Perspectives from the Piscine


From L to R: Vadim Sviridovich, Angela Kim, Jaskaran Purewal, Caleb Mambwe, Veneranda Hernandez

Perspectives from the Piscine

You may see the word “piscine” throughout 42’s website and social media, but what exactly is it? “Piscine” is French for “pool” and is the only part of the admissions process at 42. It is an intensive 28-day coding challenge in which only motivation, willpower, and hard work will keep you afloat.

Many students consider it to be one of the best and most challenging aspects of their 42 experience. The Piscine takes place on campus and must be completed in-person. You’ll try and fail, over and over again. However, the good news is that this trial-and-error period is a learning process in and of itself, developing problem-solving skills and creativity.

We decided to check in on a few pisciners during the 1st and 4th week of the January piscine to get a brief glimpse into what it is like to go through this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Good luck with your final exam this week, we hope to see all of you again!

Caleb Mambwe, 24

Week 1: “I’m from Zambia. I learned about 42 through a friend who lives in the United States. He loved the idea and thought I would love it here because I have been working with computers for some time now. I am studying computer science at a university back home. Prior to that, I did some computer-related projects and he thought it would be a great place to sharpen those skills. I am hoping to go back and come up with solutions of day to day problems that are faced in our country, and develop apps to help people. What I have learned so far is a lot of practical work, and I want to share this with my friends at the university. The knowledge I have acquired at college is more theoretical than practical. Seeing the work ethic here and seeing how they conduct their learning is more useful. I am hoping to be a software engineer someday if can get competent enough.”

Week 4: “It has been tough, but the learning experience has been great. There are a lot of times you want to give up, but you keep on pushing. The second week was probably the toughest because at that point we are getting used to the system and readjusting how you plan your days and how you learn. But after that, it became clear that once your objective is set to learn, you just do it. So this week is a bit bittersweet because I am focusing on what you have to learn versus what we can. The peer correction put me in a good position to ask people about things I really didn’t understand, it is all about learning, and being able to ask anyone about anything was the best thing. We learned a lot from sharing knowledge and everyone got a chance to learn something from people who they may not normally interact with. The interactions were the best part, I was looking forward to evaluations every day because that is when I learned the most. At the end of the day, I didn’t get everything I hoped I would get in terms of scores, but I feel good about myself because I learned something.”

Veneranda Hernandez, 25

Week 1: “I heard about 42 from my brother who is a cadet here.  I was an assistant manager at a restaurant and I was looking for a change because I knew I didn’t want to continue doing that. I was interested in going to school, and my brother convinced me to try 42 because there is nothing to lose. I looked it up and liked it because there are people from all over the world. All of the socializing you have to do here, that is outside my comfort zone because I am really shy. So I wanted to give it a try and I thought it would be a cool experience. I think that fear drives you even more. If you have no fear or aren’t nervous, you don’t really care. That is what I learned throughout the years, I am nervous about this so let’s try it. Again, it is something so far away from what I know, which is assistant management. I looked into programming and coding, and because there aren’t a lot of women doing this I wanted to see what it is about. It has been a rollercoaster, I learned so much but I still have failed for just the tiniest of details. You learn from your mistakes, and it has been fun getting to know people.”

Week 4: “It is going well, there is so much learning going on. At first, I started to fail, fail, fail, fail, but once I started passing it was like, “yes, I finally got something and it was completely right!” It is a thrill to have that, to fail so many times and finally pass something. During the piscine I’ve been able to get outside the box, put myself out there and speak to people, meet people from all over the world and get to know myself better. Going through failure and getting to see what I can accomplish despite stressful situations, I can keep on going despite failing and I can succeed if I keep on trying. It is not just someone telling you that you can get through it, but I am getting to live it. The piscine is a great thing to try even if you have no experience. Not only to learn something new but you learn so much about yourself and what you can accomplish and other aspects of life. Especially if you like something challenging, this is the way to go.”

Vadim Sviridovich, 45

Week 1: “I worked in Moscow, and moved to Budapest and finally came here for new opportunities. I found out about 42 on YouTube and the articles on the website. Before 42 I got an education in economics. I worked as an assistant professor and became a senior lecturer at a university. After that, I worked as a financial analyst and business development manager. I am interested in data science. I know for the first 2 weeks we will be really struggling, but I hope we will be able to adapt. The first two days I studied for 12 hours per day, and it is still intense.  I hope it helps to go through the piscine. I am so happy this school exists because I tried to find other options and there were master’s degrees in data science, but this is a more convenient way to study than a traditional university degree. Here you can choose your own path and after the piscine do it at your own pace.”

Week 4: “I’m a little bit tired, but I keep on going because we need to prepare for the final exam. I learned a lot about coding because I don’t have previous experience in this field. I also met extraordinary people who already know a lot and I am learning a lot from them. I think it is one of the most valuable things about the school, the school attracts people that you can work with and learn from each other. It pushes you every day to stay motivated so you don’t give up. The people, the environment, and the opportunities to do extra activities like play chess makes you feel like you are at home, it is like a family. For me, after the piscine, I want to get in even more because this environment is a good place to better yourself and continue to learn.”

Angela Kim, 29

Week 1: “I am from Honolulu, Hawaii. Before I came to the piscine I was working in the ER. I would see patients with doctors and write notes for them so they could focus on patient direction. I worked with the Affordable Care Act in Hawaii before that to help people get enrolled. When the system launched it was a failure and there were a lot of problems with it overloading. It helped me see the importance of tech and how it can impact people. My cousin is the one who introduced me to the 42 program.  I was considering pursuing computer science for 3 years, he found this wonderful program and called me. I was in the middle of deciding if I should dive into medicine or not, and he convinced me to try this. Since it is a free program there is nothing to lose. I take it as an opportunity to try programming and see if I like it or not. I am trying to be as open-minded as possible. Since I come from a medical background, I saw things that impacted the patient experience so I think there could be more done like apps to help patients communicate with their doctor. I want to see what is available in that field but I am also keeping an open mind since there is so much I don’t know about yet.”

Week 4: “The first two weeks were really great because everyone was energetic and excited, it was a great time to meet people. I had a lot of motivation going in and it was fun getting to meet different people. The third week was a bit more rough because we were all working such long hours, everything hit a bit of a low. This week everything is coming together, and I have a little bit more energy again.  I found that I can put in 10 hours of work, if I find something that I like to do, I can sit down and do it for a long time. The time actually went by really fast. I remember studying for the MCAT exam when I was thinking of going into medical school and being really miserable every day. But this is more interesting, there are more people to engage with and I learned that I actually enjoy this. I have been doing things for my entire life just for the sake of it, realizing that I like doing something was a big thing for me. Never give up, because there are problems where I have one error where I can’t figure it out and will work for 2-3 hours and will talk to someone and they will point out something I need to fix. Getting that something fixed that I worked on for hours is the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I would definitely recommend the piscine to everyone, especially if you have no coding experience. If you commit to the piscine make sure you commit to the full four weeks. No matter what, no matter how badly I do, I need to commit. You will fail many days and exams and that will demotivate you, but keep going and get through the four weeks. In the end, you will realize that you learned a lot, and that made me feel really happy.”

JaskaranJaz” Purewal, 29

Week 1: “I’m a practicing pharmacist. After coding independently I wanted to streamline the process by attending a coding class. Someone that works at the pharmacy recommended the 42 program because he had a friend who went through the school. He had a positive experience and learned a lot. I did a lot of research, visited the website and got a tour from Shanna and decided it would be a good experience for me.  I live and work in Fremont, and no tuition was a motivating factor. There is a lot of innovation happening in blockchain and I think programming will go into every sector. So it is just a matter of time until that happens, and when that happens there will be a lot of opportunity for employment and entrepreneurship. I would like to do something outside of pharmacy that is entrepreneurial, and becoming a competent coder would be a really good asset as an entrepreneur. It is pretty intense so far, I am an amateur, I am self-taught.  I did okay but this is definitely harder than that, in a good way. It pushes you, when I code at home at most I spend 4 or 5 hours, here I will burn 16 hours and not even realize it and still want more. In part, that is because of the environment and the teaching methodology. It really forces you to communicate with your fellow coders, especially when you hit roadblocks. I think failure leads to growth, depending on your outlook, how much effort you put in, and your perspective. Sometimes people experience failure and give up, some take it as a learning opportunity and try again and again until they are successful. If you are able to get through that, you achieve a tremendous amount of growth.”

Week 4: “I have been busy, given that I am still working while doing this. I feel like I have made a lot of progress and have learned a lot. I think there is a lot of value with the team-oriented projects, even little stuff like learning shortcuts here and there, they help you optimize your time. Whether someone is an advanced coder or beginner coder there is always something to learn from them, so that is an aspect of the piscine that I like. What I have told people is that 42 helps you strategically deploy your time. You need to calculate what to focus on and when for a project, it improved my ability to allocate time. My favorite thing about 42 are the people here, you meet a lot of cool people. It doesn’t matter what your background is, you’ll learn something, you’ll get better at what you want to focus on. There are so many cool resources, both electronic and human, you get an opportunity to collaborate and share insights. Just take the leap and join 42’s piscine, see where it gets you. You will most likely end up in a better place.”

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published by Stacey Faucett – January 30, 2019