How to Build a Stronger Workflow for Developers, Designers, and Product Managers

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Jeff Gothelf, Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking

Jeff Gothelf’s new book, Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking

The following is an adapted excerpt from Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking by designer, team leader, and business coach Jeff Gothelf.

In 2016, I was preparing with clients for an upcoming training workshop focused on coaching a cross-functional team of designers, software engineers, product managers, and business stakeholders on integrating product discovery practices into their delivery cadences. During our conversation, my client said to me, “Our tech teams are learning Agile. Our product teams are learning Lean, and our design teams are learning Design Thinking. Which one is right?”

The client found the different disciplines at odds because these seemingly complementary practices forced each discipline into different cadences, with different practices and vocabularies targeting different measures of success.

The engineering teams, using Agile, were focused on shipping bug-free code in regular release cycles (many teams call these “sprints”). Their ultimate goal was an increased velocity — the quantity of code they could ship in each sprint. Product managers, using Lean, were most interested in driving efficiency, quality, and reduction of waste through tactical backlog prioritization and grooming techniques.

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Servant Leadership: From Coast Guard to Education

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Scott Kirkpatrick General Assembly President Veteran

While on active duty in 1997, GA President and COO Scott Kirkpatrick served as a military social aide to President Bill Clinton in the White House.

To honor our veterans, we’ve compiled a series of interviews with General Assembly staff, students, and alumni that celebrates their time in the service, explores how they found a new career in tech, and reflects on the life and leadership lessons they learned along the way.

Our first story is by Scott Kirkpatrick, General Assembly’s president and COO. If you are a veteran interested in boosting your career through General Assembly’s programs, learn about our discounts here and GI Bill® eligibility here.

Veterans Day is always a time of reflection and pride for me, and I always love to speak with other veterans about their military experiences. For me, my military career started when I chose to attend college at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. My father served as a soldier in the Vietnam War, and he always taught me to do things bigger than myself. That value was the inspiration for me to attend the Coast Guard Academy instead of “normal” college.

The mission of the Coast Guard is to save lives, and I was drawn to the humanitarian aspect of the service. I had no idea what I was getting into when I stepped onto campus for a summerlong bootcamp. It was a surreal experience in which the cadre shaved off my long hair, required me to square every corner and sleep with my rifle, and allowed only three responses: “Yes, sir/ma’am,” “No sir/ma’am,” or “No excuse sir/ma’am.” It was an intense summer, but I quickly learned the value of teamwork, respect, and perseverance. I relied on my classmates to get through extremely challenging and intimidating experiences — and those classmates are still close friends today.

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What’s the Difference Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity?

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Diversity Equity Inclusion Distinction

The often-used terms diversity, equity, and inclusion have distinct meanings. Here’s why that matters, and how they work together.

Diversity. Inclusion. Equity. These words and the issues they point to loom large in tech. It’s hard to go a week without reading an article about a company touting its dedication to diversity, while another is called out for tolerating oppressive comments and workplace practices.

From 2014–2016, Google spent $265 million to increase its diversity numbers (to little avail), a number that has become even more well known after the company recently fired an employee who wrote a memo against diversity efforts. In a 2017 survey of tech employees, 72% reported that diversity and inclusion was important to their company. In another report, which surveyed over 700 startup founders, 45% of respondents reported that they talked about diversity and inclusion internally in the last year. The majority of participants in that survey believe that the tech industry’s employee makeup will be representative of the U.S. population in 2030, though that’s a far cry from where we are now.

With all this talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in tech, there is no better time to dig deep and establish shared, fundamental understandings of these terms and their meanings. In my work as a DEI facilitator working with tech companies and in many less formal conversations, I’ve found that there’s widespread confusion. People get tripped up not only on definitions, but on how to use these terms to create goals and action plans for themselves and their organizations. When we can’t get on the same page, we can’t take the next step. So let’s start at the beginning and create a shared understanding of DEI together.

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How to Cultivate Top Tech Talent: What Every Exec Needs to Know

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Hiring Strategy Digital Skills Training

Our recommendation is simple: Companies need to invest in learning.

The following is an excerpt from 6 People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation, an exclusive white paper from General Assembly. Download the full paper here.

The digital landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and it’s essential for companies to harness wide-ranging technical expertise in order to stay ahead. Today’s marketers must be able to analyze massive amounts of data, IT workers must be able to design compelling mobile app experiences, and a “product” is no longer only a physical object but could be a website, a piece of content, or even a training curriculum.

General Assembly’s recommendation for keeping up is simple: Companies need to invest in learning. The Economist magazine recently issued a special report that highlighted the importance of “lifelong learning” as a habit that both skilled and unskilled workers must incorporate to keep pace with a rapidly developing economy. They profiled GA’s approach to tech education — including upskilling promising individuals and reskilling those with outdated competencies in data, web development, and design — as an effective way to ensure employees’ skills were kept up to date.

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The Study of Data Science Lags in Gender and Racial Representation

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data science gender race disparity

In the past few years, much attention has been drawn to the dearth of women and people of color in tech-related fields. A recent article in Forbes noted, “Women hold only about 26% of data jobs in the United States. There are a few reasons for the gender gap: a lack of STEM education for women early on in life, lack of mentorship for women in data science, and human resources rules and regulations not catching up to gender balance policies, to name a few.” Federal civil rights data further demonstrate that “black and Latino high school students are being shortchanged in their access to high-level math and science courses that could prepare them for college” and for careers in fields like data science.

As an education company offering tech-oriented courses at 20 campuses across the world, General Assembly is in a unique position to analyze the current crop of students looking to change the dynamics of the workplace.

Looking at GA data for our part-time programs (which typically reach students who already have jobs and are looking to expand their skill set as they pursue a promotion or a career shift), here’s what we found: While great strides have been made in fields like web development and user experience (UX) design, data science — a relatively newer concentration — still has a ways to go in terms of gender and racial equality.

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9 Ways to Develop Talent for Tomorrow’s Economy

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Policy Ideas Skills Gap

Create opportunities for employers and job-seekers alike with these proposed policies to help close chronic skills gaps.

A tightening labor market, persistent skills gaps (in fields from manufacturing to technology), and the short shelf life of skills in the rapidly changing digital economy, have led to a seemingly paradoxical narrative in the education-to-employment pipeline.

In manufacturing, for instance, 70 percent of companies now face shortages of workers with the necessary technology skills. And yet millions of Americans struggle to find jobs that put them on a path toward social and economic mobility or, at least, a comfortable perch in the middle class.

What’s worse, the compounding forces of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will begin to dislocate a growing number of workers — putting unprecedented pressure on an education and workforce development system that is ill-equipped to tackle looming reskilling and training challenges.

New Models Emerge

In the last five years, an array of non-accredited education and training providers has surfaced to address these challenges, including General Assembly, as well as on-demand learning platforms, ultra-low-cost course providers (like StraighterLine or Coursera), and new approaches to “education as an employee benefit” (pioneered by companies like Chipotle, in partnership with Guild Education).

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5 Reasons Adults Fear Going Back to School — and How to Get Over Them

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Adult learners fear going back to school

Taking a class can be a step toward that promotion you’ve been angling for, or lay the foundation for a full-on career change. But for many adults, committing to weeks, months, or even a day of lessons can be nerve-wracking.

It’s true: The back-to-school jitters are real at any age. Learning new skills often involves rearranging your schedule, planning for additional expenses, or combating the nerves that come with venturing out of your comfort zone. But if you can overcome these barriers, your potential will skyrocket.

Skilling up has innumerable benefits: It can give you a competitive edge in the job market; increase your value within your company; and, of course, keep you ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing tech environment. On a personal level, it can boost morale and give you creative inspiration. There’s truly nothing to lose.

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We Stand With the LGBTQ+ Community

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LGBTQ Work Protection Statement

Individuals thrive professionally and personally when they can live openly and without fear. The strength and security of our communities — and economy — depends on it.

At General Assembly, we’re in the business of empowering people to pursue work they love and careers that allow them to realize their passions. We’re also big believers that when people bring their whole selves to work — and all the identities, experiences, and ideas that make them unique — they’re more productive, engaged, and innovative.

Apparently, the Department of Justice doesn’t agree. On the heels of the president’s surprise ban on transgender service members in the military, on July 26 the Department of Justice issued a brief that states that Title VII — the law that protects workers from sex discrimination — does not extend to the LGBTQ+ community.

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Mindfulness Tips for Web Developers

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Mindfulness for Web Developers

Early in my tech career, as a web developer, I was constantly stressed out. Every time somebody needed something from me, I felt I had to drop everything and do it right then. I was overwhelmed by my growing to-do list, and doubly stressed for not doing enough quickly.

All developers face a lot of pressure. When you’re coding or creating something, clients, teammates, and managers want it fast, and they want it perfect. Plus, today’s tech teams are always expected to be on and responsive through email, phone, Slack, and beyond, which digs into time you want to spend on the work itself. These aspects of coding culture can often lead to stress, unhealthy habits, and emotional burnout, which all keep you from reaching your potential on the job. That ultimately leads to more stress, more unhealthy habits…you get the picture.

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How Prohibiting Salary History Questions Can Help Close the Wage Gap

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Ban Salary History Pay Gap

For HR leaders, especially those who focus on talent acquisition, making fair and equitable salary decisions is a daily struggle, and one that can frustrate even the most experienced leaders.

It is common practice to make compensation decisions based on salary history. When considering costs and the bottom line, companies are often tempted to leverage opportunities to pay as little as possible for a role, offering whatever a candidate will accept — and not a penny more. This is true for many industries, but especially in tech, where salary data is scant due to ever-changing programming languages, skills, and platforms. Continue reading