Alumni Stories Category Archives - General Assembly Blog

Making It in UX: New User Experience Designers Share Lessons From the Field

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UX Design Denver Jobs General Assembly Students

Every industry — from tech, to finance, to retail — needs user experience (UX) designers. These master problem-solvers work to create on- and offline experiences that put users’ wants and needs first.

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.

When you have the perspective of a UX designer, “you start to see design gone wrong everywhere,” says Beth Koloski, who teaches the full-time User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) course at General Assembly’s Denver campus. “You stop blaming yourself for not understanding badly designed software.” She says she admires when someone gets design right because she knows “how incredibly hard it is to make something easy and seamless and actually get it out into the real world.”

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Founding a Company Entirely on UX Design: How GA Grads Started Jewelry Company Vrai & Oro

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General Assembly grads Vrai and Oro

For years, Chelsea Nicholson and Vanessa Stofenmacher felt that the fine jewelry on the market just wasn’t for them. They wanted to make a statement with pieces that were classic yet attainable, and had an inkling other women felt the same. After graduating from General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive program in Los Angeles, they decided to do something about it.

The pair, who were friends before they were classmates, teamed up to launch Vrai and Oro — a Warby Parker-style fine jewelry startup that embodies UX principles its core. Vrai and Oro means truth (in French) and gold (in Spanish), and the name is reflected in the company’s values: quality, simplicity, and transparency. Chelsea and Vanessa produce their jewelry with ethically sourced materials in downtown Los Angeles — without designer markups. And, true to their UX-driven brand, their website and eCommerce platform is minimalistic and image-driven for easy use.

We caught up with Chelsea to learn more about Vrai & Oro, the site’s user experience, and how GA helped the co-founders achieve their goals.

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Alumni Story: How a Communications Professional Pivoted to a Dream Career in Data Science

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Byron Allen

Byron Allen had outgrown his role. After years managing marketing communications and social media for various technology companies, he yearned to be more involved in the technology side of business. He tried breaking into coding and analytics at his workplace, but it was nearly impossible. “I had one foot in a new world and the other in the old world,” says Allen. “I felt like Sisyphus, and I realised the need to fully commit to transforming myself.”

Leaping headfirst, Allen took a year off from work to start his journey in data. He first enrolled in General Assembly Sydney’s part-time Data Analytics course, sinking his teeth into the skills needed to interpret large data sets and confidently make business decisions: ExcelSQL, and Tableau. As Allen worked on the course’s final project, he realised “there were aspects that would have greatly benefited from an understanding of machine learning and coding,” topics that are covered in-depth in data science, among others. “I could see the potential and wanted to be a part of that world,” he says.

So, he continued his upward professional journey with GA in the full-time Data Science Immersive course. With guidance from his instructor (who Allen describes as “one of, if not singularly, the most inspiring and intuitive teachers I’ve had the pleasure of learning from”), he and his classmates learned how to leverage data to create powerful predictive models. Elevating his data skills a step above, Allen got hands-on practice with skills like Unix, Git, Python, and machine learning. These practical tools empowered him to forecast market trends that help businesses find and seize new opportunities. “All of us learned from each other, filling each other’s weaknesses and allowing for us to improve our strengths,” says Allen.

Along with the curriculum, Allen also loved the employer meet-and-greet aspect of the GA Outcomes experience, which focuses entirely on career development and job placement for Immersive graduates. He says the program helped him talk in-depth about his work and become a more effective networker.

The hard work paid off. Allen landed a job as an associate consultant at Servian, an IT and data analytics consultancy in Sydney. He credits GA’s focus on “both the technical and communications skills involved in advanced analytics” as the reason that he’s able to succeed in his role, which requires these skills on a regular basis.

“My time at GA bred the confidence that is essential to facing challenges in my day-to-day work,” Allen says. “I tend to lean into problems more than I ever have.”

Ready to become a problem-solver? Join Allen and thousands of global alumni to build your path toward a more fulfilling career. From full-time career accelerators, to part-time evening courses, to short-form bootcamps, be empowered to achieve your goals at GA.

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From Phone to Mailbox: General Assembly Grads Reinvent the Traditional Postcard with Pennypost

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pennypost

When General Assembly students graduate from their course — whether it’s user experience design or data science — it’s always exciting (and sometimes surprising) to see the range of products and passions that actualize as a result. In the case of Nathan Maas, a Web Development Immersive alumnus of GA Seattle, the product was an idea called pennypost. The passion? Connecting the world with homemade digital postcards that are easy to send and share.

Nathan — who took a range of night classes in product management, front-end development, and data science at GA before choosing WDI — developed a web (and soon-to-be iPhone) app, pennypost, which was inspired by his travels to nearly fifty countries across the globe. Though he bought postcards everywhere he went with the intention of sending them home, constraints like time, postage, and tracking down mailing addresses, meant he never actually sent them. An idea was born.

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Welcome Home, Colin Hart!

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Teaching and learning at General Assembly

From classical ballet dancer to software engineer and instructional leader, Colin Hart transformed his life and career when he graduated from General Assembly’s Back-End Web Development course (BEWD) and Web Development Immersive (WDI) in early 2014. He came back to GA to teach WDI and was recently snatched up by the new WDI Remote team to be a lead instructor for the pilot course, which launched on May 16. Colin sat with us to share his story about teaching and learning at General Assembly.

Tell me about your journey.

I spent my youth training to be a classical ballet dancer. Even though I wasn’t able to do it professionally, it was like my first career because I would spend five, six hours a day training and performing. Getting injured led me to attend college instead, and I ended up majoring in media and communications and focusing my studies on digital communications. I interned for the United Nations writing a preliminary literature review around rights and dangers for youth online in Malaysia.

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How Raaka Chocolate Uses Storytelling to Shape Their Marketing Strategy

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Raaka Chocolate Storytelling

William Mullan graduated from Digital Marketing at General Assembly New York’s campus in 2015. Since joining Raaka Chocolate, he’s developed the company’s marketing efforts and advanced from an intern into the Director of Marketing. Now, William blends his passion for chocolate with marketing skills and techniques to share Raaka’s unique brand story in a way that is honest and engaging. Continue reading

Meet Prepd: A Sleek Product That Raised $1.4 Million on Kickstarter

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We all know that bringing lunch to work is the smart, healthy, and financially responsible thing to do. We want to bring delicious lunches to work, but then motivation is always low. So we end up buying something or settling for whatever boring thing we could find in our fridge, wishing we could be better.

Enter Prepd, a lunchbox with modular containers and a corresponding app to help us be the lunch-bringer we always knew we could be.

We spoke with co-founder and GA Hong Kong alumnus Chris Place a few days before his goal-busting Kickstarter, which raised over $1 million, closed.

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From Electronic DJ to Systems Architect for NASA: How One Alum is Crafting Her Dream Career

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General Assembly alumni Jade
Jade Johnson is a recent grad of User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly’s Los Angeles campus, where she met “a crew of like-minded thinkers.” After graduating from GA, she briefly worked for NASA as a systems architect. Now, she is living in Berlin and pursuing her career in UX Design. Jade’s love for user experience has helped her build a rewarding career around her artist lifestyle.
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How Taking An Online Course Can Kickstart Your Career: Two Student Success Stories

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Last April, Jeff Manabat, one-quarter of the San Francisco dragapella act The Kinsey Sicks, had a dilemma: how to redesign the quartet’s aging website, while balancing touring obligations?

“I do a lot of traveling, we’re on the road a lot,” Manabat said, “I can’t dedicate the time to taking a multi-week classroom course. So taking it online was the obvious choice. I needed the flexibility to learn online. And complete the course material without being in a classroom.”

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20-Year-Old Entrepreneur Is Using Data to Retune The Music Industry

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Raffi Khatchadourian, COO of indify

Raffi Khatchadourian is a Mathematical Economics major and incoming junior at Colgate University. A self-starter and talented entrepreneur, Raffi has established himself as the COO of indify, an emerging music startup, before many of his peers have even declared their major. Back in January, Raffi attended GA’s week-long Business Accelerator program in partnership with Colgate University. Since then, he and his co-founders have gone on to win $10,000 in funding from Colgate University’s Entrepreneur Weekend Shark Tank and $15,000 from Colgate University’s Entrepreneurs Fund. Read on to learn how this young entrepreneur transformed his passion for music and data into a successful early-stage startup.

Follow Raffi @DeadliestKhatch and his startup at @_indify. Continue reading