The Power Of Cohort-based Learning: Dominique's Journey To Becoming A Software Engineer

February 17, 2021

Here at Virtually, we believe that the future of education isn't a four-year degree. It's a continuous stream of various types of learning programs for all stages of our lives. These "mini-universities" will allow us to retrain regularly as our goals change. No stranger to this concept is Dominique Maack, a full-stack web developer at Virtually. She recently graduated from Lambda School, a cohort-based online coding school where students pay no tuition until they're hired. In addition to web development, she has a background in health and wellness as a coach and specialist. Here’s what she had to say about her experience pivoting her career and completing a cohort-based online learning program. 

Can you tell us more about your online education journey and what you've been able to accomplish so far?

Dominique Maack: I initially pursued an education in exercise physiology through a traditional undergraduate degree. After years in that field, I wanted more of a challenge. I've always been interested in technical fields like coding and engineering. But I questioned if I wanted to go back to complete a four-year degree

Since coding bootcamps are becoming popular, I started researching non-traditional forms of education. I came across Lambda School by word of mouth, so I decided I would take a stab at applying. If I got accepted, then awesome. If not, I would learn on my own.

After getting accepted, I went through the nine-month program. A few months into the job search, I came across Virtually. I completed a four-week internship, and now I'm working as a full-time developer. 

What attracted you to Lambda School? 

Dominique Maack: Unlike a traditional school, I did not have to commit thousands of dollars to pursue an education. Going the income share agreement route, I felt like I wasn't taking as big of a risk. 

What was it like attending Lambda’s cohort-based learning program? 

Dominique Maack: Starting at 8 a.m., we had an hour to dive into the pre-work. Then we’d move onto a two-hour live lecture with an instructor. Afterward, we would break for an hour's lunch. The rest of the day was dedicated to homework assignments, accountability, and mentoring. For example, we were all assigned team leads which we had daily one-on-one meetings with every day. At the end of the day, we would also have end-of-day wrap-ups, where a group of us would complete a coding challenge together. 

Did you notice a big difference between learning online vs. a traditional school? 

Dominique Maack: If anything, there was more community with an online school because it was built-in so much more. I wasn't forced to interact with my classmates in college. You show up for your lecture, do your work, and take the test. Lambda thought through the implications of not having that sense of community in their program, and as a result, they built it in. 

How did your community and cohort help you overcome challenges? 

Dominique Maack: In addition to working with the same eight people in my cohort, Lambda assigned us a new team every four weeks. Even though it was an online school, I got to know so many people every month. It felt like real school. Also, Lambda offered after-hours where someone was available to help you. I've been an instructor and a teacher for many years. So I know how important engagement and community are for adherence to programs. 

How are you enjoying life post-graduation? 

Dominique Maack: I was in the job search for a few months. It wasn't easy, especially when hiring managers screen you for coding questions or they want to see you have a computer science degree. I came across Virtually and soon after started a four-week internship. At the time, they weren't hiring, but I took this internship as an opportunity to impress the team. After four weeks, Virtually offered me a full-time position. I feel fortunate, and I am proud that I've been able to change careers successfully.  

What’s your favorite thing about working at Virtually? 

Dominique Maack: On day one, as a student at Lambda School, I was pretty overwhelmed. I had to manage five to six different platforms like Zoom and Slack and their home-built platforms. It was a lot. Virtually is trying to solve that problem for students and the instructors, and the admins. It can be a lot to manage dozens or hundreds of students in this online realm. But online learning is becoming even more powerful. I believe that what Virtually is trying to build is going to be more and more predominant. 

Read Next: How To Set-Up An Online Course With Virtually 

Danielle Desir

Danielle Desir is an author and the host of The Thought Card, an affordable-travel and personal finance podcast. (