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For the record, I believe a lot of the accusations that are coming out against Lambda School. I believe they have shown that they are not up to the challenge of supporting the people they profess to help.
Here's where I reached out to Austen asking about helping with Lambda school. This was before I started to see a lot of the bullshit and I was still impressed by the marketing and perception. I received no response.
I have been thinking a lot about tech education, and that has led me to investigate many schools and programs that claim to be providing alternative learning programs. Even when the people involved are genuine and have good intentions, the outcomes are a mess.
There are lots of reasons for this that I can see. Education programs are very expensive. Because in order to serve a disadvantaged community, you need to not only educate but provide relief from the barriers that keep them from showing up.
I was bullish on Lambda School at first. Because I still believe that solving the economics of this problem is one of the biggest barriers. And I was optimistic about what they seemed to be doing with income share agreements (ISA).
For me personally, the push for diversity, equity and inclusion has always been about access to economic upward mobility. This is one of the few industries that is high paying and growing with high demand. I want more people who look like me to have access to this kind of career.
And since I've started paying attention to Austen and how he responds to input and critique, it's clear to me that he is not trustworthy when it comes to supporting black and brown people.
I've always been wary of for profit education programs even while hoping that someone figures out how to make it work. We know that truly seeking to support and educate and uplift will often run counter to the incentives of capitalism. That has always been true.
If white folks think they are able to navigate the pressures of taking VC money and still prioritize the needs of black and brown people, that is a tall order. The scrutiny and lack of trust is warranted. It should be expected.
Because here's the thing. A lot of white people don't really take the time to understand the real social and economic barriers that are set against people of color. They talk a good game, but they're not actually prepared.
And what we see time and time again is that when they are faced with the reality of those barriers, they turn around and blame us. We're not showing up, we're not working hard enough, we're not sacrificing enough. It must be our fault because their "intentions" are good.
That's how this vicious cycle works. That's why we *require* people with enough cultural competence to understand these issues and actually be up for the challenges they've set for themselves. Otherwise, I'm gonna tell people not to fuck with you.
There's another part of this that is harder to talk about though. Education is hard. Tech education is especially hard. And we generally suck at it. So the level of expertise you get with these programs, both in tech and in teaching ability, is entirely a crap shoot.
I remember the birth of the whole "learn to code" movement. I've been side-eyeing it from the beginning. I'm not sure it was every reasonable to promise people you could turn them into an employable developer in a matter of months.
I have been hiring engineers for several years now. I know what is required, even at entry level. In many ways, the requirements are not actually reasonable. And there is a huge gap between the skills you get from these bootcamps and being truly employable.
That's the part I want to help fix. That's why I reached out to Austen. To see if he needed more experienced people to help with curriculum and training. I'm not sure if these programs have enough people with real industry experience helping them.
Anyone who is serious about this work needs to be bringing together people with real industry experience and people with real experience in effective education and curriculum building. I don't see that.
Finally we come back to the economic problem. The people seeking these programs aren't just trying to get a job, they're looking to change their lives. People who successfully break into tech often experience a 2x or 3x jump in income.
Anything with that kind of value is probably going to cost something. I believe that it's important to invest in your growth and try to move yourself to a better situation. The question is how to find the right opportunity. One that is legit and not predatory.
I've given a lot of thought to the ISA model. Where the programs spends a lot of money supporting you and it essentially amounts to a loan that you pay back *after* you experience that jump in income. It's not perfect, but I think it can work.
What matters the most is how the loan and payback terms are structured and how they are administered. Again this hinges on the commitment and the cultural competency of the people involved. There is a fine line between a program worthy of praise and one that is predatory.
I'm using the word predatory on purpose to convey the right expectations. If you are putting people into debt and not delivering on the promises that brought people in? That is a bad look. If you are intentionally seeking people from marginalized communities? That's predatory.
This rounds out a lot of the thoughts I've been grappling with on these bootcamps and tech programs. Lambda School is just the latest example. And I needed to address it because I have advocated for them on here in the past.
My final thought is this. If you're not really here for black people, leave us the fuck alone. I don't care how good your intentions are. If you don't know what you're doing, just stop. Give your money to someone else who does.
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