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Alumni Story: Shooting for the Stars — and a Data Science Career

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Josephine Ho

Being stuck in the middle wasn’t working for Josephine Ho. After two different careers, earning a master’s degree, and five years spent launching global campaigns and managing teams for billion-dollar projects, she found herself in a frustrating spot: no longer entry-level, but not quite management. Having just missed out on another opportunity, Ho was starting to feel hopeless. But when a friend recommended checking out General Assembly, she saw a path to action and wasted no time. Ho headed to an info session at General Assembly Los Angeles that very evening, where she met her future Data Science Immersive (DSI) instructor.

After researching the program, it was Ho’s love of data that solidified her decision to enroll in DSI. “I’ve always been passionate about data, but the skills used at my jobs always stopped at Excel and Tableau,” says Ho. “When I saw how quickly the data landscape had transformed, I knew I had to learn the newer technologies that are taking over the data landscape.”

Once classes began, Ho was struck by the dedication of her instructors. “Our teachers literally gave us their all — their energy, their support, their time. They genuinely cared about us and believed in us, which gave us confidence. My cohort worked as hard as we could because our teachers did that for us.” That class camaraderie was also a vital part of Ho’s experience. She made invaluable connections with her classmates; they all leaned on each other for support throughout the rigorous program.

Armed with a wealth of data science skills, including machine learning, data modeling, and SQL, and guidance from the Career Services team on how to manage and optimize her job search, Ho set out to find her first data science role. She eventually landed a job as a DevOps engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she’s seen a 33% increase from her last role. Her intensive training in the industry’s most relevant skills has helped Ho become a multifaceted member of her team, allowing for cross-departmental collaboration.

Ho’s experience at General Assembly revitalized both her professional life and her drive to keep learning, something that will elevate her career for years to come. “I love that I am always learning at my new job. My GA teachers helped me get my foot in the door, and now I can pick it up from here and grow my career,” says Ho. “They helped me set a foundation in tech, speak the lingo, and know the tools — I have been building off that.” With a GA education, a new network of fellow data scientists, and a coveted role at NASA, it seems as though the sky is the limit for Josephine Ho.

Make change. Join Ho and thousands of other GA alumni in the quest for betterment. From full-time career accelerators, to part-time evening courses, to short-form bootcamps, be empowered to achieve your goals at GA.Ask a Question About Our Data Science Programs

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Alumni Story: Career Transformation From Home

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Student James Goatcher

When James Goatcher (Web Development Immersive Remoteonline) enrolled in GA’s Web Development Immersive Remote program, he had recently moved home to Los Angeles to spend more time with family. “I entered WDIR hoping to leave with two takeaways: to acquire a new marketable skill and to have confidence applying that skill professionally,” he says. “I can say with certainty that both expectations were met and exceeded.”

Goatcher said learning remotely in GA’s virtual classroom — with live expert instruction and regular collaboration with classmates — didn’t hinder his experience. “You really get a sense of who your instructors and classmates are, which totally enhances the experience,” he says. “The icing on the cake: It was damn fun, too.”

Just six days after graduating, he was hired as an interactive developer at Xaxis, a programmatic advertising agency. “Just thinking back on the technical test from my job’s interviewing process, there was no way I could have completed it without the skills gained from [the program],” he says.

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Alumni Story: Redesigning a Future in the Nonprofit Sector

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Gladia Castro

After nearly 10 years at a youth-focused nonprofit, Gladia Castro considered herself a “big kid at heart.” But although she was passionate about her work running development programs, she felt exhausted by the long hours and low pay. With her eye on tech, Castro turned to her brother, a visual designer, for advice. “He told me about user experience (UX) design and that was all I needed to hear,” says Castro. “I was shocked because a lot of what a UX designer does is what I had been doing at my job, except for the design software.”

After hearing good things from his friends, Castro’s brother suggested looking into General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) program. While researching the course, she had “a huge epiphany.” she says. “I knew I was going to be a UX designer.”

With no formal design experience, Castro quit her job and enrolled full-time at GA San Francisco. For 10 weeks, she studied the ins and outs of UX, practicing skills like user research, wireframing, affinity mapping, and more. For her final project, Castro built an app to help a technologically underserved group: seniors. “My focus was researching solutions and designing a user interface (UI) that helps family members communicate with their loved ones — without the pressure of intimidating technology.”

With guidance from GA’s Outcomes program, Castro gained the tools and confidence to secure a role as a product associate at Flipcause, a company that assists nonprofits with fundraising and community engagement. After so many years in the nonprofit sector, the impact she’s making at Flipcause is especially rewarding: “I see our impact every day. We are constantly saving small organizations time and resources to increase supporter engagement to advance their missions,” Castro says. “That’s the most gratifying experience — to know that I’m designing better solutions and experiences to help nonprofits every day.”

In her role, Castro designs user experiences and helps troubleshoot with developers. She even converted the team to using Sketch, the industry-standard design program she learned to use at GA. “I love that each day is different and that I’m expanding my skills in design and coding as well,” she says.

Build the life you want. Whether you’ve got your eye on a new career, want to complement your current skills with UX design concepts, or are simply looking to try something new, there’s an option for you.

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Alumni Story: How a Simple Question Launched a Web Development Career

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Student Garrett Estrin

“Why can’t you make money doing that?” This simple question from Garrett Estrin’s wife changed the course of his life and career. “That” was building websites, something Estrin had been doing as a hobby for more than 15 years while managing a grocery store in Orange County, California. After graduating with a business degree, he didn’t have much luck finding a role that wouldn’t require a significant pay cut from his managerial salary. It wasn’t until his wife posed that life-changing question that he even thought about a career in web development.

“Within four months of that conversation, we had sold our house, moved to West Los Angeles, and I was enrolled at General Assembly Los Angeles looking to completely change careers,” says Estrin.

While shopping around for programs, Estrin took a positive recommendation from a friend who suggested GA and did his research. “What made me choose GA was the welcoming, you-can-do-it attitude I got from everyone I talked to who was connected to the program,” he says. He chose the Web Development Immersive (WDI) program, where he could sharpen and grow his coding skills while collaborating with other students. “The best thing about WDI was being able to learn and apply our newfound skills with the other people in our class,” says Estrin. “Everyone was always so excited to be there, and it made the lectures more interesting because everyone was engaged.”

He also enjoyed incorporating other students’ unique backgrounds and interests into his own learning experience, which was focused on key programming topics like JavaScriptRails, and Git. “Outside of WDI, students were learning iOS and Android development, or data science skills. It was great to be able to interact with them and see how we could take what we were learning separately and put them together to build something great.”

Estrin credits the GA Outcomes team as crucial resource for getting ahead professionally and landing that first role after graduation. “The guidance offered makes a daunting task like finding a job in an industry that you are new to seem very attainable,” he says. “They make you feel like you’re prepared for every interaction with a potential employer and that you have a leg up on other candidates. The GA outcomes team is what really sets GA apart from any other kind of school.”

Armed with tighter skills, Estrin landed a gig as a user interface (UI) developer with Centerfield Media, a company offering marketing and sales solutions for some of the largest names in communications tech, such as Xfinity, AT&T, Sprint, and DirecTV. “What I love most about working at Centerfield is that I am able to take the base skills I learned at GA and build on them to solve real-world problems,” he says. “We are able to see exactly how many visitors come to our web pages, as well as how many of them convert into sales. With those kinds of quantifiable metrics, it’s very easy to see your individual contribution.”

Along with his new developer role, Estrin also stays close to the GA community that helped him reinvent his career as a TA for WDI. He makes sure students clearly understand lessons, and assists them in solving issues using the same tool that changed his life — finding alternate solutions to tough problems.

You can love your work, too. Whether you want to start a new career, advance your current role with coding skills, or be empowered to pursue your passions, there’s an option for you.

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Alumni Story: From New Skills to New Job

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Student Erika Schneider

Erika Schneider (part-time User Experience DesignBoston) was ready to take her career to the next level. She had nearly a decade of web design experience under her belt, allowing her to build custom websites using HTML and CSS. But she wanted to complement her skills with formal training in user experience design, which solves user problems through empathy, user research, prototyping, and more.

To accomplish this, Schneider spent 10 weeks in GA’s part-time User Experience Design course in Boston. Throughout the course, Schneider learned about the complete UX design process, including usability testing, wireframing, and more skills she leverages in work with clients.

“I finished the class armed with a very strong portfolio piece and presentation that I used when interviewing for UX design positions,” says Schneider, who leveraged her new skills to become a UX design lead at Platinion, a tech subsidiary of the global Boston Consulting Group. “I truly believe that this, in combination with instructor coaching, were what helped me achieve my goal of pivoting my career to becoming a user experience designer.” 

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Alumni Story: From Game Design to User Experience Design

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Emily Rowley

As a video game artist, Emily Rowley created works of art for an online fashion game. But when an unexpected layoff pushed her back into the job market, she landed in a difficult position. “I found that my skills had become too specialized,” says Rowley. “As the sole provider for my three-year-old daughter, I knew I had to make a shift into a higher paid, more marketable career — and I had to do it quickly.”

Her sights set on a new career, Rowley began researching. She found that user experience (UX) design was a natural next step in her career path: “The more I read about UX,” she says, “the more I realized it was something that I had been doing instinctively in my design career … listening to users, researching trends, paying attention to feedback.” It wasn’t until a friend guided her to General Assembly Seattle that Rowley saw the right fit with an educational program. The User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) program offered the right combination of relevant skills and career support, plus a schedule that suited Rowley’s childcare needs, allowing her to work toward the change she needed in her professional life while also raising her young child.

The UXDI program built on Rowley’s prior design experience, helping her think like a UX designer, build a robust portfolio, and be prepared to excel in interviews and, eventually, in a new role. The hard work Rowley had to put into the program really prepared her for a future career in UX design. She says that “hustling after class” was necessary to succeed and that she received the ideal amount of guidance without too much “hand-holding.” “The skills that you learn here are broad enough to carry you through any industry,” she reports.

Graduation day wasn’t the end of Rowley’s GA story. The entire Outcomes team — whose job is to support you from the start of the course until you land a new role — helped her throughout her journey: “[They] really went above and beyond to encourage me in my job search. Anyone on that team, not just my coach, was more than willing to sit with me and give feedback or advice.”

This support from the Outcomes team helped Rowley find and land a UX designer position at tech and software giant Oracle. She says that UXDI’s emphasis on design thinking and user focus directly helps her do her best work in her new role. As a result, Rowley has seen not only a 40% pay increase and improved upward career mobility, but also a deeper sense of satisfaction. “Seeing my design come to life and become part of the console was really amazing … It’s really wonderful to be working on something that has direct impact on users.”

Translate your creativity into today’s digital language with UX design. Whether you goal is to start a brand new careerelevate your current role with in-demand skills, or just want to try something new, you can achieve it with GA — online or on campus.

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Alumni Story: Rediscovering Creativity Through Code

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Duyen Ho

Feeling limited in her career growth opportunities, Duyen Ho took a huge risk. She quit her job as a project coordinator for an arts group, rented a co-working space, and set about teaching herself how to code. “I no longer wanted to organize ideas,” she says. “I wanted to make them.”

Though motivated, Ho felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of resources, languages, and frameworks that the industry demanded of its coders, including HerokuDOM manipulation, and Rails. “I needed to find a point of entry to give this new knowledge some context,” she says. To kick off her journey, she checked out the two-day Digital Essentials Workshop at General Assembly Melbourne, started going to the Female Coders Lab meetup, and discovered Girl Geek Academy. “I love that women are making their own opportunities in the industry, restoring the gender imbalance … and making tech vibrant, accessible, and fun.”

Through Girl Geek, Ho received a scholarship to GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive (WDI). “WDI gave me the foundation to write a program and build professional websites,” says Ho, who mastered both essential coding skills like HTML and CSS, and advanced topics like JSONAPIs, and Git. “I learned how to go beyond my own technical limitations, to identify, isolate, and break down problems, to think conceptually, work to best practices, debug code, read logs, and understand error messages. I also gained experience working in development teams and building web applications with empathy and humanity.”

When it came time for her final project, Ho saw an opportunity to bridge code with her creative side. Inspired by an imaginative childhood game “which captures the open source spirit,” she combined her “passion for people, code, and fiction to make a collaborative storytelling app” called The Story Collective. To power her idea, she used her newly acquired JavaScript knowledge.

Now, Ho works as a front-end developer at global consulting firm Deloitte, crediting the skills and concepts taught in WDI, plus the speed at which she was required to learn, as the reason she can seamlessly communicate with other developers. “The program taught us how to learn, so when I’m stuck, I know what process I need to go through to find the solutions that I need,” she says.

Perhaps what’s most inspiring about Ho’s major career change is how it reinvigorated her natural creativity, providing new and more satisfying outlets. “I’m ecstatic to be in an environment where I can use code for creation, communication, utility, and art. I can raise my hand to work on projects and develop new skills in UX, UI, design, and learn about AR,” she says. “My work has a level of instant gratification that I didn’t experience before. When I was writing and working in the arts, it was a long process of unknowns and less tangible results. Now that I’m building for web, everything is broken down into modules or components. I can immediately see these parts being built and it’s very satisfying.”

No leap is too far. Whether you’re from a creative background or moving from another technical role, coding is about flexing your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. “It’s not really about the code itself but more about the process and a new way of thinking,” says Ho. Make your move with our transformative full-timepart-time, and online courses, or dip your toes in an introductory workshop.

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Alumni Story: From World Traveler to App Developer

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Doug Walker

Travel was Doug Walker’s life. After 18 months backpacking through nine countries and three continents, he found clarity on his professional future. He decided to pursue a career with meaning and purpose, but one that would also allow him to share his passion for globetrotting. Armed with some basic coding knowledge, Walker set his sights on a developer program to expand his skill set and help him realize his dream.

Enter General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive. “My thirst for knowledge and travel made me look toward New York City and General Assembly,” says Walker. “The two came together seamlessly, and I booked my three-month trip [from my home in Berlin] to join GA.”

GA’s cutting-edge curriculum — which covers JavaScriptAPIsRails, and much more — supercharged Walker’s coding potential. He and his cohort were among the first GA students to work with React.JS, the popular JavaScript library used by countless app developers. Eventually, this enabled him and his fellow co-founders build KOMPAS, a cross-platform travel app that leverages machine learning to plan personalized trips for users. Heralded by Visa, Accenture, Tech World News, and more, the award-winning app is used by thousands of travelers around the world.

The skills Walker gained in WDI also helped differentiate KOMPAS from other travel apps. By integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning elements, KOMPAS offered travelers an ultra-personalized user experience, serving up targeted recommendations based on interests. “If you told me I’d be implementing AI into a mobile application a year after WDI, I’d have laughed and said, ‘maybe,’ jokingly,” Walker says of his growing technical abilities.

Walker’s GA experience didn’t stop at graduation. He continued to bounce ideas off former classmates and other grads via Slack, relying on them for feedback to help improve KOMPAS. As time goes on, he’s looking forward to leveraging the GA alumni network even more: “It’s really active, and everyone’s always happy to try and help each other out.”

After finding its user base, winning industry awards, and pulling in a round of funding in 2017, KOMPAS is on a path toward growth. “We’ve doubled in size, been featured in national and international press, and been recognized as one of the Top 500 Deep Technology companies in the world [by Hello Tomorrow],” Walker says. With this solid foundation, he hopes for KOMPAS to become the leader in AI-driven personalization in the travel space.

Start your journey in web development. Whether you’ve got your eye on a new role, want to complement your current skills with coding expertise, or are simply looking to try something new, there’s an option for you.

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Alumni Story: Financial Literacy, Powered by Front-End Skills

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Danielle Pascarella

Danielle Pascarella (Front End Web DevelopmentNew York City) left a cushy job as an investment specialist at J.P. Morgan to focus her career on social good, and created a nonprofit to teach financial literacy. To make her organization’s lessons accessible, Pascarella needed to digitize them — a massive undertaking that she couldn’t achieve with financial expertise and a strong writing background alone.

“I knew nothing about web development and I had no idea where to begin,” she says. A mentor suggested General Assembly, and she enrolled in GA’s part-time Front-End Web Development course in New York City. “My teacher was able to break down a concept that was completely foreign to me so that I could understand it easily,” says Pascarella, who learned how to harness the power of HTMLCSS, and JavaScript, the keys to a fully responsive, interactive website.

By the end of the course, she had built a prototype for what is now Invibed.com, her thriving fintech company that helps individuals in their 20s and 30s get their financial lives together. “Best of all, the part-time program was flexible enough to fit in with my busy work schedule,” she says.

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Alumni Story: Coding for the Greater Good

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Jerome Hardaway

Jerome Hardaway (Web Development ImmersiveNew York City) like many other veterans returning to civilian society, struggled to find his path after serving in the Air Force in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Hardaway craved a more creative career and knew the tech industry was growing rapidly, so he decided to pursue web development through General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive course in New York. “I saw a post about GA’s Opportunity Fund scholarship on Facebook, and thought it would be a chance for me to hone my skills as a web developer and earnestly pursue a career in tech, so I went ahead and applied,” he said.

After completing the program, Hardaway founded the nonprofit organization VetsWhoCode, through which he works to inspire and empower other veterans and servicemembers to pursue training and jobs in tech. “I tell people I’ve gone from no job to having one. I can’t understate the importance of General Assembly,” he says. Hardaway is also excited to defy stereotypes. “As an African American and a combat veteran, there are a lot of stigmas to break, both in tech and in the general population,” he says. “I’m happy to be paving the way for other veterans to pursue a career in tech post-military.”

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