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The 42 Madrid pool: the road to the finish line
The pool. A 26 consecutive day challenge that takes place on the 42 Madrid campus and serves as the final step in the academy's selection process. Daily projects that provide an opportunity for candidates to gain a solid foundation in the C language while learning to work alongside their peers. Programming 7 days a week, day and night, along with many other people in the same situation of uncertainty.
Candidates who decide to jump into the water are known as “swimmers” and are best placed to talk about this unique experience. To that end, we asked them how they have dealt with the difficulties of staying afloat and what they have learned from such a demanding challenge. “The experience is completely different from what I had experienced academically and professionally. The collaborative environment and the improvement of colleagues are spectacular, without equal! I dare to say that it eliminates the gap between teaching and the profiles demanded by companies. As the father of two young children, I see light and hope for them”, says Pablo. A 51-year-old from Madrid, Pablo has been one of the most active swimmers in September.
There is no defined candidate profile and there is a wide heterogeneity between them, which contributes to the development of adaptive capacity. While the first pools had an average age of 26, only 45% of the candidates were from Madrid. In fact, even 15% come from outside of Spain. Furthermore, 50% of the swimmers had not studied or worked with code languages before. In any case, all the swimmers have had the same opportunities as the rest to become students of 42 Madrid. In these first pools, clusters have shared a father and son, a pair of twins, several married couples, long-term unemployed, fresh out of high school, university students or workers who effortlessly combined both tasks. In addition, together with the Spanish students, Venezuelans, French, Colombians, Koreans, Peruvians, Brazilians or Italians have immersed themselves in the programming.
Regarding previous knowledge, Sandra had never trained in programming at 34 years old. She works as an autonomous project manager and is very clear about why she has decided to go to Distrito Telefónica every morning: “When you work with a team with which you already have confidence, it is easier to do jobs of a certain magnitude at a technological level because they give you their support, but things change when you want to manage projects with external teams. In the end, what a development team requires of you is that you speak the same language. This is where I identified my shortcomings and 42 Madrid gave me the opportunity to correct them ”. For her part, 18-year-old Alicia did not hesitate to apply to enter 42 Madrid as she was supported by her mother, who saw in the initiative an ideal means of training for her daughter. Alicia, born in Cartagena, explains: “I have always been interested in the world of computing and I took 42 as a challenge. There are very few women in this sector and she told me that I have many ideas and projects that I would like to carry out. Therefore, I wanted to know the necessary tools and then go further ”. Alicia had just finished her first year of computer engineering at the university.
Although the commitment expected from each swimmer to get through the pool period is demanding, they themselves are aware from the first days that progress requires time and collaboration. As a significant fact, the average time of the candidates on campus is 12 hours a day. It is through experience, repetition and practice that progress is made in 42 Madrid. What’s more, each swimmer has a bag of evaluation points that is consumed with each project that is corrected by a colleague. The only way to recover all these points is by evaluating the rest in the same way. Rodrigo, a 27-year-old mountain guide, recently arrived from China after twelve months of linguistic immersion, had been trained in learning a new system of signifiers and meanings. Despite this, the adversities have been the same for him: “What I’m finding most difficult is the lack of time, especially for the more difficult projects. It is difficult to manage the time when they accumulate. You end up taking stock and deciding.” The obstacles are numerous and varied, but the only help that swimmers have are themselves, their colleagues and their favourite internet search engine.
It may sound shocking, but, in the pools of 42 Madrid, it is not at all uncommon for the score when turning in a project or an exam to be 0. Everything is designed to take candidates to the bottom of the pool and experiment with the limits of their learning capacity. We remind you that 42 Madrid is about learning how to learn.. Despite this, the methodology is also designed so that it is not a cause for fainting or discouragement. The only solution is to assume that a 0 can mean two things: one, that little or no effort has been invested; or two, that a lot of effort has been made, but not enough. It is always important to make a great effort, even when you receive a 0. Salvatore is one of the swimmers who came from outside of Spain, specifically from Sicily. With a legal background, he decided at the age of 30 that he wanted to change course and felt that 42 Madrid could be his gateway to the world of programming: “The hardest thing is the frustration of not being able to overcome a project when you try it day after day. You go home thinking you’ve wasted a lot of time, but the next morning you realize it wasn’t a wasted day: That frustration has laid the foundations so that, after resting or clearing yourself, you understand. We have to learn to overcome these difficult moments ”.
In the end, Pablo, Sandra or Salvatore, and really almost everyone who has swum to the end, have agreed that they are exhausted, but also that, with all the practical knowledge they have acquired about programming and their own capabilities, they have finished the pool with the satisfaction of having done their best. A sense of personal euphoria mixed with the strangeness of returning to the reality of each one. What we have to do now is wait for some news from 42 Madrid. Refresh the mailbox inbox very frequently, as if this speeds up the process. Apt or not, nothing will ever be the same for the swimmers after an experience like this one..
It sounds simple that swimmers should not be given directions other than to keep swimming, but it is important. We want to remind them not to give up, regardless of whether they are taking their first steps in programming or if they have already taken C classes and know how to code. Although the pool is a strenuous experience, it is also a great place to learn more about yourself and be part of a close-knit community. In any case, at 42 Madrid Fundación Telefónica we are very proud of all those who have had the courage to jump into the pool to give the best of themselves.
By Eduardo Santana