I'm the founder of Holberton School, training the best full stack engineers. AMA!

Sylvain Kalache
15 replies
Hi everyone! Holberton School uses a project based, peer learning curriculum to train the best full stack engineers. We have campuses in the US, South America and the Middle East. Before founder life I was a DevOps Engineer at SlideShare and then LinkedIn after the acquisition. AMA about DevOps, transitioning from employee to founder life, launching in international markets, or anything else!

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Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
When you think back to launching your first markets outside the US - is there anything you would do differently?
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Co-founder at Holberton School
@abadesi So far, we launched Holberton in 3 countries outside of the US, and all has been going very well. I attribute a big part of the success to our insistence on partnering with amazing entrepreneurs, local government and non-profit organizations, as well as potential employers, to help us localize the program and make sure it’s adopted in a way that resonates with the local community. We opened our first international campus in Bogotá, Colombia in January 2019. Because of the strong demand from both students and employers, we opened the 2nd one in Medellín in June, and we have opened 2 additional campuses in Cali and Barranquilla since then. For every campus, our local partner, Coderise, a non-profit that provides upward social mobility to underprivileged people in Latin America through software programming education, who is very well connected with the local tech eco-system, was able to confirm the demand for talent and build bridges between the schools and these employers. In all the international communities we opened in, there are 2 main elements that make Holberton wanted: 1) people who are looking for better professional opportunities but may not have access to an education that will allow them to acquire the needed skills 2) companies that are becoming digital or are already digital and are starving for tech talent. Holberton is a missing piece for these communities. You can learn more about the expansion in Colombia here https://medium.com/@sylvainkalac...
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Helping people land remote jobs
Hi Sylvain, I've heard good feedback about Holberton School. Congrats 👏 Do Holberton school students apply for remote jobs? How do students find remote jobs that they can apply for? I'm working on a product called https://remoteleaf.com, do you think it might help your students in finding the leads. Let me know if you have any feedback.
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Co-founder at Holberton School
@abinaya_rl Thank you Abinaya! I love the idea. So much that Julien Barbier (Holberton co-founder) and I actually built something similar a few years back – https://techmeabroad.com/ The world is definitely becoming borderless, and it does not always make sense to look for talent in your immediate community. I am a big believer that it will be beneficial for both companies, and talent, to work across borders! I will definitely share this with our community and I am happy to connect for feedback!
Helping people land remote jobs
@sylvainkalache That's great Sylvain! Looking forward to hear from you. I just sent you the DM request on Twitter.
Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
What are experiences you had as an engineer - or challenges you faced - that helped you shape the Holberton curriculum?
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Co-founder at Holberton School
@abadesi Julien Barbier and I created Holberton School because we were both experiencing a hiring problem in our roles (his at Docker, mine at LinkedIn): we couldn’t find enough diverse, highly skilled software engineers to hire. As co-founders of while42, the largest network of French software engineers in the world, we realized that this problem was not only here in the US, but everywhere else. Therefore, we used our own experience as engineers and the experience of our network of engineers to design the Holberton curriculum. What came out of it was a methodology that focuses on hard-skills – the craft of engineering – and soft-skills like collaboration, communication, ability to learn and solve problems. We designed the curriculum to last about 2 years. The first part focuses on the fundamentals of software engineering and computer science. It starts with low-level programming in C, then we move to object-oriented and web (Python) programming, and then we end with system administration. The second part focuses on a topic of students’ choice: They can pick low-level programming, web, AR/VR or machine learning. We ultimately also used challenges that we personally faced as engineers to make sure that Holberton students would be better equipped to handle these challenges. For the system administration (SRE and DevOps) I made sure to get students used to system debugging. For people in that position, we all know that experience with outages matters a lot to become good at shutting down fires. And that outages tend, at some points, to repeat themselves. The curriculum covers some of the “classic issues” so that when students get into the industry, they “already have experience” managing these issues. The reality of being an SRE also means communication with co-workers, of which post mortems are a critical piece. Here again, students are trained to write a post mortem to make sure that they understand how critical it is to inform the rest of the company on what happened and what the impact was, and also to make sure that the engineering team is doing the pre-emptive foundational work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I could go on and on about how our experiences helped us share the curriculum, but I have only limited time for this AMA!
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Software Engineer at OpenTable
How is your school a school if it has no teachers?
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Co-founder at Holberton School
@rmorabia That’s a really good question! Indeed Holberton has no formal teachers and no lectures. The reason behind this is that historically, access to knowledge was the main barrier to get an education; therefore, people had to attend lectures to absorb the knowledge from teachers. With the rise of the internet, access to knowledge is no longer the constraint, and it does not make sense to insert someone between the knowledge and the students. At Holberton, we train people to become software engineers, but even more importantly, we train them to become their own teacher. The best developers of the future will be able to navigate this ocean of information and to be able to understand what is wrong, right, and incomplete. We don’t say that academic staff can not provide value, but we believe that they can provide more value by being in the position of facilitating knowledge acquisition rather than feeding knowledge. We accomplish this by providing students with projects and enough guidance to get started. Then it’s up to the student to go acquire the knowledge and learn the tools that they need to reach the goal. Students can discover and pick the ways of learning that work best for them: Some like to dig directly into the documentation, some will prefer to discuss the topic with classmates, some will read tutorials, some will prefer books, etc… The goal is also to mimic the corporate world. When our students become software engineers, they will be asked to solve problems; there won’t be teachers to hand them the solution. However, there will be a manager whose job is to help facilitate the work if the person is stuck. We have a similar concept at Holberton with our Software Engineer in Residence. Every school has staff on-site to help students if they are stuck on a project or cannot understand a concept. They never give the answer, but they always help students find it themselves by pointing them in the right direction. At the end of the day, we want to empower students to create their own learning experience and to become lifelong learners. To learn more about this topic, feel free to read our blog post on the topic https://blog.holbertonschool.com...
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Hi Sylvain, We are building a Tech Platform for Bikers (Motorcyclists) called Asteride (www.asteride.co). Both the founders are from non technical background and having hard time with tech. We outsourced the development to a small agencies (twice) which hasn't taken us anywhere. We are in flux between hiring the talent in-house vs outsourcing at least to get MVP out. Ofcourse scanning our networks looking out for potential CTO's and tech leads. What would you suggest best way forward in our case. Cheers! Jitesh
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Co-founder at Holberton School
@jiteshsurana Hello Jitesh. Finding senior technical talent for a startup is probably one of the hardest things. My advice here is to try finding someone who is passionate about the same topic (and considering your subject matter, that shall make it easier) and try to convince this person to work on evenings and weekends as a side gig. I would also advise giving a fair share of equity so that it’s motivating for the person to do this. Alternatively, I recently wrote an article that gives tips on how to recruit diverse talent, I believe you might find some helpful bits in there https://www.forbes.com/sites/for... Good luck!
I optimize collaboration in teams
How do you measure learning? Do you include peer-learning components? My questions are based on my background in (workplace) learning (PhD in team development).
Co-founder at Holberton School
@katerinabohlec Our learning methodology is based on progressive education. It translates to two main ways of learning: learning by doing and learning by collaborating. Since Holberton is about training students to have a successful job both right after graduation and also a successful long-term career, we practice important soft skills like collaboration which play an important part in one’s long-term career trajectory. To make sure that learning is achieved, we provide students with projects that are designed in collaboration with industry leaders, mimicking what is done in the industry. We measure learning by allowing students and us to verify that the code they write is up to industry expectations: -Documented -Following style guide -Working -Handling edge cases -Optimized We do this by leveraging software (what’s better than software to check software, heh?) that is a patent-pending technology that we have developed over the years. By pressing a button, students can get their work immediately corrected on the expectations I mentioned above. As we use linter, unit tests and integration tests to make sure that code is up to industry standards and won’t crash, we use our Checker to make sure that students are following the guidelines and that their code is working well. Oh, and we also check for plagiarism! As of April 2019, the Checker was processing about 10 million lines of code per week(https://blog.holbertonschool.com...), which is apparently roughly THREE Transamerica Pyramids’ worth of code stacked on top of each other! This allows students to get their work corrected instantly, with no bias from discrimination possible. It allows the school to be able to track every student's progress, making sure that they perform up to expectations to become a skilled software engineer. Happy to connect if you want to chat more!
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I optimize collaboration in teams
@sylvainkalache Thank you for the detailed answers. How to do you assess and give feedback on the soft skills, especially collaboration, or dealing with uncertainty or unstructured tasks?
Founder & CEO, Hustle Crew
Thanks Sylvain and all the makers who chimed in. This AMA is now closed.