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Alumni Story: Rediscovering Creativity Through Code


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


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


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, 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


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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