Why I chose Launch School for my Software Development journey

After spending 1 year and 5 months working through Launch School’s back-end developers coursework, I’m feeling quite nostalgic on how I came across the program, how I decided to enroll and feel that I’m at a great stopping point to pursue some personal quantitative finance related projects.

Before I go any further.

TL;DR

  • I enrolled in Launch School to learn software development as a necessary skill to stay relevant in the ever changing finance industry.
  • I wanted to apply that knowledge to my finance career working within the investment management space (i.e.: asset management, hedge funds, etc).
  • Software development would give me a great overarching skill set to work on automation, quantitative research and data focused type projects.
  • It took me ~1.5 years to complete the back-end coursework (averaging 10–15 hours per week outside of a 45 hour work week).
  • I spent almost 3 years prior to starting Launch School trying to learn software development but I could never tie all the pieces together.
  • Launch School has been one of the best decisions I’ve made that has taught me a solid foundation in OOP, web frameworks, SQL and relational databases, testing and how to package code, git, command line tools, and much more.
  • I’m taking a pause from Launch School to work on quantitative finance related projects.

A Bit About Me.

I graduated from university with a major in Finance with the pursuit of becoming a trader. I spent 3 years working for an institutional trading firm trading equities in my hometown of Montreal, Canada before taking on a new opportunity in 2014 with a quantitative hedge fund in Nashville, TN. I learned some python before moving to Nashville as I would need that skill to assist the firm in a variety of projects.

I believe that whatever flavor of investment strategy you focus on (value investing, quantitative strategies, macro strategies) that automation, data and quantitative analysis can help a firm’s process at many different levels and scopes. Hence why I wanted to pursue software development as a skill set.

Before Launch School — Lost in the Abyss

In 2013, I started to learn python through various online YouTube videos, MOOCs and references on Stack Overflow. I never became fully comfortable in tackling projects that required me to build code from scratch. All the online courses or videos I watched always focused on one piece in a software developer’s tool kit, and no matter how many small projects I worked on, I always found myself stitching together pieces of code from the internet that happened to work.

Although I was able to work on projects successfully in my new job, in early 2016, I had decided that I needed a more formal approach to learning this essential skill set and that is when the journey to Launch School began.

Why Software Development?

I had a few key moments throughout my university days where the idea of working in global markets were fortified. Looking back, here are some of the key moments/experiences that led me to my chosen career path:

  • I shadowed one of my university teachers who was a successful prop trader at a large Canadian bank.
  • I read many trading books such as ‘Market Wizards’ by Jack D. Schwager, and ‘Reminiscences of a Stock Operator’ by Edwin Lefevre.
  • I learned about trend-following systems which is what led me to initially want to work in the quantitative hedge fund space.

Learning python and seeing the investment management industry change to a more technologically and data focused environment, I figured that if I wanted a long career in this space, I needed to learn a broad skill set like software development which I could then apply to my ultimate focus of quantitative research, data warehousing and automation type projects.

Career + Quora + Tealeaf Academy = Launch School

So here I am in early 2016 looking at options to learn software development. I was really interested in the whole boot camp approach and I strongly contemplated joining one. At one point, I had an excel spreadsheet with a list of over 15 coding boot camps along with details on their cost, length of time, overall star rating, languages and skills covered, etc. I even reached out to past alumni, exchanged emails and even got a few of them on phone calls. In addition to coding boot camps, I did consider universities offering certificates.

But I was also in a good position in my career. I was (and still am) overseeing the implementation of quantitative strategies for a hedge fund and I knew I needed a different option. Plus, I felt that to leave the work force for an unaccredited program would not be the best use of my time and resources. This is not to downplay other people’s successes making that decision, but it wasn’t the right choice for me.

With my ongoing research into various options, in late 2016, I stumbled upon Launch School from a Quora post that highly recommended Tealeaf Academy. Tealeaf Academy was no longer in operation but it’s founders went on to start Launch School. Like all great success stories, one of the founders of Launch School (Chris Lee) wrote a great article on their journey which you can find here. I would highly recommend reading their story!

“If you end your training now — if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did — you will become an agent of evil.” — Yoda

At first, I was hoping to find a super quick way to get up to speed (like Luke and Vader) but with all my research, I had come to the conclusion that taking my time would be crucial for any future learning or development. Particularly, if I wanted to delve into data science or dive deeper into software development, I knew I needed a solid foundation.

If history is a lesson to us all, there is no time to mess around with the dark side.

I won’t dive into all the specifics of Launch School (the program’s pedagogy can be found here and course material here) but the program is meant to be aced (A- at the very least) and not just passed or failed.

Why am I stopping/pausing Launch School?

My one year and five month journey through Launch School has taught me quite a bit. I’ve covered Object Oriented programming, web development frameworks such as Sinatra, SQL and relational databases, testing and how to package code, git, command line tools, debugging tools and much more. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to break larger problems into smaller problems, and have built a problem solving approach to programming.

I try to live my life by being explicit with my intentions and any good software developer can relate to that explicit need when writing good code. I felt that coming into this program I knew where I wanted to go with it.

So here we are.

I’m truly excited to spend some time applying this newfound knowledge. You’ll find me documenting that journey here on Medium.

Lastly, here is a big Thank you to Launch School.