Applying to Holberton School for someone who holds a Master’s degree in Political Science & International Relations might seem a stretch at first glance. Indeed, for decades, policy wonks and techies have been cordially ignoring each other. The former relying on their advisors’ reports to make the correct decisions and the latter generally avoiding the public debate.
That has changed a lot on both sides. Consider the space race for example; while it used to be the prerogative of governments, private companies are now playing an increasingly important role. SpaceX has recently landed a rocket on a barge and aims to taking us to Mars.
What is true for the conquest of space is also the case for what were once the domains of public policy. Khan Academy, Coursera and edX — among others — are playing a role, arguably as important as governments’, when it comes to modeling the future of education. Money used to be coined by states, now Bitcoin, Ethereum and many a cryptocurrency are creating new ways to approach our economical system.
Not only are companies disrupting our economy, they also willingly enter the sphere of public policy. This is evidenced by the increasing participation of tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and others weighing in on the privacy debate happening in Washington.
On the other hand, our governments are only beginning to realize how pervasive new technologies are and why they now need to attract coders and entrepreneurs. However, even if projects such as Code for America, the US Digital Service or even the recent ‘hack the Pentagon’ initiative are laudable, we still need to fill a skills gap at the intersection of technology and public policy. Wired noted recently that the presidential candidates are largely ignoring cybersecurity in their agenda, while it is a key policy issue of the years to come.
It is necessary, now more than ever, to have new public policy specialists flexible enough to fully grasp tech opportunities and challenges in their entirety. As our daily lives are shaped more and more by new technologies, politicians and their advisors should no longer ignore the tech world. But neither should companies be making decisions instead of states.
That is why a political science major studying at Holberton School makes a lot of sense. It would allow me to enrich my knowledge of and my ability to make decisions on policy issues related to technology. Immersing myself in an environment as rich as the Silicon Valley’s and being able to code would clearly develop and challenge the way I perceive big data, privacy, and other tech-related policy issues.
My background prepares me well for what would be an amazingly humbling experience. Although I am well-traveled — I have studied and worked in South Africa, France, the United States and the United Kingdom — I know how challenging this would be, but I am adaptable and passionate enough to make the most of it. Having worked on big data and its opportunities at one of France’s leading think tanks, I realize what difference I could have made with a strong technical knowledge.
I believe that change will be possible through a deep understanding of the bigger picture and I want to be that change. Holberton School would be the perfect environment for me to strive in.
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