General Assembly, Author at General Assembly Blog

Filling the Gap Between Learning & Engagement

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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.  

Possible Solutions

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

Source: https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report

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.  

Learning is always a journey.

To learn more about how General Assembly can help guide your company’s talent transformation, check out our enterprise marketing solutions.

General Assembly + CUNY

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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:

Data Analytics

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.

Digital Marketing

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.

How Our Immersive Graduates Get Jobs: GA’s Outcomes Report 2018-2019

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“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. 

Why Us?

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

Next Steps

  1. 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
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. There’s no better time to begin anew. Connect With Our Admissions Team

Read Our Report

Explore Our 2018–2019 Outcomes Report

*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.

We Will Not Be Complicit

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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 to get 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.

2The term “White supremacy” has different nuances in other countries and cultures. This article, “White Nationalism is an International Threat” provides a high-level view on how it shows up internationally.

Remembering Why We Celebrate Pride

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“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

LGBTQ+ Community:

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.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Don’t stay silent.

Events:

  • 6/11 – Diversity & Inclusion in Tech
  • 6/24 – Leading at the Intersection: Our Identities in the Workplace 
  • 6/25 – Drag Queen Bingo for the Ali Forney Center
  • 6/25 – Radical Pride, Radical Allyship: Community Talk, Workshop & Dance  
  • 6/26 – Designing for All: Why Accessibility Matters 
  • 6/30 – How They Got There: LGBTQIA Leaders 
  • 7/6 – Celebrating Pride: A Road to Self-Acceptance

Why We Should All Be Angry

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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.
  • Engage with media created by People of Color. Read TheGrio, The Root, Ellen McGirt’s Race Forward, and Rachel Cargle. Listen to podcasts like Code Switch, Intersectionality Matters, and Race Forward
  • 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. 

Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts (Part 3)

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Key insights from Caitlin Davey, Manager of Learning Experience Design at
General Assembly

We’ve reached the last segment of our three-part blog series on managing remote teams. We hope our experts’ advice has been useful for team leaders who are transitioning to working from home and adjusting to this new normal in the world of work.

For our final installment, we sat down with General Assembly’s very own Caitlin Davey, Manager of Learning Experience Design. Caitlin has managed a remote team for 2 years and has deep experience designing remote learning experiences in data for GA’s enterprise partners around the world. 

Read on to hear Caitlin’s insights on:

  1. Leading remote meetings.
  2. Encouraging team participation while remote.
  3. Being supportive of your team during a remote transition. 

For additional perspectives on remote team management, check out part one and part two.

GA: Thanks so much for the time today, Caitlin. In your role, you’ve participated in many conversations with our partners who are shifting to remote work. What are some of the top tips you share on leading remote meetings?

Caitlin: First and foremost, set a clear agenda with time chunks. If minutes tend not to work for you, then try to estimate time based on the percentage of the meeting you want to spend covering a given topic. Also, keep meeting times manageable and allow for stretch breaks every 30 minutes to allow participants to physically stretch and refocus their attention. As a team leader, you need to model active engagement and bring strong energy to amp up the energy of participants. 

Second, if there are key decisions that need to be made or input that is required, consider sending a pre-read of materials along with your agenda so participants can come to the meeting prepared. When your meeting comes to a close, name owners of action items and send follow-ups with the highlights of the meeting, and a video recording if available. Follow-ups ensure that everyone is clear on the next steps and can review what was discussed.

GA: Staying organized seems to be key! On the flip side, what are some of the top mistakes you see people make when leading remote meetings?

Caitlin: When leading remote meetings, try to prevent the “No, you go ahead” loop as I like to call it. As a leader, you need to own facilitation and direct the conversation. This can look like nominating the next person to speak, asking for the opinion of a team member by calling on them, or determining the order of who will speak in advance. This keeps the meeting moving and increases the comfort of team members because expectations are clear. It also prevents lags where no one is responding to broad questions. Then again, get comfortable with some silence. The fidelity of remote meetings can mean that participants need time to think and respond. Don’t rush to fill the silence as participants may just need some time to formulate their thoughts before chiming in. 

Pauses in conversation can feel less natural in remote meetings and people often fail to leave time for ideation or questions — it’s important to build this in. Name ways participants can contribute, whether that’s asking people to come off mute and speak, inviting comments through the chat, or using the raise hand feature if your conference platform is Zoom. If you have challenges leading the meeting while following the chat, nominate someone to raise any critical questions, and make sure that you build in time to pause and answer instead of interrupting yourself to address comments. 

GA: I’ve definitely experienced those “No, you go ahead” loops before, and love the tips to address it! Switching gears a little bit, what are some norms you like to use to engage a remote team?

Caitlin: Team bonding and preventing feelings of isolation are especially important for teams that are working remotely. Plan to connect through icebreaker introductions or get remote coffee. These may sound corny, but leaning into the corniness can actually unlock a greater sense of connection and make calls feel less like a checklist. One of my favorite icebreakers is to ask participants to quickly hold up something nearby that shows their personality. For example, my pack of stamps is always handy because I love sending mail to friends and family. 

Teams should also collectively decide on remote working agreements. These can go beyond sharing preferences for communication channels and even include mindsets to adopt as you work together. One example of a working agreement we hold at GA is “Be present,” which means we all agree to minimize multitasking during meetings and practice active engagement. Another example is “Take space, make space,” meaning that as we take time to talk, we also intend to make time for others to speak. 

GA: Oftentimes, we hear that it’s hard to encourage participation in a remote meeting in the same way you would in a conference room. How do you encourage your team to speak up?

Caitlin: Inherently, whoever called a remote meeting feels like the owner, leader, and facilitator of that meeting. To allow individual contributors to feel ownership think about nominating leaders for various meetings and give them a chance to step into a leadership role. Breakout groups can also be a great way to divide large teams into more manageable groups to connect. Zoom has a breakout group feature, but you could also consider smaller sub-groups for projects. 

Beyond structure, when you’re looking for participants to speak in a given meeting, call on participants by name to share input. You can also message participants ahead of time to preview the specific question and see if they’re comfortable sharing. Knowing your team’s working styles is key, as some people prefer to think through a question on their own rather than respond on the fly.

GA: All the insights today have been great so far. One final question for you, Caitlin: What advice can you share around supporting your team during this difficult transition?

Caitlin: It’s important to know the channels of communication that work best for your team. For example, if you’ve decided that not everything needs to be a call, think twice before scheduling a call rather than sending an email. Or, if you decided not to email after hours, don’t break your own rule.

Also, ask what your employees need. You should check in with your team more frequently than normal to make sure that they feel supported and remain engaged. I’d stress that you should be checking on their goals and if they need support rather than to monitor attendance. 

A real benefit I see to remote meetings is the many ways for participants to share. Features like a meeting chat can allow more perspectives to surface than in an in-person setting. As we’re all transitioning to more virtual connections, there’s an opportunity to take time to set new norms, make employees feel supported, have fun as a team, and realize that in remote settings, we can still connect.


We’re so grateful to Caitlin for sitting down with us to discuss top tips for leading and supporting teams remotely. This post concludes our Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts series — we hope you gained some helpful insights! For more perspectives from GA, follow us on LinkedIn, where we’ll always share the latest.

Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts (Part 2)

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Key insights from Adi Hanash, VP of Product at Tempest, and Original Remote Program Product Owner at General Assembly.

Last week we kicked off our three-part series on managing remote teams. As many companies transition to working from home for the first time to help curb the spread of COVID-19, we wanted to offer some advice to help our community navigate this adjustment. GA has deep experience working with a distributed team and has also helped thousands of learners upskill and reskill through live-online formats. With these things in mind, we’ve tapped into our network of experts to answer top questions we’ve received from our partners, and to share tips and tricks that you can use with your remote teams.

For our second segment of this series, we sat down with Adi Hanash, VP of Product at Tempest, an organization focused on building a digital support platform for people recovering from alcohol use disorder. Adi is also a former General Assembly colleague and built the remote learning experience at GA as the original live-online product owner. Adi has transitioned 10 courses to be delivered online and also has 4+ years of experience working remotely himself.

Read on to hear Adi’s insights on:

  1. Engaging your distributed teams.
  2. Getting into the work mindset from home.
  3. Motivating your team remotely.

For additional perspectives on remote team management, check out part one and part three.

GA: Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Adi. We’ve heard from our community that one of the biggest remote work challenges is tracking teams. What is the best way to track attendance and engagement? 

Adi: There’s a piece to attendance worth addressing that is “How do we know someone’s in the office from nine to five or for the prescribed hours?” Having worked on product teams, we start every morning with a quick check-in to set the goals for the day and then hold an end of day check-in. You need to be comfortable allowing a little bit of freedom to do the work in the middle of the day. 

Another piece to attendance is making a decision as a team about what it means to be attending a meeting. For me, the number one thing is being on camera. So, if I’m using a video platform, my expectation is everyone who’s in that meeting is on camera for that meeting. If you turn off your camera, I assume you’ve walked out of the room. Being visible also prevents someone from just listening in while doing other work; it forces them to be more present.

GA: What do you talk about during those daily check-in meetings?

Adi: My product team has a ritual called “stand” that we practice every day. It can be held over a chat platform or in live sessions, but every morning, the team will go around and talk about what they did yesterday, what’s on deck for today, and any blockers or external constraints. At the end of the day, we check-in again and cover what was done that day, any blockers that still exist, and what’s queued up for tomorrow. It’s a really quick check-in that should take 10 to 15 minutes total.

The key is to focus not on the meetings or activities a person will have during the day, but the deliverables for the day. That’s where, as the team leader, you can be very clear on what your expectations are for the work that needs to get done. Or, if you are an individual who is now working remotely, you’re aligned with the rest of the team on what your workday entails. It’s a really helpful way to get everyone on the same page and to make sure that you are setting expectations around deliverables — even in this remote environment.

GA: How do you get into the work mindset before that “stand” check-in at the start of your day? It’s definitely a little different starting your day from home versus going into the office.

Adi: Establish what your rituals are for starting and ending work in your remote environment. This may sound silly, since I know one of the benefits of working from home is being able to be in pajamas all day, but my ritual was that I very consciously decided that when I started work, I put on a collared shirt. I was still in shorts, and that was fine, but the act of putting on the shirt meant I was at work, and the act of taking that shirt off meant I was no longer at work. I’m not saying that’s the right one for you, but I would just encourage everyone to establish rituals.

GA: You also mentioned giving the team a little bit of freedom to do the work in the middle of the day. What do you think about flexible work hours when working from home?

Adi: The most important thing is to not conflate remote working with flexible working  — you have to address them independently of each other. Remote working is the ability to do the work that you have to do from home or in various locations. Flexible work hours mean that you allow a person to set their own schedule for when they are working and when they aren’t. The question of flexible work schedules needs to be addressed in its own way.

When I worked remotely, I was working eight hours, but my mistake was spreading those eight hours over 14 hours, which made me feel like I was working the entire day even when I wasn’t. So when you work remotely, you should be very clear on what is okay to do with your schedule in your day (for example, leaving for lunch) and what is not (for example, cleaning). Do not make the mistake of spreading eight hours of work over too long of a period. The way I’ve managed this is to be very clear on my calendar about my scheduled time. You have to create  boundaries for yourself and for your team to make this work successfully.

GA: What about when you have team members who treat everything as an emergency? How do you deal with that if it falls within an unavailable slot in your schedule? 

Adi: This can be especially challenging for remote workers. I think the number one thing is defining the levels of emergencies with your teams. There should be some version at the top, which is that the business cannot move forward unless the emergency is solved. If it is a company-wide blocker, then everyone has to stop what they’re doing and help solve the problem. Then down at the bottom, there are things like a typo on the website. At that level, you need to ask, “Is it preventing us from doing anything? How many people have reported it?”

Once you get to an understanding of the emergency spectrum, you’d be surprised by how many actually have to be addressed in real-time. So that’s the number one thing I would encourage you to do.

GA: What tips do you have for managing and running large format meetings?

Adi: The most important thing with any meeting, especially larger ones, is to remind people of the opportunity cost of a meeting, and make it clear that there has to be true value driven by the people in the room. So for example, if you have 15 people in the meeting for 30 minutes, you’re not taking 30 minutes, you’re taking seven and a half hours. And if you start to think about it in terms of time as accumulation, you start to become a lot more judicious as a leader around what type of meetings you want to be calling and who’s going to be involved.

Then, if you do decide to proceed with a large format meeting, the number one thing is to have super-clear agendas. You have to be explicit as to what the deliverables for the meeting are. If you cannot define clear deliverables, there are probably better ways to do the meeting than to actually have a meeting. For example, if you need a decision on X, then the meeting attendees have to be defined by who’s responsible for making that decision. So that at the end of the meeting, you’re able to say great, our decision is X.

GA: How can you motivate your team members when everyone is remote?

Adi: For those of you who are in a leadership position, you need to think about what recognition looks like in a distributed room. It’s very easy to say “Great job!” to an individual, but you need to find the ways to publicize their victories and their wins, and more so in this distributed environment because it’s almost a requirement for them to know that even though they’re on the other end of the computer, their work is having an impact and is being recognized.

Chances are, you have some sort of chat platform that you can use. At Tempest we use Slack, and so we have to be creative about how to use it for this purpose. For example, one thing that I love to do with our team is to create a shout-outs time. Every week there’s a certain time where we get onto Slack and just shout out all the victories and wins for the week. Those small ceremonies and rituals help establish the connection, especially with remote employees, that the work they’re doing isn’t being lost to the ether, and that you’re actually seeing it and recognizing it.

A huge thanks to Adi for these amazing tips on rituals and leading a remote team. We’re always here for questions, email cheers@ga.co if you’ve got any!

Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts (Part 1)

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Top tips from Matt Brems, Managing Partner at BetaVector, and Global Lead Data Science Instructor at General Assembly

There has been an unprecedented shift to remote working as companies and individuals do their part to curb the spread of COVID-19. We’ve heard from our global partners that this shift has been a difficult adjustment and that teams could use some tips and tricks to cultivate connections with their remote employees and maintain productivity during this uncertain time. General Assembly (GA) has deep remote work experience and has also delivered live online learning to over 5,000 students and remote workers around the world. With that in mind, we’re sitting down with our experts to get answers to your most pressing questions and the right tools on managing remote teams and adjusting to remote work from home. 

For our first segment of this three-part blog series, we sat down with Matt Brems, Managing Partner at BetaVector and Global Lead Data Science Instructor at General Assembly. Matt has taught 1,000+ students since 2016 and has been working and teaching remotely for the last two and a half years.  

Read on to hear Matt’s insights on:

  1. Identifying blind spots in the shift to remote.
  2. Building company culture and employee engagement in remote teams.
  3. Juggling work and life when they coexist more than ever before.

For additional perspectives on remote team management, check out part two and part three.

GA: Matt, thanks so much for being here with us today. To kick things off, what were some of the concerns you had when you started to teach online, and how might these concerns apply to people transitioning to remote work?

Matt: Glad to be here! One of the challenges in shifting to an online classroom was that I just didn’t know what the blind spots were going to be. I knew the content I was supposed to teach, but the blind spot was how could I ensure my students’ success when everybody was now connecting remotely. Part of it just took some experience, but really, it was about listening to my students. 

As a manager, you know the business objectives that you’ve always had. However, you have an additional blind spot: how do you get your team to succeed with the uncertainty of everyone working from home? Within these unique challenges, you have to create space for your team to share what they need and what isn’t working. Then you have to listen to what your entire team is telling you and act on it. Finally, you need to accept that there will probably be a period where it feels weird and uncomfortable. 

GA: It sounds like it all worked out! We’ve heard a common blind spot is not knowing how to collaborate with teams remotely. Do you have any tips or collaboration tools you’d recommend for managing collaborative work?

Matt: When collaborating with others remotely, it’s important to be as explicit as possible. When I started teaching remotely, I would ask vague questions like, “What’s wrong with this?” or “What do you think about that?” Since my questions were vague, my students’ answers were all over the place. That wasn’t a failure on their part, it was a failure on my part. So when it comes to working collaboratively, I have a couple of recommendations. 

First, break the task down into smaller chunks and make the tasks as specific as possible to your remote employees. Let’s say you need your team to write a report by the end of the day. Instead of just putting the task out there, work with the entire team to divide it up. I’m not trying to encourage micromanagement, but it’s much easier for communication to break down remotely. People jump into their next meetings, people make assumptions about who does what. 

Second, be explicit. Instead of using terms like “end of day,” specify what “end of day” is. Does it mean 5 p.m. or midnight? If you’re managing remote employees in different time zones, which time zone? Being explicit, wherever possible, is a really helpful tool for effective communication.

GA: Really great tips. Another blind spot we’ve been hearing frequently is around cultivating a sense of community while remote — how do you manage to keep your entire team connected?

Matt: When it comes to developing that sense of connectedness in the programs that we teach, we start every lesson with an icebreaker. For example, earlier today, my colleague asked, “If you were forced to be part of a talent show, what would your talent be?” This gets the whole team engaged in social interaction that’s a fun way to share things about themselves that you wouldn’t otherwise know, a promising tactic for building trust. Think about the “water cooler” talk where people share things that aren’t directly connected to work. We can still do that; we just have to be a bit more creative and intentional about creating that sense of a dependable company culture and community.

As another example, General Assembly develops community by doing daily trivia. Katie, our “trivia guru,” announces a time for trivia, comes up with five trivia questions and then asks them in the trivia Slack channel. People compete to be the first to correctly answer the question. It’s a lot of fun because so many people get really into it. Everybody laughs because some people are right on the money and some people are sharing weird, off-the-beaten-path answers. We’re leaning into everything that we would do in-person to build that community; we just have to be more intentional about it when we’re remote.

GA: To expand on company culture even further, what advice do you have for creating norms for your remote teams?

Matt: To come up with norms, start with a shared blank document and let the whole team contribute their thoughts about what’s important. Then transition to discussing these thoughts in a virtual meeting and have people come to a consensus on norms for the group. Specifically, you want to provide a safe space for people to share what they need out of your team environment, and you want to make space for people who have different experiences than you might have. 

I want to be abundantly clear about this: Once the team agrees on a norm, the whole team needs to follow it. And that includes the team leader. There is sometimes this tendency for people in leadership to say, “Hey, we established the team norms, but that’s for everybody else. Because I’m the team leader, I don’t necessarily have to abide by that.” That can be the quickest way for norms to deteriorate and works against building trust. Being clear and making sure everybody adheres to the norms is huge.

GA: A lot of people have children or parents to take care of in addition to working from home – what are your thoughts on flex hours as part of those team norms? 

Matt: I think that’s really important right now. Everybody needs to come together and be flexible and empathetic because this is a difficult time for a lot of people. Recognize that maybe somebody will be able to do good work from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. before their kids get up, and then there are times during the day when they need to take breaks to play with their kids, and then they’ll be ready to hop back on later in the evening.

This ties directly into setting team norms. Norms can include being explicit about the hours that people are available, as opposed to assuming that everybody is still going to be on the nine to five office schedule while at home. In my opinion, assuming that what you did in the office will simply work at home is one of the quickest ways to set yourself up for failure.

GA: On the flip side, how do you set boundaries with family while you’re working, given remote work and home life coexist in the same place? 

Matt: With my fiancé, we had to have very direct conversations about what worked for us and what didn’t. For example, I said “If you come home and my headphones are in, just wave at me but go into the other room. If I’m able to talk to you, I will take my headphones out and come talk to you.”

Some people recommend even having a little sign, like a yes/no sign. If it says yes, you can come up and tap them on the shoulder, but if they flip it and it says no, don’t bother them at that moment. That can be really important. 

GA: One final question. We know that working from home can be stressful, especially when juggling family obligations and health concerns. What advice do you have for people who are having those feelings right now?

Matt: It is very common and normal for people to feel stressed, to feel isolated, or to feel upset about what’s going on. I read on Twitter recently that this isn’t a normal working from home scenario…we’re working from home during a crisis. I have worked from home for almost 2.5 years, and I still feel like something is fundamentally different, given all that’s going on in the news. One of the things that I personally believe is that community is really, really important. And it’s possible to have community with one another, even if you’re not physically in the same room. 

With my fiancé, we sat down with his parents and did a virtual drink. For the first three minutes, it felt bizarre to talk with people on a computer screen, but after a few minutes, you don’t even notice that they’re not in the room. Virtual connections can happen with family, friends, colleagues and co-workers to the extent that you want. Leaning into my community has been really cathartic for me, and I hope that it is for many of you too.

A huge thanks to Matt for taking the time to sit down with us to share his remote work tips and tricks. As we adjust our everyday lives to our ever-changing world, it’s helpful to know that our sense of work, community, and work/life balance does not have to be compromised. 

Do you have questions about managing remote teams that you’d like to ask our experts? Email us at cheers@ga.co.

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Free Fridays by General Assembly: Our Favorite Online Workshops

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At General Assembly, we’ve been thinking a lot about the current and future state of career development and the skills that will build resiliency. Despite this age of uncertainty, we believe that learning has no limits. Whether you’re looking for a new job or wanting to diversify your skill set to become more employable, our community of experts is still here for you, online.

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