Anthony J. Campbell

Lambda School - Week 5: Build week

Anthony J. Campbell
Lambda School - Week 5: Build week
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Week 5 of Lambda School's Full-Stack program is done! Block 1: Web Foundations is over!

For those not in the know, I’m a student at Lambda School’s Full-Stack Web Development program (Read more here). In short, Lambda School is an online learning company offering 30-week programs in programming that are free until you get a job. If you don’t get a job, they don’t get paid.

I do a write-up every single week about my experiences. If you're not caught up just yet, here are Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Finally, if you’re interested in signing up for Lambda School yourself, please consider using this link. With it, you’ll receive $250 after you attend your first day and Lambda will give me $250 for sending you there! Win-win!

Getting The Keys To The Playground

This week, there were no lectures, no coding challenges, no instruction. It was finally time to put all our newly-learned skills to the test and build a full-blown project.

Normally Lambda School students work in teams of approximately eight people. Students from the UX and Data Science cohorts will join forces with multiple Web students and together constitute a product team - Scrum master included. However, since we're the first EU cohort and timezones are a b*tch to deal with, we had a slightly different approach.

Instead, we were asked to find a site template or landing page and replicate it to the best of our ability. Recreating Craigslist wasn't allowed, unfortunately. So, some of us hit up ColorLib and others decided to recreate the AirBnB or Stripe homepages. We collectively tried to find a theme that was both A.) challenging and B.) still doable with the skillset learnt in the previous four weeks.

A Pretty Fly Startup Landing Page

I've always been a big fan of ColorLib's BootStrap themes. They're really well-built and look great! With Bootstrap, I thought it'd be a piece of cake! And then I found out we weren't allowed to use Bootstrap…

Deciding to soldier on, I eventually settled on this theme and got to work.

We had four days to complete the project and were free to add as much or as little functionality as you wanted. They practically threw down the gauntlet, telling us “Impress me.

Our instructors on Monday morning.

Our instructors on Monday morning.

Frankly, most of us could've probably completed their projects in three days. Yeah, they don't kid around at Lambda.

For most of us, our progress looked somewhat like this:

  • Day 1: Planning, wire-framing, HTML, positioning, and gathering assets;

  • Day 2: Styling, responsive design, adding functionality like mobile dropdown menus;

  • Day 3: Code refactoring, generating components via JS classes, bug-fixing;

  • Day 4: Final touch-ups, even more bug-fixing, and catching up on lost sleep.

The best part of the entire week? The post-finish 20 minute nap!

And here's the end-result:

At it's core, it's just a basic startup homepage fit for any SaaS or subscription service. I just decided to have with it and create some modular components that can be reused through the entire site.

It was definitely tricky to get all the positioning and styling just right - especially since a buffoon has more sense of design that I do. However, it all worked out quite well in the end. Everything works the way it’s supposed to across a myriad of devices.

To get a better idea of what a Lambda students are capable of, one of my peers agreed to share their work.

Maxime's (@MaximeSalomon) is from France and has quite a bit of experience with design - as you'll see. Not content with just doing the normal challenge like us mere mortals, he decided to up the ante a bit. He made a full-blown design in Sketch before ever typing a single line in code and decided to learn React on the fly by building the website and googling stuff as he went along.

Yeah, he takes Lambda pretty seriously. The result speaks for itself.

Hero - Croissant LambdaSchool BW1.png

Long story short; Maxime's a baller.

He went the extra mile, built an API entirely from scratch (!), got it up and running through Node and Express (Neither of which have been covered as part of the curriculum yet), and built his own CMS pretty much from scratch. He knows what he's doing! By the way, check him out on LinkedIn!

Once again, all of this was made in less than four days by people who'd never coded before in their life before starting Lambda!

Some gorgeous design by Maxime!

Some gorgeous design by Maxime!

Going Forward

Next week we'll be covering React. Luckily, I already feel pretty confident using it, so it'll be mostly filling in the gaps for me. As a precaution, though, I'm going to be reviewing all the materials in the learning kit ahead of time. In addition, I'll be going over some of my notes from when I originally learned using it. Finally, I'll be rereading Robin Wieruch's incredibly-comprehensive and easy-to-read book, ‘The Road To Learn React’.


I'm currently in university, but thinking of dropping out/taking a semester off to do Lambda. Would you recommend it?

Short answer: Maybe. Long answer: It depends on what you want to get out of it. If you want to get the hands-on experience and skillset to, let's say, launch a startup, it might be a good idea. Hell, by the end of Lambda, you're building fully-fledged MVPs, so you could launch one even before graduation. Also, it might be worth it if you want to add to whatever it is you're studying in college at the moment. This could mean a CS major getting some hands-ons experience writing low-level code, or a business major who wants to learn how to put his ideas into practice.

However, keep in mind that you do have an Income-Share agreement you have to honour. Combining those with ever-higher student debt might be a tough financial pill to swallow.

What has your experience been with the PM and instructors?

There hasn’t been a single instructor or TA who has said, “Well, that all the time I have, you’re on your own!” They all stay late and help as long as you need it, often after hours or right through lunch. Even though they have other responsibilities and their own lives to attend to. Your peers will also help you wherever they can, which only shows how welcoming a place Lambda is.

At one point, I was struggling how to ‘undo’ a Git Commit. Gabriel, our instructor, spent a good 30 minutes walking me through the different options you have to remove or redo a git commit, with the differences and respective benefits explained in great detail. He had no obligation to do so and I'm quite sure he could've used his time in more productive pursuits, but he still chose to help.

Hell, last Friday he hosted a 4+ hour-long optional lecture on building a Tic Tac Toe game in React, just because he could. Most people at Lambda seem to cherish the opportunity to help those who've fallen between the cracks of the normal system. It's a very brothers-in-arms type of deal.

How'd you first learn of Lambda School?

Austen Allred's Twitter (@Austen), which seems to be the biggest customer acquisition tool Lambda possesses at the moment.


Build week was a great change of pace and really gave us the opportunity to show what we could do with our newfound skills. It also gave us a taste of what we'll be able to do by the end of Week 30.

Next week is all about React. Finally. This is where the real fun begins. Rapid prototyping, being able to quickly throw together components. It's a game-changer. It'll be fun to see how Lambda will put us through the ringer next week. I can't wait.

Remember, the average pace is for chumps!

Until next week!