Holberton School Peru Co-founder Valery Vargas.

The school will begin welcoming its first cohort of students in January 2021. Check out the Holberton School Peru campus page to learn more!

How a Foundation turned Tulsa into a startup city

Experimenting, catalyzing, and risk-taking for big goals are essentials for every Silicon Valley entrepreneur; they are also for Ken Levit, Executive Director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) – a philanthropic organization based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The city, long known for being the Oil Capital of the World, is in the process of re-inventing itself to renew the shininess of the early 20th century.

George Kaiser is a Tulsa-native who led the energy family business to be highly successful. But as the city’s pivotal role in the energy industry eroded, dragging its economy along, he created a foundation to give back and help his community with the mission of focusing on early childhood education as a way of interrupting the cycle of poverty and, more broadly, to give equal opportunity to all.

GKFF achieves that mission by focusing on three main pillars: talent, economic opportunities, and city life quality. Levit chose to drive the foundation with a startup mindset “philanthropy can be good at trying new things, having a high-risk tolerance for failing, and if it’s a flop, we can try something else!”.

By partnering with Foundry College, Tulsa expects to provide talent that the U.S. economy needs. Their program management curriculum prepares students to accept one of the 22 million jobs that should be created by 2027. At the same time, the college Salesforce Administrator program targets the 400k jobs expected by 2022. Michael Basch, the managing partner at Atento Capital, estimates that students graduating from the Salesforce program will be able to find remote jobs paying up to $65,000 a year. Atento Capital and GKFF partnered to offer both programs for free – each valued at $6,000 – to local students. 

The foundation also partnered with us, Holberton School, a software engineering program training Silicon Valley grade developers. With campuses on five continents, our graduates are getting hired by the world’s top companies like Apple, Tesla, Rappi, and LinkedIn. Students don’t pay their tuition until they find a job. For the Tulsa campus, GKFF is sponsoring a $1,500/month need-based living assistance for students. The unemployment rate in computer-related occupations dropped from 3 percent in January to 2.5 percent in May. The pre-pandemic U.S. economy had 918,000 unfilled IT jobs and included the suspension of H-1B visas. Individuals using these visas had been used to fill many openings in computer-related professions. With these changes, the market for software talent is expected to be hot.

Levit explains that while “the world of economic development is focusing on recruiting companies, by throwing money and tax incentives at them,” they wanted to take a different approach that is about people. On top of upskilling the locals, GKFF is investing in attracting outside talent. The Tulsa Remote program offers to anyone who wants to move and work from Tulsa a $10,000 stipend, a desk in a co-working space, and help to find a home. The results are just astonishing: they received over 20,000 applications with thousands of additional candidates currently in the pipeline. Since the program started in 2018, 250 people have moved to Tulsa with a 95% retention rate, leading to the purchase of 40+ homes. The program attracts high-quality talent and provides an average salary of over $100k. These statistics are not surprising, considering these remote workers are working for top companies like Cisco, ADP, Deloitte, IBM, and Microsoft.

The city itself is starting to attract the interest of leading businesses. Tulsa was among the top two choices for Tesla’s next facility, competing with Austin. A talent pipeline development leader working for Google told Basch that the company would consider opening offices in the city once they could provide 500 software engineers, a goal that he hopes to achieve soon with the help of Tulsa University and Holberton School.

But that’s not it. Levit also wants its fellow neighbors to enjoy life in Tulsa and is looking to have a “culture, stimulation, a rich and vibrant life.” Among many projects, The Gathering Place park, which Basch describes as “Disneyland meets Central Park,” is the most distinctive. A 100-acre green space developed with a half-billion-dollar investment, featuring entertainment for kids and adults.

The pair recognize that there is still a lot to be done and that the city’s economy – still mainly driven by oil, gas, and aerospace – faces significant challenges made worse by the pandemic. But they also believe that it is a turning point for the local economy. COVID-19 has drastically increased the number of companies willing to let their employees work remotely. They are now also considering hiring remotely, where talent can be cheaper than in the megalopolis. Basch thinks that NYC, with Michael Bloomberg, was “the MVP city for 2001 to 2010,” followed by Texas for 2011 to 2020. He believes that Tulsa is strategically placed for the decade to come.

Learn more by listening to Holberton Co-founder Sylvain Kalache interviewing GKFF’s Ken Levit and Michael Basch.

Holberton School is coming to Ecuador!

Holberton School is opening in Ecuador in alliance with BuenTrip Hub, the local incubator for technology startups. Ecuador’s tech scene has been drastically growing in the last few years. The country, which had 70 tech startups in 2018, is now counting 250 of them according to BuenTrip’s Radar Tech Startup study. All are looking for highly-qualified software engineers. The International Labor Organization (ILO) recently reported that e-commerce, software development, and IoT were the top industries for Ecuador’s job creation.

Carmen de la Cerda, director of BuenTrip Hub, says, “Holberton will provide Ecuador students with world-class training. Access to this knowledge and skillset is indispensable because it will empower our local talent, opening doors for them to become technologists and innovators.”

Holberton School Ecuador’s first online cohort will begin in January 2021, synchronizing with the school’s network of campuses located in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. To help make Holberton’s Silicon Valley-grade education financially accessible, tuition can be paid either upfront or in monthly payments. Applications are open to individuals over the age of 18, coming from any educational background. To learn more about Holberton School Ecuador, visit the Ecuador campus page!

The Holberton School Hauts-de-France campus is opening!

We are thrilled to announce the opening of the Holberton School Hauts-de-France (HDF) campus! Following Holberton School France online opening last August, this new campus, founded by Benjamin Dhellemmes, entrepreneur linked with the local Tech ecosystem, and Benoit Denot, former COO/CFO in healthcare and digital companies, is strategically located at Europe’s crossroads. The HDF region and Lille metropolis host more than 70 retailer headquarters like Decathlon, Kiabi, and Auchan. But also 17 startups incubators as well as 160 e-companies like OVHcloud, aDvens, and Showroom-prive.

“Hauts-de-France is home to the most successful retailers in Europe, and a flourishing startup ecosystem,” Says Holberton School HDF Co-founder Benoit Denot “Holberton School Hauts-de-France will train a diverse and Silicon Valley grade workforce that the local companies need.“

The campus is partnering with local investors, hiring companies, and tech communities, among which are: EuraTechnologies (one of Europe largest startup incubator), Jezby Ventures (OVHcloud Founder Octave Klaba’s fund), ÏDKIDS Group (a major French retailer), Vade Secure (global leader in predictive email defense), the French Tech community and many more.

Holberton School Hauts-de-France

“Tech ecosystems are growing all over France, we were impressed by Hauts-de-France region’s one,” Says Holberton Co-founder & President Sylvain Kalache “it is in this type of dynamic and vibrant communities that Holberton School shines.”

Holberton brings Silicon Valley grade education to an already robust education ecosystem. The Hauts-de-France region is where most French engineers are trained, with over 30 Grandes Ecoles and six universities. Due to COVID-19, the school will provide its education entirely online from January 2021. A physical campus will open as soon as the pandemic allows. Start your application today.

Welcoming Grammy award-winning producer Alcover to our Board of Trustees

We are honored to welcome Alcover to the Holberton Board of Trustees! Milton J. Restituyo, better known as Alcover, will contribute toward Holberton’s mission to increase access to tech education with a focus on the Hispanic community. 

The Latin Grammy award-winning producer is also a singer and influencer in Hispanic pop culture. Born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, Alcover’s interest in music was sparked at an early age thanks to his father, a singer and multi-instrumentalist. After making the decision to move to New York, he took the first steps in commencing his musical career, enlisting his high school classmate Juan Abreu “Xtassy” as his creative partner. Together the two formed the award-winning production duo A&X, positioning themselves among the best producers in New York City’s urban scene.

Grammy award-winning producer Alcover

“Pop culture allows us to see what is needed now and what is important in our communities. It has enabled me to use my voice in an uplifting and encouraging way.  Music, art and technology that is created and distributed by ethnic and socioeconomic diversity helps create unity and accessibility,” said Alcover. “Holberton provides to any students, including the ones from disenfranchised communities, access to education in tech, and gives them a way out. I want more people to leverage the Holberton opportunity. Tech companies are seeking diverse, and motivated software engineers to drive them towards the future,“ he added. 

Join us in welcoming Alcover to the Holberton community!

Phil Holberton fireside chat about Betty Holberton, leadership & diversity

Holberton School was named after Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Snyder Holberton who was one of the six programmers of the ENIAC, which was the first programmable, general-purpose electronic digital computer. Betty Holberton helped create what would later become modern-day software engineering.

We recently had the honor to welcome Phil Holberton, who is Betty’s nephew, for a fireside chat with our students. Former CPA, Phil Holberton delivers executive-level excellence via his consulting firm, the Holberton Group, and publishes a periodic online bulletin, Speaking of Leadership.

Below is a highlight & edited version of some of the Q&As that happened during the fireside chat. The discussion covered Betty Holberton, leadership, and diversity.

Would you mind telling us about Betty Holberton and what made her such a great problem solver? 

Betty Holberton had a very strong analytical brain. Believe it or not, when she went to school at the University of Pennsylvania she wanted to join the math department. A profession in the math department said “uh uh” you’ve got to go to Home Economics, Political Science, Journalism or some other department. That began her career in saying, “I am not going to take no for an answer”. She was a very intelligent woman and she had a very strong voice in what she believed in and she just went about it and her problem-solving skills, which I am sure we will get to a little bit further down the line of conversation here, she got to use them quite a bit.   

Is it true that in the beginning due to ENIAC projects being classified, Betty and other computers could only work from diagrams and blueprints? 

True. As I understand the story, six of the best and the brightest we call to program computers for artillery during World War II. Computers were as big as most rooms are these days. They handed the plans to Betty and her five cohorts and they say, “All we do is have the wiring diagrams and you have to go and figure and help us program this”. And those women, as smart as they were, they figured it out. We are grateful for her past because that was the first computer basically in the United States, the Antioch. 

Is it true that Betty solved more problems while sleeping?

All the people in psychology and social sciences would say [that] more stuff is done at the subconscious level than any conscious level. Whatever she did at the conscious level was worked over 2 or 3 times in the unconscious level. I don’t know it for fact, but I’m following what goes on in science, but probably presumably so.

When is it necessary to sacrifice individual needs to fulfill team goals and how do you reconcile these differences afterward?

The most important attribute of any company or any organization is to have a vision and a mission statement and you have some culture to help you get there. The interest of the company proceeds the interest of any individual and any team. I am often reminded of the event [with] Johnson & Johnson [about] twenty years ago when they tampered with Tylenol and put poison in it. I can’t remember how many people were killed but it was devastating to America. The CEO at that point in time says, “I don’t care how much it costs. We are taking all of the product off of the shelf and we are all going to start over on Tylenol”. Tylenol was the biggest brand in the world but no one person trumped the ideal mission. “Our customers come first and we protect our patients and out users of our product”. I read somewhere that it may have cost them 250 million or a half a billion dollars to do that and where they probably could have done something different, but that showed integrity. You have to live, I don’t want to say a higher power but you have to have a higher North Star which is usually organizationally driven. 

How should leaders best motivate their employees and try to build a sense of community? 

The most important thing about leadership is to think of it in two dimensions: Transactional Leadership and Transformational Leadership. Transactional Leadership is when you have control of their paycheck, bonus, and time off, so someone is working for the transaction. The best type of leadership is transformational when they work for you because they want to work for you and they aspire because you are a really good human being. Granted, it is hard for a lot of leaders to behave that way because they were brought up to be A-Types and command and control. When I work with CEOs today, we spend a lot about putting water and sunshine on their executive team and the people inside their organization because If they grow they will be able to grow themselves. I turn it around. If you ever heard the concept of Servant Leadership- it’s like flipping the leadership chart around where the leader is always serving the organization- that’s their higher power. If you can inspire an organization to reach for that North Star and achieve things that otherwise don’t appear attainable, you’ve done a really good job. During this COVID period some of our CEOs rose to the occasion more than I would ever imagine. They are less about command and control and they are more about how they can inspire their entire team to come with me and help us get through this COVID period.

How can one become smarter, more adaptable, and emotionally intelligent?

There are diagnostic tests that help you get a baseline on your emotional intelligence. I advocate a test called Mindsets by a professor in California, Ryan Gottfredson. It is free and it will help you understand whether you have a defensive posture or an offensive posture in the four different dimensions. 

When I was teaching at Brandeis my students would ask if leaders were born or were they made. What do you think my answer was? I would say “Yes”. Some had more natural talent than others but like anything, in life, you have got to keep practicing. Some people may have zero knowledge of what the word emotional intelligence means and they may have absolutely incredible natural talent and don’t have to worry about it as much as people that it’s more awkward for. From my perspective, if you want to navigate and get the best out of life, learning this skill is really important for you to learn over time. It will help you in your marriage, in your community, and in your business. I would say to learn that early and often. Practice it.

Why has there been more focus on emotional intelligence separately from IQ recently?

Most hiring practices in North America look at two things: your prodigy and where you grew and they try to assess intellectually your intelligence, particularly if they are trying to hire someone on the inbound side to help them grow within the company. 

IQ has always been an important barometer for any hiring organization. I would say companies are now getting more sophisticated in understanding people’s emotional intelligence because they are beginning to recognize that this is a more important attribute as people move up the ladder. I’ve seen statistics that say 75% of the people that work in the company say that they like the company but they don’t like their boss. That says something about your boss in terms of emotional intelligence and if your boss is oppressive, it is going to make it very hard to work for. That being said, emotional intelligence together, we as a society can get much further.

How can those of us in STEM help support diversity? 

One thing I am inspired by at the Holberton is it’s a diverse organization and prides itself on admitting students of diverse backgrounds, nationality, color, and ethnicity. The Holberton school within itself is the living practice of what needs to go on in this world. One of my CEOs says “It’s our behaviors that count. It’s not our talk”. Holberton invites people of different nationalities to come in different stages of their career-which is a wonderful attribute. I would opine that the more you get to know people that are not of the same ethnicity as yourself build those friendships and those strengths. Make sure to include time in your schedule every day to build those relationships. When you go work for and they have a couple of hundred programmers, get to know the people first. That’s more important than all the technical skills. Having those relationships is really important. I encourage every man, woman, Black, Asian, American, Indian, regardless of nationality, get to know the people first; get to know your peers and your bosses. We are all human beings. Even though they might be a boss…

When a leader makes a mistake, how do they apologize and make things better for everyone?

First of all, an “I’m sorry” goes a long way. I am learning a lot about communications in my job now working with CEOs. There is a difference between communication that comes from the head and communication that comes from the heart. If you say I’m sorry from the head, forget it, nobody will see it and nobody will believe it. If you come and you talk from the heart, and a lot of CEOs find that hard because they are on defense and want to have a strong view of themselves and not vulnerable. I encourage you to follow Brene’ Brown and her work on vulnerability. She is one of the sought after forefront of thinkers in terms of emotional intelligence, vulnerability, and how to behave as a leader. You have to say it from your heart. If you are not programmed that way, to speak from the heart, one activity you can try is to turn up your music and microphone and speak or write like you are journaling and journal from the heart and usually, you will have something that will start to work there. I have had several CEOs in the last week give me communications they want to share with staff, they were all fine but they did not come from the heart. You will be far more effective if it comes from the heart. Everyone needs to develop these skills.

We are very grateful for Phil for sharing his time, wisdom, and knowledge with our community and for his support of the Holberton School since its inception. The full chat recording is available below.

Holberton School is coming to France!

We are thrilled to announce that Holberton School is opening in France! The opening has been fast-tracked as Julien and I (Holberton founders), both French, wanted to help our country. Unemployment rates in France rose to 22 percent due to COVID-19, and one of the biggest software engineering schools, SUPINFO, is in liquidation.

Director of operations Julien Cyr and I are both alumni of SUPINFO, one of the largest software engineering schools in France. Due to SUPINFO’s liquidation, a thousand students who already paid for their education – some of whom already paid for several years of school in advance of completing it – may suddenly find themselves out of school and unable to recoup their costs, beginning in September. To support our community, Holberton School France will cover the cost of the first year of our program for any SUPINFO students who wish to enroll, making the first year completely tuition-free.

In addition to helping SUPINFO students, we also wanted to help people impacted by the economic consequences of the pandemic and resulting unemployment rate. As such, Holberton School France will cover the first-year tuition–valued at €6,120–for the first 165 admitted students, the equivalent of €1,000,000 of scholarship value.

Holberton School France’s first student cohort will begin online on September 7th in synchronization with Holberton’s 12 other campuses spanning 6 additional countries.