Welcoming Florian Bucher as Holberton COO

Yesterday, we announced the addition of two new campus managers (in Tulsa, OK, and Barranquilla, Colombia) as well as a new Chief Operating Officer (COO), Florian Bucher.

Florian Bucher at our San Francisco campus

COO is actually a brand new position for Holberton. As we continue to execute on our mission of providing high-quality education to the many and serving an ever-growing community – that became international since last year – it was time to find someone to help us manage all this activity. For instance, did you know our students pushed nearly 7 million lines of code to Github, and are landing amazing jobs at companies like Airbnb, Rappi, and Pinterest…… And may also be some of the most cheerful software engineers you could bring into your company?

Florian Bucher is not new to coding – or to education, or even progressive education for that matter! He co-founded the French coding school Ecole 42, a network of non-profit international schools teaching software engineering using peer-based education. Bucher also comes with strong technical expertise including serving as CTO of IONIS, one of Europe’s largest networks of post-secondary schools which includes the prestigious EPITA and EPITECH school. He also previously worked as a Telecom engineer and an IT manager at EDIS, Thomson Telecom, Cirpack, and Wengo.

Florian loves helping people, he volunteered at the Red Cross by night to encourage homeless people to sleep in available dormitories. As he witnessed injuries among the homeless, and had to learn how to provide basic care, he eventually wanted to find even more ways to help his community – he has now served as a volunteer firefighter for over 10 years!

In his own words:

“I have seen how few qualified software engineers there are worldwide relative to demand. For years, I’ve devoted my life to the advancement of project-based education, which I believe has the potential to address this very real workforce challenge. I am excited to bring my years of experience in this field to Holberton School, where we’re training the next generation of highly qualified, diverse, and compassionate software engineers.”

Join me in welcoming Florian Bucher as Holberton School’s new COO!

Update on California BPPE Notice

On February 4, 2020, we at Holberton received a modified decision from the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), the parent organization of the California BPPE. The department determined that the application of the BPPE’s original emergency action over our San Francisco campus was not necessary and stated that we may continue to enroll students. The one exception is the Career Track program module for which the DCA is mandating that we cease operations. As Holberton has maintained throughout, we have worked with the California BPPE to obtain our license in good faith.

We developed Career Track in response to requests from our students who wanted to launch their careers and start earning money before graduating. Given how many students come to Holberton from disadvantaged backgrounds, we understood their desire to earn money before the end of our 18-month program. We had created this “Career Track” optional module to enable them, if desired, to graduate while learning on the job. While the Career Track module was submitted to the BPPE, the Bureau feels that the module has not been fully vetted through all necessary BPPE processes. Despite what we believe have been positive student outcomes from the Career Track module, we are now withdrawing Career Track from our program for the time being. We will be in touch with students currently enrolled or previously enrolled in Career Track to discuss next steps as we set out to serve their needs without this module.

We have always strived to create an education that serves our students, partners and community well. Just as we are committed to continuing to coordinate with the BPPE to ensure that we are complying with applicable California laws and regulations, we also remain fully committed to our mission to provide a world-class engineering education regardless of background or ability to pay.

We believe that transparency and trust are critical. We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more.

By the Numbers, 7 Million Lines of Code in 2019

As we enter 2020, a year away from starting a new decade (unfortunately historians don’t count starting at 0 as software engineers do 😎) we wanted to take some time to see what our students’ community achieved in 2019.

At Holberton, we believe that one can become a great software engineer by writing code (after all, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice). Our students learn by doing – writing code, collaborating with others – just like in any company writing software. And the data shows that it works! With students on 3 continents, and nearly 7 million lines of code pushed, the numbers look quite impressive:

Lots of projects were started – with 1,788 “First commit” and 1,652 “Initial commit” git commit messages – many bugs were fixed – with 1,042 “Fix” messages and 954 “commit” messages – and our students always made sure to document their work – with 930 “Update README.md”. We can clearly see this journey of a thousand miles in the commit messages!

When Holberton students enter the workforce, they are ready on day one to contribute and ship features! They have been hired by top-tier employers: in San Francisco, companies such as Apple, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google. In New Haven, companies like Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, and in Bogotá, they have started at Torre, Platzi, and Rappi.

We began 2019 with a single campus in San Francisco and opened a campus in New Haven, Connecticut in January 2019. Then in quick succession, we added campuses in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, Colombia, and Tunis, Tunisia. Our code checker was already hard at work; by last April, it was already checking 10 million lines of code per week, so it looks like even more work will be coming for it! 2019 was a productive year for our students, and 2020 will only get better.

Holberton’s Response to the California BPPE Notice

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk Results: Reviewing Our Student Success Snapshot 2019

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:

Note: Career Track is no longer available in San Francisco.

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.

Nga La from Cohort 8 whiteboarding with her peers at our San Francisco campus.

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.

If you look at Holberton students who complete Specializations or Career Track*, the median early career income of $109K, and our students with 2 years of experience see a median income of $118K. Now, let’s compare this to the median income data for computer science graduates from the US’ leading universities:

(Source: Payscale.com, Dec 2019)

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. 

And by focusing in on these career skills, our students are seeing great success in launching their careers, with 78% of our Foundations students, and 99% of our graduated students, seeing placement in 6 months. In contrast, the nationwide average is that 43% of students are underemployed in their first role, and even after 10 years, 32% of students are working in a position that does not require their degree.

Early successes from around the world

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

An observation on the income success of a Holberton student at our Bogota campus in comparison to students who have 5 years of education at a Colombian university. Summarized? Holberton students make 2x as much.

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.

Welcoming Esther Wojcicki to the Holberton Board of Trustees

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please join me in welcoming Esther to the Holberton family!

Building a Curriculum: Specializations

Our trustee Ne-Yo and Carrie Ybay, the Holberton software engineer who is working with our professional advisors to develop our AR/VR curriculum.

Of course, every education must have a strong foundation, so make sure to read our first part in this series: Building a Curriculum: Foundations.

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.

Example of a 3d scene development project.

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.

Some of our professional advisors:

Machine Learning

Image result for alexa orrico

Holberton Staff: Alexa Orrico

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. 

Example of an image detection algorithm identifying objects in an image.

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
  • Deon Nicholas – Founder of Forethought 
  • Clement Renault – Co-founder of Shone
  • Naeem Gangat – Manager of Operational Excellence at European Institute of Technology

Low Level and Algorithms

Holberton Staff: Julien Barbier & Alexandre Gautier

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.

Our Low Level and Algorithm Specialization dives deep into technologies like public/private keys and blockchain.

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.

Professional Advisors:

Full Stack Web Development (updated version arriving January 2020)

Image result for guillauma salva

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.

Professional Advisors:

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.

Specializations to improve employability

Holberton students get exposed to many technologies and professional skills throughout their Foundations program, but it is in Specializations they are given the chance to focus in career accelerating skills. Through going through our Specializations, where students can tap into the experience of leaders in the technical world and learn the skills these leaders believe will best set up students for success, Holberton students can hit the ground running in some of the hottest software engineering fields around.

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.

Welcome Holberton School Barranquilla!

Holberton School is proud to announce our fourth campus opening in Colombia! In partnership with Koombea, Socialatom, and Coderise, Holberton School Barranquilla will immediately start accepting applications for our upcoming January 2020 cohort.

Our fourth Colombian campus in Colombia’s fourth-largest city, Barranquilla will not only join our other local Colombian campuses at Bogotá,Medellín and Cali, but it will join a worldwide tech community of nine campuses across four continents. And with the same education that has prepared students with no prior coding experience to take on software engineering roles at the world’s top tech companies, Barranquilla will be an integral part of Colombia’s tech future.

Barranquilla, a city of 1.2 million people on the Carribean coast, is a cultural center for Colombia, and the Carnival of Barranquilla is a UNESCO recognized event. Barranquilla has also been a leader in South American innovation since the beginning of the 20th century, as it was the location of the first airport in South America. We cannot wait to be a part of this culture of innovation and rich history as we open our newest campus.

Holberton students at Barranquilla will enjoy many of the same benefits our students receive around the world: Bias-free admissions. A no upfront cost education that is repaid through a percentage of income. Intensive tech education designed to help people with no prior coding experience become well-paid software engineers. A curriculum designed and deployed in accessible English to help students develop international business skills. Critical soft skills training to go in parallel with the tech skills. Immersive, innovative, and accepting school culture. And so much more.

Image result for Jonathan Tarud  Koombea
“We have seen a lot of international demand for software engineering talent in Colombia, particularly Barranquilla has developed a strong industry of software companies and is growing rapidly. Partnering with Holberton is a crucial part of being able to keep up with this growth and the digital transformation of the city’s economy.”  -Jonathan Tarud, CEO and co-founder of Koombea

For all residents of Colombia and Barranquilla: Apply now for our January 2020 cohort! Don’t miss this opportunity to Define Your Future and take on a new, high paying career in software engineering!

What Kind of Job Seeker Are You?

This article has been written by Michelle Lai. With over 15 years of experience in tech, both as a developer and as someone helping developers land their dream roles, Michelle has been able to help and guide people into landing their first jobs as software engineers. Today, Michelle shares her experience in helping people identify their personal traits and how to best tailor their job search to their strengths or weaknesses.

As a former software engineer who pivoted into Career Services, I’ve supported over 2,000 software engineers in their job search (with roughly 25% of them being junior or early career). In my experience I’ve found that there are 4 archetypes of job-seeking software engineers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. If you are a software engineer and looking for your first engineering role, your best first step may be to identify what kind of job seeker you actually are.


The Studier

The Studier thinks the key to finding a job is to learn all the things! Every job posting references some number of unknown languages, technologies and frameworks. It might be possible to fool a company by casually referencing keywords, but that’s not The Studier’s style. The Studier wants to be able to speak with authority and have confidence to spare when they discuss coding and development.

The calendar of The Studier is filled to the brim with blocks of time devoted to studying different topics. Interview topics, technical topics, textbooks and types of algorithms dominate the day of The Studier. In their spare time, they undertake a side project in a brand new language or do a streak of practice on an interview-coding platform. It’s unlikely to find The Studier applying 

The Studier theorizes that when they begin applying to jobs, their firm understanding of well-studied technical topics will be evident and companies will hire them immediately for their smarts. When and if The Studier begins applying, they don’t see traction and consider this a signal they don’t know the right technologies, or won’t be able to demonstrate their knowledge

Advantage: The Studier will easily pass technical coding screens and take-home challenges if they could only get the opportunity to try them! Their dedication to studying pays off in interviews that test their algorithmic understanding as well as their practical coding skills. Often the immersion in technical texts is a boost to technical communication and ability to think abstractly.

Disadvantage: Many Studiers unnecessarily delay or stop job applications because they do not feel ready, but no amount of studying will ever give them the feeling that their knowledge is adequate.

Opportunity: If this is you, first, take a breath. When organizations interview applicants with little-to-no-experience for apprentice or entry level roles, companies are less focused on a candidate’s existing technical knowledge and more focused on their potential to learn and soft skills like communication. Studiers need to set deadlines and time limits for themselves when it comes to learning new topics or reinforcing old ones. Creating accountability around the practical aspects of a job search, like the number of applications or making an effort to go to meetups each week, are ways The Studier can use their desire for preparation to further their job hunt and career as a whole. 

The (Self) Critic

The (Self) Critic has a difficult time believing that getting a job as a Software Engineer is possible without the right credentials. It may have been possible (even easy!) at some time in the past, but now the market is saturated and the number of engineers competing for a limited number of jobs makes it incredibly challenging. 

A characteristic behavior of The Critic is their focus on the early stages of the job search. They spend most of their time optimizing application materials and applying to jobs online. From The Critic’s perspective, their lack of professional experience and/or college degree makes it unlikely any company will hire them. They often rationalize the lack of progress in their job search as the unfortunate reality of missing credentials or experience. As far as The Critic is concerned, each week that passes without a reply from any applications is confirmation that they may need to get more experience first, or attain another credential. 

I once worked with a bootcamp student who exemplified a Critic persona. She applied for a month and received no responses, then decided to study a university’s Computer Science extension program. Nine months later, when that was completed, she again tried to apply for roles and received little response. She then decided to apply for CS Master’s degree programs.

For The Critic, there is a belief that the effort of applications should map directly to the outcome of having interviewing opportunities. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. Some software engineers will apply to a single opportunity and get an offer. Other engineers will apply to hundreds of roles and never get an interview. 

Advantage: The Critic sets a very high standard for their portfolio and has a system in place to consistently apply to positions. Having a finely tuned application workflow and materials maximize The Critic’s chances of getting a first conversation with a company.

Disadvantage: The Critic tends to let themselves get into their own head and believe an inadequacy is road blocking their job search. Their natural inclination to solve the problem with more certificates, degrees, and education could cause Self Critics to spin their own wheels on more and more training when an equal effort directed to trying alternative strategies like networking could yield a better result. 

Opportunity: If you are a (self) critic, you are good enough, and every role that doesn’t end with an offer was not the right role for you, regardless of what you thought. This is OK. Instead of giving up and applying more effort to make future hiring easier, apply that effort to getting hired now. There will always be opportunities to expand your education in the future, but if you never actually touch the ground as a software engineer, you could end up spinning your wheels for longer than you have to.

The Socializer

For many engineers, going to events with the intention of networking is not an enjoyable way to spend the evening. However, for some engineers who may have pivoted industries (especially from business, support or relationship-focused roles), meeting strangers and starting an interesting conversation may come naturally and be an intuitive way to find job opportunities.

The Socializer seeks out conferences, meetups, tech talks, hackathons, and coffees with alumni. They are on a mission to meet potential mentors, and fill up their rolodex with offers for referrals. Many Socializers are pros at sweeping an event for business cards and take care to follow up that same night with quick notes to recap the conversation. In a single week, a Socializer might attend 5 meetups!

For The Socializer, the job search means networking until they find an engineer who is willing to  make a referral, interview them, or even make them an offer! The Socializer has honed the art of sharing their story and sounds the expert when describing their most difficult technical challenges. For the most part, Socializers ask for referrals as a primary way of applying. They understand that referrals are more likely to result in an invitation to interview, and they may even get to skip steps in the interview process. Even though there may be rejection, they are bolstered by the community and support network they’ve built around themselves.

While Socializers have no problem getting referrals, or building a network, they sometimes downplay the importance of being able to demonstrate their technical knowledge and write code in front of others. Studying for hours and practicing algorithms on their own is painful and preferable to avoid. 

Advantage: Socializers have an advantage in a field where networking, cooperation, and getting your name out there can yield real results and real job offers. Socializers will naturally build a big network of peers, and can also increase their own visibility by helping other people within their network find connections and roles that can help their peers’ careers

Disadvantage: The Socializer may not devote enough time to practicing their technical interviewing skills because it requires extended periods of quiet focus. Once The Socializer gets an invitation to interview, it usually goes well until they need to code or talk through a technical solution. The Socializer, like the Interviewer, may feel the disappointment from meeting great people and then not proceeding forward in the process.

Opportunity: The Socializer can direct their enthusiasm for community by creating study groups, practice whiteboarding sessions or peer learning opportunities. Interviewing is a social endeavor, and The Socializer can create realistic scenarios by engaging the people they meet to help explain or review technical concepts, and practice and get better at the technical aspects of the interview.

The Interviewer

The Interviewer has no problems getting an interview. Somehow companies like what they see on paper and invite The Interviewer to have a chat, do a technical screen and come on in for an onsite! The Interviewer may not even have their application materials polished but finds they are overwhelmed with communications and calendar appointments. A day may have 2 phone calls with recruiters, followed by a 3 hour onsite with a startup and several emails to reply to about setting up the next step.

The Interviewer is focused on preparing for concrete conversations. They are researching specific companies in preparation for a phone call, and scripting/rehearsing their personal stories. The Interviewer is researching Glassdoor for specific technical questions or formats they should be prepared for and spends their weekends whiteboarding with friends or reviewing the 10 most popular sorting and searching algorithms. 

For The Interviewer, the job search means replying to emails, taking phone calls and scheduling in-person appointments. It’s dizzying to meet so many people and have so many conversations. Sometimes it’s impossible to remember which preferences were shared with which company, or who The Interviewer promised to follow up with. The timing of when to share, what information to share and whom to share questions or information with is on The Interviewer’s mind.

The time and energy invested in a wide range of possible opportunities is tremendous for The Interviewer. As The Interviewer moves through the interview process, there is an emotional investment that naturally occurs because each interaction forces both people to imagine each other as future teammates. For each interview that does not result in an offer, it is typically far more significantly felt than getting rejected earlier in the process.

Advantage: The Interviewer has a significant advantage in being able to skip much of the drudgery of applications. Having too many communications to manage may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually the best problem to have as a job seeker. Speaking and emailing with humans in all stages of interviewing provides a wealth of feedback and learnings so that The Interviewer can quickly iterate and learn from their mistakes.

Disadvantage: Each interview that doesn’t end with an offer hits like a brick, and the emotional attachment the interviewer gives to each engagement can cause this to be a real drain. It is also difficult for The Interviewer to get feedback to improve. Was the issue a technical one, a personal difference, or did The Interviewer fail to demonstrate their collaboration and communication skills? Companies either don’t share any reasoning for not moving forward, or provide a reason that seems generic and unsolvable. 

Opportunity: The Interviewer would benefit from capturing both the technical and non-technical questions asked in each interview. After doing a self-assessment on the answer they provided, it would be beneficial for The Interviewer to reach out to engineers who have experience interviewing to request practice in a mock setting or invite them to comment on the written answers. It is through getting feedback that The Interviewer will finally land an offer (or three!).

In Summary

These are the four most common encountered in my experience as both a software engineer and an advisor to thousands of engineers in their job search. Don’t panic if you don’t quite fit into one of these buckets; there are many archetypes, but these are just the ones that, in my experience, have been the most common. For software engineers who are early in their career, I would say the most common archetypes are The Studier and The Critic. Keep in mind, an archetype isn’t a static classification. It’s not uncommon for archetypes to shift over time as the job seeker gets more comfortable in their capability or gains more experience. What I hope for most is that people can learn a little bit more about themselves, and use this guidance to get their first job in their new dream career.

Building A Curriculum: Foundations

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.

Actual Cohort 6 students during their Foundations year. We’re currently at Cohort 10 and will welcome Cohort 11 in January 2020.

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:

  • Peer Learning
  • Project-Based Learning

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
  • Higher-level languages
  • 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.

Julien Barbier, co-founder and CEO of Holberton talking with students at our San Francisco campus.

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.

Guillaume Salva, CTO of Holberton, sharing his experience with developing the Holberton curriculum

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!
Peer learning goes hand in hand with our project based curriculum.

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.

Student feedback

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.

Laura, a student who had never coded before coming to Holberton school, celebrating her first role as a software engineer after being hired while still in her Foundations year.