Docker Founder Sets Up School to Help Next Generation of Developers

The method for educating developers in Europe comes to American shores, via the new Holberton School, which uses project-based methods to train developers.

software development

Few in technology would disagree about the impact that Docker container technology is having on the world of software development. Yet how did the founders of Docker actually learn how to code? It's a question that the new Holberton School is aiming to answer.

The Holberton School is backed by $2 million in seed capital that was invested by Trinity Ventures, Jerry Yang (co-founder of Yahoo), Jonathan Boutelle (co-founder of Slideshare) and Solomon Hykes (co-founder of Docker). The CEO and co-founder of the Holberton School is Julien Barbier, who went to school with Hykes and was part of the founding team at Docker.

I went to a school called EPITECH, the European Institute of Technology, in France, and I learned how to code and how to learn," Barbier told eWEEK. "Solomon Hykes was in the class with me, and the core team at Docker was all from EPITECH."

Barbier said that during his career, he's worked as a developer, a product manager and an entrepreneur. What he learned in school, he said, was a project-based approach where he was able to learn how to build technology.

The Holberton School is named after Betty Holberton (1917-2001), who was part of the original team of six developers that built the first legendary EINAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) computer for the U.S. Army in 1943. The goal of the school is to help fill a need that is painfully apparent in the technology world.

"Obviously, we need more software engineers, and vendors are struggling to find developers to build products," Barbier said.

Today if someone wants to be a software engineer, he or she has to traverse a long and arduous path that typically involves a university computer science degree, where there is more theory than hands-on practice, he said. An alternative route is online training, though Barbier said few people actually complete online courses. Yet another option is to go to coding boot camps, though in his experience most boot camps focus only on a single technology.

In contrast, the Holberton approach is to use project-based methods to train developers in a full stack of Web application development technologies.

"The idea is that everything is project-centered, so instead of having hours of theory, you just give students a project," Barbier said. "The students will then learn the theory they need in order to accomplish the given project."

Since the students will learn the theory in practice, the hope is that lessons learned are more useful and will be retained.

The overall goal of Holberton is to train thousands of developers a year, but the school is starting out small, with 32 students in the first class scheduled to start in January 2016 in San Francisco. That first class of students will get their education for free.

Barbier is not sure yet how many students his school will handle in 2016 or even what the tuition fees will be. He is confident, however, that together with his backers, the school will scale across the U.S. and grow to help meet the needs for trained software development professionals.

While Holberton is not a degree-granting organization, it will be providing its graduates with a very unique form of certification—one that is validated by the same blockchain technology used in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. With the blockchain linked education certificate, a potential employer will be able to authenticate the validity of the certificate.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.