Spotlight: Lambda School

The landscape of education is changing. With factors like the cost of a college degree, a renewed interest in alternative education paths, and an increased focus on career readiness, there are a wider variety of student success initiatives than ever before. 

This has ushered in new innovation that pushes beyond traditional approaches, traditional campuses, and the notion of the traditional student. Enter Lambda School. Lambda School has been in the news for a variety of reasons since its inception in 2017, and how it works is just as interesting as why it started.

The Twitter Bio of Lambda School CEO Austen Allred describes it as a “coding school education that’s free until you get a job.”

How does that work? With the option for an Income-Share Agreement (ISA), students don’t pay until they get a job in which they earn at least $50,000 per year. While some people haven taken issue with this model, others see it as a desirable alternative to student loan debt

Lambda goes beyond the zero upfront cost with their living stipend program, which aims to make the school even more accessible. They also recently launched a partnership with Shift to help veterans “get their foot in the door to the tech world.” 

With all of these great programs in place, it’s no wonder that Lambda School is eager to share student success stories, which are featured on their websiteAllred also shares the good news of student job offers on Twitter, highlighting students who landed great jobs at top companies, with top salaries, and despite adversity.

What’s their secret? Listing Lambda as a top three coding program, Career Karma highlights their immersive and highly personal environment as the main reason for their high student success rate. 

Clearly, Lambda School has already been in the spotlight for some time. In this post, we’ll highlight what we love about their efforts in career services, mentoring, and mental health support, in particular.

Feature #1: Day One Career Prep

Helping students land jobs is a driving force at Lambda School and an area where they undoubtedly put a lot of their resources. According to VentureBeat, Lambda School has established hiring partnerships with 75 companies, including PayPal, IBM, Eventbrite, and 30 companies within the Y Combinator network.

The career placement division has a very clear goal: “We’ll help you get hired.” In order to do this, they boast “career prep starting day one” with career coaches, local mentors, and access to hiring partners. They also offer students the opportunity to complete weekly career prep assignments and experience cross-team collaboration.

Furthermore, Lambda School offers an endorsement program “that verifies students are 100% ready to be hired.” Earning the Lambda School endorsement requires completion of a five-step process that includes a capstone. Endorsed students gain access to guaranteed interviews with matched hiring partners, weekly sessions with local industry mentors, salary negotiation support, as well as lifetime access to updated curriculum, career workshops, and career coach mentoring. 

Finally, Lambda X further demonstrates Lambda School’s investment in the career readiness and preparedness of their students. Lambda X is described as “a job search support and portfolio building program run from within Lambda School.” Students spend 40% of their time in a guided job search, which includes interview practice, technical reviews, job sourcing, and application help. In the remaining 60% of time, they focus on portfolio building, assessment, and honing skills in a Labs-style format already familiar to them.

Students who are actively engaged in Lambda X and are Lambda-endorsed receive $300/week as part of their Living Stipend program. Efforts like living stipends and the Lambda Perpetual Access Fund demonstrate the organization’s attentiveness to equity, inclusion, and access. More generally, they are known for finding ways to reduce obstacles between students and the opportunity to finish their program and secure a tech job, like when Allred asked for help finding low-cost housing for Lambda students.  

Feature #2: Meaningful Mentorship

The Lambda School Mentor Program is one component of the school’s career placement efforts that really stands out. Announced last February, the purpose of the program is to pair students with mentors for student and career success by building industry-specific networks. The emphasis is on finding a local mentor, if possible, and the relationship receives support from Lambda School to be successful. Upon being paired, students and mentors are expected to meet once a week virtually for 45-60 minutes, with occasional in-person meetings when possible. Lambda School provides ten session mentorship worksheets to guide the working relationship and connects students with a career coach if additional guidance is needed. 

The mentor program embodies Lambda School’s emphasis on student connection and community. This is further exhibited with live classes, interactive assignments, and active Slack channel engagement. In addition, there are Lambda School meet-ups, where students can meet current and former students. Meet-up events happen in the U.S., Canada, Africa, and Europe. There are also virtual meet-ups. 

Sometimes mentors will even host their own meetups, like when mentor Ali Mir invited Lambda students to his place of work: DoorDash. The event included a walk-through of the company’s headquarters with presentations from Ali and his colleagues about working in the tech industry. Events like these go the extra mile to prepare students for jobs, while encouraging them to build a “real life” network of support. 

Feature #3: Mental Health Matters

Access to mental health services is a top concern at institutions of higher education across the country. Though Lambda bills itself as more of a vocational school than a university, they definitely share this concern about their students. Many deal with realities that make it difficult to meet the needs of Lambda’s accessible yet demanding program. Challenges include homelessness, unstable finances, unreliable transportation, and health issues, not to mention the stress of working to enter a new industry. Running an entirely remote campus adds another layer of complexity to providing mental health services, but Lambda was determined to find a solution. 

In October 2019, Lambda School announced their new mental health support benefits. Available to students and staff, the free well-being and mental health resources are made possible through a partnership with Modern Health. The plan includes 6 virtual visits per year with a professional coach, as well as 6 visits per year with a licensed therapist, at no cost. It also provides unlimited texting with a professional coach, access to a digital course and meditation library for stress management tools and building resilience, assessments and personalized plans, and crisis prevention services. 

Featured in Quartz at Work, it’s noted that the Lambda School benefits reflect the increased attention companies are bringing to mental health, giving the company a competitive edge over other coding programs. While mental health services have been a longtime mainstay at most traditional campuses, finding ways to provide support resources to remote students and staff is certainly in line with the future of work, paving the way for other online programs to follow suit.

In addition to providing mental health benefits, Lambda School aims to destigmatize mental health struggles with their blog, which includes posts about taking care of your mental healthpreparing for your first therapy or coaching session, and managing holiday stress. These posts help make mental health part of the everyday conversation at Lambda School, a unique feat for an online coding program.

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Written by Priya Thomas

Priya Thomas is a wellness and leadership development director and consultant with 15 years of experience in higher education and student affairs. Her expertise includes wellness, mental health, student leadership and involvement, and fraternity and sorority life. She enjoys discovering local restaurants, travel, and learning new things. Connect with her on Twitter.