Mary Luz Gómez is a 36-year-old chemical engineer who worked for ten years on innovation as a product and project leader. One year ago, she quit her job at Kimberly Clark to pursue her new dream: becoming a Machine Learning developer.
Mary is a disciplined woman with clear goals and a persevering personality. When working for Kimberly Clark, she learned about technologies such as Machine Learning and Data Science. Mary remembered enjoying her programming classes back in college and knew this path was her future.
While looking for study options, she realized that traditional education was not right for her because she learned much better with practical projects. During her research, Mary found out about Holberton school’s project-based learning methodology and was drawn to it because she felt “Holberton is very similar to how we work in companies.”
Mary found the admission process fun because it challenged her to learn new things. She barely knew anything about programming and had never made a website, but she passed and started the program in September 2019.
“I didn’t want to be left with the question of What if I’m a programmer? I was passionate about innovation and technology, so I decided to do it,” she remarked.
The first day in school was difficult: she remembers crying when she realized the day was over, and she still hadn’t been able to do the assigned project, but she knew the idea was not to give up. Her peers were always there to help, and she is grateful for it.
One of the reasons that led her to choose Holberton was its Income Share Agreement (ISA) payment model: “I found it very inclusive. I will be delighted to give every cent after I graduate with the guarantee that someone else will have the opportunity to study,” Mary said.
While finishing the first part of the curriculum last June, Mary had the opportunity to work with Skillshare for her final project at Holberton. After starting the Machine Learning specialization, the company decided to hire her as a Software Engineer. So she decided to seize this great opportunity and paused the Specialization for the moment.
“I don’t have a plan for the long term, but I like to bet on what I’m passionate about. Today I have a new career and new goals. My next step is to finish the Machine Learning specialization and continue to challenge myself,” concludes Mary.
Holberton School Colombia was the first international campus that opened in Bogotá in 2019 with 50 students. Since then, it has grown to three more cities: Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla and now it counts more than 700 students in Colombia. You can join one of the campuses for January 2021: Applications are open!
Kevin Giraldo is a 21-year-old Holberton School Colombia student from district 8 of Medellín, a low-income neighborhood with an average household income of US $135 per month. He grew up in a low-income family. Kevin occasionally worked with his father in a manufacturing company and understood that education was the way to have a better future. He discovered programming in high school and convinced his parents to buy him a computer, promising that this was the key out of their situation. Kevin recently started fulfilling that promise.
At fourteen, as he witnessed his teacher automating the voting process at school, using code, he understood that he wanted to be a programmer. “It was a straightforward case, but since I didn’t have any programming knowledge at the time, I found it very interesting”.
Kevin decided to switch from his high school to one that would offer programming classes. He continued to pursue his dream to become a developer by enrolling in a computer engineering undergraduate degree while working as a Rappi delivery to make some money on the side.As he was working, Kevin received a message from Rappi about Holberton School. A Silicon Valley software engineering program was opening in Medellín. Registration was closing the next day, and he decided to meet the deadline and apply. As he was going through the application process, Kevin thought he would never be good enough to be accepted into the program.
Kevin started his training at Holberton in September 2019 and recalled that one of his biggest challenges was having to comment on his code in English. However, “the fact of not having teachers and having to do projects among ourselves [the classmates] made us very autonomous and independent.”
Because Holberton’s program was very intense, Kevin decided to only do delivery work on weekend nights, as he was one of the students who could not go to sleep until he finished the entire project.
For the final part of the training, Holberton partnered with tech startups Rappi, Kiwi, Ubidots, Skillshare, and Torre so that students could develop a final project that would solve these companies’ needs. Each company presented its challenges and provided mentoring through its engineers. That is how Kevin, together with two classmates, developed a crowd lending platform so people could obtain a loan to get the necessary tools to work as Rappi drivers.
Rappi was so impressed by Kevin’s project that they offered him a software engineering job.
The 21-year-old programmer’s goal is to stand out with his performance at Rappi and to grow within the company. He also wants to create a programming community at El Pinal school, located in Enciso neighborhood (District 8 of Medellín), where he studied most of his basic training.
“As my family is low-income, my ambition was always to get out of here and grow. It is not hating or being ashamed of my roots, but wanting to grow and help my family, my friends and my community”.
Originally from Barranquilla, Colombia, he moved to Bucaramanga to study mechanical engineering but his prospects and initial work experience after graduating had left him disillusioned. Sergio’s passion for breakdancing brought him to Medellín to join a dance crew with his friends. In Medellín, he discovered Holberton School and with it, his second passion: software engineering.
Sergio decided to go through the admissions process as a challenge to himself and considered it sort of a game, but as he delved deeper into Holberton he decided becoming a software engineer is what he really wanted to do.
After being admitted and just three months into the program, Sergio had to relocate from Holberton Medellín to Holberton Bogotá so he could live with his family, as he could no longer make ends meet.
At first, Sergio would get frustrated because he could not finish the projects as fast as some of his peers, but he quickly learned to put his ego aside and developed the most important skill: learning how to learn. Even in the most trying times, he never thought about quitting and realized that no matter what personal challenges he was facing, starting a new programming project for Holberton always brought him happiness.
“I found a lot of support from the staff and my peers, they are now my family”, said Sergio.
Finding a job
Sergio says that being a programmer and a dancer make him very happy, each discipline compliments the other and brings about a balance, dancing helps his programming and programming helps his dancing.
When Sergio began his job search after finishing foundations, he discovered that it was his soft skills, not just his technical skills, that made him stand out as a candidate. Rejections were common, so he narrowed his search to companies that valued soft skills as much as technical skills, and that is where he found the match with Mercado Libre.
“They were looking for a senior developer, so I told them:Let me solve the technical test, then you could know if we can work together now or in the future”, said.
After a battery of soft skills and technical skills interviews, Mercado Libre made the offer and despite the fact that the job opening was for a senior candidate, the hiring manager in Mercado Libre told Sergio that they wanted to work with him because they saw his potential.
Join me in congratulating Sergio on his accomplishments, all the hard work he put into going through the Holberton program and getting the job of his dream. Well done!
As part of their first-year curriculum, Holberton Colombia Cohort 10 students will work on their final projects with Colombia’s top tech companies under the mentorship of their leading CTOs and engineering managers. Participating companies include Colombia’s unicorn Rappi, robot delivery company Kiwi, learning platform Skillshare, IoT platform Ubidots, and remote talent marketplace Torre. Each company is coming to the program with a real-world product request to serve their business needs. Students will build the product or feature on top of each company’s tech stack.
“There are two objectives for the company capstone projects. One is to let leading employers access the best technical talent for their recruiting needs. The second objective is that these multi-week, hands-on projects will give Cohort 10 programmers real-world projects completed for top-tier companies to include in their portfolios,” said Jessica Mercedes, Country Manager of Holberton Colombia.
The projects include developing the following:
Crowdlending for Rappi delivery couriers so that they can finance the purchase of a motorcycle
An algorithm to detect the distance of moving objects for Kiwi’s autonomous vehicles while using only one camera
A picture-based class recommendation engine for Skillshare
A computer vision solution to maintain COVID-safe distances among factory workers using the Ubidots platform
A web service that centralizes job opportunities and applicants across many job boards for Torre.
Students will work for six weeks under the leadership of each company’s technical management and will be expected to deliver on the same level of technical excellency as their full-time employees. Each project will be presented during the demo day taking place on June 19th. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook, so be sure to follow our page to watch!
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us on so many levels – professional and personal, physical and emotional. It’s often the most trying circumstances that ignite the greatest discoveries. Like many in the tech sector, a number of Holberton students and alumni have been inspired to develop technology to help pave a path forward. We’re excited to highlight five of these projects that embody Holberton’s innovative spirit while reflecting the needs of this moment in history:
Knowing that many people are struggling to maintain a healthy routine while sheltering in place, Holberton Tunisia 🇹🇳students Yasmine Hamdi and Ahmed Omar Miladi built Yawmi. The app schedules activities based on the user’s calendar and preferences. By partnering with 3rd party platforms, Yawmi suggests online courses, fitness sessions, cooking classes, gaming, movie watching, and more. The day planner aims to develop the users’ skills and knowledge in a flexible way, mitigate mental health issues, and create a healthy lifestyle. The duo started building the app during the OMAC (One Million Arab Coders) COVID-19 hackathon. They made it to the semi-finale out of 1,260 teams – congratulations!
Darcie is a virtual assistant that helps people find the nearest social services in their neighborhood or city. Co-creators from Holberton San Francisco 🇺🇸 Akeem Seymens, and Max Stuart built this tool that works with phone and text using IBM Watson, Google Cloud, and Algolia (who provided a free Pro version of their powerful Search indexing service to support their effort). Their goal is to address COVID-19-related humanitarian issues, beginning with the mounting issue of food insecurity. While many Americans were already food insecure before the pandemic, the number has increased dramatically in recent weeks. Resources that were already strained are even more so now, and food banks are stretched beyond capacity. Partnering with feedingamerica.org, nokidhungry.org, hungerfreeamerica.org, and America’s Food Fund, the team has been collaborating to establish data gathering standards and systems to help food distributors get additional support and get resources to more people in need.
Holberton Colombia 🇨🇴students Camilo Morales, Jose Luis Diaz, Oscar Riaño Tapias, Daniel Chinome, and Giovanny Perez built EnTuBarrio. Small businesses we are suffering as shelter in place guidelines required people to stay in and prevented people from shopping. This clever team found a way to help both parties – the store and the shoppers. EnTuBarrio connects customers to their local stores so that they can buy the groceries they need. The delivery is handled by locals riding bikes or walking, making it cost-effective, fast, and environmentally friendly. All the communication currently happens over WhatsApp, but the team is working to port the app to Facebook Messenger chatbot as well.
As the COVID19 situation was unfolding, Holberton New Haven 🇺🇸students Jose Alvarez de Lugo, Stephen Ranciato and Gareth Brickman noticed that there wasn’t a place to get COVID-related data for Connecticut in a consistent and clear way. They thought we could help their state by building something quickly, so they began writing code right away and were able to deploy a website that very same day. That’s how CTCovid19.com came to be!
Spaced is a mobile app that tells users when and how to go places for necessary errands while optimizing for social distancing. It’s like Waze but for walking. Built by Holberton alumni Bobby Yang, he came up with the idea while he was attempting to walk his dog and go to the grocery store. He found there were way too many people in the park next to his house, and there was a long line at the Safeway half a mile from his house. The app leverages different open source projects like MIT’s COVID-19 Tracker and Open Routing Service, along with Foursquare’s Places API. Spaced is able to recommend specific times to go to popular locations, as well as routes to reach locations while minimizing the number of people with whom users come into contact. The data is completely anonymous, and Spaced’s code is open source and can be found here. It will soon be available for download on iPhone and Android.
Today we’d like to welcome our newest worldwide cohorts and also celebrate our 1,000th enrolled student. Our family continues to grow! Three hundred and fifty new students started their Holberton journey across eight campuses in four countries – bringing the total count of enrolled students to 1,200.
Thanks to our digital, project-based curriculum, every cohort across the world can access the exact same quality education. And because students share the same calendar, learn the exact same material, and have access to our global Slack community, our students can collaborate globally as easily as they could collaborate locally. And with students on 3 continents, there is almost always someone up and ready to learn with their peers.
And our Checker never sleeps either. Checker, our automated code validation system, gives students near-instant feedback on their coding projects. Checker not only validates the code works as intended, but it also checks for documentation, how well edge cases are handled, how optimized the code is, validates academic integrity of the students’ work, and if the code follows our strict style guide. As of last June, the Checker was reviewing 10 millions lines of code. We estimate it would take more than 600+ instructors to provide the same volume and value of correction. Passing this thousand-enrolled-students threshold means more work for our dear Checker!
So please join me on welcoming Cohort 11! Welcome, Bienvenidos, Bienvenu, أهلا بك to Holberton
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.
Holberton’s efforts were recently recognized at the CloudNow Top Women Entrepreneurs in Cloud Innovation Awards hosted at the Facebook campus. The non-profit consortium of the leading women in cloud computing and converging technologies that is supported by Facebook, Google, and Intel.
CloudNow’s STEM scholarship was generously awarded to 9 of our students to assist with their living expenses while studying at our San Francisco campus. Previous scholarship recipients at Holberton School went on to work at Change.org, Apple, Pinterest, Doctor on Demand and more.
The CloudNOW STEM scholarship program doubled its support this year, awarding 50 percent more individuals with opportunities to pursue an education as a software engineer. We here at Holberton School are grateful for CloudNOW’s ongoing and increasing commitment to improving opportunities and diversity in STEM.
Facebook COO and women’s advocate Sheryl Sandberg also attended to recognize the mission of Holberton School to get more women in tech and congratulate the Holberton students who received scholarships. Sheryl emphasized the fact that diversity is not only a social imperative, but that diversity and fair gender representation has broad, positive economic benefits for any business that embraces it.
Holberton School’s mission and commitment to developing and encouraging a more gender-representative world of tech has received praise from leaders in the equality space like Priyanka Chopra and Melinda Gates. These work of these luminaries, along with the support of organizations like CloudNOW, helps Holberton School to increase female participation in tech and STEM.
“We applaud the achievements of our winners, and thank them for blazing trails for diversity, inclusion and entrepreneurship. We also honor our STEM scholarship recipients as we work together to support the next generation of tech leaders.”–Jocelyn DeGance Graham.
Please join me in congratulating the CloudNow scholarship recipients, and stay tuned for these future innovators to make waves in STEM and tech!
Many think that becoming a software engineer is reserved for math geniuses who spent their lives in front of a computer – “I am not smart enough for that.” Yet, the stories of countless Holberton School students show that their background does not matter and that they have enough motivation and passion; that becoming a developer really is possible.
Dora Korpar is one of these stories. She first came to Holberton with no former coding experience but went on to become a software engineer at a San Francisco startup. And now, Business Insider has decided to highlight Dora’s amazing story.
About four years ago, Dora Korpar was looking for her next adventure. She had finished college but could not find a job and wasn’t interested in continuing her college studies. To pay the bills, she took a job at Trader Joe’s.
As she was catching up with a friend, he told her that he had recently got a job as a software engineering at Apple. He was a philosophy major in college, so Dora knew he never studied Computer Science. That intrigued her and she realized that she too could give it a shot.
Dora went online and tried a few online coding tutorials, learned some HTML and understood that this was something she could both do and enjoy! But she was stuck. “Amidst the sea of resources that are online, I was lost. I was looking for more direction. I ran across an article on an IT site talking about a program called the Holberton School.”
She decided to apply and the application process, which guides candidates to build their first website, sealed the deal; she loved coding. She was accepted, and, long story short, Dora is now a software engineer at Scality, a San Francisco storage company. She could not be happier with her decision to attend Holberton. If you want to read more about Dora’s story, check out the Business Insider article!
In case you haven’t already seen, check out the NY Times! Actor, producer and social activist, Priyanka Chopra, has joined our Board of Trustees and invested in the school – to take an active role in attracting women to software engineering.
“No path to success is linear, but it’s staggering that women make up half the workforce and have held fewer than 25 percent of jobs in tech for the past two decades,” says Chopra. “At the Holberton School inclusion and diversity are more than just buzzwords, it is prioritized and infused in their DNA, and I’m looking forward to joining the Board of Trustees to help further their mission and close the gap.”
Priyanka joins our amazing collective of Trustees which includes Grammy winner, NE-YO, Jocelyn DeGance Graham, CEO at CloudNOW, Stephane Kasriel, CEO at Upwork, and Solomon Hykes, co-founder at Docker.
Priyanka will work with us on making sure that our mission of providing high-quality education for the many is fulfilled. She will focus on accessibility, and more specifically inspiring more women into a tech career. In the US, only 20% of software engineering positions are filled by women.
As software and artificial intelligence are becoming, by the second, a bigger part of how our world works, it is essential to have gender parity in the teams that are building the product and systems that are impacting our society and life at large.
We at Holberton have been training the next generation of software engineers, and many are women already working in the field: from hunting asteroids at NASA, contributing to the future of self-driving cars at Tesla and building technology that will power artificial intelligence at Nvidia.
Priyanka has been an outspoken advocate, and role model, for women for many years and we are thrilled to align our values and actions to solve the diversity gap in the Tech industry.