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Jeremy Brady
Jeremy Brady

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My God Honest Thoughts On Lambda...

Was Lambda a Good Decision For Me?

There have been several people who have asked me if I've thought Lambda was for them or expressing concerns and asking me what my experience has been like at Lambda School up to this point. As I've now completed a little over half the curriculum and the entirety of Full Stack Web Development, (which for anyone who may not know is around 3 months full-time) I thought I'd take a few moments to answer this question for anyone out there on the internet who may be wondering the same. Suppose for legal purposes I should state here that my experience doesn't constitute any guarantees or promises on Lambda's behalf. I am a contractor, not an employee my thoughts and experiences are my own.

Life Before Lambda...

To give you some context on the incoming review let's rewind a bit and go back to what I did before Lambda. I had my first child young and decided to become a truck driver for around 5 years, this provided good money but required me to not have a stable home environment. After a while, I decided the time was right to transition to local driving, or a more regular job where I could be home more to raise my daughter. After some various paths of job searching, I found myself in front of a recruiter for a limousine company. "Chauffeur," I thought... wow, the guys holding the signs driving celebrities? Well, I've been driving this long in big eighteen-wheelers, let's give limo's a try. Also bonus, they helped get a passenger endorsement on your license (helps with jobs in Tour Busses, more doors opening for my career, etc.). Wasn't a horrible life for a mid 20's guy with no formal college education. Fast forward a few years, met a few celebrities and made some decent money. The catch was, I was still having to work long hours and despite what the appearance is, driving was only a part of the job. There's a lot of shall we say, unglamourous parts that come with the appeal of riding in a limo.

Let me take a moment to say two quick things if I may while I have you -- If you are in Las Vegas and take any sort of transportation please remember most drivers depend on your generosity and the amount of luggage we have to pick up set down within a given day is only a small part of the "dark side". We're talking groups of 5-25 people in one vehicle with assorted luggage in varying sizes and weights. On a good day, I'd have 5-10 rides. You can do that math. I'm not a small guy however so this wasn't horrible though some days were more aches and pains than others. The other and in my opinion uglier side of limos and private transportation is the level of regard for the driver. In general, the larger the personality the smaller you were treated. The celebrity clientele, on the whole, were not all that bad. The nastiest people I met were your average joes with money. CEO's, Business owners, Etc. These were the types that would not only stiff you on a tip... these were the rides where I was cleaning various "substances" from the back of my vehicle, some of which someone may ingest, some of which someone may expel. I'll save those stories for another time. In short, the driver cleans the vehicles. Be respectful.

After a couple of years of this, the money I was making started to no longer outweigh the strain on my body, as I was working many nights to make ends meet and giving up time with my family since I slept during the day. This also started to wear on my mental state. If you've not had the pleasure of working graveyard long term... most people can "function" but they're also not in a great headspace generally. I was one of those, and it also triggered some other ongoing mental health battles I'd been dealing with over the years -- also whole other article here. This was topped off with a "cherry" moment when I got into an accident while working and ended up having to undergo back surgery. After not really ever fully recovering, I opted to look for other interests to transform my mind into a career rather than my body.

Enter Tech Interests

At this point, with a body that's at best 75% what it used to be, I always felt like my mind was better-used elsewhere. I've always been a huge gamer. When I was a teen my father, like myself, had a change in careers due to a work injury. Life's funny like that I suppose. He landed on the Technical side of Technology starting with his A+ and on up to his various certs in network admin and security among other things. He's been working for a county hospital in the Las Vegas area for several years now doing really well.

I can recall watching him build our first home computer from scratch and picking his brain all along the way. While watching with intrigue this puzzle came to life before my eyes. This was amazing to me, and lead me into several decades of exploration of all things tech, from Gaming to VR/AR, Hardware, Software and anything else that caught my eye. When I reached the abovementioned life-altering fork moment, this came back to mind. I'd built several PC's but I was more curious than that... what made them tick? I wanted to be able to build something that someone could use from the ground up. I had a short foray with ITT Tech before that place went the way of the dodo, which was decent but not really what I had expected or wanted at the time.

Can You Read the Matrix?

This fork in my life leads me into software development and fosters this want to create games and software from scratch. I decided to try the traditional college route and signed up for my local Jr. College to attempt to obtain an associate's in Software Programming. Seeing as I was trying to raise my daughter and child care is expensive balancing school while trying to keep food on the table was challenging. Some of my classes slipped and I ended up spending a year and a half earning a semesters worth of credits. While I absolutely loved my programming courses which had included some Python and C up to this point, the puzzle of programming and watching something come to life and run code I'd written was gratifying.

Maybe There's A Better Way...

Now I'm in my late 20's at this point in life and I've heard of code boot camps. Never really pursued them due to a partial stigma that was prevalent at the time I'd opted to go to ITT Tech. I'm still searching for some traction in life, I have a wife and a child, and my wife and I want to grow our family. All I am certain of right now is that I like to code. There's some money to be had there and I think it's the best marriage of my skills to my hobbies and innate need to be mentally engaged while working. To the internet! After several hours of research, I'd narrowed down the top 5-10 camps that either had solid reviews that I could trust or verify while others maybe having some other niche or promise. Being in-person versus remote, cost and length were all the wildcards at play here.

Enter Lambda School

After all the compiled research I will lay my cards on the table here and admit since I was still looking for career traction my finances were tenuous at times and most camps required some sort of large upfront sum. Lambda School for those who may not be aware uses an Income Share Agreement or ISA in which we are presented with a contract and upon agreement share part of our income back to Lambda once we've secured gainful employment. These seem to be a hot issue lately but honestly, it's just as straightforward as it sounds. You may pay up to $X only if your income breaks a livable wage of $Z, and these are just skimmed off your pay so it's pretty simple on the student's side of things. (I'm avoiding stating hard numbers here but trust me even with two kids these numbers are comfortable for me.)

My Journey At Lambda

All of this information is accurate to me as of the writing of this article. I started in full-stack web development in March of 2019. We studied Monday through Friday from 9 am PST to 5 pm PST. The curriculum covers everything from basic HTML/CSS to React/Node and other various parts of web dev stacks if you're feeling adventurous. I started out alright with HTML/CSS and the beginning part of javascript ES5 and ES6. When we hit react I started to struggle a bit. I was trying to work as much as I could on my own time with Uber to keep food on the table while also keeping up with my studies. Those mental health struggles mentioned earlier keep surfacing and being addressed as well. However, I suppose it's of no surprise mental health struggles run in my family. In a perfect storm of sorts, my father had a mental health crisis and ended up spending some time in psychiatric care. This spun me into a state of barely functional for a while if we are honest. So after basically having to decide between finding a regular job and Lambda, I reached out to our Student Success team. I was shocked that I got a response not only quickly, but personally from quite high up in the staff. They had some special programs and opportunities for someone in my situation and I was able to take some self-care time and get my finances in a good spot so I could continue on with my current cohort. Refer you back to the "time" aspect if you would while looking at schools as my wife and I were now expecting our second child. I was able to complete my full stack curriculum on time. At this time, due to my own background and skills debugging code and helping students do the same, I was offered the opportunity to lead new incoming students through the curriculum I'd just completed. This was highly appealing to me in many aspects. This could help me land a better job post-completion, as well as review the curriculum again. Another bonus here, react hooks were released and added to our studies.

Working While Learning...

I started my tenor with Lambda in July 2019 as a Team Lead and worked daily for another three months with students to mentor them through the coursework. This was the busiest I'd been since starting Lambda but probably the most satisfied I'd ever been. Seeing students understand code daily and bring their ideas and designs to life through code was absolutely gratifying. While doing this I also had the opportunity to get to know some of the Lambda staff and really understand what Lambda's vision was for its students. I came to learn that Lambda really does care and listen to its students. If you've not read it elsewhere we give feedback constantly and Lambda has it built into the daily routine. They want to know how they're doing and how you feel they're doing. My Section Leads and other Team Leads took the opportunity to improve not only the student experience at Lambda but the student-staff experience as well. While going through my contract as a Team Lead I had my second child and being able to work full time while also learning was beyond invaluable.

While working with Lambda staff, I was able to express my own concerns about working post contract. After some interviewing and meetings they decided to not only extend my contract but promote me so I could drop to part-time working hours while continuing as a full-time student and be able to almost provide the same income as full-time. I was, and still am, completely humbled and blown away that they were willing to extend this to me. So, this pretty much brings us to date. I've been working as a part-time Section Lead and a full-time student for a few months now. It's been busy, and even tougher at times than being a TL was, especially with a new child. As I sit here and look over the capstone Lambda Labs project we're putting the polishing touches on, I couldn't have fathomed doing anything along the 100's of lines of code I've contributed to the 1000's combined by the other developers in our group to make an in-depth web application for a user to have at their fingertips. By far, Lambda has been the smartest decision for myself I have ever made.

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