While stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in 2008, I wouldn’t have guessed that my time in the Marine Corps would have prepared me for a future in coding. At the time, the 30 Marines in my platoon had access to just one shared computer. It served only two functions: completing online training requirements, and looking up one’s online military record.
I never suspected that nine years later I would be designing and building websites and applications in an intensive web development course, General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) program.
My path toward coding was a winding one. As a Marine on active duty, I was stationed in Japan, Kenya, Sudan, Italy, and Pakistan. Later, after transferring to the Marine Corps Reserve, I pursued a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. While studying at GW, I worked at the nonprofit Veterans Campaign, where I was tasked with helping to rebrand the organization. Though I had little technical experience, I created an entirely new web presence for the organization and migrated its old content to the new website.
Anthony Pegues, second from right, with Per Scholas CEO Plinio Ayala (far right), and fellow graduates from CodeBridge, a web development training partnership between General Assembly and Per Scholas.
Anthony Pegues was a part-time janitor in the suburbs of New York City who sought a way into a rewarding career. He saw tech — and web development specifically — as a viable path, but didn’t have the resources to get the skills he needed to be ready for a job in the field.
Unfortunately, Pegues’ situation is all too common. There are plenty of tech jobs available, and people who are eager to fill them. But many passionate, prospective developers from underserved and overlooked communities do not have the resources, time, or opportunities to pursue their passions and get the skills they need to transform their careers.
At General Assembly, our central mission is to create pathways so that everyone with the dedication and commitment to reshape their career can do so, regardless of their prior experience or ability to pay for the training they need to get there. To this end, we’ve spent the last few years launching and refining strategies and programs that break down barriers and contribute to the diversity of the tech sector.
In 2016, I was preparing with clients for an upcoming training workshop focused on coaching a cross-functional team of designers, software engineers, product managers, and business stakeholders on integrating product discovery practices into their delivery cadences. During our conversation, my client said to me, “Our tech teams are learning Agile. Our product teams are learning Lean, and our design teams are learning Design Thinking. Which one is right?”
The client found the different disciplines at odds because these seemingly complementary practices forced each discipline into different cadences, with different practices and vocabularies targeting different measures of success.
The engineering teams, using Agile, were focused on shipping bug-free code in regular release cycles (many teams call these “sprints”). Their ultimate goal was an increased velocity — the quantity of code they could ship in each sprint. Product managers, using Lean, were most interested in driving efficiency, quality, and reduction of waste through tactical backlog prioritization and grooming techniques.
In the past few years, much attention has been drawn to the dearth of women and people of color in tech-related fields. A recent article in Forbes noted, “Women hold only about 26% of data jobs in the United States. There are a few reasons for the gender gap: a lack of STEM education for women early on in life, lack of mentorship for women in data science, and human resources rules and regulations not catching up to gender balance policies, to name a few.” Federal civil rights data further demonstrate that “black and Latino high school students are being shortchanged in their access to high-level math and science courses that could prepare them for college” and for careers in fields like data science.
As an education company offering tech-oriented courses at 20 campuses across the world, General Assembly is in a unique position to analyze the current crop of students looking to change the dynamics of the workplace.
Looking at GA data for our part-time programs (which typically reach students who already have jobs and are looking to expand their skill set as they pursue a promotion or a career shift), here’s what we found: While great strides have been made in fields like web development and user experience (UX) design, data science — a relatively newer concentration — still has a ways to go in terms of gender and racial equality.
Create opportunities for employers and job-seekers alike with these proposed policies to help close chronic skills gaps.
A tightening labor market, persistent skills gaps (in fields from manufacturing to technology), and the short shelf life of skills in the rapidly changing digital economy, have led to a seemingly paradoxical narrative in the education-to-employment pipeline.
In manufacturing, for instance, 70 percent of companies now face shortages of workers with the necessary technology skills. And yet millions of Americans struggle to find jobs that put them on a path toward social and economic mobility or, at least, a comfortable perch in the middle class.
What’s worse, the compounding forces of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will begin to dislocate a growing number of workers — putting unprecedented pressure on an education and workforce development system that is ill-equipped to tackle looming reskilling and training challenges.
New Models Emerge
In the last five years, an array of non-accredited education and training providers has surfaced to address these challenges, including General Assembly, as well as on-demand learning platforms, ultra-low-cost course providers (like StraighterLine or Coursera), and new approaches to “education as an employee benefit” (pioneered by companies like Chipotle, in partnership with Guild Education).
Taking a class can be a step toward that promotion you’ve been angling for, or lay the foundation for a full-on career change. But for many adults, committing to weeks, months, or even a day of lessons can be nerve-wracking.
It’s true: The back-to-school jitters are real at any age. Learning new skills often involves rearranging your schedule, planning for additional expenses, or combating the nerves that come with venturing out of your comfort zone. But if you can overcome these barriers, your potential will skyrocket.
Skilling up has innumerable benefits: It can give you a competitive edge in the job market; increase your value within your company; and, of course, keep you ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing tech environment. On a personal level, it can boost morale and give you creative inspiration. There’s truly nothing to lose.
Early in my tech career, as a web developer, I was constantly stressed out. Every time somebody needed something from me, I felt I had to drop everything and do it right then. I was overwhelmed by my growing to-do list, and doubly stressed for not doing enough quickly.
All developers face a lot of pressure. When you’re coding or creating something, clients, teammates, and managers want it fast, and they want it perfect. Plus, today’s tech teams are always expected to be on and responsive through email, phone, Slack, and beyond, which digs into time you want to spend on the work itself. These aspects of coding culture can often lead to stress, unhealthy habits, and emotional burnout, which all keep you from reaching your potential on the job. That ultimately leads to more stress, more unhealthy habits…you get the picture.
For HR leaders, especially those who focus on talent acquisition, making fair and equitable salary decisions is a daily struggle, and one that can frustrate even the most experienced leaders.
It is common practice to make compensation decisions based on salary history. When considering costs and the bottom line, companies are often tempted to leverage opportunities to pay as little as possible for a role, offering whatever a candidate will accept — and not a penny more. This is true for many industries, but especially in tech, where salary data is scant due to ever-changing programming languages, skills, and platforms.Continue reading →
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talks leadership lessons with Reid Hoffman on the Masters of Scale podcast. Photo by Jacqui Ipp.
Leading a high-growth company and scaling it into a tech empire involves working through countless challenges: You need to constantly innovate, adapt with the economy, navigate relationships with executives, evolve your team, and more. Sheryl Sandberg knows this experience intimately, from her time as Google’s VP of global online sales and operations — during which she scaled the company’s online sales team from four to 4,000, driving two-thirds of the company’s revenue — through her past nine years as Facebook’s chief operating officer.
To get to where she — and Facebook — is today, Sandberg has learned hard leadership lessons about growing a team and a company.
Revamp your Rolodex with tips from this pro, Andy Whelan! Illustration by Rob Goodman.
Think about the people who have made the biggest impact on your life — the friends, family, and teachers who have invested in you as a person. They push you to be better, can be a sounding board for bold new ideas, and have your back when you’re facing life’s harshest challenges.
The road to professional success can be tumultuous, and as you navigate the highs and lows, it’s equally important to have these kinds of people in your work life, too. Rewarding professional relationships are critical to your career and need to be nurtured as authentically as ties to friends and family. If you find yourself floating around solo on your jobs journey, there’s a good chance you may be doing it wrong.
When it comes to building a reliable professional community, we could all benefit by taking a lesson from career guru, speaker, and teacher Andy Whelan, a career coach at General Assembly’s San Francisco campus.