Why 42 is the Perfect Place for Innovation
America’s higher education system cannot scale or train professors fast enough to keep pace with changing technology and industry demands. By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computer science related jobs available in the United States. That sounds like great news, but they also predict there will only be about 400,000 people who will have the necessary skills to apply for these jobs. Industry leaders hiring software engineers aren’t just looking for traditional students anymore with theoretical knowledge. Instead, they need future-ready employees with hands-on coding experience and a creative mindset.
42’s Role in the Digital Revolution
This shift away from the traditional mindset also reflects where innovation is coming from today. Instead of big corporations leading innovation, we now are depending more and more on startups. With their distinct culture of a free and open exchange of ideas, startups have the ability to shape the future of tech. They offer collaborative and innovative solutions as well as teams that tend to have a wider variety of experience and different ways of thinking. That is why 42 is playing such an important role in today’s new innovation patterns. Our students are not just learning how to code in order to sustain our digital economy, but they strive to change it, lead it, and impact the world. 42 students have to collaborate, think critically, problem solve and create. This makes 42 the perfect environment for innovation.
Center of Innovation and Collaboration
42 is an innovation hub training today and tomorrow’s digital workers. Part of what makes us a great place for innovation is our openness. We want to change and impact the world, and we know we can’t do it alone. That’s why we regularly host hackathons throughout the year and welcome Innovation Tours from all over the world. Many folks visit Silicon Valley to learn about what’s up and coming. Companies, educators, government officials, and tech enthusiasts from all over the globe schedule tours of our campus. They’re not just interested in our education model: they’re amazed at a school that is future-oriented.
Whether it’s an open innovation project with large multinational companies or an app that helps maintain California’s state parks, we take on collaborative projects to develop solutions to today and tomorrow’s problems. We also have opportunities for local entrepreneurs to work with 42 students to develop an idea and build an MVP for a business, product, or solution. Our students love taking on real-life challenges, projects that improve the lives of others and having the opportunity to develop a real business in Silicon Valley. Companies and entrepreneurs love having access to diverse tech talent. In the end, it is a win-win for both industry and 42 students. But there are also opportunities for 42 students to become entrepreneurs.
42 Students: Future Entrepreneurs
Many of our students choose 42 because of its opportunities for entrepreneurship. They already have an idea or a project that they would like to take to the next level, and they know they can’t pursue it at a traditional school due to time and financial restraints. Further, what you do at 42 is your own intellectual property. We encourage freedom with creativity and new ideas. Since you don’t need any prior coding experience before coming to 42, we naturally attract and have what standardized testing cannot measure: diversity of thought. Our students bring their own unique perspectives in order to solve issues together. We have students who are talented musicians, artists, and even an expert alpaca shearer. When you combine outside passions with stellar coding skills, you get a solid recipe for innovation through creativity and diversity of thought, background, and experience.
Every 42 student has to go through our unique admissions process, which is known as the piscine. It is an immersive 28-day coding challenge in which only motivation, willpower, and hard work will keep you afloat. Students also experience failure during their exercises. This is part of the learning process and helps to develop creative problem-solving skills, determination, and self-motivation. If you survive the piscine, you are ready to become a student at 42, making admissions 100% merit-based. Students who survive the piscine say this process accelerated their technical education. It also taught them other important skills such as how to approach a problem, how to manage their time, how to overcome failure, and how to work with others. These are all key skills for entrepreneurs.
Peer-to-Peer Learning: An Academic Model for the 21st century
Our academic model is structured very differently from a traditional educational model. There are no professors, no textbooks, and no courses. Students learn from their peers. You cannot be part of a creative process if you stay within your own bubble. When students struggle or don’t know what to do, they ask fellow students. This encourages an exchange of knowledge, wisdom, and resources and allows students to overcome obstacles on their own.
By giving and receiving information and by alternating between training and learning, students adapt and progress rapidly. Each student is responsible for a part of a project’s completion and success within the group just as it would be in the workplace. Students learn how to work as a team, confront issues as a group, and troubleshoot together. At 42, we realize how important a collaborative dynamic is because it produces a healthy and abundant exchange of ideas, which is also key to innovation.
A Space to Create: Project Incubation
A company’s capacity to innovate is a fundamental factor in today’s digital market. 42 students are expected to be able to adapt and think differently in order to propose innovative solutions. Our environment, which encourages open innovation, closely reflects a startup workplace. Many industry visitors have commented on how our school and our facilities have a startup feel to them. A few decades ago startups didn’t have a space to create and would often have to work out of a garage or someone’s house. At 42 students can take an initial idea, gather a team, and work on projects together. Not only do they own the IP (intellectual property) they don’t need to lease a workspace or invest in equipment because they can use our computers and other tools on campus.
Project-based work imitates real-world work. It encourages students to not just learn time management but to build conceptual frameworks of what is and is not important or relevant to a project. With the development of a project incubator to enhance entrepreneurship and open innovation, we are proud to say that our students and we as a nonprofit take on collaborative projects to develop solutions to today and tomorrow’s problems. One particular project, developing an app for the California State Park system and the 1,300 Wilderness Patrol volunteers at Rancho del Oso, is a great example of a real-world project that is also highly impactful. It is a perfect collaboration where we were able to help the park, the students who developed the app, and the environment.
Not the Typical Software Engineer
By cultivating a startup/entrepreneurship culture, a lot of our students won’t be the typical CS grad or classically taught coder. In today’s world, it’s all about collaboration and a free and open exchange of ideas. Although the heart of 42 is code, we realize that employers are looking for critical and analytical thinking; problem-solving; creativity; communication; teamwork and collaboration; time management; and autonomous, capable workers. 42 students have a lot to offer future employers. With a combination of solid coding skills and an innovative work ethic, they will be at the forefront of the digital revolution either by joining companies, starting their own, or building innovative solutions that get acquired.