With a Little Help from our Friends: Stories about Friendship @ 42 Silicon Valley

With a Little Help from our Friends: Stories about Friendship @ 42 Silicon Valley

In honor of National Friendship Day, we sat down with some members of the 42 community to share their stories about friendship. It is easy to make friends at 42 because you go through shared experiences like the piscine. Coding your heart out with hundreds of other pisciners creates a unique and lasting bond. Many people also choose to leap into the piscine together with friends, knowing that they have someone who understands where they are coming from. We sat down with friends who met during the piscine, friends who came to 42 after meeting at UC Davis, friends who learned about 42 in high school, and friends who met through hackathons and traveled cross-country to attend 42.

From Meeting During the Piscine To Creating an App Together: Brayan Castro and Vincent Dauvergne

L to R: Brayan and Vincent
Where are you from, and what were you doing before 42?

Brayan: I am from Modesto, California. I got my associates degree in programming at Modesto Junior College. Right before the piscine, I was working at Ohlone College. I was doing IT as a contract worker and we were installing cameras and card readers.

Vincent: I was in England before 42. I did a vocational course in IT, a two-year course where we did everything from graphics to spreadsheets, hardware and a bit of web dev. At home, on the side, I picked up coding. I finished my degree in June 2018 and I did the piscine here in August 2018 with Brayan.

How did you hear about 42 and why did you decide to try it?

Brayan: Originally I heard about 42 back in college from a programming professor. The concept was interesting but it seemed almost like a fantasy. I checked it out online and that was it. Flash forward a year later, and there was a flyer from 42 at Ohlone, specifically on a table in the game room where I was pulling cable. So I picked it up and when I got home that day I applied. I had been doing IT for a year after I graduated, and I didn’t want my education to end where it ended, I wanted to keep going.

Vincent: My family is French and my uncle works in Paris in an IT department. He knew about 42 Paris, and he told me about it, and I learned there was a campus in Silicon Valley. It was so random that I ended up coming here. I went on holiday to Florida where my mom is, and we came to California for a few days. I signed up for the piscine last minute and I decided to stay here. 

When did you meet and how did you become friends?

Brayan: So we originally met during the piscine. One of my roommates was friends with Vincent, we didn’t talk much, but we were near each other a lot. Once we became cadets, I started in November, and he started in February, we recognized each other from the piscine. 

Vincent: As cadets, we talked only 2 or 3 times in the beginning. At one point in February, I came over to his room and he invited me to go to Modesto with him. So that was our first bonding experience. We stayed overnight at his place in Modesto and we went out that night to play billiards and got some food. Since then we go to Modesto every other weekend.

What mutual interests do you share? 

Brayan: To various degrees, music. He is a producer and guitar is the main instrument that I play. Vincent was teaching me how to play the drums.  

Vincent: Music, and since we started going over to Modesto together a lot, we participated in a hackathon in Stockton. We didn’t win, but it was fun. Brayan knows a lot of web stuff, and that is when I started getting into web.

We continued that game when we came back and started coding a lot together. We did the Build the Bay hackathon at 42 where we created an app for the city of Newark called Localateur. There is a lot of interest in it still. 

What qualities do you most admire in each other?

Brayan: He is very goofy. I am a more serious dude, I always have been. I like putting myself with people with more energy. It makes me feel energetic for a small time, and it gives me small bursts of being goofy and fun. 

Vincent: Brayan is super hard working and motivated, and I was always sort of the opposite. We balance each other very well but are similar in a sense. He could have carried our project all on his own, that is how motivated he is. Our personalities are different but we share the same humor, we bounce off each other a lot.  

You’re going through 42 at the same time. How does your friendship help with that/how are you tackling 42 together?

Brayan: So we kind of have been getting more and more supportive of each other. We went from not knowing each other, to actually inviting a stranger to my home. We started working on Localateur and working on other projects, and now we are dorm-mates. That is anywhere from, “Hey wake up”, to five minutes later, “You still haven’t woken up” to, “Hey we need to work on this particular code.” We help each other keep on going.

Vincent: We are practically conjoined twins. We are working on the same project now, but even when he did FDF, and I was doing Fillit, we helped each other out. I am going to do FDF next. We have to help each other a lot with projects because we need to get to level 7 before we try to get into 42 Accelerate. 

What is your all-time favorite memory together at 42 so far?

Brayan: We have done a lot, we went to Pismo beach. We spend a lot of time here on campus. Honestly, we make everyday fun.

Vincent: We have fun all the time. One of my favorite memories was playing ping pong before bed after being up for 48 hours straight. We were delirious, and Brayan laughs for no reason. We actually get really good at ping pong when we are tired. 

UC Davis Alums combine their love of animals with coding: Kristine Sonu, Mi Hwangbo, and Minah Kim

Where are you from, and what were you doing before 42?

Minah: Originally I was born in Korea but grew up in Alameda which is in the Bay Area. I went to school at UC Davis where I got a degree in biology. After Davis I joined the army and before 42 was waiting for basic training. 

Mi: I was born in Korea but I grew up in Milpitas, which is in the Bay Area too. Before 42 I went to UC Davis, and I got a degree in animal biology. 

Kristine: I was born here in the US and I went back to Korea when I was 4. During high school, I came back to Southern California. Before 42 I went to UC Davis and I got a degree in animal science.

How did you hear about 42 and why did you decide to try it?

Mi: I heard about it first. There was a customer from the coffee shop who was a cadet here and he told me about it. 

Kristine: She told us about it and said we should do it together.

Minah: She kept on mentioning how cool the school is, and how we can learn to do computer programming.

Kristine: I was interested in the school but around that time, I had nothing to do. Going to graduate school didn’t work out well, so I decided to go with her.

L to R: Mi, Minah and Kristine
When did you meet and how did you become friends?

Kristine: Mi and I were in the same class at UC Davis in 2014. It was a biochemistry class. We had a mutual friend who introduced us and in 2015 we moved in together. Minah and I met because we worked together.

Minah: I worked part-time in a restaurant at the college and Kristine started working there. It was the first time I met a Korean woman who was the same age at Davis. I never really had Korean friends there. 

Kristine: At first she didn’t like me, but after a year she started talking to me. 

Minah: They invited me to their house and that is how we got to know each other. 

Kristine: Mi and I were housemates and the next year, which was 2016, Minah moved in with us. 

What mutual interests do you share? 

Kristine: We do everything together, we are spontaneous about doing new things. We will plan something in the morning and just go do it together. 

Minah: We also all love animals. 

What qualities do you most admire in each other?

Kristine: Mi is really smart and is a good teacher. We did the piscine together and started as cadets together. When I am stuck on a project she is good at explaining things. Minah is a positive woman. Whenever I am with her I feel happy, funny, and I became brave with her.

Mi: Kristine is a really good listener. They both are really social, and I am not, so they do all the social stuff for me. Kristine is fashionable, and Minah has very positive energy and she is really diligent. 

Minah: As you can tell Mi is really opposite to me, sometimes she is shy. But because she is very opposite to me I have learned a lot of stuff from her. She knows all kinds of information and can get resources from anywhere. I like to talk to her because she tells me things I don’t know in the world. Kristine is very similar to me, so probably the way she feels about me I feel the same thing. When she is here I can speak out more, she gives me that confidence. 

Mi: They are really soulmates, they even wore the same t-shirt today (laughs). 

You’re going through 42 at the same time. How does your friendship help with that/how are you tackling 42 together?

Minah: It is simple, we go through the same problems together and we talk a lot about it. But we will also have different problems at the same time and share and help each other. Somehow we move on and manage.

Mi: Sometimes I feel unmotivated, but they go to the lab and I go with them and work with them. Because they are working it kind of makes me work harder too.

Kristine: I think the same as Minah. We are always together, we all sit together, we are all roommates, and we are always there to support each other.

What is your all-time favorite memory together at 42 so far?

Minah: Staying up all night in the lab and dancing. After sitting in the lab all day your body hurts. At first we decided to do some stretches and instead, we decided to put on music and dance together…it was fun! Now I don’t stay up all night, I get up early and work throughout the day. 

Kristine: We did the Build the Bay Hackathon together. It was a fond memory because we felt like we actually started a business together. Hopefully, we can build on that someday.

High School Classmates Pursue their Dreams of Entrepreneurship: Skye Thomas and Elijah Miller

L to R: Skye and Elijah
Where are you from, and what were you doing before 42?

Skye: I was born in Oakland, and I moved to Hayward and lived in Hayward most of my life. Before 42, I was in high school and I went to Mt. Eden. I really liked writing a lot, and I liked my English class. Also, I was really into sports and stuff, I would go and play basketball every day.

Elijah: Originally I’m from Oakland but I did a lot of moving, and a lot of my family lives in Oakland still. I also went to Mt. Eden High School and I was very interested in basketball. My number one passion going into high school was basketball, and leaving high school my number one passion became entrepreneurship. That is what motivated me to go to school every day.

How did you hear about 42 and why did you decide to try it?

Elijah: Shanna spoke at our entrepreneurship class. It was one of the only classes I took seriously. I was really listening to what she was talking about, I understood the opportunity that was on the table, I felt a lot of my peers around me weren’t able to see the advantage given by going to 42. They didn’t see the end goal, the reward from what comes with this. Yes, it is a lot of hard work, but there is a reward at the end if you can actually stay with it.

Skye: I was in the same entrepreneurship class. Elijah recommended the class to me, he wouldn’t tell me what it was all about, but it was good because when I actually started paying attention and could see what could happen at the end, I was like wow. At first, I didn’t know anything about 42 Silicon Valley, I wanted to see what it was all about. After listening to Shanna, I was like, this is real.

When did you meet and how did you become friends?

Skye: I have known this guy for so long, since 2008. We met when we both were playing Pop Warner Youth Football. 

Elijah: We were around 8 years old. I was moving around a lot. I got kicked out of one school and ended up in the same high school as Skye. So we were reunited when we were 14.  

What mutual interests do you share? 

Skye: Basketball, football, music, meditation, art, coding, architecture, and creativity. 

Elijah: We both love helping people, it is a different satisfaction. When you see someone is better because of you, it feels good.

What qualities do you most admire in each other?

Skye: He actually motivated me in that entrepreneurship class. His goal wasn’t to fill the seats, it was to show what you can do when you apply yourself. There aren’t a lot of classes that show you what you can do. 

Elijah: He takes me out of my box. I am very impulsive and I make a lot of impulsive decisions. He makes me see the whole picture and stop for a second and actually think before I actually do it, and I think that is really good. It got me out of some bad decisions. At the end of the day, Skye helps me discover new things about myself. 

You’re going through 42 at the same time. How does your friendship help with that/how are you tackling 42 together?

Skye: You’ve got someone to work with, we help each other. 42 is so different from high school because there are no teachers, but at the same time, you feel the pressure. We are both totally different, but our personalities complement each other.

Elijah: He understands me when no one else does. We were always together, we always had a third member with us, and throughout the years and seasons the third members would change but the two consistent factors were me and him. We have gotten to meet people together and build connections together. People remember us as a pair. 

We come from similar backgrounds and cultures so it is easier for us to communicate with each other about personal things because we feel we will understand better than anyone else. People are themselves around us, we have people rapping for the first time, and playing basketball for the first time. I feel like we change people’s lives together.

What is your all-time favorite memory together at 42 so far?

Skye: Before we did the piscine, we were part of the 49ers EDU camp. We were introduced to programming, we got introduced to web scraping and pulling information from websites. We also got to go to Levi’s Stadium at the end of the camp. 

Elijah: On Halloween, there was a talent show on campus. There was a red carpet, and we were just chilling with Gaetan and they told us to join in. Gaetan gave me a mask, and he gave Skye a chest plate, and we walked out there. We started going down the red carpet dancing. Last year we didn’t know there was a costume contest, this year we will be ready. 

From Meeting at East Coast Hackathons to Becoming 42 SV Alumni: Charlie Summers and Oliver Belanger

Where are you from, and what were you doing before 42?

Oliver: At that point in time, after we had tried to do a startup together, I was freelancing in high-level language programs, and Charlie was not doing any engineering.  I was working for a portfolio company building their stuff. 

Charlie: Before 42 we were both living in NYC, we were working on various startups and various entrepreneurial projects. We both went to the same school, Oliver graduated from Fordham a couple of years before me. So we were basically living in NYC in the South Bronx, both together and separately. Before 42 I didn’t know how to program. I was primarily working on a startup accelerator called MetaBronx. So I was defining the first iteration of the program and generally trying to advise. 

How did you hear about 42 and why did you decide to try it?

Oliver: At one point I stumbled on the holy 42 TechCrunch article, everyone in our piscine heard about 42 from there. And then I took the first test that they used to require because it was 10 minutes and I thought it would be fun. I showed it to Charlie and decided to take the second test later.

Charlie takes both tests and was like, “Oh, I got in” and pushes me to do the second test so we could look into doing the piscine together. At the same time, I was looking at 42’s curriculum but we could only find it in French. Since I know French and have a CS degree,  I was like wait a second, this is an excellent curriculum. They are doing this right, this is the way you should do it, but no one does because it doesn’t really fit the traditional college model well.

L to R: Oliver and Charlie

Learning bottom-up is a luxury that most people don’t get. We both got in and we decided to make this decision to buy plane tickets within the next two days.  For me, having worked in startups and having some technical understanding, I was thinking through it all and had to think through each piece. That made me slower in comparison and less capable overall than those who were getting at technical problems via their gut. Looking at 42 and how the curriculum was designed, I wanted to develop technical intuition.

 Charlie: For me, I didn’t have an engineering background and what I was thinking was engineering might not be for me but I felt compelled to give it a try. I ended up enjoying it and doing well, ultimately that was the turning point for me.

When did you meet and how did you become friends?

Charlie: We went to the same school but we didn’t meet at the school, we met at hackathons in 2015. 

Oliver: During my last semester of college I discovered hackathons and I went to all of them. We were talking and Charlie told me about some math research he was doing. Fast forward a few months and we were at a different hackathon. Basically, we kept meeting at hackathons and working on the same team and building stuff together. 

Charlie: My first hackathon was bitcamp at the end of my 2nd year of college. I met Oliver on the way back on a bus. We were going from Maryland to New York, and with traffic, it was a 6-8 hour ride. When we were going to come back I just wanted to make sure no matter what happened I was having a good time.

We did 5 hackathons together. The summer after he graduated, Oliver was interviewing at places and I was doing my math research. Then we won an Angelhack hackathon and we got admitted to their accelerator program. We were a bunch of young people who had no idea of what the market wanted. It was just us spinning our wheels and trying stuff. 

Oliver: All of the rookie, dumb mistakes you can think of from an engineering perspective we made during the accelerator program. Once we ran out of money we did spin up a dev shop and that was relatively successful. Then a client didn’t pay us and we were short massive amounts of money and we decided to kill it and go our separate ways. We were trying to figure out what to do next and we read the TechCrunch article about 42. All of the visions of the future we had been building were gone. It was a catalyst to try 42. 

What mutual interests do you share? 

Oliver: Most of them. We have been friends and working together and doing weird life stuff together for so long. We both very much enjoy self-development and learning and we both approach it from different places. There are a lot of interesting things and areas where we balance each other out. 

Charlie:  It has been a good 4 or 5 years now that we have been friends, and we lived together in 3 or 4 different physical locations. A lot of that has been centered around startups and around tech. During the last 2 years we have gone to Burning Man, this year we are co-organizing a Burning Man theme camp.

We have different backgrounds and approaches but have the same principles. We think of completely separate topics and domains. There is a large overlap in most, we don’t think of interests in the traditional way, we flow from one thing to another.

What qualities do you most admire in each other?

Oliver: Charlie is able to reach a new habit, or process, for himself. Within a good amount of time, there is some process in his life that actively pushes him forward. He is good at consciously defining and setting a goal for himself and achieving it while doing a thousand other things at the same time. Specifically, doing it in a structured and controlled manner. Sticking to a schedule may sound basic, but I find most people say they do this when they really aren’t. Charlie is one of the few people I met who will actually do it.

Charlie: Oliver works harder than anyone else, I would say often to his own detriment. He puts his physical body and mind out of whack because he is pushing himself so hard. What I have seen is his work ethic become more thoughtful, and he has a better understanding of what matters. I remember Oliver as a 22-year-old trying to get stuff done and reveling in the self-destructive externally creative process.  As time has gone along, he has figured out how to create a more structured way and better allocate his time. This has given him a tremendous ability to get stuff done. He used to be more like a hammer, just bashing stuff, now he is like a knife, more precise. He is enjoying life more, and I enjoy seeing that unfold. 

You went through 42 at the same time. How did your friendship help with that/how did you tackle 42 together?

Charlie: During the piscine, we had different perspectives. I was really trying to figure out if I was going to be an engineer. Besides talking to my girlfriend, I cut off all of my other stuff. Oliver was still doing some freelancing during the piscine. 

There were two different approaches early on. There were people who were intellectually interested, who wanted to have an understanding, and they would prefer to stay in the program longer. And some people had the objective to get as good as a job as they could in engineering.

Oliver: I would say these would be the two extremes.

Charlie: I was in the job category, so I pushed myself at 42 to build the technical competency. I got there in October and the beginning of January I applied to 80 jobs. 

Oliver: We do our own thing so I was totally on the other side. And we cooperate and help each other out however we can in areas that overlap. In terms of helping each other out, a lot of it is tactical, being able to teach and help each other, but we have our own goals. 

For me, leaving after 6 months wouldn’t work. After 9 or 10 months I was getting ready to go, but that was a good thing I think. So for me, going through the program was maximizing the amount of technical understanding, so I was not super keen on finding a job as fast as possible, I was keen on getting deep into programming.

Charlie: I am guessing the many friends coming to 42 play an emotional support role. The friendship is something they lean on for those challenging times at 42 where you don’t know what is happening next. Oliver and I have that too but we deal with that stuff individually and in our own ways. Both of us had moments when we were going through something and leaned on each other. We both deal with these emotions in different ways, but it manifests in similar ways. 

What was your all-time favorite memory together from 42?

Charlie: While at 42 I taught an algorithms class, I spoke at every single Moonlight, and shared random ideas just for the sake of it. One of the things that both Oliver and I liked about building the 42 community was that we were able to bring in resources for 42 students. Like helping folks through the LinkedIn Reach process. 

Oliver: I started Moonlight, it was super popular for a bit. When it started we were getting 20-30 people per week until the dorm hourly requirements. After that it died out, then Josh took it over for a bit, and now Mason is doing it.  I am super happy it is back. We want to go back and check it out. For me, my favorite memory was starting HS Hacks, that was the first big hackathon we put on. There were a large amount of 42 student volunteers that helped across the board. It was super cool to be part of that and now hackathons are common at 42.

42 is About Building Community

42 Isn’t just about learning how to code, it is about building community and learning how to interact with others in a social setting. When you don’t have teachers or professors, students are the ones in charge of their own success and that of their classmates. This type of teamwork naturally leads to forming strong bonds between students that help them build a network that can assist them later on in their careers…not to mention the personal enrichment from making a new community of friends.  

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published by Stacey Faucett – August 2, 2019