Did you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams? This science fiction novel asks the ultimate question about the meaning of life and the super-computer in the book gives a rather cryptic reply: 42.
This number inspired the school of the same name, founded by Xavier Niel, CEO of Iliad, the parent company of internet access provider Free. The digital career training center is proud to be different and aims to give everyone a chance. As long as they have coding in their blood.
I’ve been working with the Internet for 20 years, but the main problem in my profession is still the same. How do we recruit talent and how do we find the developers we need to design software that will enable us to create innovative products? wonders Xavier Niel, who invested 60 million euros to create the school in 2013.
The École 42 admissions process is extremely rigorous. Out of 15,000 applicants, only 1,000 are chosen. No money? No degree? No problem! The Paris-based school seeks potential above all else – candidates with a hint of ingenuity, a pinch of creativity, a flair for computers and quite a lot of perseverance. It does not matter whether you earned a formal education in France or elsewhere (3% of students hail from oversees). After an initial online test, the 4,000 survivors are thrown into the deep end: “the swimming pool” – 30 days and 30 nights of living and breathing coding in commando mode on the school premises.
It’s sink or swim, but if you make it, you can enroll in the school tuition-free and take advantage of all its technological resources 24/7 in a high-tech building that sprawls over more than 43,000 square feet: the Heart of Code. It is home to a thousand purring iMacs with giant screens connected to an ultra-high speed network and gigabyte storage servers.
“Over the years I have come to believe that we must completely revolutionize the educational system,” explains Nicolas Sadirac, Director of École 42, whose teaching methods are intended to shake things up.
Here, there are no theoretical courses, schedules, study halls or even professors. Rather there are collaborative projects and advisers who motivate students and encourage them to push their own limits. There is only one rule: a new exercise is handed out every morning at 8:42. The goal is to learn from each other, acquire knowledge in real-life situations, foster independence and a sense of initiative and develop qualities that are prized in the business world, such as productivity, personal investment and continual self-directed learning. Entrepreneurship is also encouraged through a partnership with HEC to create start-ups.
Because capacity for innovation and digital transformation are major economic challenges, these budding programmers are getting attention. Distinguished guests have honored the school with visits: French President François Hollande, French Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron, PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Large corporations are also keenly interested in their work. For example, hackathons have been organized in conjunction with Alstom, GDF Suez and the Paris police force. In February 2015, the 10 people who completed the curriculum were immediately hired. Coding? Definitely a career with potential.