How Lambda School Labs Works

In this episode of Lambda School's Whiteboard Friday, we dive into how the in-house apprenticeship program called Lambda Labs works. We walk through how projects are chosen, how working in groups on these projects happens, and why we think this is an incredibly important part of the Lambda School experience. Let us know if there are other topics you would be interested in having us cover in a Whiteboard Friday video!

Video transcript:

"Hey, I'm Austen, the co-founder and CEO of Lambda School. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. Today we're going to be talking about Lambda School Labs. Lambda School Labs is our in-house apprenticeship. We try to simulate or recreate what it's really like to work on day one of a job. You'll find that after you've built a lot of projects, you've built some personal projects, there's still a pretty big difference between doing that and working in a real development environment, with product managers, senior engineers, code reviews and what it's really like working at a company. We want you to be able to ship code day one when you show up at work. We recreate that environment within Lambda School and have you build real-world projects. That's Lambda School labs.

Lambda School Labs, in total, lasts five weeks. It's the last five weeks of your stay at Lambda School. The first 25 weeks you've been going through curriculum, you've been learning new things, you've been building new projects. This is where the rubber really meets the road; this is where you show the world what you can do. It's four weeks of building a project, and then one week of a mixture of career services, doing programming tests with some of our higher-end partners, like Hacker Rank and Triplebyte where you can potentially get a job just based on your ability to write code, and then it all culminates in what we call the capstone defense.

The capstone defense, you can think of that as something similar to if you got a PhD. You would defend your thesis in front of a body of staff from the school. It's a little bit different at Lambda School, because you not only defend your project and what you've learned in front of different members of the school itself, but we also bring in hiring partners and outside companies. and that gets you a great way to get to know them and lets them know you and see what Lambda School students are capable of. A lot of students that have been hired, it's because of the capstone defenses.

During your capstone defense, we'll have both outside industry partners and Lambda School instructors and staff that are looking at your code. They'll ask you questions about technology decisions you've made. They'll ask you about the difficult parts of building that product. They'll ask you about Lambda School generally, about how you feel about certain things. Most of all, it's just a way for them to get to know you, who you are as an engineer, and how you think. That is the culminating time at Lambda School. Once you're done with a capstone defense, you are considered a graduate.

We have a few requirements for what is eligible to be a Labs product. The first thing is that it's useful. These aren't toys products that we're building for fun and you know they're kind of quirky. These are actually real-life use case SaaS products that you could sell. Actually, the ability to collect revenue, for most products, is actually a requirement. We require you to integrate stripe. We require that real dollars can go into the project and pay for something, just so that you get that experience of building in payment processing and dealing with credit card numbers and all that kind of stuff.

We also require it to be live with a URL. You'll have, may not be a .com, but Lambda School will actually purchase a URL for you, we'll host it, and it will be live at a website so you can go to and it's there. Then, perhaps the most important element of Lambda School Labs, is that the code is open. You'll find that if you take an apprenticeship somewhere else, or if you have an internship somewhere else, you do a lot of really cool stuff! You write a lot of great code, but then you can't share that code with potential employers because that belongs to the company. At Lambda School Labs we do allow employers to request projects and bid for projects. If we collect any revenue we pass it on to the students, but that's not the focus. The focus is really to allow students to build something that's great with live code that they can share, to show what they're actually capable of.

That is Lambda School Labs. It is very much like you'll experience when you actually get a job and you show up on day one. You'll be pulling tickets, you're writing code, the project has been spec'ed for you and you'll have code reviews. The goal is that you know when you start a real job, on day one, you show up and it's totally familiar. You know how to work with a project that already exists, you know how to ship code, you know how to work with other people, and you've done it before.

That is Lambda School Labs, so go ahead and check out the description below. We'll drop a couple of links to some projects that have been completed and gone through the capstone process. You'll be able to see the quality that we expect of a completed project. You'll be able to see why you would confidently share that on your portfolio and send it to employers and say "Look, I built that." We'll also share a couple links to some capstone defenses so you can see what that process was like what the questioning was like and how those students fare."

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