Lighthouse Labs has campuses in tech hub spaces like Launch Academy (Vancouver), Devhub (Toronto), and Victoria BC, which allows students to be surrounded by startup companies and entrepreneurs while they study. This form of immersion gives students an opportunity to learn more than just how to become a professional developer, by building their network and understanding of tech and startup culture. Lighthouse Labs has a dedicated career services team which helps students find jobs through networking as well as resume, portfolio, and interview preparation.
Recent Lighthouse Labs Reviews: Rating 4.39
Recent Lighthouse Labs News
- How Feedback Shapes the Curriculum at Lighthouse Labs
- April 2019 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup
- Become a Developer at these 33 Summer Coding Bootcamps!
- In PersonPart Time6 Hours/week
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Victoria
- Refund / Guarantee
- $850 credit towards bootcamp for completing the Intro program.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
This course is focused entirely on equipping you with tools that apply directly to professional web development. By the end of 6 weeks, you’ll be creating beautiful apps and understanding web development fundamentals for both front and back end. If you're interested in learning how to code, communicate with your dev team, understand how to create an MVP or gain valuable career skills, this course is for you.
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Victoria
- We have two financing partners: Lendful & Grow.
- Refund / Guarantee
- $850 credit towards bootcamp for completing the Intro program.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
- Git, Cocoa, Xcode, Objective-C, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design, iOS, Front End, Swift
In PersonFull Time10 Weeks
Lighthouse Labs runs Canada's first-ever iOS Development Bootcamp. In 10 weeks, you'll learn everything you need publish to the App Store. First, you'll learn the fundamentals of Objective-C, XCode, and Swift, and be able to make working apps on your phone. Then, you'll learn development best practices and topics like UI/UX and Spritekit gaming. By the end, not only will you be able to bring your vision to life, you'll also be a highly sought after talent entering Canada's fastest-growing industry. Operating out of Canada's most dynamic tech hubs, Lighthouse Labs combines a mentor community of 80+ full-time developers with an agile curriculum that emphasizes hands-on experience. Over 75% of your time at Lighthouse Labs will be focused on building actual, functional software. They have a 1:7 student to teacher ratio to help keep you on track and you’ll have access to mentors from different backgrounds, 12 hours a day, five days a week. This has allowed them to graduate more than 1,500 students into amazing careers as developers.
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Vancouver, Toronto
- We have two financing partners: Lendful & Grow.
- We’re partnering with local & national experts to serve different and intersecting underrepresented groups through scholarships! If you’re a self-starter & leader with a passion for coding, apply to our scholarships! www.lighthouselabs.com/scholarships
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic Computer Knowledge.
- Prep Work
- 40-80 hours.
- Placement Test
In PersonFull Time60 Hours/week12 Weeks
Lighthouse Labs will take you from coding hobbyist to professional developer in 12 weeks, and be the launchpad for your career. Operating out of Canada's most dynamic tech hubs, Lighthouse Labs combines a mentor community of 80+ full-time developers with an agile curriculum that emphasizes hands-on experience. Over 75% of your time at Lighthouse Labs will be focused on building actual, functional software. They have a 1:8 student to teacher ratio to help keep you on track and you’ll have access to mentors from different backgrounds, 12 hours a day, five days a week. This has allowed them to achieve the ultimate result: more than 1,500 students graduated into amazing careers as developers.
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Victoria
- Desjardins for Ottawa and Montreal and Alberta Student Aid for Calgary.
- We’re partnering with local & national experts to serve different and intersecting underrepresented groups through scholarships! If you’re a self-starter & leader with a passion for coding, apply to our scholarships! www.lighthouselabs.com/scholarships
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic Computer Knowledge.
- Prep Work
- 40-80 hours.
- Placement Test
Lighthouse Labs Reviews
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I had a very good experience at Lighthouse Labs, and believe it was worth the price of admission for myself. Having a strong background in programming going into the bootcamp, it was not too intensive, however, it gives you an opprotunity to add intensity depending on how determined you are to learn and improve. This meant adding my own stretch goals and milestones for some projects, and Lighthouse Labs allows you to be surrounded by experienced developers that can assist you along the way.
Career services was not as good as it was hyped to be, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on it being bad timming, as the cohort after mine recieved a lot more job opprotunities.
Overall, it was a great experience, and I made a lot of great friends in the process while learning a lot.
I did the 8 week web dev bootcamp. It was tough but worth it. I highly reccomend it to anyone serious and I mean geniunely serious about becoming a developer. It is a great way to get your foot in the door. It teaches you more than just how to code but how to learn quickly and efficiently. Covers all the techinical jargon to get you through an interview and this will be embedded in your brain for eons. Also the ability to figure out a code base will become second nature. It is however, not for the faint of heart. You aint got grit, forget about it. But if you wanna haul butt for eight weeks and get a jr dev position then this is the start of your journey. Would do a again if I have access to a time machine.
I took it when they still had a rails focus, and really excelled in the environment. You get as much out of it as you are willing to put in; if you really apply yourself you will learn a tremendous amount in a very short time.
It does not prepare you amazingly for the working world, but is effective in helping you learn how to teach yourself, and covers the basics in a clear and easy to understand way. You need to be prepared to continue working hard once you graduate and start working, as that is when the true learning begins.
I attended LHL during the May01-June2017 cohort. It was a very good experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to career shift into development or want hands-on experience. The strongest product of LHL is the curriculum. It is kept up-to-date and is continually updated to reflect industry needs. You will find lots of overlap between job descriptions and the technologies you'll be learning at LHL.
Like any boot camp, it is important to go into it with the right expectations. You will learn a lot at LHL, but recognize that there will be holes in your knowledge. Their idea that the whole boot camp experience is around ~year is correct -- LHL will set you up with enough to take on a first developer job but the learning will have to continue after boot camp has ended. If you understand this and come in with a good attitude, you will be successful.
LHL does a good job creating an environment that will allow you to learn an immense amount during the 8 weeks. As a student, its important to get comfortable as soon as you can, and you will enjoy / take advantage of the environment they have set-up. The LHL connection doesn't end after boot camp either, as this community enviroment translate into the alumni community well.
Instructors are LHL are knowledgeable, and care a lot about student success. They are a valuable resource along with the available mentors, and they all do a good job assisting students in getting as much as they possibly can out of the boot camp experience.
Career services do a good job of setting you up to be in a position to find work. Set realistic expectations, be willing to try different options, and you'll get a lot of CS.
Overall, I will recommend LHL to anyone serious about getting into development. I've recommended it to friends but the number one thing is the expectations and attitude going into it.
I am really happy about my time at Lighthouse, the staff is amazing,the overall culture super relaxed and inspiring and the instructors are really awesome, very knowledgeble and always available, even after the completion of the bootcamp.
It was a life changing experience and I have not only adquired knowledge that I would never adquired by myself in such short period of time, but I have learned how to learn, which is the most important skill in the world of programming, and thanks to it and thanks also to the great network I have built at the lab, I have landend on my dream job as game developer in less than 2 month. I had no prior experience in game development but the coding experience I have developed in the bootcamp allowed my mind to learn fast every coding language.
I definitely suggest to enroll!
There isn't much more I can add that isn't already known about Lighthouse. There is a high placement rate for a good reason. The program is popular for a good reason. I attended the Lighthouse bootcamp in Sept of 2014 and it was pivotal in the new direction of my career and life really. I was very skeptical if I would be able to attain the necessary skills to start as a developer in just 2 short months. But not only did I leave with the confidence to start, I also had the tools to continue to learn and grow afterwards. I'm not the best with words so I will put in bullet form the highlights and challenges I encountered during my time at Lighthouse.
- grinding: for someone coming in with little background in coding or computer science, working on projects/tutorials for the entire day was a grueling process. It was probably the hardest class I've ever taken. The pace is fast and the information comes at you like a firehose. Be ready to feel uncomfortable and make use of the TAs
- stubborn: partially related to the previous point. quality TAs and teachers is what you pay for. Don't bang away at a problem for 3 hours. If you can't find the solution ask for help, it will give you new knowledge, clear explanations and you can be better equipped for when that same problem comes up again. Make use of the TAs.
- life balance: spent my time from 8am to almost midnight some days for the 2 and a half months of the program. It's draining and would be difficult for those with families to take care of. Come into the program expecting a lifestyle change for the duration and a bit after as you look for work and get those interviews.
- cool peers: the people that make the commitment to do a coding bootcamp are driven, dedicated and the kind of people you will enjoy working/learning along with.
- instructors: I can't stress enough how good the teachers and TAs are at Lighthouse. The lecutures are fun, engaging and clearly explained.
- projects: the project based work keeps things interesting. Which is needed to keep things focused during the heavy workload.
- iteration: Lighthouse is constantly changing and improving their curriculum to match industry changes and make the education better. Even during my time there, little changes and tweaks were made.
It is not 36 hrs as it says on the website. Every class starts with 1hr of just going through slides with words with an unethusiatic instructor. After the 1hr, you are free to go or do some exercises that take about 30 min to finish.
Some days we get exercises to work on and other days we just do some reading written by the company. But the information is medicore and very short (about 5 min reading). We didn't do much. I felt alike it was place to hang out with an instructor. The whole class doesn't really have a goal. Rather, the whole course felt alike " here are list of things you should know related to some coding, and bye go home or whatever."
Honestly, the course can be silently more engaging and challenging or teach students how to learn better so that they can code some basic apps. On the last day we just looked at games (1.5 hrs of my money drained down the toilet) after the slides were done. Also, I was told that the some course materials were too hard for students, such as learning parsing. The company refuses to change the material because it was in the Vancouver branch, and the instructor gave up on teaching material because he knows students can't learn it at their level.
The course is just so expensive for the materials, and quality. This is almost a scam to make money off people who are naive and not knoweldgeable in coding.
Did a ton of research, visited every bootcamp location in Toronto and had a friend go to Bitmaker while I went to Lighthouse. I just graduated this week and my friend and I have been sharing our experiences, and there is no doubt I got the better education. We actually co-coded together, and I think he might be smarter than me, but my knowledge of how things work, different frameworks and how to learn quickly were so far ahead that he said he might go back and tell them he wants a refund. He was near the top of his class while I was definitely amongst the second half.
I haven't gone throught the Career Services yet, but they have been really transparent with how it works, how it's not a guarantee, but almost all grads I speak to says they got jobs, companies knew Lighthouse and they respect the quality of the grads coming out of the bootcamp as some of the best.
Was a bit worried in terms of bootcamps at first, but really happy with this whole experience. It definitely matters which one you pick though, which is why I came here to give a review.
There's little question that Lighthouse Labs is one of the better schools I've come across in the coding bootcamp world. I finished a little while back, but the current and after-grad assistance has been swell. It's been about 45 days since the end, and everyone in my cohort who wanted work as a dev in Toronto has found it. Each and every one.
The curriculum is solid, and has enough flexibility to allow individuals to make it their own thing to suit their interests. Web-framework for a rasberry-pi sensor network? Sure! Web-GIS tools? You bet. Diabetes monitoring templates for insulin pumps? True story, with a proven outcome! They can help you follow your dreams starting from the fundamentals up so long as you bring your passion to the front.
The cast of instructors and mentors are diverse in character as well as background, and are there to help offer results. They can help you build yourself in fundamentals and base frameworks so you can do that thing.
In the iOS Bootcamp the pace of learning was intense, and it never lets up. And that is one of its best features. You never feel like you had an easy day, or a wasted day. The lectures start with intermediate topics and grow in complexity very quickly from one day to the next. You are always covering new ground, mastering new concepts, and taking on bigger and more complex assignments. By the end of the 8 weeks we were all creating projects we wouldn't have thought possible in week 1. The leap in learning you make in the 8 weeks in truly incredible.
I had no background in coding, comp-sci, or programming but was still able to handle the workload, just barely. The TA's and instructors made sure that they were available to help, but never just handed you the answer. They insist that you learn as you go, rather than giving you the answer, which I am grateful for. With an extremely low ratio of teachers to students, help is always at hand, 12 hours a day. It is this close interaction with instructors and other class mates that I feel really makes all the difference. It is like having a private mentor for 8 weeks, 12 hours day, sharing all of their knowledge openly.
The staff are amazing. Instructors, Admin, and everyone else really come together to help make the bootcamp experience the best it can be for everyone. There are plenty of social events, as well as meaningful and important opportunities to interact with and get to know many of Vancouver's top tech talent.
The only thing I wish had been done differently is the prep work they recommend you do before taking the course. It should be more in depth and tougher. I think students would get more out of the course if they were more prepared. Having said that, if you have any programming, coding, or comp-sci experience you will probably not need the prep. My comments are more directed at those of us without any background in tech.
I get that some people have been happy with their decision to go to lighthouse, but i’m pretty shocked that lighthouse has close to 5 stars. Who is writing all these perfect reviews? I’m sure a lot of people are happy with their decision to take this course, but I know plenty of others who are not. And it’s not because they didn’t work hard enough because believe me, pretty much everyone in my cohort worked their *** off. The reality is that two months of coding just can't make you anywhere close to a competent coder….and not everyone has months to spend afterwards trying to learn everything else they need to know.
I’m not trying to ruin the reputation of lighthouse or anything because the people who work there are really nice people. I just really want people to know the truth before dishing out so much money. Wish more people would leave reviews about their experience because if I had read them I probably wouldn’t have gone to lighthouse and I probably would have been better off.
***Make sure you read that outcomes report VERY CAREFULLY. It only covers students who were at lighthouse BEFORE sept 25, 2015.
As someone with very little coding experience going into this bootcamp, I don't think I got as much out of it as others. Most of the people who did well either had engineering backgrounds or spent quite a bit of time coding before starting the bootcamp. I'm not saying it's impossible to do well without that background, but it will probably be a bit of an uphill battle. Plus, there is A LOT to learn after bootcamp to get yourself ready for technical interviews. I don't understand why lighthouse can't just make the program a bit longer but actually teach us most of the stuff we need to know to get a decent job...
If you're not a fast learner and you have had very little exposure to coding, please rethink taking this bootcamp (or maybe any bootcamp). Get some more experience coding first. If you don't fit into the lighthouse educational model, you will be quickly left behind. Lighthouse actually makes you roll over into the next cohort if you don't pass the first two tests. And they don't tell you ahead of time that rolling over is a possibility or that there are tests. I found out for the first time on the first day of classes, and of course you never think that you will be one of those people.
You can get a lot out of Lighthouse if you have the right background. If all you've done to date is some codecademy courses, you need to rethink your decision to enroll. I learned a lot of awesome stuff and the TAs were great, but I probably wouldn't do it again to be honest. It's just not worth the time and money.
Light House Labs is a scam... In the 8 weeks they cover very little as far as material and what they do cover they race throgh. They are very rude and inconsiderate. Your treated as if your lucky to be there and its an honor for you to pay they money.. They staff are paid $35k/year and promise that after you graduate you will make hundreds of thousands... Its a royal joke! Be very careful!!!
May 16, 2013: Course Report Admin combined the following with a duplicative review titled "Not Satisfied! Beware!"
I went through a rushed interview process that seemed staged. As if the company was making false barrieres to entry to seem exclusive... I didnt worry about it becuase I was drawn at the "opportunity" to get a good job in the tech sector after... I pay over $9k to take the course and they had as work off www.codeacademy.com most of the time. We learned very basic material when it was marketed as cutting edge. No employers take these guys serioustly... Shortcut ... To make things worse, next door there is code core where they get an extra month of teaching/mentorship for the same price. I got ripped off and lied to by the staff at light house labs. Be careful.
Response From: Rebecca of Lighthouse Labs
My overall Lighthouse Labs experience was awesome. Unlike most other reviewers here, I came to LHL with a programming background. At the beginning I wasn't too sure if LHL will be the right choice for me to update myself with the current web technologies. After I done my research for their alumni, talked to the head instructor, and saw the curriculum I was then convinced that this is the right place for me to update my web skills.
+ If one works hard, one shall be impressed with the projects one produces. Lighthouse does offer an environment for that.
+ One certainly is given an exposure to multiple prominent tools, frameworks etc. e.g. Sinatra, Rails and Node.
- Often the purpose or utility of the exercises / assignments was unclear; often, the assignments provided no useful knowledge / skills towards the projects; so many assignments feel of no use at the end.
+ There were some excellent TAs / assistants / mentors who helped to understand the problem and the solution.
- Sadly, they were all in the evening. The morning TA's mostly provided band-aid solutions or solved one problem only to introduce another.
+ Lighthouse encourages that relationships with it and one's cohort mates be maintained after graduation.
+ Lighthouse provides career services
- Those career services may be slow, especially on the Toronto side
May 16, 2013: Course Report Admin combined the following with a duplicative review titled "Prior exp. in design / prog. needed."
This course may be marketed to the general public but in reality the way in which Lighthouse operated requires a person to already have experience, not just familiarity, with either design or programming.
A backend developer can practise at being a full-stack, as can a front-end dev. or designer, by supplementing their existing skills in one area with the other.
If a person has no experience or only familiarity in either area then it is too difficult. It is, afterall, a bootcamp, so there is no gradual process. Often, there wasn't even a process.
It was a bit like being visually shown a parachute then being thrown out of a plane. A person has only so much time to learn to find the lever and learn to use it.
When I signed up for Lighthouse, I was looking for a way to get out of the career direction I was heading down and quickly acquire a new set of marketable skills. The program more than delivered on that front - I found my niche in web development, and I'm happier with my current job than I ever though I could be at work. The fantastic instructors are well supported by an increasingly impressive roster of TAs and mentors, and the curriculum seems to be consistently evolving. Attending class every day in such a bustling entrepreneurial space (Launch Academy), with such talented and motivating people was really inspiring (and sometimes intimidating), but very beneficial when it came to pushing grads out into the workforce. It will still take a lot out of you to succeed in the bootcamp environment - hours are long, the flood of information is overwhelming and frustrations are high - but with dedication, focus, and at least a bit of a natural proclivity towards problem-solving, Lighthouse will give you the tools to get there.
Let's start with the instructors and TA's. They are working developers. They are there because they love the field of coding and development and want to help others learn and grow. Get to know your TA's, ask about their work and learn from their life experience.
The curriculum is great. It is carefully crafted to teach the principles of programming and give you a familiarity with the frameworks and tools that you'll be using in your day to day work. The days were long and the information and learning did not let up. Every day brought another nuance or layer to what you had already learned.
I was one of the fortunate ones who had a job offer before graduation. The career services is great. They help you craft your resume and get employers in to see your work and interview you. You graduate as a full-stack web developer and you will have a lot of on-the-job-learning ahead of you.
Web and Software development is a journey of continual learning. And Lighthouse Labs understands that and prepares you for it. It has the feel of a trade school apprenticeship, but it's much more.
I expected a lot going into this course, and I was not disappointed! Not only is the course amazing, but the community is amazing -- It is welcoming and active, and I quickly felt right at home. As an Alumni, they do a very good job of keeping me in the loop and in the community -- I still feel supported by all of the staff, teachers, and TAs.
The curriculum is challenging, and you should expect to be busy, but it is manageable.
The job support is great too, they organize events and interviews to connect students with employers.
Overall, I feel they prepared me well for my current position as a developer. It was the best education decision I ever made.
I highly recommend Lighthouse Labs to anyone who's thinking about it. If you take the time and put in the hours, it'll change your life.
I went from being confused about my future drifitng through university like everyone else to now loving my work, getting paid to learn and loving the apps I create. Meanwhile all my friends are still sitting in Philosophy 302 or something. (No offense to Philospohy majors)
* These outcomes are not audited by Course Report. In some cases, data is audited by a third party.
Lighthouse Labs has an acceptance rate of 35%, of which 55% of accepted students enroll in a course. Of the students who enroll at Lighthouse Labs, 97% graduate. 96% are hired in technical roles within 120 days and report an average income of $52,403.
Job Seeking Graduates Placed:
After 120 days
Notes & Caveats:
Our latest on Lighthouse Labs
Why is Lighthouse Labs changing their web development bootcamp curriculum again? In 2017 they lengthened the bootcamp to be 10 weeks long, and now it is becoming a 12-week program! Amy Mansell, Lighthouse Labs’ Product Manager, Education, tells us how the team is always looking to enhance the student experience and outcomes by getting feedback from employers, alumni, and mentors. She explains why this new curriculum means a wider range of financing options for students, and how the team has incorporated more fundamentals to deepen and strengthen student learning outcomes.
What was your background prior to Lighthouse Labs?
I studied political science and public policy at college. Before I joined Lighthouse Labs, I was working in marketing at an Ontario not-for-profit that funded innovation partnerships between industry and academia. That was my first exposure to the tech industry. While I was there, I started toying with learning to code in HTML and CSS. A colleague told me about HTML500, an event Lighthouse Labs hosted, where 500 people get to learn to code for free, which put Lighthouse on my radar. When I saw they were opening a campus in Toronto and had a job opening that matched my skill set, I applied and become the second employee in our location! I’ve now been here for four years.
Tell us about your role at Lighthouse Labs!
I started out working in marketing and events but I eventually went through the web development bootcamp and learned to code. It was an awesome experience, and I’m really happy I did it.
After the bootcamp, I started working on the curriculum. My title is Product Manager, Education, and I’m responsible for working with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) or developers to design and iterate on our education experience. My role involves defining learning outcomes, what the student experience should look like, managing budgets and timelines of curriculum creation. I manage issues on GitHub, assign reviews, and make sure it’s up to date. I do lots of traditional product management tasks, but applied to an in-person experience. I also work with our marketing team to make sure they understand our core components – who our students are, what they’re learning, and what it means. My end goal is to make sure our bootcamp experience allows students to achieve their desired outcomes in a way that’s structured and human-centric. I still code on the side and I have a great understanding of where students can struggle and have breakthroughs.
In 2017, the web development curriculum increased from 8 weeks to 10 weeks. In 2019 it is increasing from 10 weeks to 12 weeks. Why is the length increasing again?
We do everything we can to keep our programs as short and efficient as possible so that students can pay the least in both money and time to learn skills for a new job, and grow quickly. The time lengthenings are related to what the industry is saying, our students’ experiences, and – in this specific case – some government regulations. Most government student loans in Canada are only accessible for programs that are 12 weeks or longer, so Lighthouse Labs bootcamps were not eligible until now. We wouldn’t have changed our curriculum without considering the other components, but in this case it makes sense. It improves our student experience, allows us to add additional content that the future industry needs, and opens up our program to additional funding options.
How is the price of the program changing and what financing options will students have?
With the increase in length, there is an increase in cost. Vancouver is now $11,500; Toronto is $12,500; and Montreal is $10,500. And since accessibility is a big focus of our bootcamps, we now have additional funding options available. We have a bunch of scholarships available which promote diversity in tech, and we also offer financing through Caisse Desjardins des Technologies de l'Information in Quebec and Ottawa, and Alberta Student Aid in Alberta. Students also have access to government finance options used for university and college like Student Aid BC and OSAP or secured lines of credit with RBC and TD Bank.
We have lots more financing options on the horizon and we’ll be releasing a guide to financing bootcamp on our blog next month with those additional options.
What topics are you adding to the web development curriculum?
We looked at adding additional specializations or hot industry ideas like Machine Learning and AI, but ultimately decided instead of broadening our learning outcomes, we were going to deepen them. We want to equip our students with a stronger foundation in fundamentals so they can develop those relevant analytical skills. We also want to provide a more balanced approach. Typically, developer bootcamps focus on app development, but we wanted to allow our students to not only figure out the best solutions to problems, but also the “why” behind them.
We’ve added new content focusing on:
- software engineering principles
- improving skills in debugging
- writing testable code
- data design
- test-driven development
Many of the changes were driven by feedback from the industry, our mentors, and our alumni about the skills junior developers need to really grow rapidly in their careers.
How will the structure or schedule of the curriculum change?
Our current 10-week model has a self-directed remote week halfway through where students complete their computer science work. In our new 12-week program, that is being replaced with regular on-site attendance and the computer science material has been threaded throughout the curriculum. This allowed us to increase the overall mentorship hours, giving students access to more support throughout the bootcamp.
Is the Lighthouse Labs admissions process changing?
We’ve always had a fairly strong admissions process, so the lengthening of the program hasn’t changed that. We’re always looking for someone who displays a passion for learning and knowledge, has an aptitude for problem solving, is energized to nail down and do the work, and is ready to go on a journey to a new coding career.
While you don’t have to know how to code beforehand, we do have a small coding prerequisite, so we suggest that students try coding before coming to us. We have some admissions components where students have to display their knowledge of logic and problem solving, but it’s not necessarily writing code.
Are there any pre-courses you suggest students take to get that experience?
How do you track student progress through the curriculum?
We have a learning management system called Compass which every student gets access to, starting with the precourse until they graduate. We track how students are doing throughout the program – our education managers keep a close eye on student completion percentages, projects, and test scores. They also track feedback about our program, mentors, instructors, and curriculum. This information gives our education team an idea of where students are at any given moment, and lets us make more data-driven decisions about how we can better support or challenge students. With the expanded curriculum, we’ll be looking for more data and watching things closely to see how a longer program impacts the student experience.
How often does the Lighthouse Labs team iterate the curriculum and what is the process?
It’s definitely an ongoing process. One of my main tasks is working with our subject matter experts, mentors, and instructors to adopt an open source model of curriculum iteration. We keep our curriculum in GitHub to mirror the software development workflow and all of our mentors and instructors have access to it. We work as an entire community to do everything from fixing typos and broken links to improving learning outcomes and adding new curriculum components. We’re a small team, so we’re lucky enough to have access to hundreds of developers every day who have access to our curriculum and our students, and they understand the whole ecosystem we’re in. It’s been great to empower them to help us.
For a larger rollout, like our 12-week program, it’s a lot of work but we break it down into smaller, incremental steps and sprints, and we work with mentors on a one-to-one basis to assist in the curriculum changes. Often, we’ll add things on a rolling basis. Instead of storing up all the changes to go live with a new cohort, if it isn’t a huge impact or will improve the student experience, we’ll implement those changes right away. We treat our curriculum similarly to how someone would treat a software product, allowing us to use the same tools and techniques that everyone in our community is already familiar with, which creates a very streamlined system.
How do you train instructors to teach new curriculum components?
A lot of our instructors are involved in creating the content – from coming with ideas to actually writing the material, and iterating on existing material. We also keep them in the loop with changes so they have time to adjust to the new material. We use Slack and GitHub to have extensive conversations about it - whether it’s a GitHub issue where someone has an idea, or in our various Slack channels, we’re actively communicating with our mentors on a daily basis. For larger rollouts, we hold town halls, send out curriculum packets, and give them a curriculum road map outlining the upcoming changes to help focus their attention. Our Education Managers also heavily interact with our mentors, are involved in the rollout, and keep instructors in the loop to ensure they feel comfortable with the new curriculum.
How will career services adjust to the new curriculum?
With this new curriculum, we’ve tried to build a more integrated process that allows Curriculum, Education, and Career Services to become one and the same. We’re adding pieces to the curriculum that focus on the career side of becoming a developer. We’re adding more preparation for the technical aspects of the job hunt, including practice for tech interviews, coding challenges, take-home tests, and other common elements they’ll run into while applying for jobs after Bootcamp. It’s important to us that students get comfortable with tackling these types of challenges mirroring real-world requirements. That way, when they do encounter these things on the job hunt, it’s not the first time they’ve faced it. This is just part of how we’re taking the career outcomes and threading them into the education itself.
How do you think this program shift will make students more marketable as developers?
We speak with the industry a lot about this - employers, mentors, alumni, our own staff – to ensure this new curriculum is not only meeting where the industry is currently but staying ahead of the curve. The feedback we received was that juniors need to be able to debug and problem solve, and that allows them to get settled into a company and grow that much faster. We have always focused on getting students a job, but now we’re focusing on what will help them grow faster and go from the junior developer to the senior developer faster.
What is the biggest lesson your Lighthouse Labs team has learned during this process of updating your web development curriculum?
It’s definitely hard to choose one! Education and running a bootcamp is very difficult and is a high-stakes game. We’ve gone through multiple iterations of curriculum over the years. The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that when it comes to building education and creating a course, you need to start with the outcomes. That was a big lesson we applied in this transition to our 12-week program. Instead of asking “what’s the latest technology we should be teaching?”, we started backward and looked at what we wanted students to achieve after each module or project. We operated like true developers, asking what we wanted our output to be and then working backwards to get there.
Good education and good curriculum are so much more than good content. This sweet spot between content, delivery, student experience, and student support is where this pedagogical magic happens – it’s extremely hard to find and even harder to stay there. As we adjust curriculum, instructor training, and the student experience, we have to consider those four factors with each decision we make. We applied that lesson as we built a more holistic approach to the curriculum.
What are your tips or advice for students embarking on this new bootcamp journey in your revamped web development program?
First, get ready to embrace the bumps along the way. Learning is hard and it’s meant to be hard. Some days things will just click, and other days you will wonder if you know anything at all.
Second, there are no shortcuts to real learning, and there are no shortcuts in bootcamp. Students who are looking to make that transition should be ready to do the work on Day One. Making a career change is a huge decision, so know if you’re ready to do the work - or whether you’ll even like it. Becoming a software developer isn’t easy, no matter how you go about it, and bootcamp is only the beginning of that journey.
Bootcamp is Step One to a lifelong path of learning and developing and becoming better as a software developer. It can mean extremely high stakes if you’re leaving a lucrative career, so be sure you like it. Start learning a bit of code or try out free courses or little challenges to see if this is for you before you take that next step.
Each month, the Course Report team rounds up the most interesting bootcamp industry news that we read and talked about in our office. In April, we were showered with a ton of exciting fundraising and acquisition news, ISAs (income sharing agreements) continued to be a hot topic, and coding bootcamps began getting approved for a new veterans program called VET TEC. We also saw some great diversity initiatives and scholarship opportunities for bootcamps in the US and abroad. Plus, a report from the Christensen Institute looked into bootcamps as disruptors, and two schools are planning to expand the bootcamp model into healthcare – read to the end to find out more.Continue Reading →
Oh Summer, one of the best seasons of the year! While it’s a time to relax, bask in the sun, and plan trips with family and friends, summer is also an awesome time to learn. If you’re a current student, teacher, or professional looking to learn to code, a summer bootcamp is a great opportunity to learn to code in a short time frame. Various coding bootcamps that offer summer courses to help you launch a new career in tech. Check out the following courses to help you #learntocode this Summer 2019.Continue Reading →
In February we heard some interesting debates about the ethics of data science, how bootcamps are partnering with universities, and companies like Infosys and Google, and how the number of tech education options in Africa is growing! Plus, Thinkful attempted to predict the Oscars, the Ohio Lt. Governor stopped by Tech Elevator, and women in bootcamps were recognized. We also looked at various ways to pay for bootcamp, and tips for breaking into tech. Listen to the podcast or read the roundup below.Continue Reading →
If you’re interested in Erica’s growth three years after graduation, check out Lighthouse Labs’ new Career Trajectory Report. They found that graduates are having long-lasting careers: 81% of graduates still work as developers and 91% of graduates are now in Intermediate/Senior roles.
What were you up to in 2015 before Lighthouse Labs?
I went to school for creative writing – my specialties were poetry and children's fiction. I always idolized authors and I wanted to write a book. Shortly after graduating, I taught English in Japan for a year.
With that background, what inspired you to move into computer science or web development?
Writer's block! When I got back from Japan, I decided to sit down and write my book. I was waitressing part-time and trying to write, but it wasn’t happening. I tried to remember what I enjoyed doing in high school. I was actually very lucky in high school to have a teacher who taught C++ as an elective. I took that in Grade 11 and 12 and I really loved it. But it never clicked that I could do coding as a career. I grew up in a very outdoorsy family, and the thought of sitting at a desk all day seemed like the worst career ever! I didn't realize how creative and exciting it is.
How did you start learning to code?
Why did you choose Lighthouse Labs to change careers? Did you think about going back to college for a Computer Science degree, or continuing to teach yourself?
I thought about doing a degree but I was anxious to get going with my life and with my career, and the idea of doing another two to four years of school was not appealing. Initially, I was using FreeCodeCamp and Codecademy. And while there are ways to make a career out of those free resources, I wondered how that would look on my resume. Three years ago, there were a lot of beginner tutorials, but at some point, you reach the end of those and you don't know where to go next. Lighthouse Labs (or any bootcamp) gives you a lot more guidance.
I mostly decided to go to Lighthouse Labs for the connections, the community, and the assistance in job searching.
Which technologies/programming languages did you learn when you were there?
When you graduated, what types of jobs did you feel prepared to apply to?
I was ready for an internship or a junior developer job when I graduated – definitely not senior developer jobs yet. My first job was relatively unique – I was actually working with one of the teachers from Lighthouse Labs on a social media startup. It was unique because I got to build a project from scratch with a team of four.
We built a social media startup that aggregated LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, categorized your posts and found interesting connections on who influences your influences. This was a Ruby on Rails project and we used React for the front end.
Do you think that working for a small startup for your first job was a good decision? Did you get the mentorship you needed?
I felt really lucky to be working with my teacher because he knew my level, so his expectations weren’t too high. He was probably one of the only people who could have had a full picture of what I could and couldn’t do yet. I also liked being able to touch all different parts of the project.
You’ve had three jobs since graduating – did the Lighthouse Labs team help you find and transition into those next jobs?
They were totally willing to, but the jobs that I ended up taking were not set up by Lighthouse Labs. Actually, when I was applying to my second job at Mobify, Lighthouse Labs was setting me up with other interviews, they just weren't the jobs that I ended up taking.
What did you work on at Mobify? Did you learn anything new at your second job?
I was a Developer Advocate at Mobify, so I was the point person when our clients had technical issues. We built mobile websites for our clients and then they continued maintaining the site. We worked within Mobify’s custom framework called Adaptive.js, so I had to learn that framework on the job and also did a lot of teaching and debugging for clients. Even though this position was very short, the skills I got from it were monumental. I learned a lot about debugging mobile devices, and since I'd have to solve the clients' problem without having access to any of their code, I became an expert at breaking into code from Chrome Devtools.
How have you continued to learn and grow as a developer since you graduated from Lighthouse Labs?
I've had some very good mentors over the years, and ones who are happy to sit down with me and explain difficult concepts. Sometimes it comes up in the work I'm doing - for example I was doing some animations for Firefox that needed to use the GPU, so I was learning webGL and I needed to multiply some matrices to figure out the positioning. So I asked my manager to explain some concepts to me I ended up getting some fantastic lectures on matrix math.
Other than that I go out of my way to study. I've been reading non-fiction about people who inspire me, and books like Code by Charles Petzold (I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand computers at a more basic level). I've also done a few courses on Coursera and Khan Academy - in areas that I feel I'm lacking. Right now I'm working through the CLRS book introduction to algorithms.
How has teaching at Lighthouse Labs helped you grow your skills?
At my first job, I worked out of the Lighthouse Labs building, and because of that, students would sit with me, get to know me and often asked me for advice. Eventually, I started filling in for teachers and joined the teaching team part-time. When I moved to Toronto to take the Mozilla internship, I didn't really know anyone in the Toronto Community. Through mentoring at the Toronto Lighthouse Labs campus, I got to know a lot of developers in various companies throughout the startup ecosystem. It’s been a good way to get involved in the tech community.
It’s also always a fun time working with students. I get to relearn skills that I don’t work with in my job at Mozilla. For example, I get back into Ruby during that part of the curriculum. I haven’t used databases and SQL since my first job, but I get to work on that as a mentor.
And now you've worked at Mozilla for the last 2.5 years – tell us about your role there.
I also work with a team called Test Pilot to build the first versions of products that we want to test on larger audiences. Mozilla has a couple hundred thousand users who sign up to try new extensions or products in Test Pilot. Often, if something succeeds in Test Pilot, we will keep it around as a standalone product, or we will bake it into the browser in some way.
I also do some front end work on the browser. Currently, I'm working with the security team to change some of the preferences UI in the browser.
Because your background is in web development, have you had to learn a lot about User Experience in this job?
Yes – it’s difficult. I participate in our critique meetings and because I'm not a designer, I often feel under qualified to speak in those meetings. But I'm working to get over that.
On the other hand, because I have a coding background, I am often translating between the two sides (UX designers and developers) during a project. When I'm in a UX meeting, I can talk to the designers about what can and can't be feasibly done, and vice versa when I'm with the developers.
Does Mozilla help you learn and become more confident in design skills?
Yes, we have a budget for upskilling, which can go towards conferences or further education. It’s up to each person to use how they see fit. We've also had a few internal trainings when there’s a general need for it. For example, a couple weeks ago, we had a two-day conference on accessibility. It was a fantastic conference. And they're all recorded, so new hires will have access to them as well.
You’ve been in the job market for 4 years now as a bootcamp graduate – have you noticed a certain perception of bootcamp grads from employers?
When I first interned at Mozilla, I actually got quite a few comments from managers and recruiters saying that I was essentially a “beta test.” They had never hired a bootcamp student before. Other employees told me I was the first bootcamp graduate they’d ever met who made it into “old tech.” Startups are much more willing to take a risk on bootcamp students, whereas older companies have these ideas about how “real” a bootcamp education is – who knows what they think?
I have to tell you one of my proudest achievements at Mozilla. When I applied for the internship, the listing specifically said that you must be a current university student. After I finished my internship, they changed the internship requirements to say “must be enrolled in a computer science course or be recently graduated from a coding bootcamp.” I was quite proud of that.
Do you have advice for recently-graduated bootcampers?
Bootcamps are definitely quick, but they are not easy. You're spending 10 to 12 hours a day learning and you're working hard. And afterwards, even though you’ve gotten your junior developer position – you are still working. We have a saying at Lighthouse that the bootcamp is actually one year long. Your first two months are spent in class and then the rest is on-the-job training. You’ll get support from Lighthouse Labs, but it's more that you get a taste of what it's like to learn quickly, and you have to keep that momentum going through at least the rest of the year.
As a mentor at Lighthouse Labs, I chat with students a lot about career stuff. My students seem to appreciate when I tell them that the position you're at now is so small in the grand scheme of things. How “good” you are is much less important than how hard you work.
I've had a lot of students ask me, "I'm the lowest of the class, this other student is breezing through all of this. Am I going to struggle to get a job?" Even though the difference to them seems like a lot from their perspective, both of them – the person struggling and the person breezing through it – have a long way to go. As someone who now hires interns, I always pay a lot more attention to their attitude than to how easily they breeze through the technical questions.
As a mentor working with students, do you see the quality of graduates changing year over year?
I don’t think the quality of the students has changed, but the teaching style has definitely changed. Lighthouse Labs used to feel more like traditional school – tests were very hard, a lot of people couldn't handle it and would drop out.
Our style has now changed. If someone drops out, we take it personally, like we let them down. There's less focus on testing. There are a lot of students who don't test well, but that's not necessarily indicative of their skill.
Lighthouse Labs just released a new report examining the career trajectory of bootcamp graduates outcomes which says that 91% of graduates who are employed as developers are in Intermediate/Senior roles and making ~$85,247. Is that your experience? How has your salary changed over the last 4 years?
My salary has changed drastically. The numbers you quoted are probably roughly correct for most Lighthouse Labs grads. I think this is a difficult question for me because I am paid very well - and I want people to know what is possible, but on the other hand I don't want expectations to be unrealistic. Looking at the data in aggregate is probably more beneficial for students rather than an individual's numbers.
My first position was underpaid, but I was learning a lot, and I was very happy. At Mozilla, it's now the opposite – I feel overpaid! However, I need to keep in mind, especially as a woman, what my value is. When I was first offered my full-time position I didn't know how to negotiate, I'd never done it before, but I remembered a senior engineer who'd spoken to the Mozilla interns, and she said her biggest mistake was probably not negotiating her first position, since raises tend to be a percentage based on that original salary. I didn't want to make the same mistake, so I sent a polite letter to the recruiter and it worked out in my favour. I'd say it's always worth a shot to negotiate, and it'll pay off in the long run.
Do you think that your writing past and tech will ever cross paths? Do you still have plans to publish a book?
I do still plan to publish a book, but I’m okay waiting on that. I don't think I need to rush it. And I'm not sure if it will relate to tech!
When you look back at the last three or four years since you started out self-teaching, could have gotten to where you are today at Mozilla by self-teaching?
I think it's possible to get here solely through self-teaching, but I think it would be significantly more difficult. The community and career coaching at Lighthouse Labs is pretty invaluable. I felt much more confident knowing that I had that support system. It gets to a point online where you have mastered the basics, but you don't know what to learn next. I think that's where a bootcamp really shines, they know the state of the industry and what skills are most in demand and they point you in that direction.
How can a total beginner start this journey? You used FreeCodeCamp – any other recommendations?
I get asked this a lot. I've referred so many students to Lighthouse Labs now. First, use the free online resources like Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp, and NodeSchool. Work on that for a whole day and see how it feels. If you’re not excited about coding for an entire day, then it may not be for you. If you enjoy it, and you're willing to put the work in, then go for it.
As we near the end of 2018, we're rewinding and reflecting on the most interesting and impactful coding bootcamp news of the year. Come with us as we look at trends, digest thought pieces, break down the ~$175 million in new funding, and more. We’ll also look at our predictions for 2019 and our hopes for the future of coding bootcamps!Continue Reading →
Since Jenny Chan graduated from Lighthouse Labs in 2015, the lack of women in tech has become increasingly apparent to her. Her first developer job was at a company where women only held 10% of technical roles. Now Jenny is a freelance developer, and runs a Women in Web Development group where women support each other’s careers online, and share opportunities. Jenny tells us why it’s important for the tech industry to become more diverse in the wake of new technologies like AI and how employers and education providers like Lighthouse Labs can help solve the problem.
Jenny’s alma mater, Lighthouse Labs, is offering new scholarships to support exceptional individuals in underrepresented groups in technology as they pursue a career in development. Lighthouse Labs is committed to $150,000 worth of scholarships in 2019 in addition to external funding for students who want to jump-start their careers in technology to become a professional developer. Learn more about eligibility here.
What’s your background and how did your path lead to Lighthouse Labs?
At university I was an English major, but I took a Web Design class as part of a professional writing program. I really enjoyed the class and I was able to help other students with Dreamweaver, a web development tool.
When I graduated, I carried on with coding in marketing roles – I always volunteered to build email templates or make landing pages from scratch. I also kept learning with Treehouse in my own time, and volunteered to mentor at some Ladies Learning Code workshops. I kept my learning going through whatever means I could.
When I found out about Lighthouse Labs, I thought the bootcamp concept was really interesting – spending two months immersed in a new field and then working in that field. After finishing my English degree, I thought that if I could re-do my university education, I would pick web design or development, so Lighthouse was perfect for me.
You could have kept coding in marketing roles – what made you want to switch careers entirely into web development?
At the time, I was searching for marketing jobs in Vancouver, and I was feeling that the compensation didn’t match the demand of what the job expects you to deliver. I wanted to be in an industry that rewards me for keeping up to date. Going to a 2-month bootcamp, becoming a web developer, and starting a new career with a higher earning potential – it just made sense. I liked the idea that Lighthouse Labs would be able to connect me with that career.
What was your learning experience like at Lighthouse Labs?
It was really good. There is a lot of hands-on learning at a bootcamp, so it was more interesting than just sitting in a classroom and listening to someone else talk at you the whole time. At Lighthouse Labs you’re spending most of your time learning how to solve problems, which I really appreciated. Also, if you’re going to bootcamp, all of your classmates want to be there, and that’s a huge difference between studying for a university degree and going to bootcamp.
Our final project was a travel planning site based around music festivals. We pulled in information about how much it would cost to travel to each music festival. So if it was in Los Angeles, you could see how much it would cost to fly to closest airport, or how much it would cost to catch a bus there, or to drive. And then once you Favorited different festivals, it put all your favorite festivals in a grid to compare the costs.
What was your cohort like at Lighthouse Labs – how diverse was it in terms of gender, race, and backgrounds?
My cohort was 20 people. Around five of us were women, and we were all between ages 20 to 30. Everyone came from really different backgrounds and career industries and had diverse life experiences. Because we are in Vancouver, our cohort was ethnically diverse too.
How did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for job hunting?
They helped us with our resumes, and throughout the program we had regular practice answering technical interview questions with mentors. Lighthouse Labs has speed employer interviewing where students can go and meet really keen employers. The Lighthouse Labs careers team is really great at matching students up with potential opportunities and helping arrange interviews. And Lighthouse Labs continues to provide career support for a few years after you graduate.
How has your career grown or changed since you graduated from Lighthouse Labs?
Lighthouse Labs connected me with my very first job, which was more like an internship. A small e-commerce startup needed a Junior Rails and Angular Developer who spoke and understood Chinese – I was a good fit for that.
A couple months later, I went to an open house at a company I was interested in called EventBase. I wanted to see what they were about and whether I might want a job there. They were doing speed interviewing, so I met someone on their team for 5 minutes, then they invited me back for a second interview. I went through the hiring process and they offered me a job as an API Integration Specialist. I really enjoyed working at that company, but left after about one year because the position and nature of the work didn’t fit my own working style. I decided to take time off and try freelancing, and I’ve been on my own freelanding ever since.
What is life like as a freelancer – what sort of projects do you work on?
I found my first freelance job on Facebook for a Contract Wordpress Developer. I knew wordpress and PHP really well, so within two weeks of quitting my full-time job, I had a part-time freelance gig without really even looking for it! This first project was great because I was working part-time, but I was earning the same amount as the salary I received at my full time job – that was really amazing.
I can’t imagine going back to the office in the near future. I feel like once you’ve tried working from home, you become more self-aware of the conditions you work best in. It also gives you a new perspective on the tradeoffs between working in an office and working freelance. Being an employee is nice for the stability and the built-in social network – your network is one of your most valuable assets. I’m able to find that network through a lot of Facebook groups. For example, I’ve been part of an awesome community called Digital Nomad Girls. I had always dreamed of working remotely one day, even before I went to bootcamp, and I knew that to achieve that role, I should see people doing it every day. Those groups help me see what other remote employees like me are thinking, what they are worried about, and what their challenges are.
How do you feel you’ve grown as a developer since you graduated 3 years ago? Would you consider yourself a mid-level or senior engineer now?
I definitely think Lighthouse Labs changed my life because it helped me become a web developer. I feel like it was the start of my journey as a developer, and as a community advocate for female developers.
Today, I definitely consider myself an intermediate-level back end developer. The difference is that I am now able to solve most problems on my own. I’ve noticed that more senior level people are actually designing the infrastructure of an application – that’s almost a different job. As a Senior Developer, you’re the architect versus the builder.
In addition to freelancing, you mentioned that you’ve become an advocate for other women in tech – what’s the story behind the Women in Web Development Facebook Group?
I’m part of many great communities on Facebook, but about one year into my career as a developer, I realized that what I really wanted was an online community for working female developers. I thought that would be an easy find, but found nothing in my research. There are a lot of “women in tech” and “women who code” organizations, but most of the women in the women in tech organizations are not actually technical, so I feel like I’m a minority being a developer. I wanted more online connections with a community of working women developers, so I started Women in Web Development.
The goal is to provide a community for female developers and to show women that we may be scattered around, but that there are lots of other female developers! The community is a safe place to ask your technical questions or your career questions, without feeling like there are men present who might not understand the challenges of being a female developer. I share articles, conference opportunities, scholarships, and sometimes job opportunities with the group. Recently we tackled the Lighthouse Labs 21-day coding challenge together. I made a team, we had 150 people sign up, and about 30 of us completed the challenge. We had our own Slack group, where we talked to each other about the problems, and our team won the overall leaderboard which was really exciting.
Why do you think it’s important to push for more women in tech?
First, because there are just so few of us! At my last company, I think women made up less than 10% of technical roles. I was recently in Toronto for a big tech event with hundreds of people. I did a community shout out, and when I asked who else is a female developer, I swear, fewer than 10 people answered me.
Technology impacts us every day, in ways we don’t even realize, so it’s important to get more diverse groups involved in the creation of that technology. Especially with artificial intelligence on the horizon. If you consider the social biases that we have right now, it’s like 100 times worse with AI, because it just magnifies the existing social bias. If we don’t get more diverse teams building these products, we’re only going to increase social inequality.
Having worked in tech for a couple years now, how have you seen the industry change or become more diverse?
I’ve been working for 2.5 years, and that’s not really enough time to see major change. Over the last year, I’ve seen so many women who want to learn in my Women in Web Development group, so there is definitely interest from women who want to get into the industry. Now the challenge is how we get those people who are interested in the industry to be in the industry.
What can education providers (like coding bootcamps) and employers do help transition those women into the industry?
Diversity scholarships like the ones Lighthouse Labs offers are definitely important to lower the barrier for women. Bootcamps need to show women that they realize that someone might have the desire to be a developer but maybe due to life circumstances, they don’t have financial resources. Women also face many unique challenges, like childcare making it difficult to commit full time to a bootcamp. So flexible learning options, like online bootcamps, are important.
If employers want to encourage more diversity on their teams, they have to be willing to hire junior developers because the reality is, most women who are aspiring developers are junior, or they haven’t started the journey. Employers need to foster those people, and also create a safe environment for women to work in and speak out in. You hear so many horror stories, where a woman has proven herself, becomes a developer, then goes into a hostile workplace, which makes her drop out of her technical role.
It’s a tricky question, though, because the challenges that a lot of my members face are actually internal, like self-doubt.
What is your advice for aspiring developers who are facing that self-doubt?
First, believe in yourself. Second, understand that it’s not going to happen overnight. You just have to be patient. The nature of being a developer is that you have to be persistent at solving problems and you’re going to fail many times, but that’s okay. The amount of women who say they have imposter syndrome in my group is astounding. It’s so common, but despite that, lots of us have become developers!
What is your advice to other developers who want to become advocates for women and diversity in tech?
Speak up and talk about the problem. I recently wrote an article about how our all-female team won the 21-Day challenge, and someone commented “Why does it matter that your team is all women?” Just acknowledging that it’s a problem is going to help because when you're the group experiencing a problem, and someone denies your experience, it can be more demoralizing than experiencing that negative thing itself. A lot of people don’t believe that there is a problem – but the stats are there if you’re willing to accept them. We need more voices talking about the lack of women in tech so it becomes common knowledge.
This November has been super busy in the immersive coding education world, and at Course Report! We read about how Amazon’s new headquarters will impact the coding bootcamps in New York City, we celebrated successful coding bootcamp grads, we were sad to hear that a school is closing, we heard advice for being successful at bootcamp, and found out about new initiatives to improve diversity in tech! Plus we look at new schools and campuses around the world and discuss our favorite pieces on the Course Report blog.Continue Reading →
So you’ve probably heard that Blockchain is taking over the world, but what is Blockchain? And how can you become a Blockchain developer? In this guide we look at the definition of blockchain, the growth of the blockchain industry, what sort of jobs exist in blockchain, how much you can earn on a blockchain salary, and which skills you’ll learn to become a blockchain developer. Plus, our picks for the best blockchain bootcamps, and coding bootcamps which cover blockchain in their curriculum.Continue Reading →
We are rounding up all of the most interesting bootcamp industry news that we read and discussed at Course Report in August! This month we heard about a $43 million fundraise and a big acquisition, we saw the decline of CS degrees in the tech job market, we read about a bunch of interesting alumni who were featured in the news, we looked at how coding bootcamps can help us avoid “robogeddon,” and we celebrated an initiative teaching women in prisons to code. Plus, we’ll talk about all of the new bootcamps in August and our favorite blog posts!Continue Reading →
So you’re thinking of hiring a coding bootcamp graduate, but not sure how to approach it. After speaking with 12 real employers from companies like Cisco, Stack Overflow, and JPMorgan Chase, we’ve compiled the best advice and lessons learned when hiring a coding bootcamp graduate. Following these steps will help you build a diverse, open-minded, loyal engineering team that finds creative solutions to software challenges. If you’re a prospective bootcamp student, this is also for you – these employers also explain why they hire coding bootcamp grads!Continue Reading →
In the coding bootcamp industry in June 2018 the biggest trend we saw was coding bootcamps funneling grads into apprenticeships! We also saw two big fundraises by bootcamp-adjacent organizations, we heard about some interesting new legislation which could change how online bootcamps operate, and some bootcamp alumni launched exciting new careers. We also look at the effect bootcamps are having on tech industries in areas around the world, which bootcamps are offering scholarships to help women and underrepresented groups launch tech careers, and partnerships bootcamps are forming with big companies like Facebook. Read the blog post or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
The interview can often be the most intimidating and stressful part of the bootcamp admissions process. At Lighthouse Labs in Canada, interviews are intended to identify a students’ readiness and fit for the programs. Through the thousands of interviews, the bootcamp has conducted over the last four years, the admissions team has seen a diverse range of candidates – but a few qualities stand out in successful students. Two Lighthouse Labs Admissions Managers, Alexis Fefer, and Emma McPhail, share exactly what they look for when assessing if a student is ready for the rigors of bootcamp.
“We genuinely want to get to know who you are,” says Alexis, “at the end of the day we want to make sure that we are a good fit for what you are looking for and that you are a good fit for what we offer.” Attending a bootcamp is a big decision that will involve an intense and immersive learning experience, but it will also lead to an exciting career. “One of the biggest things we look for is how well someone can communicate that they’ve done research into this career path and Lighthouse Labs’ itself. They have to come to the conclusion that this is something they really want to pursue,” added Emma.
To help prepare you for your bootcamp interview, Alexis and Emma have provided several tips about what makes a good candidate for a Lighthouse Labs bootcamp.
1) Make Sure You Enjoy Coding
This one is REALLY (and obviously) important. In a bootcamp, you’re going to be tackling 12 hour days at least five days a week, so if you don’t enjoy coding, this will be a very hard thing to overcome. Before your interview, make sure that you take the time to try some of the numerous free online resources available for you, including the Lighthouse Labs Learn to Code courses and the 21-Day Coding Challenge. Remember, our interviews are designed to help us assess whether you enjoy coding, but also to help us determine if our programs fit with your career goals.
2) Do Your Research On Bootcamps
Bootcamps are not for the faint of heart. The 10 weeks that you spend with us will be some of the most challenging and intense weeks of your life. Make sure you know what to expect from a bootcamp before you come to your interview. This includes thinking about your personal schedule and finances. Your self-awareness will help the admissions team in deciding whether you are ready or not.
3) Know Your Post-Bootcamp Goals
Our bootcamps are built for people who want to have a career in software development. We want to know that you’ve thought about your post-bootcamp career path. It’s okay if you don’t want to become a developer, but we do need to know why our program is a good fit for your goals. From our experience, we know that students with strong motivations thrive in the bootcamp environment.
4) Give Yourself Enough Time Before Applying
Technically this one needs to be planned out before you apply for bootcamp, but doing so will make your interview that much easier. By taking the time to do research and practice coding before you apply, you will make the admissions process much smoother. Furthermore, at Lighthouse Labs we have a four-week prep course that needs to be completed before you start the program. So making sure you have enough time to complete all of the material will further show your preparation.
5) Tell Us About Yourself
Bootcamp is a big investment and we want to make sure that you are in a position to get the most out of it. The only way our team can help with that is if you are honest with your answers during the interview. In addition, we want to see what sets you apart from the others. Before coming into your interview, think about times when you have shown grit and resilience as well as any quirky hobbies or interests. This will definitely help us get to know you better!
Want to find a way to impress our admissions team and a chance to win prizes, including a MacBook Pro? Complete our 21-Day Coding Challenge. We built this challenge as a way for new coders to make daily coding a habit. By completing it, you will be sending a strong message to our Admissions team that you are serious about coding and development. Finish it by May 15, 2018, and you will be entered to win one of many amazing prizes!
On the Course Report Coding Bootcamp News Roundup, we keep you up to date with the blossoming coding bootcamp industry. This November, we're covering the WeWork/Flatiron School acquisition, over $2M in funding to various bootcamps, and why tech is booming in "Heartland" cities. Of course we also look at new schools, new campuses, and our favorite pieces to work on this month for the Course Report blog! Plus, is The Iron Yard back from the dead? Read the summary or listen to the podcast.Continue Reading →
After getting feedback from alumni and employers, Canadian coding bootcamp Lighthouse Labs has added a computer science unit to their web development and mobile development curriculums. The program lengths have also increased from 8 weeks to 10 weeks as part of the bootcamp’s ongoing goal to remain relevant and competitive. We asked Lighthouse Labs Co-founder and Chief Education Officer, Khurram Virani, how the team chose which topics would be most useful to students, how computer science knowledge will help bootcamp grads on the job and in interviews, and why he suggests people learn to code before trying to understand computer science. Read the post or watch the video!
What prompted Lighthouse Labs to add computer science fundamentals to the web and mobile development curriculum?
At Lighthouse Labs we look at two major things when it comes to the health of the bootcamp, which are data and community. We collect a lot of different data about the program – we call ourselves data-driven, and community-driven education. While we are continuing to see our bootcamp grads find jobs, and get great feedback from employers, when we talk to our community – employers, students, graduates, mentors, and instructors – the one common thing we hear about how we can improve, is to have some time spent focused on computer science topics. We, and bootcamps in general, are nothing if not evolving through feedback – that’s what sets bootcamps apart from other traditional education. We’re nimble and agile, and evolve based on feedback as quickly as possible.
Do you see job listings requiring computer science? Why is it important for web developers to know some CS fundamentals?
When it comes to job descriptions, there isn’t necessarily a roadblock saying “hey your students don’t know any computer science, we’re not going to hire them.” I think bootcamps in general are doing a great job of setting expectations for employers, of what bootcamp is about and what it’s not about. But at the same time, there are occasions where there are technical interviews that involve some computer science questions, and bootcamp grads are limited from being able to pass those interviews.
Computer science knowledge is important so that students understand why and how things are working. It helps you better communicate with others on how that stuff works, and may move you from being a consumer of that innovation, to being a contributor to that innovation.
How long is this new computer science unit and what does the computer science curriculum cover?
We are changing the length of the entire bootcamp from 8 weeks to 10 weeks. We are adding a study week in the middle of the program in week 5, right after they finish their first big group project, which is focused on computer science. It’s a week where we ease off on the gas a little bit; instead of doing a usual 60 hour week, students are expected to do a 30 hour week, and get a little bit of a break.
The topics we cover are focused on computer science concepts which are very realistic and applicable to both iOS and web. We cover introductions to software design principles, advanced data structures like trees, algorithms, and algorithm complexity. These are things that come up a lot in interviews, but are also important for being able to evaluate the performance of code. We also get into unit testing, which is partly in computer science, but also partly in the applicable side of computer science.
CS majors study for 4 years at college. How did you decide which topics to cover in the one-week Lighthouse Labs computer science curriculum?
We had three major goals. One is computer science concepts, which actually translate well and improve performance on the job. The second goal was to allow graduates to better meet expectations from colleagues who may have a computer science degree, or developers they talk to at a meetup. And third, is to help them perform better in technical interviews that happen to be computer science focused. So we looked at those goals on a Venn diagram, and any CS topics that intersected on all three things were what we considered, then we shortened the list further from there.
Can you give me an example of a computer science topic you decided not to include and why?
Something that would potentially not be as valuable, is linked lists – a concept which falls within data structures. Although we are teaching trees as an introductory data structures concept, we decided to exclude linked lists in the interests of time – it may help more in the interview, but not necessarily also on the job. I learned about it in my computer science degree, but its application is a lot more rare, it’s a bit more obscure. Another example is graph theory. That concept did satisfy our Venn diagram, but it was just too advanced, in terms of what graphs are as data structures and how they are applied and traversed. It’s the underlying tech for many different databases like social networks, yet we decided to leave it out with understanding, that this is something that students can return to in the future. These 30 hours are not the be all and end all when it comes to computer science. We encourage students to keep learning after they graduate.
Why have you created brand new content rather than using existing computer science content to teach Lighthouse Labs students?
In our original ideation, we were expecting that we would be able to leverage a lot of existing online content, free courses, videos, and perhaps books. We spent a considerable amount of time vetting existing content, but it ended up that 80 percent of our content for both teaching and evaluation is homegrown.The content that already exists teaches computer science from a very academic lens. There are plenty of good courses from established universities like MIT and Stanford, but they are not the best introduction to compsci in our opinion, especially for the personality and goals of a bootcamp graduate. We wanted to focus on applicable computer science and how to teach students real-world concepts rather than abstract things.
How are you teaching this curriculum? Are you doing lectures or projects?
It’s a combination. Everything we are covering, even though it’s abstract comp sci concepts, we are doing our best to make it applicable to real-world things. We are staying away from lectures, instead providing content in video, written, and project format. We have a custom-built learning management system called Compass, where students can access exercises, and quizzes after a reading, which are part of the experience in our bootcamp. Then for the projects, students have to make certain automated tests pass, and things of that nature.
Students are not required to be on campus in that week, so the content is written in a way that they should not require too much assistance from mentors, but if that need arises they can contact us via Slack.
How will this computer science knowledge be useful to Lighthouse Labs grads in their jobs? Does a junior developer really use or need advanced computer science topics?
I did a comp sci degree, and I use maybe 20 percent of the things that I learned. The other 80 percent I’ve forgotten or it takes time for me to recall. So one could argue it was perhaps a waste if I’m not applying it to my job, or career. But it’s not as black and white as that because having a deep understanding of what you’re doing gives you a certain level of confidence. So I think the confidence alone is a good enough value for our 30 hours of computer science training, if nothing else.
Will Lighthouse Labs grads be better at their job in first 3 months because they have the computer science concepts? I don’t expect it will be extremely drastic, because ultimately it is only 30 hours of content, and there is only so much you can learn that is applicable. We tell our students that becoming a developer is a 12-month journey, and Lighthouse Labs is really the first two months of that journey. So our goal in bootcamp is to introduce students to what they don’t know, get them comfortable in most of it, and feel confident that they can continue to learn. It’s about learning how to learn and knowing what to learn.
Are computer science fundamentals the most important takeaways a student should have from bootcamp? What other important takeaways should students and instructors strive for?
In my opinion, computer science content is important and is something students should continue to learn thereafter, but it doesn’t rank highest when it comes to what I suggest students focus on. One of the big things I feel that students should learn at Lighthouse Labs is process. If there is only one thing you could learn from bootcamp, then master the process of learning a new language or framework, and you will be set. Chances are that when you get a job you will end up working with a language, framework , or architecture that you did not learn in bootcamp. If you know the process, then you can pick up those new technologies very quickly.
Another takeaway that I like to emphasize is the importance of being humble. I’m a firm believer that learning is a very humbling experience and if you’re not humble, you’ve essentially stopped or stagnated your learning. So the more we can throw at students, the more humbling we hope the experience will be. They need to be aware of what they don’t know and all the work they still have to do to get to their eventual goals.
The other side of being humble is the ability to work with existing code that you’ve inherited that isn’t the most ideal code. I look back at code I’ve written a few years ago, and see that wasn’t my best work, and that’s a good sign that I’m continuing to evolve as a developer. That is how you grow as a developer. But I find that junior developers get caught in this criticism of code, “Oh I’ve got a new job and the codebase is a mess.” I think that shows a level of inexperience and immaturity in the fact you’re lacking context as to what constraints caused the code to be written that way, and how things have evolved in that company. Instead of criticising the coder or the code, realize that improving existing code that isn’t perfect is part of the experience of a developer. Those are things I'd like our students to embody.
Do you think it’s a bootcamp’s responsibility to provide that computer science knowledge? Do you think all bootcamps should be doing it?
I think university computer science degrees ought to focus on real-world and current industry technologies, but they focus more on theory. I think similarly bootcamps ought to focus on those real-world technologies and do, but should also incorporate the theory. Let’s call it an 80-20 rule where we focus 80% of the time on applicable and real technologies you’ll need to know on the job and how to use them, then 20% on the theory, so that students appreciate what they don’t get from a computer science degree.
We’ve had our fair share of computer science students taking our program after graduating, and other students who finished our program, then enrolled in a computer science degree. If a student is really interested in computer science, and is able to do a degree and a bootcamp, I think they would be better off. Of course, there are the constraints of the real world and financing, and time. So the more shortcuts you can find, the better. That’s my philosophy. We encourage our students, give them resources, and free computer science content, that goes way beyond what we teach in our 30 hours. I feel there is a symbiotic relationship between computer science programs and bootcamp programs, and not one or the other is better for someone, it really depends on your goal. In an ideal case do both at some point in your career.
We’re at an interesting crossroads in the bootcamp industry. How do you think bootcamps need to evolve in 2018? Is this curriculum change that step for Lighthouse Labs?
Absolutely, just like our students, our programs have to evolve with time. At Lighthouse Labs we have constant conversations within the curriculum team, and within the general organization, about how we can better deliver education. Are there better ways we can deliver the content we already have? We’ve had discussions with bootcamps that have been in that situation, and then we look at ourselves, and ask are we making the same mistakes that were made there? So that’s something we’re constantly looking at, not just in changing our existing program, but also thinking about other programs that could help students keep learning throughout their journey, help them specialize within other topics, or help them get better at being web and full-stack mobile developers.
What is your advice for people who want to start learning about computer science fundamentals on their own, before or after a bootcamp? Can people teach themselves computer science fundamentals?
When it comes to computer science, it’s one of the more difficult things to learn on your own. Any theory is harder to learn on your own, because of the abstract nature of it. A lot of computer science content we found online was very focused on math and computational theory, and less focused on showing why you are learning it or how it is applied. My suggestion for people who are looking into getting into programming is to learn to code first. There’s a reason we don’t start with computer science at Lighthouse Labs. I suggest you find a project to work on where you can feel empowered and excited to apply your skills, and as you evolve, you can start dabbling in some of the more applicable computer science topics as you encounter them.
Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.Continue Reading →
Kyle Campbell has launched two startups, Retsly and Hack Capital, and built his engineering teams by hiring developers from Lighthouse Labs in Vancouver! Being a self-taught developer himself, Kyle appreciates the practical skills that students learn in the Lighthouse Labs Web Development Bootcamp, and specifically builds his teams with a focus on supporting more junior developers. We asked Kyle what he looks for in a new hire, whether computer science degrees are important, and his advice to employers who want to hire bootcamp grads!
Tell us about Hack Capital and your role there!
I was previously CTO and Founder of Retsly, which we built and sold to Zillow. I spent two years leading the Retsly team at Zillow as a Group Manager, then recently decided to move on and start Hack Capital, where I am CEO.
Hack Capital is in the private equity space, and we build systems of intelligence that help software companies scale intelligently. We’re building proprietary systems that are inspired by the approaches that have been used to accelerate many startups, such as Retsly, to build value quickly over a very short period of time.
You’ve hired 10 Lighthouse Labs graduates so far. How did you first get connected with Lighthouse Labs?
I met Lighthouse Labs founder Jeremy Shaki on his second day in Vancouver, and he said “Hey I just moved here and we’re starting this thing called Lighthouse Labs, to train people to be programmers, do you want to hire someone out of our first cohort?” I said, “Absolutely, I wish that had existed when I was starting out.” I hired Jason Wan out of the first cohort, and he worked for me for two years at Retsly; he still works at Zillow and is doing very well. After that I hired Stefan Krahn, Colin Clay, and a number of other graduates. I have hired 10 Lighthouse Labs graduates in total over the last four years.
Lighthouse Labs has become quite important to our business model. We subscribed to the idea that the majority of the value that a startup can create depends on creating a process, engagement, and vision that translates easily to less experienced developers. As long as you’re able to put that in place, you can be successful. At Retsly, we hired half of our founding engineering team out of Lighthouse Labs and other co-ops, and I have three Lighthouse Labs students working for me right now at Hack Capital. We’re really focused on accelerating the process of building value and doing so in a way that allows us to do so with emerging talent. .
What roles specifically have you hired Lighthouse Labs graduates for?
I don’t really hire for specific roles; I mostly hire for generalist roles. I’m looking for problem solvers who are adaptable to the situation. I’m keen on self-directed learners and people who can learn through doing. When I hire Lighthouse Labs graduates, their titles are Full Stack Software Engineers because we expect our developers to work on the back end and the front end. We want to give them a wide breadth of experience, and over time in their career, they can specialize in areas that they find interesting.
Other than Lighthouse Labs, how do you usually hire developers? What are you looking for in a new hire?
Even within Lighthouse Labs, the number one thing I look for when hiring is a referral. I will always interview somebody who has been referred to me first, because the biggest risk when you hire somebody is culture fit, and work-style. If you’ve worked with somebody, you know that they see things the way you do. So I always let people know when I’m hiring, and that we’re trying to build an engineering-focused culture where there is a lot of ownership; and then I hope those referrals come in. I take a long-term approach to hiring and what I like about Lighthouse Labs is the consistency in their graduates – I know where to start and I know that I can consistently take people from x-level experience to y-level experience in a relatively short time.
Do you notice differences in hiring from a bootcamp vs. hiring people with CS degrees out of college?
I’ve done a few different types of hiring, I’ve hired from a co-op, I’ve hired some general CS graduates, and I’ve hired interns from different schools. I’m a bit harsh on CS degrees because I’m a self-taught programmer. I didn’t make it to the end of high school, so university was never in the cards for me. I think it’s a very different style of learning. A CS degree is something that is going to help students over the long term of their career, but it won’t necessarily help them get going quickly. Lighthouse Labs is that jumpstart that gets you going really quickly.
The absolute best outcome is someone who has a CS degree and then they go through Lighthouse Labs to get job-ready. That person has that foundational, long-term understanding that is going to be really important in their career, but then they’ve also accelerated themselves with some more practical skills. I’m seeing more and more of that. I don’t think there is any disadvantage to a CS degree, but I think it leaves a gap in practical job ready skills that help you to ramp up quickly.
Have you worked with any other coding bootcamps yet? What stands out about Lighthouse Labs?
I’ve tried to work with other coding bootcamps, but they weren’t as welcoming in some ways. I think that is partially because I’ve worked with Lighthouse Labs from the very beginning and I feel like I’m part of the family, so I’m pretty loyal to Lighthouse Labs. I’ve definitely taken pause and looked at alternative bootcamps, but I just really align with the methodology of Lighthouse Labs. I know most of the mentors at Lighthouse Labs and I know what to expect. I think other bootcamps do a good job, but I don’t see need to hire from other places; if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!
What does the relationship look like between Hack Capital and Lighthouse Labs? Do you pay a referral fee when you hire their graduates or are you paying to be a part of their hiring network?
The relationship has evolved a bit. Early on, I was very hands on. But over time, Lighthouse Labs has grown a lot, and they have a lot more companies in their network.
Typically when I hire, I will meet students at the Demo Day, but I don’t make my decisions there. I invite students for a second interview. Getting students hired is an important part of Lighthouse Labs’ business model, so I don’t pay any referral fee. I’m a partner in making sure students have potential opportunities on the other side of the bootcamp. And even if I can’t hire the student into my company, I usually try to help find something with one of the companies I’m working with or with friends. I really believe in what they are doing and I like to see junior engineers come out and have a good start to their career. I think it’s a very exciting time for them and I like being able to help where I can.
I’m assuming that your hires from the bootcamp went through a technical interview. Do you tailor your process to bootcamp grads?
I have one coding test that everybody who comes into the company as an engineer takes. It’s fairly advanced, so a number of Lighthouse Labs students over the years have found it super hard. But I always tell them ahead of time that I’m not really worried about whether you get it right or wrong, I’m just curious about how you try to break the problem down and get as far as you can. It’s not about whether you get to the touchdown line or not, it’s about how do you move the ball down field and break it down. That gives me insight into how a person thinks, what their potential is, and helps me know if they are somebody I can help to ramp up their skills quickly. I don’t expect people to know everything about a job in the beginning, but I do want to hire someone who I’m a 100 percent sure will get there eventually.
How do the Lighthouse Labs grads usually do with that coding test?
Typically I’ve been very surprised with how well they have done. Generally, they took the problem, tackled it, made the effort and where they didn’t know something, they were able come up with a reasonable assumption. The coding test is an opportunity to sit and talk about their code, and I can give them some practical advice about how they should have done it. Even if I don’t hire them, it was learning opportunity for them.
Have you ever been hesitant or had to convince your co-workers to hire a bootcamper?
Luckily, I’ve been the decision maker in hiring matters at both Retsly and Hack Capital. Even when I was at Zillow, part of a much bigger company, there may have been more hesitancy, but they trusted my judgement. I think the results speak for themselves and when you’ve been able to do this as many times as I have and take these very inexperienced engineers and have them complete very experienced tasks, you build a bit of a reputation and people stop doubting it. I know there is some concern out there from many different companies, but this is something ingrained in my philosophy and the culture of the companies I start.
How do you train and mentor a new hire when they first start working with you?
Code reviews and pair programming are big opportunities to really teach people – I’m able to review and point out best practices.
I try to focus on a senior to junior developer ratio of about 1:3, and put a process in place that ensures we have mechanisms for feedback.
I believe that the most important part is helping new hires to build confidence quickly. I’ve written about this in the past, but I really believe that the only difference between a senior and junior engineer is confidence. Apart from confidence, which comes from experience, we all start every problem off the same way; we don’t know the answer, until we do.
Since you started hiring from Lighthouse Labs, have your new hires moved up or been promoted? Or do you anticipate that they will?
Absolutely. At Resly, we hired at least three engineers who became Senior Engineers within at least two years. Like any acquisition, when Resly was acquired by Zillow, the team was a huge part of the value proposition, so I was very proud to have a number of Lighthouse Labs students on our team, and to see them continue to be promoted afterwards. Now I work with a fresh bunch of Lighthouse Labs grads at Hack Capital and things are looking really good!
Will you hire from Lighthouse Labs in the future? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Hack Capital will likely hire another five Lighthouse Labs engineers in the next six to 12 months, and I think the companies I work with will probably hire another five to 10, so I expect that we’ll be hiring quite a bit from Lighthouse Labs. It’s hard to predict those numbers exactly. But not only are we hiring from Lighthouse Labs, we’re also actively seeking out strong senior engineers who have a keen interest in mentoring. If you are one of them, give me a shout! We’re hiring and we want to hear from you!
Do you have any advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp?
Don’t be afraid to hire juniors! I think it’s a toxic mindset to believe that your business priorities cannot allow you to take a step back and look at how you build long term value by developing emerging talent. My advice to companies considering Lighthouse Labs grads, is to constantly invest in your people. Find strong senior engineers who like to mentor, and build a culture focused on making people great around you. If you can take this philosophy and ingrain it in your culture, you will be successful. As long as you’re willing to invest the time and effort into mentoring bootcamp grads, you’ll have team members who greatly respect you, who are completely loyal, and will surprise you consistently with what they are capable of.
Haven’t had time to keep up with all the coding bootcamp news this March? Not to worry– we’ve compiled it for you in a handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read a lot about CIRR and student outcomes reporting, we heard from reporters and coding bootcamp students about getting hired after coding bootcamp, a number of schools announced exciting diversity initiatives, and we added a handful of new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the January 2017 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we applaud initiatives that bring technology to underserved communities, we look at employment trends, and new coding schools and campuses. Plus, we hear a funny story about an honest taxi driver. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
In our recent Student Outcomes survey, alumni reported that they were working in over 650 different companies! Of course, you may have read recent press citing companies like Google who apparently aren’t willing to invest in junior technical talent from coding bootcamps (we happen to know that coding bootcamp grads have been hired at Google and Salesforce, but that’s not the point)... Here we’re highlighting 8 forward-thinking companies who are psyched about the bootcamp alumni on their engineering teams. Each of these employers have hired multiple developers, and are seeing their investment pay off.Continue Reading →
Where do coding bootcamp graduates really get jobs? Mobify! Mobify is an mobile eCommerce platform based in Vancouver, Canada that optimizes the shopping experience. We chatted with Laura Crawford, Mobify’s Talent Acquisition Manager, to learn more about why they’ve already hired four Lighthouse Labs graduates and look forward to hiring more. Read on to learn how Mobify focuses on hiring passionate and curious software engineers, and the types of roles these coding bootcampers are thriving in today.
Could you tell me about Mobify and your role there?
I'm the Talent Acquisition Manager at Mobify, so I lead up our recruitment initiatives from our headquarters in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been with the company for three years now.
Mobify is a PAAS (platform-as-a-service) company. Our mobile customer engagement platform enables retailers and brands to increase conversions and win customer loyalty through mobile web, apps, push notifications, and store drivers.
How many Lighthouse Labs graduates have you hired?
We've hired four Lighthouse Labs graduates within in the last two years. Lighthouse Labs is really involved in the Vancouver tech community, which is really great. Our Mobify team attends a lot of the Vancouver tech networking events and we met Lighthouse Labs through one of those events.
What types of roles have you hired Lighthouse Labs graduates for?
Mobify has hired Lighthouse Labs graduates for junior roles that have covered a variety of different functions. One Lighthouse Labs graduate joined us as a Back End Data Engineer, one alum as a Front End Engineer for our customer success team, and one as a UI and Web Developer. Another graduate joined our customer success team as Front End Engineer and he's recently transitioned into a role as Support Engineer, assisting clients with technical issues during the builds.
It’s great that Mobify is hiring Lighthouse Labs grads for different roles. How do you usually hire your developers?
It's a really competitive market, so Mobify has a diversified recruitment strategy. We host a lot of events at our office and we encourage all of our employees to be really involved in the tech community. We want our employees attending and speaking at meetups and conferences in order to grow our network.
On our recruitment team, we do a lot of direct outreach to candidates. We have a comprehensive advertising strategy as well where we advertise all of our jobs and promote our employer brand so that we have a strong talent pipeline.
Have you noticed any differences in the process of hiring a bootcamp grad versus a graduate of a traditional computer science degree program?
Lighthouse Labs is great, and they accommodate Mobify’s hiring process. We have a unique and very thorough interview process, and Lighthouse Labs is flexible, which is fantastic. We don't have to bend our process to fit Lighthouse Labs’ needs, so it makes it really easy to work with them.
I think developers acquire skills in all sorts of different ways. Some people have been coding since they were in elementary school, and others are just starting to learn now. Then, of course, we do hire engineers with traditional academic training like degrees in engineering and computer science. We definitely have a broad range of backgrounds within our engineering department at Mobify.
What specific qualities does Mobify look for when hiring new developers?
At Mobify, we're most focused on finding passionate engineers who are naturally curious, who love the work that they do, and who are lifelong learners. We want people who are humble and egoless, who know what they don't know and work hard to fill in their knowledge gaps. In our interview process, we don’t target a specific type of educational background.
The students we've interviewed from Lighthouse Labs are typically either brand new to development because they're making a career transition, or because they've just finished secondary school and they're looking to get into the tech industry fairly quickly after they graduate. We tend to see junior skill sets coming from Lighthouse Labs.
Because the Lighthouse Labs grads have such varied backgrounds, Mobify has been able to find Lighthouse Labs talent that are a good fit for different areas of the business. Some got an undergraduate degree in math or science and then decided to go into software engineering after graduation, so they can hit the ground running in a more complex technical role. Others are coming from a design background and might need a bit more training to ramp up. Students who are making a career transition and decide they want to be involved in design and development are typically better suited for some of Mobify’s more junior positions.
Mobify is focused on looking for students who are passionate, and eager to learn and grow with the company.
Has Mobify worked with any other coding bootcamps besides Lighthouse Labs?
No, we've been really happy with Lighthouse Labs. Our engineers here have really enjoyed working with, and mentoring the Lighthouse Labs graduates. Some of our engineers have even taken that next step and taught as TAs with Lighthouse Labs in their own spare time as well.
What does Mobify’s current relationship with Lighthouse Labs look like? Do you pay a referral fee for hiring graduates?
There is no referral fee required. As a company, we want to be integrated and involved with the tech community in Vancouver. Lighthouse Labs has been great to us, so we host some events for them and offer our space for events like employer speed dating. Employer speed dating is where Lighthouse Labs graduates can meet with and talk to a whole group of employers in one evening to get a sense of what their work environments are like, and what they're looking for in their engineering hires as well.
At Lighthouse Labs, students learn Ruby on Rails. Are the Lighthouse Labs hires working in Rails or does Mobify use other languages?
How does Mobify ensure that new hires are supported during the first months at their new job?
We have a fairly thorough company-wide onboarding program that spans two weeks. Mobify places new hires in a group with other new employees; sometimes that’s a group of employees in the same functions, sometimes not, but it bodes well for camaraderie. Then, new hires have meetings with a lead from each department to learn about the business as a whole. This gives them the opportunity to meet with leadership from each of the different departments, and learn how they can work together. Mobify has department specific onboarding as well, which is just as comprehensive.
Mobify engineers work together very collaboratively. We're an Agile software development company, so there are a lot of standups and opportunities to work through problems together. Our engineers do a lot of pair programming and code review as well. It's an environment where junior hires are supported by mentors, and formally supported by their Engineering Lead as well.
Since you started hiring Lighthouse Labs graduates, have any of those new hires been promoted, or do you anticipate they will?
Some of the Lighthouse Labs graduates have moved into other roles based on their interests because we do encourage lateral movement where we can support it. One of our Lighthouse Labs graduates recently moved to San Francisco to work at Uber, which is a success story! With all of our employees, we nurture them and support them in their growth. If they're successful in their role here and they're getting promoted, that means that we’re doing a good job.
Does Mobify have a feedback loop with the bootcamp? Are you able to influence the curriculum at Lighthouse Labs if you notice that some of the dev hires are lacking in a certain area?
Yeah, definitely. Lighthouse Labs is super communicative, and they're in touch with us often to get our feedback. They're always available to talk. When we’re typically doing recruitment for junior engineers, they're one of the first organizations that we reach out to. They always have time to talk through what specifically we're looking for, and they have a very personal touch with their students as well. For example, they will make personal introductions for specific students that they think would be a good fit.
Is it safe to say that Mobify will probably hire from Lighthouse Labs in the future?
A lot of employers are testing the waters with coding bootcampers, but don't necessarily know how to navigate it. Do you have any advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or even from Lighthouse Labs in particular?
I think being open-minded is important. A lot of coding bootcampers come to your company with rich backgrounds and a lot of knowledge that they can leverage into being successful engineers. Just because their background may not look like the traditional software developer, doesn't mean that they can’t grow into some of your strongest engineers.
I would say the best way to find out whether bootcamp graduates area a good fit for you is to dive in and start interviewing!
Katie Peterson was a chemical engineer for 7 years before moving from Idaho to Calgary, Canada. After having a hard time finding a position in the oil and gas industry, she decided to transition into tech and start learning to code. Katie walks us through her coding bootcamp journey, first attending The HTML500 hosted by Lighthouse Labs, then committing to their Intro to Web Development program, and finally diving into the full-time iOS Development Bootcamp. Learn about Katie’s new job as an iOS Developer!
Tell us about your pre-Lighthouse Labs story!
My background is in chemical engineering, and I worked in Idaho at a semiconductor manufacturer for about seven years. I decided to move to Calgary, Alberta, with my husband (where he grew up), where the most prevalent industry is oil and petroleum gas. I had a hard time finding a position that I thought would be like a good fit in relation to what I was doing before.
One of the things that I liked in my previous job was that it was very high tech, and it was certainly cutting edge. I decided to learn to code in order to stay in a high tech field.
Did you try to learn to code on your own before researching coding bootcamps?
I did use some online resources like Codecademy. I also participated in ChicGeek, which is a non-profit that hosted Ladies Learning Code workshops, and then The HTML500. Those all-day workshops were great to dip my toe in, but they didn’t make me feel confident that I could do it on my own. Without programming experience, it was difficult to understand what languages I needed to learn, what tools I needed to learn, and what the natural progression should be.
When did you realize you were ready to learn at a coding bootcamp?
I didn't actually know that coding bootcamps were a thing until I went to this workshop called The HTML500. I was connected to a bunch of different tech meetups, and they mentioned the event. At The HTML500, Lighthouse Labs partners with private and government entities for a free, all-day workshop, and you basically learn HTML and CSS to build a website. I went to The HTML500, and that's where I got introduced to Lighthouse Labs and the idea of a coding bootcamp.
Tell me about your experience at HTML500.
We created a really simple website, and at the time, I started to feel like this was easier and more accessible than I realized. I also really liked the teaching style because they gave you the basic concepts and some of the core code that you would need, and then you did an assignment on your own. Lighthouse Labs is full of people with lots of experience, and mentors are going around the room answering questions. It's a very empowering way to learn. You get the basic knowledge that you need and then you learn by doing.
Did you decide immediately that you were definitely doing Lighthouse Labs? What did that transition look like?
It did take me a while to make the decision. I knew that day I was interested, and I did look into other coding bootcamps as well, but one of the nice things about Lighthouse Labs for me was that in addition to The HTML500, they also had a part-time web development course offered in Calgary (where I live).
I was able to do the part-time course (six hours a week for six weeks) before I committed to the full-time bootcamp in Vancouver, just to make sure that the teaching style was working for me and that I thought it was something I could be good at. That was a part of my decision-making process before I made the entire huge commitment.
How was the Lighthouse Labs interview process for both the part-time Intro to Web Development and full-time iOS Development bootcamp?
The application process for the part-time course is much less rigorous. I think anybody who wants to do the part-time course is accepted, but the full-time application has a lot more steps.
For the full-time bootcamp, my first step was an online application, and then I had a phone call interview with the education manager, which included some discussion about my goals and my background and what I was hoping to get out of the bootcamp.
The next step was a timed logic test to see how I thought about problems. She then took that information, and discussed it with the founders. As I understand, the higher level of management approves each applicant after their education contact has collected all the information. Then I heard back from them a day or two later that I had been accepted.
You mentioned that you researched other coding bootcamps before deciding on Lighthouse Labs- how did you make that choice?
One of the things I did was talk to developers in Calgary to understand what their job looked like, what the industry looked like, and which jobs were available. Canada doesn't have nearly as many coding bootcamps as the US, so I didn't have as much of a choice in terms of numbers, but I did research the Vancouver bootcamps.
At the time, I didn't really know enough to say, "Oh, I want to learn back end, Java, etc." I just looked at what was available and then did my research on those programs to see which of those languages or fields I thought would be the most appropriate for me. I chose iOS from what was available.
What did your Lighthouse Labs cohort look like? Who were you studying with?
The part-time cohort was 15 to 20 people, and it was made up of a variety of backgrounds: high school students, professionals, a freelance Mobile developer, marketers, and entrepreneurs. The founder of ChicGeek was even in the cohort! The part-time cohort was pretty diverse and large compared to my actual full-time bootcamp cohort.
My full-time bootcamp cohort was six people. I had three classmates from Vancouver, then there was a guy from Turkey and a guy from Brazil. The two international students came to Canada just for Lighthouse Labs after starting their own businesses. Two of the guys from Vancouver have programming backgrounds and wanted to transition into mobile development, and another guy’s company sent him there to learn more skills.
How did you feel about your learning experience at Lighthouse Labs’ iOS Development bootcamp? Share a typical day with us.
It was an 8-week bootcamp where we started everyday at 9am. We had lectures for about an hour; then we did an assignment. Usually, I finished my day at 7pm or 8pm (and I often found myself in the classroom on weekends). We didn't pair program in the strict definition of the term, but it was very collaborative because we were a small group. If somebody got stuck on something, they would ask the other people in the cohort as often as they would ask our mentors and instructors.
What were the main programming languages and technologies that your class used at Lighthouse Labs?
I specifically chose iOS development, so we learned Swift and Objective-C, and then Apple’s IDE which is called Xcode. We used a lot of the free libraries that were built in iOS– CocoaPods, and other frameworks.
Did you have a favorite project or app that you built while at Lighthouse Labs?
I was really proud of my final project. It was a dating app! My partner and I built a lot of fancy UI, and a lot of interesting gestures. Right now I work for a company that sells a very utilitarian, B2B product, and that’s what I tend to be drawn to. I like really useful, bare bones apps that just do a good job. So this final project pushed me into the more visual arena, and pushed me out of my comfort zone. It looks really sharp. At our demo day, it was definitely the most polished and it showed really well to potential employers, so I was very happy with that. Here’s the link to the project.
How was your transition from student to employee? How long did it take you to get your new job after Lighthouse Labs?
The transition was very quick. I understood that there wouldn’t be a huge tech scene in Calgary (compared to Vancouver or a lot of places in the States). However, there also is not enough talent to fill the positions that are here. So there's just a few employers, but they are really looking, and having a hard time finding people.
I didn't have any difficulty finding a job. I was working within two weeks of leaving Lighthouse Labs in Vancouver.
Tell us about your new job!
I started my new position at a small company, Aimsio, which makes a configurable field ticketing app for people who do contract work remotely. When I started, I was the 14th or 15th employee as a Junior iOS Developer
My first developer job has been really good. It's a small iOS team as there are only four of us working on the mobile app. I work really closely with my boss and he's been a strong mentor to me. I came on as a Junior Developer, but I do the same work as everybody else on my team.
Did Lighthouse Labs give you any job prep, resume critiques, or portfolio help?
Yeah, they did. Lighthouse Labs has a whole employment program, and they have a fast track that's really tailored around people who are there locally. Their Career Services team connects students to tons of employers until they get that first job.
For me, I needed a little bit more specific help. The employment team in Vancouver were putting feelers out in Calgary and they got me the interview with Aimsio. I got a lot of help from Lighthouse Labs.
How are you feeling about your career transition now that you're an iOS developer?
I’ve been at my company for a year and it's been great. I'm really happy I made this change. I feel like I’m using a lot of the problem-solving techniques and systematic way of thinking that I learned as an engineer. It's gratifying that I haven't left that phase of my career behind entirely. There are a lot of new challenges, and a lot of things left for me to learn; but I'm really enjoying it.
Did you have to learn any new programming languages at your new job? Was there a learning gap for you when you first started?
What was your biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learning how to code?
I spent a lot of time not knowing how to approach coding as a career. I was going to all these workshops, talking to people, doing Codecademy, and that process took me a long time. For a year it was just fits and starts, with nothing really clicking or moving me forward. Once I went to the coding bootcamp, the progress has been pretty seamless.
Do you stay involved with Lighthouse Labs at all now that you're an alum?
I haven't been back to Vancouver, but Lighthouse Labs did start a small web development cohort here in Calgary, and we actually hosted them in our office at Aimsio one night for a meet-and-greet. I've been to a Lighthouse Labs demo day as well; and periodically the admissions team at Lighthouse Labs will connect me with somebody in Calgary who has a lot of questions about if LHL is the right path for them. So yes, I am involved!
What advice do you have for anybody considering a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Don't go into a coding bootcamp looking at it as a quick, easy means towards great earning potential forever. Do it if you want to be coding every single day for the rest of your career. The best advice I got when I was thinking about attending a coding bootcamp was from a guy who had worked in the tech boom starting in the 80's and 90's. He said at that time, "When I was working during the boom, I was making $85,000 a year. Then when that bubble burst, I was making $30,000 a year and now I'm making $200,000 a year." He went on, "For me, obviously it was better during those times when I was making a lot of money, but during the times when I wasn't, it was still something that I loved doing every day." I guess that's the key. Don't do a coding bootcamp for an instant career and money. Make sure that coding is something you want to do every day until you retire.
Welcome to the October 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we are also covering our Women In Tech Snapchat takeover! Other trends include new developments in the industry, new outcomes reports and why those are important, new investments in bootcamps, and of course, new coding schools and campuses.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the September 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. Of course, we cover our 2016 Outcomes and Demographics Report (we spent a ton of time on this one and hope everyone gets a chance to read it)! Other trends include growth of the industry, increasing diversity in tech through bootcamps, plus news about successful bootcamp alumni, and new schools and campuses. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
To celebrate the launch of their new Full-Stack Web Bootcamp curriculum, Lighthouse Labs has released the Early Bird Challenge! Activate the puzzle, solve the clues and you could score $500 off their Web or iOS Bootcamp.
Tell us about your background before you co-founded Lighthouse Labs?
I have been a software developer for more than 10 years. I’ve gone through the entire journey of going from high school to college, into the workforce. My first job as a developer was very uncomfortable and nerve-wracking – so I’ve experienced it all.
For the last five years, I’ve owned a software development firm in Toronto called Functional Imperative that works with different businesses to produce software for their needs. So I’ve also experienced hiring developers, and the massive shortage of developers and tech talent.
My passion for teaching started when I was 8 years old and started volunteering at a local community center back home in Pakistan to teach adults how to use computers. Then I was lucky enough to have computer science classes at my high school. I fell in love with software development through languages like C and Visual Basic, and I helped the school develop a curriculum using Java while I was learning it. I found both my passions combined - building software, and inspiring and teaching others to build and create. I feel incredibly lucky to have gone into this field and I want to inspire other people to consider becoming software developers.
What prompted you to start Lighthouse Labs?
As I was doing consulting and software development, I was mentoring junior developers who had recently graduated from university and I really enjoyed that. So I started looking for opportunities where I could mentor and teach part time. At the same time, I started becoming more and more aware of this movement in the education space towards more hands-on learning. I believed in a more progressive model of education where students learn by doing, and are put into uncomfortable situations so they get used to what it means to be a developer. Then I learned about coding bootcamps and was involved in building the curriculum for and teaching at Bitmaker Labs, the first coding bootcamp in Canada. I fell in love with the methodologies, the concepts, the students.
In my own experience in the education space, what I found most valuable was the internships I did. I learned way more on the job than I did during many of the theoretical courses in my undergrad degree. So Lighthouse Labs is embracing the fact that you will learn the most on the job, and making you as impactful as possible for the first few months so you can continue to grow and learn at bootcamp pace. We tell students you are going to be doing “bootcamp style” learning for many years. This is going to be an intense journey and you need not only the talent but also the grit to handle that kind of intensity and not take your foot off the pedal once you graduate.
When you first started Lighthouse Labs how did you find and hire instructors?
We follow the community-driven education model. One of the biggest advantages- and the philosophy- of Lighthouse Labs is bringing the community together to rally behind the teaching. Instead of having a few full-time instructors we have an army of developers, who are passionate about the work they are doing outside of Lighthouse Labs.
The trick is to find mentors and teachers who have a talent and passion for both coding and mentoring. And that took some time. We started with three part-time mentors, and myself as the full-time teacher, and we grew from there. Now we have over 100 mentors teaching web and iOS across Canada. We have a few full-time educational staff who are involved in building our internal software systems and delivering lectures. But the main focus and experience of the curriculum is around bringing these mentors in. We talk about immersive education, and one of the things people don’t realize is it’s about being immersed in the community and the culture, as well as the code. You have to appreciate the mindset and the culture of the people with whom you’re going to be working.
How did you choose which languages to include in the original curriculum when the school started in 2013?
I had been working in Ruby and I saw the growth of Ruby on Rails as an ecosystem. I was not a big fan of the initial stages of the Ruby on Rails ecosystem. It was less of a mature community in terms of the tooling and support out there. But by the time we started Lighthouse Labs, the community had matured quite a bit to become a more stable community. It’s a platform used by many employers across Canada and globally, so it made sense to teach those tools.
How did you develop and iterate the curriculum from there?
It was definitely high level at first – creating an outline, talking to as many people in the industry as possible. I remember having a conversation with Hootsuite, and showed them our curriculum outline. Hootsuite is not a Ruby shop; they use Scala, Java, Python. Their director of engineering saw that the curriculum focused on Ruby on Rails, and it wasn’t an issue for him. He understood the philosophy of what we are actually teaching: how to become a developer in a rapid way, by being analytical, by problem solving, getting used to research problems, and debugging.
We started with a small set of students, so I was able to quickly iterate and adjust things based on how the cohort was running. I quickly found I was jumping into Rails too soon, and students were a bit shell shocked. So within the first few cohorts, I adjusted it so there was more ramp up towards learning Rails. Starting with learning a big framework like Rails 5 is almost like starting Game of Thrones Season 5 without watching Seasons 1 through 4, without knowing the history of any of the characters.
How did you assess how students were progressing through the program?
When Lighthouse Labs first started, I wanted to work out how to evaluate student progress. There are two sides to education: teaching and evaluation. At first, we were not focused enough on evaluation. Within first few cohorts, I introduced assessment that students had to pass to become graduates of Lighthouse Labs. Yes, they’re all experiencing intensity, but the assessments show if students are progressing at the right rate. So yes, we’ve added a few assessment tests.
So tell me about the recent updates to the web development curriculum?
It’s good to expose students to both, but it adds the risk of overwhelming them with too much information. So we had to make sure we still had a primary focus, then a secondary focus that exposes them to the other paradigm, and let them compare and contrast without feeling overwhelmed. In terms of being prepared for the workforce, which is our ultimate goal, we felt introducing both paradigms and both languages would work better in a short period of time.
In general, what is your process of iterating and updating the curriculum?
Canada has more regulation around education and services. We were very cooperative early on with PCTIA when we started Lighthouse Labs. It took us some time to work with the system, and be agile, while staying compliant and be registered. We are now actually accredited with PCTIA, which takes two years of being in operation. We have an Education Administrator on staff who is dedicated to communicating with the regulatory bodies, to keep them in the loop and make sure we are following the right practices.
By no means am I complaining. These organizations exist for the interest of the students, to make sure they are getting a good education and to protect them from schools going under, or not following through on learning outcomes.
Rolling out a new curriculum is not an easy feat, especially when you have multiple locations, more than 100 mentors, and multiple programs. We’re not only changing content, but also the evaluation side of things, and some of the core philosophies of how we teach. It affects everything, including Career Services. One of the first things we did for this curriculum, is build a pilot of the new curriculum to use to test and iterate and figure out how to train people across the board. We currently have six students in our pilot cohort, testing the new curriculum!
Updates to the curriculum aren’t just about what is student facing, but what is teacher facing in terms of the documentation. Much like software has a change log, we have been tracking all our changes in git and in our internal documentation. We also bring teachers and staff into the conversation, so they are involved in building the curriculum.
How many teachers do you have at one time? Do you try to maintain a certain student:teacher ratio?
We have a ratio of 7:1, sometimes even 5:1. The number of mentors we have actively at our major locations in Toronto and Vancouver is around 40 for web, and about 10 to 12 for iOS. And the other locations, Montreal, Victoria, Kelowna, Calgary, Halifax, and London, have local mentors and remote support.
Students and teachers are in the classroom from 9am to 9pm. Of course it’s not the same teachers who start in the morning who are there in the evening – we have a pretty strong emphasis on scheduling and working with these developers outside of their primary jobs. Some are doing 6 hours a week, others do 20 or 30 hours a week.
What’s the ideal class size?
We’ve found the ideal number of students is around 20 to 24 per cohort. We have cohorts that are smaller, but we don’t go over 24 students per cohort, because it becomes difficult to manage and track student progress, and to personalize the education.
What is the teaching style at Lighthouse Labs?
You mentioned you give assessments. How regular are they and do students have to pass those to continue with the program?
We have experimented with this quite a bit. With the Ruby curriculum, we had three assessment tests in total, which are the most stressful part for students. These tests simulate building things, fixing things, debugging, and problem solving. We found three tests were too intense for an eight-week program and we saw a trend of test-driven education, where students are too focused on learning for the test instead of learning for the real world. In the new curriculum, there is one major test in week three, and we give them a mock test before hand so they get used to what the test looks like. If they don’t do well, it doesn’t mean they are not good at problem solving. We also look at other data points we’ve collected and give them an opportunity to work on it in a less stressful situation to see if they can get through it.
Do you have an assessment at the end to check if they are ready to graduate?
Although we are reducing the number of tests, we are increasing the amount of evaluation. Code reviews are a more organic way of growing for developers, they happen out in the wild. So there’s a lot more focus on projects in the curriculum now. Students are doing fewer small exercises, and producing more large full stack apps, earlier on in the program, so they can appreciate web development sooner. And they are also being evaluated on these projects. Students are required to submit them for a code review, get feedback, and iterate on that feedback. It’s something we did informally and ad-hoc before, but now it’s a formal part of the program. Then there is the final project at the end which they demo to the community.
What sort of jobs are you seeing your web development graduates get?
One fundamental Lighthouse Labs philosophy is that we are not about becoming a rockstar developer in eight weeks. It’s a more humble and realistic approach to that journey. And to that end, we believe you still have a ways to go before you should be demanding full developer salaries. It’s about learning on the job and proving you can learn in a bootcamp environment, and learn and grow with other people. So we encourage students and employers to start with a paid internship or apprenticeship, where interns are being compensated, but there is a 3-month internship period before they graduate to a junior developer title in that company. And that is something that has been extremely well received in Vancouver and across Canada.
What are your favorite resources or meetups in Vancouver for aspiring bootcampers who want to find out what it’s like to learn to code?
There are a few amazing meetups in Vancouver. One of my favorites is the Polyglot meetup which is not focused on a specific ecosystem or language. The Ruby meetup is very active, there are bi-weekly Ruby hack nights in Vancouver. There is a CSS brigade that is not as frequent but has a huge turnout run by an interesting group of devs out here. We encourage our students to go to at least one or two meetups while in the bootcamp and as they graduate to go to more. The Web Performance meetup is another favorite of mine, it’s a bit more advanced so more for alumni than current students. One that’s less about tech but around the community and entrepreneurship is the Hackernest meetup where you get entrepreneurs and people with ideas coming to the meetup looking for developers to be able to prototype and create MVPs with them.
SooJeen Park was going through the motions as an accounting clerk when he decided to quit his job in search of a fulfilling and challenging career. After graduating from a full-time web development immersive at the Toronto Lighthouse Labs campus, SooJeen landed a job as a Software Developer at real estate startup HoodQ. Now six months into his new career, SooJeen tells us not only about a his time at Lighthouse Labs and his creative idea to fund his bootcamp tuition, but also gives us awesome insight into a day in the life of a web developer.
What were you up to before attending Lighthouse Labs?
About a year ago, I quit my job as an accounting clerk. I wanted a career path that was fulfilling, challenging and would be promising for the future. I couldn’t find the time or the energy to do that research and soul searching while still at work. I had enough savings to do that search for about a year.
What made web development stand out as a career path?
I had a few semesters of Computer Science under my belt from University. I didn’t do well in University- it wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be so I ended up dropping out. Working as a web developer means that you build useful products, whereas Computer Science classes felt like learning how computers work.
Once I started Codecademy and other online resources and talking to people in the industry, I was pleased to learn that the career was a bit different than what I’d expected..
Have you found that any of those CS classes helped you learn web development more easily at Lighthouse Labs?
It helped me a little bit in the first week or two. I was familiar with coding syntax, basic elements like data structures, conditionals etc. That was the first week, so it helped me in that way but otherwise, I don’t think so.
Did you consider other coding schools in Toronto?
I attended another bootcamp’s’ demo day, and I was really impressed by what they were doing and what their students were building. But what led me to Lighthouse Labs was the HTML500, an event hosted by Lighthouse Labs where 500 people are invited to learn the basics of HTML and CSS.
The fact that Lighthouse Labs had organized this event to spread coding to everyone really spoke to me. After hearing them talk about their philosophy and approach, when they announced they were opening a campus in Toronto, I jumped on the opportunity.
What is special about Toronto tech scene? Did you ever consider moving cities to do a bootcamp?
Toronto is just home for me and because I was unemployed, it was getting harder to consider moving for a bootcamp. From my limited knowledge of other big tech scenes, I think that Toronto is pretty strong, especially in Canada.
Can you take us through a typical day at Lighthouse Labs?
A typical day was a lecture in the morning, 90 minutes to two hours where we’re introduced to a concept or we walked through an example of code.
The remainder of the day, we were given assignments, problems, and projects to work on either independently or with classmates.
The experience was overwhelming in terms of the amount of knowledge that was laid at your feet and how much you had to absorb in a very short time. At Lighthouse Labs, they had mentors who were working developers who were there to answer your questions.
Who was your main instructor for your cohort?
For our cohort it was David Vandusen. He came from the Vancouver campus to teach the first cohort. David had a particular brand of genius. He just knew about everything. He had tons of experience as a working developer, and he had opinions about the right way of doing things. He also had a breadth of knowledge- he could talk about design, but also deep algorithmic efficiencies.
David did the bulk of the lectures, but we also had a lot of guest lecturers. I learned to appreciate the different styles and approaches and the different ways people think about coding and how they approach it.
Tell us about your favorite project that you built at Lighthouse Labs.
We did two projects; our midterms and final projects. Those were fun and exciting but what I remember most was building a tool called ORM or Active Record in Rails. It’s the tool that does object relational mapping. Your database needs to talk to your application and your application needs a way to translate or model your data in such a way that your application makes sense of it. It brought a deeper appreciation and understanding of how the tool works and how to take advantage of it in ways that we might not have if we hadn’t built it out ourselves.
How did you pay for the Lighthouse Labs bootcamp?
By that point, I had run out of savings so I ended up crowd fundraising with my friends. I approached a dozen friends and said, “If you can lend me $1000 each, I can go to this bootcamp and I’m confident that after I start working in 6 months, and I can start paying you guys back.” I got about 8 or 9 friends to do that, and then covered the remainder on credit.
Yours was the first cohort in Toronto. How many people were in your class?
We started off with 10 and we graduated 7.
Was the class diverse in terms of gender, race, life experience and career backgrounds?
There was only one female, and the class was about 30 – 40% minorities. In terms of backgrounds, it was as diverse as I’ve ever seen.
There are at least two of us who had some kind of experience in tech, whether at school or otherwise. Of course those with experience floated to the top. But what was more surprising to me was how far all of us got over the weeks. To know where beginners started and to see where they ended up was just phenomenal.
What are you up to now?
I graduated in June and started working a week after graduation. I was offered a job at HoodQ.com, a startup in the real estate space.
What does HoodQ do?
HoodQ gives real estate agents a way to meaningfully connect their property to potential clients by providing a report that highlights the good things about the neighborhood. We’ve aggregated over 2500 different data sources then built a platform whereby the user can enter in an address and in real time it generates a neighbourhood marketing package, consisting of two types of reports localized to that address, including schools, parks, transit, safety and convenience.
How did you get the job?
What was the technical interview like for your first dev job?
The actual technical interview was pretty good. I didn’t have to whiteboard for that interview but I had to walk through some solutions for a technical problem. At the start of the bootcamp, they did mock tech interviews with us. As we progressed through the course, they ramped up those tech interviews. They tested us based on what we knew at the time and got us ready for the setting of a tech interview.
How large is the dev team at HoodQ?
The dev team is three people including me, Taz the CTO and Adam, Head of Aggregation.
What is your advice for coding bootcampers who are making the decision about the type of company that they want to work for?
Find a mentor that you like and that you think you can learn from. When I met Taz, I saw someone I wanted to learn more from and who had that knowledge. So find a mentor that you connect with and can grow with as a developer. For the very first job out of bootcamp that would be the most important thing.
You learned Ruby on Rails at Lighthouse Labs. Are you using Rails at HoodQ?
What does a web developer’s day-to-day look like?
What I imagined was sitting and typing code for hours at a time. But it’s a much more iterative process; you code for a bit, then you test it then you think about the cases you haven’t thought about. It’s this nice circular flow of stop and go/back and forth. It’s engaging, it’s challenging and it’s not as tedious as I thought it might be.
What’s been the biggest challenge that you have faced in becoming a web developer?
We have a small team at HoodQ, so I try to balance asking a ton of questions with figuring things out on my own. For me, that’s been the challenge.
At the same time, my team has confidence in me, so I’ve been fortunate to build features that I may never had a chance to otherwise.
Are you happy with your career change from accounting to web development?
One of the biggest drawbacks to my career in accounting was the lack of challenge and therefore, the lack of engagement. I was really just going through the motions a lot of days at my old job. As a web developer, I’m enjoying the challenges and continuing to learn; I’m fortunate that I enjoy my coworkers and the culture at HoodQ, but that’s just a really nice bonus for my first job out of bootcamp.
Do you have advice for people who want to make a similar career change?
I really benefitted from the immersive experience. I had tried the online resources like Codecademy and various other things. It’s hard to see how the pieces of web development fit together and it’s hard to stay engaged.
You lose your motivation very quickly if you’re just learning how to use a tool without understanding why you would want to use that tool. At Lighthouse Labs, you’re building a midterm and final project and you’re pulling the tools as you need them.
It’s the same here at work. I don’t spend time learning tools until I need to use them and I have that foundation to quickly pick them up.
A structured program focused on project-based learning helped with me immensely, but the other huge benefit was the mentors at Lighthouse Labs. Being able to talk to them about the life of a developer- not necessarily the technical stuff but just the lifestyle, working conditions, and what to expect really broadened our horizons.
Another thing I want to add and I think Lighthouse Labs was very clear about this, is that a coding bootcamp won’t make you a developer. It’s the year of working after bootcamp that really tests if you’re going to be a developer or not in terms of how you’re going to keep learning. How you’re going to grow your skills and grow your abilities. It’s that year-long journey that the bootcamp is setting you up for and what you’re buying into more than anything.
Canadian bootcamps are working hard to develop the talent needed to keep up with Canada’s growing tech hubs. StartUp Genome ranks Toronto and Vancouver amongst the top 20 startup ecosystems in the world. The Canadian tech economy as a whole is being fueled by thriving companies such as Shopify, HootSuite, Kik, Wattpad, and Erkem. Their success has generated a lot of interest among investors.
In 2016, $157 million was invested into 418 Canadian companies by angel investors, according to the National Angel Capital Organization 2016 Angel Investing Report.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the May News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
When Simon Pregent found out about Lighthouse Labs’ first hybrid bootcamp offered in his hometown of Whitehorse, he took the opportunity to hone his skills to advance his career and pursue his own passion projects. As he prepares for the start of the bootcamp, we check in with Simon about the online learning he did on his own, trying to pitch the bootcamp to his bosses, and the Lighthouse Lab application. We’re looking forward to talking to him again when the bootcamp wraps up!
What was your background before choosing Lighthouse Labs?
I have a business background and a major in applied economics. I started off working in more economics-oriented positions with data analysis, but I’ve made my way towards jobs that are more and more data-centric. My most recent job was as a database administrator in the Yukon public sector.
Had you done any web development in your job as a database admin?
I work on some minor web development. For example, I had used PHP, but mostly to script behaviors that I wanted my servers to do.
Were you using online programs to teach yourself before Lighthouse Labs?
I’ve done some online courses and I’m actually still enrolled in some. I had used Codecademy and books. I took some popular Udemy classes in iOS and web dev. But, it’s really hard to progress unless you’re put in a situation where you have the time to be committed and focused.
Why did you decide to do a coding bootcamp?
Since I was mostly self-taught, Lighthouse Labs’ remote bootcamp in Whitehorse was an opportunity to connect the dots and to learn industry standard best practices. Another reason is that I’ve had web app ideas and I’ve fleshed them out on the conceptual level and on the back-end, but a lot of the pieces of that puzzle are missing.
Did you quit your job to start at Lighthouse Labs?
Right now I’m on a leave of absence, so I do have a job to go back to.
Was your boss supportive?
My boss was supportive, but I didn’t give them a ton of notice, so it was hard to get Human Resources involved to the extent where they were ready to sign off on compensating me. There is still is an ongoing negotiation to see if there’s going to be compensation, but I’m here with the understanding that this is a leave without pay. I’m happy that I can afford to do that.
What was your pitch to your boss to pay for the coding bootcamp?
I put together a package and pitched it. The first response that I got was negative, but my boss has been supportive and she pushed further without me even being involved. The talent pool for this level of web development is not huge in the territory. There’s a case to be made for career progression.
It sounds like a good investment for both you and your employer.
Yeah. I’m definitely psyched. It’s going to be an interesting 8 weeks. I’m just somebody who generally enjoys learning and one of the things that I like to keep doing is always challenging myself with new information and unlocking new possibilities. I do have some passion projects that I want to work on. I’ve always wanted to have the tools to make my ideas come to fruition.
What is the tech scene like in Whitehorse?
There used to be more dev shops and through fusions and acquisitions, there are now fewer players. There definitely are a lot of self-employed people working out of the territory.
Had you looked at any other coding bootcamps before?
At that time, I was just googling bootcamps a lot and getting a lot of hits. I thought that it would be a good idea to maybe pursue that, but when I stacked it up against the hybrid offering that Lighthouse Labs had, I’m in Vancouver, I’m at Lighthouse Labs. We’re going to be videoconferencing the lectures and we’re going to be using the same learning management system. We’re going to have an in-house TA and the same culture, the same workflow, and we’re going to have people to bounce ideas off. I think that wins out any day over a purely virtual offering. There is a buzz here, for sure, and that’s something, albeit on a smaller scale, that we’d like to replicate in Whitehorse.
What was the Lighthouse Labs application process like for you?
How much prep work have you done so far?
Quite a bit! They said somewhere between 40 and 60 hours. I have to say that between my day job and my family life, it was a challenge, but I got it done. Time was probably the biggest challenge, but I do feel like it prepared us.
We’ll follow up with Simon after he graduates to find out how the remote Lighthouse Labs bootcamp went and what he’s planning!
Welcome to the April News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Just as online coding bootcamps begin to focus on employment outcomes, a number of in-person bootcamps have started to explore ways to open up their immersive curriculum to remote students. The most recent announcement in remote education comes from Lighthouse Labs, the full-stack code Vancouver school based in Vancouver. We chat with Jeremy Shaki, the CTO at Lighthouse labs, about how their remote bootcamp will work logistically. Up next, we'll sit down with future student Simon Pregent to find out why he’s taking the plunge with Lighthouse Labs.
Jeremy, what will it look like to learn at Lighthouse Labs’ remote bootcamp? Will you be livestreaming the lectures?
The group in Whitehorse will start class at the same time as our Vancouver students, but we’ll be livestreaming the lecture. At Lighthouse Labs, we have 40 part-time TAs, and all of our TAs have remote booths. There’s 4 of those booths set up in our class when students have questions. Essentially, whenever someone in Whitehorse needs help, they enter the queue the same way a student in our Vancouver class would and the TA gets pinged to help them out. All of our students are on Slack.
Will students be learning in a classroom together or at their homes?
In Vancouver, Lighthouse Labs is located in Launch Academy, which is a hub that houses startups and tech companies. In Whitehorse, we’ve set up a classroom in the largest tech company in the city. These students aren’t learning from their bedroom. They’re going to a classroom everyday. We also have TAs in that classroom. It’s a hybrid of live-streaming lecture and in-person collaboration.
Will you have a hiring network in Whitehorse, or are you expecting to place graduates in remote jobs?
The goal for us is to work with communities, so we first met with the communities in Yukon. We’ll be looking to place all of our students in jobs in Whitehorse. For me, I haven’t seen any online education option delivering 100% job placement or really even jobs in general to graduates right after the program is over. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish.
Being able to stay within your own community and learn with Lighthouse Labs, while being connected to your community, is really big for us. Lighthouse is about immersing you into the community so you can continue being part of it afterwards.
Can anyone do this remote course, or is it only for residents of Whitehorse?
The online course is a pilot and only for people in the Whitehorse community currently. The goal of the course isn't to open this up to everyone (at least not yet) but instead to open it up to specific communities at different times. It's a hybrid course which allows us to fulfill the things we believe are essential (getting immersed in your tech community, having a developer community network when you graduate who will continue to push you) but without the needs to place a full bootcamp in that community. In this way, we are hoping to be able to reach tons of communities that could use some developer courses but wouldn't normally be big enough to have them run properly. Moreover, we are betting that we can keep our 100% placement rate.
What kind of support have you gotten from the Yukon government?
The Yukon Government was willing to explore this pilot with us and put some funding into making the class accessible to members of the Yukon. It's a project we are really proud of, and could have huge implications for education in remote communities.
Thanks Jeremy! We'll check in with the Lighthouse Labs team after the pilot program wraps up to see how everything goes.
While quitting your job and diving headfirst into your coding education can yield impressive results, we also understand that not everybody can commit to a full-time, 12-week programming bootcamp. Jobs, school, families - life, in general, can prevent that kind of commitment. For all the students who can’t give 40 hours a week to a code school, we’re outlining some of the best part-time web development bootcamps around. With a variety of price points and locations to choose from, you'll find an in-person program that can get you coding, even with your busy schedule.Continue Reading →
Apple’s newest, beginner-oriented programming language Swift has made developing for the iPhone a possibility for new and experienced developers alike. iOS developers earn over $100,000 on average, so it's a perfect time to learn to program for the iPhone. With the help of one of these iOS bootcamps, you could find yourself developing mobile apps utilizing Objective-C, Cocoa Touch, and Swift.
Welcome to the February News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup?
Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the January News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Lighthouse Labs and CodeCore are the two top coding bootcamps in Vancouver, Canada. With similar offerings, which bootcamp should you attend? Let's compare the two schools to find which is the best fit.Continue Reading →
Looking for coding bootcamp exclusive scholarships, discounts and promo codes? Course Report has exclusive discounts to the top programming bootcamps!
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On Tuesday, July 15th, Lighthouse Labs launched our brand-new website. It featured a completely new design, video, a fresh application process, and more. The most interesting part of it all was that it was developed by our students for their final project.
Continue Reading →
Apple released their new programming language, Swift, for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch this month. The language is meant to be interactive, fun, and works side-by-side with Objective-C so developers can use it with their current apps.
So how can you learn Swift quickly? Check out these programming bootcamps that are already offering classes in the language and get started on your next iOS project!Continue Reading →
Lighthouse Labs is an immersive coding school in Vancouver that focuses on modern open source web frameworks and tools. Lighthouse Labs graduate Dan MacDonald tells Course Report about his experience and his favorite instructors!
What were you up to before deciding to go to Lighthouse Labs?
I headed up marketing for a local men's underwear brand.
Did you apply to other bootcamps? Why did you ultimately decide on Lighthouse Labs?
I was planning on applying to Dev Bootcamp before learning about Lighthouse Labs. I decided to attend LL as it would allow me to stay in Vancouver.
Which instructors/mentors were especially helpful to you? Did you feel like the teaching methods worked with your learning style?
Khurram Virani, Head Instructor, and Aaron Dufal, one of LL's TAs, were especially helpful. The hands-on, labs-based teaching method perfectly suited my learning style.
Can you talk about a time when you got stuck in the class and how you pushed through?
Halfway through one of the exams I got stuck on a problem; failure to answer it would have kept me from passing the exam. After spinning my tires for a few minutes, I moved on to the other problems, returning to the problem in question once I completed the others. Taking a second look at the problem, I was able to work through it and ended up acing the exam.
Tell us about your final project- what technologies did you use, how long did it take, what does it do?
What are you working on now? Do you have a job as a developer or entrepreneur? What does it entail?
I'm working as a Ruby on Rails developer for Better Office Apps, a local startup building enterprise apps for the lending industry.
Would you have been able to learn to code and get a job without Lighthouse Labs?
Sure, but it would have taken much longer!
Slav Kurilyak had a sharp entrepreneurial spirit, but wanted to learn to program, so he joined Lighthouse Labs in 2014. A current student, Slav tells us why he decided on Lighthouse Labs and his plans after graduation!
What were you up to before deciding to go to Lighthouse Labs?
After winning the 2013 Vancouver Startup Weekend, I decided to enter learn programming. At the time, I was working as a civil engineer and I realised that software is eating the world. Shortly after, I signed up for Lighthouse Labs, a private development bootcamp in Vancouver.
Did you apply to other bootcamps? Why did you ultimately decide on Lighthouse Labs?
After researching two development bootcamps in Vancouver, I attended local meet-ups and asked around for recommendations. I also visited each bootcamp and attended student presentations of final projects. In the end, I selected Lighthouse Labs for it’s diverse technical team, strong industry connections, and multiple recommendations.
Which instructors/mentors have been especially helpful to you? Did you feel like the teaching methods worked with your learning style?
With little coding experience prior to the bootcamp, I viewed each instructor, and teacher assistant as a mentor. If I had to select two -- Khurram Virani and Don Burks would be my favourite instructors. Khurram's approach of active engagement with the students and Don's approach of using witty comments during the lecture, allowed me to learn the course material at a deeper level of comprehension. Also Don's diverse technical expertise allowed me to explore other tools, libraries, and frameworks in addition to the required course material.
Can you talk about a time when you got stuck in the class and how you pushed through?
In the bootcamp, we were taught that we should never be stuck for more than 30 minutes, but in practise, this number was too high for me. Instead I created my own 15 minute rule. If I am unable to figure out the solution within 15 minutes, I ask either one of the instructors or one of the students.
Tell us about your final project as it currently stands - what technologies are you using, what does it do?
My final project is still to be determined. One idea I am brainstorming at the moment is defining a new communication protocol that gives control to the recipient and helps individuals gain control of their inbox.
What do you plan to do once you're graduated? Are you inclined more to be a developer or entrepreneur? Or both?
Upon graduation from Lighthouse Labs, I plan to work for a startup as a Junior Software Developer. In the future, I can see myself working as a full-stack developer once I gain confidence in my technical abilities.
Rahul Parmar is a cofounder and Director of Business Development at Lighthouse Labs, a thriving programming bootcamp in Canada that offers courses in both Web and iOS development. Between huge community events like the HTML 500 and their intense, project-based courses, Lighthouse Labs is making waves in the Vancouver tech scene, and we got the scoop from Rahul!
Tell us about how the Lighthouse Labs team started a coding bootcamp.
Khurram, our head instructor, actually runs a development shop in Toronto, he’s one of the partners there. He initially started teaching at a school called Bitmaker Labs, which was probably one of the first in Canada. We decided that we wanted to make a few changes to the model and we ended up coming to Vancouver to do that.
The main change we made is in class size; we really shrunk down class size. We only take 20 at a time. We have 5 students per TA and that number we stick to pretty tightly. It gets to 7 every once in a while. The reason for that is that we found that learning how to code is a very hands-on endeavor and you really need an environment where you have access to people to help you through the hurdle. A lot of boot camps run huge class sizes with very few TAs, and that ends up with students who are stuck for a long, long time. We didn’t want to drive our schools on students being stuck, we want them learning a lot of different things.
The team here is 4 of us on the ground. There’s myself, there’s Qaid who runs all our operations- who’s getting paid what, who we’re hiring, everything that isn’t education or sales. Jeremy runs our marketing group. Khurram handles our in-class experience. He hires all the TAs, sources all the TAs; he manages the curriculum, develops and executes on it.
Is Khurram your lead instructor?
Khurram’s our head instructor and we actually have about 17 TAs.
Wow, 17! Why so many? Do you cycle through those TAs?
We get our TAs from companies in the ecosystem like Bench, Hootsuite; there’s big players in the Vancouver market that give us TAs.
We hire TAs per hour, so we’ll have certain TAs on Monday nights and Tuesday afternoons, certain ones on Monday afternoons. The beauty of it is they’re all very different and not all of them are Rails developers because we don’t want to have only Rails people in the office. That’s because we focus on creating good developers, not so much just good Rails developers.
We just mix them up because different people have different learning styles, and having more TAs kind of allows us greater probability to hit everyone’s learning style as best we can.
Do those TAs have a hand in the hiring process once the bootcamp is over?
Yeah, for sure. One of the major benefits the companies have is they get 8 weeks to screen candidates. It’s not uncommon for us to finish a cohort and have TAs already knowing which students they want to recruit. It happens all the time. It’s a benefit for us, too; it helps us in placing our students and they get to source their junior talent in their company in a relatively easy way.
That’s really smart for both parties. Which cohort are you in now, and how did the first ones go?
We’re on our third. In our first and second cohorts, we placed 100% of our students. We’re in our March cohort now and there have been 6 in the class. They have 2 weeks left and then they have a May class starting on May 5th. That 100% placement definitely drives some of the applications for us. People are like, “Oh! There’s actually a career at the end of this, I’m gonna go check it out.”
How selective are you in the application process?
The applications have all been great and I would love more applications; the more selective I can be, the happier I am. We’re always looking for ways to increase our selectivity; I think right now we’re taking 1 in 3. I’d like that to get to 1 in 7 if I could.
Do you have students coming from the US to take the Lighthouse Labs course?
We actually will have some US students in our May cohort. We have students from Denver, Colorado and actually the UK coming in May.
Can you tell us about the Vancouver market, what the tech scene is like and what the market is for developers?
Vancouver’s a big draw; the city’s pretty amazing and the tech scene here is actually booming. There’s been 2 or 3 big financings over the last 6-12 months in Vancouver. Hootsuite raised about 165MM; Clio raised 18 million dollars, that’s another big one. So the Vancouver market is starting to get a lot of global prominence. We’re also a 2-hour drive from Seattle and a 2-3 hour flight from San Francisco.
We’re starting to see a lot of action; people are just starting to be attracted to us here. And the city is blessed with some really great companies. Mobify is huge but nobody’s talking about it because the company is completely bootstrapped.
In Canada, the tech scene is up in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal for the most part. And I’ve been in both Toronto and Vancouver; there’s pros and cons to both but I really do like the Vancouver scene.
What is the neighborhood that Lighthouse Labs is in?
We’re in Gastown District.
Can you tell us about the HTML 500?
It was a great, super awesome community-building event for us. It was basically our donation to the Vancouver tech scene. The articles coming out were saying that nobody knew how to code, and the university should be teaching that stuff. So we finally said, you know what? We’re gonna step up, we’re gonna take all these university kids and put them through a 9-hour primer basically, on front end code. At the very least, they’ll know who we are but more importantly, they’ll at least know what this stuff that they keep hearing a black box around is about. They’ll know that it’s not impossible to do it.
We sold out the event 4 times over so we had a 2,000-person list. We had 100 TAs there to assist, and 30 to 40 volunteers. It was a big production. It was great for the system and it brought a lot of companies together that wouldn’t necessarily have spoken to each other otherwise.
Since you worked with universities for the HTML 500, I’m just curious: have universities reached out to you for help incorporating coding skills into the curriculum?
They’re not against it. I think the problem with a university is bureaucracy; it’s really difficult for them to make those kinds of changes. There are a lot of professors that are very forward-thinking, that are very happy to recommend us to their students who say they’d like to work in tech.
Would you talk us through the curriculum at Lighthouse Labs?
The curriculum is always changing but the web stack is pretty typical for us. You should be able to come out of here and pretty easily replicate a Twitter or Facebook in terms of application functionality and build. In fact, you should be able to come out of here, look at something you haven’t seen before and replicate it pretty quickly because that’s how we’re aiming to teach – is learning how to learn.
Do students work on their own projects as well?
Final projects for our students range from Rails applications that are fairly robust all the way through to Angular applications that have some pretty interesting functionality.
One pair of students actually built us an time-tracking application in Angular, that we actually use now for TAs to bill their hours. That was kind of cool.
Two other students actually took on the task of redeveloping our website and that’s actually launching in the next 2 weeks. We’re trending towards a place where any piece of technology at Lighthouse Labs actually has been built by students of the school.
Do you consider the majority of your learning to be project-based, or do you do morning lectures or something similar?
As it stands, we do a lecture every morning and that adds some routine to the day. It’s a way for us to inform students what they’re going to be doing that day. Then from that point on, it’s pretty much project-based.
We like to see them pair program, we actually encourage them to pair pretty regularly and then we’ll obviously shuffle those pairs up as the weeks go on so not everyone’s working with the same people. I would say it’s 90% project-based.
What sort of programming experience are you looking for in applicants and has that changed as you’ve gone through your cohorts?
We don’t look for experience – not programming experience, at least. We look for people that understand technology, so they know the tech industry a little bit, they’ve heard of some of the companies, they know why they want to be in this industry. They’ve probably spent a bit of time on Code Academy on their own but it’s not a requirement.
They’ve discovered that need for developers and they’re trying to figure out how to service that.
We don’t like jerks. We don’t work with jerks. We spend a lot of time in the class; I want people that I like to work with, that are interested in learning and not trying to detract from the experience. In this class, the students teach each other as much as we teach them. You want everyone to be approachable and comfortable in that kind of environment so that’s kind of what I’m looking for.
Out of your 20-person cohort size, how many have been women?
We get about a third women overall. We don’t do specific outreach and I think that’s interesting in that a lot of our referrals actually do come from our female graduates. What they liked about it was that we didn’t actually make a big deal about the fact that they were women. If you’re good enough to get in, you’re good enough to get in and that’s it. There’s really nothing else to it.
We have female TAs. Again, that’s not because we source them, it’s because there’s women in the industry that are interested in teaching. We don’t offer the typical discount that a lot of camps do. We just have our grads out there talking about the program and it seems to work.
Can you tell us how you prepare your students to find jobs once they’ve graduated?
We do a lot of that prep in-house. In fact, almost all of our students get hired out of our own office. They’ll actually be interviewed in our office, get their offers in our office and accept the offers in our office rather than travelling around to different companies. After 8 weeks with us, students are highly competent, almost junior developers. Employers will hire our students as a co-op with the understanding that if they pass the co-op (and obviously, you’re paid for the whole period), you get a fulltime offer.
Is the co-op very similar to the apprenticeship model?
Kind of, yeah. We have these really great, “almost” junior developers and companies have a need for junior developers. To get them from “almost” junior to junior, the employers will have to spend a bit more resources in terms of senior staff and coaching.
Instead of having the employer pay them that 60K full-in salary, they have to spend more money on the resources to do that stuff. We say, pay them as a co-op for 3 months, onboard them, get them ramped up on your product and then hire them as fulltime developers.
By the time they’re ramped up, the student and the company have figured out if they fit together. It works really well for us because employers are much more likely to take that jump than they are to offer this person 70K after 8 weeks of school. We have employers that come in Week 8 for our final week of the course, and those employers have actually guaranteed us a co-op. They come in early, interview all the students, rank the students and we place the students accordingly, kind of like a matching process.
Do those companies have a financial relationship with you?
No; what they’re essentially guaranteeing is a hire. They guarantee the hire and they’ll come into the process early. Then we’ll do an open demo day in week 9, before starting our next cohort and the students will show off what they’ve done, and employers will approach the students.
If an employer hires a student within your boot camp, are they paying you a recruiting fee or a hiring fee?
Are most of your students going to companies in Vancouver?
Almost all. We placed one student in Calgary and one student in Whistler but pretty much everyone else has been in Vancouver.
What’s your alumni network like?
We actually have an alumni coding night every Wednesday so all the alumni get together and work on projects of their own or projects for us, or whatever they feel like, thy bring it to work on. It’s a fun way for us to see how everybody’s doing. It’s a small community here, right? So we’re pretty hands-on with all the grads. We keep up to date on where they’re going, what they’re doing. A lot of them are now being actually approached by other companies.
Can you tell us about your experience with Canadian education regulatory agencies and how you became accredited with them?
It’s a lot of paperwork, to be honest with you. They reached out to us; we weren’t aware there was a regulator and when they approached us, we realized that we should register with them. It was pretty open. They told us upfront, they needed a training plan, rooms for your students or some kinds of admissions process, so we got it for them.
Their focus is reimbursing the student if the school goes under. That’s why they care so much; they’re really working for student protection. And if that’s the case, we’re happy to play by the rules because why would we want to screw students? That doesn’t make any sense. So we were happy to oblige. There’s a lot of paperwork, there’s a lot of reporting but that’s kind of the nature of the regulator and you can’t really change that. They stay out of our hair for the most part as long as there aren’t any complaints against us. So it’s been a positive experience. Takes a little bit longer than I’d like but that’s again, the nature of a government body.
How long did it take you to go through the process?
I think it took us 2 to 3 months to get fully registered.