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.

Upwork CEO Marks Newest Addition to Holberton School’s Board of Trustees

We are excited to be welcoming Stephane Kasriel, Upwork CEO, to the Holberton family as he joins the Board of Trustees. Upwork is the world’s largest freelancing website. Stephane is also the co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s council on the future of education, gender and work.

Stephane’s work with the World Economic Forum gives him perspective when evaluating the state of education today. He recognizes that education is both one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities of our time. “It can be a huge source of inequality, or done well, a great equalizer- the true American dream.” The old adage of coming up with a solution and not just a problem applies here. Kasriel believes Holberton could be the solution.

“Holberton has a real shot at building a true alternative to the traditional college degree. One that prepares students for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow.”

Stephane likens Holberton’s project based learning structure to what real life is like. Detailing his own experiences in a traditional education. He notes that while many of the theoretical lessons he learned were interesting, little of it ended up being useful in his day-to-day developer life. “Traditional programs teach Computer Science whereas Holberton teaches Software Engineering. And guess what, the world needs a lot more of the latter than it needs of the former!”

Holberton’s affordability, and above all, quality are two of the factors that attracted Stephane to get involved. “Holberton trains students for what the industry really needs and teaches them not just the science but the art of development, something that most people otherwise learn on the job or through their own open source community involvement.” This practical approach gives students an understanding at what a day-in-the-life of an actual developer is like.

Stephane’s vision for Holberton is to build a truly scalable education system. “In the U.S. alone, we need to train millions of software developers. And if you start looking at regions like Africa, where where there will be a billion more adults by 2040, and where they’re missing at least 25 million teachers, you realize that there is a huge opportunity for Holberton to have a giant impact on society.” We’re glad to have Stephane on the team and look forward to continuing the work of bringing quality tech education to the most.

Docker Founder Joins Holberton School Board of Trustees

We can hardly contain our excitement as we announce the addition of Solomon Hykes, Docker founder and CTO, to the Holberton Board of Trustees. Docker is the world’s leading software container platform.

Solomon made his entry into software engineering through a program that parallels Holberton School’s model. “The first thing that attracted me to Holberton was the idea of it and the people that started it… we experienced this particular style of education together and I think it had a huge impact on how we approach things in our lives.”

Lately, there’s been buzz throughout the tech world in regards to the skills, not degrees approach to recruiting talent. Holberton’s project based learning model stands as a positive example of this recruiting trend.Solomon feels that  “It forces a mindset of being flexible and open minded and acknowledging that theoretical knowledge is temporary, whatever bleeding edge info you get today by the time you’re done with your studies it’s going to be obsolete. So when technology and ideas become obsolete within just a few years, how do you adapt as an individual? How do you stay relevant, and competitive, and valuable? Well I think you focus on the parts that remain the same. How to collaborate, how to learn new things, how to get things done. I think the Holberton model is ideal for that.”

The chance to become involved with Holberton touches close to home for the Docker founder. “If it had not been for a project based, practical education my life would have been so radically different in every way, I can’t even imagine it. I wouldn’t have started my own company… Docker wouldn’t exist.” To provide a bit of perspective, Docker is currently valued at $1.3 billion. Solomon attributes much of his success to the model he was trained under; the same project based method that Holberton prides itself on.

The similarities between Docker and Holberton don’t begin and end with their respective founders going through this type of tech education model.

“We both have this aspect of taking something that’s very closed and breaking down barriers to create opportunity for more people. At Holberton it’s through education, and at Docker we do it with tools.”

Solomon sees the students’ success at Holberton as a collective success across the staff and its students. “I think the team’s experience and the fact that they know what they’re doing and that they’re focused on the right things… not on the superficial signs of success but the true, concrete fundamentals of success. There’s a real willingness to break down barriers and make Holberton truly open to anybody.” With three Holberton students employed at Docker, it is clear the school’s formula is working.

We look forward to working alongside Solomon to continue winning hearts and minds with our project and peer learning based tech education model.

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!

Navigating Your Way Through Tech

It’s no accident that Ludovic Galibert is finding success in his career. Senior Software Engineer at Netflix, he came to chat with Holberton School students about the ins and outs of navigating the tech industry from an engineer’s point of view. Holberton Students Sue Kalia and Lee Gaines interviewed Ludovic; asking him a myriad of questions from interview advice to favorite Netflix shows. Ludo detailed many pro tips including advising students to obtain a public library card and espousing the importance of what he referred to as ‘soft skills.’

The emphasis on development of professional soft skills (i.e., – effective communication, teamwork, etc.) ran a constant thread throughout all of Ludo’s answers. When asked about what characteristics a good engineer should have, he pointed to traits such as ‘determination’,  ‘resilience’ and being a ‘team player’ as well as noting not to “underestimate things like social skills and communication. You’ll have to talk to and work with a lot of people.” You can see these elements becoming habits by looking at Holberton’s curriculum. For example, all students participate in a project where they are split into two teams and each team self organizes into a corporation; there’s a CEO, a marketing “department”, a product development team, etc. Both teams are given the same problem and it’s a race against when the clock strikes 5:00 to solve the problem in a more efficient way than your opponent. Now that is certainly the type of project that produces resilient team players, that know how to communicate!

Furthering his point, when asked about how to go about landing an engineering job his answer focused on gaining experience, as well as interview preparation – “any type of interview here in Silicon Valley, or generally in tech, it’s all about preparation.” Preparation for interviews goes beyond learning the code. Interview preparation includes skills ranging from technical understanding to understanding social cues.

When Sue asked Ludovic if he had made any mistakes throughout his career, we gained an even clearer insight into the importance he places on soft skills. He gave an anecdote of a time when he wished he had been more selfless as a mentor to a group of junior engineers;

I would go back and learn more about mentoring because it’s really important for the next generation to think about that – take time to help people. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a mentor for Holberton.”

During the student Q&A, Ludo touched on a couple of the industry’s current pain points including diversity and inclusion. He reminded the audience to remember not to get so wrapped up in your career that you forget to take a step back and help people around you. It is clear Ludovic has a handle on the larger picture. Engineering success seems to be a delicate balance of technical and non-technical skills.

 

Watch the full interview here.

Ludovic Galibert, Senior Software Engineer at Netflix & Holberton School Mentor, designs and implements highly scalable tools and services that indirectly impact millions of users.

Courageous Coding

Last night we were joined by Batch 2 rockstars, Naomi Sorrell and Kristen Loyd, who shared their secrets to maintaining success within the Holberton program with their pro tips and advice. In other words: it got real! The pair of students understand that there are many emotions and moods that come along with the fast paced nature of this program, and recognize that the struggle and the hard work make the learning much more gratifying.

They focused on ways to manage the course load with a few strategies that each student can mold into their own. The main strategies were broken down into six categories or themes:

  1. Assessing the situation
  2. Whiteboarding
  3. Time Management
  4. Communication
  5. Self Care
  6. Support Network

To highlight a few golden nuggets of wisdom, let’s focus on a few of these. Whiteboarding is something that Kristen and Naomi take seriously! The two regaled us with an anecdote of a four day project they were given of which they spent three of those days solely whiteboarding the code for understanding. This was the main point of the two aspiring engineers. They both agree that whiteboarding helps them fully understand the code they’re going to push out before they jump right to their computers. Check out Kristen walking us through a problem here.

Time management is something that so obvious that many forget to budget their time. Naomi suggests using timers to keep yourself on task. She explains the feeling of frustration from working a problem and getting the same error over and over. However, with a timer you can measure your progress. She suggests picking a length of time that feels comfortable for you and once you hit 20, 30, or even 40 minutes the timer will go off and signal to you that you should reach out and ask someone for help.

Building and embracing a strong support network seems to be the secret sauce. Both Naomi and Kristen emphasize the strong community aspect at Holberton as an underlying catalyst for their success. Actions as simple as understanding when your partner needs to take a walk around the block, grabbing a quick sweet treat, or even just asking a classmate for help all aid in creating the strong bonds we see between the students.


When following up with Naomi and Kristen they shared some final thoughts with me that seem to sum up the culture and environment Holberton prides itself on. In their own words:

“Grateful for such an engaged community that is always cooperatively exploring ways to grow as future engineers and empathetic humans.” – Naomi Sorrell

“Energized by the amount of conversation it sparked during and after the workshop; we are continuing to create a supportive community where we grow as individuals and take ownership of our education and goals.” – Kristen Loyd

Chat with Naomi about all things tech & community on Twitter and LinkedIn
Kristen loves to talk tech & whiteboarding on Twitter and LinkedIn

Batch One – Year One complete and it rocked our socks!

Our batch 01 students have graced the halls of Holberton and as their first year winds to a close, we have some exceptional success numbers!

80% of batch 01 students are already working in the tech industry as software engineers. WOOT!

 

 

Students have landed jobs and internships in companies like Tesla, Apple, NVIDIA, Scality, Dropbox, Docker, Shopkick and so many more exciting startups. Our program lasts a period of 2 years, but many of our students already have jobs within the first year! How cool is that?

If you haven’t checked out the video of our students story yet, take a few minutes and watch it here.

Hear what some of our students have to say about their current roles in the tech industry:

 

 

Swati Gupta, Software Engineer at NVIDIA says,

 

Holberton prepared me with tons of useful skills that are needed for a fast paced tech job, not just technical skills but soft skills too. I learned how to navigate, how to find the right tools and when to seek help. It made me a constant self learner, always adapting and accommodating to new information. The projects I did at Holberton were targeted at exposing all stacks of an application and based on latest technology, for instance the exposure to use docker containers. Because of the training I received at Holberton I feel more confident and prepared for my work life at NVIDIA

 

         

 

Anne Cognet, Software Engineer at TESLA says,

 

Holberton helped me get my internship at TESLA in so many ways. The school curriculum constantly pushed me to go deeper and do better. My classmates were very supportive, their approaches and questions helped me understand new concepts and gave me new ideas for solving problems. The school network helped me polish my resume as well. At my workplace, I am understanding & implementing the topics that I learned at Holberton. I believe the school gave me a strong foundation I can rely upon, and that makes me learn faster.

Before we look ahead to accomplishing anything further, we wanted to thank our community of mentors, students and team who helped make this year such a success.

Applications are now open for the January 2018 batch, you can learn more about it here.

Summer 2017 | Holberton Coding Camp

 This Summer, we introduced our very first Holberton Summer Coding Camp!

Eight shining stars from multiple different high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area went from no programming experience to web development rock stars in 3 short weeks.

 

 

Our campers were high school students aged 15-18 years old with no previous web development experience. They joined our camp wanting to discover new skills and explore the tech industry.

Over the course of 3 weeks, students learned the fundamentals of web development (HTML, CSS, JS), and then took their new found skills to build their own multi-paged websites from A to Z. They even added some extra pixel dust to their websites with super cool CSS animations, embedded links, menu bar and web content. An impressive feat for any software engineer, let alone beginners! 

Technical skills were the focus over the three weeks, but their soft skills were sharpened as well, especially public speaking! Our campers learned how to present in front of people and explore the art of networking with professionals.


 

Every week, students visited some of the hottest tech companies in the SF Bay Area namely Salesforce, Trinity Ventures and exciting startups like Scality and Twitch. They discovered what working in a tech company looks like and realized the value and importance of having a professional network. More than that, they understood what it takes to be a software engineer!


 

At Holberton we have no formal teachers, students learn by helping each other in the projects and our Coding Camp was no different. Our campers went through the sweet journey of practicing peer learning while working hard to code their websites, but were also well supported with current Holberton students and mentors, who are professionals working in the Tech industry.

 

         

 

Our amazing mentors held workshops for our campers to build new skills. Ayesha Mazumdar, UX Engineer at Salesforce, led our campers through an animation workshop. Jennie Chu, a Holberton student, now Software Engineer at SeeSaw, taught our campers how to solder to make keyboards from scratch. The cherry on the top was when NE-YO personally called our campers to talk about their goals in life and how they could achieve them after breaking the programming-ice with Holberton!

 

 

Every day was about having fun while learning with mentors, peers, staff and of course eating a whole lot of french brie & baguette (After all we are a french led startup)! 

The students had the motivation and drive within, all they needed was an eye opener like our camp to empower them to discover their capabilities in software engineering.

Hear what our campers had to say about their experience at Holberton:

“ Anyone considering being a software engineer would benefit extremely from this camp. What really sets the camp apart is that you get a taste of how the real world works in tech. The project of building your own website can be compared to doing a project in a company where you ask your peers/co-workers for help.”

“This camp offers great opportunities, and the experience is amazing. They also teach very important skills that don’t only apply to the tech industry but life in general (ex. learning how to learn).”

“I had no idea how to code coming into the camp, and after 3 weeks I understand code and technology way better. It was a great experience overall. Also, the opportunity to visit big companies in the city is hard to find anywhere else.”

Our first summer camp was a success, and we will keep taking initiatives to give the world the talent it deserves. If you’re interested in enrolling for our next coding camp, please fill out this form and we will keep you posted on future camps!

Mason, from Musician to Software Engineer at Docker

Mason came to Holberton as a musician after teaching himself how to build a website for his guitar trio. Finding out how much fun it was to code he decided to attend Holberton as a means to amp up (pun intended) his musical career with an education in coding.

Check out the great interview Mason gave and learn more about what lead him down the path to becoming a coding student. Our favorite part? His love for Holberton of course. Here is just a sample of the kind words Mason used to express what drove him to choose Holberton:

“I received a very traditional classical music education, so I’ve always had a deep appreciation for fundamentals and technique. Holberton is a two-year program, and I felt like going to a shorter, 12-week bootcamp that was only focused on a handful of technologies wouldn’t offer me that in-depth experience. At the same time, going back to college was going to take longer and cost way more.

So Holberton seemed to be a really wonderful balance. It’s something in my life I could manage while still pursuing music on a performance level. I gave up my guitar teaching as soon as I started Holberton, but continued performing with my ensemble.”

We are so glad you decided to give Holberton a chance! And we can’t wait to follow your coded music career.

Mason is just one example of how our students come from all walks of life and how Holberton doesn’t require any prior knowledge of coding to attend. It is what attracts so many diverse people from diverse backgrounds. Our student body is a celebration of diversity on every demographic scale, including academic and professional backgrounds.

Holberton student interviewed by theCUBE at Google

Dora Korpar, a student from Holberton School first class, was recently interviewed byLisa Martin, host of theCUBE, at the CloudNOW “Top 10 Women in Cloud” Innovation Awards, held at Google HQ.

Dora shared her non-traditional path to Tech. She earned a degree in biology, yet that was not enough for her to find a job, and she did not feel like spending few more years at the University — and frankly — simply could not afford to. She was looking for another career path and fan of solving puzzles, Software sounded like a thing she would like to do. Her interest in computer science grew after one of her friends got a job in the industry without attending a regular college 5-year degree program. Dora has another year as a Holberton student but has already found a job with Scality, a Silicon Valley data storage company working for big corporations such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable, after just 8-months in the program. Listen to the rest of her story in the interview below.