42 Wolfsburg is brand new and opened their first round of “Piscine” — the famous super-intensive selective process to get into the school — ever! But due to covid-19, they are doing it remotely.
In this post, you will find some tips to prepare for the Piscine that might be a little different from the others you will see around the web, since I’m writing from the point of view of a woman, and we were only aprox. 25% of the participants in March of 2021. So here is a brief introduction of myself: I am originally from São Paulo, Brazil, and I currently live in Berlin with my husband and beloved dog. My formal education and previous work experience was in Advertising, Marketing and Art Direction, but after a few years living here in Germany I decided to change my career path and learn how to code, so this is the reason why I applied to 42. You can check my social media clicking here.
A fun fact: 42 São Paulo was the one who came up with most of the structure of the remote Piscine, also called “Basecamp”, and this made me very proud!
As a result of a remote selection, there were people from all over participating in March’s Piscine, living in other cities and countries, with plans to move to Wolfsburg when/if they pass. So here is another detail in my case: I was admitted into 42 Wolfsburg’s fully remote program “trial”, which means that if I get in, I’ll be able to take the program from home, without the obligation of going regularly to the campus.
I am writing this after the end of the 4 weeks, and the main reason why I chose not to do a day-by-day log is simple: there was no energy for that.
Before I started my Piscine, I searched the web and found many people reporting very long days filled with 8 to 10 hours of coding, and it made me nervous about the balance of study hours and all the other things I have to do — from house tasks to having evening classes a few days a week — but with a bit of preparation, everything went better than I imagined.
But enough of that. Let’s go into what you all came here to read: some preparation tips for the Piscine!
Preparation at home
I am a night owl, so I already imagined that I would stretch my days until late hours. And I was right. So the first thing I did to prepare at home was to think ahead in a “menu” of quick and easy things to cook, so I wouldn’t spend time thinking about what to do, or with elaborated things. Then I used one day to “meal prep” and loaded the fridge. So all we had to do was to choose what we wanted to eat and heat it. Done!
Another thing that helped us was to establish a budget for food delivery, so if we had really no time at all, we could just order something. Simple.
I also made sure to have plenty of coffee and energy drinks at home. 😉
Every used dish goes directly into the dishwasher, so when it’s fully loaded we only have to press a button, and we would do the laundry once a week or even every 2 weeks, since we are just at home all day every day, hence not wearing a lot of different outfits. 🤷♀️
My husband would walk the dog, however some days I was just craving a time away from the computer, so it was nice to have some late night family time!
There is also the fact that my husband has been working from home for a year now, and both our computers are in the same room. So in the beginning it was a little challenging to schedule calls in alternate times, but it all worked out in the end. So if you are working in the same room as other people, be mindful that the Piscine is not 100% alone coding time, and it envolves quite a lot of speaking at tribe meetings, study room or evaluations.
In the end, everything worked out just fine and I had plenty of time to focus on the Piscine. I am very lucky that my husband is really patient and was very supportive of the whole process.
After you pass the logic test of the first phase and the open day event, you will be invited for the Piscine Check-in. For this, you will receive the instructions via email. During the Check-in, the 42 staff will confirm your ID and also make you a few questions, which include inquiries about your equipment and if you have an adequate ambiance where you can concentrate.
It doesn’t matter if you have a laptop or a desktop computer, but I would definitely recommend having a good-sized screen, or even two screens if that is possible for you. For me, at least, having 2 screens was perfect, since I could work on my code in one and use the other one to browse through documentation or references.
It is also very important for you to have a good and comfortable headphone with microfone, since you will spend a lot of time in event calls, evaluations and meetings in general. This is important because if you try to use the built-in microphone and/or speakers of your computer, this can cause audio feedback and it would be very hard for your colleagues to speak and listen properly.
Be sure to be familiar with your keyboard. This might sound silly, but several people spent some time searching on the keyboard how to type some symbols, punctuation and shortcuts. So being sure you know where everything is will save you some frustration.
You will also need a webcam, since they strongly recommend you to turn on your camera at every meeting (in group or one to one with a peer), so this makes the “remote” situation more personal.
And finally, if you are a true hitchhiker, don’t forget your towel! 👍
For the remote piscine, 42 came up with its own browser-based code editor called “Basecamp”, and you’ll always use this environment for your challenges. The Basecamp is pretty similar to Visual Studio Code, so if you don’t have any experience coding and would like to do some preparation, you could install VS Code on your computer and have a look around.
The Piscine will start with Shell and then move on to C language, so I would also recommend you open your terminal/console and get familiar with how it works, how you can run a command, how you can compile a C file, etc.
Most of the communication during the Piscine is made via Discord, so if you are not familiar with this platform, you could also install it, create an account and explore a little bit. Group calls/events will normally take place on Zoom, so it’s also a good idea to install the desktop app (instead of using the browser version) and learning how to change your name there.
Please have in mind that these are just suggestions, you don’t “have to” know any of this to take the Piscine, but it would surely make your life easier.
As I mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with being a complete beginner when entering the Piscine. But since you are reading this post, I imagine you want to do some preparation.
The very first subject you will start working with is Shell, so I recommend you to watch some videos about shell script in Unix, the basic commands, and bash. You will also need some Git knowledge to get started, so try to learn the basic commands to clone a repository, navigate through files and directories from your terminal, etc. There is no need to go into Github.
After some Shell exercises, you will start learning C. But there is a catch: they don’t allow you to use most functions. So watching video tutorials on C might help you to understand how it works, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to use a big part of what you learn, like printf, scanf, and so on. I would recommend you take a look at the write() function, how to prototype functions and how to compile your code. Also learning the different data types will be very useful from the beginning.
Please have in mind that 42 will put its own rules in the exercises, including a very strict syntax rule called “Norminette”, so it is important that you don’t create “bad habits” regarding the code structure, because you will have to comply with the Norm.
Good to know: There are video-tutorials on some of the topics provided by 42 itself once you start the Piscine and have access to their “intra”. The first week of the Piscine is focused on community building, which means no coding challenges whatsoever. So you will still have time to watch these videos and “prep” for the next 3 weeks.
The Piscine total duration is 4 weeks. The remote format uses the first week to focus on community building, which means getting to know your peers (and the staff!) through several events, talks, etc. There are also several channels on Discord where you all can interact and socialize. This process is important because in this first week you will form your “tribes”, which are groups of maximum 6 people that will be your closest support group during the whole thing. Don’t worry — If you find it hard to get to know people and form a tribe, you will be randomly assigned to one at the deadline. You will have the first weekend free — enjoy it, you will regret it if you don’t. 😅
On the second Monday, it “officially” starts. You will have a kick-off session, will gain access to the intra — their online platform — and to the first project. From this day on, your schedule will look something like this:
Monday to Friday in the morning— Tribe Check-in
Monday to Friday in the afternoon — Q&A Sessions with the Staff (ask anything)
Once a week — Tribe Vibe Survey (form to submit feedback about your tribe) and Voxotron (vote for your most helpful peers)
Once a week — Gender Minority Group Q&A
Fridays — Exam (4h of duration for the first 2 weeks, 8h for the last week)
Friday After Exam — a call to comment on the exam, Q&A, share your feelings, etc.
Friday night — Rush starts.
Sunday night — Rush ends.
Following Monday morning/afternoon — Rush evaluations.
(Of course, they can change things up any time… 😅)
Congratulations! Now you are prepared for the remote 42 Piscine in every possible way, and you already know what to expect. I wish I had access to information like this before my own process, since I have anxiety and am kind of a control freak. 😅
Do you want to keep reading about my experience though the whole remote Piscine? Here are some useful links for you:
And remember: Don’t Panic!