Author Archives: Melissa Phipps

What Is Machine Learning?

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As a fan of the show Mad Men and its wonderful anachronisms, I had a good chuckle over Sterling Cooper & Partners’ season 6 acquisition of the IBM System 360. Without spoiling much for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the firm attempts to step up its data research game by bringing in a computer mainframe so mammoth it takes over the entire employee lounge, and seems so alien and imposing that one staffer worries it might actually be reading his thoughts.

The introduction of the IBM 360 50 years ago was actually revolutionary, and it helped pave the way for the modern computing systems we use today. And I’m sure that generations of ad men believed it was an effective tool for winning accounts and selling more soap. But in terms of capabilities, it probably did less than a first-generation iPod shuffle.

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The Power of Mentoring in the Workplace

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Mentors are clearly fabulous: Tim Gunn with Project Runway Season 13 finalist Char Glover. Photo courtesy of Lifetime.

It has been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This may be true but lately, mentoring has received a bit of an unfairly negative rap. First there was Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book Lean In advising women to never ask anyone to be your mentor, then came the book by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett proclaiming we should forget mentors and find sponsors instead.

While it may not sell as many books, mentoring has been an overwhelming success story for corporate hirers. At least 70% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted formal mentoring programs and, according to one survey by Robert Half International, 94% of U.S. executives say that having a mentor is important for professionals starting out. Companies large and small understand that mentoring is a powerful tool for encouraging diversity and inclusion, and making people feel more successful and gratified in their jobs. If your startup is considering a mentoring program, ignore the hype and focus on the benefits of mentoring.

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A Napkin-Level View of Data Modeling

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Groupon’s original business plan. Image source: Amanda Peyton (via The Point blog)

If you work in digital, you have met them. The data people. You know, the ones who can see level upon level of digital data unfolding in their mind’s eye? The Beautiful Mind types who have the ability to create an almost three-dimensional Excel spreadsheet? Perhaps you are one of these people, and this stuff comes naturally to you. For the rest of us non-data thinkers, creating a digital map on paper is a skill. It’s known as data modeling.

The idea of a data model is to create an overview of a digital project that all invested parties can access, understand, and use to do their jobs. Whether you are a data specialist, an agile whiz, or just a content strategist who studied James Joyce in college and doesn’t inherently think in data bytes, if you work in digital, you will probably have to create a model.

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11 Entrepreneurs Who Made it Big in 2014

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Photo credit: K B, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been an interesting year for entrepreneurs. One that saw the costliest venture-backed acquisition ever when Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp. Google took a page — or at least a player — from the Apple playbook when it paid $3.2 billion for iPhone executive Tony Fadell’s Nest Labs venture. There was plenty of scandal. Tinder CEO Sean Rad was brought down by cracks in the corporate culture. and video game developer Brianna Wu stood up to cracks in gamer culture. Startups were the focus of an HBO hit, Silicon Valley, and an excellent South Park episode.

While many entrepreneurs stood out in 2014 for their product, their personality, or their potential, there were some that seemed particularly interesting, for better or worse. Here are the 11 entrepreneurs who entered our consciousness in 2014.

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Why Coding Boot Camps Are Gaining Momentum

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Web development programs, like General Assembly’s, are generating a lot of talk. Just last month, The New York Times heralded computer programming bootcamps as 21st Century trade schools, offering a path to professional success at a time when good jobs are hard to find. Bootcamps and accelerated education programs are part of a trend that is set to strengthen America’s competitiveness, encourage new ideas and innovation, and impact the economy over the long term.

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Why We Need More Veterans in Technology

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Gary Sinise recently penned an article in the Huffington Post. Perhaps best known for playing wounded veteran Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, the actor and philanthropist is also an amazing stage actor and a founding member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. But it’s the Lt. Dan role that changed his life, inspired a band (yes, the Lt. Dan Band,) and made him a supporter of and an advocate for America’s veterans. In the article, Sinise makes the case for training veterans for high-end manufacturing jobs. His group, the Get Skills to Work coalition, is designed to help connect veterans to colleges and companies across the country, looking to train individuals in the manufacturing field.

Sinise is right. America needs skilled people to do these jobs and veterans with the right training would be excellent candidates. But why stop at manufacturing? The same case should be made for helping veterans learn digital skills and computer programming. Now is the time to put resources and support behind training veterans for the most in-demand jobs through adult learning programs.

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Online Learning Is a Boon for Small Towns and Small Startups

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Depot Town, Michigan. Image source: Cmadler via Wikimedia Commons

In today’s virtual world, the next great business idea need not come from California’s Silicon Valley or New York City’s Silicon Alley. It could come from a silicon cornfield, digital bayou, or mobile rustbelt in any one of thousands of tiny rural regions or small towns across America, towns that may have lost a past glory or never thrived because of a lack of employment opportunities. With online learning programs offering the ability to train adults to do in-demand careers, people throughout the country now have the same inroads to specialized learning and potential innovation available to residents of big cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston.

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How the Government Will Support In-Demand Jobs Through the WIOA Act

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Obama and Biden not only embrace technology, they plan to invest in high-tech training. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

With nearly one-third of Americans now holding bachelor’s degrees, the level of college completion in this country is at an all-time high. Yet, according to the federal government, by 2022 the United States will fall short by 11 million the necessary number of workers with postsecondary education, whether bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, or vocational certificates. More importantly, we could face a gap between the skills learned in the classroom, and those needed to do in-demand jobs.

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The Best Interactive Tools To Help Kids Learn To Code (While Having Fun)

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As a mother of two boys under age 10, I know how hungry to learn children can be. My kids could teach themselves to read literature in Russian if they thought it would be fun. I kept that in mind while researching the best resources to teach kids to code. What children need is something that makes coding engaging, exciting, and (the word that parents cannot utter without turning whatever they are talking about into anything but) cool. Here are some apps, online programs, and camps to help your future coders get started.

Related Story: The Biggest Subject We Should Be Teaching Kids, But Aren’t

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Chart Your Course: Which General Assembly Class Is Right for You?

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However you want to come at your next career or business idea, we at General Assembly have a class to help you do it. With on-campus courses in 12 cities—including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, London, Sydney, and Hong Kong—and online classes available everywhere, it’s just a matter of making your next move. Which will it be? Here are a few questions to help you find an educational opportunity that fits your goals and lifestyle.

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