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As we get older, we might think our best learning days are behind us, believing our minds are less capable of absorbing new concepts. However, evidence suggests the opposite: we’re designed to push our boundaries and tackle challenges — regardless of age. Without growth or the desire to evolve, we risk professional stagnation and may never reach our true potential. And let’s be real — nurturing our drive to advance is crucial in a workforce where the standards are constantly rising.

In today’s ever-evolving, tech-charged job market, diplomas and degrees are holding less and less weight. Developing expertise in high-demand disciplines is essential to stand out. Carving out a competitive edge is necessary for success. In short — most employers are valuing skills over degrees.

Many online platforms offer self-guided certificate programs that can enhance our resumes and LinkedIn profiles. If you can stand the ads, YouTube is a great option for free lessons for just about anything you can think of. Micro-learning apps like Duolingo allow us to skill-build on the go, providing affordable and accessible opportunities to explore various topics.

To truly advance beyond novice, it’s imperative to combine self-taught concepts with guided instruction and real-world application. Without proper structure and support, this can be a tremendous challenge. That’s why programs like General Assembly’s bootcamps offer a unique approach to immersive learning, guiding students from theory to practice and teaching them real skills for the real working world.

What is Immersive Learning?

Immersive learning demands deep engagement with the material. You must allow yourself to be submerged by a new world, with strange lingo and its own unique culture. The goal isn’t to overwhelm, but to rapidly reshape your perspective and expand your limits.

The main components of immersive learning include active participation, experiential learning, multisensory engagement, and integrating feedback to personalize your learning journey. This combination creates an environment ripe for growth if one is receptive.

There’s no hiding at GA — success requires coming out of your shell. Engage fully by subscribing to newsletters like Hacker News, listening to podcasts like Guy Raz’s “How I Built This,” and attending tech meetups and networking events. It’s not just about showing up to class — after-hours engagement is crucial.

In the classroom, you’ll get plenty of stimulation. My software engineering cohort had guest lectures from alumni employed at companies like Disney and Major League Baseball, collaborated with the UX/UI design cohort on projects, and participated in weekly career-coaching sessions. These opportunities break up the coursework and keep momentum steady.

GA’s modular curriculum is carefully curated and regularly updated to reflect industry trends and technologies. What I learned in 2017 is likely different from today’s content, although the foundational building blocks remain the same.

One constant aspect is project-based learning. Students tackle projects that mirror real-world challenges, applying recently learned material and building a portfolio for job searches. This practical approach ensures skill development and portfolio growth.

You’ll also develop presentation skills, explaining your code, defending your choices, and discussing your solutions. This practice is invaluable for interviews and professional work.

I won’t spoil all the surprises, but Project 1 for software engineers typically involves building a two-player game. I was proud to demo my “Mad Minute” math game, which boosted my confidence and motivation. The other projects were more challenging, but equally rewarding.

In today’s remote era, GA leverages a learning management software called Canvas. It wasn’t used in my day, but I wish it had been. Canvas offers a single platform where all course materials, resources, and documentation are readily available in an easy dashboard. This level of structure and organization baked into your experience is key when you’re already feeling overwhelmed.

Building Knowledge Step by Step

GA has curated a proper sequencing of material, starting with basic HTML and CSS, then quickly moving into JavaScript and beyond. This balanced progression helps you build a strong foundation before diving deeper into more complex concepts.

After GA raises you from a newcomer to a capable technologist, maintaining your learning momentum is up to you. The tech world moves fast, and what’s new today may not be relevant in a few years. Focusing on the basics ensures you can adapt to changes. And when your cohort ends, it’s on you to carry the torch and maintain your learning prowess (with GA there to help, of course).

Stakes and Incentives

GA’s courses are pass/fail. You must keep up with assignments and score well on projects to earn your completion certificate. 

I appreciated that the stakes were high without feeling overly pressured or out of control. I was never the strongest developer in my class, but I was unrelentingly curious and an active participant every day. There is no hiding once you’re done and start interviewing for jobs. You have to commit and go all-in.

The high stakes motivate you to stay committed. Either you know the material, or you don’t, and your goal is to find a job post-graduation. Nobody wins if you can’t hold your end of the bargain. If that’s not enough, your likely shrinking bank account will be enough incentive to light a match under your chair.

Frequency and Repetition

Mastery comes from frequency and repetition. More practice translates to better outcomes. Think of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule — dedication and extra effort are directly correlated to success.

At GA, you get out what you put in. The more effort you invest, the greater your return. Whether you’re taking the 12-week full-time bootcamp or the 32-week part-time option, GA isn’t a commitment to take lightly. Take breaks and prioritize self-care, but fully engage during this intense period. You’ll look back on it fondly.

I remember the night before my cohort started, feeling nervous and doubtful. My roommate, a GA alum, surprised me by admitting his jealousy — he missed the immersive learning experience and the groundswell of energy it creates. The momentum in the classroom is a palpable force, and recalling the journey from ground zero is nostalgic for those who go through it.

Learning is a lifelong skill that must be continuously nurtured. GA’s immersive learning system equipped me with essential technical skills and a mindset of continuous improvement. The experience transformed my career and revealed my true potential. Looking back, the challenges and hard work were well worth it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been part of such a dynamic and impactful learning environment.

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A few years after graduating college, Tim realized his lifelong dream of becoming a sales trader. But after reaching the summit, he quickly realized his dream career was the wrong fit — for a litany of reasons. So at 27 years young, he had a “eureka” moment, quit his supposed dream job, and attended a General Assembly coding bootcamp. It was both the most radical and important decision he’d ever made. With help from General Assembly, he re-learned how to learn immersively, acquired domain expertise, and landed as an early employee at a scrappy tech startup — where he still works today as a Team Lead & Sr. Solutions Engineer. Check out Tim’s blog for everything from advice on choosing a coding bootcamp to no-nonsense LA restaurant reviews.