Jonathan Martinez

Podcast Description

“Really it’s a cult. They prey on the people who don’t know, who are the weakest
Who are going through the hardest time and I met a lot of people going through really, really hard time…everybody’s going through their pain or their hurt. And it just seems like Lambda is the hope for them. And then I feel bad for them because I try and tell ‘em Lambda doesn’t know shit, this is a bullshit-ass program, you should try and get out of the ISA…but by the time you actually realize that it’s bullshit you’re already X% invested in the ISA.”

Jonathan Martinez​ has 5+ years of experience as a Designer working on a wide-range of projects. He started from print to digital and pivoted to UX/UI Design. He currently works with remote agile-development agencies as a freelance consultant to maximize budgets, and save developer time with a Lean UX workflow.​

Additional Resources



Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone. And welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast. My guest is Jonathan Martinez; pronouns are he / him. Jonathan, please introduce yourself to the audience.

Jonathan Martinez: Hey everybody, how y’all doin’? My name is Jonathan Martinez, and the Internet world calls me JM—JM the Creative. So I’m also cool wit’ just JM. And yeah, I’m on the podcast, I’m here to cause a scene.

Kim: OK, well, [laughs] let’s do that. So I always start to show the same way. Can you tell me why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene? And we’ll start the conversation from there.

Jonathan: OK, cool. So, man, that’s… it goes deep. Why is important to cause a scene? I wish I didn’t have to cause a scene. Really, to be honest, I wanna be able to play fair, you know, play nice, but sometimes you got to cause a scene to be heard. And, you know, it seems like sometimes it’s the only way you could really get your way is to just start wildin’ out a little bit.

Kim: So how are you causing a scene specifically, Mr. Martinez? [Laughs]

Jonathan: I’m just speakin’ up, I guess. And, you know, also letting myself be known as I speak up, also. That’s why when you aksed me if I wanted to be anonymous, I was like, “Mmm.” People know my voice. People know what I sound like. [Laughs] People know who I am. I put my name out there. There’s no need to be anonymous. I’m here, you know? So.


Kim: OK, so, we still have not broached what you’re here to cause a scene about, and so I’m gonna let you tell your story. So, take your time, and we’ll get to why Jonathan is causin’ a scene.

Jonathan: OK. Cool. So, yeah, I was basically invited here; I had not known anything about the podcast, really. But I’d seen you before on Twitter causin’ a scene. People on Twitter, they talk about certain kinds of things, it’s really raw and unfiltered, and you can jump into different conversations, and I had gone to—basically I went to a bootcamp called Lambda School, and to give a little bit of context, I’m a person that has a background in design, Web design, graphic design, UX design. And I just found myself in a place where I was really hurtin’. I was having a lot of imposter syndrome, just not really feeling confident in myself. And here comes Lambda School advertising like, “Hey, look, we got offers; we can help you at least get a job that makes more than 50K. But look, here’s this guy that makes 100K that just finished our program.” So I’m like, “What? 100K?”

And to make a long story short, it just turned out that they tried to charge me $21,000 for a program that fizzled out. A program that they don’t offer any more. It just felt like a flight program that I was doing, summin that they were testing and it didn’t do well. So yeah, then they try to charge me $21,000, so I had to take to Twitter to have that fixed. The guy, the CEO, who runs Lambda School—Austin—I had to just kinda drag Lambda School and drag the guy. I didn’t want to do all that, but like I said earlier, sometimes you gotta cause a scene, because this is 21K, you know. I’m not tryna to pay all that. So that’s pretty much how I fought it.


Kim: Ok, so first of all, I wanna talk about, in your introduction, you said you wanted to be fair and nice. [Laughs]

Jonathan: I wanted to. People tryna…

Kim: [Sighs] Yes. That is problematic, because we can never be fair and nice to get what we want. I mean, every way we try to turn, every conversation we try to have, every adjective we use, every whatever; it leads to a place where fair and nice does not work for us. And so, then we have to come outta bag on mu’fuckers and then, “Oh, you’re not being civil.” “Well, fuck. I was bein’ fair and nice, and you din’ give a shit, you din’ listen to me. So now I’m showin’ my ass—and showin’ your ass—and so now all of a sudden, oh, we need to be civil and…”

Hold on, see… mmm. See, I got some problems—but people know I have some problems with Austin. OK, so: Austin… [sighs] oh, lord have mercy. Mmm. Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm, he’s a problematic… [sighs] So Austin is the CEO, as you said, of Lambda School. And some of the problems I’ve had with Lambda School and not just—well, the bootcamp industry, period. And these companies, they have these ISAs; and this is what you have, right? You…

Jonathan: Yeah, ISA.


Kim: Yup. And for people who don’t know what that is, is the Income Sharing Agreement. And it sounds good on the surface, ’cause they’re like, “Oh, you can’t afford school now? Well, let us train you, and when you get a job, you just pay that back with the money that we helped you get this job. So you know, we helped you get these skills and this job,” and people’re like, “Oh my god, yes! This is a way to break into this industry without me havin’ to put all this money up front, and because they’re guaranteeing,”—basically, “guaranteeing”; I have fucking air quotes—”that I’m gonna have a job, then I don’t think about that there’s gonna be a problem—that I won’t be able to pay this back,” ’cause as you said, “Fuck, $100,000 a year? I could pay somethin’; I could pay this back,” right?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Kim: What they don’t fuckin’ tell you is their curriculum [yells] fuckin’ suuuucks! [Jonathan laughs] So, and their support for students sucks! They know absolutely nothing about how adult learners learn. They don’t understand how to design curriculum. They don’t know how to—none of these motherfuckers have any damn experience in education. At all. It’s just a bunch of white, mediocre fuckers who decided, “Oh, I wanna be disruptive. [In a whiny voice] Oh, I wanna to be innovative. Oh, I wanna do all this shit.” [Jonathan laughs]

And then you got other little white fuckers who wanna say, “Oh, look at them how great they’re doing. They’re gonna help the most vulnerable. They’re gonna help the people who… Because it’s a…” ugh! “Because there is such a pipeline issue.” There’s not a fuckin’ pipeline issue, there’s the fact that there’re too many barriers in the community that keep people like you and I outside of the community, so we have to cause a scene and create our own pass to entry.


So you get into the space where someone tells you, “Oh, you don’t have to pay for this right now. I’m gonna help you get this job that you won’t even have to worry about payin’.” Because if they don’t tell you about the job thing, why is this different from getting a goddamn student loan at a regular school that you can at least get a degree from? IT’S NOT! So they hook you with, “We’re going to train you and help you get a job so that you can pay this thing back.” And then, the curric—oh my god, mmm. I look at these curriculums and I’m like, “This sucks sooo bad.”

And as I’ve said before—this is like my 4th, 5th or 6th conversation about fucking bootcamps—and what I see, the only people I see that consistently do well in these bootcamps are people who already have experience in whatever that is; if it’s programming, UX, data science, they already have done a lot of stuff on their own, right? And they’re using that crunch time, whatever that time frame, to really focus on something. They’re not—these people aren’t learning; they’re brushing up on their skills. They’re… you know, to them, a bootcamp is a continuing ed class. They’re just tryna do this, and then they’re tryna use that network to help them get a job. That is where it works.


Jonathan: Aw. Yeah! I’m really glad you said that. That’s pretty much what I was tryna do. It makes sense, but when you start doin’ it, it’s completely not that.

Kim: Exactly! And so, you have people who can come in and see a shitty curriculum, [Jonathan laughs] but still make it work for themselves because they have other mentors, or they know enough, or… and so, they can make this work. But what happens is, it’s not enough people like that to make this model work. It’s not. There’re not. There’re not enough people who can make this shit work. So what they do is, they bring in the sales and the PR people that now sell this shit to everybody. They are—you’re allowing… so at least you had some experience.

Jonathan: I really felt bad for the people who didn’t, because they were coming into the program very confused, and I’m tryna—I wanted to help people. I wanted to be like a resource to help people and at least help people to understand the basics first, because people are coming into the program and they don’t even have a basic foundation of graphic design.


Kim: People are comin’ into that program—you talkin’ about UX; that’s… OK, we gonna get to UX—people are comin’ into the programming side of this not even knowin’ what a variable is.

Jonathan: Oh, wow. Yes.

Kim: What the hell?

Jonathan: The pre-coursework is supposed to teach you that, though, but, you know, every bootcamp has a pre-course thing that they do, like intro to JavaScript or whatever, that should teach you that, and kinda vet students out.

Kim: See that—lemme challenge that. See, that’s the problem. That’s the… that right there would not be enough people to make this profitable. So that’s why, yeah, you would think that this pre-coursework would be for people to say, “Hey, we see you’re strugglin’ with this. Now is not the time for you to take this course. Why don’t you take so more stuff and then come back.” No, that’s not what they’re doin’. That’s not the way they’re doin’ it.


Jonathan: Oh, but how they profit is lockin’ you into the ISA. That’s bull.

Kim: So that’s what I’m getting to. So it’s not even, the bootcamp is not—education is not the business model. The ISA is the business model, and they’re tryna wrap everything they can in the universe around, “How can we exploit this model to make money?”

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, and they have guidelines around when you could withdraw from your ISA, before you don’t owe anything, right? So they tried to tell me that I was 70% invested in the ISA when the program is about roughly nine months long, and I only did like a successful month. Everything happens in the month. You do a unit, it’s like an accelerated program, I guess, if you could call it that. It’s definitely not college, it’s just—it’s a cookie cutter curriculum. Like you was sayin’, the curriculum is really whack. It’s a cookie cutter curriculum.

Kim: Yeah, they pull some shit off line or whatever, and you have people design it—you have people who’re designing it who do not have backgrounds in designing curriculums, they just may have had a job doin’ somethin’; they’ve never worked with students. It is a shit show, as the dude said in… “Boomerang”: “from the rooty to the tooty.”



Jonathan: Naw, it’s fo’ real a shit show.

Kim: Nothing about that environment is conducive to learning. Nothing.

Jonathan: I think the worst part is you got people, you putting people in a authority type of a position with the TLs and the Section Leads at Lambda School; that pretty much runs the whole thing. Everything is run off Zoom and Slack. So I’m probably not sayin’ anything that’s new, that’s different; you prolly just hearin’ the same thing over and over about Lambda School, but I think the worst part is, you could go through about two units of the program where it’s like 10 units, I think, and then after that you’re basically like a student expert that can oversee a cohort, and they pay you a part-time wage to—I guess—work remotely with their team and oversee a cohort and help them to navigate the cohort, which is like, “What? This person doesn’t know anything about anything,” you know, and putting them…

Kim: And then you put… but it takes somebody like you who’s been in the space to understand that this person doesn’t know anything. If you’ve come in here and you have no experience and this person is put in front of you, you assume that they know what they’re talkin’ about. Not that they got out of the cohort ahead of yo ass.

Jonathan: Yeah, [laughs] yeah, that’s the—that’s definitely the manipulation part, where it’s you takin’ advantage of the people who really don’t know what’s goin’ on.


Kim: And that’s the majority of people. And that’s… as I said, there’re not enough people who, like yourself, have some experience and are usin’ it to fine-tune and to challenge your own imposter syndrome. So this is—lemme talk about imposter syndrome for a minute. Because you have some experience, I’m gonna say yes, you probably did have imposter syndrome. What the problem is is they gaslight all these goddamn otha people who do not have imposter syndrome. These people don’t know shit. You cannot have imposter syndrome if you don’t know shit. How do you have… so you have people who don’t know what a variable is and you’re gaslightin’ their ass when they get to something like classes and objects and they’re like, “What the hell is this shit?”

Because they think that… but by the time you get to that part of the curriculum—and from what I’m hearing—you’ve already passed, you’ve already invested so much time in, so now you owe them money. So they think they slick on that shit too. ‘Cause at the beginning, they give you the easy shit. So you don’t see the problems. They give you the easy stuff. And by the time you get to where you really questionin’, “What the fuck is going on?” Now you vested, and now you like, “Well, I can’t stop, because I gotta pay them, so I might as well keep goin’.” And all this. Mmm. So how did yo program—we gonna get into it—but how did your program break down?


Jonathan: I mean, you pretty much know exactly how it works so far. Like…

Kim: Oh, no no no. I want people who’re listenin’… I want you to tell me how this…

Jonathan: Oh, how they discontinued the program?

Kim: Yeah. How did all this shit happen?

Jonathan: I basically saw that it was shit show. Right? And the way the curriculum was going, people were gettin’ to the third month of the program, and they were failin’ the unit, and they had to keep redoin’ the unit. In their program they call it “flex,” you “flex the unit.”

Kim: That’s some damn mediocre white male bullshit. Why the fuck—what the fuck does “flex the unit” mean?

Jonathan: It’s all bullshit.

Kim: That’s what I’m… what the fuck does “flex the unit” mean? Why can’t you just say you finished the unit? What the fuck? What’s the fuckin’ “flex the unit?” See, this is how people in tech start usin’ this fucking language, and people start thinkin’ you know what the hell you talkin’ about. [Jonathan laughs] The fuck is “flex the unit?” Did you finish the fucking unit? Did you pass the goddamn assessment? That’s all… [laughs]


Jonathan: They have a whole vocabulary for everything. There’s a vocabulary for everything. Really it’s a cult; that’s how I see it. They prey on the people who don’t know, who’re the weakest, who’re going through the hardest time—and I met a lot of people they goin’ through some really really hard times. Some people’re sick; some people have chronic injuries—like I have a chronic injury—but otha people going through similar stuff like I am. They want—everybody’s going through their pain or their hurt, and it just seems like Lambda is the hope for them. Like, “Oh, Lambda is gonna help me get a job that makes more than 50K. And once I could do that, my life will be more on track.” And then I feel bad for them because I’m trying to tell ’em, “Yo, look, Lambda School doesn’t know shit; this is a bullshit-ass program; try ta get out of here; get out of the ISA.” But by the time you actually realize that it’s bullshit, like you said, is you already x percent invested in the ISA.



Jonathan: …you already x percent invested in the ISA.

Kim: OK, so question for you: so when you miss a “flex,” [Jonathan laughs] when you miss a “flex” and you have to take this thing over again, is that counted towards the time?

Jonathan: It shouldn’t. That’s the argument they tried to do with me on Twitter. That’s exactly what happened. So with the ISA, they were saying there was—so how they do it is they have these weekly sprints, like if you’re workin’ agile in a startup, and you’re doing these weekly sprints or whatever—and so they said like at seven sprints, that’s when I’m supposed to be 70% invested, which makes no sense because that’s only seven weeks into the program, and the program is…

Kim: Nine months; so that’s not 70 fuckin’ percent.

Jonathan: It’s not.

Kim: Y’all don’t know how to do fuckin’ percentages. [Laughs]

Jonathan: I was like, “What?” You know, I’m in the second month in. Two units. I’m 70% in? That makes no sense. But yeah, so they said after four sprints, you can basically back out of the ISA.


Kim: OK, so hold on. Hold on. How long is a sprint? Is it a two week sprint?

Jonathan: No, it’s one week.

Kim: So you do a sprint every week. So that means in a month…

Jonathan: Yeah. In a month, you do four sprints. In a month.

Kim: Uh-huh, and then by the end of that month, you need to have made your decision to get the hell out.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, basically. Then you can get out of the ISA scot-free. But I did three weeks of the second unit, the three sprints, and then I quote-unquote “flexed,” right, air quotes, I “flexed.” And then I was like, “Yeah, I flexed at the end, on the final sprint.” I was like, “Yeah, just let me do this sprint again. I didn’t deliver it the right way, whatever. Let’s do a revision.” They’re like, “Ah, we don’t really do revisions.” And I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t make sense because if you tryna actually duplicate what goes on in a real-world environment, revisions are part of the design process, so you should give me a revision.”

And they’re like, “Oh, that’s not how this works. You gotta do the whole unit again, ’cause you flexed.” So I was like, “All right, boom. So I’ma do it again.” But then I was like, “You know, I’m just gonna withdraw. I’m tired.” They flexed—I got flexed twice, so I was already tired of it. I was like, “Man, you know, I’m flexing really for no reason. It’s some stupid shit. Y’all tryna tell me this is tech; this is not tech. This is dumb,” you know. So I withdrew. And then, it wasn’t till—and this was months ago. This was 2019; the end of 2019. I withdrew like November 2019, and I was just finding out a couple of weeks ago about the ISA thing. They were like, “Oh, if you don’t report your income in full, you gotta pay 21K.” And I was freakin’ out, ’cause I…


Kim: OK. Stop right there. Stop, stop, stop, stop right there?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Kim: When you withdrew, did you—is there official withdrawal?

Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. They email it to—well, it’s not super official—they just email you and let you know that you withdrew.

Kim: And so at that time, in that email, did it say you owe this amount?

Jonathan: Naaaaa. Naaaaa. [Kim laughs] ‘Cause they use a whole ‘nother service for that. [Kim laughs] They use a whole ‘nother service that emails—that handles all that and then…

Kim: OK, so you leave in November.

Jonathan: Mhm.

Kim: And you get something a few weeks ago from this other service that says you owe this—well, you need to report your income so that they can audit you to see where you are.

Jonathan: If you make more than 50K, yeah.

Kim: On a program that they discontinued.

Jonathan: That they discontinued. They literally discontinued the program, like two or three weeks after I was done with it. So, like in December, January, they discontinued it.


Kim: OK, OK, so… mmm. Y’all know. Y’all know. Y’all know. This, this… I don’t get angry often, because I don’t let white people get to me like that. This right here, as an educator, bothers the shit out of me to no end, because education is such a complex—and as you parents have learned with your kids at home during the pandemic and all y’all freaking the fuck out—everybody can’t teach—even though y’all think y’all can—everybody can’t teach. It is a professional skill set.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s not for everybody.

Kim: And so, as an educator, as someone who has taught public, private, in school activities, out of school activities, ages three to damn near in tha grave, who has a master’s degree in training and development, which means I write curriculums, I write workshops; that is what I… that’s why it means absolutely nothing for me to do a talk, have a talk scheduled for 10:00 and get up at 3:00 in the morning and write the talk, because that is what I do.

And I have to think very clearly about the order of things, how they connect to each other, and scaffolding, how we move from—that’s why I start with definitions, ’cause I want everybody usin’ the same vocabulary when we start, so that we all have it, and then you scaffold, you grow, and you build. So I don’t fucking understand if a—whatever the fuck you call it—if it’s a flex or whatever, if you have a unit—let’s say it’s a month-long unit—and you’re taking assessments every week and you’ve passed three, and on the fourth one you don’t pass, they make you take the whole fuckin’ unit over. That makes no damn sense.

Jonathan: Yeah.


Kim: Because the other units should have been an indication that I needed help. So if I am only “flexing” this last part, then let’s review the last part. What is going on in the last one. So this is… mmm. So then you have people—and then you come into marginalized communities, and I’m gonna tell you, Black and brown communities have never had great reputations or great experiences with education—so now you’re fuckin’ with that right there. This is the very reason our parents don’t want to come into our schools, ’cause we treat them like shit; this is why our kids are runnin’ the hell out of schools.

So now you come to the most vulnerable people in the community, who already have a history of systemic racism in education, and then you give them the whole, “Hey, we can get you out of this shit. We can make your life great. We can do this thing for you.” And yet you’re tackin’ on $21,000—and that’s a fuckin’ minimum, because most people owe hell of a lot mo’ money than that—onto something. But when I left in November, you didn’t tell me about it. Months later, while in a fucking pandemic, you send me a goddamn email for this bullshit!

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. [Kim sighs] Exactly.

Kim: All right. [Scoffs]

Jonathan: You could be angry for me, Kim. It’s alright. [Kim laughs] You could be angry for me, that’s fine.


Kim: But the thing is, you had the wherewithal to know how to fight for yourself. I’m angry for all those otha people who are sitting back thinking this shit is their fault. Because if you don’t “flex” or whatever, ’cause even in these otha programs like Pursuit and Holberton, whatever the one other one is in California—starts with an H—is, they gaslight you and say, “You’re not working the system. You’re not doing this. It’s your fault you’re not doing this.” Instead of the fact that your fuckin’ curriculum and your system fuckin’ sucks and, and then you have—OK, so that you were in it during the time when Lambda was not even legally able to fuckin’, wasn’t supposed to be doin’ anything because they were not certified in the state of fuckin’ California.

Jonathan: Exactly. Yep. That story had just came out in the press while I was there, and I was aksin’ about it; I was like, “Yo, I saw this story in the press. What does that mean for my Lambda experience? What is this?” You know, and they were trying to assure me, “Na, we good, everything’s gonna be OK,” but I knew Lambda School was—I don’t know, they… I don’t want to say it’s fraudulent, or it’s a scam…

Kim: No, it’s fraudulent. Fuck, it’s fraudulent.

Jonathan: It’s definitely corny, though, and you’re not gonna…


Kim: It’s subpar; it is not… it’s fraudulent—and I’m gonna tell you why; you can try to fuckin’ sue if you want to—it’s fraudulent because you are setting a standard of what you’re gonna give to students, and you’re not fuckin’ delivering that. That is fraud.

Jonathan: And they definitely couldn’t deliver with the UX track. That’s why they discontinued it. They weren’t getting anybody any UX offers from that program; I don’t remember anybody getting it. And it was just real cookie cutter. You can’t really teach UX to somebody like that. UX, UI design, you know—or at least I don’t think so—in the way that they…

Kim: Well, but the whole thing is—and this is again why everybody is not a fuckin’ educator—that’s all we learned in K-12 is differentiating instruction. Everything is about how do you get to make sure each specific student’s needs are met and they can meet the benchmarks? I was Special Ed certified. Shit, I had 10 people in the class; we had to get to the same finish line, but my students were not going to get there together at the same time and in the same way.

Jonathan: Ah. Yeah.

Kim: And this one size fits all model for education does not fuckin’ work.

Jonathan: For sure.

Kim: I have been talking about bootcamps since 2017. This shit does—no, it was before then. ‘16. This shit—no, it was before then… yeah, that was ‘16, because it was the reason why I started my talks about mentoring, ’cause I was like, these schools are not doin’ enough to get these students—once you finish the bootcamp, there’s a big Grand Canyon between finishin’ a bootcamp and gettin’ a job. There’s so much there. So tell me something about—you mentioned it was like a cult; because you’re not the first person to say that. What do you mean by that?


Jonathan: To me, how I think about a cult is like they’re a group of people that prey on weaker-minded people and then try to mold the way that they think, right? And the way that they see things. That’s how I feel. That’s why I went throughout Lambda, pretty much, I felt like everything was the “Lambda Way,” you know, they start by love-bombing you, tellin’ you you’re a rock star, you’re doin’ great. Gonna to be a rockstar.

Kim: Oh my god, all these fucking cliché, mediocre white dude terminology. Were you called a ninja, too? Did they tell you to do 10x? [Laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah, you gonna be a rockstar; you gonna be a ninja. You know, they love your work, they love the way that you think. But then when you start to challenge them a little bit, or you start to think for yourself, then it’s like, “Oh, well that’s not the ‘Lambda Way.’ You shouldn’t do it like that. That’s not how we do it here.”

Kim: So what is the Lambda way? Can you point to what the—is the “Lambda Way” written down somewhere? What is the Lambda way?

Jonathan: They have this rubric. Everything’s in a Google Doc. So they have this rubric on a spreadsheet, you know, whatever. And that’s how they score everything. Just do everything by the rubric and you’ll be straight.


Kim: But that’s not a… but that’s not… So to me, the “Lambda Way” sounds like there is a set process for how things operate, for how we do things. Not necessarily core values… the word’s still not coming to me…

Jonathan: It’s basically the culture. Yeah, the “Lambda Way” is that basically their culture.

Kim: So that’s what I’m asking you. A culture does not come from a damn rubric. So what the fuck is the “Lambda Way?” See, this is where—this is why I challenge these people, ’cause they use terms and they use ’em fuckin’ incorrectly. A rubric is used to measure—that is how you measure your progress, your ability—that’s what rubrics are used for in education. A rubric is used as a benchmark. So how the fuck is the “Lambda Way” a benchmark? Tell me.

Jonathan: I guess what I’m tryin’ to say is, the rubric is one of the tools that they—so the “Lambda Way” is basically just like pro-Lamba all the time, don’t say anything that…

Kim: But what does that mean? So that’s what… what I’m getting to—and this is not about you—this is about the ethos—that’s what I was looking for, the word ethos. [Laughs] So, if I’m in an organization and it’s the… fuck this! We could talk about the #CauseAScene community, right? In the #CauseAScene community, we follow the four guiding principles which are—and everybody should be able to articulate this—tech is not neutral, intention without strategy is chaos, lack of inclusion is a risk management issue, and we have to prioritize the most vulnerable. That is the ethos. That is the culture of this community. Tellin’ me what the fucking “Lambda Way” is, and you keep reciting that shit, but you can’t tell me what that is, means absolutely nothing.



…but you can’t tell me what that is, means absolutely nothing. So it’s bullshit.

Jonathan: Of course. Of course.

Kim: Yeah, OK. All right. That’s… I just… OK.

Jonathan: I’m really just tryna explain to you some bullshit; I’m tryna interpret this ambiguous bullshit, [Kim laughs] and I’m tryna explain it to you, but it’s hard to explain it to you because it’s some stupid shit. It’s really some stupid tech bro bullshit from Silicon Valley.

Kim: And I wanted to just challenge you on one thing, because you said it’s weak minded. We need to be careful about that, because they’re not preying on the weak minded. They’re targeting the most vulnerable. They’re targeting people who are desperate. They’re targeting people… yeah.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’m sorry. They’re not weak minded people, they just don’t know any better, that’s all.

Kim: But that’s not it. That’s—the fact that they don’t know—is not it, ’cause what the fuck education is about. That’s not it. They’re targeting the most vulnerable and desperate people in our communities. And so when you feel you don’t have a lifeline and someone throws you a lifeline, you take the fuckin’ lifeline.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Kim: So I’m challenging on that, just because I really want people to understand this, ’cause what you just said put it back on the students. And these are not the students fault.


Jonathan: Oh, it’s not. Not at all. Not at all. It’s 100% the program and the way—the bullshit design—they’re more focused on how they designed the business versus how they designed the actual course.

Kim: Because the business is the ISA, it is not education, because if it was education you would have—somewhere on your to do list—would have been to apply for a fuckin’ education status or whatever the hell it is in California. You would have put that on a goddamn to do list. Also, you wouldn’t have all this, the attorneys and legal system you have—I mean, legal support you have—around ISA, but not somebody to inform you how do you start at school legally in the state of California? That right there tells me what the priorities are.

Jonathan: Yeah. I feel like—it was hard when I tried to get in contact with somebody. I just wanted to pick up the phone and call somebody and let them know I was having this issue, and have them resolve it. You know, just like anything else, you call customer service or something like that, and you should get service. But they didn’t have their own address…

Kim: Who is they?

Jonathan: Lambda School’s website. On Lambda School’s website. They didn’t have anybody who could take care of me, so I…


Kim: OK, OK. OK, lemme stop you there. So you got an email from the other service? They had ways to contact them though, right?

Jonathan: No. No, not by the phone. [Kim laughs]

Kim: So the only thing you could do is through email? You couldn’t discuss?

Jonathan: Yeah. Through a contact form. So they could filter everything.

Kim: So you get a email saying, months later, during a pandemic, that you owe $21,000, and the only contact you can make is through a contact form?

Jonathan: Yes.

Kim: In the email, in the signature section, it did not have a phone number?

Jonathan: Naw, not that I remember at all.

Kim: So now, Lambda, because…

Jonathan: No, I was tryna find one. Everywhere.

Kim: So they basically have distanced themselves from this entity that is enforcing the ISAs, but neither of them have an effective way for you to communicate with anybody. 

Jonathan: Yeah, you can’t just pick up the phone and call them. Can’t just pick up the phone and call them. They’re… I see how the business is designed to where they can control the conversation.

Kim: And to frustrate people, then people just to say, “Fuck it, I’m done. I’ll just pay the money ’cause it’s just easier.”

Jonathan: It’s a dark pattern there. There’s a…


Kim: Oh, OK. OK, I’m happy you brought that up, ’cause one of the things I teach people in this community is: spot the patterns. So what’s the pattern here? What’s the pattern we need to be lookin’ for?

Jonathan: Well, one of the things I noticed, for instance, if you go to the Lambda School website, you can’t find any real contact information; you can only contact them through a contact form. They have a single call to action to apply now, all of the marketing and the UX copy and everything that’s on the website is there to sell you, it’s there to make a really good hard sale and for you to apply, but there’s really no way to get on the phone and talk to somebody. They’re going to reach out to you after that. You gonna fill out the contact form, they’re gonna reach out to you; they do everything through email. And I’ve noticed that when they want to cut you off, they could just cut you off. Bam! Just like that. They…

Kim: ‘Cause they just simply not reply to your emails anymore.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. As simple as that. They could just not reply you. They—when I withdrew—they kicked me right out of the Slack right away, which is their central hub for everything. And yeah, it’s that fast. Just remove me from the Slack…


Kim: And so, again, I wanna stop you here, because they have—they obviously have systems, processes, procedures, and policies in place when someone chooses to leave this shit. But they don’t have those same things effectively in place—I mean, that’s for their… that saves them. But they don’t have anything for these vulnerable people who they have targeted.

Jonathan: No. They don’t care about that. [Kim chuckles] They don’t care about that at all. They don’t care about anything that…

Kim: So, OK, so… go ahead.

Jonathan: The thing that I learned from Lambda School, one lesson I learned hard core just in the corporate world in general, is that people don’t care about my shit. They don’t care about what I’m goin’ through in my life. They don’t care how vulnerable I am. They don’t care that I have this injury—I have a really bad injury—they don’t care that I need to have surgeries, and get my health right and all that; they don’t care about that. And I learned that firsthand at Lambda School, even though I wasn’t gettin’ paid to do anything there, when they wanted something delivered at a certain time, and they were asking a lot of me to deliver on something—and they want a full time commitment, you know, like it’s a full time job. They didn’t care if I have pain, if I had a pain flareup, or if I’m feeling chronic pain and I’m tellin’ ’em, “Hey, look, it might take a little bit longer for me to deliver this.” They don’t care about that.


Kim: So you’re targeting the vulnerable, and yet you don’t care about their vulnerability.

Jonathan: Exactly. They don’t care about that.

Kim: So… go ahead.

Jonathan: And then, to take that even a step further, they’re like, “We want you to prove that you’re having this chronic condition. Show us some paperwork,” stuff like that. And it’s like…

Kim: But you not a fuckin’ school, so I don’t have to disclose this shit to you.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s just so… it’s so much, you know.

Kim: OK, so I wanna back up here. OK, so Nolan—or Noel [Baron]—helped you out here.

Jonathan: Oh yeah, Noel.

Kim: How did you… do you know him or did he just see your…

Jonathan: I mean, I know him from Twitter.

Kim: That’s what I’m sayin’. So did you know him before this? Or did he just see your…

Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah yeah.


Kim: OK, so Noel put out a tweet that said—’cause this was after they decided to cancel your loan—and he screenshot Austin’s message, and I want you to tell me what you felt about when you read this message. It said—hold on, lemme read it—so you sent out a whole fuckin’ thread talkin’ about what the problem was, and then Austin says, “Wanted to thank JM for bringing this to my attention. His tweet caused me to ask a series of questions about his experience in the refund policy, particularly for students that drop out in the first few weeks. In JM’s specific case we are, as I’ve told him, we’re cancelling his ISA.” So, talk to me about that.

Jonathan: [Inhales] Man, I saw that and I was like, “Did you have to do it like that?”

Kim: Like what?

Jonathan: Like that he said it was unusual; in my specific case. It’s not fuckin’ unusual at all. There’s nuttin’ unusual about it, you know, this shit happens to people damn near every fuckin’ day.

Kim: What shit happens to people? I want you to be specific.

Jonathan: The fact that people leave the bootcamp and they want their ISAs cancelled. That happens to people all the time. At least with the UX program, the wave of cohorts that came from the UX program all had their ISAs cancelled, so I was like, “Why didn’t I get my ISA cancelled?” So they took to Twitter, got all their ISAs cancelled; I thought mine’s got cancelled too, but apparently it didn’t, so that’s why I took to Twitter on my own.


Kim: And so this why I’d say, “People, fuck you and your damn problems with ‘cancel culture.'” Cancel culture is the only thing that is holding people accountable nowadays.

Jonathan: Facts. Fo’ real.

Kim: Because if you hadn’t had Twitter and if Nolan [correction: Noel] hadn’t—’cause that’s where it came to my attention—hadn’t jumped in and used, you know, put your shit out there on Twitter in public—first of all, no one should hafta do that. No one should have to put all their personal shit out there just to get attention just so they can say, “Hey, look at me. I got a problem over here.”

And the fact that he—see again, this plays into that white supremacist thing of always a hero or victim and never the villain. Oh, he was doing you a favor. He’s gonna give this one solid for you by cancelling your thing and not speaking to the fact of [yelling] the fuckin’ program was cancelled, Austin!

Jonathan: [Laughs] Yep. Exactly.

Kim: See that misses all—that’s what it just got me with that; I was like, “Oh, that’s cute. That’s real cute. You want to make this position [inaudible].” And mind you, this is the same dude who wrote a whole article advocating voluntary homelessness, which is the most privileged bullshit I have ever heard in my muthafuckin’ life. Anybody who is actually homeless, would not advocate that.


Jonathan: Nobody tryna be homeless. I was homeless before too. I was homeless for five years straight, you know, and I never chose to be homeless. That’s…

Kim: And you never glamorize it as a way to start a business.

Jonathan: No, definitely not. The only way you could start a business and be homeless is if you white, fo’ sure.

Kim: So he puts out this statement again, and then you have people underneath tweeting, I’m sure, “Thank you Austin for doing this,” and da da da da da. And yet, nothing says, “We cancelled this program.”

Jonathan: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly.

Kim: “Jonathan did not finish. We cancelled the program.” And even lie. Just lie. “It was a mistake on our part,” just like that. That would have been better than making it sound like, “Oh, we’re just doing—in this one particular instance… And particularly since you’re disabled we want to make sure we do it…”

Jonathan: All the way through, Kim, to be honest, I was on the phone with him, before, on the Zoom call. And he wasn’t tryna to cancel the ISA.” I was aksin’ him, I was like, “Listen, man, I need you to cancel the ISA.” He had the nerve to tell me on the phone—and I was watchin’, I had my camera off, I was watchin’—he had his feet kicked up on his desk and all that, chillin’, you know, just vibin’.


Kim: While you havin’ a life fuckin’ crisis, but go ‘head.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I saw how he didn’t give a fuck about my situation. At all. He was tryna make me a deal like, “Oh, you know, you gotta pay something because,” you know, because I got a job that pays more than 50K. So…

Kim: But the job… OK, hold on, I want you to finish that story. But that job you got that pays more than 50K, did that program do anything to get you that damn job?

Jonathan: No. Absolutely not.

Kim: And that’s [clap] the shit [clap] that’s pissin’ me off. They are profiting off people who come to a failed fuckin’ program, figure this shit out themselves, get a goddamn job, and then they want to take some shit out yo pocket.

Jonathan: Exactly. So I was trying to tell him like, “Yo, listen, man.” ‘Cause he aksed, he was like, “What would you do if it was me?” And I would be like, “Look, listen, man,” like, “Not for nothing, it’s not even about—if you wanna really do good business, at the end of the day, you’ll cancel the contract. You know, if you want to do good business, ’cause I didn’t get value from the program.” I would have been willing to pay if I got some type of value out of the program. I didn’t get anything out of that. He was tryna to make me a 10% deal, but even that 10% it’s like, two stacks, $2000. Why pay $2000 for a program that…


Kim: For some shit, you didn’t do.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Kim: So I just got a puppy, right? All right.

Jonathan: [Happily] Yeah.

Kim: She’s a small puppy. So I bought a harness. The harness is too damn big. She walks her ass right the hell up out the harness, right? The harness does not work. So I take the harness back and say, “Hey, I need a smaller harness.” It’s that damn simple. It’s not personal. [Laughs] The shit I wanted did not work, so I need to get it returned. Or exchanged for something else. And he had nothing else to offer you.

Jonathan: Yeah, you don’t expect the cashier to be like, “What you want me to do? If you was in my shoes?” You want the cashier to just give you a smaller fuckin’ harness. That’s it. It’s not that difficult. And wi’ Austin, when I was on the phone with him, I was like, “You gotta be shittin’ me right now. You think I’m fuckin’ dumb.” So I went to Twitter pretty much after that, and I was like, “Austin said that he… what would I do if I was in his situation? What do you guys think, on Twitter?” And then a whole buncha people started commenting; they was like, “He should fuckin’ cancel your ISA. Da da da da da.” I was like, “Yeah, this was the good move right here.”


Kim: Mhm. And people—and you have just proven why I am on Twitter. Yes, Twitter’s an absolute…

Jonathan: It happened on LinkedIn too, also. I’ve seen it happen on LinkedIn.

Kim: But that’s what I’m sayin’; but this is why social media, all these platforms are problematic as hell, particularly for people of color ‘n Black folx. But you know what? This is the only place that we can really get recourse. This is—by shaming, by cancelling, by cussing out, by callin’ out, by doin’ whatever we need to do publicly—this is the only way these damn people listen.

Jonathan: Yeah. Otherwise, I would have been stuffed with 21K. Or, letting him just…

Kim: Over… in a fizzled out quote unquote “program.” [Laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah. A completely failed, epically failed program.

Kim: [Laughs] Epically failed program. So what would you like to say in your… [sighs] What else you want to add? ‘Cause I’m just like, I’m tired now. [Laughs]


Jonathan: I know. It’s emotionally draining.

Kim: It is.

Jonathan: I definitely learned a lot. I just… you know, but from being on Twitter and stuff, social media, I learned that there are people who read tweets and care and have empathy and those are the people we gotta connect with more, we gotta build stronger relationships with, and that there’s just simply other people—you have good and evil. You have other people who are tryna manipulate, gaslight, bring you onto their cult or whatever, and just treat you however, like you ain’t shit, and they don’t care, you know? So that’s definitely summin’ that I learned for sure.

Kim: Well, I’m happy you mentioned that because I’m going to make an announcement right here that I—because I saw that when I was on vacation last week. And it infuriated me, and because I was on vacation, I promised myself that I would not weigh in, but before I went on vacation—I don’t know, it may have been your tweet—and I was like, I’m done having these conversations. This would be the last podcast I have about these fraudulent ass bootcamps. And why, you may ask, community? Because I am launching the #CauseAScene Technology Bootcamp.

Jonathan: Ooh, OK.


Kim: Yup. So I’m sick of talkin’ to them. I’m sick of talkin’ about them. I need them gone. So we need to provide an alternative.

Jonathan: That’s right. That’s right.

Kim: And so you will be hearing more about this. I’m working with my team now to get a webpage up that will address this. But just say that this bootcamp will be quality. It will prioritise the humans. I will focus—it will focus more on mentoring and getting people in networks and getting jobs, and it will be free.

Jonathan: Wow! That sounds like a good program.

Kim: So, again, thank you for comin’ on. Thank you for sharin’ this story. I’m sick of these fuckin’ stories.

Jonathan: Thanks for havin’ me.


Kim: I’m sick of all the harm that is being caused. ‘Cause when you talk about fuckin’ generational wealth, how the fuck do you not… we are cutting people off at their knees with this shit. Learnin’ to code ain’t that—learning is hard as hell. Learning anything is hard as hell. Learnin’ to code should not be this fuckin’ complicated. It’s already hard as hell. All these other barriers and shit people puttin’ in the way aren’t necessary. So, yeah, so just know that we will be launching the #CauseAScene Technology Bootcamp. 

And hopefully I’ll have the first cohort by the end of the year. If not, at the beginning of the year. But thank you so much. I am so tired. [Laughs] This just aggravates the hell out of me, because it breaks my heart; because I know the people who are being harmed and they’re people that look like you and I. And it’s impacting their families; I mean, this is… think about some person walkin’—call themselves goin’ to school—and walkin’ away with $21,000 in debt and did not learn a goddamn thing.

Jonathan: That’s a fact.

Kim: Thank you so much, and have a wonderful day.

Jonathan: All right, thank you, Kim.

Jonathan Martinez

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  1. […] general, the period between 2019 and 2020 was when Lambda School began to see a steady stream of criticism from the media as well as anonymous accounts on social media, as well as its own subreddit. […]