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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.” 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”