Silicon Valley Influence
Three years ago, I moved to San Francisco to lead Scality’s engineering team and be part of the tech hub that is Silicon Valley.
I was astonished by the diversity of people I met within the tech industry here. One could share a conference about coding with people from India, China, the Middle East, Africa… some with engineering experience, others who had never even heard about coding, some with a law degree, others with no degree at all. So many backgrounds and horizons, nothing compared to the traditional tech scene in France that I was used to – where 99% of the actors are men, holding a degree from a handful of software engineering schools and have been immersed in a geek subculture since their younger age.
I felt there was something we were missing out on and I wanted to adjust. Diversity means people thinking out of the box and thus having a chance to find new, innovative solutions, which is what we strive for at Scality. And if Silicon Valley could do it, so could we!
I rapidly came up with a first challenge. Hiring strategies are culturally very different in San Francisco than Paris. Successful developers in San Francisco may not pass the first filter of technical recruiters in France since they do not seem to have the mathematical and theoretical computer science knowledge that French engineers acquire during their tuition. They have this “je ne sais quoi” but they just don’t tick the boxes! So, I had to come up with fresh recruiting ideas here in San Francisco and bypass some of our conventional hiring methods which were themselves contributing to the diversity problem.
Enter Ecole 42
Just a year before my move to San Francisco, Xavier Niel, a French billionaire entrepreneur, and Nicolas Sadirac, Kwame Yamgnane and Florian Bucher had created the revolutionary Ecole 42 in Paris. Ecole 42 is a radically new concept in coder training. It is completely free, and aims at training thousands of developers per year. Yes, thousands!
To reach this ambitious goal, Ecole 42 is based on a peer-to-peer teaching method: the college has no teacher. Students teach themselves together and mainly focus on learning how to learn! The university receives 80,000 applicants a year but only accepts 1,000. Students are selected not based on grades or knowledge but sheer grit. Forty per cent of these do not hold a Baccalaureate and one in two are from poor families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to attend university. The school’s number one objective is simple: find the next Zuckerberg! We were convinced that we could find within their student body, highly performant candidates who would be immediately operational and autonomous. Ecole 42 profiles are atypical, extremely motivated and resourceful— and that’s what I needed to grow my team which is in itself very unusual : a start-up within a start-up!
Vianney Rancurel, Head of Research at Scality and Daniel Binsfeld who co-founded Scality and runs customer operations were familiar with the school. They knew the founders from their university time. Vianney and I decided to set a partnership up with the school. We went there and pitched Scality and our focus on large scale, fault-tolerant and high performance distributed systems. We then organised a speed dating interview session and met with 120 students and selected 30 of them to join us for a one month hackathon at Scality.
The 30 selected students were paid for one month and joined our team to work on specific, challenging short-term projects. At the end, we hired 8 of them and created a new team inside Scality called the Ironman team with a mix of these new recruits and veteran Scality engineers.
A disruption effort from within the startup
The Ironman team, which I lead, became operational in October 2015 with a total of 15 people. Within six months we had developed the S3 connector technology enabling each of our clients to use our Ring storage software internally just as if they were talking to Amazon Web Services remote public cloud. A business that is now worth double-digit millions of dollars per year and created more than $10 millions of opportunities in its first year. If it hadn’t been for Ecole 42, we would never have been able to create such a radically new solution in record time. Partnering with Ecole 42 was strategic for us as a business and brought us the needed quality talent to add significant value to our company. On top of that, Ecole 42 also changed the lives of these individuals, many of whom were initially destined for other careers – law, communication or even medicine – if it were not for the school.
That’s the case for Laure. Laure joined Ecole 42 whilst studying in her 2nd year of medicine in Paris. She joined the school because she felt like coding was a must-have skill that would help her no matter what subject she chose to study. The hackathon was a means for her to set foot in a tech company and work on game changing technology. Because Laure’s main objective in life was to do something that will change the world, whether by saving lives or changing one letter in a complex codebase! Laure was one of the 8 recruits to join the Scality team and 18 months on, she is now a full member of the Ironman team working on our new projects. Beyond Laure, our Ecole 42 recruits all tell us that the school changed their life for the better, much better.
Such is the case for Antonin, who joined Ecole 42 after studying 2 years of Mathematics and Computing at the University of Montpellier, a respected university in the south of France. Antonin joined Ecole 42 because he wasn’t totally satisfied with the traditional French university system. “Why not try?” he thought. Once he started studying there, joining the hackathon organized by Scality was a means for him to start working on a longer-term project with a full team of experienced engineers. It was the first professional experience for him which transformed successfully as he joined Scality not long afterwards. He is now fully part of the Ironman team and modestly says that if there are any differences between the Ecole 42 recruits and the other engineers of the team, he is probably not the best person to see them. Like Laure, Antonin would recommend Ecole 42 for its potential to teach you how to learn, but he does warn, “you do have to be motivated!”
Hiring is an art and the most humbling act of leadership of all, and as a Hiring Manager, you should diversify your talent pool and try to innovate as much as you do for software engineering. Ecole 42 is great example of alternative to college for the next generation of software engineers. Peer-to-peer learning, focus on learning “how to learn” combined with no tuition is a recipe for diversity and very creative and innovate students.
42 campus now in the heart of Silicon Valley
Following the success of Ecole 42 in Paris, the 42 team opened a campus in Silicon Valley just under a year ago. With the same structure, format, and quality of engineering education, I’m confident that just as 42 helped Scality by providing quality developers in Paris, it will do the same with companies in the Valley. They already have a few hundred students and are set to take on over a thousand in the coming months!
I can attest to the quality of 42 students, and if you’re looking for diverse and resourceful people with a solid computer science background, I’d advise you to check them out!
The good news is that the very first 42 Silicon Valley Internship/Career Fair is quickly approaching on June 16th!
You can RSVP below:
42 Silicon Valley Internship/Career Fair
June 16th, 2017 @ 3:00pm
Register to recruit, interview, and connect with 42 students in the heart of the 42 community.
42 Networking Social
June 16th, 2017 @ 5:00pm
Join us after the internship/career fair for a social evening with the best BBQ in the East Bay, beverages, and music!
If you can’t get to the career fair, or if you want to test the waters with 42 first, then contact them and do what Scality did: suggest a project or hackathon and work with students directly. Or if you still aren’t convinced, ask for a tour of the campus and to meet with students. Trust me, once you see the place for yourself, you’ll get it!
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Scality, world leader in object and cloud storage, develops cost-effective Software Defined Storage: the RING, which serves over 500 million end-users worldwide with over 800 billion objects in production; and the open-source S3 Server. Scality RING software deploys on any industry-standard x86 server, uniquely delivering performance, 100% availability and data durability, while integrating easily in the datacenter thanks to its native support for directory integration, traditional file applications and over 45 certified applications. Scality’s complete solutions excel at serving the specific storage needs of Global 2000 Enterprise, Media and Entertainment, Government and Cloud Provider customers while delivering up to 90% reduction in TCO versus legacy storage. A global company, Scality is headquartered in San Francisco.
Guest post by Giorgio Regni
Giorgio Regni is a Scality co-founder and the company’s Chief Technology Officer. He oversees the company’s development, research, and product management. Giorgio is a recognized expert in distributed infrastructure software at web scale, and has authored multiple US patents for distributed systems. Prior to Scality, Giorgio was a co-founder and VP of Engineering at Bizanga, where he developed anti-abuse software that still protects hundreds of millions of mailboxes across the world. Giorgio holds an engineering degree in computer science from INSA (Institut National des Sciences Appliquées) in Toulouse, France. He is also an accomplished hacker and developer. In his spare time, Giorgio has created mobile phone applications that are currently in use by more than 2 million people