In the past few years, much attention has been drawn to the dearth of women and people of color in tech-related fields. A recent article in Forbes noted, “Women hold only about 26% of data jobs in the United States. There are a few reasons for the gender gap: a lack of STEM education for women early on in life, lack of mentorship for women in data science, and human resources rules and regulations not catching up to gender balance policies, to name a few.” Federal civil rights data further demonstrate that “black and Latino high school students are being shortchanged in their access to high-level math and science courses that could prepare them for college” and for careers in fields like data science.
As an education company offering tech-oriented courses at 20 campuses across the world, General Assembly is in a unique position to analyze the current crop of students looking to change the dynamics of the workplace.
Looking at GA data for our part-time programs (which typically reach students who already have jobs and are looking to expand their skill set as they pursue a promotion or a career shift), here’s what we found: While great strides have been made in fields like web development and user experience (UX) design, data science — a relatively newer concentration — still has a ways to go in terms of gender and racial equality.
User experience (UX) design separates a good product from a great product.
Harnessing skills like user research, wireframes, and prototyping, UX designers have a unique perspective when it comes to understanding the interactions between users, business goals, and visual and technology elements. For companies, their work fosters brand loyalty and repeat business. For consumers, it means frustration-free online experiences, intuitive mobile apps, efficient store layouts, and more.
Watch below, as design experts from The New York Times, PayPal, Zola, and other top companies share how they design simple, user-friendly, and beautiful products.
When William Mullan started working at Raaka Chocolate — a small bean-to-bar operation in Brooklyn, New York — he was a jack of all trades tasked with telling the brand’s story through factory tours and marketing materials like press kits and promotional videos.
“When I Googled what I do on a daily basis, it fit the ‘marketing director’ description,” says Mullan, whose background was in film production. “I figured it was prime time for me to learn actual technical marketing skills on top of some of the more conceptual skills.”
“Both my instructors, Emily and Jon, have been super helpful in giving me more feedback since I graduated,” says Mullan, who has since become Raaka’s brand manager and leverages tools like MailChimp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to grow the company’s presence and customer base. “Anytime I have reached out for advice, they’ve been there.”
Starting over was not Ruth Acosta’s (Web Development Immersive, New York City) choice. After 17 years in publishing, she was unexpectedly laid off due to outsourcing. She decided to steer her career in an entirely new direction — toward a growing, thriving industry — and enrolled in GA’s Web Development Immersive course at our New York campus. After graduating, Acosta found a full-time position building email and newsletter templates for a global marketing team, using her new skills in coding, collaborating, and problem solving.
“It’s incredibly reassuring that learning to code has opened up so many possibilities for me,” she says. “I went from a career I enjoyed to one I LOVE — something I never thought I would experience.”
Nathan Maas (Web Development Immersive, Seattle) needed a coding education that could deliver confidence and technical skill in a short period of time. After just 12 weeks in General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) course in Seattle, he left with a new company and staff.
“I met GA students who went in with limited technical abilities, graduated with deep skill and confidence, and got the jobs they were looking for,” says Maas, a startup founder who’s leveraging his new technical knowledge to help his business thrive. “I also spoke with the GA crew and teachers and saw a really high caliber of dedicated people working toward a vision of empowering people to do what they loved.”
Pennypost, an app that sends homemade digital postcards to loved ones through their Facebook, Instagram, computer, or phone, started out as Maas’ WDI final project. But, surrounded by creativity and talent, his classmates and teachers soon became his colleagues.
“I recognized how talented my classmates and teachers were and I sought out that same enthusiastic crew who supported the idea of Pennypost from my class,” he says. “I asked them to join me in learning through launching a scalable product into the market. We all had the skill, drive, and confidence from our class at GA and that really propelled us forward.”
Richard Goodly longed to have a positive impact on the world around him. He valued the personal interaction and problem-solving of his customer service and retail jobs, but felt limited by the reach of his influence and lack of growth opportunities. “I could only serve one customer at a time as a barista, and daily coffee intake isn’t very significant in the scope of the world,” says Goodly. And it was while working as a data-entry clerk that he became more curious about data’s endless potential for positive influence in our society. “I wanted to know where the information was coming from, where it was going, and how impactful it would be,” he says.
Looking to kick off his journey in data, Goodly signed up for General Assembly’s online Data Analysis course, where he learned on his own time with a dedicated mentor. “Upon graduating from the program, all I could think was, ‘I need more.’”
Eventually, Goodly enrolled in the 12-week Data Science Immersive at GA Austin, where he not only gained hard skills in today’s most relevant topics — machine learning, Spark, SQL, and more — but also learned to think like a true data scientist. The interactive environment allowed students to explore concepts together: “Those experiences were the best because they provided me the opportunity to study the thought process of a data scientist while working with real-world problems,” says Goodly. “Some things we tried in class didn’t work…so you try another thing. Technology is changing constantly and the biggest thing you can learn is how to keep up.”
After graduating from the course, Goodly was hired as a support analyst at Home Depot’s Innovation Lab, BlackLocus, a team that leverages data to provide dynamic pricing insights to large retailers. He has seen a threefold pay increase from his previous role, and is constantly learning something new alongside his colleagues who are experts in their fields. Goodly also loves working for a company with the power to do good. He was especially inspired by Home Depot’s relief efforts during Hurricane Harvey. “I tend to adopt the values of the business, so working for a company that keeps the consumers’ needs in mind is very important to me,” he says. “The things that go on in my office have the potential to affect millions of people — that blows my mind.”
Ten years as a massage therapist gave Monk Wellington the chance to help people from all walks of life. But ultimately the physical demand took a toll on his body. To add to the stress, his home in the Bay Area had increasingly become more expensive to live in. As the lone provider for his teenage daughter, Wellington felt the strain reaching a breaking point and knew he had to make a change: “I needed a more progressive career path in order to be able to support my daughter.”
Wellington knew that the right tech education could unlock the new opportunities he needed. After investigating several coding schools, he ultimately chose General Assembly San Francisco and dove into the full-time Web Development Immersive course. He says that GA’s lauded alumni support network was a deciding factor in his decision. “[GA] seemed more communally oriented in the sense that it had an active global presence,” Wellington says. “That meant I could essentially reach out to anyone in the future across the globe who’s connected to GA for help, and vice versa if needed.”
It was this ongoing support from his career coach and Outcomes experts that eventually connected Wellington to his first industry role. As a software engineering consultant at Industrial Logic, a modern agile consultancy, he works with Ford Motors to help build an internal web app for their dealerships in China. There, Wellington says the skills he gained at GA directly impacts not just his day-to-day job performance, but his ability to take joy in his work: “What I love about my current role is being able to access any resource to learn anything at any time, especially if it’s going to help or improve the workflow process of my team. I love that soon I’ll be able to understand, navigate, and build enterprise-level architecture for Fortune 500 companies on my own.”
Wellington’s experience at GA and his new career has had a profound effect on his life — including a fourfold pay increase. He also takes pride in sharing his endeavors, hard work, and successes with his daughter. “Now after all these years, I can not only show my daughter my accomplishments, but she benefits from them as well,” says Wellington. That feeling of having overcome adversity and doing work that he takes pride in continues to fuel him every day: “I’m incredibly grateful that I get to experiment with ideas and solutions to large problems in order to accomplish something.”
How will web development empower you? Our courses are designed so that any beginner can reach programming success, no matter your background and experience. Shape your future with our transformative full-time, part-time, and online courses, or dip your toes in an introductory workshop.
Molly Kraus (Web Development Immersive, New York City), then a Seattle hairstylist who sold paintings of pet portraits on Etsy, was unhappy with her career path and craving a change. So she moved to New York and enrolled in GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive course. Her previous coding experience? Updating a few lines of HTML on her MySpace page in high school. “Writing code seemed unattainable to me because the logic seemed so complicated and the code looked so foreign, but GA taught me otherwise,” she says. “Coding has reignited my passion for learning and problem-solving.”
Melody Serra (Web Development Immersive, San Francisco) began her web development journey when she saw students in a Bay Area private school learning how to code, a vital skill set which wasn’t offered in the public school where she taught previously. Serra made it her mission to teach communities facing barriers to tech education how to code — but first she needed to learn how to do it herself.
In General Assembly’s 12-week, full-time Web Development Immersive (WDI) course in San Francisco, Serra dived deep into the coding languages and problem-solving strategies needed to become a full-stack developer. “Although WDI was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had to overcome, it was also one of the most rewarding,” she said.
After completing WDI, Serra volunteered at the San Quentin State Prison’s Last Mile program, teaching coding skills that individuals could use to build a career after they leave prison. Since then, she has returned to GA to teach web development, and is also a full-time tech instructor for Year Up, a work training program for young adults. “I’m so thankful to General Assembly for providing me with the skills I needed to empower others to pursue their dreams,” she said. “After WDI my life has never been the same. General Assembly opened so many doors.”
Melissa DePuydt (Web Development Immersive, Washington, D.C) was tired of being held back by her lack of web development skills. As a writer at a marketing company, she was tasked with digital storytelling — but her team wouldn’t hire a developer to execute the ideas. She decided, “If my company couldn’t hire a web developer to make my life easier, then I would become a developer myself.” She then quit her job, and enrolled in GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive (WDI) in Washington, D.C.