Holberton > Articles by: Sylvain Kalache

Celebrating Pride

June is Pride Month for Holberton. For many, it’s a synonym with amazing parades, love, and colors, but also a reminder of the progress and challenges we still have to solve. Pride is about celebrating equality, and we can thank the LBGTQ+ community for being a force behind it. This same community has faced so many challenges, and are still facing so many. Pride month is when we come together, and we celebrate that we are at the end, one big community.

This year is also special as it is the 50th anniversary of the first-ever pride parade and the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots where black transgender women continuously harassed by the police fought back for their rights.

For the opportunity, Holberton Colombia students decided to build an application, BeSafe, that allows reporting cases of violence against the LGBTQ+ community, informing and receiving legal advice and counseling. The idea came up as one of their classmates who is gender transitioning shared how hard their experience was.

The goal of the team was to create an application that could collect data in real-time and that had a friendly and intuitive user interface since in many cases reporting a case of violence is a very difficult experience. You can learn more about their projects here, and access the code on Github.

Our Checker to the color of pride

The Holberton Product team customized our Checker to the color of Pride. As a school, one of our main missions is to educate. The Checker, is the tool students use to review their Holberton-related code – sort of unit test-like but also checking proper code documentation, code styling, code efficiency – is displaying one of the 12 LGBTQ+ flags at every run. For every flag, we provide a description of the flag’s meaning and its history.

Finally, because sometimes, you don’t know, what you just don’t know, the Holberton staff and Professional Advisors have put together a list of resources to learn more about Pride and the LGBTQ+ community. The list contains books, podcasts, movies, and people to follow so that you can learn with the media that works best for you! It’s on Github, so feel free to make pull requests to make the list even better!

With love ❤️

Holberton students use their tech skills to solve COVID19-challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us on so many levels – professional and personal, physical and emotional. It’s often the most trying circumstances that ignite the greatest discoveries. Like many in the tech sector, a number of Holberton students and alumni have been inspired to develop technology to help pave a path forward. We’re excited to highlight five of these projects that embody Holberton’s innovative spirit while reflecting the needs of this moment in history:

Knowing that many people are struggling to maintain a healthy routine while sheltering in place, Holberton Tunisia 🇹🇳students Yasmine Hamdi and Ahmed Omar Miladi built Yawmi. The app schedules activities based on the user’s calendar and preferences. By partnering with 3rd party platforms, Yawmi suggests online courses, fitness sessions, cooking classes, gaming, movie watching, and more. The day planner aims to develop the users’ skills and knowledge in a flexible way, mitigate mental health issues, and create a healthy lifestyle. The duo started building the app during the OMAC (One Million Arab Coders) COVID-19 hackathon. They made it to the semi-finale out of 1,260 teams – congratulations!

Darcie is a virtual assistant that helps people find the nearest social services in their neighborhood or city. Co-creators from Holberton San Francisco 🇺🇸 Akeem Seymens, and Max Stuart built this tool that works with phone and text using IBM Watson, Google Cloud, and Algolia (who provided a free Pro version of their powerful Search indexing service to support their effort). Their goal is to address COVID-19-related humanitarian issues, beginning with the mounting issue of food insecurity. While many Americans were already food insecure before the pandemic, the number has increased dramatically in recent weeks. Resources that were already strained are even more so now, and food banks are stretched beyond capacity. Partnering with feedingamerica.org, nokidhungry.org, hungerfreeamerica.org, and America’s Food Fund, the team has been collaborating to establish data gathering standards and systems to help food distributors get additional support and get resources to more people in need.

Holberton Colombia 🇨🇴students Camilo Morales, Jose Luis Diaz, Oscar Riaño Tapias, Daniel Chinome, and Giovanny Perez built EnTuBarrio. Small businesses we are suffering as shelter in place guidelines required people to stay in and prevented people from shopping. This clever team found a way to help both parties – the store and the shoppers. EnTuBarrio connects customers to their local stores so that they can buy the groceries they need. The delivery is handled by locals riding bikes or walking, making it cost-effective, fast, and environmentally friendly. All the communication currently happens over WhatsApp, but the team is working to port the app to Facebook Messenger chatbot as well.

As the COVID19 situation was unfolding, Holberton New Haven 🇺🇸students Jose Alvarez de Lugo, Stephen Ranciato and Gareth Brickman noticed that there wasn’t a place to get COVID-related data for Connecticut in a consistent and clear way. They thought we could help their state by building something quickly, so they began writing code right away and were able to deploy a website that very same day. That’s how CTCovid19.com came to be!

Spaced is a mobile app that tells users when and how to go places for necessary errands while optimizing for social distancing. It’s like Waze but for walking. Built by Holberton alumni Bobby Yang, he came up with the idea while he was attempting to walk his dog and go to the grocery store. He found there were way too many people in the park next to his house, and there was a long line at the Safeway half a mile from his house. The app leverages different open source projects like MIT’s COVID-19 Tracker and Open Routing Service, along with Foursquare’s Places API. Spaced is able to recommend specific times to go to popular locations, as well as routes to reach locations while minimizing the number of people with whom users come into contact. The data is completely anonymous, and Spaced’s code is open source and can be found here. It will soon be available for download on iPhone and Android.

Stay safe!

Holberton Students Awarded CloudNOW Scholarship

CloudNOW, the executive consortium for the leading women in cloud and converging technologies, provided scholarships to help Holberton students with their cost of living while attending the school. The scholarships are sponsored by Facebook, Google, and Intel.

Holberton San Francisco students, staff and Facebook Director Production Engineering Syamla Bandla

“As a former CloudNOW recipient, I was able to attend Holberton full time without the added stress of trying to cover my basic needs,” said Kristen Loyd, former Holberton student. “I was able to fully commit myself to becoming the best software engineer I could be and the payoff was worth it! I am now working as a software engineer and I definitely don’t think this would have been possible without the help of the CloudNOW scholarship. Congrats to this year’s recipients!”

CloudNOW’s focus is to provide STEM scholarship funds to top talent, targeting women, minorities, and underrepresented individuals, 18 years and older, who are looking for accelerated STEM training allowing for immediate tech career opportunities. CloudNOW also provides support across the career lifecycle with networking, events, speaking opportunities, mentoring, and friendship. CloudNow has been partnering with Holberton for years and past recipients are working for Change.org, Pinterest, Twitch, IBM and more.

Holberton New Haven students, staff celebrating the CloudNow scholarship

“From supporting themselves and their families to the cost of commuting or relocating closer to campus, many of our students face financial challenges related to the cost of living. Often times, this leads to students having to maintain some form of employment while enrolled, which can be an additional stressor and distraction from their studies,” said Nadine Krause, Director of Holberton School New Haven. “We are truly grateful that CloudNOW has recognized our students and their potential, providing them with the same opportunity to succeed as other scholarship recipients. Congratulations to all of our well-deserving students!”

Congratulations to the 12 students who were awarded this prestigious scholarship and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for each and every one of you!

Welcome Holberton Uruguay!

Today we’re excited to announce that we are opening a campus in Montevideo, Uruguay! This new school will be located on Uruguay Zonamerica campus, a community of  350 companies, counting 10,000 professionals which are producing 1.8% of Uruguay’s GDP. The campus features 300,000 sqm of parks & green areas and is designed for an enjoyable work experience that improves the performance of people and businesses. 

Montevideo is the capital and largest city in Uruguay. It has been declared the city with the best quality of life in Latin America. Montevideo is one of the leading cities in the region, with a vision of using technology to improve its citizen’s quality of life.

“In Uruguay we need more than 2,000 qualified software developers to help us meet the demand of the industry,” said Martín Dovat, general manager of Zonamerica and member of the board of the Zonamerica Foundation. “Holberton’s innovative, Silicon Valley-grade education has already proven to be highly successful in Zonamerica Cali, Colombia. Partnering with Holberton is helping us supply the talent to meet the demand for highly trained engineers.”

Holberton Montevideo campus

The school will begin welcoming students in September and depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, Holberton School Uruguay may temporarily open as a remote program providing its education fully online. We are so excited to help with the continuing growth of Uruguay’s tech market and are looking forward to welcoming students this spring. The new Uruguay campus, led by Ines Jakubovski, is planning on opening its doors to its first cohort of students in September. Applications are open, learn more about the campus here!

Holberton Students Win Globant Escape Game Challenge

With a meteorite close to reaching planet Earth, Jimmer Hernandez and Johan David Muñoz of the Bogotá campus had to solve four online challenges in order to save the world!

These two students were the first out of 1,000 teams around the world to “abandon the Room” in the The Great Mission, Globant Escape Game Challenge! Because they were named the winners, Jimmer and Johan will be sent to Globant’s Converge 2020 in New York City, where they will network with some of the world top tech employers and influencers!

“The Great Mission’ is this year’s version of Globant’s Escape Game initiative, designed to engage the brightest minds in a fun, challenging and creative scenario to test and refine their mathematical and problem-solving skills,” said Andrés Giolito, Country Manager of Globant Colombia. “The first team that abandoned the Room was team ELECTROS, from Holberton School Bogotá. They were selected among 1,000 couples that participated in this initiative.”

And this isn’t the first time that Holberton students have fought to combat meteorites! In 2016, Sravanthi Sinha was accepted into one of the most prestigious engineering internships in the world, NASA’s Frontier Development Lab with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. The interns gathered from around the world from top universities such as U.C. Berkeley and Cambridge, teamed up to help NASA plan for a potential cosmic Armageddon, an asteroid strike on earth.

We are so excited for these two brilliant students for the work they put into this challenge. This win is further proof that the Holberton curriculum is paying off and that our students are able to think critically. They are able to think outside the box because they have been taught to learn.

Jimmer Hernandez and Johan David Muñoz

“We were students of electronic engineering in our seventh semester at the national university of Colombia when we decided to join Holberton,” said Hernandez and Muñoz. “We found Holberton an excellent complement to our career because it allowed us to practice our engineering skills on a daily basis with high-level challenges and allowed us to learn soft skills interacting with professionals from all areas of knowledge. These helped us keep our minds sharp and fit for the challenges that we have been presented with throughout 2020, especially the Globant challenge, which we managed to win and now we can begin to know the world. Thanks to the prize.”

Congratulations to you two! We expect to see many more great things from both of you and can’t wait to see where the future leads you.

Education Shouldn’t Miss a Beat, Holberton Goes Online

The novel coronavirus pandemic has turned our world upside down. Wanting our students to keep their momentum and continue their journey to become software engineers, yet not wanting to risk their health, we adapted the Holberton curriculum to be done remotely for all our campuses around the world: Colombia, US, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

We were in a unique position to do this quickly because the Holberton education methodology is based on two main pillars: our software and a global community. 

Our software provides students the projects and guidance they need to get started, it also provides students instant feedback of their work; using a proprietary system that provides a highly detailed analysis and correction of their work. As of today, it is analyzing more than 10M lines of code per week. And all of this is delivered online.

Our community has multiple layers – students, alumni, staff, and professional advisors – which are in cohorts, schools, cities, and countries around the world. While a large part of the interactions typically happens in person, the students are also connected globally via internal chat via Slack.

But a central part of the Holberton mission is to get students trained on soft-skills like public speaking, teamwork, and interview practice. As much as we like in-person interaction, the current situation led us to put in place video meetings and increase the frequency of webinars and live-coding sessions accessible on our intranet to accommodate those needs. In the grand scheme of things, this also has the advantage of training students for the future of work, which will increasingly move online – our world is becoming distributed, and borderless.

Live streaming coding for students available internationally

We are in this together. While we can’t be together in person because of COVID-19, we are together virtually. Nothing can come in the way of our education and our community.

While the transition from offline to online was smooth on our side, we understand that a lot of fellow post-secondary organizations might be struggling to do it. We are happy to share our learnings and assist in any way we can, contact us here. Stay safe!

Welcome Holberton Puerto Rico!

Holberton School is coming to San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Even though the island was recently rocked by Hurricane Maria and a devastating magnitude 4.3 earthquake. Puerto Rico is growing a vibrant tech startup ecosystem and a community of entrepreneurs. Leading to a high demand for highly skilled software engineers that the local pool of talent cannot meet. According to a recent study by Endeavor Puerto Rico, founders of local tech firms reported that access to talent is their biggest obstacle. Co-founders Cyril Meduña and Adam Beguelin are bringing Holberton Puerto Rico as they have been witnessing the high demand.

“Human talent is everything. If we cannot retain talent or produce software programmers at the same pace as the industry grows, we cannot put Puerto Rico in a competitive position in the field of innovation and technology, ”said Meduña. “That is why after collaborating with the arrival of Parallel18 in Puerto Rico, a technology business accelerator, we were in need of creating a venture capital fund, and now an educational institution that produces the human talent that you are companies need to hire to be able to grow and compete worldwide.”

Holberton Puerto Rico campus Director Verónica Colón-Rosario, Holberton Co-founder & President Sylvain Kalache, Holberton Trustee Ne-Yo

Holberton School San Francisco, operating since 2016, has trained hundreds of students including Puerto Rican. “Learning coding made a significant impact on my life, it took me from a small town in Illinois to the heart of Silicon Valley and now Puerto Rico,” said Beguelin, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has launched four technology startups. “My goal for opening Holberton Puerto Rico is to make that option viable for everyone, regardless of their financial situation.”

The new Puerto Rico campus, led by Verónica Colón-Rosario, is planning on opening its doors to its first cohort of students in June. Applications are open, apply now!

Welcoming Florian Bucher as Holberton COO

Yesterday, we announced the addition of two new campus managers (in Tulsa, OK, and Barranquilla, Colombia) as well as a new Chief Operating Officer (COO), Florian Bucher.

Florian Bucher at our San Francisco campus

COO is actually a brand new position for Holberton. As we continue to execute on our mission of providing high-quality education to the many and serving an ever-growing community – that became international since last year – it was time to find someone to help us manage all this activity. For instance, did you know our students pushed nearly 7 million lines of code to Github, and are landing amazing jobs at companies like Airbnb, Rappi, and Pinterest…… And may also be some of the most cheerful software engineers you could bring into your company?

Florian Bucher is not new to coding – or to education, or even progressive education for that matter! He co-founded the French coding school Ecole 42, a network of non-profit international schools teaching software engineering using peer-based education. Bucher also comes with strong technical expertise including serving as CTO of IONIS, one of Europe’s largest networks of post-secondary schools which includes the prestigious EPITA and EPITECH school. He also previously worked as a Telecom engineer and an IT manager at EDIS, Thomson Telecom, Cirpack, and Wengo.

Florian loves helping people, he volunteered at the Red Cross by night to encourage homeless people to sleep in available dormitories. As he witnessed injuries among the homeless, and had to learn how to provide basic care, he eventually wanted to find even more ways to help his community – he has now served as a volunteer firefighter for over 10 years!

In his own words:

“I have seen how few qualified software engineers there are worldwide relative to demand. For years, I’ve devoted my life to the advancement of project-based education, which I believe has the potential to address this very real workforce challenge. I am excited to bring my years of experience in this field to Holberton School, where we’re training the next generation of highly qualified, diverse, and compassionate software engineers.”

Join me in welcoming Florian Bucher as Holberton School’s new COO!

Update on California BPPE Notice

On February 4, 2020, we at Holberton received a modified decision from the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), the parent organization of the California BPPE. The department determined that the application of the BPPE’s original emergency action over our San Francisco campus was not necessary and stated that we may continue to enroll students. The one exception is the Career Track program module for which the DCA is mandating that we cease operations. As Holberton has maintained throughout, we have worked with the California BPPE to obtain our license in good faith.

We developed Career Track in response to requests from our students who wanted to launch their careers and start earning money before graduating. Given how many students come to Holberton from disadvantaged backgrounds, we understood their desire to earn money before the end of our 18-month program. We had created this “Career Track” optional module to enable them, if desired, to graduate while learning on the job. While the Career Track module was submitted to the BPPE, the Bureau feels that the module has not been fully vetted through all necessary BPPE processes. Despite what we believe have been positive student outcomes from the Career Track module, we are now withdrawing Career Track from our program for the time being. We will be in touch with students currently enrolled or previously enrolled in Career Track to discuss next steps as we set out to serve their needs without this module.

We have always strived to create an education that serves our students, partners and community well. Just as we are committed to continuing to coordinate with the BPPE to ensure that we are complying with applicable California laws and regulations, we also remain fully committed to our mission to provide a world-class engineering education regardless of background or ability to pay.

We believe that transparency and trust are critical. We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more.

By the Numbers, 7 Million Lines of Code in 2019

As we enter 2020, a year away from starting a new decade (unfortunately historians don’t count starting at 0 as software engineers do 😎) we wanted to take some time to see what our students’ community achieved in 2019.

At Holberton, we believe that one can become a great software engineer by writing code (after all, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice). Our students learn by doing – writing code, collaborating with others – just like in any company writing software. And the data shows that it works! With students on 3 continents, and nearly 7 million lines of code pushed, the numbers look quite impressive:

Lots of projects were started – with 1,788 “First commit” and 1,652 “Initial commit” git commit messages – many bugs were fixed – with 1,042 “Fix” messages and 954 “commit” messages – and our students always made sure to document their work – with 930 “Update README.md”. We can clearly see this journey of a thousand miles in the commit messages!

When Holberton students enter the workforce, they are ready on day one to contribute and ship features! They have been hired by top-tier employers: in San Francisco, companies such as Apple, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google. In New Haven, companies like Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, and in Bogotá, they have started at Torre, Platzi, and Rappi.

We began 2019 with a single campus in San Francisco and opened a campus in New Haven, Connecticut in January 2019. Then in quick succession, we added campuses in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, Colombia, and Tunis, Tunisia. Our code checker was already hard at work; by last April, it was already checking 10 million lines of code per week, so it looks like even more work will be coming for it! 2019 was a productive year for our students, and 2020 will only get better.