Course Spotlight

40,000+ Tech Careers Later: Celebrating 10 Years of Lighthouse Labs

Liz Eggleston

Written By Liz Eggleston

Jess Feldman

Edited By Jess Feldman

Last updated on November 20, 2023

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Lighthouse Labs launched in 2013 with a clear mission: make technological change available to everyone, not just a select few. Since then, Lighthouse Labs has accelerated more than 40,000 careers in coding, cyber security, data science, and data analytics, and over 9,000 grads from reskilling programs! Co-Founder & Head of Technology Khurram Virani shares how Lighthouse Labs has iterated its program, curriculum, and education philosophy over the past 10 years, how government partnerships are funding tech equity for underrepresented populations, and how it will continue to support students in the coming year!

Khurram, what has kept you working with Lighthouse Labs for 10 years? 

I started at Lighthouse Labs in 2013, building out our initial curriculum and teaching to our first cohort of (only!) five grads that started in Vancouver on October 28, 2013!

I’ve been lucky to have amazing co-founders in Jeremy Shaki and Josh Borts. What’s kept us going is that we see every day the impact we have on people’s lives, which is tangible progress towards our goal – to make technological change a source of opportunity for everyone, and not just a select few.

Lighthouse Labs is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year – congrats! What are the major ways that Lighthouse Labs has changed over the past 10 years?

I can’t believe it’s already been 10 years – it feels like a blip! But in that short time, we’ve achieved quite a bit. What started as a web bootcamp with only five graduates is now one of Canada’s most recognized tech skills development accelerators, shepherding thousands of students each year into new careers in technology. Naturally, a lot has changed since we started:

  1. Our instructional team has grown to over 1,000 active instructors and mentors, folks who work in tech roles and also help teach our students
  2. The length of our bootcamp went from 8 weeks to 10 and finally to 12 weeks for most of our immersive bootcamp programs, allowing us to stay current.
  3. We started with an 8-week Web Development Bootcamp and today have four major bootcamps in web development, data analysis, data science, and cyber security – taught fully immersive in 12 weeks or flex in 30 weeks (8 or 18 weeks for our Data Analytics Program). We also offer upskilling courses that provide skills and confidence in modern technology without the expectation of switching careers! And our web development curriculum has shifted from Ruby to JavaScript focus. Most recently, with the advent of GPT and the resurgence of AI, we’ve made AI literacy an important aspect of our training while, of course, finding creative and constructive ways to leverage generative AI in our own learning software.
  4. We realized early that one of the biggest barriers to education is still geography. In 2015 we added satellite locations and introduced remote mentorship as ways to reach others in Canada, but even that was limited. Once we went fully online in 2020 due to COVID, we never looked back! Now we have students from anywhere in Canada who can take our programs and pivot their careers into tech, all from their homes!
  5. Some things shouldn’t change, and I believe we’ve stayed true to our vision and mission, which is that technological change can and should be a source of opportunity for everyone, not just a select few. We also recognize that it will take a concerted effort to break down barriers for many individuals and that we cannot do this alone. Community integration and partners are ingrained in our ethos, with over 4,000 hiring partners in our network! Working closely with the Government on various labour-related initiatives is another key way that we are working to achieve that goal.

We recognized early that, while we are deeply entrenched in the tech sector, we are not a tech company – we are not building next-generation technology. We are a people company, and we are building the next generation of technologists. Unlike some of our alternatives, we didn’t raise money at tech valuations. This has allowed us to pursue our mission relentlessly and realistically, in a sustainable way without distraction from uninformed investors, which has been especially advantageous in recent years. Of course, we are tech-aligned, and therefore change is not only inevitable but also happens quite fast!

Since you started with a class of five students, how has the alumni body grown?

Since 2013, Lighthouse Labs has launched, accelerated, or transformed more than 40,000 careers in coding, cyber security, data science and data analytics, with over 9,000 grads from our reskilling programs and counting!  

We also work directly with companies to help reskill and upskill their workforce, working with amazing organizations across various sectors, such as Telus, TD Bank, BMO, and Toyota. 

Have Lighthouse Labs students become more diverse over the years?

Beyond the numbers, Lighthouse Labs is the first of its kind in Canada to convince both industry and government about our outcomes. Today, we work very closely with the Canadian Government to secure funding for various equity-deserving groups. The most recent example was ICT Boost, where the government allotted over $21 million to help equity-deserving groups (including BIPOC, LGBTQ2+, new immigrants, women, and veterans) get tech or tech-adjacent training and job outcomes. This is another example of how we work closely with partner organizations within our community to deliver on our promise. 

What’s on the horizon for AI at Lighthouse Labs? 

The biggest push on our end right now is around iteration. A lot more can be done with Generative AI and LLMs, both in terms of what skills our grads need and how we teach. It’s an exciting time, and we’ve been quite busy with that! Makers and technologists will be able to build more amazing things faster by leveraging generative AI. 

Early on, we made the decision to build all our major software from the ground up. In fact – our alumni built it – and maintain it to this day! Everything from our student information system (SIS) to our LMS called Compass, to our assistance queue called Rudder. Even our AI assistant (lovingly called Larry AI Bot, after our mascot Larry the Duck – yes, he quacks, and yes, we really went deep into the nautical theme – no pun intended!)

What are your first graduates from 2013 up to today? How do you see their careers evolve?

It’s amazing to watch their progress! Many of our grads have become leaders in technology, worked at FAANG, on open source projects, and even started successful companies! There are many pathways – some go into people management, others into product management. In 2022, we launched a Career Trajectory Report that goes into detail about career and salary progression!

What does the job market look like in 2023 vs 2013 when you started Lighthouse Labs? And where do you think it’s headed? 

The job market has grown tremendously since 2013! Today there’s a cautious sentiment warning of an “AI takeover.” Based on our conversation with employers, the larger reason for the slowdown in hiring is the actual cost of capital, causing tech companies to shift their mindset from growth-at-all-costs to sustainability. While that means layoffs and slower hiring cycles in the short term, I think it’s great in the medium-to-long term, because it actually creates a healthier ecosystem.

As for the AI conversation, I’m truly excited. We’re living in exciting times. It will indeed have an impact on makers and technologists, in that they will be able to build more amazing things faster by leveraging generative AI. 

So Khurram, why is a bootcamp the right path for students now? 

A bootcamp is the right path for students right now because:

  • Career accelerators like Lighthouse Labs are the bridge that allows folks to pivot their career into tech in a practical way, focusing less on learning theory, and more on work outcomes and tangible skills – where they can learn what they need within months instead of years!
  • Our ethos is all about being adaptable, having grit, a growth mindset, moving fast, and being agile and practical, which are traits we’ll continue to need. 
  • Now more than ever, we need a diverse team of builders – otherwise, we face seeing even more biased and narrow solutions that further estrange many individuals. 

Find out more and read Lighthouse Labs reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Lighthouse Labs.

About The Author

Liz Eggleston

Liz Eggleston

Liz Eggleston is co-founder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students choosing a coding bootcamp. Liz has dedicated her career to empowering passionate career changers to break into tech, providing valuable insights and guidance in the rapidly evolving field of tech education.  At Course Report, Liz has built a trusted platform that helps thousands of students navigate the complex landscape of coding bootcamps.

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