Career Development Category Archives - General Assembly Blog

General Assembly’s Social Impact

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Our number one mission? It’s quite simple. We empower people to pursue work they love. 

Core to that mission is a commitment to closing opportunity gaps and ensuring that all people from all walks of life, regardless of their ability to pay, can pursue a career in tech, data, or design. But our social impact efforts and achievements are never solitary — we reach others by reaching out to others. Along the way, we’ve learned that we are most effective and impactful when we team up with partners who share our commitment to access, equity, and inclusion.   Our partnerships are dynamic and in sync with social and global issues — we are always evolving and growing.

Since we launched our first fully funded tuitions seven years ago (sponsored by an alliance of benefactors, including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohananian and hip-hop legend Nas), we’ve provided tuition and innovative financing options to tens of thousands of learners in diverse circumstances. The pandemic has only heightened the urgency for creating pathways to meaningful work, particularly for those who are struggling to find footing in a rapidly changing economy and world. Now, GA is participating in numerous collaboratives to help create pathways to economic mobility, and today, we’re excited to share some of the work we’re doing in the U.S.:

Nationally, we are proud to be a part of Microsoft Accelerate and the Adobe Digital Academy. A little about these core initiatives:

  • Through Microsoft’s Accelerate initiative, we’re teaming up with local coalitions in Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Miami, L.A., and New York to deliver skills training to members of underserved communities, with an additional ten markets on the roadmap — we’re just getting started. Learn more.
  • Our signature collaboration with Adobe, the Adobe Digital Academy, is going into its sixth year. Interested students can apply now for fully-funded tuition for GA Immersives, coupled with opportunities for paid apprenticeships at Adobe. Apply now

We are also excited about the many region-driven partnerships that continue to come out of our community reskilling initiatives launched in 2020:

  • In Houston, we’ve teamed up with nonprofit BakerRipley, tech incubator The Ion, and Microsoft to provide fully-funded tuition to adults with demonstrated financial need. Learn more about Microsoft’s Accelerate program.  
  • In Buffalo, we’ve teamed up with M&T Bank, TechBuffalo, the Western New York Skills Initiative, and a network of regional employers to launch the Buffalo Tech Academy, which will be taught live, onsite at M&T Bank’s new community training center in downtown Buffalo. Learn more
  • In Connecticut, we’ve built a coalition with Synchrony Bank, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and AdvanceCT to offer free and discounted GA Immersive programs throughout the state of Connecticut in Synchrony’s new community training center, opening in fall 2021. Learn more.

Our incredible network of partners continues to expand — ensuring that our collaboration can continue to impact countless individuals’ futures. 

The Takeaway

While we are grateful for the progress made, there is still much work to be done. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for announcements and insight from our partners, our sister training providers, and our incredible grads. The quest to do more and do better is what fuels us — in every aspect of our business and initiatives. 

In a world of uncertainty, you can be assured that our commitment toward continuous progress is quite certain. As our CEO Lisa Lewin says, ‘More to come.”

Alumni Success Stories: How Learning by Doing Led to His Own Design Studio

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Any freelancer knows that good work gets more work. That’s why Sergio Gradyuk, a self-taught freelance visual designer, turned to GA’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) program to take his technical skills and career to the next level. Read on to learn how he used General Assembly insights to strengthen his portfolio, stay ahead of competition, and co-found his design studio, Oakland Studio.

My name is Sergio, and I run Oakland Studio, a design studio based in Brisbane, Australia. Design and business are my two major interests so that led me to a career in UX and launching my own design studio.

Instead of enrolling into a university after high school, I designed an app for the cafe I worked for to help customers order ahead of time. After pitching this concept to a number of venture capitalists (VCs), I was able to get a sponsorship to pursue the idea in the U.S. for three months. I was young, naive, and completely new to the startup world, let alone the product world, so I didn’t get too far with it. 

What I liked most during the process of building that app and company was the collaboration with freelance designers. When I got back home to Australia, I studied everything I could about design and started doing concept designs for big companies to build a portfolio that I could use to win some contracts.

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

Freelancing was great. I learned a lot on my own, but I felt like I was missing key fundamentals. I was primarily focused on the web and knew there was a whole world of product design still to explore. It seemed super daunting, but I knew it was the next step in my career.

What was it about UX design specifically that intrigued you to explore it as a career? What were the defining moment/s that pushed you to move forward?

The first time I learned more about UX beyond the buzzword was when I realized it would be an opportunity to mix visual design with data and business requirements. The part that intrigued me the most was knowing that these key fundamentals would be useful to me in the future no matter which direction I took with my career. 

What motivated you to choose GA over other programs? 

Seeing its success in America with the world’s leading companies and most exciting startups validated General Assembly as the source of truth for learning the fundamentals.

What was the best thing about UXDI for you? And the GA experience overall, both during and after?

Learning by doing. There wasn’t a day that went by where we didn’t have an exercise to apply the knowledge we had spent hours learning. Also, our legendary GA instructor, Ron, was super supportive, dedicated, and patient, making sure everyone truly understood the why behind the process.

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

After completing my GA Immersive coursework, I faced a job search which proved difficult with my young age. I was eventually offered a UX position at an agency. GA helped me find opportunities in Sydney, as well as Brisbane when I moved back up. What was really helpful though was having access to all of the learning resources even after the course ended. It meant that I could keep refining and revisiting my process, and it has been instrumental to my professional development and confidence.  

Tell us more about your company, Oakland Studio. What inspired you to start your own business? 

Oakland is a boutique studio focused on brand, visual direction, and product design. The majority of our work is taking an idea for a product — whether it be a startup or an enterprise company looking to do something new — and take it to the minimum lovable product and beyond. 

The inspiration to start my own business was seeing an opportunity in the Australian market to meet a global standard and relevance with work. I’ve always planned to start a business and saw this as an opportunity to gain exposure to startups, VCs, enterprise, etc., while focusing on what I love.

What do you love most about being your “own boss?” What’s been the most challenging?

The biggest thing is owning your wins and losses. When you lose, it hurts. When you win, there’s no better feeling to know that you’re growing and investing time into something you own. It’s always challenging and requires a lot of work, but every stage of growth brings something new to learn and fun problems to solve. 

Do you have any advice for GA students who want to start their own business?

I had to sacrifice both my personal and professional life for a while as I got started. It’s not for everyone, and I disagree with the glorification of “entrepreneurs.” What’s important is to audit yourself, identify your priorities, and know that it’s something you absolutely must be dedicated to. 

How has GA made an impact in your career?

If it weren’t for GA, then I wouldn’t have a UX Career.

In respect to UX, 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?

The change I want to see is for graduates and designers to open themselves up to the entire sphere of design, especially in digital products. Don’t lock yourself into just UX — understanding and being able to execute in the whole value chain from UX to development (and even in brand and marketing) will make you a force to collaborate with. Keep learning by doing and jumping into those challenges.

Find Work You Love

Get 2030-Ready With Our Free Learning Festival

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Our much-anticipated series, The 2030 Movement, is finally back — and this time it’s bolder, bigger, and better! From 20–30 September, join us for a free two-week-long festival of learning for the next thinkers, leaders, and innovators in tech.

Whether you’re looking to dive deeper into emerging disruptive technologies, uncover what the future of work entails, or simply make meaningful professional connections, our robust lineup of future-proof events offers something for everyone. 

Evolving Industry Trends

Hear from leaders in UX, marketing, product, and more to learn where the industry is heading and which trends to look out for.

  • What Is the Future of Audience Targeting?: 20 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6 p.m.–7 p.m. AEST
  • How Will the Role of Product Managers Change in 2030?: 22 Sept., 12:30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2:30–3:30 p.m. AEST
  • Purpose-Driven Innovation: What Are the Trends To Thrive?: 22 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT // 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. AEST
  • Is Data Killing UX Design Instinct?: 23 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1–2 p.m. AEST
  • Will Influencer Marketing Still Reign in 2030?: 23 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6–7 p.m. AEST
  • Are You Building a Brand or a Bland?: 29 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6–7 p.m. AEST

Future Workforce

The way we work has been impacted forever, yet this hasn’t put a stop to the growing innovation and demand for skilled employees. Hear how the workforce and workplace are evolving for good.

  • Future Talent: Should We Buy, Build or Borrow?: 23 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1–2 p.m. AEST
  • How can You Leverage Your Outsider Advantage to Break into Tech?: 24 Sept., 12:30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2:30–3:30 p.m. AEST
  • Why Do the Best Companies Not Care About Your Background?: 27 Sept., 12:30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2:30–3:30 p.m. AEST
  • Are You Real if You Don’t Have a Solid Digital Presence?:  28 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1–2 p.m. AEST
  • How Can Companies Meet the Changing Needs of Today’s Workforce?: 29 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1–2 p.m. AEST
  • Are Physical Workspaces Still Vital in a Post-COVID World?: 30 Sept., 12:30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2.30–3.30 p.m. AEST

Shaping Culture

Sustainability, mental health, and social wellbeing are front of mind for consumers, employers — and now businesses. Stay up to date on the relevant challenges and opportunities to navigate a better future.

  • Can Businesses Save the Planet by 2030?: 20 Sept., 12:30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2.30–3.30 p.m. AEST
  • How Do We Build a Mental Health First Culture?: 21 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1–2 p.m. AEST
  • Can You Truly Live a Zero-Waste Life?: 27 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6–7 p.m. AEST
  • How Do You Reboot Social Interactions for the New Norm?: 27 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1–2 p.m. AEST
  • How Do We Deliver Bite-Size Content?: 28 Sept., 12.30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2.30–3.30 p.m. AEST

Transformative Technologies

A whole new era of tech is dawning on us. From edge computing to cryptocurrency, learn about the disruptive tech making big waves and changing our economy, lifestyle, and workplace.

  • Is Edge Computing Data’s Next Game-Changer?: 20 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1 –2 p.m. AEST
  • Ditching Old Money Rules: What is The I-nance Revolution?: 21 Sept., 12.30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2.30–3.30 p.m. AEST
  • Can VR/AR Sell More __?: 21 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6–7 p.m. AEST
  • Cryptocurrency & Blockchain: Hot Today, Not Tomorrow?: 23 Sept., 12.30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2.30–3.30 p.m. AEST
  • Is The Future Of Coding Code-Less?: 24 Sept., 11 a.m.–12 p.m. SGT | 1 –2 p.m. AEST
  • Is HealthTech the Next Fast Lane for Investors?: 28 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6–7 p.m. AEST
  • Big Tech: Big Problem or Big Opportunity for Business?: 29 Sept., 12.30–1.30 p.m. SGT | 2.30–3.30 p.m. AEST
  • What Tech Are Investors Betting on Now?: 30 Sept., 4–5 p.m. SGT | 6–7 p.m. AEST

Be 2030-ready. Join the movement.

Alumni Success Stories: Coding a New Perspective in Tech Accessibility

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From smart watches to smart homes, technology can vastly improve the everyday lives of people living with disabilities. Ironically, this same technology is often designed without their specific needs or challenges in mind. Drew Crook, a GA Software Engineering Immersive grad, realized this firsthand after his employer replaced the company’s software with one lacking accessibility (A11y) functionality — when he physically could no longer perform his job. Now, learn how he’s coding new pathways for others in tech as a lead accessibility engineer at CVS Health.

My name is Andrew Crook — I go by Drew. I have a degenerative retinal condition called Lieber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). It causes me to slowly lose more and more vision over time until I go completely blind. I’ve been dealing with this my whole life. As a child I went to public schools where I was able to take advantage of technologies that allowed me to stay on a level footing with my sighted peers. Out of necessity, I became obsessed with technology and the boundless opportunities it could provide. 

After completing high school, I attended Keene State College in New Hampshire. I started my first job out of college at a financial institution and worked there successfully for a few years. Then, suddenly, I was forced to face a very tough reality. The company I worked for changed all of their internal software, and this change resulted in my being unable to perform my basic job functions because the software was never created with accessibility (A11y) in mind. Now, that same technology that I love and rely on was useless to me. I did not let that stop my career growth — I ended up leaving that company and went to work for Apple for the next four years. I used this time to immerse myself in how devices like computers, tablets, and phones operated and also built up a good working knowledge of the Apple ecosystem. 

In 2020 with the world in a tailspin due to COVID-19, I decided it was time to make another change. I decided to enroll in a bootcamp. I have always been interested in technology and how it worked, and I was always quick to point out issues to developers and companies when I noticed A11y problems. I wanted to take that knowledge and compliment it with the technical side of software engineering.

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

I was working in an Apple retail store before GA. I loved my job and the people I was able to meet, but my passion was always centered around A11y. I knew that I needed to make a change to be able to realize my dream of developing accessible software. I had participated in beta programs and provided a lot of feedback, but I felt my feedback would carry a greater weight if I could also speak to the underpinnings of how the website/app functioned at the code level. 

What was it about software engineering specifically that intrigued you to explore it as a career? What were the defining moments that pushed you to move forward?

Honestly, the challenge was part of the reason I wanted to pursue software engineering. As a blind person, you do encounter a fair share of folks who either lower their expectations for you because of the disability or outright block you from trying. Thankfully, I have an amazing support system. My parents were always pushing me to do anything I wanted to try as a child. Now, as an adult, I have a wonderful wife and kids who similarly encourage and support my aspirations. I wanted to become a software engineer to help better the world — not on a large scale — but in my own way with any little bit of feedback or code implementation. I was always interested in how things worked, from my legos and blocks as a child to the motherboards, CPU, GPU, and RAM in computers I built with my friends as a young adult. Software Engineering was yet another way to learn how something worked, and it was simultaneously challenging and rewarding.

What motivated you to choose GA over other programs? 

GA was the most accommodating, and everyone throughout my application process was so helpful. I had actually reached out to four or five schools with some concerns about how successful I could be as a blind person using a screen reader in a virtual classroom environment. Every single school except GA sent me a very canned response with a copy/paste of their accessibility policy. GA, however, took it in stride and set up a meeting with lead instructors, career coaches, student success managers, and admissions. They were invested in my success 100% — it was that moment that I knew I’d choose GA. I knew that if I did my work and asked for support when I was struggling, GA would do everything in its power to get me to the finish line.

What was the best thing about SEI for you? And the GA experience overall, both during and after?

The best part of SEI for me was the projects and the people. I met so many fun, interesting, and unique people. GA encourages everyone to be their authentic self and to embrace all the experiences that brought them to the SEI program. The projects were challenging yet rewarding once completed and really helped to complement the concepts covered in class. After completing the program, I would say it was a toss-up between the continued support from the Outcomes folks and the continued friendships that began our very first day and have lasted over seven months removed from completing the program.

How did the GA teams (Student Success, Instructors, Career Coaches, etc.) help you succeed in the course?  

I received immediate support when applying to the program and that support followed me and all the members of the cohort throughout its duration. Everyone from the instructors to student success were there to answer questions, provide encouragement, suggest resources, and generally be there for all of us if we needed anything. It was a great environment for learning and growth because I felt supported enough to try new concepts and learn as much as possible, as fast as possible.

How did the skills you learned at GA help you in your current role as a software engineer?

One of the most valuable sections in the cohort is the team project. We simulated a scrum team and produced a web app. This prepared me very well for the role I’m in now. We follow an agile method called Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprise (SAFE). This section got me ready for the fast paced, highly collaborative environment I find myself in now. Another skill not explicitly called out but very important is the ability to transfer knowledge. We learned JavaScript first, then HTML and CSS. We then added Express, React.JS, Python, Django, and MongoDB. All the languages and frameworks we learned helped me understand that once you know one coding language well, you can transfer that knowledge to any language. It’s just a matter of understanding that new languages eccentricities with the syntax.

What do you love most about your current role?

I almost literally have my dream job right out of GA. I am a lead accessibility engineer. I get to combine my passions for assistive technology, A11y, and programming to create experiences for all customers regardless of ability. I get to educate fellow engineers on A11y best practices and also get to work collaboratively with other engineers to solve complex A11y issues in the code.

Congratulations on your promotion! What advice would you give those who think they’re “not capable enough” or second-guess themselves on making a career change? 

The doubt demons are a real thing and imposter syndrome affects everyone in a unique way. I had to battle not only the physical challenges of learning and being able to code with my technology, but I also had to fight myself and the doubt that I’d actually be able to pull it off. What I would say to anyone looking to switch into this career and specifically take an Immersive bootcamp is: you get out what you put in. My second piece of advice would be to trust your instructors and the GA staff. If you are struggling, or need help to understand a concept, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to someone and ask for help.

They say if you want to go fast, go alone — but if you want to go far, go together. Can you speak to the benefits of getting support from others? How did the GA community impact your development as a software engineer or professional?

I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I have had to live my life in a collaborative way. My need to work together with others started very early when I would ask friends or family to describe images or movies and shows. This skill was leveled up in the SEI program when I would work together with our breakout groups to solve problems. I would ask for assistance with visual tasks and then provide assistance to others with the code or problem we were trying to solve. It’s a unique way of working together but it translates perfectly to the workforce and how everyone has to work as a team to achieve objectives. If you try to “go it alone,” you may work faster in the short term, but ultimately, you will miss out on the inherent exponential growth potential working as a team.

In respect to software engineering, 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 want to teach others the impact good accessible code can have and build truly inclusive experiences that anyone can enjoy. I smile when I think that someone halfway around the world could be enjoying their experience on a digital platform for the very first time because of the work that I am doing.


Find Work You Love

UX, Visual, or Graphic: Which Type of Design Is Right for You?

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UX Design Image
  • CC Image Courtesy of Thomas Brasington on Flickr

You can be pardoned for feeling confused about all the terminology and job titles floating around in the design world. What is the difference between graphic design, visual design, and user experience design? Do each of the three roles provide a different service? For visual and graphic designers, the difference may lie mainly in the job title and salary expectations. However, a user experience designer has very different end goals and responsibilities from a visual or graphic designer. Below is a breakdown of what each of these designers does within the design industry, to help you decide what type of design is right for you. Continue reading

12 Must-Read Digital Marketing Books

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A question I often get asked by students is, “What is the best digital marketing book?” 

It’s not easy to answer; the majority of digital marketing books don’t have a long shelf life. The information around best practices needs to be fluid as algorithms change, marketing tactics lose their effectiveness, and the platform rules constantly shift

While digital marketing books that are rich on marketing tactics continue to be updated and recycled, there are a number that have managed to withstand the test of time. Included in the list below are also the books that every digital marketer should read for developing a well-rounded understanding of behavioral psychology, growth mindset, and a few other areas that will help you stay ahead of the pack.

1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

It may have first been published in 1984, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a list of best marketing books that doesn’t include this ageless text.

Widely regarded as the marketer’s bible, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” provides a succinct and effective outline for understanding what leads to us making decisions. Cialdini uses storytelling and real-world examples to seamlessly guide readers through six principles of persuasion of which a B2B marketer has been called upon to compose email copy, frame social media ads, and devise practically every memorable marketing campaign in recent history.

While you can’t expect to learn specific channel tactics from this digital marketing book, the application of reciprocity, consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity will ensure your digital marketing strategy is laser-focused on achieving conversion outcomes.

2. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Claude Hopkins was a man far ahead of his time. While A/B testing and statistical significance are commonplace in today’s digital marketing world, Hopkins was teaching early interpretations of these all the way back in 1923 in “Scientific Advertising.”

I find myself regularly returning to this book when looking to return to fundamentals surrounding ad creative and influencing buyers. At just 120 pages, you can almost read it in one go and won’t find a page that doesn’t offer a quick tip applicable to effective digital marketing today.

3. Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson

You will find iterated teachings of “Expert Secrets” within countless social media and digital marketing courses across the internet. Yes, it may have been published 4 years ago (which is like 40 years in digital marketing) but its valuable content is likely to remain a mainstay in the years ahead.

The appeal of “Expert Secrets” is that it provides a practical framework that takes the guesswork out of email marketing, content marketing, and copywriting. It helps you recognise expertise in areas and how your intimate knowledge of a subject can lead to the development of a successful business and massive audience. Author and ClickFunnels Founder Brunson is one of the most recognised figures in the digital marketing world, and the book really reads as a collection of the best practices he has discovered through the constant refinement of his own digital marketing strategy.

While everybody will have unique takeaways from this digital marketing book, I am constantly revisiting his tips towards the end on conducting the perfect webinar. He outlines the structure, the perfect timings between sections, and evergreen tips for keeping your target audience engaged — a must read!

4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

I read this book cover to cover on a plane trip from Sydney to Los Angeles and it’s fair to say it had me, well, hooked! 

“Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” is an excellent product and marketing book for learning what it takes to create habits in consumers. You’ll learn how to create triggers, get customers to take action, reward them, and encourage investment following the fundamentals adopted by many of the world’s leading technology companies. There are few digital marketing books that will provide you with better end-to-end insights into optimising the user journey of your audience. 

It’s packed with relevant examples of these techniques in practice and I found it refreshing that author Nir Eyal ended the book with some wise words on how to apply these teachings ethically while keeping your consumer’s well-being top of mind.

5. Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

In my opinion, this is the best book that’s been written on social media marketing strategy thus far. “Jab Jab Right Hook” was my first exposure to the teachings of Gary Vee, and his celebrity status should be of little surprise to those who have read about the common sense approach he preaches here.

The book asserts the importance of social media marketing in today’s landscape while providing a winning blueprint for developing an engaging community that will reward you in the long run. We all want sales, but it’s through adding value to our audience first that we earn the right to ask for something in return.

The audiobook is read by Gary Vee himself and he frequently deviates from the script to adding yet another nugget of social media gold. Whether you’re wanting to learn about creating content specifically for a social media platform or how to build an Instagram following from scratch, you’ll find something here to put into practice.

6. Content Machine by Dan Norris

“Content Machine” is an absolute must read for anyone looking to develop an epic content marketing strategy that drives commercial success.

The book details the exact content marketing strategy used by Norris to build a 7-figure business that was fuelled by an outstanding blog. You’ll learn that there is far more to winning the content marketing game than just creating the most blog posts, and the search engine optimization techniques and tools mentioned by Norris remain as relevant as ever in today’s digital marketing landscape.

7. Lean Analytics by Benjamin Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll

I won this book at a startup event and I’ll admit that the title didn’t win me over at first. However, after a colleague recommended it I decided to give it a try and couldn’t put it down.

I haven’t come across a book that better equips you for doing digital marketing in a tech startup than “Lean Analytics.” You’ll learn how to measure, but more importantly what to measure depending on the stage and focus of the company. 

If you’re intimidated by digital marketing jargon such as AARRR, CAC, CTR, and Virality, then this should be your first step. It’s as close to a startup digital marketing textbook as I have found, and will equally help B2B and B2C marketers level up.

8. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Any book by Seth Godin is a worthwhile read, but few have influenced my own approach to marketing strategy more than “Permission Marketing.”

While other digital marketing books will jump straight into tactics, Seth’s 1999 guide focuses on the importance of building a relationship with your customer over time. Marketing is most effective once your target audience has given you permission to market to them, and to get to this stage we need to provide consistent value from the get-go.

A true highlight of this book for me was the variety of case studies Godin uses in detailing the evolution of marketing over time. You’ll certainly walk away with plenty of things to try for yourself.

9. StoryBrand by Donald Miller

In the words of Donald Miller, “Pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”

There are plenty of great books on copywriting, including classics like Gary Halbert’s “The Boron Letters” and David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man.” My personal recommendation however would be to start with “StoryBrand” for a more holistic and modern take on how to delight your customers with your digital marketing creative.

Too often businesses and the business owner position themselves as the hero in the story. What customers really need is a guide who can help them successfully solve their problems. Miller will help you use content marketing to make your potential customers the heroes of your story and how to create your digital marketing assets accordingly.

10. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abrahams

This book helps us understand how incredibly simple it is to have an impact on the commercial success of a business.

While they’re not specifically about digital marketing, the teachings of this book will help shift your mindset to one that is always on the lookout for internal growth opportunities. You’ll end up with a range of ideas surrounding email marketing, search engine marketing, social media promotion, and conversion rate optimisation.

Abrahams helps us to identify the value of our loyal customers, what we can do to increase that value, and how to find more of our ideal potential customers. So simple, yet so very effective!

11. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

It’s a mistake to consider a user who gets stuck on our website as foolish. If a potential buyer is unable to complete an action on our website, then it’s on us to change.

“Don’t Make Me Think” is a book you’ll find on virtually every UX designer’s bookcase and with so much of digital marketing depending on an excellent user experience, this is a book we simply can’t ignore. The journey from an ad click to conversion depends on reducing friction, limiting distractions, and maximising accessibility. You won’t find a better guide to achieving this than Krug’s classic, which remains the go-to resource on web design 20 years on from its first publication.

12. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

It’s only entered our vernacular in the past decade, but growth hacking has quickly made its way to the top of every company’s digital marketing wishlist. Growth hacking focuses on finding faster and more cost-effective solutions to success, and it’s only fitting that the godfather of the movement’s work makes the list of must-read digital marketing books.

Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacker in a blog post back in 2010, and went on to co-author “Hacking Growth” seven years later alongside renowned digital marketer Morgan Brown. The book walks through the humble beginnings of some of today’s biggest companies — Airbnb, Facebook, Uber — and the methodology behind their unprecedented growth. 

You won’t find a better methodology for attaining, retaining, engaging, and motivating customers than “Hacking Growth.” It will completely change the way you approach your digital marketing strategy and help you to use data to deliver driving cost-effective results.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR PART TIME DIGITAL MARKETING COURSE

Going Back to School at 40+: The (Mostly) Pros & Cons

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On the first day of school, I wasn’t used to wearing my new big red backpack. Within five minutes of walking in the door — late — I had managed to swing it around, knock over a glass of water on the table behind me, send a flood toward my teacher’s materials, run out of the room to get paper towels, and somehow get lost on my way back to the classroom.

I was 54 years old and just started my User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly.

My grandmother used to say, “If you eat a bug for breakfast, nothing worse can happen to you the rest of the day.”  I closed my eyes and hoped she was right as I sank into my seat next to a tiny 20-something personal trainer.

Grandmas are always right. The personal trainer was friendly, funny, and just as new to the tech curriculum as I was. General Assembly’s well-documented ethos of inclusivity went well beyond race and gender, and I felt genuinely welcomed as an older student. The course itself was a transformational one. My learnings at GA sent me into a new career in UX design that has been far more fulfilling than I expected — I’m proud to say that I’m now also part of the GA instructional team.

But my concerns about heading back into the classroom as an adult learner were real, and took time and effort to overcome. Sure, I had decades of experience in nonprofit management, even leading tech organizations… but I hadn’t been in a classroom as a student since grad school, nearly two decades before. Did I even remember how to study? I was used to getting a good night’s sleep (knock on wood) and not pulling all-nighters. ( Do “the kids” even call them all-nighters anymore?) I was comfortable using technology, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between a megabyte and a megabit without sneaking a look at Wikipedia. And while I’d heard of Zoom, the first image that came to mind was a bunch of PBS kids in striped rugby shirts (“I’m Houli!”)

Going back into the classroom in your 40s and 50s can cause a lot of anxiety, from uncertainty about whether your hard-won professional background is the right fit for a course of study, to concern whether you’re up to both the pace or technology.

Are you the same person you were on your first day of high school? No. But that’s a good thing. Read on to see why this may be the best time in your life to learn and master the skills you need to change careers successfully.

Your Energy Is Different

A recent article in Forbes quoted healthcare CEO Angela Bovill’s answer to a question she’s frequently asked: “Why do you hire people over 60 to be on your team?” Bovill’s response is a powerful one. She says, Having older people on staff creates a calming force for an organization. There is less panic. They have seen a lot and are less jittery, less anxious than they may have been earlier in their career.”

A piece from the AARP — an organization that knows something about the group in question — goes even further:

“Researchers at the University of Kentucky surveyed large and small companies to assess how employers evaluate their older workers. The respondents said that workers 50 or older are more reliable than the younger generations; they show up for work on time. They also have a stronger work ethic, too; the younger worker is more likely to arrive late and leave early. Older workers’ experience makes them better able to manage problems and respond to emergencies, and it makes them valuable mentors to younger people in the firm. Plus, they know how to deal with people and provide better service to customers.”

Your life experiences and earned perspective can help you keep moving toward your educational goal, where others may give up. Consider the story of Brenda Echols, who went back to school for a master’s degree in nursing at age 58. Brenda says, “My biggest challenge was overcoming breast cancer while working on my master’s degree. It almost took me out of school, but when I thought about it and talked it over, I decided to hold on and hold out as strong as I could…Being a student helped me maintain my focus during my challenges. My dream sustained me, along with family and friends. I never missed a beat.” 

Your Brain Is Different

As a returning older student, you’re probably not going to pass for a digital native (a term coined by educator Marc Prensky to describe someone born after 1980), but you have other very significant strengths.

  • You’re more likely to know what you want to do, and you’re ready to focus. Your commitment to continued learning makes teaching a pleasure for instructors and can inspire younger students. You’re also experienced at juggling multiple high-stakes commitments; some of my most dedicated, organized, and successful digital bootcamp students have been single moms from nontraditional training programs, who have made an art form out of prioritizing and delegating.
  • A working adult tends to be more comfortable with ambiguity and subtle distinctions between complex concepts. In my experience, more seasoned students are less likely to ask narrow questions like “Will this be on the test?” and more likely to ask broader ones, like “Why is this important to know?” Instead of passively attending lectures, older learners actively engage, seek relevance, and look for ways to apply their learning to real-life situations — great practice for job interviews.
  • As we grow older, we tend to become stronger at tasks that demand crystallized intelligence. The ability to use previously attained information, facts, knowledge, and life experience to solve new challenges comes with time. This ability to conceptualize new contexts is incredibly useful and frequently seen in older non traditional students but virtually impossible to teach.

Side note: Prensky has since abandoned the term “digital native” in favor of “digital wisdom.”

In the near future, the most successful products and services will likely be built and designed by older adults with a keen understanding of the 40+ plus demographic.

Your Opportunities Are Different (& Better Than Ever)

The coming “silver tsunami,” also known in more positive terms as the longevity economy, ranks as one of the most significant forces shaping the U.S. economy and society. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that working professionals 65 years and older will account for more than 21% of the country’s population as soon as 2030. Older Americans live longer, on average (cheers for that!), and remain active in the workforce.

The next adjacent age group is deepening its relationship with work as well. In 1994, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of working Americans age 55 or older was just 11.9%; by 2024, that number is expected to rise to 24.8%, at that point becoming the largest age cohort in the workforce.

Of course, a mature student or a working student in their 40s represents more than a portion of the workforce; that demographic is also an enormous, growing market for a variety of products, goods, services, and experiences — many created or enabled by technology. The benefits of the diverse workforce that so many companies strive to create include advantages that only come from hiring older workers. In the near future, the most successful products and services will likely be built and designed by older adults with a keen understanding of and lived experience within the 40+ demographic.

Numerous studies demonstrate that an older student is a more successful entrepreneur, a more reliable worker, and a more profitable employee. Contrary to popular belief, not all startup founders and visionaries are fresh out of college: A Kauffman Foundation study found that 26% of all startups in 2015 were created by people ages 55–64; in 1997, the figure was just 15%.

The Downsides & Upsides

Age bias, or ageism, is still a real issue. It can be hard to find an internship or apprenticeship if you haven’t recently graduated with a college degree or associate’s degree.  In addition, imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re inadequate or a failure despite an abundance of evidence that you are both eminently qualified and undeniably talented, comes for us all. It can be discouraging to the point of debilitation when planning a career change, if not countered with persistent hard work and support from family and friends.

For experienced working professionals accustomed to scheduling their days (and their coffee breaks), it can be an adjustment to go back to a conventional academic schedule, and  accredited educational schools like General Assembly are appropriately rigorous about timeliness and attendance. The new guidelines about public contact during the age of COVID-19 means you won’t just be learning the software programs on your syllabus — you’ll also be learning how to navigate a virtual classroom, how to access materials and tutorials for your online program, and how to schedule class projects with teammates in different time zones — while remaining in the safety and comfort of your environment.

The good news is that GA is one of the pioneers in remote learning, long before the pandemic, and we continue to evolve. We’ve continued to make significant investments not just in core technology, but also in curriculum development and instructor training. Our classroom instructional teams are experts in the latest techniques and best practices to make your student experience seamless, engaging, and fulfilling — in both online classes and in-person sessions.

If you look at it one-dimensionally, there are definite concerns you could worry about when pondering a return to the classroom after an extended time away. However, if you look at the opportunity with a growth mindset, a commitment to lifelong learning, and undertake it with clear eyes and trusted support, the sky’s the limit.

***

Need more encouragement? Consider this quote: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.” (This was, in fact, not my grandmother, but instead French philosopher Michel de Montaigne in the late 1500s.)

Not convinced by philosophy? Consider science: Studies show that as many as 85% of things that we worry about don’t come true.

Even if some of your worries actualize, my grandmother advises that you write everything off as a bug before breakfast. Kick imposter syndrome to the curb. Use that big, agile brain of yours. Learn something new and change the world. We’re ready to help you create a career you’ll love.

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A Guide to Startup Compensation

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If you’re pursuing a job at a startup company, one of the most important factors you’ll need to consider is compensation, which is commonly structured differently than at a mature company. This is largely dependent on the life stage of a company, which can greatly impact compensation, as well as work-life balance, risk, and upside.

Compensation at a startup company is largely made up of three components: salary, benefits, and equity. The value of each depends on the stage of a company’s growth, the role, and an employee’s previous experience. A good rule of thumb, though, is this: The earlier a stage the company is in, the lower the salary and employee benefits will be, but the higher the startup equity will be. As the company matures, the scales start to tip in the other direction. Let’s talk in a bit more detail about each of these in this startup compensation guide

Salary

As mentioned above, salary is largely contingent on the company’s stage, the role, and the employee’s previous experience. There is no one-size-fits-all here. At an earlier-stage company, you can almost certainly expect a lower base salary than the industry norm, regardless of your previous experience. As the company matures, the salaries of all positions start to get closer and closer to market rate. If you’re curious what to expect, we recommend playing with the salaries and equity tool by AngelList or researching salary ranges at specific companies on Glassdoor or checking out our ebook.

Benefits

Benefits at a startup are also largely dependent on stage. If good benefits are important to you, then an early-stage startup is likely the wrong place to work. However, as a startup grows, its employee benefits often become an extension of its culture and are used in all recruiting efforts. Take, for instance, Airbnb, which offers a $2,000 travel stipend to all startup employees. Other startups may allow pets at the office, or offer gym and other discounts, catered lunches, generous vacation policies, or flexible remote-working options.

Equity: Stock and Vesting Schedules

Equity is often the most confusing and intriguing part of a compensation package at a startup. Equity refers to ownership of the company, and this can be extremely valuable if the company ever sells or goes public (learn more about startup fundraising here).

What’s important to know here is that no employee is ever “given” equity. Instead, employees often receive employee stock options, which are the option to purchase equity in the company at a heavily discounted price. You also are not given all of your stock options up front; rather, you earn an increasing amount of options over a four-year period. That four-year period is often referred to as a vesting schedule. The typical vesting schedule gives you one-fourth of your options at the end of your first year, and then 1/48th every month after that. Once your options vest, you have the right to purchase them (or not).

Getting into a company early has a big impact on the amount of stock options you receive and at what price. If you join a company early, you are often rewarded with a higher number of options at a much lower price. As the company matures, the risk gets lower and its ability to pay market-rate salaries improve, so you will typically receive fewer stock options and at a higher purchase price.

The benefit of purchasing your options is that eventually — fingers crossed — the company will sell or go public and you will get a big payday. For example, early Instagram employees turned their stock options into an average profit of nearly $8 million! And there’s the famous example of the Facebook muralist who was compensated in stock options that were eventually worth north of $200 million. Of course, these examples are far on the ludicrous side of the scale, and many people don’t make any money from stock options — but risky or not, they’re part of what makes joining a startup so exciting.

How to Negotiate Your Startup Offer

There are special considerations to make when negotiating your compensation at a startup. Macia Batista, formerly a career coach at General Assembly’s New York campus, walks you through essential steps for building your ideal job offer.

  • Know your minimum number. Leverage sites like PayScale and Glassdoor to learn to learn what employers in your city are paying for similar roles and industries. Do your research ahead of time to fully understand the fair market value for the position, taking into account background and experience. Know your worth!
  • Provide a salary range. Determine a range for yourself, then ask for the upper half of it, so you can negotiate down if needed. Giving a range demonstrates flexibility. It gives you the opportunity to ask for more when an offer is presented, and negotiate other variables, like 401k contribution, remote work options, or vacation days. Tell the hiring manager, “I’m targeting roles with a range of X, but I’m focused on the entirety of the package including culture, growth, and mission.”
  • Consider the whole package — not just salary. Compensation goes beyond your paycheck. When weighing a job offer, look at factors like bonuses, equity grants, health care and retirement plans, transportation costs, schedule flexibility (e.g., working from home and vacation time), and potential for growth at the company.
  • Ensure your pay increases with funding. If you’re joining an early-stage startup, equity (stock options) is oftentimes part of the compensation package, since these offers often fall below market salary. However, you should be be earning a fair market-value salary as soon as the company raises real money. I recommend signing a written agreement with your employer to guarantee a pay increase once the company has more capital.

How to Land Your Dream Startup Job

Working in the startup world can be one of the most challenging, exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking, and oftentimes fulfilling journeys of your life. But before you find first startup job, there are terms to learn, steps to take, and skills to grow to make you a candidate who stands out from the crowd.

In our eBook, How to Get a Job at a Startup, we’ll help you find your dream startup job through the knowledge of startup job-hunters, founders, and employers. Get firsthand tips on how to break into a startup career, clear up confusing industry jargon, and learn about important resources that will aid you on your journey as a startup employee.

General Assembly believes that everyone should be empowered to pursue work they love. We hope you’ll find this book to be a helpful first step in getting there yourself.

How to Land a Job at a Startup

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How to Become a Data Analyst

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Featuring Insights From Matt Brems & Vish Srivastava

Read: 4 Minutes

So, you want to be a data analyst? GA instructors Matt Brems and Vish Srivastava are data experts with deep experience across a wide range of industries. If anyone can start you on the path to your dream job of data analyst, it’s these two. Read on for advice and guidance on how to get there, what it takes and where to look for the jobs of the future.

Tell us about your experience in data — what brought you to the field?

Matt Brems: I was attracted to statistics and data science because I felt that too many decisions were made based on a gut feeling instead of data. In my experience, that usually meant that the loudest person in the room would make the decisions. Using statistics and data science to analyze evidence helps us to make better, more informed decisions that are less susceptible to bias.

Vish Srivastava: As a product manager, I’m faced with a deluge of data and need to make sense of what matters and how to use data to inform decision-making around the product. Quickly visualizing data and creating dashboards that get widely distributed are both critical skills to be an effective product manager.

What qualifications do you need to be considered for a data analyst job?

MB: Jobs that involve data analysis have many different titles. Some companies call these “data analysts,” other terms include “business intelligence analyst,” “marketing analyst,” “data scientist,” and others. Since different companies will have different names for the job, it’s not surprising that the qualifications for a data analyst (or similar) role will vary wildly from company to company.

The most common qualification is to know SQL, or Structured Query Language.

Most data analyst roles will expect some experience with data visualization. Having some background in statistics — even one or two courses at the college level or having online certifications — is often expected.

What traits make a data analyst successful?

VS: Simplicity, integrity, empathy, and patience. Simplicity because it can be very easy to go crazy and complicate an issue when you are in the weeds. Data analysis must always resist this urge and instead create clarity and complicity for stakeholders.

Integrity, because data analysts make a lot of crucial decisions like which outlier to remove and which insights to show vs. which ones to leave behind. You can easily tell a story that isn’t really true if you wanted to, and data analysts must hold themselves accountable to the truth. Mark Twain wasn’t kidding when he said that “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Empathy, because data analysts must always look at deliverables from the perspective of an audience. Will this be helpful to them, is it immediately legible, what questions will they have that you can preemptively address?

And lastly, patience. Data analysis involves a thankless job that people don’t really talk about — data cleaning!

How does someone start a career in data analytics

MB: I would start by searching data analyst roles at companies in which you’re interested. If you have most of the qualifications listed, go ahead and start applying! If you feel like you lack most of the qualifications, start exploring resources and courses that can help you close that gap. The three most important skills to know are likely to be SQL, statistics, and experience with a data visualization tool. There are lots of tutorials and courses available to teach you each of these.

How long does it take to become a data analyst?

MB: Data analysts are, in many cases, entry-level roles. New graduates from bootcamps or from college or university can often be accepted to data analyst roles. Some roles may require up to a few years of experience.

What’s the next big disruption? Where should candidates look for the jobs of the future?

VS: Every sector has been transformed by data, and this will continue to happen. But I think a very interesting one to watch is healthcare. Data in healthcare is trapped in various silos, like hospital systems (e.g., EHRs), insurance companies (e.g., claims data), clinical data (e.g., lab tests), and even personal health and fitness data (e.g., Apple Watch). This fragmentation of data, along with various pieces of regulation that govern how and when data is shared and used, means there is so much value that is currently untapped. As the industry moves to more interoperability and hopefully does so in a way that respects patient privacy and patient safety, we will see new opportunities quickly emerge.

Matt Brems teaches our Data Science Immersive, a bootcamp where students become fully-fledged data scientists in 12 weeks. He runs the consultancy BetaVector, where he solves data problems with Fortune 500 companies and startups alike. 

Vish Srivastava teaches our Data Analytics course. He has led multidisciplinary teams across many different tech sectors. He is currently a product leader at Evidation Health and is obsessed with building products to make the world a better place. 

What is EdTech and Why Should It Matter to You?

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Educational Technology image

Education Technology (also known as “EdTech”) refers to an area of digital technology devoted to the development and application of tools (including software, hardware, and appropriate technological processes) intended to promote education.

Put another way, “EdTech is a study and ethical practice for facilitating student learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”

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