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Ecole 42 – Piscine August 2017

Ecole 42 Piscine Fremont August 2017 – day one

What is that all about?

This summer I got selected to take part at the piscine bootcamp at Ecole 42 in Fremont. 42 is a free coding school that is open only to people that succeed their month long piscine selection. This piscine is an intensive 4 week programming bootcamp in C, the school is based on peer learning.

In that month I have been programming 13 hours a day every day for 26 consecutive days. I met some great and passionate people I shared a lot with. I had the chance to review all the programming concept i learned with Python in C, a language that is not as simple to use. At the same time I acquired a lot of depth in the basis of C, like manipulating memory, allocations, pointers, strings, lists, copies, lengths, comparison, concatenations, trees and more.

It comes with a great deal of Coding… and even more failing

The share amount of hours that the Piscine make you willing to put in it Shocked me. I wasn’t expecting such a intense schedule. I was actually planning to Visit San Francisco and the bay sometimes, it never happened, I was able to go only after the final exam. It is really challenging and it hooks you up. It is fully gamified, with levels and points. There are daily assignment, that has to be peer corrected every day. There is an exam long 4 hours every Friday, a personal and group project every weekend.

But the thing that takes you and slams you on the floor is that failing any assignment is way more probable than passing it, the ceiling level is really high. I scored a 100% only once in my Piscine and passed more than half of the assignments, but that was above average in my Piscine. People struggle a lot in the first days, i failed badly the first 3 days and my morale was shattered. Then i get used to the challenge and started passing almost all the assignments after.

There is a lot of bonding between the Pisciners for multiple reasons: they have common interests, they spend a lot of time sitting together in front of the computer at school, they eat ,sleep, code and repeat all in the same place. But what I judge as the biggest factor of the deep bonding between Pisciners is the struggle that they share, the risk of not being able to compile an exercise during correction, the time pressure for the deadline and the pain of failing. All this  can be alleviated only by someone that is going trough the same.

All the intensity comes with drawbacks: 30 % of the people drop in the first day or so. Probably only half of the original Pisciners reaches the end, or at least in my Piscine that is what happened.

Logging hours

A nerdy thing I really like about the Piscine and 42 in general is that they log on your intra profile the number of hours you pass on the school computer. Being a log freak and owning a Fitbit smart watch I was able to log the number of hours i sleept every day of the Piscine and graph it all together.

Literally: eat, sleep, Code, repeat.

Some of the days look crazy and you can see that near the end I was quite tired and wasn’t working as hard, but it is common between Pisciners to pull these kind of  hours.

The Piscine itself lasted 26 days, there are 624 hours in 26 days, out of those I have been on a computer at the lab for 346 hours (55.5% of the time, 13 hours a day, 93 hours a week), I have slept for 177 hours (28.4% of the time , 7 hours a day, 47 hours a week) and I have being doing other things like eating and others for 100 hours (16.1% of the time, 4 hours a day, 27 hours a week).

Why is it worth it

What I think is key at Ecole 42 is that is not like other bootcamp where you learn some fashionable JavaScript and after a month or so you are thrown into the job market. C is not fashionable at all, it rough and implacable, is not going to be nice and flexible just because you are new. You will have to bend. You will have to think like the computer. programming in C reminds me of the name of this book written by a dutch architect :”You Can’t Change China, China Changes You”. Just switch “China” with “C”.

A reason that make me enthusiast about this school is that I have seen with my eyes people with no prior coding experience reaching the level of handling lists and trees structs in C in 3 weeks. A reason is also because myself I have learned more coding in that month than in 6 months of studying on my own.

The Piscine is like no other bootcamp, it is not the end, it is the beginning, not just a free C bootcamp, it is your test to access the real school (which is years long and free too). With what you learn at the Piscine you won’t really find a job I believe, there are not as many job in C as there are for JavaScript (bootcamp are great for this reason), but passing the Piscine is a proof of your ability to learn, adapt and overcome challenges or anything code related that is thrown at you.

Why it might not

42 is not for everyone, you must be able to follow hard daily deadlines for the Pisicine, and submit many big projects with no real deadline in school. So you need to be motivated and organized. You will have to find resources and information yourself because the school will not teach you everything is going to ask you except except the basics. It will require all the tie more than it teaches you to get yourself used to program and learn while doing.

I already had some basic knowledge in computer sciences due to many online courses on Edx and Coursera I have been taking in the last year. So a reason for me to not go to 42 is that I have some foundations to start to learn some more job oriented skills, the first part of the school is still in C and I am currently more inclined to learn other programming languages than that. Like that JavaScript I make fun about in the early part of the article.


Thanks for reading my article, I am not a great writer, I know it was rough for you to reach so far… so here is a Charmender made with post-it at Ecole 42 in Fremont to say sorry.

Charmender post-it art on the wall of the school.