Become A Software Developer Without A Degree, A Second Chance.

One month. Just enough time for you, if you are 18 to 28 years old, to learn the basics of programming  languages like C#, C++, Java, Cocoa on shiny new iMacs, and enroll on a 3 years long hardcore computing program. No degree required, just a fierce willingness to learn and  be a part of this “renaissance” movement which is happening in France right now.

Welcome to the new amusement park of the French entrepreneur Xavier Niel. A building that incorporate a dark cubic form in which these young people will lay on the floor,hang their clothes up the banisters, crash in front of their computers after midnight.  This is project 42 , and it’s a premiere in France a country  where the unemployment rate is a staggering  10,3%.


For years, only rich parents were allowed to send their kids to renowned high schools, which pumped  self important new graduates into companies asking for more competitiveness, ROIs and quick results.  African or foreign parents put way more money out of their pockets, without seeing their younglings for years. Ask to any graduates why they would not take less salaries –it’d make sense in an unstable economy- they’d yell at you “Do you know how much these studies cost me?! No way!! Out of question!” – Wrong.

This is how the French education system failed, by letting those who had big dreams but no money, no education and complicated backgrounds down –immigration’s children–. Failure is a necessary part of success, tell me about it! But what to do in a country which always have blamed failure?  Basically the government policy answer is “We know you’ll  fail but don’t  worry you’ll be on comfortable welfare, we’ll take care of you” – Wrong again.

My parents’ choices has always prevailed. After graduating from high school, I went to France and studied Pharmacy, because my dad told me to do so –he is a pharmacist– and It was a sure way to make money like him. I failed once; twice. It sent me into a tailspin. Between odd jobs, money came slow, over years I bought a Wacom tablet, a laptop, a camera and lenses –the dropout is when you buy all the things unrelated to your tuition fees–.

To accelerate my fall I discovered World Of Warcraft, an online game with a beautiful world to dive in, where you are leveling a digital avatar. It was like a drug. Sometimes I went to college –with the money my then girlfriend gave me – sometimes I didn’t. I was lost. In my distraction I started buying all sort of books that I devoured in the university’s library when I was supposed to attend to exams. Books on how to start a company, master creative software,  there was also a paperback  about Java. It looked like a big blue  cinderblock. I remember sending an email to the author asking: ”Your book is so complicated, are you sure it’s for beginners?” I was chocked. “I don’t understand, I wrote it in a way everybody could get,” he said. From this day, I knew that coding wasn’t for me. I found drawing, music, design and photography more compelling.

To succeed you need to lose yourself, and then find yourself while doing tons of non-sense.

We need to reboot the entire education system. Build costumed career paths for our children and not be ashamed/afraid of their choices. In a perfect world a father might say: “Alright son! You want to be a plumber because you’ve spent too much time playing Mario Bros? Okay do it”. Plumbers, these folks are making a living  after all, and a  good one. At the end of the day, a college degree is just a $107,600 piece of paper as Emily Bowen cleverly put it in her article.

During an interview, Xavier Niel said that there’s no degree delivered after the 3 years program “We can’t promise them a degree but we’ll give them the tools they need to be better off in a promising industry.” Companies like Google or the Nasa have visited 42 , and are already making selections. Xavier knows what he’s doing, he has justbuilt himself a reservoir of talented programmers, and they love him. You can tell by the amount of cheers and claps he gets every time he enters the room.

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I’m not disparaging education. It’s necessary. What’s more necessary though, is to find what you love. It’s also our duty to send the elevator back down, because we were all also lost once. Knowing the solution, pass it on to others and watch how they elevate themselves to new heights is priceless.

What is your true call? How did you find it? How did it inspire others?


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