How to access the best tech talent around the world with Sylvain Kalache

Product Hunt Radio

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48:30

Jan. 21, 2020, 9 p.m.

On this episode Abadesi talks to Sylvain Kalache, co-founder of Holberton School, a project-based alternative to college where you can become a software engineer in two years. They have campuses in the United States and Colombia. Sylvain formerly worked at Slideshare and LinkedIn.

In this episode they talk about...

The story of founding Holberton and why a new type of school is needed

“Some companies are tech and the ones who are not, are either becoming a tech company or they are going to die. Even a non-tech company, like healthcare, retail, media, transportation, you name it, they all need software engineers.”

Sylvain talks about how they came up with the idea for Holberton and the experiences he had that convinced him of the need for the school. He explains how he and his co-founder decided to set out to fix those issues with Holberton. He says that many people he interviewed when he was working as an engineer had spent a ton of money on an education but didn’t have the right skills for the job they were applying for.

How they designed their software engineering curriculum

“It’s really hard in the first place to find a good software engineer, so it’s exceptionally hard to find a good software engineer who’s also a good teacher.”

He talks about the hectic first year of working on the school and what it was like getting everything ready for the first cohort of students in January 2016. They needed to create a curriculum for their school and says that they relied on the community to help them figure out what to include in their education. He also points out that the world of software engineering moves at a really fast pace, so it’s important to have a curriculum that can be flexible and always up-to-date.

How to find motivated and passionate people

“Most of the people I would interview were right out of college and spent a fortune or took out huge student loans to take this training. They were not prepared to take on the job. They knew things, but not the type of skills that we would need from these people.”

Sylvain talks about how to find motivated people in general, which is useful for both admissions at Holberton — when it comes to figuring out who to accept or not, as well as hiring at Holberton — because in the early days of the company it is difficult to match the perks that huge companies offer, so you have to find people who believe in the product or vision and have a lot of motivation and passion. He says that looking at someone’s side projects, blog, and GitHub can give you a good indication of how self-motivated they are.

How they are working to increase representation in the tech industry

“We gave a lot, as much as we could, not expecting something in return. The power of community is something that we find in Holberton in the learning methodology itself, where students are pushed to work in groups and where helping is not cheating, but helping is collaboration.”

He says that admissions at Holberton are completely blind and that the system for admissions that they’ve developed is automated. He says that there is talent everywhere, but that a lot of that talent is missing the education, which is where Holberton comes in. He says that their program is comprised of half people of color and nearly half of their students are women. He says that they baked in inclusiveness into their philosophy and operations from the very first days of the company.

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