Career Development Category Archives - General Assembly Blog

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.

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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.


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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. 

Front-End Web Developer Salaries

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Featuring Insights From Pedro Martin & Matt Studdert

Read: 4 Minutes

Maybe you’re curious about becoming a front-end web developer but want to know what you’re in for before making the leap. Or perhaps you’re weighing whether it would be financially worthwhile to invest the time and money in a career switch. You probably already know that front-end web development is one of the fastest-growing fields out there. So if you want to hear from the insiders why everyone seems to be clamoring to hire this role, read on. Knowledge is power.

We asked our resident experts what it takes to become a star front-end web developer (FEWD). Pedro Martin is a software engineer at Red Badger, and Matt Studdert is the founder of Frontend Mentor. Both are also GA instructors — and both of their answers were surprising.

Martin cites empathy as being the number one characteristic needed in FEWD, and explained that the role demands you consider every decision you make from your user’s perspective.

“You must understand the diversity of all humans consuming the content, so you can build a human-centric solution with accessibility as the core,” he says. “You must understand the intention of the client and adapt or influence the content accordingly. And you must understand that delivering software based on the web is a team effort.“

Similarly, Studdert claims emotional intelligence is most important since a developer’s process of problem-solving is often trial-and-error.

“Starting your journey in web development is to go from error to error, from problem to problem. So at the beginning of your journey, you should be resilient and emotionally intelligent enough to not get frustrated.” He adds, “Most of us have been there, and we can relate to that struggle.”

So about that problem-solving. Just how advanced do you have to be at writing code? To make it as a FEWD, do you have to be a pro at programming?

Becoming adept at code is an ongoing process, but think of it as lifelong learning. You’ll become better and better over time. Of course, you want prospective employers to be impressed with your skill set, so make sure you have these three languages on your C.V. or resume: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Depending on your area of expertise, your proficiencies among the programming languages will adjust.

For example, Studdert explains, “If you’re an accessibility-focused developer, HTML might be the most used. For styling-focused developers, CSS. For front-end developers focused primarily on interactivity or building modern-day web applications, JavaScript might be the language you work with the most.”

If you can improve your problem-solving skills and your coding, it will help you massively as a developer. Boosting your value in today’s economy ultimately gives you more freedom, more choices, and more money. (More on that later.)

But writing code isn’t all there is to it. Collaboration is crucial. “As a front-end developer, you’ll be working mainly with UI and UX designers to improve the visual side of the site. You’ll also be communicating with back-end developers on how to integrate with the API. Other team members, like product managers, project managers, and product owners, will be people who you’ll be talking to throughout each week. And if you’re working at an agency, you may also be in meetings with the client and need to present work to them.”

One of the great things about becoming a FEWD is that you can take your skills almost anywhere. While salaries vary widely from country to country, even region to region, one thing is clear: developers are in demand.

“The demand for programmers with all levels of experience is not being matched by the supply,” says Martin. “Here in London, you can start at £30,000, and from there, the sky’s the limit. When I started 6 years ago, it was £24,000, so in only 6 years we have an increase of 25% on the starting salary.”

The advantages of working on staff are many — especially for those just starting out. Here in the U.S., salaries for front-end web developers range from $80K to $115K, according to Glassdoor, though these amounts can vary by geographic location and from country to country.

“Working within a team is especially crucial for new developers, as it’s critical you learn good practices and build up your experience in a professional setting,” says Studdert. Not to mention more stability and the benefits that come with working for a company.

The usual downsides of going freelance apply here, too, like less consistent workflow, having to do business management work like accounting, and time spent chasing clients. But the freedom to decide when, where, and how you want to work can be priceless. As a freelancer, you can charge higher wages and actually gross more than if you were working for somebody else.

In this career path, there is ample room for advancement. As a developer in a large organization, you can advance from entry level to senior to lead, and get salary increases along the way. “Many companies offer career progression paths depending on whether you want to focus on writing code or you prefer to move into more management-focused roles,” says Studdert. “Being a front-end developer can also lead to hybrid responsibilities if it’s something you’re interested in. For example, you could become a full-stack developer and work with back-end code as well. Or you could become a UX engineer and blend front-end work with UX design.”

Whether you join a large firm or become an independent contractor, there are plenty of opportunities to create the career you want. The future is bright for front-end web developers

Explore Front-End Web Development at GA

Want to learn more about Pedro?

https://github.com/pataruco
https://www.linkedin.com/in/pataruco/
https://mobile.twitter.com/pataruco

Want to learn more about Matt?

https://www.frontendmentor.io/
https://twitter.com/_mattstuddert

Visual Designer Salaries

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Featuring Insights From Jason Early

Read: 4 Minutes

Do you see a simple interface as a thing of beauty? Do you look at a design problem like an unfinished work of art? Does reducing user friction give you a sense that all is right in the world? If you answered yes to all of the above, then the role of visual designer is for you.

Visual designers, sometimes called digital designers, are primarily focused on visual communication and take a big-picture approach. Not to be confused with graphic designers, who use design elements like typeface and color to create a product, and may be more limited in scope, visual designers have a broader reach, working across platforms to build a brand identity’s look and feel in a more holistic way.

The visual designer is in a unique position of strength. A problem-solver at heart, the visual designer takes input from a portfolio of stakeholders and uses digital design tools to achieve business goals with a functionally elegant finished product.

There’s never been a better time to join the ranks of designers working in the digital world. The job outlook is decidedly rosy, with opportunities projected to grow much faster than other occupations thanks in part to the pandemic-related surge in mobile and eCommerce. So whether you’re looking to up your game (and your job title), make a career switch, or are just starting out, it literally pays to know what skills are needed as a visual designer.

According to Jason Early, a distinguished faculty member at GA and a 20-year design professional, what it takes to be a successful visual designer has less to do with design and more to do with ingenuity. “Empathy, inquisitiveness, and a desire to learn and solve problems are the most important qualities for a designer to have. Your job is to help address the challenges of an audience.”

But putting those high-minded qualities to work in today’s competitive digital economy often requires fluency with the bottom line. “As a designer, you are always selling to someone,” says Early. “Whether it’s trying to get buy-in from your team on a design direction, project approval from a stakeholder, or an audience to try your product, communication is key. It’s important to understand the business side of the industry you are in. You may be a designer, but your work provides value to the business.”

Early teaches our User Experience Design Immersive, a deep dive into the design discipline that serves as a career launching pad for students who can make the full-time commitment. In this Immersive, he covers the entire design process and offers opportunities to apply lessons to IRL projects. For those looking to gain a competitive edge in their existing jobs, part-time courses can give structure and background to the design process and help formalize a process that many have already been practicing on their own. Even better? Most courses are available online.

So what does a visual designer do all day? Ask five designers what their day looks like, and you’ll get five different answers. That’s in large part because today’s digital economy is fast-moving and ever-evolving — and the reason the field attracts an adventurous talent pool.

As a visual design consultant, Early mostly sets his own schedule, structuring his time around current projects and clients. “My day generally starts with the most important tasks like reviewing project updates, addressing feedback, code reviews — anything to unblock progress. Next, I’ll work on production iterations and improvements, then do email and communication check-ins. Afternoons are usually open for whatever needs my attention. I may be reviewing analytics, generating performance reports for clients, developing new client leads, reviewing my own marketing efforts, or spending time learning about a new tool that I may need for a project.” He adds, “Remember, I’m an independent. In-house roles can look dramatically different.”

Keep in mind that design departments can be staffed differently from company to company, with job titles remaining mostly consistent. A visual designer is tasked with the visual communication of the design, including the look and aesthetic of the product and making sure the use of color, typography, imagery, and layout are working together to satisfy a goal. A user experience designer, on the other hand, is focused on the overall experience of a design, taking into consideration the understanding of an audience and creating a strategic approach to address any challenges the user may face. More traditional job titles such as graphic designer and art director are holding fast, as long as they evolve to meet the needs of the digital economy.

“An art director is a leadership role and manages a team of designers through a project,” explains Early. “The design director is often the next level of leadership up from art director. They are responsible for overseeing the entire design team. A chief creative officer is a C-suite level of leadership for the design team in an organization. They have the widest scope of responsibility as they oversee anything creative in an entire organization, such as product, marketing, or software.” This is just one example of how a visual design department in a large company may be structured.

And what about compensation? What can you expect to earn from a visual designer salary? “This will depend on your market, but the average salary range in the U.S. is around $75K to $140K, according to Glassdoor. This, of course, depends on candidate experience, regional market, industry, and the ability to negotiate. Plus, there can be a difference in salary if you work at an agency vs. independently. Agencies can offer a lower wage and longer hours, but there can be more opportunity to work your way up to higher wages. As an independent, I set a project rate based on the goals the client is trying to reach.”

Early advises working in a team with well-established leadership if you’re looking to fast-track your career. Agencies are great for this as they usually have a well-defined hierarchy. For emerging designers, joining a firm where you will be part of a team of designers offers the most robust opportunities to learn on the job.

If you choose to strike out on your own as an independent designer, it’s a career path that can pay off in many ways. “The benefits of starting your own business are many, including flexibility of time and potentially higher pay.”

Explore Visual Design at GA

Want to learn more about Jason?

http://jasonearly.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jsonerly/

Graphic Designer Salaries

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Featuring Insights From Jason Early

Read: 3 Minutes

Are you a graphic designer intimidated by the prospect of transitioning to digital design work? Are you concerned with your ability to learn new tools and unfamiliar terminology? Those fears are normal and all too common for creative professionals, but the facts — and figures — say otherwise. Core design skills are still core design skills, regardless of the medium. Truthfully, the tech industry needs people just like you.

Graphic design was originally established to meet the needs of print, with a focus on layout and typography, Bridging the gap to digital requires an understanding of how users interact with your product. Read on to find out why your experience is a valuable commodity in today’s job market, no matter what you might assume. 

Let’s begin with salary. While the median salary for a graphic designer is $55K, tech- and leadership-driven roles that require similar skills like art director, web designer, or product designer command higher salaries. For example, a web designer just starting out can earn $65K, with a range of up to $140K in senior managerial roles. Even better, stretching your design skill set for positions like user experience (UX) designer can bring your starting salary up to $100K, with more sizable gains as you advance and accrue experience. Salary information according to Glassdoor. Amounts will vary by geographic location and from country to country.

The big question: how do you supercharge your design skills in a way that positions you to crush the job market?

There are practical and relevant ways to supplement your graphic design skills — and skyrocket your salary. Consider our UX Design Immersive (UXDI), a full-time bootcamp that’s available online and designed to launch you into a high-growth, high-paying tech career. “My favorite course to teach is UXDI,” says one of our distinguished faculty members,Jason Early. “I have a lot of time to focus on the students and help them achieve their individual goals. By the time we’ve completed a course, they’re confident and able to start applying what they have learned out in the world.”

Look no further for an inspiring success story. Early started his career as a graphic designer and is a living case study on pushing design skills past traditional boundaries to meet new challenges.

“I have a traditional university training in graphic design and have expanded that into web design, front-end development, and product design over the years. What first attracted me to the design industry was my interest in making things. I wanted to understand how products get made. So I started learning about the different areas that lead into product development. Graphic design taught me visual communication, front-end development taught me digital production, product design taught me how to combine those skills, and an understanding of business taught me how to produce product value.”

Our Immersive graduates emerge equipped with the new skills they need to navigate a career transition, but what about the prior work experience they bring to the new role? Are those traditional design skills transferable?

“Absolutely,” says Early. “They are already going to be familiar with the design process. While graphic design is focused more on visual communication, UX design is more strategic and focused on behavior. The process is the same: research, analysis, exploration, refinement, deployment. The only difference is the result.”

Of course, the best perk of a GA Immersive is that you’ll gain familiarity with the top employers out there, including who is hiring and how to connect to hiring managers, plus the invaluable resource of networking with world-class faculty and a group of like-minded, forward-thinking students (and future colleagues + friends).

Now an independent design consultant with 20 years experience, Early advises those considering a career change to start by thinking about the challenges encountered every day, their causes, and what can be done to address them. “Now, you are beginning to think like a designer,” he says.

A growth mindset and a willingness to learn go a long way. Today’s designers have more tools at their disposal than ever, with a steady influx of new software designed to make the job easier.

“Tools tend to vary by the team and company,” says Early. “I see Figma being adopted more and more by designers. It’s great for remote collaborative design production. Aside from that, being familiar with analytics software and usability testing software is important. Google Analytics and Usertesting are two of the most commonly used, but there are others in the market as well.”

Adapting to innovations is a win-win for all designers. Your work becomes more efficient, your proficiency increases, and your role as a designer becomes even more valuable — and diverse.

Explore Visual Design at GA

Want to learn more about Jason?

http://jasonearly.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jsonerly/

Digital Marketing Salaries

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Featuring Insights From Rachel Denton

Read: 2 Minutes

Are you curious, adaptable, and strategic? Creative, but not afraid to dive into the numbers now and then? These qualities will take you far in a digital marketing career. Digital marketing spans so many areas of expertise — there’s a perfect job for practically everyone with a problem-solving mindset. Armed with the skills you need to succeed, you’ll have the confidence to lock in a job with plenty of growth potential and a commensurate salary… every step of the way.

Rachel Denton, a digital marketing specialist, and one of our Austin campus instructors, shares her hardwon insights on the industry. Denton started her career as an engineer but was ultimately drawn to marketing because she could use her analytical mindset along with her creativity in a way that played up the strengths of each. It’s a balance she finds extremely rewarding and enthusiastically shares with her students. In her Email Marketing Essentials and Data Analytics courses, she relishes seeing the light bulb moments when students understand a new marketing concept or figure out a data-based strategy for the first time.

“Building a strong foundation is paramount. That means understanding the digital marketing channels and how to create, execute, measure, and optimize digital marketing campaigns. Once students understand these, there are so many directions they can go in the field of digital marketing. It really depends on their passions and interests.”

Let’s break out the individual roles within the field of digital marketing and what you can expect to earn.

Digital Marketing roles include those focused on specific channels such as social media manager, email marketing manager, content marketing manager, paid search manager, SEO manager, and marketing automation manager. Salaries for these roles fall in the range of $70K to $90K, depending on experience. Though they are often entry-point hires at smaller companies, candidates with relevant education and proven tech skill proficiencies have a clear advantage. Be ready to hit the ground running.

Higher-level roles in digital marketing are responsible for overseeing campaigns and managing teams of various sizes. These titles and salary ranges include digital marketing manager, $85K to $120K; digital marketing director, $120K to $160K; VP of marketing, $160K to $220K; and chief marketing officer (CMO), $200K to $500K or more — with the lucky few making millions per year. Compensation packages often include an incentivized bonus, whether based on individual performance, company performance, or both. Additional benefits like stock options or matching retirement funds may be on offer and often negotiable. Salary information is sourced from Glassdoor, but keep in mind that these numbers can vary by geographic location and from country to country.

Digital marketing is clearly a field with lots of room for advancement. If you want to fast-track your career, check out Denton’s Digital Marketing Immersive, a bootcamp experience for students of all levels. Or learn how to run a successful campaign for your small business with Yelp + GA: Lean Marketing for Startups and Small Businesses.

Still deciding? Take the first step and register for her free Intro to Digital Marketing Live Online.

Explore Digital Marketing at GA

Want to learn more about Rachel?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachelmdenton/
https://generalassemb.ly/instructors/rachel-denton/11903

Product Manager Salaries & Pro Tips

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An Interview with product management veteran John Bartlett

Read: 3 Minutes

Working as a product manager in tech can be an exciting career. But if doing the same thing day after day is your idea of job fulfillment, look elsewhere. Being a product manager requires flexibility, agility, and thinking on your feet because reacting and responding to the shifting needs of the business is exactly what you’ll do. Taking products over the finish line, often in a leadership capacity and as part of a team of designers and developers, has huge rewards. It’s a sense of accomplishment like no other, and it’s why many product managers report high job satisfaction. To get a sense of what working as a product manager is like, we called on John Bartlett, a product management expert who has been bringing products to market for over 20 years. He weighs in on how to pursue a career in product development, the job outlook for product managers, the average salary, and the industry tips he has shared with hundreds of aspiring mentees.

Let’s go back to basics. What initially inspired you to get into product management?

JB: I got into product management the way many people do — by accident. I was at a startup and there wasn’t anyone doing “PM stuff” so I just jumped in and started doing it. After a while, I realized I needed more formal training so I went to work for a larger company that trained their product managers to be focused on the customer. From then on I was hooked, and grew my career working for some very successful companies. 

For someone not familiar with the product manager role, can you explain what they do?

JB: The primary role of the product manager is to understand customer problems and to work with a team of designers and developers to help create solutions to those problems. The role involves wearing many hats, along with the ability to juggle multiple priorities and stakeholders, make good decisions for your company and customers, and work hard to solve customer problems. Wherever possible, you should be using data to make those decisions. And, oh yeah, make sure your products are making money for your company!

Where are some of the places a product manager works?

JB: In the tech sector, at companies that build software and hardware products. Or in other sectors like retail — anywhere products and services are being sold online (eCommerce, FinTech, review sites). The PM role is also becoming more popular in IT organizations as they are thinking more about products, rather than projects, for their internal customers. Project managers also exist in other industries outside of tech in everything from insurance products to tractors.

What are some of the programs or software tools that product managers use?

JB:  Most use standard office products — MS or Google spreadsheets, presentations, etc. Depending on the role, they may use some prototyping tools like Sketch or Balsamiq. Jira is very popular as a tool for tracking development tasks. Though not designed for PMs, they use it to work with their development teams. Aha and Productboard are two products that are designed for PMs to use for product planning, though usage is not widespread. There are also analytical tools like Google Analytics, Tableau, or Pendo that help to understand how products are being used. SQL can be helpful, as well. 

What kind of educational background does someone looking to get into product management need?

JB: You don’t need a tech background to be a product manager unless you’re working on very technical products. A bachelor’s degree is usually required. If your degree is in business, liberal arts, or one where you’ve had to do a lot of writing, even better. A graduate degree like an MBA, while not required, is a plus. What’s important for product managers is the willingness to learn about the technology that’s used in building their products so they can better communicate with their development teams.

What is the typical product manager starting salary?

JB: According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a product manager is $110,500. Associate product managers can start at around $60K–$70K, with a senior product manager salary in the $100K–$150K range. You’ll find that a product manager’s salary can range widely, depending on the company. Product managers at tech companies are highly valued and can skew higher, with a salary range up to $175K.

Where should I start if I want to make a career switch to becoming a product manager?

JB: If you’re working in a company with product managers, make sure to connect with them and ask them lots of questions about the role. If it’s a career that you think you’d like to pursue, sign up for my product management course at GA, where you can learn the most important skills and best practices. I wish there was a program like this available when I was starting out! The classes are made up of students either thinking about a career change, recently in a PM role, or more experienced PMs looking to uplevel their skills. What’s great is that the class is structured to accommodate all of those levels, so I can work with less-experienced students on fundamentals and experienced students on more advanced topics. I also learn so much from the students since they come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. 

Explore Product Management at GA

Want to learn more about John?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jpbartlett/

22 LinkedIn Profile Tips

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Featuring Tips From John Bartlett, Rachel Denton, Jason Early, Pedro Martin, & Matt Studdert

Read: 3 Minutes

Looking for ways to make your LinkedIn profile stand out? Trying to figure out how to showcase your personal brand on LinkedIn in a way that makes you unique? Read on for tips and advice from the experts on how to improve your profile (and get the job of your dreams).

Pedro Martin, GA Distinguished Faculty Member & Software Engineer at Red Badger

1. Don’t recreate your resume. Most profiles just list skills and previous jobs. If you can tell a story, you’ll stand out to employers.

2. Be sure to demonstrate your work as part of a team.

3. If your portfolio showcases a common theme, recruiters are more likely to take notice. 

Matt Studdert, Professional Developer & Founder of Frontend Mentor

4. Be concise and to the point with your skills. A shorter list of technologies you know well is much better than a long list of technologies you hardly understand.

5. Rewrite your responsibilities to focus on transferable skills. For example, if you presented in front of clients as a developer but want to make a career change to a UX designer, highlight that you’re comfortable talking to and in front of key stakeholders.

6. Get references from past colleagues and bosses. These will highlight your personality and work ethic from a different perspective.

7. Be sure to have multiple people proofread your profile. As people will be reading your profile, demonstrating proficient written communication is key.

8. Coming across as driven, interested, and interesting are great ways to grab attention and show your individuality. Mention interests outside of work or write articles on LinkedIn.

9. The best way to show a portfolio is by building your own website. Short of that, I recommend finding a template or designing and recreating one yourself.

10. Include a profile picture, a brief description of your interests (both relevant to your field and not), your skills and preferred tools, and a showcase of projects you’ve built or contributed to. 

Rachel Denton, Senior Program Manager at Atlassian & GA Instructor Since 2016

11. Start with a strong profile picture coupled with a strong summary at the top that captures your skill sets, your experience, and the essence of who you are.

12. Having a few recommendations from colleagues over the course of your career is a great bonus.

Jason Early, Independent UX Consultant & GA Instructor

13. Use LinkedIn as a resource to help build a client base and find new projects. Reach out directly to learn more about their needs.

14. Comment on posts, and contribute your own commentary to the posts you share. Your profile stands out by you being recognized and involved.

15. As an employer, I look for involvement. Does the applicant have a perspective on the industry? Are they sharing it well? Are they involved in groups? It’s a great way to evaluate how they communicate. 

16. Your profile should show that you are moving forward professionally. How you do that can vary but show that you’re doing something.

17. If I’m looking at a designer’s profile, can I get a sense of personality from it? Are they making it reflect themselves? How are they using it as a tool?

18. If you are focusing on visual design, then your portfolio should be mostly visual with explanations as to why the entries look the way they do. If you are focusing on user experience design, then your entries should be written out, with images to support the strategy.

19. Have a system for easily updating your portfolio so it can be customized to your audience.   

John Bartlett, 20-year Project Manager & Mentor to Hundreds of Aspiring Entrepreneurs

20. What stands out the most on someone’s LinkedIn profile is seeing the products they’ve worked on and their role in that success.

21. If you’ve built a product that you can show in a portfolio, that is ideal. If not, show your final project presentation.

22. Remember to save something for the interview. Most hiring managers are interested in your thinking so showing your best work in person lets you walk them through it. 

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