While the COVID19 pandemic has been easing in some Holberton communities, the trend isn’t going in the right direction for most of them. Many of our students have been sheltering and studying from home, for months.
We were able to quickly move Holberton education online, without any interruptions for students, and have been adding features to make Holberton online education better. Among many features and initiatives, one is particularly adored by our student community: the weekly live-coding session.
These sessions were historically done by San Francisco Resident Software Engineer Kristen Loyd and I. For 1 to 4 hours, we would whiteboard and code live 1 or more projects that students had worked on, streaming it to our students in all campuses across the world.
Live coding sessions allow students to witness the thought-process of a senior software engineer solving a problem and how it is then implemented into code. Students can ask questions at any time and clarify concepts they may be unsure of. Students enjoy the learning benefits, but they also get to hang out with fellow students from all across the world – which can be a mood booster – in a time where we are all far from one another.
Given the success of these live coding sessions, we came together as a community and are now very happy to bring this to the next level. Starting next week, we will offer even more live sessions every week, with more formats! These live coding sessions will be given by software engineers in residence from Holberton campuses around the world.
As an example, here is next week schedule:
Monday: printf concepts review with 🇨🇴Holberton Medellín SWE Fredy Mena Andrade (this is a project where students get to code their own version of printf)
Wednesday: Binary trees with 🇺🇸Holberton San Francisco SWE Kristen Loyd
Thursday: Introduction to assembly with 🇨🇴Holberton Bogotá SWE Nicolaz Pérez
Friday: Singly-linked lists with Holberton 🇺🇸Tulsa SWE Derek Webb
With at least one software engineer in residence for every Holberton campus, more campuses will mean more live coding sessions! With locations all across the world, it also means that students can learn from different points of view, ways of thinking, with more diversity of background, culture, and experience!
These live coding sessions are extracurricular. They are following our belief of helping one another and learning from each other – live-coding sessions are an embodiment of what our education is: project and peer-based learning.
If you are a software developer and want to do a live coding session with Holberton folks from all across the world, please reach out to me! Keep coding!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
As we look forward to the future, we want to share the impacts we’ve already made in our students’ lives. After reviewing all of our student data, we’d like to share our 2019 Student Success Snapshot!
This snapshot looks at students from Cohort 0 (our first cohort) to Cohort 5, as these are the students that have been in the program long enough to go through our entire curriculum plus six months. But, to get an idea of how much we’ve grown, in January 2020 we will be opening Cohort 11 across all of our campuses worldwide, and we expect Cohort 11 to have even more students than Cohort 0 through Cohort 5 combined!
Now, without further ado:
To help us better understand these numbers, we’d like to share some background.
First, Holberton’s education is separated into two 9 month segments: Foundations, and Specializations or Career Track*. Foundations is the curriculum that every student goes through, and is the first 9 months of a student’s education. This curriculum teaches students, from the ground up, the skills that will become the basis for their education and their professional career. As a true Full-Stack software engineering education, Foundations at Holberton teaches not only the critical technological skills (low-level programming, front-end and back-end web development, DevOps, data-structures, algorithms, and more) but also the core soft skills that students will use throughout their careers. And through the Foundations curriculum, students will learn the most critical skill of all: Students will discover how to utilize our Framework to “learn how to learn” and use our methods to maintain their career throughout their lives.
After Foundations, students may pursue Specializations, where students will be trained in exciting technologies like Machine Learning or Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, or they may pursue Career Track*, where they may graduate from Holberton through professional reference and manager approval.
NOTE: All of these numbers are for students from Cohort 0 to Cohort 5, and students who are working in the US. Also, all of these numbers are self reported by our students, so these numbers are accurate to the best of our knowledge.
With all Students who complete at least Foundations, but not the whole program, the median salary is $95k for their first full-time job. For students who have worked two years since their first job after Holberton, the median salary is $118k, and the median for all employed students who have completed foundations is $102k. The amazing takeaway from this? Not only are students earning great incomes, with 78% of students who have even completed just part of the program finding jobs within 6 months, but students who are working for two years after their first job see their income, on average, increase by over 20%.
For people who are used to traditional upper education, one fact may be really interesting right now: Students are being employed, as software engineers, before completing the whole program. At a traditional University, this would be counterproductive: The purpose of going to most universities is to get a Degree (For undergraduates; AA, AS, BA, or BS). At Holberton, the whole purpose is to get students gainfully employed as software engineers, so if a student opts to leave Holberton early to accept a role as a software engineer, then we’ve done exactly what we’ve set out to do. Our students work hard to become well-paid software engineers, and while we think students should continue within the program to pursue a Specializations, landing that first software engineering role and launching their new career is the true goal of Holberton’s education.
The growth in student roles is also very important to us. For our students’ first job out of Holberton, 47% of students receive offers for standard full-time employment as their first role out of school, and the rest is split across Internships, apprenticeships, and contractor work. And the average current employment status of students in these early cohorts? That 47% becomes 87% in full employee roles. Holberton students have been able to very successfully convert these entry level and trial roles into full time employment, often within the first year of working as a software engineer.
And for students who complete the whole program? Their first income out of the program is over 7% higher than students who complete just Foundations, which over a lifetime of earnings, is a huge increase.
What do these numbers mean for students who go to Holberton?
Holberton students have seen some incredible benefits, professionally and economically, from participating in our program. This success is in part due to our education, but it is also the result of our students’ hard work and drive to become software engineers. With the individual commitment that each student puts into the curriculum, we’re seen grocers, high school graduates, sports coaches, day laborers, restaurant workers, musicians, and even the unemployed and homeless become well paid software engineers. Holberton’s education is the framework that our students use to grow and develop their personal skills and abilities, and by leveraging this framework through the rest of their professional lives, will be able to maintain their competitiveness in this rapidly changing field of study (As evidenced by the median +20% increase in compensation our graduates see in 2 years). And we can’t wait to see the success of students in Cohort 6 and later; as these students around the world start to enter the workforce we can’t wait to see the continued positive impact that our graduates will have.
New school vs old school: How do these results stack up?
It’s tempting to compare Holberton School to a university, so let’s do exactly that!
As a refresher, Holberton’s admissions process is dependent on three points: Passing our admissions test, being over the age of 18, and having a high school diploma or equivalent. We don’t ask for an SAT score, admissions is not dependent on any previous GPAs or previous coursework, or many of the other hurdles that universities put in the way of their potential students. And since we don’t use student loans, we can accept everyone into our program that meets our minimum requirements regardless of ability to pay or to secure a loan.
Payscale.com classifies “Early Career” as graduates with 0-5 years of experience. Since we are still a young school, we do not have many graduates with 5 years of professional programming experience, so our next best number is our median current income of all students who have completed the program, which is $109K, and increases to $118K for students with at least two years of experience as software engineers. So, we feel that our results speak for themselves: Our students can achieve Ivy League salaries without the prerequisites, the time, or the upfront cost.
To the students who have been dreaming to go to one of these top universities, you will be well served by these incredible educational institutions and you should go where your dreams take you. For students who are looking to get a career started in tech, and want to focus with a curriculum 100% dedicated to the skills and knowledge needed to launch and maintain this career, Holberton School can provide that.
In 2019, Holberton opened up its first two new campuses in New Haven, CT, and Colombia. While the first students at these locations are just barely past their Foundations, we’ve already seen some amazing successes:
First, Sikorsky has already hired several Holberton students from our New Haven campus
And in Colombia, Holberton students are earning incomes that are double of what is seen by computer science graduates from local universities
So, to get an even better picture of our students’ success, make sure to stay tuned for our 2020 Student Success Snapshot!
*Career Track is not available in the San Francisco location due to CA regulation.
After Holberton students complete the Foundations program, a whole new series of paths open up for them. Known as “Specializations”, students can pick where they will take their focus for the second half of the curriculum. The four Specializations we offer are:
Specializations as a core of Holberton’s curriculum
Holberton School is working to further many causes: Increasing diversity and representation in tech, removing the barriers to high quality education, and developing a global workforce of top-tier software engineers. But for the enrolled students, we have a single goal: to make our students as employable as possible in the high demand field of software engineering and to equip them with all the tools they will need to stay on top of their field for their entire career. Holberton’s Specializations help us do that. Students take their first year Foundations program and build upon that with career-specific knowledge in highly sought after fields. Students are also free to pick the Specialization they’re most excited about. For example, students who love to dive deep will pick the Advanced Linux Programming, Algorithms, and Blockchain course, while others that want to create new experiences will opt to challenge themselves with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Regardless of the Specialization selected, students will be immersed in the techniques and knowledge determined by senior-level engineers to be critical to succeed.
The Development of a Specialization
A Specialization is developed by three groups coming together:
Professional Advisors – Our Professional Advisor network is composed of experienced software engineers, CTOs and technical leadership, technological innovators, and thought leaders within the technical space. Our Professional Advisors bring their expertise, vision, and technical knowledge to Holberton’s curriculum development. They help us understand which technologies are going to be demanded in the future, what lessons and technical knowledge Holberton students should learn for these technologies, and help our Curriculum Team ensure that the information they are providing will help train the best software engineers possible. Professional Advisors, on certain topics, will also review the created instructional projects to ensure that the lessons accurately teach the skills that students need to learn.
Curriculum Team – Holberton’s Curriculum Team takes the Professional Advisors’ knowledge, input, and vision, and does the practical work for turning that into usable, accessible lessons for our students. The Curriculum Team specializes in the heavy lifting work of putting a lesson together: They develop the projects with support and knowledge from our Professional Advisors, create the test cases for our Checker to validate the students’ work, and build the actual projects that match our Processional Advisors’ experiences. The Curriculum Team is able to provide a lot of proprietary knowledge that would be inefficient for Professional Advisors to learn, but is critical for our educational model: We don’t need to force Professional Advisors to learn our particular code style, learn our lesson management tools, or anything else that is proprietary for Holberton. So while our Curriculum team are the ones actively putting our lessons together, they are doing this in step with some of the best, most talented software engineers around.
Students – When we develop a curriculum, select students will help us as volunteers to be the first through the new program. These select Holberton students take their Holberton experience and provide specific feedback on the beta curriculum. So before a Specialization is released to all of our students, some of our best students have already been part of this Specialization and provided feedback to tune the experience even more.
To create an entire 9 month Specialization requires a large amount of work and input from our Professional Advisors and our Curriculum Team. For example, the Full-Stack Web Development Specialization was built with 928 hours of contribution from our professional advisors and 1050 hours of work by the Curriculum Team. And by utilizing our Professional Advisors, we’re able to validate that our Specializations are teaching what students need to know. For example, our AR/VR curriculum has been developed with and approved by Unity, and one of our Machine Learning’s core advisors, Gregory Renard, is also on the Deep Learning & AI Technical Committee of NASA’s Frontier Development Lab.
Maintaining a Specialization
Technology moves fast, and our students need to learn the most up to date skills possible. Within our Curriculum Team, there is often a lead dedicated for each Specialization. Not only are they responsible for leveraging the Professional Advisors’ knowledge, but they’re also tasked with continually improving and iterating on the curriculum. Projects must be kept up to date, learning resources must be tuned and updated when necessary, and feedback from students, both current and graduated or employed, is taken into account. Our Curriculum Team manages all of this so that students can trust that they’re receiving an accurate, current education that is in step with the latest industry developments.
Which topics get a Specialization?
Specializations at Holberton are selected and developed based off of advice from professional mentors, requests from and discussions with CTOs, the vision of our leadership for future opportunities, and identifying key knowledge bases that will continue to be sources of well-paid employment for our students. A fantastic example of the later is our updated Full-Stack Web Development Specialization, releasing January 2020. Holberton’s curriculum is a true Full-Stack Software Engineering curriculum: Unlike bootcamps, our students are taught languages like C and critical professional skill sets like DevOps, but for students who want to focus on Web, the Foundations program only touches on some of the current web technologies. In conversation with students who wanted more web development knowledge, discussion with our mentors on the top technologies to teach for a full-stack web developer, and the knowledge that a true full-stack developer with full-stack web development experience would be extremely employable and well paid, a Specialization was developed for this topic.
Who at Holberton helps make the Specializations?
Below, we’ve highlighted some of our staff and some of the professional advisors who have helped us develop each of our second year Specializations, as well as a preview of what skills our students would learn while pursuing one of these Specializations.
Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)
Holberton Staff: Carrie Ybay
Before she became a software engineer, Carrie was a UX and graphic designer, plus a passionate gamer, so her unique blend of expertise makes her the ideal Curriculum Team member to work on our AR/VR curriculum.
Within the AR/VR curriculum, developed in partnership with Unity Technologies, students will learn languages like C#, skills like UX and UI for AR/VR experiences, digital asset management, title publishing, as well as exposure and experience into animation, textures and materials, and audio management.
Alexa is our Curriculum Team member who is driving our Machine Learning curriculum. Before she became a software engineer, she earned her Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering. Within the curriculum, her experience working with large datasets and drawing order from that data has helped her bring the Machine Learning Specialization to life.
Within this new field, students who go through our Machine Learning Specialization learn to build everything from a facial recognition system all the way to their own chatbot, and even a reinforcement learning project that has students train and develop their own game-playing AI similar to AlphaGo.
Some of our professional advisors
Gregory Renard – Chief AI Officer at xBrain, Deep Learning & AI Technical Committee of NASA’s Frontier Development Lab
Julien Barbier, our co-founder and CEO, is not only responsible for large portions of our Foundations curriculum, but with his expertise in Low Level language programming, he has contributed greatly to our Low Level and Algorithms Specialization. Not only a valedictorian from the European Institute of Technology and an experienced software engineer, his vision for combining project based and peer based learning, along with his direct work on the creation of the curriculum’s projects themselves, has helped Holberton develop a curriculum that is driving a worldwide tech education revolution.
Alexandre Gautier, the other Holberton staff on this Specialization, shares a special connection to Holberton School’s educational style: He received his software engineering education at the same European educational institution as Julien Barbier. With his knowledge and experience in project based education, and years of C and C++ experience, he is working with our professional advisors to develop an education that builds further on our Foundations program to prepare students to become capable programming generalists who can handle code all the way down to the assembly level.
The Low Level, Algorithm, and Blockchain Specialization dives deeper into skills developed in the Foundations program, from developing a more advanced Shell project to directly interacting with the Linux kernel. Students are also challenged with advanced data structures, in-depth C programming, assembly, and the development of their own blockchain.
Full Stack Web Development (updated version arriving January 2020)
Holberton Staff: Led by Guillaume Salva with the support of Athena Deng and Hemant Heer
Guillaume, our CTO, has been featured on our blog before for his work on our student grading system Checker, but with his degree in electrical engineering and computer science (with a focus on security and distributed systems), and over 12 years of active development experience within mobile and full-stack disciplines makes him well suited to lead this development of this curriculum.
The vision of the Holberton’s Full-Stack Web Development Specialization is less on focusing on a specific technology or language, or a surface level education in many frameworks, but a focus on the specific techniques, practices, and skills that maximize productivity and adaptability. This Specialization incorporates topics like SEO, site accessibility, Personal/User data protection, asynchronous processes/jobs, management of both front end and back end needs, web technologies like React, and to build web experiences both with and from the designer’s point of view.
David Dias – Senior Front-end engineer at Influitive
But what about Career Track*?
Career Track* was developed for our more employment-focused students; this was a path to help our students get a job as quickly as possible after Foundations. This is a great option for students who need to secure income as quickly as possible, but when feasible, we encourage students to select and pursue a Specialization.
Holberton was designed to be a two year program, and continues to be a two year program. As our graduates complete their Specialization, they will unlock a lifetime of learning as a Holberton student: Students who complete the program will have access to each of Holberton’s current and future Specialization curriculums to pursue at their own pace. With this access, our graduates will be able to continually learn new, valuable professional skills throughout their careers as software engineers.
By offering these Specializations, we are able to train top tier software engineers with valuable skills, and prepare them to successfully enter the workforce. And by doing this within a curriculum that has a blind admissions process and does not require any educational prerequisites other than a high school diploma or equivalent, we are able to help a broader, more diverse group of people enter and succeed in this innovative, high-paying career field while they define the future.
*Career Track is not available in the San Francisco location due to CA regulation.
Holberton’s curriculum is a learning experience like no other. Not only do we teach our students how to code and the professional soft skills that help students maintain their career as software engineers, but we teach our students new ways of learning and of personal growth. Our students “learn how to learn”, and do so in a way that will help them professionally stand out for the rest of their careers.
To teach this new way of learning and drive the continual growth that defines our students’ results, we’ve built our curriculum around two key educational methods:
In a previous blog post we shared how peer learning helps students learn and retain knowledge better, so for this piece, we’d like to share how our project-based learning curriculum works. With project-based learning, our students learn through practical, hands-on lessons within a continually evolving curriculum. Most importantly, though, our project-based learning teaches a core life skill, and one that will help all of our students maintain their careers as software engineers: We teach our students a new way of learning. A hallmark of a Holberton student is more than just amazing technical skill with the technologies of today. Our students, through the practice of our project-based learning and peer learning, not only can grasp and self teach new technologies and methods, but our students can also help their peers learn and professionally develop as well.
Our curriculum is separated into two halves: Foundations and Specializations. Foundations is the curriculum and the method that helps us get people with no prior coding experience into software engineering roles, and it is the very foundation of each student’s education at Holberton.
Foundations is separated into three trimesters, roughly separated into
Low-level and C
DevOps, SRE, and more
The development of each of those trimesters is specific to Holberton, each spearheaded by Julien Barbier (co-founder, CEO), Guillaume Salva (CTO), and Sylvain Kalache (co-founder) respectively. The development of these projects and the curriculum was based not only their individual technological capability and experience, but also by utilizing a broad network of professional advisors.
Professional advisors and building our curriculum
Our advisors participate in our curriculum development by helping us understand the industry’s current and future technological landscape, what technologies and skills were professionally viable, and most importantly, by highlighting the same skills and knowledge that helped them on their path to becoming Sr (or higher) level engineers.
By bringing the best of what our co-founders and CTO had to offer, and the input of our professional advisors, we were able to create a Full-Stack engineering curriculum that goes beyond what most bootcamps offer. We have a curriculum that not only trains in core employable technologies and skillsets, but sets our students up with the tools, methods, and the practice to continue their own professional and technological growth throughout their careers.
Education without lectures
When introducing people to our curriculum, this tends to be the most shocking concept: How can someone learn a skill if there’s no one telling them directly, and explicitly, what they should know? Or, more directly, how can you teach without a teacher? Well, with project-based learning, we ditch the lecture-then-mimic pedagogy. Our curriculum, and the projects that compose its lessons, are how we teach. Through encouraging discovery, self-reliance, cooperation, and applying the coding lessons through practical projects, this curriculum consistently develops software engineers of amazing quality and capability.
“How?” is a very valid question at this point, so let’s take a look at a student’s day:
The day’s projects are ready for students when they wake up in the morning, as they became available at midnight their local time.
Before accessing the projects, students are presented with effectively a pop quiz they must complete before starting the day’s projects. These quizzes are on topics the students may or may not know, and if they do not know the answers, then they must go and find the answers. Think of this as athletes stretching before the game, and since they’re the “warm up” of the day, incorrect answers here do not count against the project’s grade.
Now that the projects are unlocked, students can get to work in reviewing the reference material, reviewing their coding challenges and conditions, and start their day hacking away at the code!
Within the curriculum itself, students are carefully introduced to software engineering topics of increasing complexity. These concepts layer upon each other building a broader and deeper understanding of the languages and development techniques. And throughout this, students use a variety of resources, including recommended material from Holberton, content they find on their own, and collaboration with their peers to develop their knowledge. Then, using our projects and Checker to test their knowledge, students can grade their day’s (or in some cases, multi-day) projects before final submission. Ambitious students, those seeking more challenges, and students who particularly enjoy a particular topic they are working on will also find that every project has challenging advanced tasks that also provide extra credit.
Throughout this Foundations curriculum, students are taught topics that build upon each other. The goal is to build a deep understanding of not only the languages taught but also the theory and practice that makes a good software engineer great. Topics are continually revisited throughout the curriculum (much to the chagrin of the students who would never like to see C again) to strategically reinforce theory, introduce more complex concepts at a time where students are more likely to understand and retain the knowledge, or to reinforce their use and value in technical interviews.
Rewarding critical thought
As the program has evolved and improved over the years, we’ve worked to both incorporate student feedback, tune projects, and anything else that will help our students become better engineers.
Throughout the curriculum, we ask students for feedback and allow students to anonymously report on their mood, feelings, and more. What’s the purpose of this kind of feedback? While we want our curriculum to challenge students, we also want to make sure the curriculum isn’t unnecessarily difficult. We also want to make sure the curriculum is designed to help the students feel interested through their entire journey at Holberton. So, we constantly take the students feedback, review against anonymous mood data, and see what improvements we can make.
Checking for optimization
Our Checker evaluates millions of lines of code each month, and to help each generation of our students become better coders, we have to continually improve this tool. In the early versions of Checker, the system dutifully evaluated student projects for accuracy, execute code and check results, review readmes to ensure that students were properly documenting their projects, and similar. Since then, we’ve updated Checker to perform even more robust tests, including even looking at and scoring for code efficiency.
Matching Industry Updates
The tech industry constantly changes, and so does our curriculum. As new technologies and programming language versions become more established, we update our curriculum to match what students are likely to see once they start their professional careers. This is a constant process that ensures as the industry matures and grows, our curriculum does as well.
How this leads to a career
At Holberton School, the education you receive in the Foundations becomes the basis for your work in our specializations. After completing your first year, students can select from one of four specializations that we offer:
Foundations gives you all the necessary tools to continue your education at Holberton with our specializations, and the professional and interpersonal skills to hit the ground running in your new career. After your Foundations at Holberton, you’ll be experienced in languages like C and Python, have the personal toolkits and techniques to learn any other language you want, experience in critical skills like Test Driven Development, DevOps, and project management, and a solid, fundamental understanding of what it takes to drive your career in software engineering.
Income share agreements, also known as ISAs, are how the majority of Holberton students pay for their education. They are not loans, and in fact they offer many advantages over the student loans we are all familiar with. We also believe ISAs can be one of the solutions to the $1.6 Trillion (and growing) student debt crisis currently looming in the U.S.
Holberton’s ISAs differ quite a bit from the student loans we’re all familiar with. For example:
There is no interest
Repayments are a percentage of income, and not a fixed amount
For US residents, our ISA has a minimum income amount: If you make less than $40,000, then no payments are due.
With loans, there is a final amount that’s due no matter what. With ISAs, there are repayment caps and term caps
You can make up to 42 monthly payments, then payments stop. That’s three and a half years, maximum, that you will make payments for.
There is a maximum repayment cap of $85,000. Just like the payment cap, once you’ve paid this amount, then the payments also stop. This amounts to an average annual income of just over $142.8K per year.
Whichever cap hits first ends the ISA. So if you make $160,000, your repayments will stop sooner than 42 months, and if you make $120,000, you’ll pay less than $85,000.
Holberton students pay for their education in relation to their success. There’s no balance increase from interest, crushing payments between employment, or many of the other negative impacts people have associated with student loans.
Currently, Income Share Agreements lack regulation, and we want to make sure ISAs continue to exist and function in the students’ best interest. So, Holberton is at the forefront of proposing ISA regulation to Congress. Holberton, along with non-profit think tanks, select universities, workforce development groups, and bootcamps are working diligently with Congress to request guardrails, tax codes, agency regulations, and other student-friendly regulations for ISAs. We want ISAs to stay, first and foremost, the student-friendly financing option that they were designed to be.
Due to the current lack of oversight of the ISA market, to help students make informed decisions about ISAs, we have compiled the variables of a typical ISA and what to look for when picking which education option is right for you.
Structure of an ISA
If you are signing an ISA with a school, bootcamp, or workforce development group, you are financing a certain value (such as a tuition or workshop fee). Since some of the terms surrounding ISAs may be complex, we hope the information below will help you pick the ISA or education that’s best for you.
Financed Amount: If you were to pay upfront, what is the amount you are financing with an ISA is an important thing to pay attention to. Specifically what your financed amount is at the campus you want to attend, as the costs may differ between campuses. For example, at Holberton, the tuition amount that the ISA finances will differ by country.
Income Share %: This percentage should be based on your income only, not that of your family’s. For example, at Holberton we do not count your spouse’s, your siblings’, or your parents’ incomes in this percentage. When looking at your ISA contract, ensure you understand the definition of income as well, typically this will include base salary, cash bonuses and commissions. This amount is always pre-tax, also known as gross, due to the varying withholding regulations that exist in the US and worldwide. At Holberton, our ISA is currently 17% of your income but this may differ depending on your country or other terms specific to your campus.
Payment Cap: The payment cap is the maximum amount you will ever have to repay. This is put in place to protect you and ensure you will not overpay for your education. Usually a payment cap is defined as a multiple of the Financed Amount. At Holberton, our payment cap is equal to the Financed Amount, so you will only ever repay up to the amount of the tuition itself.
Minimum Salary Threshold: This is the minimum amount you need to earn in a set period, typically per month, to be required to make a payment. Setting a minimum income is not required but ensures you owe nothing when you are between jobs, unemployed, or simply not earning a high enough salary. Make sure the amount is not too low compared to the average salary of the career you’re expecting to go into in your respective country. At Holberton, our minimum salary threshold varies between the country you attended school in, helping our ISA be affordable to students around the world.
Duration: The duration of an ISA is often defined in months or years and is the amount of qualifying invoices you will receive. A qualifying invoice means you haven’t reached the payment cap yet and either your salary is above the minimum threshold, or you have exhausted your grace and deferment period. At Holberton, our duration is 42 months or 3.5 years, but may differ depending on your country.
Grace Period: This is a timeframe when you do not owe on your ISA upon graduation or after having completed your program. At Holberton, the Grace Period is 3 months after graduation.
Deferment Period: This is a period of time when you are in deferment, such as being unemployed or earning less than the minimum threshold, which means a time when you don’t make any payments. During this deferment period, you will not receive qualifying invoices and therefore will not count towards the Duration of the contract. Be very careful to not have an exceedingly long Deferment Period in your contract, as that could keep you on the hook for a very long time. At Holberton, our Deferment Period is 24 months.
How we believe our ISAs are better for students than Student Loans:
Students receive downside protection
Holberton students receive downside protection against unemployment and underemployment. If a student earns less than the minimum threshold or doesn’t have a job, they don’t have to make any payments. Even better, you won’t be penalized for unemployment or underemployment– there is no interest in our ISA, so the balance will never grow larger. Also, if a student is unemployed or underemployed for the full duration of their ISA (including the deferment period), they will pay nothing for their tuition.
Holberton’s success is tied to its students’ success
Our goal is to train high quality software engineers that are ready for the workforce, and we are only successful if we get people into these high-paying roles.
ISAs help students find the employment that’s right for them
With fixed payments due after graduation regardless of employment, student loans encourage students to find the first job that pays enough to cover their student loan. With our ISA, not only are students able to take their time and find the best career fit for them, but they’ll be able to take the role that’s most rewarding for them as well, and not be pressured to find the highest paying role.
Percentage based repayment makes repayment fair for everyone
With fixed payments, most student loans take a specific monthly chunk of a student’s post-school income, regardless of their success from the program. Not only that, if a student converts their loan to an income-based repayment loan to make the monthly payments more affordable, it will take the student who is making less even longer to pay off their loan. With interest, the student who is earning less will be saddled with more and more debt, and ironically, it is the student who makes less that will end up paying more on their loan. Our ISA does not do this, so every student who makes payments to their ISA will have the same terms and have the same duration and repayment caps, and no way that suddenly a student will have to owe even more when making all of their required monthly payments.
Holberton students only pay up to the tuition amount, nothing more
Different schools have different payment caps, and Holberton’s payment cap is equal to its tuition. At Holberton, our focus is on the student’s future. There is no discount for paying tuition upfront as it would favor those that can afford it and make education more expensive for those that don’t. If a student does not pay the full tuition amount by the end for their ISA, that is a loss we take as the education provider, as we share in the risk and successes of our students.
In the unfortunate event that a student has to declare bankruptcy, student loans are not dischargeable. Simply put, student loans in the USA have been specially protected to survive any bankruptcy proceedings. So, even if an education cannot prepare a student to secure a job, traditional student loans will follow the student regardless of their financial situation. We are proud to state that Holberton ISAs are dischargeable in bankruptcy and we are working to have this same protection extended through all ISAs in the legislation we are working to push through Congress.
We hope this post will help everyone, future Holberton students and anyone else who’s thinking about signing their own ISA, to understand more the terms and nature of ISAs, and what to look for in a good, student friendly ISA.
Today, with assistance from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Holberton School is announcing our latest campus, Holberton School Tulsa! And at our newest campus, in line with our dedication to improve access to our education, we are introducing both a need-based living assistance program and a discounted Income Share Agreement (ISA) for Holberton School Tulsa students who stay and work local.
Our need-based living assistance program is designed to help Holberton students focus on what matters most: Learning skills that will propel them down a new career path. Holberton students at our Tulsa campus can apply for a need-based $1500/month living assistance program to help pay for their living expenses. We want to help all qualified students make the most of their education here at Holberton, and instead of making education decisions based on affordability, we want to help students make their education decisions on what will help them achieve their dreams.
Our new living assistance program, in partnership with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, helps us deliver more on the challenge we give to every student who walks through our doors: The challenge to “Define Your Future”. By reducing or eliminating the economic burden to pursue a full time education, we hope to help even more people take their own future into their hands with Holberton School.
This $1500/month living assistance amount is a true game changer for Holberton students, especially in a city as affordable as Tulsa, OK. In Tulsa, where a single bedroom apartment costs approximately $600 per month, students who receive this living assistance will be able to utilize this assistance to cover most-to-all of their living expenses. This is an incredible opportunity for everyone who wants to come to Holberton and launch their career in software engineering.
An additional incentive will also be available to Holberton School Tulsa students who continue to live and work in Tulsa after graduation. For students who fall in love with the city and decide to stay, students could see a reduction in their ISA repayment amount from 17% to 10%. This means that students who stay and work in Tulsa will repay significantly less than if they were to move out of the city. And companies are already eager to hire Holberton students:
The best part is that staying in Tulsa is easy. A generous and welcoming community, Tulsa is not bound by traditional conventions. Nationally recognized as the state’s center for economic development, Tulsa has a diverse economy and employment opportunities in finance, aeronautics, telecommunications, and technology. Companies like Bank of Oklahoma, American Airlines, AAON, Helmerich & Payne, ONEGas, ONEOK, Quiktrip and Williams Companies, have established their headquarters in the metropolitan area of Tulsa.
Once named America’s “Oil Capital of the World”, recent revitalization has transformed Tulsa from a vital hub for America’s oil and gas industry to a diverse, vibrant community with room for all types of passions and vocations to prosper.
Tulsa’s fun and vibrant culture and entrepreneurial spirit have built a city that embraces inclusion and champions big ideas. It’s a city that intentionally builds itself around the people already here while making itself available for newcomers. Home to two world-renowned art museums, a booming nightlife, and a diverse food scene, there’s always something to do in the “Center of the Universe”. The city boasts short commute times, more than 125 parks, 180 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails, and a passion for supporting their local, pro and college sports teams.
And the employment opportunities for Holberton Tulsa students are bright: The “2019 Emsi Report on Computer and Mathematical Jobs in NE Oklahoma” projects an amazing 7,000 additional job postings for tech talent in Tulsa by 2025.
These awesome benefits, both the living assistance and the ISA discount, are available to both residents of Tulsa and to students who relocate to Tulsa. And for students to maximize their value from these programs, if the ISA discount will apply for every month they live and work in Tulsa, and any potential repayment of the living assistance program will be forgiven after just 2 years of residency in Tulsa.
Thinking about how you can Define Your Future? Applications are now open for the January 2020 cohort at Tulsa! Start your application now, and you could start your new future as a software engineer!
“We don’t have formal classrooms or teachers — instead, our students collaborate, share their knowledge, and help each other.”
It’s right on our website, but do we really mean it? At face value, it’s a radical proposition: A school that trains top software engineers without teachers, without lectures, and without the classrooms that all of us grew up and loved (or, reasonably loathed). After all, what is a school without a traditional structure and someone else telling you how to learn?
There, in that last sentence, is why we exist. Software engineering is a new field that lives on speed, flexibility, and iteration. It is a field that is constantly updating, and the best software engineers will have to be able to keep up with the times. And these best software engineers will not have the time to return to the classroom and be taught how to learn another language or technology. The best software engineers will be able to self-train, lead and learn from their peers, and keep up with the rapidly advancing and changing field they’re employed in. Beyond an in-depth knowledge of programming and development best practices, these lifelong skills are a key part of our curriculum, and why we teach our students through project-based and peer learning.
After all, If you do get a teacher in the workplace, it won’t be a lecturer but instead a peer or a mentor, and that’s why we teach our students the way we do.
Let’s dig into each of the pieces of our curriculum and share how they build upon each other to help drive a new generation of software engineers.
Project Based Learning
Traditionally, schools teach (usually with assigned reading and lectures), then test. Pop quiz: How much of this lecture-based knowledge did you retain? Project based learning is the concept that instead of being taught through lectures and tests, students are taught through actually doing the work. Proper project based learning isn’t just “here’s a problem, good luck”. A properly built project based learning curriculum carefully builds increasingly challenging tasks upon each other, with guidance on where or how to learn the skills, but leaving the final quest for discovery and application of knowledge to the students. Through this curated exploration, students are taught how to validate sources, test knowledge as they apply it, collaborate with peers to share their best learnings, and to develop and depend upon their own ability to learn instead of waiting for instructions from others.
The goal is not just to help students learn the knowledge that they will need to launch their careers, but also to maintain their careers through the ability to learn. In this way, time spent at Holberton actually mimics the work environment. Yes, Holberton students know how to code extremely well, but they also know how to sit down, use available resources, and to independently pioneer into new technologies. Companies that hire Holberton students are getting more than just a great developer; they are also getting a developer who can flexibly adapt to new languages and technologies in short periods of time.
Peer learning, or “learning by teaching” is an established method to improve retention and understanding of topics. When students teach other students, they show an increased retention of information and understanding of the core of the material. Through our curriculum, students are encouraged to share what they’ve learned through Peer Learning Days, where students will work cooperatively through problem(s) at a whiteboard. Ideally this process is entirely self-led, but our TAs and staff may step in to provide clarification, challenge students to “teach” back to the staff, or shape the conversation for maximum benefit.
Students will also engage in group and pair projects, where they are placed together to tackle some of our more challenging tasks. Programmers often work as part of a team, and so our curriculum is specifically designed to mimic the work environments that students will find themselves in later on in their careers. Under these conditions, Holberton students learn when to be a team member, when to be a team leader, and how to step between these roles for the maximum benefit of the project they are working on.
Define Your Future
Holberton’s goal is to get people with no prior coding experience into new career that matches their ability. Our admissions process finds those who have the talent to learn without bias. Our curriculum removes the barrier of prior experience. And the use of Income Share Agreements removes the need to obtain credit for our education. We want to find people who have the untapped potential to succeed as software engineers, and train them not only in the core technologies they will use to get their first programming job, but help them develop the core soft and personal development skills that will turn their first job into a lifetime career. But, most critically, everything we do helps students realize their own potential and leverage their own personal strength to become great software engineers, which is why we invite everyone to Define Your Future.