My Quest to Holberton School

Why Software Engineering?

I grew up in East Oakland, on Seminary and Hayes street to be exact, where the community is fueled by drugs, money and violence. Tech isn’t a part of the picture. Growing up in a low-income household, I’m more worried about helping pay rent with my parents and putting food on the table for my siblings. APIs, libraries, the latest frameworks — these are the last things on my mind when I have to survive. Aside from that, if my peers find out that I’m a “techie,” I’m automatically out-casted, labeled a ‘nerd’ or a ‘geek’. Finding a balance between my love of tech and fitting into my community is a daily roughhouse.

Thankfully, the two people who sponsored my parents to come to America via a refugee program, donated a family computer. To this day, I keep that computer: an eMachines with 512MB of RAM, running Windows XP. Not the best computer, but it was my sweet escape from the troubles of my real world. It was a struggle finding a stable internet connection when my parents couldn’t afford a DSL connection, so I’d settle with AOL and NetZero, making sure none of my siblings made phone calls when I was connecting. I went with the flow as my peers talked about the latest technology, how fast their connections were, while I was hiding the fact I was on a 56k connection, ashamed of being poor.

eMachines T3256 w/ 512MB DDR SDRAM

With time, I began to see the digital divide arising in my own backyard. My community doesn’t have access to K-12 CS courses, no bootcamps target our demographic, continually out of the conversation, continually left behind. I joined an organization called Hack the Hood, which introduces low-income and youth of color to technology by hiring them as web developers.

This is it.

I realized I wanted to use tech as a way to elevate my community, either by providing the people with the skills necessary to thrive, or building something that will help drive the community in more impactful ways, away from drugs and/or violence.

Hack the Hood & Vietnamese Youth Development Center (VYDC), Graduation Ceremony 2016

Without hesitation, I served as a Technical Fellow at Hack the Hood, co-teaching a cohort of 14 youth, ranging from 16–21 years of age on the basics of web development, using a CMS platform called Weebly. I taught a few coding workshops, using the C language as the base. This opened my eyes and made me realize that with the knowledge that I have now, I was able to change the lives of 14 other people, introducing them to a world they’ve never seen, being able to create simple programs with just a few lines of code.

If I had the proper skill-sets of a software engineer,

I would be able to do much, much, much more.

This is why I want to be a Software Engineer, to elevate my Bay Area community.

Why Holberton?

I just finished my third year at UC Davis, majoring in Computer Science. I realized I know the theory and underlying foundation behind code — I could write a simple console application with a class implementation of a Linked List or Binary Search Tree, but didn’t have any real world applications that solved real world problems, and was never taught that. I know firsthand that traditional universities have really outdated curriculum, not up to par with what the current times and tools of the industry. Some of the lecture materials were from the 2000s, and we know technology makes a huge leap every four years. The teaching style hasn’t been captivating (to be polite). Sitting and staring at lecture slides can often lead to me to questioning if I really know (or even like) the material, and this is scary: to make me doubt my love for computers.

I read the TechCrunch piece about Holberton School — why didn’t I find out about this earlier in my freshman year, before dropping 40k+ on tuition at my current university?!?!

I am in love.

Holberton School has everything I’ve ever wanted in a traditional university: project based classes, peer learning, internships aimed at applying the skills you’ve acquired, ALL based around Software Engineering.

My mentor Jimmy Thong Tran, who was recently accepted, encouraged me to take the risk that will change my life for the better. That’s when I decided to apply.

So, here I am.
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