General Assembly, Author at General Assembly Blog

Celebrating 10 Years: Kimberly Graham

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we’re highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Kimberly Graham, who works as an AI transformation leader at Sage — one of our incredible clients. Over the past six months, Kimberly has partnered with us to upskill engineers on data and AI principles for transformation.


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at Sage?

Kimberly Graham: I’m originally from Southern California, but I’m based out of Hayden, Idaho, about 100 miles from the Canadian border. I’m Director of AI Transformation for the Sage AI Labs team. 

Sage is a leading accounting and business management software company with worldwide customers. Sage AI Labs is chartered with helping Sage become an AI-enabled organization. Our customers depend on Sage to manage their businesses. By enabling AI, we’ll help transform the customer experience and provide efficiency and insight gains.

My role as the director of AI transformation helps facilitate that process and develop a path forward with AI and machine learning. Upskilling our internal engineering resources is a big part of that. 

GA: Why did you need a training partner? What was your goal?

Kimberly Graham: Sage AI Labs is a team of individuals with AI, machine learning, and infrastructure experience. We’re working with General Assembly to bring that skillset into the business outside of the Sage AI Labs team — within our product groups. By upskilling a subgroup of our engineers who don’t currently have AI and machine learning training, we can learn from GA and then work in concert with our more tenured AI and machine learning resources. The work that we’re doing with you leverages very current and effective GA training processes to upskill our engineers rather than tackling the upskilling externally.

GA: What made you decide to partner with General Assembly, and what has the experience been like?

Kimberly Graham: I was very picky when selecting a vendor and did a lot of due diligence since it’s such an important decision. When I found General Assembly, it was a natural fit. Working with the GA team feels like a partnership — and I sensed that immediately. We wanted to find a long-term partner to build out a customized training process; GA not only had a strong program but an outstanding reputation and excellent reviews. So, we wanted to start small with a pilot.

The initial pilot included a small group of participants so that we could work closely to understand the experience and content as they worked through the 10-week pilot program. It was very clear that General Assembly understood our mission, what we were looking for, and delivered on that. 

Working with GA has been a true partnership. Communication has been very candid, very thorough, and regular — we initially met weekly to set expectations, hear best practices from GA, and provide feedback. What has impressed me the most is feeling like GA is an extension of our team rather than a vendor. 

GA: You have been running your program throughout COVID-19. Can you tell me about your experience with live remote training? 

Kimberly Graham: When COVID-19 hit, the entire Sage organization went remote. Luckily, the Sage AI Labs team is close to 100% remote anyway. Our team is dispersed worldwide. Therefore, while there were many impacts of the remote working situation due to the pandemic, the impact on our team was somewhat minimized.

One thing that has been wonderful with our first full cohort post-pilot is that we chose participants from Western North America and India. We included participants from Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, and India. It’s brought together engineers from different Sage product lines and engineering teams that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work together otherwise. The feedback from our participants has been outstanding.

We wouldn’t have done an in-person course anyway due to our distributed team. So, the fact that General Assembly offered remote upskilling was beneficial, seamless, and very easy to roll out. 

GA: Your first cohort is just about to end — congratulations! Have you seen any immediate impact or results through this training? 

Kimberly Graham: One of the things that struck me the most during our initial pilot was midway through, just five weeks into the program when Sage hosted an engineering team hackathon. Two of our pilot participants teamed up and participated in recommending an AI feature for a Sage product based on what they had learned from General Assembly in the data science pilot. They won a prize in our hackathon, and five weeks later, they co-delivered the idea as their capstone project for the GA course.

Post-program, they went on to present it in various engineering meetings, an AI brown bag, and more. We’re currently in the process of building and implementing that feature into our product. These two developers were able to address a long-standing product challenge through AI and machine learning. This problem couldn’t have been solved with traditional programming — and that was just five weeks into our pilot program!

The participants from the full cohort will be delivering their capstone projects this evening, so our first cohort of 30 engineers is close to completion. I’m looking forward to seeing what they deliver and am really excited to see what they come up with!  I’m also looking forward to continuing our partnership with the GA team to review the program and modify as needed, moving forward, as we expand with additional cohorts.

GA: How does Sage think about the post-program experience for participants?

Kimberly Graham: The sense of community that is created during the course, such as collaborating, sharing resources, projects, and tips in the Slack channel, is extremely important. I monitor those closely. It’s very collaborative.

I’ve picked up on the need for an ongoing community post-General Assembly upskilling since our participants have valued the collaboration and learning process so much. I’m in the process of working on creating an internal community so that our team members can continue to interact and learn from one another. We already have things such as a Yammer group that I’ve created for AI collaboration, but I want to take that a step further — that’s going to be key. It’s not just a matter of being educated, and then it’s done. It’s very important that our engineers continue to interact, experiment, and collaborate.

GA: When it comes to transformation, many organizations think about technology before people. It sounds like Sage has a different approach. Can you tell me about that? 

Kimberly Graham: I moved over to the Sage AI Labs team a year and a half ago and came from a customer success and marketing background. Our team’s executive leader identified the need to have somebody from the business that didn’t have a technical background come in and understand what it takes to transform the business.

This is my first role as part of an engineering team, and I’m far from technical. Regardless of technology, we’re people who need to adopt technology to make our business work and be at the forefront of our customers’ needs. A big part of the transformation process is to look at things from our customers’ perspectives rather than just technology. One of the biggest elements of our transformation process is factoring in how we can use technology for the betterment of employees and our customers rather than just technology for technology’s sake.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Celebrating 10 Years: Steven Longstreet

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Steven Longstreet, one of our instructors, who teaches data to enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work and is a member of our AI and Data Science standards board.


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Steven Longstreet: I work out of the DC campus and live nearby in northern Virginia. I work as an instructor, and I am also a member of the AI and Data Science standards board.

I first discovered GA through a team member, an instructor for GA, who took the 10-week part-time data science course. She wasn’t confident with the content, so I decided to take it with her to support her. I had a blast, and then the GA team asked me to become a data science instructor. 

It was fun to take this class and see how different people were learning and how the program broke down the barriers to data science. 

GA: What is the instructor’s role in learning?

Steven Longstreet: People who sign up for our classes truly want to learn and better themselves. That’s actually one of the coolest things to be a part of. However, the reality is some of the things that we teach are complex, with barriers to learning. My role in learning is making these topics approachable and removing those barriers for each student’s personal journey.

When learning something new, you’re making yourself vulnerable. The instructor has to create an environment where it’s okay to be wrong. It’s my job to understand the student’s barriers and make sure they are okay to be vulnerable and ask questions. 

GA: Why did you get involved in our AI and Data Science standards board?

Steven Longstreet: The whole purpose of the (AI and) Data Science standards board is that the term “data scientists” means absolute dribble. To some people, a data scientist needs to have a Ph.D., and there are other groups who just give out the title to anyone. 

I’ve always struggled with this concept. Part of joining the board was coming together with a group of like-minded people and saying, “What is this term for us? What does it mean? What are the aspects of the new data scientists? What does a career look like? How can we best empower and leverage these people?”

The concept of a scientist is someone who pushes human understanding, and it doesn’t have to be something incredibly dramatic. It can be one microscopic new thing that you uncover that allows human advancement. A data scientist within the organization pushes the understanding of data in a more usable way. We set a clear definition that worked across the range of companies participating in the board.

The other jobs of the AI and Data Science standards board are explaining what a career in this field looks like and making it clear what fields someone can specialize in. We need to be clear about the roles and career path and delineate what these terms mean.

GA: What do you think the most critical data skills are — right now?

Steven Longstreet: Let’s break it into two parts: data engineering and data literacy. 

I’ll start with data engineering because it’s part of your workflow. No matter what. Data needs to be built in the context of the problem you’re trying to solve. These skill sets are both rare and powerful, as a data engineer looks at the needs and resources across the organization to build core data assets with the most powerful and broad applicability. We’ve been talking about big data pretty heavily for about seven years, which can be summarized as more data than you have the resources, skills, or knowledge to wrangle. Maybe 5% of people feel comfortable working with big data, and those people jump into that challenge head-on.

Data literacy is understanding basic data concepts. When I talk about data literacy, I want people to articulate the problem they are trying to solve. Are they trying to forecast something or classify something? It’s about understanding data isn’t perfect and has biases. We build data for a particular context, so you can take the same raw materials and build a pick-up truck or a car, depending on what you’re trying to do with it. In other words, you have to understand why you built your data in the first place.

It’s about knowing what’s possible with data in your field, asking the right questions, and effectively communicating with data people to get the answers.

GA: What advice do you have for leaders who are trying to prepare for the future of work? 

Steven Longstreet: You have to listen to your team, but you also have to recognize that there’s a problem you’re trying to solve. I’m in an industry where people are serving people. Most of my employees are in front of people, but for the last year, we’ve all been working from home. 

The future of work at my company, Hilton, isn’t changing from the face-to-face experience, but we’re listening to our team and realizing many people want flexibility. We are thinking of new ways to bring people together because there are aspects of work that you can’t replicate virtually. 

I think the future of work doesn’t change the fact that human interaction is incredibly important to advance any problem. If one person could work entirely in a vacuum, we wouldn’t talk about Tesla and SpaceX; we’d only talk about Elon Musk. The reality is that a lot of people make work happen; one person rarely solves all the problems by themselves.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Alumni Success Stories: This Woman-in-STEM’s Career Journey From Chainsaws to Software

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From engineer to environmental conservationist — and back again. Sara Laffin started her studies as a marine engineer in college, but after leading a chainsaw crew at a conservation corps, she’s now applying both experiences to her role at Citibank as a software engineer. Learn how she used General Assembly’s Software Engineering Immersive to launch her career in tech and help make way for more women in STEM.

I studied marine engineering in college at the University of Michigan. My mom is from Greece, and we would go visit her family almost every year (which included a lot of time spent on boats). I held a variety of roles in the marine engineering field, mainly in the form of internships, but after so many years on virtual boats, I was ready for a break.

Next, I spent three seasons on conservation crews under AmeriCorps, mainly on national lands in Colorado. Managing crews — and a chainsaw — presented obstacles that helped me grow in unimaginable ways. GA helped me return to my engineering roots in the form of a software engineer. Now, I’m working at Citibank as an entry-level Angular developer.

What were you doing before you came to GA? What was difficult or dissatisfying about it that prompted you to make a change?

I started at GA in Washington, D.C. about two months after my last season with AmeriCorps. On the practical side, I was looking for health care, retirement savings, and year-round work.

What was it about software engineering specifically that intrigued you to explore it as a career? What were the defining moment/s that pushed you to move forward?

My brother and his wife are both in the tech industry! I also really enjoyed the programming classes I took in high school and college. I liked the idea of remote work opportunities as well, since I like to travel and spend quality time with loved ones. Also, the short time span (three months) of the Immersive bootcamp was very enticing. 

What motivated you to choose GA over other programs? 

Good online reviews, the outcomes program, the Catalyst program, and proximity of a campus to my brother’s house motivated me to choose GA in Washington, D.C. 

What was the best thing about SEI for you? And the GA experience overall, both during and after?

Paula Bannerman, our instructional associate, was the highlight of my D.C. campus experience. Everyone in that building was lovely, but she really went above and beyond to make me feel welcome. After graduation, some highlights were meeting up on Zoom with classmates, going to virtual events, and becoming part of a large global community. I look forward to the in-person graduation ceremonies whenever they start again!

Since you graduated in April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic happened halfway through the program. How did you stay resilient, especially with the state of the job market at that time? 

My classmates and family really helped! Meeting for “stand-up” on Zoom every morning with a few people I graduated with at GA helped me set intentions and feel connected. My brother also helped with interview prep and advice. 

How has GA been a resource to you in terms of finding a job after completing your program? 

Meeting with career coaches for one-on-one sessions, specifically Griffin Moore, helped ease my mind about materials, confidence, and actionable items. Whenever cover letters cross my mind, I remember Griffin’s advice: “Think of them as a quest to get to know yourself and the company better.”

How do you think your background in engineering and environmental conservation programs prepared you for your current role? 

My engineering degree required programming and lots of math which helped me with logic, for-loops, conditionals, etc. My work in the conservation corps had a huge impact on my soft skills. Working with teams, confidence, and grit are all important in my current role.

How did the skills you learned at GA help you in your current role as a software engineer?

As a front-end developer, I use a JavaScript framework (including HTML and CSS) for all of my coding work. And Git! I’ve taught so many people at my job about Git not realizing people who have a coding background don’t always have Git experience. I’m thankful we had to use it for every assignment. The full-stack part of the course has also helped me communicate across teams, including backend, database, and design teams. 

Being a male-dominated field, can you describe your experience as a woman studying to become a software engineer at GA? 

In our starting class, I think we had about five women out of 30 students. When we were on campus, it was so nice to have those ladies around! I definitely wouldn’t have had as much fun or support if they weren’t there. 

What do you love most about your current role?

I love working with people, pair programming, and sharing productive ideas. I’m also a mentor for a high school intern at the moment, and I love chatting with her. Helping the next generation of women in technology is important to me, and I try to contribute when I can. I’m so thankful my company invests in women in technology programs. 

With your background, you don’t strike us as the sit-down-at-the-office type. How was the transition from a physically demanding job to a tech-driven one? How do you keep that sense of adventure in your work?

I have lost so much muscle in the transition! I miss the team building that comes from physical exertion and shared meals. We would all camp together at the worksite for eight days at a time, trading off cooking responsibility.But keeping the sense of adventure amid a pandemic has been tricky. Since weekend trips were out of the question, I decided to live for a few months in various locations, usually at a loved one’s home but working remote all the while. So far, I’ve stayed in five different states in the U.S., and currently, I’m over in Greece with my mom. It’s nice to see her and try out the second shift (around 5 p.m.–1 am. local time). My love and gratitude go out to my friends and family for helping and hosting me. 

As a woman in tech, what advice do you have for other women who are trying to break into the industry?

My go-to advice is from my college: “Those who stay will be champions”. Follow your passion, have a seat at the table, and help others to do the same. Imagine all the women after you who will be thankful for you. And for anyone who hasn’t heard of whisper networks, look it up and ask around. We are not alone and there are support networks waiting to welcome you in.

Find Work You Love

An Introduction to the Vancouver Tech Community

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With its vibrant startup culture and budding talent pool, Vancouver is a popular hub where creativity, entrepreneurs, and startups intersect. Ranked as the Economist Intelligence Unit’s number one Most Liveable City in North America, more than 2 million people choose to call Vancouver home. 

Over the last five years, Vancouver has experienced a 42.6% increase in total tech occupations — even becoming the city with the fastest high-tech job growth in North America1 — and houses nearly 100,000 skilled workers and permanent residents2 within the British Columbia (BC) area. 

The city’s forward-thinking culture, natural surroundings, and diverse community leave no shortage of opportunities — its tremendous growth in tech has earned it the nickname, “Techcouver.” By 2027, this market is expected to add 83,400 new tech-related job openings.3

General Assembly is proud to announce our arrival and help cultivate thousands of meaningful connections through thoughtful partnership building and learning opportunities. Join us for expert-led classes, workshops, and inspirational panel discussions each week.

Companies and Jobs

  • Top industries: construction, film and television, high technology, manufacturing, and tourism.4
  • Major employers: Amazon, TELUS, Best Buy, BC Public Service, Fraser Health Authority, Interior Health Authority, University of British Columbia (UBC), and the City of Vancouver.5
  • Other well-known tech companies have a major presence in Vancouver, including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Cisco Systems, Samsung, Hootsuite, Absolute Software, ACL Service, Dwave, 1Qbit, and Slack.6
  • The city also hosts growing sectors, including AI, Software as a Service (SaaS), business intelligence, cybersecurity, and FinTech.7

The Vancouver Tech Community

  • The tech industry in BC employs around 100,000 people with 75,000 working in the Vancouver metro.8
  • With a lower cost of living than other major cities, it’s a compelling environment to launch a business and attract top global talent. They introduced the Global Skills Strategy which offers highly-skilled employees work permit exemptions and faster application processing times. 
  • Vancouver Startup Week is a week-long event where entrepreneurs, investors, and community leaders connect and celebrate the city’s startup community. 
  • Go-to startup hub, Startup Vancouver, serves tech and non-tech entrepreneurs with resources for every stage of their business. 
  • Vancouver Women in Technology (VanWIT) and BC Tech — through their #WhatWorks Women in Tech Series — provide women with educational opportunities to grow their businesses and careers.

Stay in the Know

Here are just a handful of resources to help you dive deeper into Vancouver’s tech and startup ecosystem:

  • Subscribe to BC Tech, Venture Vancouver, and Vancouver Tech Journal for the latest local tech news and trends. 
  • Startup Grind Vancouver hosts regular virtual events from entrepreneurial stories from startup 101 to DEI-related topics. 
  • Check out the annual Future Technologies Conference for insight from education leaders about the technology industry. 
Browse Workshops

1 https://www.cbre.us/research-and-reports/North-America-Tech-30-2020
2https://www.cbre.us/research-and-reports/Scoring-Tech-Talent-in-North-America-2020
3https://www.straight.com/tech/1247521/demand-tech-talent-vancouver-25-percent-2018
4https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/data/statistics/business-industry-trade/industry
5https://vancouversun.com/sponsored/top-employers-vs/headline-bcs-top-employers-winners-list
6https://www.lighthouselabs.ca/en/blog/tech-companies-vancouver
7https://www.vancouvereconomic.com/focus/technology/
8https://www.vancouvereconomic.com/focus/technology/

An Introduction to the Calgary Tech Community

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Calgary has been reinvented from the ‘energy capital of Canada’ into an innovative and thriving center of digital transformation. Quickly becoming the largest driver of new solutions within the tech sector, Calgary is embracing opportunities that make a difference.

In a recent report, tech companies in the area have more than doubled in the past three years alone — and despite economic impact due from the pandemic, 14% of those new tech companies launched in 2020. Additionally, 40% of businesses are reporting annual revenues of over $1 million,1 showcasing the power of Calgary’s energetic ideas and transformative solutions.

Calgary is diverse in culture. More than 29% of the population immigrated from elsewhere, representing 240 different ethnic origins.2 The numbers will only go higher thanks to an investment of $18.4 billion in digital transformation — 77,000 tech jobs will be added across Alberta in the next few years. In fact, Calgary is expected to have a tech boom with the number of companies at least doubling by 2030.3

General Assembly is proud to announce our arrival and help cultivate thousands of meaningful connections through thoughtful partnership building and learning opportunities. Join us for expert-led classes, workshops, and inspirational panel discussions each week.

Companies and Jobs

  • Top industries: agribusiness, creative industries, energy & environment, financial services, healthcare, and technology.4
  • Major employers: University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services, Shaw Communications, Suncor Energy, Inc., and Imperial Oil Limited.5

The Calgary Tech Community

  • Alberta has a higher percentage of women tech company founders than the global average (27%), compared with 20% globally.6 Organizations such as The Chic Geek, Making Changes, and SheInnovates, Alberta design programs and provide resources to accelerate the careers of women entrepreneurs and innovators.
  • There are local organizations in Calgary founded to support its growing tech community, where you can discover opportunities to network and learn: 
    • Startup Calgary serves early stage entrepreneurs and strengthens the city’s innovation ecosystem through networking, partnerships, and programming.
    • Pixels and Pints connects web developers and digital designers through monthly meet-ups.
    • Assembly Coworking Space offers affordable spaces for tech startups and social enterprises. They also host events in their common areas to connect and learn from fellow entrepreneurs. 
    • Innovate Calgary, a business incubator and member of the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, offers startup support programs.
    • Immigrant Techies Alberta organizes regular networking events for highly-skilled immigrants in the tech industry. 
    • Digital Alberta supports the tech community with new talent and partnership opportunities through a membership network.  

Stay in the Know

Here are just a handful of resources to help you dive deeper into Calgary tech: 

  • Subscribe to Platform Calgary and Venture Calgary for the latest local tech news and trends. 
  • Check out Startup Calgary and The 51 for your upcoming local events. 
Browse Workshops

1https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/tech-companies-alberta-doubles-1.5998124
2https://calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com/why-calgary/be-part-of-the-energy/working-in-calgary/
3https://calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com/newsroom/diversifying-economy-changing-opportunities/
4https://calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com/sectors/
5https://calgaryherald.com/sponsored/top-employers-ch/albertas-top-employers-winners-list-3
6https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/tech-companies-alberta-doubles-1.5998124

One Team, 200 Years of Educational Experience

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“Attitude will get you the job, but skills evolve the job — a perfect metaphor for what GA does… we bring the essential skills.”

— Roger Lee, CMO of General Assembly

First, let’s talk numbers.

Ten years ago, we began our journey in one tiny NYC working space with less than a handful of founders and leaders and one BIG idea — we wanted to offer people the necessary skills to prepare them for the future of work. Ultimately, we wanted to transform lives.

Fast-forward to today. 

Our BIG idea is still the same, but now we’re a pioneering global leader — with a seat at the head of the table. Sometimes, we can’t quite believe it ourselves, but we’ve done our due diligence and will continue to. And we will continue to lead.

Looking back to look ahead.

As we have reiterated throughout our history, we could never be in the place we are without the feedback of our global community of instructors, industry leaders, students, business partners, and, yes, competitors. We will maintain our position in the space and keep evolving with the guidance of our multifaceted senior leadership team — a mixture of new yet seasoned executives and GA veterans. This formidable group believes in our mission of innovation, global expansion — SLT members are located in Boston, Mexico City, Miami, New York City, Paris, San Diego, San Francisco, and Zurich — and the endless possibilities of the future. 

We meet people where they are — with the right people.

GA’s SLT has grown and evolved in response to growing employer demands and the aspirations of worldwide professionals. They bring a collective 200 years of education experience and a range of perspectives and insights that span the globe across multiple generations, cultures, and sectors. This group acts, thinks, and dreams big — global-scale big — in order to meet the industry’s shifting demands.

Meet the Team

Without further ado, we’d like to introduce some of GA’s newest movers and shakers on our senior leadership team and encourage you to explore some of their driving insights:

Shweta Bhasin, SVP of Human Resources

Shweta brings 20 years of experience in HR consulting and corporate HR roles across the telecom, professional services, and education industries. She joins us from Pearson, where she was part of the Global HR Leadership team.

  • Quote To Note: “The strong attraction for me was GA’s mission — feeling the employability skills gap and transforming lives through education. This is a powerful and purposeful mission — so, being part of this journey, with new, more global markets, brought me here…”

Ella Balagula, SVP & Global Head of Enterprise 

Ella brings 25 years of general management, digital transformation, and EdTech growth experience. Most recently, she was EVP and GM of knowledge and learning at Wiley, managing a portfolio of education businesses.

  • Quote To Note: “This is a dream job! I believe that in today’s world, corporations and governments have both a responsibility and an acute need to upskill employees and communities and take charge of preparing people to face the future.”

Alberto Cavero, SVP of Strategy & Transformation

Alberto joins us from Laureate Education, where he served as the chief transformation officer and formerly as the strategy director. Previously, he worked on strategic consulting at Boston Consulting Group.

  • Quote To Note: “GA is a great success story, has great talented people, but mostly, it has huge potential — that’s what I really like about this opportunity. I can encourage bottom-up innovation and transformation to achieve our goals.”

Danielle Chircop, SVP & Global Head of Product

Danielle joins us with 16 years of experience in adult education and over a decade of leadership in instructional design, product, and technology. Most recently, she was VP of digital products at Kaplan North America.  

  • Quote To Note: “Being able to be a huge part of the next wave of innovation at GA and bring it to its next big phase of life is something that’s so incredibly exciting… helping people change their lives and change their careers is hugely important.”  

Roger Lee, SVP of Marketing & Admissions

Roger brings 25 years of marketing experience, most recently as VP of performance marketing at the University of Phoenix.

  • Quote To Note: “Everyone here must find qualified hand-raisers, scale the number of them, personalize their journey, and give compelling reasons to help meet their career goals. We have one goal, and that goal is to help everyone interested understand that GA does it better than anyone else.”

Jason Fournier, VP of Product Management

Jason spent 15 years at Pearson, most recently as VP of product management and AI products and solutions. 

  • Quote To Note: “I’ve spent my entire career in education because I believe that it can have an exponential impact. What I found compelling about General Assembly is that we aren’t just helping people find jobs; we’re helping them build careers, gain confidence in themselves, and change the trajectory of their lives.” 

David Porcaro, Ph.D., VP of Learning & Innovation

David most recently served as director of learning engineering at the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. 

  • Quote To Note: “I came to GA because I’m passionate about providing access to the tech field to diverse learners on a global scale. My job as a leader is to help surface the principles, examples, evidence, concepts, and tools that have effectively got people in similar contexts to their goals.”

These impressive individuals will join our existing team of seasoned leaders, including Catie Brand, VP of human resources; Philipp Lustenberger, SVP of finance; Jayshree Mahtani, general counsel; Tom Ogletree, VP of social impact and external affairs; and Scott Zaloom, SVP of campus operations.

With new and veteran insights governing the entirety of our business, we are equipped to take on the now, the new, and the next levels of our journey with a balanced collective of game-changing executives who will be led by CEO Lisa Lewin, recently hired in 2020. Although our leaders’ 200 years of combined educational experience is quite substantial, their insatiable curiosity and quest for better is infinite. And we’re just getting started.

“These hires reflect a commitment to innovation, in response to accelerated demand for upskilling + reskilling at scale. They’ll leverage remote learning best practices that we honed during the pandemic to reach new global audiences and geographies.”

— Lisa Lewin, CEO of General Assembly

Hungry to hear more? Read Our Latest Press Statement

Celebrating 10 Years: Sarah Hakani

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Sarah Hakani, one of our senior learning experience architects, who creates programs for several enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Sarah Hakani: I am a senior learning experience architect based in Brooklyn, New York.

GA: What is a learning experience architect?

Sarah Hakani: I like to say it’s a hybrid between being an instructional designer and a consultant. What we do is think about what types of learning solutions map to different client needs. What makes us closer to instructional designers is that we’re thinking about adult learning principles, ways to engage with people who are already on their learning journeys, building on prior knowledge, and understanding business context and industry to customize our learning experiences. 

GA: What’s your favorite part of your role?

Sarah Hakani: My favorite part of this role is the impact reports. At the end of a program, there’s always a lot of curiosity, and a lot of “How do we connect this to our business, what’s next, and what do we do tomorrow, based on what we learned today?”

In those moments, there’s always this flood of gratitude and an outpouring of intention that feels really beautiful because it’s all this work that you’ve put in, and you can see, this tangible way that our clients are saying, “This is what I’m going to do with it today.”

I think that very directly translates to the impact reports that happen right after each program. We create a really detailed, honest, and transparent summary of how learners in the room felt about different things. The most rewarding part is that collaborative reflection moment where a client says to us, “You pulled it off; what can we do better next time?” It shows that there’s this desire to continue to get better, and that’s really beautiful — and often rare — in learning experiences.

GA: How do you help businesses find their best learning program?

Sarah Hakani: We start by understanding the business challenges. Leaders come to us and say something like, “We need more first-party data,” or “Our data strategy is weak.” They come to us with a big problem, and we ask, “Have you considered XYZ?” Or “What about this XYZ solution?” Or, “Our instructors work directly in this XYZ field, so what about a workshop that encompasses blank, blank, and blank?” 

It’s a very iterative process, which I really love. 

GA: What is your favorite discipline and why? 

Sarah Hakani: The most fun, for me, is digital marketing because it has the most psychology. So much about digital marketing involves all of us as consumers. We go into the workshops and think, “I am a consumer, and so, these are the ways that people are thinking about targeting me. These are the ways that I am personally thinking about when it comes to empathy mapping and consumer decision journeys.”

There’s a human element to digital marketing that has made it an easier entry point for me to target. It makes our instructors so phenomenal within it, too, because they’re all thinking; they are all consumers. It’s the one discipline where every person has a very personal investment in what digital marketing is, what daily content we consume, and the decisions that content leads us to make.

GA: Tell us about the most exciting program you’ve built for a client. 

Sarah Hakani: My favorite was the UX for Marketers program that I built for a Fortune 100 CPG company in their health care division. Hybrid programs are really exciting for me because we’re designing for people in a different discipline to think about working better cross-functionally, which is half the battle for our enterprise clients. 

How does a marketing team know what request to make of agencies to have the proper UX to guide their consumers? This program was a three-day program, and the most beautiful part was that UX for Marketers — for personal health care — looks different than simply UX for Marketers. 

When you’re thinking about personal health care, often, people are in a frenzy searching for serious topics. There’s an intimacy that comes with searches and understanding their behavior through their searches. Bad UX can completely stress someone out.

This specific learner audience was my favorite because there was so much empathy in the room for the consumer. 

GA: What are some common challenges you hear from enterprise clients? 

Sarah Hakani: I would say the biggest one for digital marketing is definitely the death of cookies and tracking issues. People have been coming to us saying, “We have been collecting this first-party data, and we don’t totally know how to activate it.” 

Another one I’ve seen a lot is this fear of AI. The challenge is thinking about ways to simplify it and make people understand that they’re not going to lose their jobs and that AI is a tool that will help them be much more efficient and have stronger processes that allow people to do better work. 

I’ve also been seeing a lot of UX-related questions because, during the pandemic, people were thinking about their virtual audiences and translating products to a salient digital experience, and iterating. 

GA: We’ve had an incredible 10 years; what are you excited about for the next 10? 

Sarah Hakani: What’s exciting to me about the next 10 years at GA is what reskilling can look like on a community level and what it means to take care of our people… Our mission is rooted in targeting underserved people. 

The pandemic showed that a lot of that is still a reality, and what we need to be doing is thinking about reskilling — not just from an enterprise or consumer level. What GA does really well is equip people with the skills that they need to be okay and for generations after them to be okay. 

If there’s anything I’m excited about, it’s that we took a stance during the pandemic and that the success of that is going to lead to much more shareable knowledge — especially with the most marginalized. That’s a future state that became much more apparent in the last (very unfortunate) year, and I’m really excited to see where we go with it. 

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch.

Celebrating 10 Years: Michelle Bergquist

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Michelle Bergquist, one of our client success managers, who works with several enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees into digital roles. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Michelle Bergquist: I am located in London, England, and my role is client success manager. 

GA: Can you tell me more about your role? 

Michelle Bergquist: It’s my job to make sure that everyone who interacts with our program has a great end-to-end experience, so that’s our clients, students, and instructors. We want them to walk away feeling like they had the best learning experience — everything from the first touchpoint where they know exactly what to expect, to their course to their instructors’ content and what we (GA) expect from them. At every point along their learning journey, they should feel set up for success and leave the program understanding how it all applies to their jobs. 

GA: What’s your favorite part of your job? 

Michelle Bergquist: I would say that’s twofold. It’s a job where you get a lot of immediate satisfaction. It can be only a couple of months from kickoff to the point of the delivery, so I’m planning things in real-time. I see the impact of my efforts almost immediately. 

In the same vein, I absolutely love going back to the feedback from students and seeing them in the classroom to see that impact in real-time. You can see in their feedback what they were able to get out of the course and how they can go back to their teams and improve things right away. 

GA: What’s your favorite GA skilling solution? Tell us why.

Michelle Bergquist: The one that sticks out most to me is our Product Management Accelerator. We ran it for a banking client in January 2021, and I did a post-program interview with one of the participants. She was an engineer for about 18 years and had just transitioned into a product management role. Prior to the course, she struggled with imposter syndrome and constantly thought, “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t have the right skills.” After the course, she said she felt like Superwoman. She felt so confident in herself and knew exactly how to do her job. 

GA: How do you help your customers understand what “good” looks like? 

Michelle Bergquist: It’s about asking the right questions up front, “What does success look like to you? When the program is over, what do you want to say that we’ve accomplished?”

On the Delivery team, we are focused on making sure our customers understand the impact of a learning program, so we do follow-ups post-program at the 30-60-90 day marks. There is a lot of stakeholder management to understand objectives and how we meet them.

GA: What are some common problems you help clients solve? 

Michelle Bergquist: In the data space, it’s the talent pipeline. For example, we’re working with a big bank, and they need staff. So, they’re bringing talent in at certain levels and training them on day one of working with the company. These employees go directly into our programs. 

Within consumer packaged goods, it’s competing with who they see as the leader in their space. If one of their competitors is setting the gold standard in marketing and they want to be at their level, we help them get there with our digital marketing training. 

Consistency across geographies is another challenge. For example, we’re working with a large B2B company in Europe, where they do things differently across their different geos. They want to build that baseline of how everyone should be operating, no matter what country they’re in. It varies across the board, but those are some of the main themes that I see.

GA: What advice do you have for leaders trying to take on the future of work? 

Michelle Bergquist: Be open to new ideas. The old or habitual ways of learning, such as getting a four-year degree, don’t solve the problem anymore. Being open to different ways of learning can make a huge impact. If you’re open, then your employees will be open. 

It really starts with the executive stakeholder setting the bar of what they expect. Some of the best programs we’ve run are when the project sponsors or the client stakeholders are really involved. After that, everyone else steps in and follows behind them. 

For example, we recently had our launch with a consumer packaged goods company, and the general manager of the North American office joined the live launch, which is rare. At the end of the call, she told the team, “I know we’re super busy, but you have to make this a priority. Learning is just as important as your quota. I’m right here with you taking this course. We’re all in this together.” That buy-in helped us to get 100% completion on our CM1 assessment, and that business was immediately able to see the impact.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Celebrating 10 Years: Ian Stirgwolt

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Ian Stirgwolt, one of our client success managers, who works on several social impact projects within GA, including Code for Good and our community reskilling efforts in Louisville and Sacramento. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Ian Stirgwolt: I am a client success manager. I am living in sunny Los Angeles. 

GA: Can you tell us more about your role? 

Ian Stirgwolt: I like to think of the client success manager as the center of our Delivery team. We act as the conduit between our client and all of the different other services that GA offers, such as our Learning Experience Architect team, instructional designers, instructor managers, or operations. 

My focus is on figuring out what our clients need after we’ve signed a contract and then continuously checking in with them, making sure that we are on the right track, and helping to lead our team internally to make sure that we continue on the right track.

GA: Talk us through keeping clients on the right track through a program.

Ian Stirgwolt: A good example is putting together a workshop. A client might think, “Hey, we really want a marketing workshop, and we don’t really know that much about the pertinent details, but you, as the learning partner, are going to help us figure that out.” 

Our Client Success team really can say, “I’ve seen this problem before at another organization.” I think the really great thing about the Client Success team is that we have that shared knowledge. It’s such a tight-knit team that works together to share our experiences, which helps us answer the client’s challenges and challenges that might exist underneath the water, the other 70% of the iceberg. 

GA: You’ve had the opportunity to work with our clients on Code for Good, which is amazing. Can you tell us more? 

Ian Stirgwolt: Code for Good grew out of a program called CODE: Rosie which we did with Disney. It was an effort to help organizations take people from within their company — who might be working in customer service or IT — who have had experience with technology before but are not hard technologists; we turned those individuals into software engineers. CODE: Rosie focused on bringing more female voices into engineering.

We have expanded since then. Code for Good now focuses on taking people from diverse and nontraditional backgrounds, such as women or people of color, into technology roles.

GA: What clients have been involved with Code for Good? 

Ian Stirgwolt: The first cohort we ran went from May to August of 2020. The two clients involved were Humana and Guardian. I think that’s an important thing to highlight because this program focuses on bringing clients together. We wanted to create conversations between these two organizations, in addition to providing a reskilling opportunity. 

Guardian signed on for the second year with Union Pacific — that cohort is currently in progress and will end in mid-July. 

GA: How was the experience working with multiple clients at once? 

Ian Stirgwolt: It was great because we could bring together both organizations to decide on the program itself and what that would look like. Being able to decide on a program that answered all needs can be a herculean effort. 

Seeing cross-pollination within the classroom between the employees at these companies was really interesting. Both Humana and Guardian brought in speakers from their organizations to give students an idea of what they might be working on as they transition to new roles. 

We’ve had people from within this program graduate and move into different roles within Guardian and Humana. Some people went into UX and focused on the front-end, while others have gone into data and analytics. 

It’s exciting to see how the program and speakers influenced the careers of these participants.  

GA: You also get to work on our community reskilling programs. Tell us about that.

Ian Stirgwolt: As COVID-19 set in, we saw a lot of people losing jobs, especially within the leisure and entertainment industries, so we turned our focus to reskilling communities. 

We started partnering with local governments, such as Sacramento, local community partners, such as the Greater Sacramento Urban League, and local companies, such as Humana, who wanted to invest in their communities and upskill people who were losing their jobs during the pandemic.  

Louisville is a really interesting example because Humana came with an identified need. They wanted to help those in their community who had lost their job during the pandemic get into a new career.  

The first part of the program focused on awareness: How do we get people aware that digital- and tech-related jobs are available? That’s when we launched our on-demand programs to the community. The mayor and other community partners got involved in helping us spread the word. 

The second part of the program focused on taking those individuals and getting them through a series of programs to ensure they capitalize on the opportunity. We then opened access to our classes and workshops. 

Phase three took those individuals who participated in phase one and two of the program into our accelerators, including UX, digital marketing, and data analytics, to help them get the skills they needed to take the next step in their career. 

Humana also saw a big need for more data skills, so we set up a data science course split into two paths: data analytics and data science. 

GA: So, basically, you have one of the coolest jobs at GA. Tell us what your favorite part of your job is. 

Ian Stirgwolt: I’m really lucky. The team here at GA is phenomenal. It’s a team where you feel supported. There is so much knowledge, effort, and energy on this team; it’s really inspiring to be part of it.

Another favorite part of the job is the ability to impact through community reskilling and social impact projects. I love working with my clients and helping them along this journey. The ability to impact someone’s life — through education — is inspiring to me.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch.

Celebrating 10 Years: Devanshu Mehrotra

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Devanshu Mehrotra, one of our instructors, who teaches data to enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: I live in Jersey City. I’ve been an instructor at GA since 2015. I was involved with GA when we were still in our nascent stages, and I helped develop some of the analytics curricula. 

I do quite a few things: I teach data analytics, data science, and advanced analytics — pretty much anything data-specific I’ve been involved in at one point or the other.

GA: What is your favorite course to teach and why? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: That’s a tough one. For me, teaching is very much more a subject of what the participants are like than the subject I’m teaching. For example, if I’m teaching SQL: I teach SQL within analytics, I teach SQL within advanced analytics, and I also teach SQL as a standalone. The delivery doesn’t change much, but if the participants are engaged, and if I’m able to draw them out of their shells and get them to be themselves while doing some fairly complicated coding, that is very rewarding.

GA: How did you get started working with data? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: I took a very meandering path to data in the sense that I’m not traditionally data-educated. I have a degree in finance and accounting, and I started out as a financial statement auditor accountant at Deloitte.

The more time I spent auditing, the more I saw the need to move away from manual testing. So, I taught myself an audit-related software called Idea and became the “Idea Champion.” Anytime anyone wanted their general ledgers analyzed or wanted a complicated transaction analyzed, they would send me the data even if I wasn’t working on that particular audit.

That got me thinking maybe I should be working on my analytics skills rather than focusing on accounting. Subsequently, I successfully interviewed with Freddie Mac for a data analytics senior auditor, which launched my analytics career.

A year later, Freddie Mac paid for me to attend a part-time data science course at General Assembly. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become an instructor. Since then, my career has been an intersection of all of my experiences. I’m currently a VP focusing on analytics within the audit department at an investment bank, so there’s the finance part and accounting part. My job is to develop their internal analytics, digitization processes, and building the analytics department out.

GA: What is the role of the instructor, and how do you impact the learning experience?

Devanshu Mehrotra: I was a terrible student because I grew up in India and had undiagnosed ADHD — things were just boring. If the teacher was not engaging, I just could not be bothered to pay attention in class. I would just do whatever I wanted.

When I came to the U.S and started engaging with teachers in college, my classes were segmented into teachers interested in teaching and teachers who couldn’t bother with engagement. For the engaging, I was always in the front row asking questions. For the unengaging teachers, I was in the back of the class. 

I promised myself that if I ever ended up teaching, I would be the kind of teacher that would have engaged me if I was in my own class. I think the instructor’s role in learning is very significant. Part of that comes from empathy; it comes from putting yourself in the learner’s shoes, and it comes from wanting to be entertaining.

It is a very powerful feeling when somebody leaves class knowing, “Analytics is what I want to do,” which keeps me going. 

GA: As a leader in a business, what role do you think learning plays in digital transformation? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: I have worked for two different investment banks where I’ve created an analytics team from scratch — learning was an essential part of the process. 

Think about the skill sets valued in the market right now, and think about the people making a lot of money in the market. 20 years ago, if you thought about people having jobs and becoming millionaires, you would think finance; you would think Wall Street. 

What do you think today when you think of people making millions very quickly? I think Facebook, Google, Netflix, and startups. You’re now competing with companies that can pay more, teach more, and give benefits like free food, etc. How do you compete in that type of market? 

The best way to compete is to identify people who have an aptitude and upskill them internally because you are showing trust in them, and you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and invest in them. 

As a leader, think about when Steve Jobs came onto the stage in 2007 and put the iPhone up. That’s where the revolution started. Since then, the way we do things has completely changed. That computer that you’re carrying in your pocket, your cell phone, has changed entirely. The next 10–20 years are just going to compound it. The future will come at you faster and come at you with more complex problems, so you grow with it or you get left behind. If you’re not learning, you’re dying.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch