Profile: The Holberton School Of Software Engineering


Over the past couple of decades in Silicon Valley, there has been an increase of talented individuals who have brought valuable skill sets and years of experience in the tech industry to companies such as Avaya and Oracle. These companies are always looking for ambitious software engineers who are quick-thinking and are also independent professionals, especially those who are also very skilled in coding.

Coding is a form of digital literacy that is an in-demand skill to have in the tech industry as students learn programming languages like Java and Python, gain knowledge on how to troubleshoot on a computer program, work in fields such as e-commerce websites and social media, and students don't need to have a degree to learn coding. One important thing about learning to code is that the demand for coders in the market is high as programming jobs grow 50% faster than the market overall and 12% faster than the market average, as well as jobs that require coding pay $22,000 more than jobs that don't.

One San Francisco-based startup that is devoted to teaching the next top talent of the Silicon Valley coding scene is The Holberton School of Software Engineering. Founded in 2015 by Julien Barbier, formerly of Docker, and Sylvain Kalache, formerly of LinkedIn, the Holberton School teaches students who are genuinely passionate about becoming software engineers, coursework that is project-based and for the most part, students will learn more by collaborating with their classmates.

The project-based coursework offered by the Holberton School helps students gain the appropriate coding skills that will beneficial to their future careers. The students who are able to solve difficult programming challenges in a theoretical manner are likely to adapt well into the tech industry, particularly if they and their classmates can successfully work with each other to complete the projects.

Since the classes are conducted in the Holberton School’s classrooms, the peer learning segment of the coursework relies on the contributions of the students can share their ideas in a coherent manner with their project members. The best group is usually the group that takes each member’s ideas and combine them into a main, united idea, creating a great mix between individual creativity and constructive team work.

The Holberton School’s Class of 2018 was the startup’s first ever graduating class and already, its graduates have found jobs in companies such as Apple, Credit Karma, and Dropbox. A couple examples of successful Class of 2018 graduates include Dora Korpar, a one-time cashier at Trader Joe’s, who is now working for storage company Scality, and Sravanthi Sinha, who was offered an internship at NASA’s SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program while she was finishing up her education at Holberton.

The startup is unique in which unlike most coding schools, it offers two options for the students to pay for their tuition, the “upfront option” or through the Income Share Agreement (ISA). The upfront option is for students who want to pay tuition as soon as they get admitted into the Holberton School, with students paying $45,000 after their first year and $40,000 after their second year. When students choose the Income Share Agreement, the Holberton School charges the students 17% of their salaries or internship pay over 3.5 years and students can only pay if they make more than $40,000 a year.

Although the Holberton School is still a fairly small school in regards to the number of students enrolled, one aspect that the school is emphasizing on is the increase of diversity amongst the student body, especially since software engineering and coding are still industries that are predominantly white. Max Johnson, a student at Holberton, stated that if he had to pay tuition upfront, he would've not been able to attend Holberton. Sylvain Larache, co-founder of Holberton, had said,

    We want to remove any barrier to a high-quality education. No matter your age, gender, ethnicity or past professional life, you can come.

On February 6, 2017, the Holberton School had raised $2.3 million, an investment led by French venture capital fund daphni (the company name is not capitalized on purpose) and also was accompanied by private equity and and venture capital firms, Reach Capital and Insight Venture Partners. Other investors that had joined the $2.3 million financing round were Trinity Ventures (which includes its board of directors, Dan Scholnick, and associated companies Docker and New Relic), Yahoo! co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang, and Slideshare co-founder Jonathan Boutelle.

As part of Holberton’s desire to be an alternative destination to a traditional four-year campus for aspiring coding students, the startup had gained financial backing last year from some of the leading names in Silicon Valley. The financial backers that were added onto Holberton’s Board of Trustees are Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel and CloudNOW CEO Jocelyn DeGance Graham. Adding to the list of prominent Silicon Valley executives is LinkedIn CEO Jeff Wiener, who also became an advisor and investor in the aforementioned $2.3 million financing round, which later got raised to $4.3 million.

The most well-known celebrity to have invested in the Holberton School was R&B artist and producer Ne-Yo, who had also participated in the $2.3 million round and he joins Holberton’s Board of Trustees so that he can attract individuals from underrepresented groups to pursue a career in coding. As a person who has bright hopes for minority students who want to work in the tech industry, Ne-Yo told TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey in an interview,

    I just love the fact of what they’re doing with the school — that they’re making it easier for underrepresented people in the world of tech. They’re giving them a platform and access to this knowledge that they probably wouldn’t get otherwise. I think that’s one of the coolest things about this whole situation.

On April 9, 2018, Holberton had raised a Series A funding round of $8.2 million with new investors, Omidyar Network, joining existing investors like AME Cloud Ventures and Parch Ventures. As Holberton’s institutional capital is being raised to $13 million due to plenty of financial backing from the previously mentioned investors, this would leave the school with more money to possibly create a larger campus, which can increase the number of students attending the school.

The top-quality technical education that the students receive at The Holberton School of Software Engineering can help them greatly when it comes to nurturing professional relationships through networking with other professionals within the tech industry. In the future, it probably won’t be a surprise to see a lot of Holberton alumni in the employee lists of companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.