General Assembly’s mission is to empower people to pursue the work they love, and we recognize that not all individuals have the same level of access and opportunity. That’s why we launched the Social Impact initiative five years ago to create pathways for students from underserved and underrepresented communities into tech, marketing, and data design.
Our newest Social Impact program is a partnership that combines student-friendly financing with additional coaching, mentorship, referrals to local and community resources, as well as access to emergency funds.
The program launched in fall 2019, and I joined the team in late December of 2019 as the Social Impact Program Services Lead, tasked with leading the supportive service programming for students enrolled via our Catalyst Income Share Agreements. Within my first 90 days on the job, the world as we know it changed, and we found ourselves in the epicenter of a global pandemic.
This post was originally scheduled to be released in response to the global health crisis. However, the recent murders of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Abery, and Breonna Taylor have not only shaken us to our core, but have also triggered an immediate response to gather and circulate self care and mental health resources for our entire GA community, but most importantly, our black students and staff members. We recognized the necessity to share information and create supportive spaces; to gather and form communities of healing and strength during this time.
The Social Impact 2020 Global Resource Guide was created to provide real-time support to individuals looking for resources right now. This Resource Guide consists of an expansive list of supports covering categories such as:
Bill and Payment Relief
Mental Health and Wellness
Emergency Cash Assistance
The resources are provided by local nonprofits, government agencies, grassroots organizations, private foundations, and corporations. We’ve also included anything that might be useful to our community: from where to find free diapers, tips for indoor socializing at any age, and where to find free storage for students who may be displaced and need to leave their college campuses. We did our best to take into account the unique needs of everyone who may have been affected by the recent events, with support catered to people of diverse races and ethnicities, specific industry/professional backgrounds, various age ranges, all gender identities, and people who identify as LGBTQIA+.
We are committed to standing with our black students and staff members as we fight racism and work to build a more equitable and just society for all. This work is demanding, nonstop, and at times, overwhelming. Knowing this, we have to remember to take care of ourselves. This guide highlights a comprehensive list of black mental health and self care resources that include online directories for black therapists and licensed mental health practitioners, pro bono services, virtual healing spaces, town halls, as well as fact sheets to manage emotions and create opportunities for safe spaces and important ongoing conversations.
As we focus on developing coping strategies, building resiliency, and looking towards a better tomorrow, regional mental health and wellness resources are also highlighted, focusing on providing comfort to anyone who may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, anger, loss, grief, and even confusion. A variety of helplines, on demand or text-based counseling services, meditation resources, and wellness apps are also showcased, offering something for everyone at any time.
The guide covers 14 individual regions, comprising five countries across four continents.
United States: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Washington DC, Los Angeles,NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle
United Kingdom: London
Asia Pacific: Singapore
The Global Resource Guide originally grew out of a call to action responding to the needs of our General Assembly community during a time of crisis. It has blossomed into a comprehensive document that not only supports the needs of the GA community, but a larger global community.
I’m sharing this guide with you because there is a resource in this document for everyone. I encourage you to take the time to take a look, and continue to pass it on.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid and forced transformation of many businesses. Plans that companies previously anticipated rolling out over many years have been decided and implemented in weeks.
Amid this rapid change where many are scrambling to adapt, leaders should ask themselves what other “five-year plans” should fastrack to keep pace with these critical business plans. One of the plans that companies should evaluate is talent development: how can businesses develop strategic plans to meet the needs of their rapidly evolving businesses?
Creating talent development work isn’t as easy as providing online learning to employees. Our Marketing Standards board members met recently and uncovered an unexpected commonality. While all of them are making learning available to their employees, the primary area for improvement on their employee engagement surveys continues to be upskilling. This revelation brought on a layered conversation about the common challenges employers face when it comes to engaging employees in training and development — especially when these pieces of training are online. So, what’s causing the disconnect between desire and action on upskilling employees, and most importantly, what can leaders do about it?
Understanding the Disconnect
Upskilling is urgent for employers — especially for newer professionals who aren’t going to be satisfied in their jobs if there are no learning (or advancement) opportunities. Employees don’t merely want a job; they want to work for companies they can learn from and grow within; employees wish to build careers.
In a Deloitte survey, 90% of employees said their organizations were redesigning jobs. The World Economic Forum reported that more than half of all its employees would require reskilling or upskilling to address the digital skills gaps driven by changing job requirements over the next three years.
For many reasons like these, our board members agree that it’s an employer’s responsibility to make learning available and an integrated part of the employee experience.
So, what’s getting in the way of learning — from the employee perspective?
Two big factors are time and incentive. Many employees feel like there’s not enough time during the workday to take the training accessible to them. Others don’t prioritize upskilling because although they want new and updated skills, there is no extrinsic motivator for learning them. One of the clearest opportunities for extrinsic motivation often isn’t clearly connected to training: it’s the idea that training and skills are requisite expectations for the job or performance. The right jobs motivate all of us.
Providing employees with upskilling opportunities signals to them that they are valued and that they have a future within their workplace organization. However, offering a training program isn’t enough — the implementation of these programs must be intentional, structured, and relevant. During our conversation, board members came up with tips that can help companies foster a learning-positive workplace. These tips include:
1. Partner With Leadership to Allocate Time During the Workday
Big roadblocks employees face: blocking time to make learning important and creating company-wide time blocks, like “No Meetings Fridays,” to provide designated time for employee upskilling. Making these time blocks company-wide is critical. If some teams aren’t participating in it, they’ll throw a meeting on the calendar that conflicts with the learning time. At that point, you’ve lost the consistent open time and original initiative purpose you’re trying to create for your team.
2. Extrinsic Incentives: Compelling Rewards
Extrinsic incentives are tangible motivators that can encourage employees to take an upskilling training course. Offering incentives gives employees a clear prize at the end of their experience, plus an added incentive to complete learning by a particular due date. This specific incentive is a nice touch from board member Gretchen Saegh (CMO of L’Oréal USA), who plans on rewarding “the best re-scorer” of the CM1 assessment with being “CMO for the day.” These empowering incentives give employees a sense of purpose, a structured career path, and long-term vision, giving them valuable real-world experiences and advice that can be difficult to get elsewhere.
Extrinsic Incentives: Executive Messaging on Expectations
When employees see their managers endorsing upskilling, and also see the executive team pushing for the same thing, it speaks volumes about the value of upskilling within that organization and the expectations around completing tasks and initiatives surrounding it. The bottom line is that upskilling gains immediate credibility when employees see it supported by leadership. A message from the CEO and executive team is imperative when it comes to setting the tone for a company, as a message from “the top” can have a ripple effect throughout the organization.
Getting employees to translate the desire-to-action key values of online learning is particularly pertinent as more employers look for efficient and effective ways to train their employees remotely via online training providers. It’s a new world, and there’s no magic bullet, hidden secrets, and there are certainly no shortcuts. The right online training is thoughtful and methodical: it considers human behavior, personal motivations, and leadership alignment + support to get online training to occur and resonate for employees — from entry-level positions to the C-suite.
Finally, there’s the process of trial and error. Although initiatives often start with the strongest and best of intentions, the most successful training results adapt and fluctuate over time. No plan is flawless right out of the gate — however well-planned or well-intended.
These are unprecedented times for the world and for New York City. Many things have changed, but our goal hasn’t: We’re committed to your success and here to provide guidance toward the right jobs for you.
Thank you for indicating interest in CUNY’s upskilling coursework in partnership with General Assembly, and congratulations on taking time to invest in yourself! You can get started below:
GA’s online Data Analysis On Demand program is designed to get you started on the path towards becoming a stronger, analytical operator. Many industries require data skills, including product management, marketing, finance, and operations across job titles such as data analyst, business intelligence, data scientist, data engineer, and data architect. Data jobs have doubled since 2012, and salary ranges are $40–80K for data analysts and $60–120K for data scientists.
This program will familiarize you with the key systems that allow you to make sense of data for every type of industry or job and visually express the findings to your stakeholders. It provides a comprehensive foundation to equip you with the context, process, and tools to identify and communicate data-driven insights using Excel and SQL. Students will leave the course with a business case and analysis for a client; they will learn to extract data using SQL, clean and analyze in Excel, and create the visuals and argument for their conclusions.
Learn more about Data Analytics On Demand at General Assembly.
GA’s online Digital Marketing On Demand program is designed to help you learn and implement the most in-demand digital marketing practices of the 21st century. The ability to analyze the vast amounts of data generated by digital marketing activities, and translate that analysis into digital marketing strategies and tactics, will be among the most important skills for marketers in the next decade. Digital marketing jobs have more than doubled in the last five years alone, and the average starting salary for these positions is $76,000.
This program will teach you the foundational skills across five focus areas: customer insight, creative and content, marketing channels, analytics, and marketing technology. You’ll learn to apply core digital marketing skills like market research, search engine optimization, CRM, and automation, and launch multi-channel brand, acquisition, and retention campaigns. Whether you want to pursue a full-fledged marketing career or have a substantial grasp on marketing language and skills to support other work, this course will equip you with formal training and a portfolio to establish yourself as a competitive candidate.
Learn more about Digital Marketing On Demand at General Assembly.
“The most reliable way to predict the future is to create it.” — Abraham Lincoln
A New World
We began 2020, the new decade, in a way that none of us could have ever imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly turned our world upside down, affecting millions. News of layoffs and a collective unease about the future permeates our every day. We are in an adjustment period — an opportunity to reflect, gain clarity, resolve, and find out just how strong and capable we are.
General Assembly was created in 2011, in the aftermath of the last recession, to help people pursue work they love and find inspiration in a strong community of entrepreneurs, technologists, creators, and innovators. We know so many of you are feeling uncertain, and we want you to know that we’re not going anywhere.An increasingly digital world demands digital-first skills — in greater numbers. The technology, marketing, design, and data skills we teach will be more resilient and relevant in a post-COVID-19 era.
Our 2018–2019 Outcomes Report: the Full Story
Today, we are excited to share our latest Outcomes Report; it was just reviewed by KPMG, a Big Four* accounting firm, which looks at the graduation and job placement rates for 4,287 students completing their programs over 18 months, between January 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019.
Here are some highlights from our recent report:
91.4% of graduates who participated in GA’s full-time Career Services program accepted a job offer in their field of study within 180 days of graduating.
An additional 8.3% accepted a job offer after 180 days, for a total of 99.7% of this eligible population working in their fields.
GA grads have gone on to work at top multi-industry companies including Amazon, Charles Schwab, Dell, Google, Home Depot, IBM, and more.
We have a diverse community of students, and our outcomes rates remain strong as we create pathways for people from a wider variety of professional backgrounds and life experiences.
We also know that the Outcomes Report only tells one part of the story: the first job that a graduate secures post-GA. To find out what happens over time, we surveyed our alumni base last year with the global polling firm Gallup and learned the following:
106%: Average percentage that Immersive graduates see their income increase within five years of graduation from General Assembly.
One year after the course, 84% of graduates were happier in their careers, and 74% were making more money.
Most students who come to General Assembly’s Immersive programs do so for one reason: to find a job in a new career. From the beginning, we established rigorous standards that ensure our graduates are meeting their career goals and getting a return on their education investment.
You won’t be doing it alone. As Matt Brems, our Lead Data Science Instructor, shares, “It’s important to note that this time isn’t spent alone! Your peers in the industry attend meetups. Your classmates work beside you and with you to hone skills. And your instructors are dedicated to supporting you as you put your best foot forward beyond General Assembly. You are joining a community, and we’re ready to welcome you into it.”
Our Unwavering Commitment
Griffin Moore (they/them), one of our Career Coaches in Washington DC, shares, “Career changes are tough. Imposter syndrome or fear of the unknown can overwhelm even the most seasoned tech professionals. As a career coach, I serve as a partner in accountability, strategy, and motivation. I work with students from day one of their Immersive to develop their personal brand and job-search tools, all the way until they sign their job offer.”
Going forward, we know the job market will look different for everyone — not just our graduates. Our commitment to our students remains the same. Teaching relevant skills, preparing people for their job searches, partnering with employers, and working with students to find the best possible outcomes — we’re continuing to adapt in real-time to respond to the most current events. Here’s how we’re changing our approach:
Free workshops. We’re making more content and curriculum free to ensure that people seeking jobs have more opportunities to gain new skills. Free Fridays offer our most popular workshops and events for free every Friday.
Remote training. We’ve trained all our career coaches in remote coaching and curriculum delivery and are updating our curriculum in real-time to make sure it reflects the current state of job seeking.
Deeper relationships. We’ve invested more deeply in our partnerships efforts, delivering weekly insights and engagements to our teams, conducting outreach to growing industries, and finding ways to support our hiring community during this time.
Reskilling partnerships. We’re training laid-off workers. We launched our first reskilling coalition in Louisville, KY, and we expect to announce many more in the coming months.
Strategy shifts. We’re helping our grads identify how to shift their job search processes at the moment. We’re advising them to watch industry trends, grow their community networks, build their skills, and shift expectations around weekly job search success — the application process may be slower, but we encourage an increase in online networking and expanded industry learning.
Increased resources. We are working with our loan partners to ease the financial burden of loan repayments, make more job search strategy sessions available to all graduates, and focus on building an online community to ensure job seekers have a more robust set of supports as they pursue professional opportunities. We’re also adding new mental health resources for students and grads through our partnership with Ginger.io.
Read the report. We’ve got personal accounts from our staff, along with hard facts and figures for you to digest — our report is the most holistic way to see what we are doing for you.
Talk to a member of our Admissions team. Clara Graham, Senior Admissions Producer, emphasizes that “It’s a time to get to know (a prospective student), to understand their readiness for our rigorous immersive courses.” If now is not the time, don’t worry — we have a lot of options for you.
Not sure you’re ready? Participate in a remote Free Fridays workshop to try us out! We recently created Free Fridays, 100% free weekly workshops that skill-build with our most popular topics.
*The Big Four accounting firms refer to Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG, and Ernst & Young. These firms are the four largest professional services firms in the world that provide audit and transaction advisory.
Black life and Black lives matter. Silence and idleness in the face of systemic oppression are complicity, and we are not complicit. General Assembly stands with those across the U.S. and around the world1 fighting against racism, police brutality, and the widespread, systemic violence against Black people that has taken place throughout our global history. We know that the lives we lost can never be replaced, and we stand with the anger and bravery of protestors and activists risking their lives in the pursuit of justice.
The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Michelle Cusseaux, Dominique Fells, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor — and countless others whose many names we may never know — continue to shake us to our cores.
Over the past few weeks, we have taken important internal steps to accelerate the work we need to do as a company to truly create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable GA environment for our employees, students, clients, and alumni. We have a lot of work to do. Still, as a company, we are committed to educating ourselves, supporting racial justice organizations, and engaging in activism and the political process. We have also pushed ourselves to ask: “How can we take more responsibility as a GA community to build a just and equitable world?”
GA helps people find meaningful work by training them with digital, technological skills, but most importantly, we view our work and advocacy within a broader movement towards social justice. That said, we know that we are also a part of an education and workforce ecosystem that often perpetuates the systemic racism that exists in every facet of American — and global — societies.
This work begins at home. We commit to increasing the diversity of our leadership and executive teams and developing professional growth pathways for our Black staff. We are also making a company-wide commitment to hiring more Black talent, and to using our platform to educate employers and other training providers on building inclusive talent pipelines.
In the weeks and months to come, we will speak up and take action to elevate ideas, norms, and values that can dismantle white supremacy2 and move the needle towards justice. Below are three spaces that we believe GA can work within to drive change.
1. Increase access to high-quality education and training for Black students in underserved communities.
The U.S. education system is set up to offer nearly limitless opportunity to those in positions of privilege and far less to those without any. Our responsibility as an education provider is to create pathways to social and economic mobility for communities who have been historically locked out.
We need to be intentional and proactive about building partnerships with community organizations to support students from underserved communities and those who have been incarcerated. This will require further investment in financing alternatives that can reduce the cost of education, and shift the risk away from learners by holding providers accountable for ensuring successful job outcomes. GA must expand comprehensive support for students with wraparound services (such as childcare, transportation, and mental health) that help remove the roadblocks that often prevent people from pursuing or completing their education.
GA’s commitment: We will seek out employers to partner with on the expansion of our impactful Digital Academy and Managed Service Provider Partner Models to attract, nurture, and actively promote Black talent. We will donate our educational products to nonprofit organizations focused on fostering Black talent. We will deepen the support we offer students, such as emergency funds, case management, referrals, and tech equipment. We will formalize the work we are doing to leverage our students’ talents and alumni to support nonprofits and small businesses, focusing on racial justice organizations and Black-owned businesses.
2. Work with hiring partners to end biased hiring and enable new practices that get more Black talent into jobs.
For most people, getting a good job is the ultimate goal of their education and training experience. That makes it easy for employers to blame labor market inequality on the mythical “pipeline problem” and shift responsibility onto education providers, rather than making investments in existing talent or new pipelines of talent.
Employers must do better. To start, that means concrete actions such as removing college degree requirements from job postings and implementing skills-based hiring practices that recognize performance rather than pedigree. It includes practices like “Banning the Box” to open doors for formerly incarcerated job seekers, and eliminating unpaid internships that favor those with the means to support themselves to work without pay. Employers must recognize the incredible potential of their people already employed and create talent pivots and pathways for new roles and functions.
GA’s commitment: We will urge our hiring partners and clients to make public commitments to hiring Black talent and to make investments in upskilling or reskilling existing talent. We will direct Talent Acquisition, Career Coaches, and Local Campus Partnerships to use our voice and position to publicly call attention to biased hiring practices that disproportionately affect Black applicants. We will hold partners who want to hire our students accountable for making these changes.
3. Advocate for policies that boost access and affordability of high-quality education and training for Black people, and mobilize our community to participate in the political process.
From the U.S. Department of Education’s revocation of nondiscrimination guidelines to the outright provocations of violence from the President and his surrogates, it’s clear that we cannot rely on federal policymakers to make meaningful advancements when it comes to equity and racial justice.
Policies can be a lever for change in an election year — they’re more important than ever. We know there’s bipartisan support for ideas at the federal level such as job training tax credits or apprenticeships that can expand access to education. There’s momentum at the state and local level for ideas such as portable benefits that can better protect workers in a changing labor market. It’s also encouraging to see signs of collaboration and movement over the past weeks on urgent issues that aren’t directly related to education, like reinvesting police funding.
As 2020 candidates’ platforms evolve in the coming months, we all have an opportunity to raise our voices to advocate for federal, state, and local policies that can begin to chip away at America’s legacy of systemic racism. We can ensure that incoming elected officials make good on their responsibility to implement those necessary policies.
GA’s commitment: We will increase our efforts to advocate for legislation at the federal, state, and local levels to create pathways into high-skill, high-wage jobs for members of underserved communities. We will amplify amicus briefs in support of social justice issues, and take on external pro bono legal work. We will continue to push for a new social contract to strengthen the social safety net. We will educate our community on ways toget more involved in the political process while boosting voter registration deadlines, and local and federal election dates. We will close our U.S. offices on November 3, 2020, to allow our entire community to vote.
We take our commitments seriously, and understand that sincere and meaningful allyship is an ongoing journey. The truth is, we have many things to learn, so we will continue educating ourselves, speaking up, and embracing challenges to continue our growth process. We also appreciate ideas we may not have thought of that can help us create a more just and equitable world.
1General Assembly is a global education company with campuses in seven countries. We know that the current measures to dismantle systemic racism in the United States are not the same measures to address injustices in other parts of the world. The above statement focuses on the language, context, and our actions in the United States, and we look forward to sharing additional commitments across our other locations that are aligned with their regional political, social, and cultural realities.
“As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America, there’s no reason for celebration.”
— Marsha P. Johnson, gay liberation activist and central figure in the Stonewall riots
With its iconic marches and vibrant colors, Pride is both a time of celebration, as well as a recognition of the Stonewall Rebellion’s anniversary, which birthed the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Today — a world of unrest that echoes the very Stonewall riots that gave us the Pride we know — is the time to focus on the spirit of that uprising and save the celebrations for another day.
Marsha P. Johnson, the Black trans woman who catalyzed the Stonewall Rebellion, said it best: “As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America, there’s no reason for celebration.” As protests across the nation respond to systemic police brutality against the Black community, there is a bright, necessary light on violence against People of Color — including LGBTQ+ People of Color, who experience these injustices differently.
Today, in the United States:
Data shows that Black people who identify as LGBTQ+ have the highest rates of unemployment, lack of insurance coverage, food insecurity, and income below the poverty level than both non-Black LGBTQ+ people and non-LGBTQ+ Black people.
Young LGBT People of Color are at higher risk of homelessness. An estimated 20–40% of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBT or believe they may be LGBTQ+. One study found that among homeless youth who identify as gay or lesbian, 44% identified as Black and 26% as Latino.
Black transgender women are disproportionately victims of harassment and violence; last year, there were 26 reported deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States caused by acts of violence. Black trans women accounted for the majority of these losses.
The path forward is paved with solidarity. We hope these injustices are rectified soon so that all of us can celebrate and heal — not just a privileged few. In the meantime, we’re here to support you with resources and workshops focused on LGBTQ+ topics. For more information on how you can stand with People of Color, read our post, Why We Should All Be Angry, by our very own Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, James Page.
General Assembly (GA) is a community committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We aim to provide a welcoming environment for everyone at GA: students, staff, instructors, clients, and anyone who walks through our doors, physical or virtual. No matter what, we strive to uphold our work value to “Keep Getting Better” in our diversity journey.
In the United States, where many in our community are located, there is a long history of violence and harassment against People of Color. Now that many people carry cameras with them and have instant access to social media, these acts of violence and harassment are more likely to be swiftly and readily exposed. In recent weeks, we have experienced a shared sense of grief and horror over the untimely deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the harassment of Christian Cooper.
We stand with Black and Brown People and are fully committed to creating physically and emotionally safe spaces for our entire GA community. Black lives matter. We do not tolerate racism or racial harassment of any kind — and we never will. In that spirit, we share this reflection by James Page, General Assembly’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
As a Black man in America, I’ve been aware since my teen years that others’ fears are closely linked to my skin color. While I found some humor when a White woman would clutch her purse as I walked by, there was also significant frustration. I was a nerdy Catholic school kid who liked to crack a joke. However, my identity as a Black man was perceived as dangerous and threatening in a way that superseded anything else about me.
In 2016, I took a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture with my 13-year-old son. I will never forget the Emmett Till exhibit, where an open casket holds a photo of Emmett’s beaten and deformed face. I was frozen. I held my son’s hand, and without any real awareness, tears began to roll down my face.
My son asked me what was wrong. I explained that Emmett was a 14-year-old African-American boy who was visiting family in Mississippi in 1955. A White woman accused him of whistling at her, and he was brutally beaten and murdered by two White men. The killers were found not guilty, even though they admitted to killing him one year later. They were confident that the American legal system would protect them. Sixty-two years later, Emmett’s accuser admitted she lied — he never whistled at her. Her false accusation was enough to end that young man’s life with no recourse to his accuser or his murderers.
Fair-minded people can agree that taking another human life is wrong, and share the sense of outrage at the senseless, recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. However, the story of Emmett Till and its connection to the story of Amy Cooper speaks to a much deeper pattern of racism, exploitation, and injustice that is pervasive and prevalent in our society.
Why am I angry at the justice system and our police force? Why am I angry at Amy Cooper? Why should we all be angry? Because she shared the same sense of privilege and entitlement as Emmett’s accuser when she called the police on Christian Cooper. She knew that if she called 911 and expressed fear as a White woman threatened by a Black man, she would be believed, and a Black man would be punished, regardless of what actually happened. She weaponized her racial advantage and it could have been lethal to Christian Cooper: just as it was when Carolyn Bryant lied about Emmett Till, when Eleanor Strubing accused Joseph Spell of rape, and when Tom Robinson was accused of raping Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Black men have been conditioned to fear the police, the U.S. justice system, and White women. It is well known that when the cops, or “the posse” show up, the Black man — a 14-year-old Black boy visiting family, a Black man in a consensual relationship with a White woman, a Black character in one of the greatest novels of all time, or a Black Harvard grad birdwatching in a park — can be arrested, beaten, jailed, abused, and subjected to extreme acts of violence. His Black body can be deemed disposable, be made an example of, and deemed unimportant, a piece of property for the public; another piece of “strange fruit – blood on the leaves, blood at the root.”
While fear is closely linked to my identity, passed on from generation to generation, it is a fear that I must submit to — unbelievable in 2020. I must learn and follow the unspoken rules. I must fear the police, the justice system, bank lenders, the President of the United States, and the White woman clutching her purse — innocuous people or protectors under any other circumstance. As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, “It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be Black.”
The only way to end this ongoing cycle is to educate ourselves, show up for People of Color, and get involved in the political process. This is not a new moment in our nation’s history, but part of the ongoing suffering, injustice, and inhumane treatment of minorities; these acts of aggression, violence, and unequal rights we are experiencing right now create real trauma for communities of color who have to live every day in fear. All of us have a role to play in dismantling institutional racism in this country; all of us must help address — and heal — that trauma. Now is the time to stand together and say, “No. More.”
If you are looking for ways to show up as an ally in this time, here are some places to get started — we share a handful of resources and it is by no means exhaustive:
Spend time reading and learning. Read the work of James Baldwin, Ta-Nahesi Coates, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Richard Wright, and Malcolm X. More recent books like How to be Antiracist, White Fragility, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, and White Rage provide contemporary insight on how to show up for communities of color. Purchase them from your local bookstore, and check out more resources here. They are truly eye-opening.
Support organizations that are moving the needle on racial justice. Color of Change, Campaign Zero, the Anti-Racism Project, the NAACP, UnidosUS, and the ACLU are but a handful of the organizations working nationally and locally for social justice issues facing communities of color. Sign up for their mailing lists, donate, respond to their calls to action, and find other ways to get involved.
Stand up for People of Color.When you see wrong, stand up for what is right. Call out racist actions — explicit or implicit — when you see them. When justice is compromised, protest, and challenge it until it creates change. You can learn more about how to be an ally here and here.
Get involved in the political process. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, demand accountability from your elected officials and advocate and support candidates who share your values. Most importantly, vote (register here) – and encourage others in your community to do the same.
At General Assembly, we will never compromise on ensuring that everyone within our community gets treated with dignity and respect. In the spirit of our shared commitment to learning, we urge all of you to engage on these issues with curiosity, humility, empathy, and self-awareness in service of active dialogue, brave allyship, and the human goodness that can be brought out by all of us.
If you search on Amazon for books using the key phrase “UX design”, more than 1,000 titles will appear. That’s a lot of titles to wade through if you’re looking to read about user experience! One of the most difficult parts of making a list of the best UX books is that there are so many awesome ones out there. I could write a must-read list that goes on forever.
I chose the following UX titles either because they have played a significant role in the way I view my place as a UX designer or because they address foundational design topics that every UX designer should understand. I’m leaving out a fair number that have been published in all aspects of design, from usability and research to interaction design and how to present and speak to your design decisions. This reading list is intended for you to use as a starting point.
1. Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra
Kathy Sierra’s book is all about the strategy for creating successful products and services. Badass: Making Users Awesome looks at how to look at a product or service from the user’s perspective.
So instead of relying on marketing tactics that might be unethical, we can create products that lead users to champion them with their friends and family. A win for everyone!
The design and layout of the book is unlike that of most — it lays out the argument with a lot of visuals. And it’s an easy read. This has led to some negative reviews complaining that the book is just a PowerPoint PDF. Lay that aside, and the message is strong. It’s a great look at the point-of-view statement and how a well-written one can be influential in creating awesome products that users love.
When you read this book, it will start to make sense why some products do really well in the market and why others don’t. It will help show you how to shift your design strategy so that it can be successful too.
This slim how-to manual, published by A Book Apart, walks the reader through the basics of user research, from talking to stakeholders in an organization through analysis and reporting. Hall’s writing style makes the topic — which can be dry in other books — fun and approachable.
She’s also realistic in her advice to readers. She recognizes the constraints in time and budget that all UX designers face in their day to day jobs, so she proposes how best to navigate these situations and what alternative methods to employ.
Just Enough Research’s current edition was updated with a new chapter on surveys and why designers must be very careful about using these often-abused metrics in their research.
Even if you aren’t a UX researcher, this book explains how you can implement research in your process and spot your own biases so you can design a better user experience.
3. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
The Design of Everyday Things is a standard on most design-reading lists for a reason. This book was originally published in 1988 with the title “The Psychology of Everyday Things”. It was revised in 2013 with a major update to some of the examples to make it more relevant to today.
Norman’s book lays the landscape for usability in human-centered design. In it, Norman lays out how human psychology affects everyday actions, why it’s natural for humans to make mistakes, and how technology can help rather than cause errors. Norman also explains human-centered design and proposes principles for good design.
I listened to this book on Audible, and a PDF accompanied the audio book so I could view the examples, which are especially helpful in understanding affordances and signifiers.
Vox produced a great video about one of the examples in the book — how doors are designed well, and how they are designed badly. If you’ve ever struggled with figuring out a door, sink, stove, switches, or other interface — the problem isn’t you. It’s the design.
Norman’s classic book explains why bad design happens, what good design is, and the constraints designers face when designing.
4. Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson
Sometimes designers follow a set of rules for designing user interfaces without understanding why certain patterns and methods work. This book changes that.
For example, how does human perception work? How is the eye structured and how do we read? What can we do as designers to ensure that people can see the information we design?
Johnson walks through an explanation of human vision, attention, memory, and decision-making for a deep-dive into why we perceive the way we perceive. After reading this book, UX designers will have a better idea of why we have design rules so they can make educated decisions about tradeoffs between budget, time, and competing design rules.
5. About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design 4th Edition by Alan Cooper, Robert Reiman, David Cronin, and Christopher Noessel
About Face completely changed the way I think about interaction design. Admittedly, I’ve only read sections of the book, due to its length. Still, it’s a reference when I have questions about how to approach interaction design and UI design.
This book is broken into three parts. It starts with introducing goal-directed design and how to approach digital projects. Then it moves through designing for behavior and form. Lastly, it looks at the differences in designing for desktop, mobile, and web applications.
My read of the book focused on designing for behavior, and my biggest “ah-ha” moment came when reading about optimizing for intermediate users. Much of the struggle designers have is in how to manage the different needs between beginners and experts. This chapter explains that we should focus on intermediates. We should guide beginning users to become intermediates as soon as possible, and aim to provide opportunities for advanced users to use our products without holding them back.
This book includes a number of other useful concepts to consider when designing user interfaces. At 659 pages, it might be a little too much to read in one sitting, but it should be in the designer library.
It’s short, easy to read, and a great manual for designers just getting started in usability testing. Krug wrote it based on his 30 years as a usability consultant for organizations including Apple, NPR, and the International Monetary Fund. Even if you already understand why you should do usability testing, chances are you work with people who don’t understand. This book is a great gift for those people. It explains why you should test, how to keep it simple, and how to keep it from being a budget suck. The newest edition has a new chapter about usability for mobile websites and apps, and all of the examples are updated.
IDEO CEO Tim Brown explains design thinking and how it should be used at every level of a business. This isn’t a manual for designers. It’s geared towards people outside of the industry, but I included it on this list because of the examples.
IDEO is a well-known human-centered design firm, and the examples Brown provides are straight from IDEO’s project list. While sometimes it feels more like a sales pitch, the case studies are interesting examples of how design thinking is applied.
UX designers who read this book can look at design thinking from a perspective outside the industry and use the examples to explain how design thinking can be used in every industry and in every discipline — it’s not just for designers.
I couldn’t include all of my favorite user experience books on this list. There are just too many amazing titles, and I already have about three times as many on my “to-read” list. These must-read UX design books are a great place to get started if you’re looking for some summer reading to help you advance your design career.
The UX portfolio website has superseded the business card as a UX designer’s most essential professional networking tool. Especially these days, as the UX design industry pivots abruptly to a predominantly remote profession, UX designers communicate their professional identities virtually through their online presence to navigate the constricted job market successfully.
In my middling work experience as a UX designer over the years, I’ve been involved in countless UX portfolio reviews on both sides of the hiring process. Having personally benefited from industry mentorship in my own career, I’m excited to share what inside intelligence I can back with the design community, to encourage emerging UX designers to represent themselves more effectively to hiring managers and potential clients.
As with any other good user experience, a UX portfolio website should consider the user’s mindset during a visit. Bear in mind, companies typically automate their hiring processes using HR software, with workflows designed to evaluate as many qualified applicants as quickly as possible. Conciseness is merciful to reviewers digging through a pile of applications. The reviewer expects immediate access to all the information they need to accomplish their evaluation. Within twenty seconds, they should understand your pitch, get a sense for your work, and have your contact information at their fingertips, ready to take the next step in their hiring workflow.
For full disclosure, I’ve pulled all of these examples from my own personal orbit, and included friends and colleagues who I respect and want to uplift. Let’s take a look at how each designer’s site uniquely succeeds, and look for patterns to model a great UX design portfolio.
1. Total class: Liya Xu
Liya Xu is an accomplished UX designer and Amazon alum, now returning to graduate school to study design management at Pratt. She leverages her technical know-how combined with her visual sensibility to craft all-around excellent applications. Really, check out her work.
This online design portfolio has the character of a fashion spread, with well-selected attributes and succinctly written content. She allows the viewer plenty of breathing room in the empty space of the layout, to process the impact of her UX portfolio content. The case studies fall in reverse chronological order, most recent and impressive work at the top. A visitor gains immediate access to an example of work “above the fold,” peeking up from the bottom of the home screen. The experience conveys an overall modern, professional effect.
2. Authenticity: Seka Sekanwagi
Seka Sekanwagi works at Cash App as a UX researcher and comes from a well-rounded background in product design, interaction design, UX, and UI. His degree is actually in industrial design, the crafting of objects and tools, and he brings that same human-centered mindset to his work. A genuine empathetic interest in other people drives his user research, questioning the meaning behind core user needs and translating them into tangible quality improvements.
The imagery and copywriting of Seka’s design portfolio establish his credibility while expressing his individuality. Selectively-edited messaging demonstrates the level of thoughtfulness that goes into his work output. He formats his work qualifications in simple typesetting, reducing the cognitive load on the visitor, and inviting them to review his qualifications at their leisure.
3. Perfect Pitch: Roochita Chachra
Roochita Chachra is an Austin-based UX designer and recent General Assembly immersive graduate who is highly active in the local creative community. Roochita enters UX design from the adjacent worlds of graphic design and digital marketing and is transitioning her career focus to allow her more opportunity to conduct user research, prototype, and problem-solve.
Whenever repositioning for a new avenue of design, it takes self-restraint to hide old projects which don’t reflect your updated professional image. A UX design portfolio needs to represent the type of work you’re looking for, not just what you’ve done. Roochita focuses hers on the UX design process, and supports it with plenty of explanations and artifacts to show the output.
4. Pure Enthusiasm: Ljupcho Sulev
Ljupcho Sulev approaches his design work with a passion and a positive attitude. Originally from Macedonia, he works for SoftServe out of Sofia, Bulgaria. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Ljupcho on a project, conducting user interviews and analyzing research side-by-side for weeks. His sunny disposition brightens the spirits of his team members and elevates the work.
Ljupcho’s profile is sparse and direct. He highlights his career achievements by pairing photography with bold infographics, letting his enthusiasm pop off the screen. The minimal design aesthetic allows the content to take priority over the visuals.
5. Scannability: Aimen Awan
Aimen Awan is a UX designer with a background in software engineering and information experience design. Aimen optimizes her case studies for the viewer to scan quickly, with summaries at the top denoting her role and responsibilities on the project. Scrolling down the page, project artifacts illustrate the design process, increasing the fidelity successively up to the final product.
When developing a UX portfolio for a job search, take a lean approach like Aimen — gather feedback, and iterate on your design. We designers are all susceptible to over-designing our work, nitpicking well past diminishing returns. The most useful design portfolio feedback comes from submitting actual job applications and gauging the response, so the earlier you have something ready to share, the better. Think of it as a user test — submitting a batch of applications and fishing for feedback from hiring leads. Every response is a valuable piece of data and should help you refine your messaging and presentation.
6. Approachability: Ke Wang
Ke Wang writes his UX portfolio with a tone of casual levity, with bonus points for rhyming, and his About section reads like a social media status update. He pulls it off because his case studies scroll through examples of his overwhelming talent and work.
Website design covers some crucially important goals which require some entirely human skills. Relating to the site visitor in an approachable way is the hallmark of intuitive user experience and a good heuristic of success.
7. Clear Storytelling: Phill Abraham
Phill Abraham is a graduate of General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive course. Like many other UX designers, Phill arrived through a circuitous career path, with a background in psychology and experience in documentary film. He is actively involved in the local design scene, building out his book of projects.
Each case study shapes a compelling narrative of Phill’s design process. A project from his experience as a documentary filmmaker bolsters his UX portfolio and speaks to his capability to perform as a professional. Documentary is, after all, a quintessential form of user research. Phill applies his storytelling sensibility in presenting the case studies, outlining his thorough process step-by-step. As the visitor scrolls down the page, they experience a neat narrative arch outlining the scenario, the design process, and the final product.
8. The Resume Homepage: Samantha Li
Samantha is a Design Manager at Capital One and an all-around UX champion. An active organizer within the design community, she mentors students and early-career UX designers working to break into the industry. Her own UX portfolio website outlines her career journey in the form of an extended resume, dense as a novel. An evaluator doesn’t even have to click to find all of the relevant information.
The resume homepage is a great design pattern for more established professionals with a long list of accomplishments. As a best practice, scrutinize what you publish diligently. Password-protecting case studies helps avoid any disputes over showing sensitive client work, and you may need to censor any personal data that may appear in your photographs and artifacts.
Job hunting poses challenges even for design professionals with advanced experience. Candidates need to squeeze their credentials into a digestible size to communicate their entire work history to reviewers in a short window of attention. The importance of every element of the online UX design portfolio becomes amplified, and dialing in the nuances of messaging makes a difference in getting noticed.Emerging UX designers face an uphill challenge as they’re fleshing out their portfolio projects. UX professionals in the job market are judged by their list of accomplished projects, a frustrating situation for early-career UX designers who may be struggling to get their foot in the door with shorter resumes. The only course of action is bootstrapping through some initial projects — side projects, student projects, volunteer work, and ultimately paid UX design jobs — to demonstrate applied skills. A great UX portfolio effectively communicates your ability and value to potential clients.
While experience design is not an exact science with predictable outcomes, there are steps you can follow that help push you in the direction of making great products and services.
To help illustrate, I’d like to tell you a story about Doug Dietz, an Industrial Designer for General Electric. Doug was faced with the harsh reality that a product he was responsible for designing was evoking anxiety and dread in the people who interacted with it. The product? An MRI scanner. The user? A family with young children.
Doug had just finished a two-year project designing an MRI scanner and was eager to see it installed in a hospital’s scanning suite. He was proud of his accomplishment and was informed his design had been submitted for an International Design Excellence Award, the Oscar for design.
As Doug was speaking with a technician about the design, a patient needed to get scanned so he stepped into the hallway for a moment. And as he did, he observed the patient and her family approach the room and noted their trepidation as they got closer. The parents looked worried and the little girl was scared. As the family passed him, he could hear the father tell his daughter, “We’ve talked about this. You can be brave…”
As Doug continued to watch, he saw tears rolling down the little girl’s cheek while the hospital technician called for an anesthesiologist. This is when Doug learned that hospitals routinely sedate pediatric patients for their scans because they are so scared that they can’t lie still long enough.
Doug was devastated. The very product he had been designing for close to 20 years was the very product that was striking fear in the hearts of its users. Once he took a step back and considered what that little girl was going through, it became clear his device with its black and yellow caution tape, hazard stickers, beige monotone color palette, dark lighting and cold flickering fluorescents was not helping. As Doug stated in his TED talk, “The machine I designed looked like a brick with a hole in it.”
Determined to make his experience design better for pediatric patients, Doug sought advice on a new approach and attended a Design Thinking workshop where they discussed the need to have empathy for users, the value of cross functional teams, and the importance of iterating as you learn.
Doug observed pediatric patients at daycare. He talked to life specialists to understand what pediatric patients went through during treatment. He gathered a group of volunteers from GE who were willing to help provide other perspectives including experts from a local museum, and doctors and staff from two hospitals. From this new foundation of understanding, he created a prototype. He then observed how interactions with the machine had changed, which allowed him to see which parts of his design were working or not.
Ultimately, this approach led to the “Adventure Series” where pediatric patients were transported into new worlds. Whether the theme was camping, a pirate ship, a safari, or a spaceship, the team worked hard on bringing these spaces to life through details like scents, disco balls, koi ponds, paddle trails, waterfalls that cascade onto the floor, and even scripts for machine operators to use as they guide patients along their adventures.
Only two patients were sedated in over a year vs. 80% of all pediatric patients previously.
Productivity increased because of a decreased need for an anesthesiologist.
The hospital saw a 90% increase in patient satisfaction scores.
Overall, it offered a much better experience for pediatric patients.
As one 6 year old put it, “Mommy, can we come back tomorrow?”
UX Design Process
We can learn a lot from Doug’s example. In their product design journey that shifted their users’ experience from fear to excitement, Doug and his team showed us that making good products and services takes:
Empathy: Keep the needs of your users in mind.
(Re)frame: Figure out what’s essential to them.
Ideate: Find new ways to solve for what’s essential.
Test: Try things out to see what works.
Iterate: Stay flexible in your thinking as you learn.
Let’s unpack each step a bit further.
1. Empathy: Keep the needs of your users in mind.
Once Doug saw his design from the perspective of a pediatric patient, he immediately realized something needed to change. He knew he needed to walk in the shoes of his user and challenge some of the assumptions he’d made before when designing these devices.
Things to consider:
Who are we designing for?
What do they need?
What is their experience?
What’s working or not?
Methods to use:
Audit of tools or belongings
Remote moderated interviews
Subject matter expert consultations
2. (Re)frame: Figure out what’s essential to them.
As a UX designer, the power in reframing what matters to your user comes from your ability to prioritize their needs above others. This matters because it helps you and your teams not only identify what’s important but focus your energy toward solving the problem that will have the greatest impact. In Doug’s case, he was able to see that while his designs fit standard hospital protocols, these same protocols fell short of what was needed to help encourage positive interactions with the device.
Things to consider:
What are our blindspots?
What is causing the most pain?
What’s the most important thing to get right?
What are the potential benefits?
Methods to use:
3. Ideate: Find new ways to solve for what’s essential.
Now that you and your team have conducted upfront research to define your users, align on their needs, and discuss the core problem to solve, now it’s time to explore! Iteration is all about exploring the “what ifs” of your experience design concepts. The more perspectives you include in this step the better, since it’s your goal as a UX designer to invite nontraditional solutions that will serve your users’ needs and even excite them.
Things to consider:
What about the current experience needs to be improved?
What can we learn from others who have solved a similar issue?
What if we did ______ instead?
Methods to use:
Participatory design groups
Mock ups (physical and digital)
4. Test: Try things out to see what works.
Usability testing matters because even the most experienced UX designer never knows how others will interpret their ideas or wireframes. In order to make sure our intentions are being communicated successfully, we need to build things and put them in front of our intended users. It’s our job to observe how they interact with our ideas. Listen to their comments and feedback. Remain flexible when things don’t go according to our plan. And ultimately, make informed decisions about how we can make our ideas more effective to our (re)frame.
Things to consider:
What is the best way to represent our idea to our user?
What is a situation that will help anchor them when interacting with our concept or wireframes?
What should we ask them to do?
What did they find confusing about the interaction, user interface, visual design elements, or anything else?
How will we know if we’ve been successful?
Methods to use:
5. Iterate: Stay flexible in your thinking as you learn.
Staying flexible and adapting to what you learn is the secret sauce to success because we never know what will work or not until we try it out. In Doug’s case, this meant going back to the drawing board when something he and his team created did not resonate with their user. One strategy for staying flexible is to hold meetings with your cross-functional team at moments when critical decisions are made. Whether it’s processing potential impact to your design based on feedback from a user, or deciding you need to better (re)frame your objective, flexibility is key to success.
Keep in mind, the steps Doug and his team performed are not new to the UX industry. By attending a Design Thinking workshop, he was introduced to the ideas of many great thinkers before him, all of which have proven the value in empathizing with your user, (re)framing the problem based on their needs, ideating on many ideas before deciding on a direction, usability testing with users, incorporating insights from their feedback, and iterating based on what you learn.
The more you do it, the better you will get. As Carissa Carter from the Stanford School points out, there’s a difference between cooking and being a chef: “The order and process of a recipe helps new cooks get started, but it’s only with practice, inventiveness, experimentation, and constraints that you might begin to call yourself a chef.”