Lighthouse Labs is an incredibly unique, weird place to work. Culture fit is one of the most important qualities that we look for in new staff members, mentors, and for potential students coming into the space. The staff at Lighthouse Labs are highly engaged, and we all care to an almost unhealthy degree about our students, our community and each other.
The culture at Lighthouse hits you like a ton of bricks as soon as you enter the space; it's always overflowing with people coding, working, laughing and chasing dogs. Every day, there are unique rituals and quirky traditions that contribute to the environment we're all lucky enough to enjoy.
We sent some questions around to our team to find out what they enjoy about our culture and each other. Below is an exhaustive summary of the answers; our love letter to Lighthouse Labs.
Other than the people, what do you love most about Lighthouse Labs’ culture?
Despite the question clearly stating 'other than people', most staff members will still say the people. We're all very unique, and compliment each other in the best ways. The team is open, honest and strong willed, which creates an amazing space for personal and professional development. The management style from our Co-Founders Jeremy, Khurram and Josh allows for staff to take ownership over their roles, and always have their ideas respected.
Our Co-Founders are out of this world. 👍
Everyone is encouraged to contribute and everyone is on equal footing. Lighthouse embodies the horizontal leadership structure. Staff have the freedom to pursue projects they are passionate about, and everyone who works at Lighthouse Labs has at some point championed an initiative that is near and dear to their hearts.
If it's not the people that we love, it's the dogs. Our unofficial motto is 'because dogs', and there are always furry friends running around looking for pets and cuddles.
How could you say no to that face?
Especially with the launch of Devhub, students and the majority of the education team admire the developer/hacker culture. Our education philosophies revolve around finding the best possible ways to train developers and immerse them in the tech community. We do this by fostering a culture of inclusion and passion for coding, so our space is always brimming with hands on keyboards and heated debates of the merits of Windows vs. Mac or vim vs. Emacs. People of all backgrounds and career paths come to Lighthouse Labs, but when they graduate, they are all developers. It's an amazing place to change your career and meet a network of people who are living the same experience.
Do you have any unique traditions or recent team events that you feel embody Lighthouse Labs’ culture?
We have a million tradiitions and quirks, but here are a few of our favourites:
Morning scrum is every day from 9:50am-10am. The staff piles into a tiny corner office to talk about their accomplishments from the previous day, roadblocks and priorities for the next 24 hours. Scrum allows us to make sure everyone has visibility into what the rest of the team is working on, and to stay up to date on initiatives that are taking place in the coming weeks. The morning meeting also contributes to our daily positivity, and allows us to work as a team to achieve as much productivity as possible. As a small close-knit staff, this is also an opportunity for us to say good morning and catch up on what we missed out on during the twelve hours we were apart. While our Scrum Lord often rules with an iron fist, outside of the 10 minutes dedicated to “serious business”, scrum is filled with recaps and laughs over whatever ridiculous thing happened the day before.
Some of our alumni come back to bake us cookies ^_^
Alumni are highly encouraged to come back and visit, mentor, hangout on our couches, attend Demo Day celebrations and engage with the Lighthouse community whenever they can. We also collect daily feedback on students' satisfaction for anything from the classroom to the curriculum, and we act on that daily feedback. Everyone on staff aims to be as transparent as possible, and show students that we are real humans who mean it when we say we are endlessly invested in their success. There is no space that is off limits at Lighthouse, and no question we will not answer. Everyone from staff, students and random visitors are welcome absolutely anywhere in the space. Our doors are always open, and we encourage students to come to us with ANY piece of feedback.
Demo Day! Demo Day is a staff and student favourite, and happens once a month as our web and iOS cohorts graduate. Demo Day is not only a chance for students to demo the final projects they’ve built after 12 weeks of Bootcamp, but it’s also to celebrate with over 100 community members who attend each month. Demo Day often ends with the staff and graduating students indulging in a beer or five and going to a local dive bar. Staff are off to a slow start on the Friday after Demo Day, so the Administrator of our Facility, Landon always rolls in with McMuffins for everyone to kick start the day.
Our space has the startup essentials: foosball and a beer fridge. Both are solid ways for people to bond, blow off steam or settle a disagreement. Being on your foosball game is of the utmost importance unless you want our Admissions Manager Rosy to mock you relentlessly.
Office dogs are the core support system at Lighthouse. We have many dogs in residence, including Sherman, our garbage eater, and Noelle, our beauty queen.
We’re very food motivated. We plan fancy dinner nights, go out to lunch together, bake cookies in the afternoons, have pancake Fridays, and will celebrate birthdays and achievements by making a meal in the kitchen and eating together like the big family we are. We also love mimosas (aka adult breakfast smoothies) and are prone to finding any excuse to celebrate. Mimosas are poured for something as big as the launch of our new website, to something as small as when our Marketing Manager paid off her student loans.
Every time a new cohort starts, staff will pile into the classroom to introduce ourselves to students and share a quirky fact. The quirky fact has to be different each time, and those tidbits help students to get to know our weird selves. Students are also required to share a quirky fact to set the precedent that you are absolutely able to be yourself in the space, and that you will be accepted strange quirks and all. How else would you know that our General Manager is a trained hypnotist? We swear she only uses her powers for good!
Our Vancouver staff are musically inclined, and sometimes bring in their instruments to jam. Don has his French horn, Sylvia her trumpet, David has his stand up bass and guitar, plus students like the amazing Nina and our Admissions Manager Rosy contribute their beautiful voices.
Nina wrote two beautiful songs during Bootcamp, the above about Sinatra, and another about Ruby.
Plank Club happens every day at 2pm in Vancouver. Our Community Manager Sarah puts out the call, and students and staff flood the main student lounge to plank for 2 minutes (or longer if we're feeling ambitious). Plank club is a great way for people to bond over our mutual core strength, and to make endless 'Lighthouse Abs' puns.
Tell us about a recent initiative, partnership, or event that you are particularly proud of.
The staff at Lighthouse Labs consists of a group of passionate, caring and driven individuals who aim to make big impact in every community we touch. Each of us has a cause we are passionate about, whether it be access to education, women in tech, youth outreach or non-profit ventures, they pursue these passions wherever possible.
We consider ourselves lucky to have the power to make real change in how people approach technology, and to empower those who have had limited opportunities and access. There is a constant stream of ideas bouncing off the walls from any given staff member on how we can take the opportunities that have been afforded to us, and to spread that privilege to benefit the causes and people we care about.
Some of the initatives that we are particularly proud of are:
Lighthouse Labs created The HTML500 to bring free technology education to people from all backgrounds, and spark a larger conversation surrounding digital literacy. We did this by uniting BC’s tech community around education, mentorship and the idea of giving back to the community.
The HTML500 took place in four cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and London with the help of over 20 staff and countless volunteers. With over 2,000 participants, 430 developers, and 150 community partners, The HTML500 was a massive success. It provided a completely free opportunity for people of all backgrounds and privilege to access coding education.
In BC alone, The HTML500 consisted of:
- 500 attendees
- 2513 people on the waitlist
- 50% of attendees were women
- 5% over 60
- 15% under 18
- 10 at-risk youth from the Burnaby School District
The idea of Devhub came about through Lighthouse Labs, where we live and breathe code, education and community while being surrounded by a community of over 500 software developers. This amazing community has taught us that developers learn best when they are surrounded by others who are passionate, driven and intellectually curious.
They learn best doing and having the freedom to explore their interests and focus on their skills. Devhub was founded to support developers throughout their careers, with the guiding belief that exceptional programmers are lifelong learners and are always on the lookout for ways to better their craft. Devhub is a place where members can learn, code, and teach, whether they’ve been coding for eight weeks or eight years. It’s a space that connects developers with community, mentorship, and a unique co-working environment, all programmed for their needs and growth.
To celebrate the launch of Devhub, we've organized Devmonth; a free month long community celebration of all things development. Devmonth includes a series of daily events, speakers, workshops, and hackathons, ultimately supporting our goal to help developers in Canada interact, collaborate and learn from each other to build a stronger community.
Code It Forward is a social initiative by Lighthouse Labs where developers, designers, and ideators gather together for a weekend to solve tech problems for charities and nonprofits. These organizations are using inadequate, out-of-date systems, and as a result, aren't helping as many people as they could. We want to bring together Vancouver's tech community to give creative innovative technologies that will benefit them for years to come.
The event connected 10 local charities with 50 talented people, who spent 36 hours coding to create custom solutions for these charities at no charge. Charities included the Canucks Autism Network, Fraser Riverkeeper, Rare Disease Foundation, the UBC Social Enterprise Club and others. Code It Forward was spearheaded by Lighthouse Labs Head Instructors Don Burks and Arvinder Kang, with the support and volunteer time of staff.
Lighthouse Labs supported Codecreate, BC’s largest youth code event in support of #HourOfCode. Codecreate allowed up to 400 students from ages 8 to 18 across BC to be introduced to coding at no charge. Head Instructor Don Burks travelled to 4 different cities to instruct the curriculum he specifically created for this event! The curriculum allowed for the kids to gain hands-on experience manipulating and creating code with the support of local mentors. The Vancouver event was hosted at Lighthouse Labs’ Gastown location, and engaged staff members for volunteer time, as well as local developers and former students to provide mentorship.
In addition to the events above, we support countless community initiatives that feed into the mandate of spreading digital literacy. This includes providing sponsorships, staff volunteer time and space at no cost to local initiatives, such as: Aboriginal skills training, Ladies Learning Code, Bully, GearBots MakerSpace, training for Syrian refugees, youth coding events, food drives and so much more. Lighthouse Labs aims to engage and benefit the community wherever possible.
Our haul for the #StartupsCare food drive!
Does your office space have any unique features?
Our spaces are fairly unique. They have the classic funky tech company feel, with exposed brick, open concept spaces, couches, beer fridges etc, but we've definitely added our own kitschy flair. In Vancouver, we share our space with Launch Academy. Launch Academy is where we started in a small corner office for our first cohort of 5 students, and they have been essential in helping Lighthouse grow to where we are today.
In our space, you'll find artwork from our staff paint nights, chalkboard walls, a guitar, rubber ducks, video games (smash anyone?), and an abhorrent amount of nautical kitsch bought from a sweet old lady selling off her Lighthouse-themed collection.
In Toronto, our space completely customized. We've recently launched Devhub, Canada's first coworking space exclusively for developers. In launching Devhub, we were able to design our space from the ground up.
Devhub consists of Lighthouse Labs, the classroom space, developers in residence, dedicated and hot desks for developers, and plenty of floor space to host community events. Each room is named after a different Canadian invention, and the furniture is catered to developers with Herman Miller chairs, standing desks, and a ton of white boards.
There's also code-centric art created by our Designer Andrew Tsang, as well as murals created local Toronto artist Heidi Berton. Despite being massive, the space feels warm and welcoming, not cold and corporate.
Anything else you'd like to add about Lighthouse, the space or our office culture?
We've covered the flexible, casual, passionate work environment. We talked about our office dogs, and our office outings. If you ask any of our staff members, they'll all likely tell you that despite Lighthouse Labs taking over their lives, despite the long hours, and what can often feel like an ever growing pile of projects, they wouldn't choose to work anywhere else. Most don't see this as a job. It's a massive passion project, something we have all invested ourselves in, and we are dedicated to creating tangible, positive changes in the way education is delivered.
Everyone comes into work and enjoys every minute of it. Come into Lighthouse Labs on a Friday night at 7pm and you'll find staff still here, not necessarily working, but enjoying each others company. Lighthouse is a lifestyle we've all adopted, and it shows in the culture we've created. It's not stiff, or manufactured, it's a culmination of everything we believe in and our daily drive to find the best possible way to train developers and launch our students' careers.