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Our Plan to Reopen GA Seattle

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It’s a season to assemble. After over a year of Zooming and screen sharing, we’ve missed rubbing elbows with our community of students, instructors, and tech leaders. 

We’re thrilled to be safely reopening our downtown campus and giving students the option to return to in-person learning. We’re kicking things off with an Open House Night on October 7th with free headshots!

Check back below for upcoming in-person workshops, and click here for complete details about how we’re keeping campus visitors safe, plus answers to questions you might have. If you have any additional questions, please email us directly at seattle@generalassemb.ly, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

In-Person Events & Workshops 

Note: Attendees are required to wear masks at all times. See complete safety policies.

  • Campus Reopening Open House with Free Headshots (Oct. 7)
  • Intro to Coding (Oct. 14)

In-Person Long-Form Courses

  • Software Engineering Immersive (Nov. 15)

Browse All Workshops

Our Plan to Reopen GA Chicago

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It’s a season to assemble. After over a year of Zooming and screen sharing, we’ve missed rubbing elbows with our community of students, instructors, and tech leaders. 

We’re thrilled to be safely opening our new Loop campus and giving students the option to return to in-person learning. We’re kicking things off with an Open House Night on October 7th with free headshots!

Check back below for upcoming in-person workshops, and click here for complete details about how we’re keeping campus visitors safe, plus answers to questions you might have. If you have any additional questions, please email us directly at chicago@generalassemb.ly, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

In-Person Events & Workshops 

Note: Attendees are required to show proof of vaccination and wear masks at all times. See complete safety policies.

  • Campus Reopening Open House with Free Headshots (Oct. 7)
  • Intro to Coding (Oct. 14)

In-Person Long-Form Courses

Note: In-person students will need to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination on or before the first day of class.

  • Software Engineering Immersive (Nov. 15)

Browse All Workshops

Alumni Success Stories: From Student Developer, to Hiring Manager

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When Marc Whitman graduated from General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive1 pilot program in 2012, he probably didn’t think he’d be back so soon — especially as a hiring manager. But after securing a promotion as the manager of Sailthru’s Implementation Engineering team, he knew exactly where to find fresh software engineering talent. Learn how he used his background in the music industry to transition into tech, while helping others pursue their passion along the way

I’m a technical generalist, a live music fanatic, a wannabe guitarist/bassist, a dad, and husband with a wonderful family living in the New York metro area.  

I currently run the Implementation Engineering group at Sailthru and Emma, two SaaS companies that are now part of the larger Campaign Monitor Group. CM Group is a conglomerate of some of the best marketing technology brands in the email marketing and larger “Martech” (marketing technology) space.

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

I had been in and out of numerous digital marketing gigs in the music industry (including Live Nation and Musictoday to name a few). I really loved the music industry, but over the years, I had run into a number of issues with acquisitions and working at not-so-profitable companies where — despite working with some really amazing people — the economics made it difficult to really progress in my career and feel like I was making a true impact.

I felt I was being held back by my career choices but also because I lacked certain technical skills and knowledge. At almost every turn, I was working with engineers, developers, and product managers — and soon learned how important web technologies are to a variety of businesses in the music space. It was an exciting time in the digital music space, but I consistently felt hampered without the proper tools and skills to actually build what I needed or what could be

What was it about web development that intrigued you to explore it as a career? What was the defining moment (or moments) that pushed you forward?

In my final gig before the Web Development Immersive at General Assembly, I was basically running my own digital ad network and collaborating with some awesome websites and partners in the live music space. While I was able to set up one of the largest digital ad sales in the small company’s history, I was barely able to handle the technical needs of the campaign, especially with the little support I received. 

At that point, I had sort of “had it.” I was not seeing much potential for growth in my third music industry role, and I was simultaneously seeing technology changing the industry in so many ways. I had already had a number of moments where I wanted to be a part of that technological change, so that one was the final straw for me. That’s when I decided I wanted in on the tech space.

I had dabbled in a variety of online coding schools (like Code Academy, Treehouse, etc). Those initial courses were a great spark for me, but I found it difficult to truly grasp the concepts. I also knew that I would have difficulty fitting it into my free time during nights and weekends, so I felt I needed to have a more regimented course to push me forward. 

As a part of the pilot program in 2012, what motivated you to choose GA over other programs? Additionally, what compelled you to choose a bootcamp vs. traditional schools? 

In my early phases of learning, I took an introductory course taught by ​​Chris Castiglione — one of GA’s first lead instructors. I had also taken an intro to Ruby on Rails taught by Avi Flombaum (who eventually started Flatiron School), and that helped me realize I really needed something a bit more full-time. I remember considering programs at both Flatiron School and GA, but when it came to GA, I remember liking everyone that I met during the interviews. They seemed young, driven, smart, and really set on making the Web Development Immersive work for anyone willing to take the plunge (even someone a bit on the mature side like me — I think I was only one of two people in the class with a kid at the time!).

I honestly don’t think I was really even looking at other more traditional colleges or schools at that point — going back to a “college” just wasn’t even on my radar. I had dealt with a year of being laid off, having my first child, and quickly starting a new job that did not work out. Ultimately, I was a career-changer in my mid-30s looking to make a quick and drastic move, and GA’s Immersive program offered a three-month commitment to make that all happen. It just seemed like the right fit for me at the time.

What was the best thing about Web Development Immersive (WDI) for you? And the GA experience overall, both during and after?

WDI allowed me to completely change my career path, while also making use of all my previous digital marketing experience. In one sense I “started over” in tech, but in another sense, I was able to use that new skill set to build on top of what I already knew. 

Describe your career path after completing the program. How has GA been a resource to you in terms of finding a job? 

When I came out of the program at the end of 2012, it was so new at the time that GA did not really have a set process for helping new grads land tech roles. However, the GA team was very committed to helping everyone land a new gig, so they set up an “internship/contractor” scenario to help transition WDI grads to various startups. I — along with two other grads from my cohort — joined a startup in the email marketing space at Sailthru. The company was basically looking to hire anyone with basic HTML & CSS skills to build out email templates because of their rapid growth. We started working as a team and gradually took on various tasks for new clients during their implementation on the platform. I was able to get up and running fairly quickly with Sailthru’s technology, so after my three-month contract was up, they decided to offer me a job as a full-time implementation engineer. 

From that point on, I worked my way up the chain over a few years. Thanks to my past experience managing people, I was promoted to the manager of the Implementation Engineering team. I still manage that team… though my role has evolved quite a bit through some promotions, inclusion of other areas of our platform, and other brands in the larger CM Group.

How do you think your background in music helped you in your career as a software engineer? And how about the skills you learned at GA?

I don’t see too much correlation, but I do think my love of improvisation has helped me in a variety of ways in my current role, at least in terms of adaptability and switching gears on the fly. Coincidence or not, I have hired two former professional musicians who turned into engineers.

What do you love most about your current role? 

While there are various tasks I often repeat and do frequently, everyday brings a unique set of challenges, so no day is quite the same. The product and platform evolves constantly, and we’re always having to keep up with the latest technologies to stay current. 

I will also say that one thing that has been really amazing is that once I became a manager, I was able to go back to General Assembly to hire new grads to my team. Since transitioning to a manager role, I have hired a total of five WDI grads to my team — three of which are still at the company in various roles. There’s just something really special about hiring new GA grads into the exact same role that helped me make my transition into tech. I get to tell them my story — how I made the transition — and then bring them on the team to help them find their own new career path. Of all the things I’ve accomplished since my time at GA, I think it’s probably the thing I am most proud of.

How has GA made an impact in your career?

It absolutely changed the game for me. I have autonomy, I get to use my technical skills and past experience, and I get to return to GA to hire new grads and help them do what I did back in 2013.  

If you had it to do all over again, is there anything you would have done differently?

Not really. I don’t like to second guess things. I could nitpick about learning more JavaScript or spending more time on CS fundamentals, but ultimately, I ended up in a much better place. With the right amount of effort and grit, I know that I will always have the capacity to learn new technologies.

Since graduating, you’ve worked consistently in development over seven years. How important has continued learning been to stay competitive? 

As much as the web keeps evolving and the latest frameworks come and go, I feel like a lot of the core fundamentals of web development stays the same. There are subtle changes and evolutions, but the combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript along with some back-end knowledge and an understanding of REST APIs are all still relevant. 

You began as an implementation engineer and are now a senior manager of that team. After working your way up, what do you look for in new hires? What’s it like being on the other side of the interview table? 

I honestly look for smart, driven people who understand the core web development concepts and show they can pick up new things quickly. Given the role I am usually hiring for, I actually try to find the career changers who are driven, know they have a lot to learn, and are just super eager to keep learning. 

As far as things that might get overlooked, I think maybe it’s finding folks with that drive and eagerness to learn who can also easily overcome all the imposter syndrome that comes with that process. That feeling never truly goes away, so I love finding people who embrace it, admit they don’t know things, and just roll up their sleeves to figure them out — because they have already proven to themselves that they can do it. 

What advice can you give to those who are trying to break into tech? 

This is a tough one, but I would say you really need to be driven and relentless in your pursuit, but be open-minded to which kind of role will work for you. In other words, a lot of web development bootcamps train you to become a full-stack engineer, but you don’t have to be exactly that to make use of your new skills or be happy. I mean, that is super awesome if you can make that work, but it’s not necessary and is not for everyone. There are lots of ways to break into the space. Just keep pressing ahead, look for your angle, and make it work for you.

In respect to development, what do you want your legacy to be? Is there a change you want to inspire or a mission that defines the work that’s important to you?

I hope my story helps inspire others to make a change. I would say that General Assembly helps you realize that you can be a lifelong learner and continue to evolve your skills as long as you are persistent and driven. I would also encourage you to view your career path as a long-term journey, so you should give it time and just try to very gradually make progress each day or week. Over time, it’ll eventually add up to a pretty amazing evolution.


Find Work You Love

1 General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) was updated and relaunched as the Software Engineering Immersive in 2020.

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.

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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.