Will Lam is a prospective Lighthouse Labs student, and is currently accepted into the January 2016 iOS cohort in Toronto. In this excerpt from his blog, Will gives us a peek inside the LHL admissions process. Will is currently learning Swift and Objective-C through his 90 day "App90X" challenge where he's creating an app a day. He's looking to change things up after doing stints in product management and product marketing. He loves good coffee and gives great hugs.

For those who don’t know, I’ve decided to go full steam ahead with learning iOS after parting ways with Uberflip. Last week after formally applying for their iOS January intake, I was invited to drop by the Lighthouse Labs Toronto office located in HIGHLINE’s (an investor in Lighthouse Labs) co-working space. I was warmly greeted by Rachel Greenspan, Director of Admissions in Toronto.

Rachel went through the rounds about getting to know me outside of the information I volunteered about myself from their application form and because I was already familiar with the space having worked back when Highline was formerly known as Extreme Startups, I quickly interjected, not to be rude, but because I already knew of the history of the space, which is deep and pretty cool if you’re new to the tech scene in Toronto… which I wasn’t.

I was more interested of how the course was programmed and the makeup of the students, backgrounds and all those juicy, delicious details that I wanted to know about Lighthouse. On the flipside, Lighthouse wanted to know about me and of course to figure out if I’m qualified / smart enough and ultimately a fit for their program.

After the whole back and forth about background in terms of why and the details in terms of payment (it’s $8,000, no early bird fee discount because it’s “already discounted” to to keep costs competitive), I was presented with a logic test. I was surprised as I didn’t expect it, but I didn’t bat an eyelash and my first thought was “Cool – bring it on!”.

The logic test

It was composed of 15 questions and I was given 15 minutes. Once Rachel let me know when to start, it was off to the races. While I won’t go into the specifics of what each question entailed, the general themes were some simple algebra questions (thank goodness, because I was really good at high school algebra.. thanks Kumon!), and a litany of logic questions and pattern recognition. I guess if you had an idea about algorithms, it might have helped a bit, but I didn’t and I just went about trying to figure out the best way I could.

Your best bet would be to expect a logic test, and unless you haven’t had any real exposure to logic tests like myself, you’d be fine if you just tried your best and answered all the questions you know (or think you know right away) and leave as much time as possible to figure out the questions if you don’t quite understand them on the first pass.

I scored 9/15, but I wasn’t too worried as I didn’t fail horribly.

Getting to know the students and instructors

After the test, Rachel asked me if I had any other questions, and I went on to talk about how I bumped into one of their former students “Alex” who was in their first cohort for their iOS bootcamp and who I randomly bumped into at TWG’s demo Friday that I was invited to. I chatted with Alex about her background and it turned out she came from a background of Math and Economics.

Her only prior exposure to programming was and Intro to Computer Science course she decided to haphazardly take in her first year. It turned out she was a junior iOS developer at TWG and been on the job for a few months, which was a welcome data point on the very few I had collected about Lighthouse Labs at the time.

Apart from that, I had a very thorough chat with Ken, one of the Head Instructors of the iOS bootcamp and I talked about his background and what he had shipped to the App Store in his career. It turned out he worked with Digiflare (a digital agency) that shipped products for some of CTV’s (a Canadian media company) apps, along with theScore. We talked about the divisive issue of teaching stuff in Objective-C versus Swift. I also found out that he worked with a good friend of mine, which was another positive data point (my friend had nothing but great things to say about him). The whole conversation lasted for a good 10-15 minutes, before some of their current students chimed in (we were chatting as the same table where their current second cohort of students were working on their projects).

The two students I met were Nav and Daniel who sat beside from each other and across from where myself and Ken were in conversation. Their backgrounds varied, Nav and Daniel had nothing but awesome things to say about Lighthouse. Because it was so spur of the moment, I don’t believe they had any reason to fib about the efficacy of the bootcamp because, why would they? They showed me what they were working on and what they had previously built. Nav with his app that hooked into a 3rd party LCBO API. Daniel with his line drawing game that used SpriteKit. It was all very cool to see these students go from zero and building some complex apps (to me anyway) and grasping Objective-C in such a short period of time.

While, it was a short period of time, the caveat, Nav and Daniel stressed is that you need to put in the work and have a singular focus for those few months that you spent at Lighthouse. It would be both a disservice to you and Lighthouse if you didn’t prepare and take the homework seriously. And homework I got while leaving Lighthouse’s Toronto campus.

The size of each class

Another important thing I discovered that the size of each cohort was about 10-12 students, which is a very nice ratio of students to instructors, which means more individualized time for each student to figure out problems. For every instructor, they also have a multitude of mentors that come in to help you with any questions you have while you’re working on your own assignments.

Really? Homework?

Yup. I have two assignments that I need to complete by next Friday. A FizzBuzz based one and another called “FuzzBezzNezz”, which both need to be done in C and pushed to Github. You can check out the assignment that they have on their website.

You’re given exactly a week to finish it, so cancel any appointments and make the time to finish the assignments.

Final Thoughts

While this was the first step, I’m really glad that they’re taking the time to heavily qualify their students so they’re getting the right students into the program – ones that can succeed and ultimately graduate to become full fledged junior iOS developers. Assuming they have good portfolio of polished apps underneath their belt , some experience working alongside senior developers (their instructors), developing the problem solving sense and ability to figure out any task at hand.

I don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park, but I am very excited to dive into the deep end of building useful things.