Fresh from high school, Marine decided that the traditional university route was not for her. She took a gap year and found herself at an architectural firm in California. Marine knew that there was more to her professional story once she was introduced to coding, and decided to attend Holberton School’s two-year coding school in San Francisco. Find out how Marine is enjoying her time at Holberton School, what projects she has been working on, and her plans for the future.
What was your educational background and career trajectory before you attended Holberton School?
I actually moved to the US from France about two years ago, after finishing high school. After high school, I decided to take a gap year because I really wanted to see all of my options and I was still unfamiliar with the educational system in the US. I have dual Citizenship; my mom is American so the move was a bit easier than expected.
During my gap year, I was working in an architectural firm for about seven months. But at the same time, I really wanted to get involved in either volunteering or some coding. I got in touch with a French lady named Servane Demol who started a program to teach computer science to younger kids ‘code for fun’, and that’s when she introduced me to Holberton School. She thought I might be interested, and indeed I was. I decided to apply to Holberton School in November.
When you started looking at Holberton School, what was it about the school that made you decide to attend?
Since I took a gap year, I was really in search of what I wanted to do, so that really opened a lot of opportunities and options. Once I realized that I wanted to try coding, I tried to learn by myself. But it was really hard because I didn't know where to start, and I was intimidated.
I didn't really look at any other bootcamps after the suggestion from the woman I met. I had this sense that I didn't want to go to a regular university because I felt it would be a bit restricting. I wanted to create instead of having to take a lot of lectures. The French educational system was good because it taught me discipline, and things that I needed in order to grow myself. Yet, four years of university, for me, wouldn't have been as beneficial. My mom kept saying, "You have to pursue education, and you have to keep learning," and I agreed with her. When you open the link on their web page, you see Holberton School is a project-based alternative to college and that really put a spark within me, and I thought, "Okay, this is exactly what I'm looking for." Since the program is two years long, it was good for me because it actually forces you to be committed to the school. Now you have a two-year commitment, so you have to keep going.
Were there any other specific factors that helped sway your decision about joining Holberton like location, price, or programming languages taught?
I was sold. The fact that it is a hands-on program was meaningful for me because that's how I learn. You can teach me and tell me something 20 times, but I won't understand until I do it myself. Also, I enjoyed the fact that there are no courses and it is project based. There are some presentations in the morning, which are really helpful, but having Holberton School be project-based is really nice because you can manage your own time as you as long as you respect the project deadlines.
The other factor I liked was that the school is on site, so you actually have to be physically at school with other people. People are there to help you when you're struggling. We're a class of 32 students - some are remote, some are in different countries - but we still are very connected and help each other, which I think is great. Normally they require you to be on site, but unfortunately, it wasn't possible for some students. We have an audio visual recording system for remote students so that they can still have access to everything that's going on in the school.
Location wise, I had some struggles. I used to live in South Bay, Santa Clara so I had to do the two-hour long commute every day. It was two hours going to school and two hours going home, so it was four hours a day. And that was really, really hard because we had so many projects and deadlines. When you're losing four hours every day commuting and not doing anything, it can be really stressful. I just moved to San Carlos which is an hour away. It's a little better and it makes a huge difference here.
Describe your current program at Holberton School.
The first cohort started in January and the first nine months is intense training to become a full stack software engineer; and then there’s a six-month internship. Holberton School wants you to gain enough experience and explore what you might enjoy doing the most. They want you to have a sense of what future career you would want to pursue. Then, the last nine months are specialized for your interests and your goals for after the school.
Tell us about the structure of your day. What is a typical day like?
I try to be here at 9:00am. The projects are usually released the night before around 1:00am and if we're learning a new concept during that project, there will usually be a presentation in the morning. It’s mainly just a quick introduction into the concept so that you can go and then continue learning by yourself.
Project wise, there will be around four to five projects a week and sometimes there will be group projects for bigger tasks. In addition, we have meetups of people from the industry that will come into the school and do a quick presentation on, either their applications and how you can use it, or to teach a language that we're not aware of. It’s really nice that industry professionals are willing to come to the school to teach us and keep us updated on the latest technologies. We also have deep learning courses with school mentors.
How has this learning experience helped you? How is it different from high school?
It was really intense because I was very new to programming and computer science. So I was learning from scratch. I was really motivated and considered myself a sponge because I had to soak up everything, but it was very difficult. It really pushed me to persevere. Holberton School always tries to push you out of your comfort zone so that you keep learning, keep evolving, and keep getting stronger.
Learning by myself is what I prefer. I like to go my own pace and search for the things I need. Here at Holberton School, I’m also learning how to learn, which I know I'll need in the future. In the industry, everything keeps evolving and you have to keep learning.
Which programming languages have you really enjoyed? What are you currently working on?
Right now, we're working on a bigger project, an Airbnb Clone. We're actually doing it from scratch so we have to replicate a database and make a full web structure.
I’ve enjoyed the Twitter Clone project the best because I like being creative and I like seeing an end product.
Walk us through the interview process for Holberton School. What was that like?
The application process is three levels. Level one consists of short technical questions that are very easy. They just want to see how you would react.
Level two was where you actually have to build a website using Linux, HTML and CSS. That was a lot of fun because again, you can use your creativity and come up with something that you like, and then you can show it to other people. Once I started creating my website, I was just hooked on wanting to attend Holberton School. I was so happy when I submitted it. They replied back to me asking me for an onsite interview, so that was level three. During the interview, they ask you questions about yourself to see if you're a good fit. Then ask you a technical question, which puts you to a nice type of stress when trying to answer. They sent me an email again, saying that I was accepted for their January cohort. I was very happy with how the process went.
You said you started to learn a little code on your own. What resources were you using?
I used Codecademy and Open Classrooms. There was also a French resource that I was familiar with. Oh, and I used a lot of YouTube tutorials videos.
Tell us about your cohort at Holberton School. What were the demographics and how was your experience?
We're 32 students and we all have different backgrounds and ethnicities. I think Holberton School did a great job of creating a group that is so diverse because it makes us very strong- we get along very well. There are students at various ages as well. I'm only 19 because I started this program after high school, but it’s great to see that there are other students around my age, and then there are some students who are older. In addition, there are people from different countries who are learning remotely.
Does Holberton School have conversations about women in coding?
Yes. We have had conversations for women in coding, and have had meetups to meet women in the industry. Being a woman learning code is very nice because we don't feel excluded at all. We feel powerful, and we feel like we have a presence in this industry. It’s super helpful when you see how many women are strong, and really want to make a difference. You’re able to see that you're not alone, and you begin to think, "Okay, I can do this too."
Tell us about the instructors and mentors at Holberton School.
I'm not sure of how many mentors there are total, but there's a lot of them in the industry that are willing to grab a quick lunch and discuss ideas. Some students have a personal mentor, someone that will be assigned to help them when they have questions. There are also mentors that come to do presentations.
We have four people on site every day with us. So if we have questions, even though we should always ask our peers first, mentors are always here no matter what. If you have any questions besides what's going on in your project, then you can always talk to someone which is really nice.
What has been the biggest challenge for you at Holberton School?
You really need a lot of mental strength and perseverance because especially with coding, it's not going to work the first time. So you have to continue to try, even when you don’t feel like it, and that's definitely challenging.
Has Holberton School started doing any prep for job or internship searching?
Yes. We’ve done a lot of training/interview prep for the internship section of the program. We had mentors come in, such as one from Google, who gave presentations on how to prepare yourself for an interview, and how to tackle technical interview questions. We have a lot of help in that direction. Holberton School staff tell us that if we do feel confident about getting a job, then just go for it and take the job. If you have a good job opportunity, and that's what you're looking for, just take it. They’re really open to students doing what’s best for them.
What do you plan to pursue once you finish Holberton School?
I joined the program to help me learn coding because I was learning by myself and realized that I needed help. I needed structure, something to guide me. I joined Holberton School with that mentality and now that I am learning and gaining these new skills, I see what the industry is looking for and it makes me more confident in pursuing a career even right after the school. You do learn a lot! It's amazing how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time, and I almost feel ready for the internship. I'm pretty sure after the internship, I'll have a pretty good idea of what direction I want to go in.
Before Holberton School, I tried to learn mobile development in order to make mobile apps. We have learned a little bit of mobile at school and that’s what I was leaning towards mobile development.
Any last thoughts on your experience attending Holberton School?
I think because it's a new school, and it's very fast pace, and motivating. And also the pricing of the school, the financial system of the school – I think it's a very good system.
There’s no upfront tuition, but you repay 17% of your salary for at least three years after you get the job. And that's only if you get a job. If you don't get a job, you don't pay back the school.