A Computer Science Education That’s Free Until You Get a Job – Austen Allred of Lambda School on The Y Combinator Podcast

Check out the Y Combinator podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • A little about Lambda School:
    • It’s essentially a trade school for coding
    • 85% of students who start, graduate
    • Unlike other schools, Lambda School has an incentive to help students succeed – they only get paid once students get a job
  • Quotes to ponder:
    • “Human capital is the most unoptimized asset class we’ve ever had” – Austen Allred
    • “Starting a company is by definition saying, ‘I think what I can do is worth more than what other people will pay me for.'”Austen Allred
    • “The highest leverage activity any human can have is inspiring other humans to do what they’re capable of” Austen Allred

Intro

Books Mentioned

What is Lambda School?

  • Lambda School is essentially a trade-school for coding
    • The school has both full-time and part-time programs that teach people from all backgrounds how to code
      • They’re currently experimenting with providing a living stipend so people short on money can focus more of their time on learning 
  • To get into Lambda school you need two traits: Average intelligence and the will to work really hard
  • Unlike other schools, Lambda School has an incentive to help students succeed – they only get paid once students get a job
  • Lambda School has a full-time team that focuses on making connections with companies looking to hire coders
    • The school also provides students with a career coach 3 weeks into the program – they teach students skills like interviewing, networking, etc.
  • More than 85% of students who start graduate Lambda School
  • All of this said…
    • There’s still a stigma with online schools/programs – many people believe the only road to success is a typical university 

Should You Take Venture Capital?

  • Austen decided to raise money as it allowed Lambda School to grow faster (to nearly 10x in size)
    • To date, they’ve raised $48 million in total
  • “There are companies who should raise VC, there are companies who shouldn’t raise VC. It’s just dependant on the circumstances and the details and what you’re looking for.” – Austen Allred

Salaries

  • There isn’t much of a pay ceiling for top talent – companies will happily pay $1+ million for an incredible individual 
    • “Human capital is the most unoptimized asset class we’ve ever had”Austen Allred
  • 🎧 Women, historically, are underpaid and should negotiate for more money
  • Don’t associate your salary with your intelligence
    • Just because you’re from the Midwest and make $20k one year doesn’t mean you can’t become a software engineer and make 6-figures the next

Being an Entrepreneur/CEO

  • “When you’re CEO of a company, your only job is to make that company successful” Austen Allred
  • Starting a business is HARD. When Austen started Lambda School, people said:
    • You can’t teach people effectively online
    • You can’t teach people without them having skin in the game
    • People aren’t going to get jobs if they don’t have a network
  • What motivated Austen to make Lambda School successful?
    • “Really. what I think happens is we don’t have another option. We have to figure it out or we die, and that’s a very powerful motivator.” Austen Allred
  • “Starting a company is by definition saying, ‘I think what I can do is worth more than what other people will pay me for.'”Austen Allred
  • What keeps Austen up at night?
    • Being able to support the company while it’s scaling dramatically
    • Hiring key executives who can build 100+ people teams beneath them
    • Also hiring for 50+ other positions
  • 🎧 Looking towards the future, Austen still thinks the best high-growth companies will be built in Silicon Valley

Additional Notes

  • At one point in his life, Austen lived out of his car – he wrote about the experience here
  • Lambda School is considering opening up a school that teaches nursing – there’s a large demand for nurses but schools are at max capacity
  • “The highest leverage activity any human can have is inspiring other humans to do what they’re capable of” Austen Allred
  • “If there’s one thing I’m good at in life, it’s growing something quickly” – Austen Allred
  • The tech industry is still figuring out the right balance of remote and in-person work
    • All of Lambda School’s students, career coaches, and instructors are remote
    • “I believe the best schools are remote” – Austen Allred
  • “Revenue is a very, very trailing indicator of product” Austen Allred
  • 🎧 “The way I like to think about product is a whole lot of subtlety built up over time to the point where it becomes an advantage. If you build up a lot of those advantages over time, it compounds.”