This interview was conducted by SwitchUp's Erica Freedman.
SwitchUp is an online platform that helps students find a technology or coding bootcamp for their transition into a technology career. It helps students access almuni reviews and course information as they search for the right school. Lighthouse Labs currently holds a whopping 4.49 out of 5 stars on their SwitchUp page.
The team at SwitchUp recently sat down with Jeremy Shaki, the Co-Founder and Chief Talking Officer of Lighthouse Labs, to learn more about his views on coding bootcamps, the future of technology and the current coding career space.
Prior to this initiative, Jeremy worked in New Business Development for Sugar Media. He holds a Bachelor's Degree from Concordia University in Political Science. Jeremy is a passionate advocate, and believer in educational reform.The opinion leader on changing communities to be technology leaders. Here’s what he had to say:
How do you feel university coding programs compare to bootcamps? Do you think there is an advantage to choosing one over the other?
University programs and bootcamps come with advantages and disadvantages, but both can have an amazing place in a person's development. University courses focus more on theory; they help build architects and thinkers in the field of Computer Science. On the other hand, bootcamps teach industry-relevant skills that will help somebody become a professional developer.
I feel that Lighthouse Labs bootcamps are great both for people with a Computer Science background as well as those who don’t have that background. Both can benefit from coming to a bootcamp and starting their careers with an understanding of languages and frameworks. When they start their first job, our grads have the ability to start coding on day one. Further along in their careers, the Computer Science background may become more relevant.
If you are starting fresh and need to decide what to do to become a Software Developer, it becomes a question of whether it’s better to go to a bootcamp and learn Computer Science as your career develops or learn theory first and then pick up specific skills. In comparing graduates, we can look at the first coding bootcamp students, who graduated four years ago. They will have had four years of work experience before Computer Science students graduate from their university program. It’s hard to know whether Computer Science graduates will catch up.
When students are searching for a bootcamp, what are the top three things they should be looking for to receive a quality experience?
1) A rigorous admissions process. Treating student intake seriously is what separates a good bootcamp from the others. You want to be sure that you’ll be among students who are motivated by the right things and able to learn at the rapid pace that a bootcamp demands. Curation is good for the students in the bootcamp who are placed in a thriving learning environment and also for those who probably won’t succeed (and are spared the time and expense of an unhappy experience). A strong Admissions process also pays dividends on the Career Services side: employers want to work with bootcamps that choose candidates carefully.
2) Strong career services. Inquire about how the bootcamp supports students in securing employment after they graduate. Are there full-time staff dedicated to Career Services? Do they share information about the hire rate of graduates? Lighthouse Labs offers a comprehensive Student Outcomes Report. Our Career Services team works closely with employers on an ongoing basis to ensure they find the right talent. The result: 96% of our graduates are hired within 120 days.
3) How students are supported. Our bootcamp has robust evaluation mechanisms: tests, quizzes, code review projects, and a system that tracks feedback on completion percentage daily – that helps us customize support to students. We have a 7:1 ratio of students to mentors, with mentors on-site until 9 pm. We recognize that students learn at different speeds and styles, so we provide intense personalized support to ensure each person stays on track. It’s more than just working on projects with someone looking at your work. Our students regularly do code reviews and tech interviews to ensure they have a thorough understanding of coding as well. It’s about learning to learn.
Because the coding and programming industries are constantly evolving, it is necessary for a bootcamp to keep up with the changes. How does Lighthouse Labs ensure its curriculum stays up-to-date with the industry?
How does Lighthouse Labs educate its students on getting a job? Do you guarantee job placement or work with hiring partners? If not, what do you do instead?
We have a student hire rate of 96%, but we do not guarantee job placement. Some of our graduates follow their own process to find a job; Lighthouse Labs facilitates many placements. We have amazing Career Services advisors who talk to employers every day. We ensure that every employer we work with has a senior person in place to guide the development of grads and that there is minimum payment (no unpaid internships or work for equity arrangements). We encourage a three-month co-op placement, which often transitions to a full-time position. In the instance it doesn’t lead to full-time work, the co-op experience makes our graduates extremely employable.
Some feel that bootcamps are a "dying industry." How do you feel Lighthouse Labs is a necessary contribution to the web development landscape? What are you teaching that people would not otherwise be able to learn?
Coding bootcamps have only been around for about six years, and the industry is thriving. But like all bootcamps, we are paying close attention to the challenge of becoming a sustainable industry. A developer’s career is a constant evolution to new technologies. For developers to succeed, they need to be experts at learning at a very quick pace. This skill can be trained, but it requires a certain set of concepts and philosophies.
I think there is an opportunity for us to broaden our focus. Many industries face the challenge of adjusting their workforce to constant change. They recognize the need to create lifelong learners. I would argue it is a very relevant skill for all industries today.
Our society doesn’t have a set of institutions that help us adjust to constant change. Bootcamps have the potential to be the place that teach people how to adapt in much quicker ways with the hard skills necessary to contribute immediately. This is more than teaching people how to react; it needs to be guided by longer-term ethics and principles.
I believe bootcamps have a strong ability to be relevant for years to come by becoming institutions that help society adapt quickly, backed by great practices.
What are the experiences that set your bootcamp apart from other programs?
Lighthouse Labs is known as the most difficult bootcamp. We really challenge our students. Our program is the one that is most focused on pedagogy and “learn to learn” principles. I think that’s why we’ve been chosen to lead major government projects to help develop new programs and infrastructure to support change and extend coding learning. We lead initiatives to teach coding to K-12 teachers and to develop learning modules for their students.
Lighthouse Labs is recognized as the experts on good education principles. With our part-time mentor model, we find excellent developers who have a desire to teach and equip them with those education principles. With our deep industry connections, we are able to leverage the experience and ideas of people who know the content we need to teach.
What is your "honesty policy" with your students? How do you instill trust in your students while they are participating in your program?
We are an extremely transparent group. We do a lot of expectation setting so people understand why they’re here and how we’re going to operate. We check in with students frequently and encourage them to be honest with us. Students learn they can’t get away with cheating or short-cuts, because that prevents them from learning. We need to know if they are struggling. With such a tight timeframe, it’s important if we can help unblock someone who might go down a rabbit hole and waste four hours.
We have many touchpoints with our students. They give daily feedback on activity and on teachers and mentors. There is a Town Hall in Week 3 and three experience surveys throughout the program. We listen, and we make sure people feel heard.
Just as we need to be in touch with industry to keep curriculum relevant, we need to be in touch with learners to ensure they succeed. We are not just a school for students or a talent funnel for companies. We need feedback from both sides to ensure we facilitate learning that benefits both.
What is the background of some of your teachers or cohort leaders?
All our teachers and cohort leaders are developers. They all have experience as senior level developers or CTOs. Many work at different companies; a few are full-time with us. Our students are also supported by junior alumni developers. Graduates of our bootcamp who have been working for 6-18 months are available to answer questions, lending their experience both as a student and a professional developer.
How does Lighthouse Labs hold itself accountable for quality control and information management when it comes to a bootcamp style education?
We recognize the importance of our reputation with students, employers, and the broader community. We maintain quality control by dismissing students who aren’t capable of keeping pace (this is rare due to our rigorous Admissions process). We take pride in only graduating employable developers, so our rates of placement hold us accountable.
Lighthouse Labs is registered as an education institution in British Columbia and Ontario and will soon be registered in Alberta. This means our records are kept in government registries and we are held to certain standards.
We update our Student Outcomes Report frequently. We are the only group that shares this degree of detail, which makes us the most accountable education institution by far. Want to see what students are saying about Lighthouse Labs? Read alumni reviews and more on SwitchUp.