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

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

 

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

 

Q: How did you hear about Holberton School?

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

 

Q: What was your experience with computer science?

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

 

Q: Did you study music in school?

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Q: What is your role at Docker?

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

CloudNOW CEO & Founder to Join Holberton Board of Trustees

We are on cloud nine as we welcome Jocelyn DeGance Graham to Holberton School’s Board of Trustees. Jocelyn joins us from CloudNOW; a 501c3 non profit organization she co-founded. CloudNOW is dedicated to women helping other women achieve professional success, and identifying the next generation of female technical leaders through their STEM scholarship fund.

Graham certainly isn’t new to getting involved throughout the tech community. With a résumé boasting credits like being named by the Business Journal as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Silicon Valley and by CRN as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in IT, she brings a lot to the table.

Jocelyn DeGance Graham being interviewed on The Cube

Jocelyn was attracted to Holberton School due to its approach to providing an elite education in the most inclusive way. “The diversity Holberton has been able to achieve is apparent in the composition of the student body. Holberton is just two years old and has already achieved gender and minority parity through a ground-breaking approach to admissions– a blind application process. This is a powerful way to establish equality but it’s not been done by any other academic institutions. I think Holberton is going to set a new standard for non-biased admissions, hiring, and talent recruit.”

CloudNOW embodies the desire to promote diverse groups through technical careers. At Holberton, Jocelyn says

“This is not about lowering the bar. Everyone at Holberton is there by their own merit, everyone has earned their way in. It’s about creating the same amount of opportunity for everyone- everyone gets to apply- and with the Holberton/CloudNOW scholarship program and key corporate partners, we are making sure that economics are no longer a barrier either to getting a top job in tech.”

Jocelyn also recognizes the project based curriculum at Holberton as a benefit to students. “Everything is moving to project based skills, education in general is moving from theory to actual skills and I think that’s because there’s been such a gap of people graduating from universities, crippled with debt and not being able to get jobs.”

Jocelyn notes the overall sense of community fostered by Co-Founders Julien Barbier and Sylvain Kalache is the driving force behind the school’s success thus far. “Students are cared for on an individual level and students that require coaching and additional help are able to get it. Holberton is really focused on the success of the individual.”

A diverse board of trustees is essential in following through on Holberton’s mission. “To me, it speaks volumes that at every level of this school the equality and fairness is reiterated.” notes Graham. We are as excited as Jocelyn about her addition to the Holberton School Board of Trustees and look forward to furthering our progress on our mission to provide quality education to the most.

Holberton School Announces Corporate Partners Network

Exciting news – Holberton is introducing a new Corporate Partner’s Network as a way for organizations to support the vision of bringing diverse and qualified talent to the tech industry. Joined by Google, Scality, Accenture, and CloudNOW, Holberton is creating a way to further its dedication to providing quality tech education to the most. These Corporate Partners are in the unique position of being able to nurture their dedication to diversifying the tech industry while simultaneously benefiting as a direct result.

Holberton School Students participating in a Scality Hackathon

 

Why should you be a part of this?

At Holberton, quality and diversity are congruent. One of the reasons Holberton attracts individuals from varied backgrounds is thanks to its automated application process. Throughout the process applicants are given problems to solve, while remaining anonymous. This allows prospective students to focus on the content rather than how they are perceived by an admissions panel. This underscores that talent and motivation are what’s important at Holberton.

The no-upfront-cost model also helps the school to offer opportunities to students of many diverse backgrounds. It’s not news that often times the barrier blocking individuals from post-secondary education comes down to the financial stress. Holberton’s chosen formula of learn first, pay later opens the possibility of further education to many that would otherwise not be able to afford it.

At Holberton School, quality is key. The combination of project-based and peer learning allows students to learn in a more creative way. “Holberton School offers a truly innovative approach to education: focus on building reliable applications and scalable systems, take on real-world challenges, collaborate with your peers. A school every software engineer would have dreamt of!” explains Kate Volkova, Sr. Software Engineer at Microsoft. They say the mark of truly mastering a concept is when you are able to explain it simply to a peer. Holberton’s curriculum is a crash course in exactly that methodology.

 

How can you get involved?

Recruit directly from our diverse and highly-qualified talent pool. Being a part of Holberton School’s Corporate Partners program offers organizations the exclusive opportunity to hire students directly from the source. Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google and anointed “father of the internet”, boasts Holberton’s curriculum “In their internships, students end up getting exposed to a pretty broad range of stuff at Google and that helps reinforce why they learned what they learned and why it’s important…” Holberton School is producing talented software engineers who have landed positions with companies like NASA, Tesla, LinkedIn, Apple, and Dropbox. Our students are not only landing jobs, they’re receiving 95% positive feedback from their managers.

Donate to help students with their cost of living. San Francisco’s cost of living is 62.2% higher than the national average. Our Corporate Partners are working to alleviate some of that financial burden. “Scality is excited to be a part of Holberton’s Corporate Partners Program where we can give back and positively impact our shared goal of removing barriers for those who cannot afford traditional higher education.” says Giorgio Regni, Scality CTO and Holberton Corporate Partner.

 

Holberton School co-founders, Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier pose with Board of Trustees Member Ne-Yo who is focusing on diversity at Holberton.

Interested in joining our Corporate Partner’s Network? Register here!

Welcome, Hippokampoiers!

Today, we are very proud to announce that we have selected the 33 students for the inaugural class of January 2016. Yes, we announced that we would select only 32 students, but there were just too many great applicants. Please join us in welcoming team Hippokampoi!

hippocampoiers

The selection process

To become students at Holberton, candidates had to go through our four-step selection process, based only on talent and motivation, and not on the basis of educational degree, or programming experience. We designed the selection process to be the beginning of the curriculum so that applicants start learning through it. No programming experience is required at all. It consists of four different levels:

  • Level 0 – Fill out a short online form about yourself (~2 to 10 minutes)
  • Level 1 – Small online projects and tests that applicants can do at their own pace (~2 to 10 hours of work)
  • Level 2 – A step by step challenge during which you will create your first website, with a specific deadline (~50 hours of work)
  • Level 3 – On-site or Skype interview

zee_quote

Level 2 is a hands-on project, designed for beginners, during which applicants create their first website, from A to Z. Not only do they build a website with HTML, CSS and JavaScript but they also install and run their web server (Apache) on a Linux machine (Ubuntu) using the Linux command line. Here is an overview of what applicants did during Level 2:

  • Access a distant server using ssh
  • Learn the very basics of the Linux command line
  • Install software on Linux
  • Use the Emacs text editor
  • Install a web server on Linux
  • Read a configuration file
  • Use HTML, CSS and javascript to build a website
  • And most importantly: search for information and help each other

From 1,338 applicants to 33 students

Here are some stats about our funnel. Since the announcement on Sept 29th, 1,338 applicants started the admission process. Overall, the 33 students of the January class represent the top 2.5% of all applicants. Congratulations to them!

admissions-stats

 

Women performed better than men

Women performed better than men on average during our selection process. At the very top of the funnel, women represented 20% of our visitors.

sessions-male-female

And at the end of the funnel, 40% of our students are women. Note that Level 0, Level 1 and most of Level 2 are completely automated. It’s only at the end of Level 2 that we are hands-on because we need to check the projects of the applicants. Level 3 is an interview, during which there is also a technical test on Linux. Here is our funnel in terms of gender percentage:

women-stats

Connect with Holberton students

In the past weeks, they have already set up their servers and installed different applications, including a blog where you will be able to read more about their lives and what they learned at the school. Also, you can follow them on Twitter and say congrats by tweeting at @hippokampoiers!

Interested in becoming a full-stack software engineer?

Applications are now open for the next two classes, starting in May and September 2016.

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Level Up!

Today, we are very excited to open Level 2, the last technical Level of the Holberton School application process. If you have completed Level 1, you should receive an email from us very soon (expect an email before Nov 1st).

level2-blogpost

During Level 2, you will build your first website, from A to Z. That means that not only will you build a website with HTML, CSS and JavaScript but you will also install and run your web server (Apache) on your own Linux machine (Ubuntu). Note that most web servers out there are also running Linux as an operating system and Apache as a web server software; so you’ll be already using what industry professionals are using!

Here is an overview of what you will do and learn during Level 2:

  • Access a distant server using ssh
  • Learn the very basics of the Linux command line
  • Install a software on Linux
  • Use the Emacs text editor
  • Install a web server on Linux
  • Read a configuration file
  • Use HTML, CSS and javascript to build a website
  • And most importantly: search for information and help each other

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Many thanks to our reviewers and beta testers who spent countless hours with us, improving Levels 1 & 2: Ashlynn Polin, Lamia Himdach, Vanessa Rigot, Katya KalacheSophie Rigault Barbier.

2 great tutorials to better prepare yourself for Level 2

In a few days, we will open the Level 2 of the admission process.

level2

During this last technical level you will learn the basics of the Linux command line, and how to build your own website, from A to Z. You will also start to interact with your peers: get to know each other, help and get helped.

If you have finished Level 1, here are 2 great tutorials you can do while waiting for Level 2:

This is not mandatory at all, but doing those two tutorials will permit you to better prepare yourself for Level 2, and better help your peers.

If you haven’t finished Level 1 yet, today is the best day to get it done!

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3 weeks and 1000 candidates

It’s been 3 weeks that we have announced Holberton School. Three incredible weeks where we have witnessed the first candidates register and start the application process. You have been more than 1000 candidates to start the application process, reading your first Linux manual and decoding encrypted texts!

1000-candidates

Sylvain (who is now called Morpheus by our candidates), Rudy, our mentors and I are really impressed by the quality of the applications.

Good luck to all our amazing candidates, keep up the good work; And for those who already finished Level 1: Y29uZ3JhdHVsYXRpb25zIQ== , see in you a few days on Level 2! 🙂