Chris Lee
Chris Lee
Nov 29, 2019 · 4 min read

It’s Thanksgiving in the US, a holiday where people commonly take time to reflect on things for which they’re thankful. Launch School is obviously a big part of my life. It’s also something I’m extremely proud and thankful to be part of. I wake up every day eager to get started, and I rarely have a day where I think “I wish I didn’t have to go to work today”.

I’ve heard of others who have this attitude about their work as well, but a lot of them seem to be the type who would be motivated about nearly anything. I’m not like that. Most jobs in the world wouldn’t motivate me to get up as early, or put in as much effort. I’m not naturally a morning person. I’d even go as far as to say that I’m not a naturally upbeat person. Yet I bounce up every morning ready for the day, and happy to get to work at Launch School.

While reflecting on why that is, I thought about some of Launch School’s unique attributes. I realized that it’s these things that I am really thankful for. They are what keep me going day after day, year after year.

  • People. This might sound like a cliche, but it’s absolutely true. The people at Launch School are some of the most dedicated, motivated, and earnest people I have ever encountered. That includes both staff and students. The community that we’ve built over the years is one of the most dedicated, and yet welcoming I have seen. That’s a very unique combination that I really haven’t seen elsewhere; it’s usually one or the other.
  • Mission. I get emails every day to the effect of “I can’t believe I finally found a place that teaches in the way I wish to learn.” Often, this sentiment is shared by experienced teachers who have seen first hand the detrimental effects of factory-based learning. As far as I’m aware, we are one of the first, if not only, learn-to-code programs that puts into practice such an extreme version of Mastery-based Learning. What started out as an exercise in figuring out how to teach students with a variety of backgrounds, has now grown into a complete alternative pedagogical approach to learning. I’m excited that we are at the forefront of that change.
  • Transformation. Mastery-based Learning would just be another theoretical teaching approach if it were not for our results. A very typical transformation post-Capstone is doubling one’s salary. Just recently, we had our first quadrupling of pre- and post-Capstone salary. It’s these results that move what we’re doing at Launch School from theory and good feels to real life-altering transformations. (Update: after posting this, a previous Capstone grad pinged me to say that he 5x’d his pre- and post-Capstone salary).
  • Freedom. The fact that we’re able to do all of this while not having to beg for money from donors or investors is also hugely important to me. We’re just charging people a fair price and delivering value. This allows us to be beholden to no one except those we serve. I’d argue that one of the main reasons many people are interested in career transition into software engineering is this very attribute — freedom. Salary enables it to some degree, but being free to set your own path, and instil it with your own values, is ultimately what we all want.

This brings me to my final thought regarding how I’m thankful for Launch School. The real secret to success at Launch School isn’t salary, but freedom. I’m thankful that Launch School has allowed me to reach that goal in my career — I get to work, live, and do as I please without having to report to a boss or manage any investor expectations or hit quarterly numbers. I live modestly but I get to do all the above while doing something good for the world, and helping others to achieve their aims. And I get to pick who I want to work with, from staff to students to vendors, etc. I’m thankful for that freedom.

And here’s the final secret: a lot of people are attracted to what we’re doing at Launch School because of our high salary numbers, but the real lesson we’re trying to teach is how to live a life that’s empowered so everyone can have real freedom in their careers. It’s my hope to pass on everything I’ve been able to achieve to every participant at Launch School. I’m thankful for that opportunity.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Chris Lee is an instructor at Launch School, an online school for software engineers. He has over 16 years of software engineering experience ranging from large enterprise to startups. He enjoys programming, teaching and talking about Mastery Based Learning.

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