The business world is no longer just a man’s world. According to 2017 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), over 11 million U.S. firms are currently owned and operated by women, contributing over 1.7 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy.
Though these numbers speak volumes to the power and determination of the female spirit, they do not tell the whole story. Women-owned firms are still the minority, and women continue to face unequal pay, sexism, and gender barriers in the workplace. From finding professional mentors to achieving work/life balance, overcoming these obstacles can seem daunting — especially in technical and chief executive roles where the representation of women is far lower than men.
As a woman entrepreneur, business leader, and the CEO and founder of the travel company Acanela Expeditions, I am incredibly passionate about female empowerment in the business arena. Throughout my journey, I have faced several roadblocks throughout my career and have worked hard to develop successful strategies to transform these hurdles into opportunities.
Below, I want to share six common challenges women business leaders face. Hopefully, you will find these tips useful for overcoming each, and feel more empowered to take charge of and thrive in your career.
Challenge: Most of the people in the room are men.
Opportunity: As a woman, I stand out but I’m also more likely to be remembered.
One of the uncomfortable realities of being a women entrepreneur is walking into a business meeting and realizing that you’re one of the few women (if not the only woman) in the room. The pressure of being the only one can be overwhelming. In fact, studies show that individuals who are “onlies” (e.g. the only woman, the only LGBTQ person, the only person of color, etc.) are subject to a higher percentage of bias and discrimination from members of the majority group, whether intentional or not. No wonder it’s so tempting for us to step back and try to blend in with the crowd!
While the temptation to stick out less is strong, most successful female leaders agree that staying true to yourself and playing to your strengths are key to rising above preconceived notions of how women should appear and act at work.
Instead of conforming to the widely held belief of what a leader looks like or should be, I have discovered that it is important to have confidence in myself and the skill sets that brought me to where I am today. “Sticking out” can actually be a positive attribute, giving you the chance to spotlight the unique skills and outlook you bring to the table. So instead of shrinking back, step forward and make a lasting impression by being both seen and heard.
CHALLENGE: It’s hard to build a support network in a “boys club” world.
Opportunity: Seek both men and women as connections and mentors who will help you along your career journey.
It’s no secret that a lack of mentors and advisors can stunt one’s professional growth. After all, in the business world, it’s not always what you know, but who you know.
Yet, a 2017 study by the NAWBO states that over 48% of women in business report finding it difficult to build a healthy support network in male-dominated fields. Despite this challenge, women have an amazing opportunity to collaborate and build strong support networks.
For example, women-oriented networking groups and events, such as the American Express OPEN CEO Bootcamp and the International Association of Women, are indicative of a growing number of networks and professional spaces that focus on supporting and elevating women professionals. Consider becoming involved with networking groups, professional associations, and other organizations that feature and promote successful women leaders. This gives you the opportunity to not only learn from the experiences of seasoned professionals, but also enables you to make and build connections with potential mentors who can offer support and advice later in your career.
It’s important to note that professional support and mentorship for women does not have to come exclusively from women. On the contrary, I have found incredible value in seeking counsel from men who have shared their connections, advice, expertise, and support — all of which helped catapult me into my current role as CEO.
Challenge: It’s increasingly difficult to balance work with my personal life.
Opportunity: Create a healthy work-life blend.
As a female business executive, I have been asked the question time and time again, “Can women really have it all?” There are several flaws inherent to this question (not least of which is the fact that my husband and male coworkers never get asked this).
The truth is that both men and women business leaders are challenged with balancing their career and personal life. However, I’ve found that changing the terminology from “work-life balance” to “work-life blend” helped me ease the juggling act of work and family time. Running your own business takes significant time and effort. However, it can also allow more flexibility and control over your schedule.
As the head of Acanela Expeditions, my work bleeds into my personal life and vice versa. Rather than being a separate part of my life, work is a genuine and integral part of it. This doesn’t mean that I’m simply “on” and working all the time. Instead, I’ve intentionally set strategic, as well as realistic career and personal goals that work together to create a healthy lifestyle for me and my family.
Challenge: I lack access to funding.
Opportunity: Identify funding sources that target women-led fundraising initiatives.
According to a Forbes article published in December 2017, female entrepreneurs receive less than 3% of venture capital funds. Though that number is skewed due to the lack of women in business and corporate leadership positions, studies consistently show women founders as less likely to win adequate funding.
As an entrepreneur, this challenge creates an opportunity for you to engage in education and support networks dedicated to helping women-led businesses. Organizations like the Female Founders Alliance, Astia, and Golden Seeds offer coaching workshops to guide early-stage entrepreneurs through the fundraising process and help connect them to potential donors.
Challenge: I constantly encounter the stereotype that “women are more emotional and less decisive than men.”
Opportunity: Women bring diverse physical, mental, and emotional experiences to the conversation.
You’ve probably heard the common stereotype that women are “emotional thinkers” and, therefore, less competent business leaders than men. While some women may think differently than men as a result of their personal and professional experiences, I haven’t found it to be a flaw in business. If anything, it’s an advantage.
In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, gender diversity is good business. Women bring unique perspectives, ideas, and experiences to the table that enrich conversations and lead to better company decisions. It often takes great boldness to make our voices heard, but it is essential, for we have a lot of important opinions and ideas to share with the world.
Harmful stereotypes argue that women are less decisive than men and thus have a difficult time making tough business decisions. However, while I tend to be a more relationally-oriented decision maker, I’ve discovered this characteristic to be helpful in advancing my company. I’d also argue that my relationships with colleagues have enhanced not just my leadership abilities, but also the overall health of my company.
Listening to and involving team members in important conversations has enabled me to make more logical, reasonable, and healthier decisions that steer the company forward. Ultimately, respecting my employees and their opinions has helped me become a more well-rounded and successful business leader.
Challenge: Expectations are often set lower for women.
Opportunity: Then shouldn’t it be easier to exceed them?
Earning the same level of respect and recognition as male colleagues can be a difficult and frustrating experience for women. Senior-level roles in businesses remain dominated by men, and internal biases are alive and well in the workplace.
While this reality has frustrated me greatly, I’ve realized that it has also given me the motivation to not only reach those expectations, but to also surpass them. Don’t be discouraged by low opinions and stereotypes. As we continue to surprise and exceed expectations, we break through one glass ceiling at a time.
Overall, the truth is: Yes, women continue to face unfair gender biases in the workplace. However, when viewed from an empowered perspective, these obstacles can serve to strengthen and elevate women leaders in diverse spaces. Meeting these challenges head on presents an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on your situation and those of future generations. We live in a unique time in history, one in which we have the power and opportunity to band together to break down longstanding barriers, and realize our biggest dreams and career aspirations.
Acanela Expeditions is a US-based travel agency that specializes in experiences, people and culture. Kylie Chenn founded Acanela Expeditions in 2015 after spending a semester in Europe. While abroad, she met incredibly talented individuals, or artisans, with stories that deserve to be shared. She created Acanela Expeditions to provide others with the opportunity to meet and learn from these artisans personally. Acanela Expeditions has nearly 100 tours worldwide and continues to explore unique countries to add to their offered locations. For more information, visit www.acanela.com.
By investing in opportunity, General Assembly helps people all over the world leverage technology to achieve their career goals. Our See Her Excel scholarship reflects our commitment to champion gender diversity and inclusion at all levels, and elevate women in software engineering and data science so they can thrive in the world’s fastest growing industries. Learn more about how GA supports women in tech at ga.co/she.
Data is the engine driving today’s digital world. From major companies to government agencies to nonprofits, business leaders are hunting for talent that can help them collect, sort, and analyze vast amounts of data — including geodata — to tackle the world’s biggest challenges.
In the case of emergency management, disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, this means using data to expertly identify, manage, and mitigate the risks of destructive hurricanes, intense droughts, raging wildfires, and other severe weather and climate events. And the pressure to make smarter data-driven investments in disaster response planning and education isn’t going away anytime soon — since 1980, the U.S. has suffered 246 weather and climate disasters that topped over $1 billion in losses according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
Employing creative approaches for tackling these pressing issues is a big reason why New Light Technologies (NLT), a leading company in the geospatial data science space, joined forces with General Assembly’s (GA) Data Science Immersive (DSI) course, a hands-on intensive program that fosters job-ready data scientists. Global Lead Data Science Instructor at GA, Matt Brems, and Chief Scientist and Senior Consultant at NLT, Ran Goldblatt, recognized a unique opportunity to test drive collaboration between DSI students and NLT’s consulting work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the World Bank.
The goal for DSI students: build data solutions that address real-world emergency preparedness and disaster response problems using leading data science tools and programming languages that drive visual, statistical, and data analyses. The partnership has so far produced three successful cohorts with nearly 60 groups of students across campuses in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., who learn and work together through GA’s Connected Classroom experience.
Taking on Big Problems With Smart Data
“GA is a pioneering institution for data science, so many of its goals coincide with ours. It’s what also made this partnership a unique fit. When real-world problems are brought to an educational setting with students who are energized and eager to solve concrete problems, smart ideas emerge,” says Goldblatt.
Over the past decade, NLT has supported the ongoing operation, management, and modernization of information systems infrastructure for FEMA, providing the agency with support for disaster response planning and decision-making. The World Bank, another NLT client, faces similar obstacles in its efforts to provide funding for emergency prevention and preparedness.
These large-scale issues served as the basis for the problem statements NLT presented to DSI students, who were challenged to use their newfound skills — from developing data algorithms and analytical workflows to employing visualization and reporting tools — to deliver meaningful, real-time insights that FEMA, the World Bank, and similar organizations could deploy to help communities impacted by disasters. Working in groups, students dived into problems that focused on a wide range of scenarios, including:
- Using tools such as Google Street View to retrieve pre-disaster photos of structures, allowing emergency responders to easily compare pre- and post-disaster aerial views of damaged properties.
- Optimizing evacuation routes for search and rescue missions using real-time traffic information.
- Creating damage estimates by pulling property values from real estate websites like Zillow.
- Extracting drone data to estimate the quality of building rooftops in Saint Lucia.
“It’s clear these students are really dedicated and eager to leverage what they learned to create solutions that can help people. With DSI, they don’t just walk away with an academic paper or fancy presentation. They’re able to demonstrate they’ve developed an application that, with additional development, could possibly become operational,” says Goldblatt.
Students who participated in the engagements received the opportunity to present their work — using their knowledge in artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve important, tangible problems — to an audience that included high-ranking officials from FEMA, the World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The students’ projects, which are open source, are also publicly available to organizations looking to adapt, scale, and implement these applications for geospatial and disaster response operations.
“In the span of nine weeks, our students grew from learning basic Python to being able to address specific problems in the realm of emergency preparedness and disaster response,” says Brems. “Their ability to apply what they learned so quickly speaks to how well-qualified GA students and graduates are.”
Here’s a closer look at some of those projects, the lessons learned, and students’ reflections on how GA’s collaboration with NLT impacted their DSI experience.
Leveraging Social Media to Map Disasters
During disasters, one of the biggest challenges for disaster relief organizations is not only mapping and alerting users about the severity of disasters but also pinpointing hot spots where people require assistance. While responders employ satellite and aerial imagery, ground surveys, and other hazard data to assess and identify affected areas, communities on the ground often turn to social media platforms to broadcast distress calls and share status updates.
Cameron Bronstein, a former botany and ecology major from New York, worked with group members to build a model that analyzes and classifies social media posts to determine where people need assistance during and after natural disasters. The group collected tweets related to Hurricane Harvey of 2017 and Hurricane Michael of 2018, which inflicted billions of dollars of damage in the Caribbean and Southern U.S., as test cases for their proof-of-concept model.
“Since our group lacked premium access to social media APIs, we sourced previously collected and labeled text-based data,” says Bronstein. “This involved analyzing and classifying several years of text language — including data sets that contained tweets, and transcribed phone calls and voice messages from disaster relief organizations.”
Contemplating on what he enjoyed most while working on the NLT engagement, Bronstein states, “Though this project was ambitious and open to interpretation, overall, it was a good experience and introduction to the type of consulting work I could end up doing in the future.”
Quantifying the Economic Impact of Natural Disasters
Prior to enrolling in General Assembly’s DSI course in Washington D.C., Ashley White learned early in her career as a management consultant how to use data to analyze and assess difficult client problems. “What was central to all of my experiences was utilizing the power of data to make informed strategic decisions,” states White.
It was White’s interest in using data for social impact that led her to enroll in DSI where she could be exposed to real-world applications of data science principles and best practices. Her DSI group’s task: developing a model for quantifying the economic impact of natural disasters on the labor market. The group selected Houston, Texas as its test case for defining and identifying reliable data sources to measure the economic impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.
As they tackled their problem statement, the group focused on NLT’s intended goal, while effectively breaking their workflow into smaller, more manageable pieces. “As we worked through the data, we discovered it was hard to identify meaningful long-term trends. As scholarly research shows, most cities are pretty resilient post-disaster, and the labor market bounces back quickly as the city recovers,” says White.
The team compiled their results using the analytics and data visualization tool Tableau, incorporating compelling visuals and story taglines into a streamlined, dynamic interface. For version control, White and her group used GitHub to manage and store their findings, and share recommendations on how NLT could use the group’s methodology to scale their analysis for other geographic locations. In addition to the group’s key findings on employment fluctuations post-disaster, the team concluded that while natural disasters are growing in severity, aggregate trends around unemployment and similar data are becoming less predictable.
Cultivating Data Science Talent in Future Engagements
Due to the success of the partnership’s three engagements, GA and NLT have taken steps to formalize future iterations of their collaboration with each new DSI cohort. Additionally, mutually beneficial partnerships with leading organizations such as NLT present a unique opportunity to uncover innovative approaches for managing and understanding the numerous ways data science can support technological systems and platforms. It’s also granted aspiring data scientists real-world experience and visibility with key decision-makers who are at the forefront of emergency and disaster management.
“This is only the beginning of a more comprehensive collaboration with General Assembly,” states Goldblatt. “By leveraging GA’s innovative data science curriculum and developing training programs for capacity building that can be adopted by NLT clients, we hope to provide students with essential skills that prepare them for the emerging, yet competitive, geospatial data job market. Moreover, students get the opportunity to better understand how theory, data, and algorithms translate to actual tools, as well as create solutions that can potentially save lives.”
New Light Technologies, Inc. (NLT) provides comprehensive information technology solutions for clients in government, commercial, and non-profit sectors. NLT specializes in DevOps enterprise-scale systems integration, development, management, and staffing and offers a unique range of capabilities from Infrastructure Modernization and Cloud Computing to Big Data Analytics, Geospatial Information Systems, and the Development of Software and Web-based Visualization Platforms.
In today’s rapidly evolving technological world, successfully developing and deploying digital geospatial software technologies and integrating disparate data across large complex enterprises with diverse user requirements is a challenge. Our innovative solutions for real-time integrated analytics lead the way in developing highly scalable virtualized geospatial microservices solutions. Visit our website to find out more and contact us at https://NewLightTechnologies.com.
Allow us to reintroduce ourselves.
We’re excited to announce that our flagship program just got a full upgrade for 2019: Web Development Immersive (WDI) is now Software Engineering Immersive.
Keeping our programs tightly linked to market demand is at the core of General Assembly’s mission. It’s part of our commitment to ensuring our graduates can secure great jobs and build meaningful careers using their new skills.
To keep ahead of rapidly changing industry needs, we do our research, working closely with employers, practitioners, and students to make impactful updates that help grads launch new careers. We dive into questions including:
- What roles are employers looking to hire?
- What types of jobs do our graduates get, and with what titles?
- What are broader trends across the industry?
- And, most importantly, how can we synthesize all of this to ensure our students have the most relevant, in-demand skills they need to succeed?
Since 2012, more than 8000 adults have taken WDI — a rigorous full-time, three-month program with dedicated job support. More recently, we’ve invested in expanding our offering in a few significant ways, leading us to shift our emphasis to software engineering.
- We added a deep computer science focus.
In the simplest terms, we’re arming our students with the theory behind how computers and applications work. We’ve added 30 hours of in-class and online instruction in computer science concepts. This new content equips students with the ability to describe the “why” behind what they’re doing as they create algorithms, data structures, and design patterns — skills already fundamental to the learning experience in WDI. The ability to understand and demonstrate the “why” is critical for succeeding in technical interviews, and our hands-on approach gets them ready through mock interview questions and challenges.
- Spotlight on high-demand languages and frameworks.
- Free foundational prep course.
We know our courses are tough; it’s what makes them so effective at landing people jobs. However, we also believe that, with the right preparation, dedication, and support, anyone can make it. To help ensure that students are ready to hit the ground running on day one of class, we’re offering totally free training that covers the foundational elements of software engineering.
- $0 upfront tuition options.
We want students to be able to focus on what really matters: their education. To create more pathways into our classrooms, we’ve launched payment opportunities like our Catalyst program. This income share agreement empowers students to take our courses at no upfront cost and only begin paying back their tuition once they have secured a job. Learn more about our flexible financing options here.
- Real-world development workflows.
To ensure our grads enter the workplace ready to perform, we now go beyond full-stack training by replicating real-world engineering scenarios. Our enhanced emphasis on version control, writing specifications, the product development life cycle, design patterns, code refactoring, unit tests, and managing dependencies rounds out the essential competencies for today’s software engineers.
What Hasn’t Changed
Our proven approach to developing industry-relevant curriculum remains the same: we partner with top employers and practitioners in the field to ensure our offerings are tailored to meet today’s needs. And, as with all Immersive course participants, SEI students receive dedicated support from expert career coaches from their first day of class to their first day on the job. Diving deep into personal brand building, technical interview prep, exclusive networking events, portfolio development, job search roadmaps, and more, we’re there at every step of the job hunt with guidance to keep grads motivated and accountable.
Read all about SEI, its new components, and frequently asked questions about the program here. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us at email@example.com.
In our rapidly changing world, one of the biggest challenges to continued economic growth is the skills gap, which is the difference between the skills employers are looking for, and the skills available among job-seekers. For individuals, the skills gap limits upward mobility and wage growth. For companies, it limits the ability to hire the teams needed to pursue commercial opportunities.
So what’s stopping the skills gap from being quickly solved? A core obstacle is that individuals don’t know what skills to learn given the lack of clear and consistent guidelines from employers and industries as a whole. When organizations are unsure about the skills they need, they often rely on pedigree (e.g., university degrees) or experience (e.g., previous job titles) in place of specifically stated competencies that drive new, digital functions.
This construct perpetuates the skills gap on both sides of the market. Employers constrain their own talent pipelines, as they only consider a fraction of candidates with skills that match their hiring needs. On the other hand, job-seekers underinvest in new skills, as they lack clear guidance on what qualifications are required to access new roles.
The skills gap continues to grow as more automation in the workplace intensifies the need for new skills across teams. A 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report cites that “in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated.” To stay employable, individuals need to embrace a mindset of lifelong learning that enables them to upgrade their skills, and move into roles that support and complement new technologies.
These new patterns of learning need to be coupled with additional entry points to careers and objective skill requirements that facilitate workforce mobility. Similarly, the McKinsey report predicts that “8 to 9 percent of 2030 labor demand will be in new types of occupations that have not existed before.” Thus, we must ensure workers possess not only the tactical skills but also have mobility mechanisms in place to transition into these new jobs.
For mobility to scale, job-seekers need employers in a given field to align on a set of requirements that once met, provide access to employment opportunities. One example of this alignment has emerged from General Assembly’s Marketing Standards Board, a group of leaders across the consumer, technology, media, and academic sectors who are defining career paths and critical skills in marketing.
For the past year, the group has worked to provide transparency into the marketing profession. The Board started by creating a three-level framework that defines career paths in marketing. In tandem with these efforts, the board launched the Certified Marketer Level 1 (CM1) assessment, which aligns with the foundational level of the framework. The CM1 is recognized as a standard by a growing number of companies who use it to benchmark the skill levels of their teams. Benchmarking has also proven useful for employers who wish to define and diagnose critical skills across their organizations.
The CM1 is also being used as a standard in the hiring process. General Assembly brought together a group of over 30 companies, including Calvin Klein, L’Oreal, Pinterest, Priceline, and others to recognize the skills tested on the CM1 as a common set of requirements used in recruiting. Each company in this group agreed to interview high scorers on the assessment regardless of candidates’ background. This system of skills-based selection provides new career pathways for individuals who may otherwise be overlooked in a system dependent on pedigree and experience. Among job-seekers, we received tremendous interest in taking the CM1 as an entryway to guaranteed first-round interviews with these companies. Approximately 4000 individuals registered to take the CM1 in just a few weeks, and the top 10% of test-takers qualified for a guaranteed interview.
We were delighted but not surprised to see that top scorers came from diverse backgrounds — from college seniors entering the workforce, to career-switchers looking to get their foot in the door, to experienced marketers looking for a new challenge. Likewise, our previous research in The State of Skills: Digital Marketing 2018 report revealed that strong digital marketing talent can be found outside the marketing function, and from fields such as sales and technology. Moreover, this group of top scorers confirmed that experience doesn’t necessarily predict skills. Rather, giving all registrants the chance to demonstrate their skills using a clear set of skill requirements on the CM1 assessment can create access to new job opportunities.
As a result, our employer partners were able to expand the top of their recruiting funnels, and attract more qualified candidates. These employers are helping to address the skills gap in the industry by using a skills-based approach that increases the overall supply of qualified candidates considered for marketing jobs.
General Assembly’s mission has always been to provide transparent pathways to transformational careers. We’re thankful to the Marketing Standards Board and to the companies that have partnered with us to make strides in this direction. Together, we’re working to increase the transparency and openness of the workforce, broaden talent pools, and create more entry points for aspiring marketers around the world.
GA’s Credentials team’s mission is to help people get recognized by employers for what they can do, no matter where they come from. To learn more and get involved, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Marketing Standards Board and the CM1 assessment, visit https://generalassemb.ly/marketing-standards-board.
by Ashley Rudolph and Tom Ogletree
Embarking on a career change is a major investment. To say it’s a tough endeavor is an understatement, as it usually requires time, money, and effort to bridge skills gaps and make inroads in a new field.
At General Assembly, we’ve helped over 13,000 individuals launch new careers through our full-time Immersive programs in coding, data, and UX design. GA courses aren’t cheap, but they have a high return on investment and are specifically designed to prepare students to be successful and secure high-wage, high-potential roles as web developers, UX designers, and data scientists.
However, many students can’t afford this education out of pocket. About 40% of our full-time students use third-party funding sources — including loans, scholarships, GI Bill benefits, and government programs — to attend GA. There are more who would like to do the same, but half of those who apply for loans get turned down, and our pool of scholarship funding is not big enough to meet demand.
The reality is that many of our students already have debt from past education or credit cards that affects their ability to secure new financing. Today, the typical college student borrower graduates with an average of $22,000 in debt. A recent study revealed that over 30% of recent student borrowers are facing serious struggles with repaying debt loads. The combination of existing repayment obligations and the looming risk of default leaves many adults with extremely limited funds to devote to continuing education. It’s a frustrating cycle — individuals are stuck in low-paying jobs they don’t love, but they can’t afford the education that will fast-track them into a new line of work.
At GA, we never want finances to stand in the way of someone motivated enough to break into a new field. In order to create more access to our programs, we sought out new ways for career-changers to fund their education.
One concept that caught our attention was income share agreements (ISAs), a model of income-based repayment that’s gaining traction among education and training providers. After a year designing this program, we’re excited to launch Catalyst, GA’s ISA program. Since many people are curious about ISAs, we wanted to share some insight around why they’re a viable option for many students, regardless of their income, credit history, or background.
(You can read about how and why we created the Catalyst program in more detail in our white paper, Untapped Potential.)
How GA’s Catalyst ISA Program Works
The gist of the Catalyst program is this: Students can take a full-time GA Immersive course in web development, data science, or UX design at no upfront cost. After they graduate and land a job earning at least $40,000 annually, they’ll start paying back 10% of their income over 48 monthly payments.
We chose this income share amount because it’s comparable to what students might pay for a loan, based on our typical starting salaries. According to PayScale, average starting salaries for web developers are $54,365 nationally, and data from Climb Credit, one of our loan partners, shows that GA graduates report median starting salaries of $60,000 after taking an Immersive course.
Payments are maxed out at 1.5 times the initial cost of tuition (currently about $15,000), meaning that higher earners may end up paying as much as $22,425 total, while lower earners will pay less. We’re working with Vemo Education, the largest provider of ISAs in the United States, to manage the program’s day-to-day operations and administration.
We think these terms benefit career-changers for several reasons:
- Approval based on future potential. Many loan applicants get rejected because of low credit scores or other debt. Acceptance to Catalyst instead depends on students’ drive and readiness to thrive in the course and on the job.
- Employment first, payments later. Students can devote their time and energy to excelling in class and job searching — without the looming stress of upcoming payments.
- Career focus. ISAs and career support go hand in hand. GA’s Career Services team is dedicated to making sure students land a job in their field of study through one-on-one coaching, exclusive hiring events, networking opportunities, and more.
- Flexible career pathways. The $40,000 minimum salary allows students to accept a lower-paying job they’re passionate about, cultivate a freelance business, or even start their own company without the pressure of loan repayments.
- Life happens? Payments stop. Students can pause payments at any time if they stop working, whether due to unemployment or personal, family, or health-related reasons.
Our Approach to ISAs
We took a student centric, research-based approach in deciding whether to introduce ISAs. It was essential to develop a model that does not put the burden only on the student, but also ensures that GA is incentivized to help participants meet their career goals. First and foremost, we wanted to introduce an option that would be attractive to all individuals, regardless of income, credit history, or background.
Data from the ISA industry at large informed our approach to designing the Catalyst program, but our own unique experience serving thousands of students defined our terms. Here are some of the considerations we made while exploring ISAs as a payment option:
- Student feedback. We reached out to alumni to understand whether or not an ISA-type structure would be appealing to them. We learned what features resonated with our community and built them into our program. More than anything else, students valued not having to make payments while in school and during their job search.
- Current payment performance data and trends. After analyzing data from past GA applicants and students, we knew that affordability was still a frequent barrier. Loans, government funding, and scholarships are increasingly popular options for our community, but we couldn’t meet demand due to obstacles like a small scholarship pool and applicants’ inability to secure loans.
- A strong focus on career outcomes. It’s incredible what GA students can achieve after taking one of our full-time programs, regardless of their educational and professional backgrounds. We strongly believe that ISAs can’t work without outcomes-based programming, and GA’s Career Services team is solely focused on ensuring that students in our full-time courses have the tools they need to land a job after they graduate. We track student progress, have a Big Four accounting firm audit our job-placement data, and share our outcomes reports publicly every year.
- Likelihood of students’ success. Students’ actions prior to enrollment reliably indicate how they’ll perform in their course and job search. To ensure Catalyst participants are prepared, applicants must complete our admissions requirements, course pre-work, and a readiness assessment. Our data shows that good performance on the assessment is the best predictor of success in the program and the job search.
- Commitment to transparency. ISAs are new and we know there’s still a lot to learn about the model, but we’re optimistic. Because of this, we’re pledging to defining key success metrics and making it publicly available.
Thanks to funding from the investment firm Kennedy Lewis, we’re able to serve 5,000 students through the Catalyst program in the coming years. We chose to work with the company because of its alignment with our mission and the goals of the program. “The positive social impacts of ISAs are extensive because they align the quality of the education with the cost,” said David Chene, co-founder and managing partner at Kennedy Lewis. “ISAs avoid the debt trap associated with student loan debt as a student will never be asked to pay more than they can afford.”
We’ll learn a lot along the way and are committed to maintaining transparency with our students, our partners, and others interested in the future of ISAs for accelerated career training. We’ll share updates regularly as we learn, iterate, and improve so we can continue to create greater access to GA’s programs and empower people to pursue the work they love.
Ashley Rudolph is GA’s Director of Consumer Operations and Financing, overseeing global campus operations, as well as General Assembly’s loan and income share agreement programs.
Tom Ogletree is Senior Director of Social Impact and External Affairs and manages GA’s communications, public affairs, and social impact initiatives.
Since 2011, General Assembly has trained individuals and teams online and on campus through experiential education in the fields of coding, data, design, and business. We believe everyone should have access to leading-edge education that will transform their careers — and their lives. Learn more about our Catalyst ISA program and other financing options, and find out what we’re doing to break down barriers to employment, diversify the workforce, and close the skills gap.
As design educators, we at General Assembly prepare students for their careers — but how can we ensure designers continue to grow their skills beyond the classroom? Industry-leading work emerges from teams that persistently enrich themselves by fostering new skill sets and perspectives. But between deadlines, client fire drills, and day-to-day trivialities, a focus on growth can often be put on the back burner. In the long-term, this can result in uninspired designers who don’t grow to their full potential, and teams that opt for the easy way out instead of taking on risks, challenges, and explorations that drive innovation.
When Adobe approached General Assembly about leading a session at the 99u Conference — an annual gathering for creative professionals to share ideas and get inspired to help shape the future of the industry — we knew it would be a great opportunity to guide leaders in creating natural spaces for learning within their teams and workflows.
In our sold-out session “Onboard, Engage, Energize: Tactics for Inspiring a Crack Design Team,” Tyler Hartrich, faculty lead of GA’s full-time User Experience Design Immersive course, and Adi Hanash, GA’s former head of Advanced Skills Academies, shared insights on how directors and managers can structure spaces for learning within their teams, and encourage new approaches to problem-solving. The presentation was developed in collaboration with Senior Instructional Designer Eric Newman and me, GA’s director of product design.
At the event, we outlined the following five ways leaders can encourage their teams (and themselves) to keep learning and improving throughout their careers, including an exercise to spur creativity, reflection, and action. Read on to learn more, and find out how you can perform the exercise with your own team.
Since the Great Recession in 2008, startups have become a major force in society. Today’s entrepreneurial culture — with lower financial barriers to launching a business and people’s increasing desire for flexibility, freedom, and purpose in their work — has bred a whole generation of young companies that have quickly scaled and revolutionized a wide range of industries. A number of those companies, like Airbnb and Uber, have achieved explosive growth and evolved into bonafide conglomerates in recent years.
Meanwhile, older organizations looking to remain relevant and thrive are striving to figure out the practices that allow these startups to excel — and how their corporations can adopt them in order to catch up.
GA was founded on the principle of empowering people to pursue the work they love. In the eight years since we opened our first campus, we have had the privilege of working with students, governments, and the world’s largest companies to create opportunities to radically transform careers and economic prospects.
Today I’m excited to announce that we have reached an agreement to be acquired by the Adecco Group. This is a milestone, a reflection of the world waking up to the skills gap we face, and the opportunity to reshape the relationship and connection between education and the world of work. It’s the result of the passion, commitment, and hard work of thousands of individuals. It’s also the output of the incredible focus and determination of our students, our instructors, and the tireless GA team. For all of those reasons, I’m thrilled to get to share the news.
The Adecco Group is a Swiss-based, truly global company operating in 60 countries that offers 360° HR solutions from flexible to permanent employment, career transitions, and talent development services through its network of independent brands. On my first trip to Switzerland to meet CEO Alain Dehaze, I was deeply impressed by the Adecco Group’s commitment to its people, values, and mission, and struck by what a powerful platform it could be for General Assembly’s vision. We were exuberant at the idea of joining forces, and shaping the future of work, talent, and education. The possibilities to expand the scope of what we can do, and the impact we can make, are almost limitless.
Because of the unique structure of the Adecco Group, we were able to craft a structure where General Assembly will run as a fully independent company underneath its large umbrella. We will, however, be able to leverage the knowledge and network of the world’s largest human capital company. Our mission and vision won’t change, but our ability to provide opportunities to our alumni, students, instructors, and clients will massively increase. In all the important ways we will still be GA, only better.
When my co-founders Matt Brimer, Brad Hargreaves, and Adam Pritzker and I started GA, we wanted to build a community focused on “learning by doing” in New York City. Today, that idea has evolved into a global school that helps amazing individuals and Fortune 500 teams. We have 20 campuses on four continents, more than 50,000 full- and part-time alumni, and over 500 team members who work incredibly hard on behalf of our worldwide community.
I am excited about the power of our partnership with the Adecco Group and what we can do together. The future of work has never been more important and I look forward to helping shape it for many years to come.
While stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in 2008, I wouldn’t have guessed that my time in the Marine Corps would have prepared me for a future in coding. At the time, the 30 Marines in my platoon had access to just one shared computer. It served only two functions: completing online training requirements, and looking up one’s online military record.
I never suspected that nine years later I would be designing and building websites and applications in an intensive web development course, General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) program.
My path toward coding was a winding one. As a Marine on active duty, I was stationed in Japan, Kenya, Sudan, Italy, and Pakistan. Later, after transferring to the Marine Corps Reserve, I pursued a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. While studying at GW, I worked at the nonprofit Veterans Campaign, where I was tasked with helping to rebrand the organization. Though I had little technical experience, I created an entirely new web presence for the organization and migrated its old content to the new website.