Jerrick excelled in biology and medicine, but he was always thinking about technology. After medical school, he decided to pivot to iOS development and enrolled in Lambda School’s iOS Development Track! He was impressed with the online bootcamp’s experienced teachers and income share agreement plans, and the remote environment meant he could balance his studies with caring for his son. Jerrick tells us about working as a project manager for junior Lambda students, and his plans to combine his passions for healthcare and technology in his new career as an iOS Engineer!
How did your career and background lead you to enroll in Lambda School’s iOS Development Course?
I always liked computers growing up, and I thought it would be cool to work with them. But when I was in college, computer science at that time seemed pretty boring. We didn’t have Google or Facebook or the iPhone, and the internet wasn’t as attractive and social. I did computer science for one year, then switched my major to Biology. I ended up getting scholarships and awards for my work.
At graduate school I studied Biochemistry and Medical Science, then I went to medical school at Howard University. While in medical school, everything was exploding in terms of technology and medical technology. I’d feel so stressed out over my classes that, for a break, I’d put my books down and go to tech conferences to have fun.
After graduation, I wanted to go into health tech, but I didn’t have a way of doing that. I started working for a couple of medical device companies, then got into a corporate business gig. I was interested in learning sales and the workflow for a corporation, but I was really struggling with my love for technology. I had also lost my mom, dad, and sister in the span of five years, and that encouraged me to reevaluate everything that I wanted to do and became a huge motivation. I didn’t feel like I had a path to move from medicine to business to technology, so a coding bootcamp seemed like a good fit. And then I heard about Lambda through a good friend.
Did you have any experience with coding before? Did you try to teach yourself?
I had started a small software company in medical school making mobile web pages for doctors’ offices. I wasn’t actually coding things from scratch – I was using third party applications to build white label solutions for my clients – I acted as an intermediary. But I wanted to get a little bit deeper. I’d always wanted to learn how to use Swift, the language of iOS, but it was really hard. Back in 2008 or 2009 when I started doing this there weren’t as many tutorials online.
Why did you choose an online coding school like Lambda, and why iOS?
Lambda School offers a highly structured program that is completely remote and can be completed from home. As a single father of a 14-month-old, I liked the idea that I could study remotely on my own time. The iOS development teachers they have are also the best of the best; some are leaders in the field. The main teacher is Andrew Madsen, and he is very experienced in iOS and macOS. One of my favorite teachers was Erica Sadun, and she has written over 30 books on iOS development, then David Delong worked at Apple and Snapchat, and now works at WeWork. All of the staff have a lot of great connections and have worked for great companies. I also didn’t have to pay anything upfront, because Lambda offers an income share agreement.
I chose iOS because I wasn’t really interested in web development. I really wanted to learn how to use Swift, so it just made sense to dive in.
What was the Lambda School interview and application process like?
I got lucky with the interview process. The average interview process with Lambda takes three to four weeks, but it only took about a week for me because a class was opening up the next week. You have two options with the application process. You can take a pre-course with professors for about two weeks and if you pass, you get accepted. Or, you can test out of the course, get an interview, and potentially join the next cohort.
I tested out of the pre-course class and had an interview with the admissions director. We had a good conversation. I applied for a stipend and told her it would really help with bills and diapers for my son. She saw me as a worthy student and offered me a stipend.
How does the income share agreement and stipend work?
The income share agreements and stipends vary. The program is 30 to 32 weeks and is pretty intense. I had a few dollars saved up and a good support system. If you pay up front for the program, it’s $20,000. Income share agreements are $30,000, but $0 upfront. After you’re employed and making at least $50,000 a year, you give Lambda 17% of your paycheck for two years.
The last option is $40,000 for people who get a stipend, and you pay back 10% of your salary over four years. That’s what I signed up for. There’s no interest charged, and I thought it was a good deal. My stipend was $1,000 a month for seven months.
What was your Lambda School iOS cohort like?
My cohort was quite diverse. The cohort was about 50 to 60 people with about 20 people per class. In my class, we had people from almost every background: white, black, Asian, African, European, South American, and Central American. There were people who had degrees in Computer Science but hadn’t learned anything that was applicable to the job they wanted, and there were people who were just starting out with coding. Some people also enrolled part-time.
The student:teacher ratio is great: you have a professor and at least two project managers (PMs) per class. PMs are people who have been hired by Lambda or students who have recently gone through the course.
What was the learning experience like?
Lambda aims to make the learning process similar to what you would experience in the industry. In the industry, you have sprints, so we would have four sprints over the course of four weeks. At 8am each weekday, we had a code challenge to solve with help from a teaching assistant or PM. From Monday to Thursday, we would build a guided project from scratch, with help from an instructor from 9am to 12pm. After a lunch break, we were given a task to make a brand new project based on what we learned that morning. So every day, we are building two projects. At the end of the week, we have eight completed projects.
On Fridays, we had a three hour test or sprint to implement whatever it was we had been working on that week. If you pass that, you move on to the next week. If you don’t pass, you meet with a PM who determines whether you need to repeat the week or can move on.
Every fifth week is a build week where you’re basically on your own, and you can build your own project from start to finish incorporating everything that you’ve learned.
What sort of projects did you work on, and what skills did you learn?
I really gravitate to apps which use the internet and APIs, whether it’s simply a newsfeed, or a movie database, iTunes, or a music player – there are so many things you can do. One app I gravitated to was a movie database app. Then I actually had an interview with a medical device company in San Francisco, and their take home project was using same movie database that I had used at Lambda School! That was my first job interview, and I was well prepared to do the takehome project, because I had already done the networking and built the app from scratch. I was in the final 5 out of 130 applicants, so I really appreciated that experience.
How were you able to balance childcare and stay focused on the program?
You have to communicate. I would plan with my son’s mother for two to three weeks out at a time. I knew when my courses and sprint challenges were going to be, and I was lucky in that I had a supportive situation.
Lambda is really sensitive to people from all walks of life. Everything is done through Zoom, a video conferencing service. But once the camera shuts off, each student is in their own environment in their own house. I know a few students who don’t have supportive homes or help. Lambda has a mental health channel on Slack and a Student Success department designed to help students who are struggling. They want to make sure you have all the support you need. They want you to succeed. You can also always directly message the instructor or a PM.
You have to know that it’s going to be difficult going in. But there’s something great about having professors and endless information at your fingertips, and a cohort of people around the globe that you can lean on as you’re working through your assignments and projects. For the most part, people who do this really want to do it – that’s why people stick it out.
How did Lambda School prepare you for job hunting?
They have a whole department that’s focused on making sure you land a career. Multiple times a week, they invite people from companies like Uber or Bank of America, and financial companies, healthcare startups, and more to give presentations during the lunch hour. So you can grab your lunch, listen to the presentation, and hear that person’s pitch for why they think it’s a great idea to join their workplace. If you’re interested, you now have a point of contact. You get their email and Twitter, and can reach out to set up a time to connect.
Lambda School Career Services makes sure you have a portfolio page and an up-to-date resume. They go through your job materials with a fine-tooth comb and offer mock interviews to ensure you’re prepared. One of the best things they do is when you get an offer from a company, they help you negotiate your offer. That is very helpful because if you don’t negotiate your offer, then most companies don’t think that you’re worth your salt. I know people who have negotiated offers to include relocation plus bonuses thanks to Lambda. Lambda is changing the whole paradigm of the job market. We’re taught the newest technologies, so if you’re a company, and you’re looking at a Lambda student who has done this for 32 weeks and hasn’t given up, that’s a good indicator of how dedicated this person is.
When do you graduate and what are your plans?
I’ll be done in about nine weeks, but I’m already job hunting. Lambda is flexible. If I were to accept a job offer while still enrolled and wanted to move on, that would satisfy my completion requirements. I know some people who were able to get through half of the program (the iOS portion – about 15 weeks) and land a job in the range of $150,000. But these results aren’t typical in all cohorts; web students usually get around $70,000 to $100,000.
I took about 10 weeks off in the middle of the program to actually work for Lambda as a Project Manager. It’s a fully paid job, and it’s an option available to anyone who has almost finished the course. They encourage you to pay it forward, as there’s nothing like having a student who has just gone through the curriculum to help students who are just starting. It looks good on your resume, as you have actual experience teaching and taking on a leading role in finding solutions to different problems. I was also grateful to work as a Project Manager under Paul Solt, an instructor that has also worked for Apple. I learned so much during that experience.
What kind of job are you hoping to find? Do you want to work in iOS
I recently had that interview in San Francisco with a medical device company where the take-home project used the same movie database that I had used for a project at Lambda School, which was amazing. Health tech is what I’m looking at. My dream company to work for is Haven, founded by Harvard cancer oncologist Atul Gawande. It’s a joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JP Morgan Chase. They’re doing some innovative work around health issues in the US and the world. I’d love to work for a health tech company, as it blends my passion for health and technology. But I’d love to work anywhere I could get some good experience.
What’s interesting about iOS development is that Apple has built a framework called Research Kit to help medical professionals gather data, while maintaining people’s privacy. One of the reasons I chose iOS is because Apple is prioritizing privacy. There is an Apple Watch app that can take people’s heart rate, and can detect Arrhythmias and people have used the data to diagnose Atrial Fibrillation, when your heart beats too fast and can cause a stroke. So I see a huge benefit of being part of that work. From iOS to healthcare consulting and product, my main goal is to be the liaison between doctors, software engineers, and business people.
How has your previous background been useful in learning iOS development, and how do you think it will help you on the job?
Software engineering is very different from the basic sciences. It has literally stretched my mind. A lot of biology is memorization and honing your skills. Software engineering also requires a lot of memorization and skill-honing, but it adds one key element: you can learn the concepts, but it’s not about what’s right or wrong – it’s about what gets the job done. One solution can solve a myriad of different problems.
As a doctor, you may want a patient to eat better. You can tell that patient to eat better every day, but the result you want can only happen with behavioral change. And these devices that we have in our hands can help facilitate that change with powerful apps—and that’s what gets me excited about merging medicine and technology.
How would you sum up your time at Lambda?
I feel indebted to Lambda because they have provided me with an education and a platform where I can make all my passions come together and come true. I have a lot more confidence as I enter the job market and a clear vision of where I want to be.