Sahil Khoja, CEO of Students Who Design, and I chat about the history of online education starting in 2005 and working our way up to modern-day.
Along the way, we discuss online trade schools, income share agreements, and what's next for education post-COVID-19.
Learn more about Students Who Design: https://www.studentswho.design/
Learn how to build your own online trade school: https://www.tryvirtually.com/
Music: R.O.A.S.N by Gil Wanders.
NOTE: The following transcript was generated by robots who don't always understand English so well. I apologize for the grammatical errors.
Students Who Design Interview
Ish: [00:00:00] What's up everybody? My name is Ish and I am the founder of virtually, and this is the virtually podcast where we discuss everything online education, including higher ed, online trade schools, bootcamps, ISA, , and so much more. This week's conversation was with Sahil kosha, the founder of students who design, we talked about the origins of online education going all the way back to 2005 and then walked up our way to modern day.
[00:00:26] It was genuinely fun to reflect on where we've been and think critically about where we're going, especially given the recent outbreak of coven 19 and the sudden spike of unemployment all around the world. This conversation was more relevant than ever, and I had a blast. I hope you enjoy as well.
[00:00:42] hey, everyone! Uh, my name is ish, uh, founder and CEO of virtually, and I am joined by Sahil Khoja, uh, the founder of students who design, uh, so sigh. How would you. Introduce yourself,
[00:00:54] Sahil: [00:00:54] yeah, sure. Uh, yeah, so my name is Sal Hill, like it's pronounced, like I saw a Hill. I'm one of the cofounders of students who designed, we first started off as a podcast just trying to help people break into the design industry. That has now evolved into a, uh, a online course, uh, and a mentorship program.
[00:01:09] So we, we help people get their first internship or job in product design, and we especially help those people who come from underrepresented backgrounds or unconventional backgrounds.
[00:01:19]Ish: [00:01:19] Awesome. And for context, for anybody listening to this in the future, at the time we're recording this, we're amidst, uh, the coronavirus Cova 19 epidemic. We're like in the thick of it right now. Uh, schools all across the country started closing right around mid March. And a lot of universities have let out as well.
[00:01:39] And, uh, it is currently April six. And so we have no idea how much longer kind of, uh, quarantining and social distancing is going to go on for. And gonna talk a lot more about students with design, but real quick right now, I'm curious, how has COVID 19 effected students who design, I guess one, it's virtual.
[00:02:00] It's online. So I imagine in that respect it hasn't impacted too much, but what about in terms of inbound interests? Have you seen a spike in interest lower? What's going on.
[00:02:09] Sahil: [00:02:09] Yeah. Um, I think there's a couple of things. So one is we. In January, I had launched a free three week course, uh, that was virtual online, but it was still instructor led. And you got feedback and as soon as the schools were like canceled and let out to go home, people were like, Hey, I'm going to be late.
[00:02:25] Like I have a lot of like an assignment submissions. I'm gonna, it's gonna be hard for me to participate. And we kinda sense that like this is going to be, this is pretty a pretty crazy time for everyone. And for them to commit to a three week course with deadlines and all that kind of stuff. It just doesn't make sense right now.
[00:02:39] So we decided to do, we were actually going to have a cohort in March and April, so what we decided to do is just give everyone access to the course. Um, the other part of it is that our bandwidth was limited because we all work full time jobs while doing students who design. So now we're also transitioning to working from home and being kind of everywhere.
[00:02:57] So it's hard for us to be devoted to the students, uh, for a free three week course. So what we did is we essentially said, if you submit. The assignments and you've made your whole case study, send it to us and we'll try to get feedback, but like nothing's really promised, given everything that's going on.
[00:03:11] And the other side of it is for our mentees, it's become harder for them to find jobs because now you know people are getting laid off, like there's hiring freezes, and especially for new grads, because like, you know, that's likely who you're not trying to hire for. If you're hiring it all right now. So I think in two ways it's been like that.
[00:03:29] So in terms of us being our bandwidth and then our mentees ability to find jobs has been difficult. Uh, and I mentioned like a spike, and that's definitely happened where I think it was last, uh, last Wednesday we released a, uh. A blog post with FEMA about how to set up an online design classroom and we saw this huge spike in applications.
[00:03:47] I think we're at like 700 something now for our three week course. Um, which is cool, but it's hard cause like we don't know how to support all these people and it makes sense. Like everyone says during a recession, the best thing to do is like go back to school because like, you don't want to get into the job market.
[00:04:01]Um. And it seems like that makes sense. Like everyone wants to like, use this time to like get better at a skill or learn something new. Like I've had friends texting me for some reason, they're like, Hey, do you know, like, where I can learn how to code? Um, and you know, like direct them to different places.
[00:04:13] But I think that's what people are trying to do is just try to upskill themselves in this time. But the issue is, is like the market demand isn't as strong as it used to be, especially for something that like design, which is already a bit more constrained if you're not senior. Um, so that's been kind of what we've seen in the last six to eight weeks.
[00:04:30] Ish: [00:04:30] Got it. Got it. And so it looks like a lot of people given their, you know, now a lot of people have a lot of free time. They're investing in their education and even though they know that they're maybe not going to be able to get work right now, they're hoping that this is going to pay off.
[00:04:44] One's kind of, the quarantine is over and kind of companies start ramping up their hiring again.
[00:04:50] Sahil: [00:04:50] Yeah.
[00:04:51] Ish: [00:04:51] Yeah. Awesome. Well, Hey, I want to dive really deep into students who design, but that's, we can kind of hold off for a little bit real quick. I kind of want to go kind of walk down memory lane and talk about where online education was all the way back in, I think 2005.
[00:05:06] And I think that's when like YouTube was founded, right. And, uh, my earliest kind of memory of
[00:05:13] education on YouTube was just like very lightweight. Like people uploading videos, instructional videos, how tos about, you know, just random topics. I know for me it was, I remember the first instructional YouTube video I'd ever watched was how to solve a Rubik's cube.
[00:05:27] And that's, that's how I learned, uh, how to solve a Rubik's cube. And I guess that was, I thought the inception of kind of online education. I know there was blogging before, but in terms of like video education, that's really where it started. Uh, what are your memories of, I guess, YouTube when it was originally, founded and I guess specifically the education side of it.
[00:05:48] Sahil: [00:05:48] Yeah. I think for me, YouTube is really big in high school where like. Uh, things like math and science didn't come natural to me, so I really went to YouTube to figure out what the hell is going on. Uh, especially for chemistry, I remember like everything for Khan Academy, like I would like, he taught me chemistry, everything for IB chemistry.
[00:06:06] So you're familiar with IB and AP IB, like topics, uh, have, sorry. IB courses have. Much more topics than just what's in the books taught in AP. Some of these like advanced, like we would do concentrations in organic chemistry and all this other stuff that I can't remember, but like I remember I would just turn to YouTube and there was a person who like just devoted him, use an IB chemistry teacher, but he also made YouTube videos.
[00:06:30] But the way he taught just clicked way better with me compared to what my teacher was doing. So I think in a way it just allows for access to like the same content, but just being delivered in different ways or in different ways that people can learn. And people eventually attached to one person. I remember this one guy thing, he had Patrick JMT.
[00:06:47] I think that's his
[00:06:48] Ish: [00:06:48] Oh, I loved
[00:06:49] Sahil: [00:06:49] Yeah, yeah,
[00:06:50] Ish: [00:06:50] multivariable
[00:06:51] Sahil: [00:06:51] exactly. Yeah. Like he's fantastic. Like to not make a mistake using a Sharpie doing calculus, like everyone knows. I like, he just knows how to do it with a Sharpie, but yeah, I just learned from him like everything too, just because you want, you can rewatch it to you. Go to the comments and then three, they do multiple different problems.
[00:07:10] Sorry. If they do. Multiple types of problems. Um, so whereas your teacher like explains it doesn't example gives you a worksheet and then you finish it and then you get homework and you can test, right? Like here you kind of have different, you can like read about it. You can read the captions, you can watch multiple videos, multiple people teaching the same concept.
[00:07:26] It's almost like people say the best way to learn is to read, write, and speak it all at the same time. And so you can do that on YouTube and listen, I guess. So in a way it helps a lot.
[00:07:37] Ish: [00:07:37] No, that makes total sense. And I, I have an experience a lot like that. I remember I transferred to a new high school in the 11th grade, and I remember signing up for BC calculus, AP BC calculus, and it was calc one calc two and this was a new school district. And I had had heard that this was a very. Very intense kind of class a, and this teacher was, you know, very strict.
[00:07:58] And I've just remember just being overwhelmed. There were too many changes happening at once, you know, new school, trying to make new friends, trying to fit in, and then also taking this really hard class. And I was just so overwhelmed and I just couldn't keep up. I know for me it's something I struggled with growing up is that a lot of.
[00:08:13] A lot of concepts just seem to come naturally to people. Whereas for me, I was a slow learner. But once I learned something, I like mastered it very quickly. And so YouTube was the way I kinda just learned, cause I didn't, I think one of the powers of the internet, um, that I saw firsthand was it democratizes the spread of information and it allows you to get access to.
[00:08:35] People who are just really great teachers. You know, like a lot of my, I think that's why I really resonated with Khan Academy. Um, you know, he was just an incredible teacher and you wouldn't, no matter you know, who your teacher was, you could have access to him as an additional resource. And, and he explained it in different terms that could really click for some people.
[00:08:54] Who for their, their teacher, the way they was, they were explaining it just didn't click. And so, yeah, and I think, you know, 2005, you know, we saw these kinds of like online education appear its first head. Uh, but then then 2008 you Udemy rolls around and they basically kind of see this niche that's going on at, on YouTube and they're like, Hey, there could be, you know, an entire company dedicated to educational content online.
[00:09:17] And so my question is, did you, did you ever use Udemy, I ever as a student or as an
[00:09:22] Sahil: [00:09:22] yeah. Multiple times. Yeah. I always have bought multiple courses. Uh, I think for you to thank you, to me, it's like a great way to F it's like, um, . I'm trying to think. It's, I think the easiest way to feel like you're improving yourself because it's like 10 bucks. Are you telling me for 10 bucks? I can learn, react like the whole thing and become a react developer for $10 like, yeah, I'm doing that.
[00:09:44] Right? Like you're going to buy it immediately. As for like the amount of like, I've never finished a you to me course probably more than 10% or 20%. Like, I have probably four or five, six courses. Cause like their marketing is great. Like everything's 90% off, 99% off, like whatever they do and like they know it works in itself.
[00:10:02]Um, but I think in a way it helps people make a passive stream of income. I just don't know. One, like the quality control. Um, and I know some people are like, this is the course. Like, you know, they do different rating systems for you, uh, to get it. But. Sometimes I think it's great maybe to learn skills that require more like rote memorization, um, or things that like, you know, like how to use Excel.
[00:10:26] Like just basic stuff. But if you're trying to learn like, uh, you know, complex computer science topics, I feel like YouTube still is better in that way. Cause you can learn from professors. You can sit in on like open course lectures at MIT, like. You know, you, me is not going to go. And I don't know how they would achieve that, but I don't think that's you.
[00:10:44] To me, it's target market. I think their target market is like people who need to learn like basic skills. Um, but the stuff that sells is like, I want to be a software engineer, so let me just buy like three or four courses on Udemy. Um, but I don't know if they actually understand those fundamental topics.
[00:10:56] That's like my personal take. I don't actually know other human users, but that's like from what I've, what I look when I see the product and I've been a user, that's what I assume.
[00:11:06] Ish: [00:11:06] Right, right. And you know, think about the time that you know, me was released 2008 I think due to being a YouTuber was not a thing. People like there were definitely people like uploading on YouTube, but you really couldn't make a living off of it yet. And so I think one of the things that really kind of made sense for you to me is that, Hey, it was one of the first ways to monetize.
[00:11:24] If you were somebody who was creating educational content on YouTube, you know, you, to me, it would come to you and say like, Hey, post a post educational content on here and now you can actually make,
[00:11:33] Sahil: [00:11:33] It's also the same thing as like 2008. Right? Like that's when everyone's probably going to stay in school or try to learn something new because the global financial crisis. So you can say the same thing. Now I feel like masterclass is advertising everywhere cause they're like, you got to upskill right now.
[00:11:48]Um, I haven't seen much from like Lambda school or other programs, but it seems like, you know, everyone's sitting at home and like Codeacademy is now free for three months and you know, everyone's trying to capture that, that sentiment of trying to get better at something while you're at home.
[00:11:59] Ish: [00:11:59] Yeah, totally. And we're about to get to masterclass and Lambda school, but before we get there, one of the things that you really mentioned at that, I think. Really, that is a stat that I've seen over and over is how low the completion rate is for courses. You know, you don't mean great idea, right? And I think the same reason people buy courses is the same reason why people buy books, right?
[00:12:17] It's because they feel like they're investing in themselves and they feel like, you know, I'm not just buying a book. I'm not just buying course. I'm buying a skill.
[00:12:25] Sahil: [00:12:25] yeah.
[00:12:26] Ish: [00:12:26] Uh, but there's no accountability. And what ends up happening is a lot of people don't actually feel pressured to complete these courses.
[00:12:33] Or books. And so we kind of now see an evolution, right? You mentioned the 2008 financial crisis, and they say that financial crisis is often accelerate, uh, education, innovation, education. And so the next kind of, um, companies that kind of emerge are course era and your Udacity, and they kind of emerged it in the 2011 to 2014 time period.
[00:12:56] And they introduced the idea of MOOCs. A massive online courses. And these are, these are live, um, and they're in like a large group setting and it's kind of meant to tackle, there's accountability settings. But turns out MOOCs don't have a great completion rate either. Actually. In fact, uh, some people have a statistic that MOOC completion rate is under 10%.
[00:13:16] So actually worse than kind of you to me courses. So I'm curious, why do you think MOOCs never took off?
[00:13:22]Sahil: [00:13:22] Um, I think they were trying to achieve that like signal parody for universities. Like, you know, your Udacity uses like the word nanodegrees and Coursera I think as certificates where like. I don't necessarily think it mapped to jobs. And that's my personal opinion that you've taken a 3000 or 2000 whatever, four digit number, you Udacity Nanodegree like you're expecting a pretty big outcome afterwards.
[00:13:46] Right. Um, same thing with Coursera. So like, I've never really seen that. If you have like today you see with like general assembly, I think they did it really well at Lambda school to an extent where like if you went here like. Everyone knows you're legit and you're certified in that way, but I've never really heard that with Coursera and you, and you'd ask it, and it could have been that the programs are offering at the time, just like.
[00:14:06] There wasn't that high of a demand for those professions. Maybe software engineering was still there, but software engineering is clearly, you know, gone increased. So as designed, so as data science and all those things. And I think they were trying to do very complex things in a time that like, you can't really do like self driving cars in a movie.
[00:14:22] Like it just doesn't make sense. Um, they seem to me, it doesn't make sense. Um. And the other part of it is like, I think schools quickly realize like general assembly and Lambda school as well. Like, you know, how are we going to help these students get jobs, right? Like, and I think some schools kind of creep into that part where like, they'll also do some stuff at the end for you and your Udacity.
[00:14:44] All it does is it gets you that section on your LinkedIn and maybe, you know, some technical skill. Same with Coursera. Um. And I think, at least for me as like a self taught designer, like I would, that was at least my thinking whenever I was looking into Coursera or Udacity, like, should I really pay $700 for like UI design on your Udacity?
[00:15:01] I'm like, I don't, I don't, I don't know. I'd probably not, I don't have that kind of money. So like that was an easy answer. But I think like, I've never really heard of people being like, Oh yeah, dude, I did you Udacity. And now I'm a designer now, you know? So. I think that, I think it was also a timing, like what they were offering and in the time that they were offering it in and the topic of offering all those things at once.
[00:15:21] Ish: [00:15:21] I mean, it was a cool concept and you can see kind of the problem they were going after, which is, Hey, you know, people aren't really finishing these courses. They need to feel like they're a part of the community. Right? So they, they, they, they were the first ones to really add the community aspect to online learning, which was awesome.
[00:15:35] It was live. But it was actually, these groups were so large that, you know, you don't actually feel still accountable. To
[00:15:42] Sahil: [00:15:42] Yeah. It's like you're like your freshman year science class. Like there's hundreds of students, like you don't have to go to a lecture. Um,
[00:15:48]Ish: [00:15:48] It's not personalized at all. Yeah. And so, you know, we eventually, we'll get to, I guess 2017 when we keep hinting at this one startup that we'll get to. But before, before, I guess we got there in 2015 a masterclass comes out and they're taking a different approach. It kind of like, you don't mean, but they a very curated selection of instructors, like a tier.
[00:16:09] Reputable instructors, celebrities, uh, the best in the world. Uh, these are, these are pre recorded, not live. So kind of get, you know, throwing the Moog model out the window and saying, Hey, you know, there is going to be a community, like we'll have farms and stuff like that. But for the most part, everything here is very curated.
[00:16:26] It's from the best in the world. And uh, yeah, you pay something like, I think it's like $70 and you get access to this one course. Since then, I think they've actually changed the model and now
[00:16:35] Sahil: [00:16:35] It's like a one 80 for two yeah.
[00:16:37] Ish: [00:16:37] Yeah, it's, it's, I think, unlimited one 80
[00:16:40] Sahil: [00:16:40] Oh,
[00:16:40] Ish: [00:16:40] You have access to all, yeah, all of the masterclass, kind of the Netflix model now.
[00:16:44] And it's a, it's a yearly subscription. It's not monthly too. Um, and so masterclass was an interesting concept when it first came out. What did you think about it?
[00:16:55]Sahil: [00:16:55] Um, I mean, I thought it was like a, it was like for one great design. I remember like just the ads were fantastic and very good. He said curated. Um, and two, I think it was a great way to introduce like, um, I think it's like. It's basically a lot of the education, like there's these companies and services we're talking about very much model the fitness industry.
[00:17:16] Like, you know, you could sign up for a gym membership but not go. We're just like, you know, 10 bucks a month. That's your, you to me, like you just get 10 pay, 10 bucks and you don't really do anything with it. And then you have like your, your Udacity where it's like, you pay. I a hundreds of dollars for like an unlimited Barry's bootcamp thing.
[00:17:32] Right? And that's like forces you to go, or maybe the larger cause berries works and you, you'd ask me didn't. And for masterclass I feel like it's more like, you know, like the crew, like the Chris Hemsworth, like workout plan, right? Like I want that. Like. They get these videos of celebrities who prepare for these movie roles and it's like, this was their workout plan.
[00:17:49] And everyone's like, I will pay for that. Cause like, I know this person did it. I see their body, I trust them. They're famous, like, and that has that to it. Right? So when you see Steph Curry teaching shooting, it's like there's like, this has to be good. So there's no like question of quality. Um, there's no question of like content quality either.
[00:18:05] Cause you see like how much masterclass invest in it. The tricky part with all of this, and this is my personal opinion, is the feedback part. Like you can. Watch Steph Curry shoot and does do what he says, but you don't really know if you're doing it right. It's like watching someone trying to teach you like how to bench press off YouTube videos that you can watch all the videos you want and you can try it and keep doing it.
[00:18:24] But if you're doing it wrong, it just kind of compound over time to where you can ever fix it. Like as someone who plays basketball and has been shooting for like, I don't know, 10 years, like there's certain things I just cannot fix there. It'll take me a very long time regardless of how much Steph Curry videos I watch.
[00:18:38]Um, you're, you're saying.
[00:18:39] Ish: [00:18:39] no, that's, yeah. I was going to say, and I, it is a question that I've, you know, had with my investors all the time, which is, do you think that masterclass is more of an education company or more of an entertainment company?
[00:18:53] Sahil: [00:18:53] I think you're just paying for like, and it's like, same thing as a fitness class that's $50 it's entertaining. It's like a, you know, an hour. They give you music, you get really nice water. Like you get customers' shoes, you get nice lotion in the bathrooms. In a way it's an experience. But you also becoming healthier and this way it's like you're paying for an experience to then get a new skill.
[00:19:15]Um. And it's just like anything, like you go to a theme park, you go to the movie theater, right? You're paying for an experience and you get something out of it. In this case, it's nicer because it's education, right? Like who's going to argue about paying for education or paying for fitness? Right? Like everyone you talk to and they're like, do you really think your exercise classes where it's 60 bucks?
[00:19:31] And they're like, well, how much do you value your life or your health? And like, it's priceless, right? So, you know, that's very hard to argue against that and say anything like this. It's like, you know, it's kinda hard to argue that people want to invest in their education. The hard part is actually investing in like discipline and doing something every single day, which is free, but it's just much harder to do because you can't pay for discipline.
[00:19:51] Ish: [00:19:51] Absolutely and masterclass while while the content quality is very high at this point, it's not, it's still not career changing education. You can't expect to take a masterclass and
[00:20:02] Sahil: [00:20:02] no. It's very great. Very great gifts, right? Like, you know, you got gifted a masterclass subscription. It's like a nice to have. Um, yeah.
[00:20:09] Ish: [00:20:09] totally. And so now I think this is, this is the time where we kind of bring it all together. So starting from 2005 you know, we have the YouTube than you to me, than Coursera, Udacity, masterclass all seem to have, you know, headed towards this direction. They were kind of trying to prove that, Hey, you could have life changing career changing education completely online.
[00:20:29] And. Finally in 2017 we get Lambda school, and this is kind of the startup we've been kind of hinting at for a while now, but it seemed like the timing was just perfect. So, um, for, for those that might not know Lambda school, uh, Sahel, do you want to kind of describe what Lambda school is?
[00:20:45] Sahil: [00:20:45] Yeah. It's a, it's an online remote school that you don't pay anything for until you get a job that pays you. Some amount or more, like 50,000, $60,000 or more. Uh, and in return, you pay them a percentage of your salary for two years, and it's kept at a certain amount. And if you don't get a job, you don't pay anything at all, I believe up until five years.
[00:21:06] So you don't pay until you get a job. But essentially the model that they use and it's an income share agreement.
[00:21:12] Ish: [00:21:12] And it completely blew my mind when I first heard about it, but it seemed like it kind of. Everything that all these other previous educational platforms were missing. It finally kind of brought all of it together. It was like online. It was live. It was small groups from reputable instructors, life-changing career education, but then also it's completely risk free it, you know, commission models have been around for a while, but I think this is the first time I saw the commission model brought to education, and I think.
[00:21:40] You know, it, it kind of makes sense. Like a lot of people talk about online trade schools and one of the biggest questions that comes up is accreditation, right? Why would a employer, you know, look at somebody who's coming out of one of these online trade school and say like, Hey, you actually know the scale, right?
[00:21:56] And so there was this kind of this big barrier to entry and then having this ISA remove that barrier. And it allowed trade schools to say like, Hey, you know, trust us. Like it's in our incentive to make sure you actually land a job and we're going to go out, make partnerships with these companies and help you land a job.
[00:22:12] And if we don't, you don't have to pay a cent. And so I thought that was just brilliant. And since then we've seen a slew of companies kind of adapt and kind of like take on this model and use it as their own, including students who design.
[00:22:28] And so at this point, I mean. All right. So the year is, I guess, 2017 at what point?
[00:22:34]Um, the students who design when, when does that born?
[00:22:37]Sahil: [00:22:37] Uh, I think it was also like the, the podcasts, like we were, how we started was also in, I want to say 2017 as well, sophomore year of college, right? Yeah. So 2017 yeah.
[00:22:49] Ish: [00:22:49] Yeah. So the podcast starts and then can you walk me through the history, like everything that happens after the podcast up to, I guess current day.
[00:22:58] Sahil: [00:22:58] Yeah, so we, I mean, we first heard it as a podcast because every design resource, most design resources and podcasts out there were for industry professionals, not for people who don't have a portfolio. I don't know what he's stigma. Um, and everyone at my school, we were all self taught designers and we all would learn from each other.
[00:23:13] We would all. Like, send each other job postings. We would all interview prep each other. Like it was a great community that was, that we all still talk to today. Um, so we started this podcast to kind of open source the knowledge we had, but then also people we knew whenever we interned or went to, uh, you know, did our jobs and we knew that these people also were self-taught designers.
[00:23:30] So. We did a podcast, we interviewed 25, or it's 25 to 30 people. Uh, at the same time, we were teaching a course at school called intro to product design. So it's two credits pass, fail. All student taught, uh, and people from other schools would ask if they could take this course too, but it was only reached and have the bandwidth to put it online.
[00:23:48]Um, as we were doing the podcast, we would put out blogs and resources and things like that, and we all graduated last may and decided to bring the course. We taught at school. She online and to everyone. And it was called introduction to digital product design. And so last fall I taught 40 people, 40 students remotes online for free.
[00:24:08] And it was 10 weeks just to basically work on the case and working and teaching this thing online. Um, and we recently launched a shorter version of that course. It's a three week course and. The people who were in the previous cohorts, we took some of them as mentees, and so they are part of our mentorship program.
[00:24:24] We helped them get their first job, give them feedback whenever they needed, do office hours with them every single week. Uh, and that's our ISA program. Um, so right now we're still working through, given all the coronavirus stuff, how we want to approach our next thing. But, um, it basically, we, our team is all self taught designers.
[00:24:41] Three or four of us taught this class that we used to teach at Cornell. And the fourth person, uh, we all know personally. So, uh, it's been a cool guest journey of us, like how it's grown and shaped throughout the last two years, three years.
[00:24:54] Ish: [00:24:54] That's incredible. And I don't know what, I guess what you can share, but what are, I guess have been the outcomes for the students who have gone through students who design.
[00:25:04] Sahil: [00:25:04] Yeah. Uh, so one of them, uh, it has an internship this firstname.lastname@example.org. It's our first product design internship. Uh, the other one, he's more interested in PM software and design. So he's leading designer to start up also considering software engineering at Amazon this fall. Also interviewing for PM roles.
[00:25:21] He's kind of everywhere. Um, the other 10 or 11 are currently interviewing at various places. Some of them are a little, uh, either not ready to interview yet, knitting. They're still crafting their portfolio. Um, it might be better signal for the students that we taught at school. Um. Uh, only thing, almost all of them who finished the course were hired.
[00:25:37] And so a good metric for that is for, uh, Facebook had 40 product design interns last summer. 13 out of the 40 came from Cornell and took our class. So it's pretty. That's a, it's a big over-representation for a non design school. Um, so we know, I think we know how it works. And of course there are like extraneous things to work out, like people who are just graduating or people who might be working in retail trying to go to design.
[00:26:00] That's very different cause they can't really apply for internships. But, uh, in a way, we all understand how the process works at the new grad internship level. Um, but then also how to help students who may not have that community. And a lot of people appreciate that, which was surprising that they just have a community of people who are in the same boat as them, and that, you know, their school doesn't have that major, their school doesn't have the community, but they can find that community through the program.
[00:26:22] Ish: [00:26:22] Yeah, totally. And you know, me having now personally worked with students who design my current designer. Is somebody who was involved with students who design, and she's absolutely fantastic.
[00:26:31] Sahil: [00:26:31] That's good to hear.
[00:26:32] Ish: [00:26:32] to the quality of the education. Uh, and so I guess the, now I kind of want to step back and think about ISIS a little bit more and, uh, they seem like such a fantastic kind of idea.
[00:26:43] Obviously there are cons and we'll get to that as well, but I'm curious, why do you think I say it's didn't exist before? Like why, you know, why did some university out there not say like, Hey. We're going to do an income share agreement and, uh, unless you land a job why
[00:26:59] Sahil: [00:26:59] Um, I feel like it's just a huge risk. It's like a big liability for them. Um, and it's also, it's a bigger liability for them because of the scale and the services they provide. Right? So it's to provide all those things. Food room and board, professors, buildings, um, study abroad. Like. All the things that they do, like you can't really pay that back through a two years, 6% ISA.
[00:27:22]Um, and that's why the cost of attendance is like a quarter million dollars, right? So it's a pay that back, even if you're a software engineer would take, you know, 10 plus years, even if you're at a 10%, uh, ISA. Um, the other part is like, I think a lot of people, well not a lot of people. I think there's two schools of thought.
[00:27:37] There's like one where you go to university for an experience and to think. To learn how to think critically and to get an education. There's some people who go to university as like an ROI thing. Like if I go here, I will get this job. I'll take this much money. And you see that class between like schools like that.
[00:27:51] We all make this joke that Cornell, the best majors are all jobs, architecture, engineering, business, uh, and the hotel school, right? They all map to a job. Whereas someplace like Yale, like. It's liberal arts, like you don't really know what you're going to get out of English literature. You might become a banker, you might become a professor, like you don't know.
[00:28:09]Um, and I think that's kind of how people approach it. And the ISA doesn't work for both schools of thought. And almost every university has both, right? They have more pre-professional things, but they also have things that are liberal arts. And those things don't map to like exact salaries. Right? But if you're a software development.
[00:28:28] Like shop basically ERs coding school or design school, but you have a pretty good idea of what the market rate is and then how you should create your ISA based on the market rate and the amount of students you have coming in. But for universities as like public offerings, like public schools for example, they can't really do that.
[00:28:43] Or private schools where, you know, they know that like, why should I do an ISA if I know my students are willing to pay a quarter million dollars over for like, now? You know, what's the point? Um,
[00:28:53]Ish: [00:28:53] that makes, that makes total sense. And so one of the things I think is worth mentioning is that universities often kind of, um, the way they, the advertising terms that they use is like holistic education, right? What they're providing is that more, more than just the core, like job training, but also education when it comes to liberal arts and all these other topics that maybe you wouldn't get to explore.
[00:29:14] And my question for you is, do you think that. One, it's worth to have that holistic education. And second, do you think it's worth the cost that it comes to the students and the burden they take on down the road?
[00:29:26] Sahil: [00:29:26] That's a tricky question. Uh, um,
[00:29:27] yeah, I don't, I think it just, I think there's a lot of dependencies, so I think it comes down to what you valued, right? So some people might look at you and be like. You know, why do you need a pen to spend $300 on your headphones? Like the wired ones would work just fine.
[00:29:42] And that's because you value them and you're willing to pay for it, right? And you are willing to take loans for it. Um, I think the tricky part is when, if someone tells you like, in order to do X, in order to be why you need these headphones, right. That's what college is in a way, right? People are like, you need this.
[00:29:57] Like you will not be successful in life without it and not just good college. Just you have to go to college. I think that's the part that is not talked about enough. I mean, worth it or worth not worth did that. That's, that's up to you that you could spend $500 at a Michelin star restaurant and be like, that was worth it for me.
[00:30:13] Food is food. Like, I, we're not spending $500 on that. I don't value food enough for that. Um, but you know, for people to be like, you need to go to college, I think that's a tricky part. So I think a good example is like, one of my good friends, like, he, um. You know, he knows what he values. He says like, I really want a good design education.
[00:30:30] I want to become a product designer. Cause I mean he needs to go to Harvard or Yale. Definitely not. Does that mean he can look at schools like RIT or DePaul that will give him a lot of merit scholarship and provide him the program? For sure. You should go there and do that. Right. But like. I think the harder part is for people who don't know what they want, and that's like very easy for colleges to advertise to where it's like, get a holistic education, find what you want, make your own major, right?
[00:30:51] Like Brown does that. Like everyone wants to go to Brown because you can make your own major. Um, so I think, I'm not really answering your question, but in a way I think it depends on what you value. If you know what you want, then why spend, like if you know, you want. If you know you want that education, why do you need to spend more for the same exact thing, right?
[00:31:08] For the same exact outcome at the end, which is that job. And that's what like these trade schools do really well. Like, why should I go back to do my masters in computer science at Cornell when I can go to the Lambda school? Pay less, not pay anything right now? You know? So I think that's, I think we're going to see a lot of this when it comes to, uh, advanced degrees.
[00:31:24] And you look at MBA admissions or MBA applications, like they're going down. Master's programs, they're all like kind of orienting towards these like two weeks certificates. Cause like you love to see like MIT on someone's LinkedIn, but then you kind of dig in and you see it's a certificate. Um, and colleges know that and it's like free branding for them.
[00:31:39] It's cheaper for you. Everyone wins. So I think when you still get these advanced degrees, like why should you go back and take a $200,000 in loans for an MBA, whenever you could read a couple of books, start a startup, whatever you want to do to learn the same principles. Um. So I think when it comes to the undergrad level, it really depends on what you value.
[00:31:57] But for advanced degrees, like I, you know, I don't, I personally have no idea what the value is. Um, unless you're getting it at a discount. Like, unless it's like a four year program where you get both, that makes sense. Or like four and a half year, whatever it is. But to go back and spend that much money in loans, I have no idea if that's worth it.
[00:32:14] Ish: [00:32:14] Yeah, and we're definitely gonna see it like these online trade school is challenge these universities. Especially now more than ever. Right. And, and you know, one of the things I did want to mention is that, you know, universities are, are good for a lot of things that are personally, it paid a large part of, I guess for me there was a networking aspect.
[00:32:30] There was social development is this transition period where you go from being a kid to being an adult. But if now your purpose is. Job training like you need to land a job, especially considering like now in the month of March, 10 million Americans filed for unemployment, right? They're not looking for a holistic education.
[00:32:47] They need a job like right. And they needed a job without the risk of, you know, tacking on another 50 to a hundred thousand dollars of debt just so they can feed their family. And it needs to be flexible. Needs to be risk-free. It needs to be effective with no fluff. Right. And so given this is the situation we are in with covert 19 what role do you think, I guess online trade schools will play in the months to come?
[00:33:11] The years to come.
[00:33:12] Sahil: [00:33:12] I mean, I think they're going to be, uh, I think like. They'll be able to hold, I hope to at least accommodate some of the capacity or the amount of people or accommodate the amount of people who are not unemployed and have this time and want to scale up like it's a great time. It's a great thing that there are so many trade schools.
[00:33:30] The tricky part I think is whenever you do that promise of like getting you a job at the end, and I think that's why we like for students are designed. We kind of paused any growth, like we're going to try and do our best to get our current mentees jobs. And you know, people have reached out and been like, can I join the mentorship program?
[00:33:46] And we were like, right now, no, because it's unfair for us to say we will do our best to give you a job whenever we're not splitting our time between five people every week. It's not fair to say, I will actually devote. 100% of my attention to you because I won't like, it just won't happen. Um, it's not fair to you.
[00:34:02] It's not fair to the other people in the program. I think that's when you get things that get out of hand really quickly. So for example, like Lambda school recently for all their UX students, what they did is like, they canceled the program and all the students are actually still on the hook for their ISA.
[00:34:16] Which is super messed up because like they had programs over like, why should I pay for this thing? And it's very interesting. It's just not good ethics and not good principle. So if you see this huge market of people who need skills, it's very easy to abuse like the moment and try to spin up all these other programs.
[00:34:33] Like I think Lambda school tried to spin up design and data science and all this other shit and like it gets out of hand very quickly. But you know, you're, you know, if you have. A bunch of capital invested in you and you have these outcomes you need to reach in. The market is there, you're probably gonna, you know, do those things.
[00:34:48] So I think in a way that that's great that there's so many online schools to accommodate the amount of people in need to get skilled up, but I think it's the online school's responsibility to not abuse like this new found privilege that we have. Uh, like don't make false promises and be straight up.
[00:35:02] Like the market sucks. Like you likely will not get hired, but we can teach you the skill and the ISA is five years, meaning like, you know, you, if you don't get a job in the next two years, it's not like you still owe us anything. And I think if we're honest, and it helps people actually trust online school is more, instead of the Lambda school backlash, you know, water falling down to every ISA school where like, you know, if students are design starts up an animation program or a front end development program.
[00:35:26] You know, we don't, you know, it's just bad. It's like bad for the entire industry. Like when Facebook or Google or any of these companies really mess up and get on the news, you know, the public hates all tech. So you can see the same thing happening with ISA programs, like as Lambda school schools, kind of the leader in that and like the golden child.
[00:35:42] And as soon as it messes up, it's like, Oh, like these things are definitely fake news. So like, you know, you want to be aware of that.
[00:35:50] Ish: [00:35:50] Yeah. And you just brought up one of the major disadvantages of online trade schools is just their ability to scale. Like they only really work when it's like small numbers. Uh, beyond that, we haven't seen anything that really works at scale. Lambda school is the closest thing we'll see in the coming years what happens.
[00:36:05] But it seems like the benefit they have going for them is that there can be a lot of them, and it's not just going to be venture back startups. We're starting to see professors. There was this amazing article by Scott Galloway that came out this past week, and he talked about how in every university there's about six to eight ringers, like professors who are really.
[00:36:23] Really good. And as soon as they realize the power of kind of online education and using their own brand, uh, not limited by geography and how much money they can make from that, um, they'll start to leave these universities, right. And they'll start to build their own online trade schools where now they're getting a big, big slice of the pie.
[00:36:42] And, uh, and we'll kind of start to see education move away from institutions and more towards individuals or smaller organizations. Um, you know, it'll be interesting to kind of see this development over the next 12 to 18 months. It's not going to happen overnight, but it's accelerating it. I think. Well before COBIT, it might've taken three to five years.
[00:36:59] Now I think it will happen the next two to three years. Uh, another question, another I guess, disadvantage that I've kind of heard about online trade schools is right now they're only proven in tech, uh, UX design, data science, marketing growth, software engineering. Do you think they'll expand beyond that?
[00:37:18] And if so, why haven't they already.
[00:37:22] Sahil: [00:37:22] Well, I guess the one reason why I think it works really great in tech is because the economics are just really good. So like for the student, it's like I can go from making 30 K to a hundred K for the school. It's like, I know I'm going to make five digits off this ISA. Um, and then the market, like there's a demand, always a demand for software engineers.
[00:37:38] So, you know, when you have those three pieces, there's just such strong incentive alignment. Like that's the best industry to go with. Um, I have seen it done. I think there's a, there's a company, actually you told me about it. Uh, the lobby, uh, and I tried to do it for banking and consulting. The tricky part there is like with tech.
[00:37:53] And this is kind of my, my personal observation is like the less technical any job is, the more bullshit there is involved. So for banking, consulting, like what you wear, your hair, your facial hair, all that stuff matters. In tech, you can wear flip flops and shorts, but you could be like a director. And I think that's the biggest difference.
[00:38:11] Like. So when it comes to banking consulting, you can still use these trade schools to kind of learn modeling and learn how to do a DCF. But if you didn't go to the school that the MD went to, like it puts you at a severe disadvantage for things like tech. When you have stuff like Triplebyte, you have stuff like Lambda school where it's like, just take the quiz.
[00:38:28] If you do well, we will get you an interview. It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what school you went to, um, you have a lot more opportunity or access to opportunity. And so. I think it's harder to scale to other high paying jobs, right outside of tech. It's really just business. Um, and maybe, maybe some more quantitative things.
[00:38:45]Um, so I could see maybe expanding to like quant firms or hedge funds where like, they don't really care where you went to school or what you did. It's just how smart are you and like how capable are you, um, things like AQR and. Bridgewater and those kinds of things. I could see it scaling there. I haven't seen it done there yet, but, um, you know, the economics work out really well there.
[00:39:03] W when it comes to, or like, or if the economics in terms of the salary don't work, it's also just market demand. So like nursing, um, so you see that with a company called ladder. I don't know if they do ISA, but it's basically like they've helped a lot of people get into nursing or event. . Um, they do as well, and they're, they've been doing it for nursing as well.
[00:39:22] It's just a high demand for nurses, especially now more than ever, but even before, like it's such a hard job, you know, and, and, uh, such a respectable job that like, and there's not that, not that many people that are trained for it. So I think it depends if the, if the job requires very specific skills and the economics work, then I can see it easily transferring over there.
[00:39:40] Ish: [00:39:40] Right, right. And I think a lot of these trade schools, they really thrived on the fact that like, Hey, you know, their marketing was, Hey, we'll help you get a job that pays much higher. But right now, people aren't looking for a job that pays higher. They're looking for jobs. Right. And so if there's an opportunity for this to expand beyond tech, I feel like it has to be right now because there are people who are, I guess maybe not even the highest and demand work, but they're, they're remote.
[00:40:02] They're epidemic prone. All right. And resistance. And so, you know, it could have a pivotal moment right here. And you know, I, I, I think there's been an awesome conversation. I think I could talk about this for hours, but I think we're right about the hit time. So I think, uh, right here, uh, would be, I guess a good stopping point.
[00:40:19]Uh, thank you so much for coming on. This was a really fun conversation. Before we leave, are there any plugs you want to give, uh, anything about students who design or anything else.
[00:40:26] Sahil: [00:40:26] yeah. Uh, well, right now we're not, we're not actively doing our three week course, but if you're interested, feel free to sign up on the wait list that students who got design. Um, check out fig Mazu blog posts. We recently did a blog post with them about how to start your own online design schools. So if that's something you're interested in doing for your own university or people you know, go for it.
[00:40:45]Um, and if you're looking to hire a designer, let me know.
[00:40:49] Ish: [00:40:49] Awesome. Yeah thank, thank you everybody for listening. the for, uh, coming by and, uh, yeah, this was a great conversation.
[00:40:56]That was Hill kosha of students who design. If you're interested in learning more about students who design, go to students who.design. Like I said, that was genuinely a fun conversation. I, and I hope you enjoyed listening.
[00:41:09] This is ish and I am signing off.