Hi, I’m Austen Allred, co-founder and CEO of Lambda School, the online coding school where you pay nothing until you land a job, ask me anything!

2021-07-20
Hi, I’m Austen Allred, co-founder and CEO of Lambda School, the online coding school where you pay nothing until you land a job. We do this through our income share agreement, a contract where you pay 17% of your post-Lambda School salary for 24 months, but only once you’re making over $50,000/year. For employers, we allow you to hire engineers risk free for 4 weeks, we will pay them during this trial period. Currently, we offer courses in full stack web development, backend development, and data science, but we believe that our model can eventually be applied to many more verticals. Ask me anything about Lambda School, income share agreements, and the future of education!

AMA Rules:
  • This AMA will be open for questions until midnight UTC on 2021-07-20.
  • All plain text links will automatically be turned into hyperlinks.
  • Please keep your questions specific and to the point.
  • Be chill, we're here to have fun!

27 Comments

This AMA has concluded.
tldrdan   Jul 20
Hi Austen,

Thanks for being here! A few questions: 1) What are the largest value-adds Lambda School provides over free online learning resources? 2) What was the process behind building your backend engineering program with Amazon's internal technical academy? Do you foresee doing more such partnerships in the future? 3) Do you ever foresee Lambda School expanding to highly regulated verticals like law or medicine? 4) Do you think more universities should embrace the ISA model as an alternative to student loans?

Dan
7♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
> What are the largest value-adds Lambda School provides over free online learning resources?

Structure, support, accountability. Libraries and free content have been around for a very long time - anyone has been able to learn anything by reading a book for hundreds of years.

But doing so is remarkably difficult. The closest analogy to Lambda School is probably that of a trainer in fitness. Someone who will design workouts for you, watch you do them, make sure you're doing them correctly, provide accountability, etc.
2♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
> What was the process behind building your backend engineering program with Amazon's internal technical academy? Do you foresee doing more such partnerships in the future?

That was us working hand in hand with Amazon - I can't remember how we first connected, but they'd been runing a program internally and had no idea how to scale it, how to vet outside applicants, how to manage placement, etc. It took almost a year to get off the ground and we've been working on a September launch for... probably 18 months?

I would imagine in the future most of our programs start with deep employer partnerships. We couldn't do that as well when we were small, now I'd be surprised if we launch any without a partnership ready to hire as many as they can on the other side.
1♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
> Do you ever foresee Lambda School expanding to highly regulated verticals like law or medicine?

Yes. The regulations we deal with now are, shockingly, more taxing than law or medicine schools deal with, because since we're operating outside of a traditional college/university system every state regulates us differently. It's a nightmare.
1♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
> Do you think more universities should embrace the ISA model as an alternative to student loans?

Yes.
1♥   
Ndalila   Jul 20
Hi Austen, is Lambda available for international students. I am based in Kenya and I would really like to enroll.
6♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
It's not just yet. We're working on it, but that requires different economics.
1♥   
ecschnei   Jul 20
Hi Austen, thanks for this! I am currently the founder of an early stage EdTech startup focused on hardware/electronics education using cloud based software. What is your biggest advice for a young company such as ours, as we begin to navigate the EdTech space and grow the org, especially as it petains to technology education?
5♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
The most difficult part of edtech is figuring out who your customer is - in some countries it's simple, in the US we're not as used to paying for education until postsecondary, and selling to schools is extremely difficult.

For hardware/electronics the challenge is going to be hardware'electronics :)
2♥   
TDO   Jul 20
I remember reading your growth hacking guide a few years ago! Can you talk about any interesting growth hacks you've used in marketing Lambda School to students and employers?
4♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
As I explain in the book, "growth hacking" is really a catchy word for using your product to help you grow.

For us our biggest "growth hack" has been teaching free classes and distributing them all over the place.
1♥   
jordan   Jul 20
What success metrics do you track for students?

When students don't complete the program or don't find a job afterwards, what are the most common failure modes?
3♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
There are a ton of them. The main one are what we call "sprint success rate" and "unit success rate." Lambda School operates on mastery-based progression where you need to have demonstrated mastery in each unit before you move on to the next, or you roll back and repeat it until you've mastered it.

If students don't find jobs the most common reason is they never tried, or gave up quickly. Less common is having a resume that doesn't lend itself to getting applications (e.g. a non-traditional background) and only submitting resumes as a means of finding a job. (As we teach in the school, if your background looks odd or wouldn't make sense to HR you'll likely need to take a different path other than simply applying.)
1♥   
Stan   Jul 20
Hello Austen, how do you ensure your professors keep updated with the advancements on web development?
3♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
What we teach comes backwards from our outcomes teams - so when we hear that companies are starting to look for something that we don't teach we work with one of our partners to determine if/how we should incorporate it.

Our curriculum development team is actually different from our professors - we have seperate roles for instructional design, program design lead, instructional development, and instructors. Instructors just need to learn what comes through that pipeline. Almost always it's a pretty similar angle on the same stuff. The details shift, the fundamentals rarely do.
2♥   
HenryBWarren   Jul 20
Firstly - love what you're doing. It's hugely important. Seems like you guys could play an important role in the upskilling of multiple societies. Genuine question - what's holding you back from growing 100X - what do you need? Also, what's your emerging markets strategy? There's a ton of talent and few jobs (as Andela have discovered)
3♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
We can't grow 100x until we have better systems and infrastructure in place. That is the main thing we've been working on for the past 18 months - we solved too many problems with people instead of software, which doesn't scale. Building software that manages the unique needs of people is not simple.

We haven't gotten into emerging markets as much as I'd like yet - software will unlock that.
1♥   
jordan   Jul 20
Do you have any plans to expand to teaching crypto/defi development?
2♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
Yes :)
1♥   
jessiew   Jul 20
Can you talk a little more about what career services you provide and how they differ from university career services?
2♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
Oh man. When I was in college career services was a binder with job listings and a person who could give you some guidance. Lambda School is intense.

We look over what we call your "career artifacts" in depth - resume, portfolio, etc. Make sure they're as perfect as we can be. We have career coaches and job search trainers who guide you all along the way.

We have software that helps you find jobs that you would be a good fit for and reach out with a message to them. In some cases our career coaches are even writing the reach-out messages for you.

And then of course there's the training both in tech and careers-focused stuff that makes sure you're prepared.
1♥   
tphammonds   Jul 21
Hi Austen! How long on average does it take someone to complete the program?
1♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 21
6-9 months full-time
1♥   
xiii   Jul 21
Hi Austen,

How do you suggest I discover if becoming a programmer is a fitting career for my personality? At 33 with very rudimentary coding skills, it is absolutely intimidating to imagine starting a journey into this quickly evolving and competeative field. Cheers
1♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 21
Just start. See if you like it.

Lambda School's free introductory course is pretty awesome. https://lambdaschool.learnworlds.com/course/beginning-your-coding-journey-html
1♥   
Jeff   Jul 20
What is Lambda School's approach towards accepting a diverse class of students?
1♥   
austenallred ⭐  Jul 20
At a high level all we have to do is remove the barriers (specifically geographic, cash upfront), and you're automatically catering to a diverse group of students. One of the reasons tech lacks diversity is because it's insular and expensive to get into. So step one is to solve that.
1♥   

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