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Launch School Podcast

English, Education, 5 seasons, 54 episodes, 1 day, 21 hours, 10 minutes
We'll interview students and other interesting guests related to the Launch School community to talk about their journey, experiences and reflections. Topics will include programming, learning, mastery, and education.
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S5E16: Student Spotlight - Battling Self-Doubt, A Student Transformation with Sherece

In this episode, Brandi has a conversation with Sherece, a current student nearing the end of the core curriculum. They spend the first part of the conversation discussing how Sherece managed to overcome her extremely low confidence to not just progress through the core curriculum, but to even enroll amid self-doubt and fear of failure. Though she was an incredibly curious and eager-to-learn child, life circumstances meant that Sherece lost this part of herself for many years. After developing an interest in software and spending several years dabbling in the prep course, she finally took on Launch School. Sherece is approaching the end of a successful core curriculum experience with a transformed self-image and a renewed passion for learning and pushing her limits. She shares valuable insights into the initial difficulties of Launch School, as well as the challenges encountered along the way, like the personal development needed to confidently lead SPOT sessions and overcoming a 'Not Yet'. We hope you enjoy the episode!
6/10/202436 minutes, 52 seconds
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S5E15: Daniel Nalesnik - Founder of HackChinese and Core Graduate

In this episode, Chris interviews Daniel Nalesnik, the creator of Hack Chinese and a core curriculum graduate. Daniel used the fundamentals learned in the core program to build his own business. They spend the first part of the episode discussing Daniel's winding journey to Launch School in which he left a successful career behind. Daniel quit his job to pursue Launch School full-time, driven by a long-held vision to create an application that would later become Hack Chinese. Unlike many students who pursue Capstone, Daniel was focused on the mastery-based core curriculum to build a solid foundation, equipping himself with the skills necessary to bring his idea to life. During the rest of the episode, Daniel shares the process of developing Hack Chinese, a language-learning platform designed to help users master Chinese characters through spaced repetition. Daniel was determined to be the sole developer, choosing to forgo venture backing and take on the project independently, even though it meant several years of work before success. He explains his desire to maintain complete sole proprietary and the satisfaction he finds in personally crafting every aspect of Hack Chinese. We hope you enjoy the episode!
5/27/20241 hour, 21 minutes, 21 seconds
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S5E14: Student Spotlight - The Ups and Downs of the Core Curriculum with Patrick

In this episode, Brandi chats with current student Patrick about his journey thus far through the core curriculum. They discuss what it's like coming from a background of feeling completely incompetent with a computer to gaining the confidence to lead SPOT sessions and encourage other students to do the same. Patrick also shares some of the more difficult hurdles he's faced. His initial plan and schedule for moving through the core curriculum were too rigorous, resulting in burnout and ultimately a false start where he paused his subscription while adjusting his expectations. After successfully restarting, as with many students, life happens and he must pause his subscription again. While most students hope for a very linear journey through Launch School, it's not always possible and this episode gives great insight into being flexible and allowing yourself the grace to take breaks. We hope you enjoy the episode and also have a rest when you need it!
5/13/202458 minutes, 57 seconds
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S5E13: Setting Students up for Success - Smooth Start Program with Karis

Sign-ups for Smooth Start 5 are open now! Read more and Apply here ( In this episode, Brandi has a conversation with Karis about Smooth Start. Karis is part of the Launch School staff and is largely responsible for creating Smooth Start, an introductory program to help students overcome common hurdles that are often faced at the early stages of Launch School. They discuss why Smooth Start was created and new students' struggles, whether they're in the prep course trying to gauge how to take the plunge into the core curriculum, or fresh into the core curriculum, nervous about taking their first assessment. Karis shares the week-to-week schedule that Smooth Start students get to participate in, along with how the agenda has changed over the various cohorts based on feedback from students and leads. Finally, we get a sneak peek at what's to come with Smooth Start 5. Karis explains what's new in this cohort and how you can get involved.
4/29/202456 minutes, 27 seconds
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S5E12: Missy Lovegren - From Fine Arts to Software Engineering

In this episode, Chris interviews Missy Lovegren, a Capstone grad and software engineer at New Relic. Missy was a TA at Launch School and part of a 2022 Capstone cohort. They spend the first part of the episode discussing Missy's transition into software. She comes from a background in fine arts and went through several difficult, low paying, and, as she described, dead-end jobs. Even so, the decision to leave fine arts and transition into software development was challenging. She gives a very candid and level-headed perspective on the ups and downs of the core curriculum, Capstone, and the job hunt. During the rest of the episode, Missy shares what it's like to work for New Relic, a massive company with over 500 engineers. She's part of a small team of 6 working on internal tools for the company, where she spends a lot of time debugging and relying on the fundamentals that she built at Launch School. She also gives insight into how she fits into the company as a Launch School grad and what her day to day is like. We hope you enjoy the episode!
4/15/20241 hour, 20 minutes, 48 seconds
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S5E11: Student Spotlight - From Coasting to Excelling, a Student Transformation with Nick

In this episode, Brandi has a conversation with Nick Perry, a current student and active member of the Launch School community. Nick shares his background and how he was never a 'good' student previously in high school and university. When he began Launch School, like many students, he wasn't sure if he could succeed and had to reevaluate his perception of his abilities both technically and as a dedicated student. He discusses reshaping his study habits, confidence, and dedication not just to succeed, but to become a leader in the community with a trusted network of support around him. He also gives insight into overcoming a 'Not Yet' on his first coding challenge interview, even though he was technically prepared. He cites the support that he received from peers as a critical component of his ability to persevere. Nick is a great example of someone who came in uncertain, with low confidence, and became a pillar in the Launch School community as a SPOT lead, a Smooth Start lead, and over two-thirds of the way through the core curriculum. He's an excellent example of the transformation that can happen at Launch School. We hope you'll have a listen!
4/1/202441 minutes, 37 seconds
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S5E10: Felicia Bacon - A Lifelong Learner Thriving at Starbucks

In this episode, Chris has a conversation with Felicia Bacon, a Capstone grad and Software Engineer at Starbucks. Felicia made a trajectory change after studying to be an architect for several years. Her core curriculum journey was one of perseverance, spanning three and a half years. She shares candidly about her experience receiving a 'not yet' on the first Launch School assessment and her all-in approach to mastery-based learning. Working at a corporate giant like Starbucks, Felicia is in an ever-changing environment where she's constantly required to learn new tools. She shares how drawing from mental models and foundations that she built at Launch School helps her continue to learn and thrive in her company. This episode gives great insight into how having a lifelong learning mentality can lead to opportunities, resulting in not just high-paying jobs, but a gratifying and healthy career too. Whether you're a few days into the core curriculum, or about to start your job hunt, you're likely to learn something from Felicia. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
3/18/20241 hour, 26 minutes, 28 seconds
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S5E9: Student Spotlight - Climbing the Learning Curve as a New Student, with Katelyn

In this episode, Brandi interviews Katelyn, a current student finding her footing in the first few courses of the core curriculum. Katelyn is in a career transition, with a background in project and construction management, having majored in civil engineering in college. We reached out to Katelyn to see if she wanted to share her story after she wrote and shared an article about her experience receiving a 'Not Yet' on an assessment. Every student has a different approach when they don't pass an assessment, but most approaches don't involve telling everyone in the community how and why it happened, in hopes of helping others. We wanted to hear from her! They discuss her 'Not Yet' and what changes she made to her study habits. Katelyn also discusses her approach to having an online presence, and how she's taken as many opportunities as possible to work on her soft skills in conjunction with the technical skills she's learning from the coursework. This is a great episode for gaining insight into what you can expect from your first few courses at Launch School, and the learning curve that many students face as they find their footing.
3/4/202440 minutes, 40 seconds
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S5E8: Alex Strick van Linschoten - Open Source Machine Learning, based in Europe

In this episode, Chris interviews Alex Strick van Linschoten, a Capstone grad working in machine learning. They spend the first part of the interview discussing his background and Capstone experience, and later on discuss the field of machine learning. Alex had a full career before he transitioned into machine learning. He has a PhD in history and spent over 15 years doing research in Afghanistan. When he was ready for a change, he found Launch School and spent over three years going through core and Capstone. He shares his experience participating in Capstone from Pakistan, where he had a nocturnal schedule to work with his team. He also gives perspective on doing a job hunt in Europe. For much of the interview, they discuss the state of the machine learning field. Alex is working as an ML Engineer at ZenML, on an open-source code base. They touch on what it's like working in a relatively new field and how Alex has incorporated into his team. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
2/19/202455 minutes, 33 seconds
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S5E7: Launch School Explained with Chris Lee

In this episode, recorded at the end of 2023, Brandi asks Chris the most frequently asked questions that current and potential students have. Chris starts the episode with a recap of the story of Launch School, and how his journey into teaching software over 10 years ago led to the Launch School curriculum as we know it now. This story explains how the curriculum is chosen and why adding assessments was a necessary step in the evolution of his teaching platform. The story of Launch School gives a lot of insight into why things are the way they are now, but there were still questions to be answered. Chris spends the last hour of the episode answering questions that we see again and again, whether it's from current students, potential students, or those who've chosen a different path for their education journey. This episode highlights how intentional every piece of Launch School is. It's an educational system built with an engineering mindset. We hope you come away with a better understanding of Launch School, and as always, we're happy to answer your questions or hear your ideas.
2/5/20241 hour, 23 minutes, 12 seconds
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S5E6: Julia Martin - The Journey from JS101 to Databricks

In this episode, Chris interviews Julia Martin, a Capstone graduate and software engineer working at Databricks. Julia shares her story about deciding to make a career transition from business to software. Her interest in software was piqued during her work as a business analyst, where working with SQL was part of her role. She spent some time considering various bootcamps before finding Launch School, and ended up quitting her job to study full-time. Now, she's working on the Delta Live Tables team at Databricks in a hybrid, but mostly in-person role. She talks about the connection she can see in hindsight from the early grind of the core curriculum, through her efforts in Capstone, to where she is now as a professional engineer working on a team. She has great advice for current students who feel unsure of their abilities. We hope you enjoy the episode!
1/22/202452 minutes, 24 seconds
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S5E5: Student Spotlight - Imposter Syndrome and Recovering From a 'Not Yet', with Trisha

In this episode, Brandi interviews Trisha, a current student who is about two-thirds finished with the core curriculum. Trisha opens up about receiving a 'Not Yet', a non-passing grade, on her first assessment over a year ago. She talks about the aftermath of doubt and insecurity. Trisha's trajectory changed drastically when she immersed herself into the community, finding a supportive group of peers to help her stay motivated, push her technically, and gauge her readiness for assessments. This is a positive first-hand account of how your study habits can make or break your success at Launch School. We hope you enjoy the episode!
1/8/202435 minutes, 28 seconds
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S5E4: Jon Kulton - From Software Engineering to SRE

In this episode, Chris interviews Captsone Graduate Jon Kulton, a software engineer at Datadog. Before Launch School, Jon was a UX designer in a role that included some programming. Ultimately, Jon decided he wanted to transition into a more software-centric role. Jon was part of the 2019 fall cohort and began his job hunt at the start of Covid. Between being based in Ohio and the challenges that came with Covid, Jon had a tough job hunt. He shares insight into the experience of landing his first role during this time. After almost two years, Jon moved on to Datadog, where he works alongside ex-FAANG engineers. The conversation also touches on his day-to-day at work, the technical details of working as a site reliability engineer, and the experience of joining a public company where the customer base is fellow software engineers. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
12/25/202357 minutes, 59 seconds
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S5E3: Student Resources - The SPOT & GatherTown

In this episode, Chris meets with JD and Daniel, two SPOT Admins and current students. They chat about what the SPOT is, who it's for, and how it can complement your Launch School studies, both technically, but also as a jumping-off point for joining the community. The SPOT, which stands for Study, Practice, Overlearn, Teach, is a student-led community within Launch School that facilitates virtual study sessions for every course in the Core Curriculum. They discuss the deterrents that often stop students from utilizing the space, such as being unaware that it exists, feeling inadequate to participate, or being intimidated by stepping into an existing community. In addition to encouraging students to attend SPOT sessions, they discuss what it means to be a 'SPOT Lead', and how it can push you even further as a student and leader. They also discuss and show off GatherTown, the virtual study space where you can quite literally 'bump into' your peers. As a virtual school, it takes effort to deisolate your studies. GatherTown is a great place to go, whether you're joining a study group, meeting with a peer, or hanging out near others as accountability buddies. Have a listen, and we hope to see you in GatherTown!
12/11/202354 minutes, 30 seconds
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S5E2: Student Spotlight - ADHD and Parenthood with Benjamin

In this episode, Brandi has a conversation with Benjamin Walker, a current student, nearing the end of the back-end portion of the curriculum. They discuss Benjamin's approach to balancing full-time parenthood and his journey as a neurodivergent student. Benjamin was a high school math teacher for 12 years. After becoming a father, he decided he was ready for a career change. He talks about how he decided to study at Launch School and the considerations this involved, given his prioritization of parenthood. Later on, he talks about what it's like to have ADHD and the strategies he employs to be a successful student. Benjamin juggles a busy life and gives great insight into the sacrifices and hurdles many students face on their journey to mastery. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
11/27/202337 minutes, 34 seconds
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S5E1: Ginni Pinckert - Ancient Greek to AI

In this episode, Chris interviews Ginni Pinckert, a software engineer at Sudowrite. Ginni is a recent capstone graduate, finishing in early 2023. She has a diverse background pre-Launch School, having studied classical languages, literature, and linguistics with a mild obsession with Greek mythology and Sci-Fi. She worked in the fashion industry for several years and then worked as a small business owner creating organization systems to help clients with productivity. Her Launch School journey was a relatively long one, spending about 2 years working through the core curriculum as a mostly full-time student, with some of her time dedicated to being a TA. After Capstone, it's no surprise that Ginni ended up with a company just as passionate about writing as she is, now working on a small team developing a text editing interface that integrates AI to help writers write. Ginni gives great insight into what it's like to apply for jobs as someone without any prior experience in tech as well as a refreshing perspective on the tough job market. As someone used to donning many hats, it's clear that Ginni is open to new experiences and putting in the work it takes to do a job well, and her time through Launch School, Capstone, and now her new career, are no exceptions. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
11/13/20231 hour, 8 minutes, 59 seconds