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Holberton School: A French Success Story in Silicon Valley

Guillaume Mollaret, Translated by Nina Fink
Publié le
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Holberton school - Silicon Valley
As of the end of 2017, Holberton had 180 graduates. // ©  JASON HENRY/The New York Times-REDUX-REA
San Francisco’s Holberton School, a software engineering school founded by three French expats, is growing steadily. In fact, Holberton’s alternative curriculum and innovative business model have attracted so many investors that the co-founders are considering opening new outposts.

Near Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters sits an unusual school. Holberton School students spend two years learning from each other, rather than having "knowledge handed down to them and having to memorize what they’ve read in a book," notes co-founder Sylvain Kalache.

Also, they receive no degrees. Named after Betty Holberton, co-creator of the ENIAC, the first fully electronic computer, Holberton recently announced that it had raised $8.2 million from investors including daphni, Trinity Ventures and Omidyar Network.

Mentorship Matters

Holberton’s founding was made possible its founders’ Silicon Valley network and work experience. Kalache says, “We ask professionals at Google, LinkedIn, Salesforce and other tech companies to tell us the skills they’re looking for. That helps us come up with the exercises the students will need to solve. It’s up to them to find the information sources that will allow them to complete each exercise.”

The tech professionals are not paid teachers. Rather, they serve as career-long mentors to Holberton’s students.

Admissions and Tuitions

Admissions are highly selective. Less than 3% of applicants make the cut. The entrance exam is comprised of timed online exercises. Kalache explains, "At first, there are clues about methods but then they disappear, leaving room for [individual] initiative."

Once students are admitted, tuition is free. However, graduates commit to giving the school 17% of their earnings from their internship and their first three years in the workforce.

In the San Francisco Bay area, annual computer engineer internship salaries average $70,000 and annual staff position salaries average $100,000.

Academic Growth

"This business model would be illegal in France," observes Kalache. "We are considering starting other schools in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world. The funds we’ve raised should make this possible in addition to allowing us to expand our program capacity."

As of the end of 2017, Holberton had 180 graduates. That figure should soon reach 1,000 thanks to the arrival of new 250-student classes every six months.

Read the full article (in French)


Guillaume Mollaret, Translated by Nina Fink | Publié le

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