After four years studying at Stanford University and another one earning his master’s degree at MIT, Jonathan Lau started working as a data scientist in Cambridge. The problem?
“One of the things I realized,” he said, “what I learned in college was a little outdated.”
So, despite his elite education, Lau (photographed below) enrolled in Boston-based Launch Academy, a 10-week, intensive software developer bootcamp. While there, he learned much more than Ruby on Rails. He discovered alternative, immersive forms of education can be effective — and “so much cheaper than graduate school, so much shorter than graduate school and so much more specialized than graduate school.”
Employers have spoken, and a majority would agree the country’s colleges aren’t properly preparing students. And it’s because of that that programs like locally-grown Launch Academy, Startup Institute, Intelligent.ly or New York transplant General Assembly have succeeded.
The growing amount of alternative learning programs, however — not just in Boston, but nationwide — is becoming harder to navigate.
“The industry needed a little bit more transparency and objectivity,” Lau said, which is why he decided to launch Switch with fellow co-founders Michael Suen and Jeremy Schwartz.
Switch is essentially a TripAdvisor or Yelp for technology bootcamps, and comes complete with reviews, financing options and mentorship. Alumni of the different programs are the ones writing recommendations and critiques, providing a rating for their overall satisfaction, a bootcamp’s curriculum and the career support they received.
“It’s going to be more and more confusing as these programs come up,” Lau noted. “Some of these schools are really good, and some of these schools are really not so good. It’s important that students find the bad schools.”
The platform can help students decide which school is right for them. Switch is also starting to offer scholarships. A couple of financial institutions have partnered with the startup, according to Lau, and have agreed to provide private loan options and scholarships for individuals interested in transitioning into a new career.
“A lot of these schools are still not affordable,” acknowledged Lau. Take Launch Academy, for example; tuition rings in at $12,500. Although far cheaper than grad school, that price isn’t pocket change for today’s young professionals still trying to pay off potential student loan debt.
Currently, the Switch team is working on designing a quiz and set of questionnaires to help students better determine the proper path, whether it be working in the software, design or engineering space. With that knowledge, the platform can direct them to the best bootcamp geared to their passions and interests.
“The government is moving toward regulating some of these schools,” noted Lau, who pointed to California, where the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education was created in 2010, initially to regulate beauty school, career schools and nonprofit colleges. Bootcamps are now receiving attention, as well, however. “Perhaps the government will start requiring a little bit more transparency,” Lau posited. “But, I think it’s going to take a really long time for them to come up with these sort of programs.”
And until then, Switch will fill the void.
Are you ready to make the Switch?
Featured Images via Switch