Holberton > Articles by: Sylvain Kalache

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.

Holberton’s Response to the California BPPE Notice

On Saturday, we at Holberton School reviewed a notification of concerns raised by the Sacramento-based California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) regarding our San Francisco campus. 

We created Holberton to take an innovative approach to engineering education. We believe that a world-class education should be accessible to everyone, regardless of educational background, gender, race or ability to pay. Forty-four million Americans are digging themselves out from nearly $1.6 trillion in student debt (as reported by CNBC). As the Editorial Board of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote last year, 3.8 million California residents alone owe $134.3 billion in student loan debt. Holberton has sought to create a different kind of school that promotes (rather than impedes) social mobility.

This massive debt burdening California residents seeking greater professional opportunities through education has made the technical post-secondary education market ripe for disruption for quite some time. We understand from the news that other first wave innovators in engineering education, like Lambda School, have also been subject to BPPE enforcement activity

We respect and value the BPPE’s mission to protect students as consumers in California’s private postsecondary educational institutions. We have been working with the BPPE and responding to their questions throughout the licensing process over the last few years. We look forward to the opportunity to more fully explain our innovative program to them. We have historically had a collaborative relationship with regulators and are eager to fully cooperate with the BPPE so that we can allay their concerns and focus on our core mission of democratizing access to world-class engineering education.

Out of respect for the BPPE’s process, we are limiting our public comment on this matter as we focus on ensuring that Holberton is cooperating fully with the BPPE and continuing to serve the students who depend on us. We look forward to engaging in broader conversations around both innovation in education and financial inclusion.

Welcoming Esther Wojcicki to the Holberton Board of Trustees

We are thrilled to welcome Esther Wojcicki, the acclaimed author, journalist, and world-renowned educator, to Holberton Board of Trustees. The Board is in charge of ensuring the continued success of the school’s mission to provide high-quality education for the many.

Known as both a legendary educator and “the Godmother of Silicon Valley,” the former California Teacher of the Year, is on the Board of Governors of the “Alliance for Excellent Education” and serves as Chairman of the Board of “Learning Matters” and is part of the Advisory Board at the THNK School of Creative Leadership. She is also the founder of the Moonshots in Education Movement.

left to right, Esther Wojcicki, Sylvain Kalache, Marie Ekeland, Chitra Rajeshwari
Esther Wojcicki with Holberton co-founder Sylvain Kalache, Holberton Board member Marie Ekeland, and Holberton Trustee Chitra Rajeshwari

Esther is also the mother of three highly accomplished daughters – Anne Wojcicki, the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe; Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube; and Janet Wojcicki, a Fulbright award-winning medical researcher – which led her to write the best-selling parenting book, How to Raise Successful People, outlining her strategy for raising three of the most successful women in America.

“When I first heard about the Holberton School, I was blown away by their entire philosophy,” said Wojcicki. “From their unique teaching style, to their tuition model that allows underprivileged students an opportunity to further their education, Holberton’s mission to educate the many is consistent with what I have been working to achieve over the course of my career. I am looking forward to collaborating with this amazing team of educators as we spread the message that anyone who tries hard can make it, regardless of their background.”

Wojcicki joins the current Holberton Board of Trustees, which also includes Grammy award-winning artist NE-YO, actor and social activist Priyanka Chopra, CEO of CloudNOW Jocelyn DeGance Graham, Avasant Foundation Executive Director Chitra Rajeshwari, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel, and Docker co-founder Solomon Hykes.  

Please join me in welcoming Esther to the Holberton family!

Celebrating Black History Month

We joined the rest of the country proudly celebrating Black History Month. At Holberton we are committed to bringing diversity to software engineering and having our students follow in footsteps of giants like Roy L. Clay, Sr., Mark E. Dean; Kelsey Hightower and our very own Max Johnson – so many more.

It’s no secret that Black/African Americans are underrepresented in the software engineer population, most sources peg the number below 2%.

At Holberton, 13% of our students are people of color due in large part an application process that removes bias, bias not just for gender or color, but learning style, previous grades, and even zip code. And once accepted, students are part of collaborative learning, making them instantly part of the community. Holberton mentors too work with the students, offering guidance and role models. And don’t forget the tireless work of Holberton Trustee NE-YO.

As part of Black History Month last day, Holberton hosted Senior Software Engineer at Niantic Daphne Larose, for a fireside chat. Daphne works on Pokemon Go and was named one of the Top 50 Women in Tech by Forbes. She shared with us how she navigated her career and be the inspiration she would like to see in our world. For sure, Black History Month will have plenty of more successful leaders to celebrate!


How a Holberton Student Went from Working at a Trader Joe’s to Becoming a Well-Paid Programmer

Many think that becoming a software engineer is reserved for math geniuses who spent their lives in front of a computer – “I am not smart enough for that.” Yet, the stories of countless Holberton School students show that their background does not matter and that they have enough motivation and passion; that becoming a developer really is possible.

Dora Korpar is one of these stories. She first came to Holberton with no former coding experience but went on to become a software engineer at a San Francisco startup. And now, Business Insider has decided to highlight Dora’s amazing story.

About four years ago, Dora Korpar was looking for her next adventure. She had finished college but could not find a job and wasn’t interested in continuing her college studies. To pay the bills, she took a job at Trader Joe’s.

As she was catching up with a friend, he told her that he had recently got a job as a software engineering at Apple. He was a philosophy major in college, so Dora knew he never studied Computer Science. That intrigued her and she realized that she too could give it a shot.

Dora went online and tried a few online coding tutorials, learned some HTML and understood that this was something she could both do and enjoy! But she was stuck. “Amidst the sea of resources that are online, I was lost. I was looking for more direction. I ran across an article on an IT site talking about a program called the Holberton School.”

She decided to apply and the application process, which guides candidates to build their first website, sealed the deal; she loved coding. She was accepted, and, long story short, Dora is now a software engineer at Scality, a San Francisco storage company. She could not be happier with her decision to attend Holberton. If you want to read more about Dora’s story, check out the Business Insider article!


Welcoming Holberton first international cohort

group pictures of cohort 8 students in our 3 campuses

This January, on our the third anniversary of the school, we are very proud and excited to welcome cohort 8, our first international cohort, spread across three locations: in San Francisco, New Haven, and Bogotá!

Holberton pioneered a project and peer-learning based approach to train Software Engineers in the US, leading graduated to work at companies around the world, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla and more. Our tuition model, based on ISAs, where students pay nothing until they find a job, is tearing down the financial barrier to a high-quality education and attracting a student body that is shattering the software industry’s lack of diversity. As the model succeeded in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are thrilled to bring it to the state of Connecticut and to open our first international campus in country of Colombia.

Did you know software developer tops the list of the new US News report on 2019’s best jobs? So why not see what all the fuss is about? You have three locations to choose from and more to come!

Join me in welcoming the new students to the Holberton family!