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Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts (Part 3)

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Key insights from Caitlin Davey, Manager of Learning Experience Design at
General Assembly

We’ve reached the last segment of our three-part blog series on managing remote teams. We hope our experts’ advice has been useful for team leaders who are transitioning to working from home and adjusting to this new normal in the world of work.

For our final installment, we sat down with General Assembly’s very own Caitlin Davey, Manager of Learning Experience Design. Caitlin has managed a remote team for 2 years and has deep experience designing remote learning experiences in data for GA’s enterprise partners around the world. 

Read on to hear Caitlin’s insights on:

  1. Leading remote meetings.
  2. Encouraging team participation while remote.
  3. Being supportive of your team during a remote transition. 

GA: Thanks so much for the time today, Caitlin. In your role, you’ve participated in many conversations with our partners who are shifting to remote work. What are some of the top tips you share on leading remote meetings?

Caitlin: First and foremost, set a clear agenda with time chunks. If minutes tend not to work for you, then try to estimate time based on the percentage of the meeting you want to spend covering a given topic. Also, keep meeting times manageable and allow for stretch breaks every 30 minutes to allow participants to physically stretch and refocus their attention. As a team leader, you need to model active engagement and bring strong energy to amp up the energy of participants. 

Second, if there are key decisions that need to be made or input that is required, consider sending a pre-read of materials along with your agenda so participants can come to the meeting prepared. When your meeting comes to a close, name owners of action items and send follow-ups with the highlights of the meeting, and a video recording if available. Follow-ups ensure that everyone is clear on the next steps and can review what was discussed.

GA: Staying organized seems to be key! On the flip side, what are some of the top mistakes you see people make when leading remote meetings?

Caitlin: When leading remote meetings, try to prevent the “No, you go ahead” loop as I like to call it. As a leader, you need to own facilitation and direct the conversation. This can look like nominating the next person to speak, asking for the opinion of a team member by calling on them, or determining the order of who will speak in advance. This keeps the meeting moving and increases the comfort of team members because expectations are clear. It also prevents lags where no one is responding to broad questions. Then again, get comfortable with some silence. The fidelity of remote meetings can mean that participants need time to think and respond. Don’t rush to fill the silence as participants may just need some time to formulate their thoughts before chiming in. 

Pauses in conversation can feel less natural in remote meetings and people often fail to leave time for ideation or questions — it’s important to build this in. Name ways participants can contribute, whether that’s asking people to come off mute and speak, inviting comments through the chat, or using the raise hand feature if your conference platform is Zoom. If you have challenges leading the meeting while following the chat, nominate someone to raise any critical questions, and make sure that you build in time to pause and answer instead of interrupting yourself to address comments. 

GA: I’ve definitely experienced those “No, you go ahead” loops before, and love the tips to address it! Switching gears a little bit, what are some norms you like to use to engage a remote team?

Caitlin: Team bonding and preventing feelings of isolation are especially important for teams that are working remotely. Plan to connect through icebreaker introductions or get remote coffee. These may sound corny, but leaning into the corniness can actually unlock a greater sense of connection and make calls feel less like a checklist. One of my favorite icebreakers is to ask participants to quickly hold up something nearby that shows their personality. For example, my pack of stamps is always handy because I love sending mail to friends and family. 

Teams should also collectively decide on remote working agreements. These can go beyond sharing preferences for communication channels and even include mindsets to adopt as you work together. One example of a working agreement we hold at GA is “Be present,” which means we all agree to minimize multitasking during meetings and practice active engagement. Another example is “Take space, make space,” meaning that as we take time to talk, we also intend to make time for others to speak. 

GA: Oftentimes, we hear that it’s hard to encourage participation in a remote meeting in the same way you would in a conference room. How do you encourage your team to speak up?

Caitlin: Inherently, whoever called a remote meeting feels like the owner, leader, and facilitator of that meeting. To allow individual contributors to feel ownership think about nominating leaders for various meetings and give them a chance to step into a leadership role. Breakout groups can also be a great way to divide large teams into more manageable groups to connect. Zoom has a breakout group feature, but you could also consider smaller sub-groups for projects. 

Beyond structure, when you’re looking for participants to speak in a given meeting, call on participants by name to share input. You can also message participants ahead of time to preview the specific question and see if they’re comfortable sharing. Knowing your team’s working styles is key, as some people prefer to think through a question on their own rather than respond on the fly.

GA: All the insights today have been great so far. One final question for you, Caitlin: What advice can you share around supporting your team during this difficult transition?

Caitlin: It’s important to know the channels of communication that work best for your team. For example, if you’ve decided that not everything needs to be a call, think twice before scheduling a call rather than sending an email. Or, if you decided not to email after hours, don’t break your own rule.

Also, ask what your employees need. You should check in with your team more frequently than normal to make sure that they feel supported and remain engaged. I’d stress that you should be checking on their goals and if they need support rather than to monitor attendance. 

A real benefit I see to remote meetings is the many ways for participants to share. Features like a meeting chat can allow more perspectives to surface than in an in-person setting. As we’re all transitioning to more virtual connections, there’s an opportunity to take time to set new norms, make employees feel supported, have fun as a team, and realize that in remote settings, we can still connect.


We’re so grateful to Caitlin for sitting down with us to discuss top tips for leading and supporting teams remotely. This post concludes our Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts series — we hope you gained some helpful insights! For more perspectives from GA, follow us on LinkedIn, where we’ll always share the latest.

Managing Remote Teams: Advice From the Experts (Part 2)

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Key insights from Adi Hanash, VP of Product at Tempest, and Original Remote Program Product Owner at General Assembly.

Last week we kicked off our three-part series on managing remote teams. As many companies transition to working from home for the first time to help curb the spread of COVID-19, we wanted to offer some advice to help our community navigate this adjustment. GA has deep experience working with a distributed team and has also helped thousands of learners upskill and reskill through live-online formats. With these things in mind, we’ve tapped into our network of experts to answer top questions we’ve received from our partners, and to share tips and tricks that you can use with your remote teams.

For our second segment of this series, we sat down with Adi Hanash, VP of Product at Tempest, an organization focused on building a digital support platform for people recovering from alcohol use disorder. Adi is also a former General Assembly colleague and built the remote learning experience at GA as the original live-online product owner. Adi has transitioned 10 courses to be delivered online and also has 4+ years of experience working remotely himself.

Read on to hear Adi’s insights on:

  1. Engaging your distributed teams.
  2. Getting into the work mindset from home.
  3. Motivating your team remotely.

GA: Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Adi. We’ve heard from our community that one of the biggest remote work challenges is tracking teams. What is the best way to track attendance and engagement? 

Adi: There’s a piece to attendance worth addressing that is “How do we know someone’s in the office from nine to five or for the prescribed hours?” Having worked on product teams, we start every morning with a quick check-in to set the goals for the day and then hold an end of day check-in. You need to be comfortable allowing a little bit of freedom to do the work in the middle of the day. 

Another piece to attendance is making a decision as a team about what it means to be attending a meeting. For me, the number one thing is being on camera. So, if I’m using a video platform, my expectation is everyone who’s in that meeting is on camera for that meeting. If you turn off your camera, I assume you’ve walked out of the room. Being visible also prevents someone from just listening in while doing other work; it forces them to be more present.

GA: What do you talk about during those daily check-in meetings?

Adi: My product team has a ritual called “stand” that we practice every day. It can be held over a chat platform or in live sessions, but every morning, the team will go around and talk about what they did yesterday, what’s on deck for today, and any blockers or external constraints. At the end of the day, we check-in again and cover what was done that day, any blockers that still exist, and what’s queued up for tomorrow. It’s a really quick check-in that should take 10 to 15 minutes total.

The key is to focus not on the meetings or activities a person will have during the day, but the deliverables for the day. That’s where, as the team leader, you can be very clear on what your expectations are for the work that needs to get done. Or, if you are an individual who is now working remotely, you’re aligned with the rest of the team on what your workday entails. It’s a really helpful way to get everyone on the same page and to make sure that you are setting expectations around deliverables — even in this remote environment.

GA: How do you get into the work mindset before that “stand” check-in at the start of your day? It’s definitely a little different starting your day from home versus going into the office.

Adi: Establish what your rituals are for starting and ending work in your remote environment. This may sound silly, since I know one of the benefits of working from home is being able to be in pajamas all day, but my ritual was that I very consciously decided that when I started work, I put on a collared shirt. I was still in shorts, and that was fine, but the act of putting on the shirt meant I was at work, and the act of taking that shirt off meant I was no longer at work. I’m not saying that’s the right one for you, but I would just encourage everyone to establish rituals.

GA: You also mentioned giving the team a little bit of freedom to do the work in the middle of the day. What do you think about flexible work hours when working from home?

Adi: The most important thing is to not conflate remote working with flexible working  — you have to address them independently of each other. Remote working is the ability to do the work that you have to do from home or in various locations. Flexible work hours mean that you allow a person to set their own schedule for when they are working and when they aren’t. The question of flexible work schedules needs to be addressed in its own way.

When I worked remotely, I was working eight hours, but my mistake was spreading those eight hours over 14 hours, which made me feel like I was working the entire day even when I wasn’t. So when you work remotely, you should be very clear on what is okay to do with your schedule in your day (for example, leaving for lunch) and what is not (for example, cleaning). Do not make the mistake of spreading eight hours of work over too long of a period. The way I’ve managed this is to be very clear on my calendar about my scheduled time. You have to create  boundaries for yourself and for your team to make this work successfully.

GA: What about when you have team members who treat everything as an emergency? How do you deal with that if it falls within an unavailable slot in your schedule? 

Adi: This can be especially challenging for remote workers. I think the number one thing is defining the levels of emergencies with your teams. There should be some version at the top, which is that the business cannot move forward unless the emergency is solved. If it is a company-wide blocker, then everyone has to stop what they’re doing and help solve the problem. Then down at the bottom, there are things like a typo on the website. At that level, you need to ask, “Is it preventing us from doing anything? How many people have reported it?”

Once you get to an understanding of the emergency spectrum, you’d be surprised by how many actually have to be addressed in real-time. So that’s the number one thing I would encourage you to do.

GA: What tips do you have for managing and running large format meetings?

Adi: The most important thing with any meeting, especially larger ones, is to remind people of the opportunity cost of a meeting, and make it clear that there has to be true value driven by the people in the room. So for example, if you have 15 people in the meeting for 30 minutes, you’re not taking 30 minutes, you’re taking seven and a half hours. And if you start to think about it in terms of time as accumulation, you start to become a lot more judicious as a leader around what type of meetings you want to be calling and who’s going to be involved.

Then, if you do decide to proceed with a large format meeting, the number one thing is to have super-clear agendas. You have to be explicit as to what the deliverables for the meeting are. If you cannot define clear deliverables, there are probably better ways to do the meeting than to actually have a meeting. For example, if you need a decision on X, then the meeting attendees have to be defined by who’s responsible for making that decision. So that at the end of the meeting, you’re able to say great, our decision is X.

GA: How can you motivate your team members when everyone is remote?

Adi: For those of you who are in a leadership position, you need to think about what recognition looks like in a distributed room. It’s very easy to say “Great job!” to an individual, but you need to find the ways to publicize their victories and their wins, and more so in this distributed environment because it’s almost a requirement for them to know that even though they’re on the other end of the computer, their work is having an impact and is being recognized.

Chances are, you have some sort of chat platform that you can use. At Tempest we use Slack, and so we have to be creative about how to use it for this purpose. For example, one thing that I love to do with our team is to create a shout-outs time. Every week there’s a certain time where we get onto Slack and just shout out all the victories and wins for the week. Those small ceremonies and rituals help establish the connection, especially with remote employees, that the work they’re doing isn’t being lost to the ether, and that you’re actually seeing it and recognizing it.

A huge thanks to Adi for these amazing tips on rituals and leading a remote team. We’re always here for questions, email cheers@ga.co if you’ve got any!

Free Fridays by General Assembly: Our Favorite Online Workshops, Now Open to Everyone

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At General Assembly, we’ve been thinking a lot about the current and future state of career development and the skills that will build resiliency. Despite this age of uncertainty, we believe that learning has no limits. Whether you’re looking for a new job or wanting to diversify your skill set to become more employable, our community of experts is still here for you, online.

That’s why we’re excited to announce our new Free Fridays. Every week through June, join peers from around the world to experience our most popular workshops (ranging from $60 to $200 USD in value) — for free.* From coding, to data and marketing, to UX design and career development, explore the tech skills that will keep you in demand and in the know.

Here’s what’s coming up. See you Friday! 

Data

  • Data Visualization and Intro to Tableau — June 26 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)
  • SQL for Beginners — June 5 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)

Marketing

  • SEO Training for Beginners and Startups — June 12 (Asia/Pac)
  • Social Media Strategy Mapping — June 19 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)
  • Intro to Google Analytics Bootcamp — June 12 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)
  • Digital Marketing: Key Metrics and Concepts — June 26 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)

Business

  • Intro to Agile and Scrum June 19 (U.S./Europe) | (Asia/Pac

Career Development

  • Networking Best Practices — June 5 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)
  • Public Speaking: Finding Your Authentic Voice — June 12 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)
  • Interview on Your Terms: Crafting Stories That Impress — June 19 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)
  • Prepping for Behavioral Phone Interviews —June 26 (U.S./Europe | Asia/Pac)

Coding

  • Programming for Non-Programmers: The Basics — June 5 (U.S./Europe) | (Asia/Pac)
  • Intro to Python Programming — June 5, June 26 (Asia/Pac)
  • Intro to Coding: HTML and CSS Livestream — June 19 (U.S./Europe) | (Asia/Pac)

UX Design

  • User Research Methods — June 12 (U.S./Europe) | (Asia/Pac)

*Note: Any Friday workshops that are listed with a price on generalassemb.ly are not included in the Free Fridays promotion.

How to Teach Online

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As the spread of COVID-19 continues to transform daily life around the world, we at General Assembly have been paying close attention to how the virus is upending education: 

  • Over 1,000 colleges have been impacted, representing more than 13 million students.
  • Teachers serving students in elementary, middle, and high schools are doing their best to adapt, with varied levels of training and support. 
  • Community colleges and nonprofit training providers, already struggling to stay afloat, are facing existential threats.

And this is only the beginning — we are entering a new world of work that will look radically different as the pandemic progresses. 

Last year alone, we saw a 141% spike in enrollment in GA’s full-time remote programs. In some ways, the rise of online learning means that education providers are better-equipped than ever to respond to these changes. Schools are rapidly implementing online programs, video conferencing has never been more sophisticated, and hundreds of thousands of students are logging on to continue their studies virtually.

But the reality is that converting to an online learning environment isn’t as simple as clicking a button. As Kevin Carey put it in The New York Times, colleges are quickly realizing that “it’s impossible to transform a college course into a virtual world overnight,” — and that teaching and learning don’t always work the same way online as they do in person.

At General Assembly, we are grappling with this challenge as well: We recently made the decision to bring all of our in-person Immersive courses online to support more than 5,500 students globally. The good news is that online learning isn’t new to us. We’ve learned a lot from facilitating online programs for over 4 years, and hope to share those challenges — and opportunities — with institutions around the globe as they enter this new and confusing world.

That’s why we’re offering free access to How To Teach Online to anyone. This short-form course — led by one of our resident experts in online instruction, Maria Weaver — is specifically designed for instructors transitioning to a remote format. Whether you’re a seasoned online instructor or a first-time Zoom user, sign up to access new tools, discover essential resources, and gain best practices for impactful online instruction, including how to:

  • Foster online discussions with students.
  • Cultivate classroom culture through Zoom.
  • Plan for student differences online.

In uncertain times like these, it’s more important than ever to share knowledge and experience with those who can benefit from it. This course has helped hundreds of our instructors acquire the basic skills and techniques needed to lead effective online classrooms, and we hope it provides the same value for other instructors out there. 

Our team is committed to making more of our resources and expertise readily available to the global education community, and we see this as an initial, small step in that direction. We welcome any ideas or feedback you may have and encourage you to reach out to us at impact@generalassemb.ly

Register for Free

Tom Ogletree is Senior Director of Social Impact and External Affairs, where he leads GA’s public policy, communications, and social impact initiatives. Tom previously held leadership roles at the Clinton Foundation, CCS Fundraising, and GLAAD. He serves on the boards of the Ali Forney Center and the NYC Employment and Training Coalition, and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Five Key Takeaways From The State of Skills: Marketing 2020 Report

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In 2018, we released The State of Skills: Digital Marketing 2018 report, which examined 10,000 results from our Digital Marketing Level 1 (DM1) assessment. Our eye-opening analysis revealed there was a digital skills gap in marketing driven by missing data skills across channels. We also uncovered that top talent often existed outside the marketing function and that seniority — at least below the VP level — didn’t predict a skills advantage in digital marketing.

Nearly two years later, we’ve set out to provide an in-depth look at marketing capabilities and skills gaps with the publication of our new white paper, The State of Skills: Marketing 2020. To develop our latest report, we analyzed over 20,000 users across dozens of countries and numerous industries who took the Certified Marketer Level 1 (CM1) assessment between October 2018 and November 2019. We’ve also combed through significant CM1 data to determine how assessment-takers performed across five essential topics — consumer/customer insights, creative development, channels and execution, measurement and analytics, and marketing technology — and how those scores varied across role, work experience, and other areas.

Launched in October 2018 and created in partnership with the Marketing Standards Board, CM1 reflects a shift from thinking about “digital marketing” as a discipline in itself, toward thinking about the broad set of competencies marketers need to succeed in the digital age. Building on the DM1 assessment, CM1 guides development of critical marketing skills that align with the foundational competencies of our Marketing Career Framework, and enables high scorers to earn the industry-recognized CM1 Credential. Today, leading companies use our assessment to benchmark their teams’ skills, prospect talent, and prescribe literacy, upskilling, and reskilling programs based on assessment performance.

The State of Skills: Marketing 2020 includes key insights from some of these global industry leaders, and highlights both opportunities and challenges for organizations grappling with today’s changing marketing landscape.

Digital has profoundly transformed the marketing function and is now the new normal. CM1 — as DM1 before it — will be key to recruiting and upskilling our marketing populations, ensuring L’Oréal has the right talents to win in the market.

– Lubomira Rochet, Chief Digital Officer, L’Oréal

Top Takeaways From Our 2020 Report

After analyzing CM1 data for thousands of individuals, as well as the job function, seniority, and education levels for 3,300 users who self-reported information about their positions, here’s what we found.

  1. The skills gap in marketing still persists. Digital-native marketers outscored the CM1 global average by 34%. This trend was across all topics and methods, suggesting that an advantage in digital skills quickly turns into an overall advantage in marketing. Thus, corporate marketing organizations must continue to think about regular upskilling as a business imperative to keep pace with the rate of change in the field.
  2. The skills gap is primarily driven by analytics and marketing technology. The overall global average score for CM1 was 46%. When we broke down the overall average into sub-topic performance, we discovered that the lowest-scoring areas were marketing technology and analytics, which averaged 33% and 42%, respectively. However, digital-native marketers scored higher on average — 62% to be exact — compared to the general population of CM1 assessment-takers, and this advantage held true across all topics.
  3. Few marketers are experts in all topics. 57% of CM1 assessment-takers are experts in at least one topic, scoring in the top fifth of all users for that area. However, many of these individuals have at least one topic weakness, scoring in the bottom fifth for that topic area. This means organizations should celebrate high-potential specialists for what they know and embrace areas for skill development. Not every marketer needs to be an expert in all topics, but every marketer should expand beyond their silos and work toward a common baseline of knowledge that enables them to collaborate more effectively with teams that have complementary skill sets.
  4. Top marketing talent is everywhere. Organizations shouldn’t limit hiring to candidates with prestigious educational credentials or traditional marketing backgrounds. We found that 40% of nonmarketers — individuals who sit in functions outside of marketing — outscored the average for marketers. Nonmarketers who came from analytics and consulting backgrounds performed best on CM1, with scores on par with marketers. We also discovered that 30% of users without a four-year degree outscored the mean for postgraduate degree-holders. These findings tell us that expanding talent pipelines could bring diverse skill sets into marketing organizations, increasing the overall supply of marketing talent.
  5. Senior leaders lag behind their junior counterparts in digital skills. Directors, managers, and individual contributors outscored marketers at or above the vice president level across problem-solving methods and marketing topics. Managers and directors scored the highest, which could be attributed to having more marketing experience than contributors and greater exposure to modern, tech-centric marketing tools than senior leaders. This correlation between marketers’ seniority in the field and their technical skill set supports the case that both current and future leaders can benefit from upskilling and digital literacy training.

While the key takeaways that emerged from our CM1 analysis revealed some persistent trends, they also build on our 2018 findings, offering new data for companies looking to digitally transform and advance their marketing organizations. They also guided us toward some insightful conclusions — actionable next steps for companies aiming to transform marketers with cutting-edge, competitive skills that enable business success and drive value.

  1. Marketers need more technical training to keep pace with top performers in the field. Companies will need to train professionals in areas like analytics and marketing technology to close the skills gap between digital-native marketers and their nondigital-native counterparts.
  2. Marketing talent can be found in nontraditional places. Employers who rely on conventional talent pipelines to source professionals for marketing roles risk overlooking qualified candidates with unique backgrounds and skill sets.
  3. There are upskilling and reskilling opportunities at the leadership level, too. Companies should invest in training programs that enable both junior talent and senior leaders to leverage marketing tools and platforms that help their organizations compete in the modern economy.

For a deeper dive into these takeaways and the data we analyzed — including the questions and topics where CM1 assessment-takers shined (and struggled) — read the entire report here. You can also explore our Enterprise solutions to learn more about GA’s assessment-led approach to upskilling and reskilling marketing teams.

Download the Report

General Assembly is part of the Adecco Group, the world’s leading workforce solutions provider and a Global Fortune 500 company. Our Enterprise business has worked with over 300 clients in 25 countries across the globe — including more than 40 of the Fortune 100 — to transform teams through our leading-edge programs in technology, data, marketing, design, and product. With more than 25,000 employees trained, and over 70,000 alumni from our full- and part-time courses, our solutions provide immediate and proven impact on the job.

Keeping Our Learners on Track During COVID-19

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First, thank you for being a part of the General Assembly community. We want you to know that, as a community member, your health and well-being is our top priority. 

In light of COVID-19 developments, we have put in place precautionary measures to keep our community safe. As we all make sense of the evolving situation, General Assembly is guided by two priorities: ensuring safety and health while minimizing disruption to our learners.

Right now, like many education providers, we’re in the process of offering all of our workshops and courses remotely. The good news is, we’ve done this for thousands of people across all of our programs and know how to do it well. Our instructors and teams are laser-focused on maintaining a high-quality experience for our students. 

To learn more about our approach to online learning and best practices for remote classrooms, check out this video

Starting Monday, March 16, we will be moving all in-person programming online and temporarily closing our campus facilities. From here, we will continue to monitor the situation and update you on an ongoing basis. 

GA’s Singapore campus will remain open, and we have implemented safety measures in line with the guidance from Singapore’s Ministry of Health. We will be following updates closely, and will move to remote programming should the situation escalate.

We’ve sent specific instruction and guidance to all of our students and employer partners and leveraged the talents of our online instructional team to ensure a seamless transition to a remote learning environment. 

We’ll marshal all of our resources to ensure our community can continue learning and maintain a sense of structure and connection in the midst of an unprecedented situation.  We’re taking our cues from public health experts in all of the countries in which we operate and closely following recommendations from federal, state, and local government authorities.

We have instructed all of our employees to work remotely if they can and are moving quickly to coordinate a successful shift for learning deliveries on our campuses and at employer offices. 

For real time updates, please refer to comprehensive resources prepared by the World Health Organization and your national health authorities:

  • U.S.: Centers for Disease Control
  • Canada: Public Health Agency
  • Australia: Department of Health
  • U.K. Department of Health and Social Care
  • Singapore: Ministry of Health

We’ll continue to provide updates as this develops and encourage all of you to take care of yourselves and stay safe. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via email to hello@generalassemb.ly.

What It’s Really Like to Change Your Career Online

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Going to work used to mean physically traveling to a workplace. Whether by foot, public transit, or car — a job was a specific location to which you commuted. But with the advent of the gig economy and advances in technology, telecommuting has become more and more prevalent. In fact, according to a 2018 study, approximately 70% of workers worldwide spend at least one day a week working from home.

So, why should education be any different? Learning from the comfort of home saves you the time and money you would’ve spent commuting, allows you to spend more time with loved ones, and encourages a much more comfortable, casual work environment.

That’s why we’re now offering all of our career-changing Immersives online. We’ve transformed over 11K+ careers — so whether you’re interested in becoming a software engineer, data scientist, or UX designer, you can trust our proven curriculum, elite instructors, and dedicated career coaches to set you up for professional success.

We sat down with three experts on GA’s Immersive Remote programs to better understand how they work — and more importantly — how they compare to the on-campus experience.

Breaking Barriers

GA Education Product Manager Lee Almegard explained the reasoning behind the move: “At GA, the ability to pay tuition, commute to class, or coordinate childcare shouldn’t be a barrier to launching a new career, she said. “Our new 100% remote Immersive programs are designed to ease these barriers.”

Obviously, saving yourself a trip to campus is appealing on many levels, but some interested students expressed concern that they wouldn’t receive enough personalized attention studying online as opposed to IRL. Instructor Matt Huntington reassures them, saying “Our lectures are highly interactive, and there is ample time to ask questions — not only of the teacher but also of other students.” 

Staying Focused

It’s not always easy to stay focused in a traditional classroom, but when your fellow students have been replaced by a curious toddler or Netflix is only a click away, distraction is a real concern. 

GA graduate Alex Merced shared these worries when he began his Software Engineering Immersive Remote program, but they quickly disappeared. “The clever use of Slack and Zoom really made the class engaging. It leverages the best features of both platforms, such as polls, private channels, and breakout rooms,” he said. “This kept the class kinetic, social, and engaging, versus traditional online training that usually consists of fairly non-interactive lectures over PowerPoint.”

If you’re concerned about staying focused, you can use these simple, impactful tips to stay motivated and on track to meet your goals:

  • Plan ahead. Conquer homework by blocking off time on your calendar each week during the hours in which you focus best.
  • Limit distractions. Find a quiet place to study, put your device on “Do Not Disturb” mode, or find a productivity app like Freedom to block time-consuming sites when studying or working independently.
  • Listen to music. You might find that music helps you concentrate on homework. Some of our favorite Spotify playlists to listen to are Deep Focus, Cinematic Chillout, and Dreamy Vibes.
  • Take breaks. Go for a short walk at lunch and change up the scenery, or grab a latte to power through an assignment.
  • Ask for help. We’re here for you! Our instructional team is available for guidance, feedback, technical assistance, and more during frequent one-on-one check-ins and office hours.

Most importantly, listen to yourself. Everyone learns differently, so take stock of what works best for you. Find the strategies that fit your learning style, and you’ll be well on your way to new skills and new heights. 

Getting Connected and Getting Hired

Another key component of learning is the camaraderie that comes from meeting and studying with like-minded students. How does that translate to a virtual classroom?

GA Career Coach Ruby Sycamore-Smith explains that both students and faculty can have meaningful, productive relationships without ever meeting in person. We’re a lot more intentional online,” she says. “You’re not able to just bump into each other in the corridor as you would on campus, but that means you’re able to be a lot more purposeful with your time when you do connect — way beyond a simple smile and a wave. Merced agrees. “Breakout sessions allowed me to assist and be assisted by my classmates, with whom I’ve forged valuable relationships. Now I have friends all over the world.” And as Huntington pointed out, “There is no back of the classroom when you’re online.” When you learn remotely, every seat is right next to all of your peers.

When we piloted the Software Engineering Remote bootcamp, we took extra care to make sure that our virtual classrooms felt exactly like the on-campus ones, with group labs and even special projects to ensure students are constantly working with each other,” Huntington explained. “A lot of our students form after-hours homework groups, and nighttime TAs create study hall video conferences so everyone can see and talk to each other.” 

And with students from all over the country, you’re going to connect with people you never would’ve met within the confines of a classroom. These peers could even be the very contacts who help you get you hired.

By recruiting industry professionals who are also gifted instructors to lead courses, students are taught how to translate their knowledge into in-demand skill sets that employers need. Sycamore-Smith explains that the involvement of GA’s career coaches doesn’t end after graduation; they’re invested in their students’ long-term success.

She says, “Career preparation sessions are very discussion-based and collaborative, as all of our students have varied backgrounds. Some are recent college graduates, others may have had successful careers and experienced a number of job hunts previously. Everyone has unique ideas and insights to share, so we use these sessions to really connect and learn from one another.” 

Merced is enthusiastic about his GA experience and quickly landed a great job as a developer. “Finding work was probably the area I was most insecure about going into the class,” he confessed. “But the prep sessions really made the execution and expectations of a job search much clearer and I was able to land firmly on my feet.

Conclusion? Make Yourself at Home

After years of teaching in front of a brick-and-mortar classroom, Huntington was a little wary about his move to digital instructor, but his misgivings quickly gave way. 

I was surprised to feel just as close to my virtual students as I did to my on-campus students, he said. “Closing down our virtual classrooms and saying goodbye on the last day of class is so much more heart-wrenching online than it ever was for me when I taught on campus.” 

Huntington’s advice to a student wondering if online learning is right for them: “Go for it! It’s just like in person, but there’s no commute and it’s socially acceptable to wear pajamas!”

Learn About Our Immersive Remote Programs

Put Your Career Front and Center: Meet Our Upgraded UX Design Immersive

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We’ve evolved our career-changing bootcamp to help get you hired in 2020.

Now more than ever, companies are recognizing the value of user-centered design. According to InVision, 92% of the mature design organizations can draw a straight line from the efforts of their design team to their company’s revenue. 

That’s why we’ve given our User Experience Design Immersive program a full revamp, evolving our tried-and-true curriculum to meet 2020 hiring priorities.

Keeping our programs tightly linked to market demand is at the core of our mission. It’s part of our commitment to ensuring our graduates can secure great jobs using their new skills — and it’s why more than 16,000 Immersive grads in six countries have trusted us to help them launch high-growth careers.

To stay ahead of rapidly changing industry needs, we do our research, working closely with employers, practitioners, and students to make impactful updates that help grads launch new careers. We dive into questions including: 

  • What roles are employers looking to hire? 
  • What skills and tools are required on the job?? 
  • What are broader trends across the industry? 
  • And, most importantly, how can we synthesize all of this to ensure our students have the most relevant, in-demand skills they need to succeed? 

Armed with this knowledge, we invested in expanding this full-time, three-month program in a few significant ways — including the introduction of a new Remote format.

What’s New

1. Two additional weeks of expert-led instruction.

Developed with guidance from our User Experience Design Standards Board — a group of design executives from companies like Tigerspike and WarnerMedia — our upgraded UX bootcamp curriculum is primed for industry relevance.

The now 12-week course now dedicates a full week to user interface and visual design topics, enabling students to build high-fidelity prototypes by Week 4. In addition to touching on hot topics like service design, design operations, and design leadership, we’ve also curated the best material from our global network to provide an expanded library of elective lessons.

2. Sharpened focus on real-world collaboration. 

You can take a crash course in UX to learn the foundations, but what makes new designers employable is how they work with developers, product managers, and business stakeholders to drive impact with design. 

Our upgraded UXDI program offers more opportunities to experience on-the-job realities, including UX/UI handoffs, team presentations, and design critiques. Prepare to work cross-functionally by learning Agile methodologies. Then put them into practice, teaming up with classmates to research and prototype a professional client project in a three-week sprint.

3. A sixth passion project.

Throughout this Immersive, students gain hands-on experience with each step in the UX process, compiling a portfolio that showcases fluency in research synthesis, information architecture, user flows, wireframes, and more.  

For their final solo piece, they have the opportunity to distinguish themselves as designers (and job candidates) by choosing one skill area within the UX discipline to hone — for example user research, visual design, or interaction design. Start in the classroom with expert guidance and polish it post-course to demonstrate continuing growth.

4. Online and in-person Immersive options.

For career-changers who don’t live near a GA campus, have a busy travel schedule, or just want to skip the commute, we’re expanding access to UXDI with a new Remote format.

Offered throughout the United States,* the Remote learning experience mirrors GA’s on-campus offerings but allows you to learn from the comfort of home. Connect with expert instructors, guest speakers, and classmates in our interactive classroom setup, powered by 

Zoom and Slack.

You’ll still get access to the expert instruction, learning resources, and support network that GA is known for. Work individually with your career coach to understand your local job market, find opportunities, and connect with the local UX community.

* Remote courses are not available to non-U.S. or New York state residents at this time.

What Hasn’t Changed

Our proven approach to developing industry-relevant curriculum remains the same: We partner with top employers and practitioners in the field to ensure our offerings are tailored to meet today’s needs. A-list companies like Apple, Google, and Fitbit have all hired UXDI grads.

As with all Immersive course participants, UXDI students receive dedicated support from expert career coaches from their first day of class to their first day on the job. Diving deep into personal brand building, design interview prep, exclusive networking events, portfolio development, job search roadmaps, and more, we’re there at every step of the job hunt with guidance to keep grads motivated and accountable.
Read all about UXDI and its new features and dive deeper by checking out the syllabus here. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us at admissions@ga.co.

Learn More

Introducing On Demand Learning Paths: First-Class Skill Building Anytime, Anywhere

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With an online community of over 20,000 and growing, we’re helping you take control of when and where you acquire the skills that boost job performance and accelerate your career. 

Introducing our On Demand learning paths — self-led, online programs that enable individuals to easily access bite-sized lessons, downloadable study guides, expert feedback, industry-backed assessments, and much more. With On Demand, learners build in-demand skills in digital marketing, data analysis, user experience (UX) design, and digital mindsets, while learning at their own pace on GA’s device-friendly platform. 

On Demand was designed based on valuable student feedback, and combines the best features from our former Circuit courses — including 1:1 mentor sessions and foundational concepts that drive today’s most influential industries — with skill-building benefits that set learners up for success. We also worked with leading companies and experts to identify the most practical skills needed for highly coveted roles, while providing a seamless online experience for the modern-day learner.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s included in On Demand, and what you can expect when exploring the programs’ dynamic learning paths.

GROW YOUR SKILL SET IN TOP FIELDS ON THE GO 

  1. Accessible on any device, 24/7.
    With On Demand, dive into refreshed content updated with the latest industry research and available on our interactive myGA learning platform. From informative expert-led videos to interactive flashcards to knowledge checks that reinforce key concepts, myGA is user-intuitive and accessible across desktop computers and mobile devices.

  2. Completely self-paced with 12-month access to online content. Build tech skills when you want, where you want over the course of an entire year. Whether you’re a busy professional or lifelong learner who’s constantly on the move, On Demand allows you to access lessons on any device at any time based on your unique schedule. Moreover, you can complete the program within two to three months of starting your learning path, or take as much time as you need to revisit content throughout your access period.

  3. Five 1:1 sessions with expert mentors.
    You don’t have to go it alone. GA’s expert mentors can provide personalized guidance to help you tackle challenging lessons, gather feedback, and keep track of learning goals. For example, meet with industry practitioners to talk through tough concepts, help refine an idea for your portfolio-ready project, or get advice about industry-related topics and trends. Schedule 30-minute private video sessions with an expert mentor at any point throughout the program and at a time that’s most convenient for you.

  4. Free industry-backed skills assessment.
    Developed in partnership with GA’s Standards Boards, the skills assessments included in our On Demand programs enable you to evaluate your skills in the key areas that are required to succeed in fast-growing industries. Discover how your scores stack up against other test takers, identify areas for improvement, and pinpoint proficiencies in core areas.

  5. Full tuition credit toward a part-time or Immersive course.
    On Demand is designed to give you foundational skills in high-growth fields. If you’re looking to take your skill set to the next level, pave the path to a promotion, or prepare for a career change, you can apply the full cost of your On Demand program toward one of GA’s transformative Immersive or flexible part time courses in an equivalent topic.

  6. Team management capabilities for employers.
    Companies looking to train their teams with our On Demand learning path get access to the platform’s unique team management dashboard. Within team management, managers can allocate or reassign licenses to team members, and monitor employee progress in the program. Additional functionality, including the ability to view team members’ assessment scores and learning path progress, is planned for release at the end of 2019.  

BUILD SKILLS IN TODAY’S TOP FIELDS

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Data Analysis On Demand
Make data-driven decisions by applying core techniques like Excel, SQL, and data visualization on the job. Gain skills — including cleaning data, framing questions, visualizing data, and communicating insights — that help solve real business problems.

Digital Marketing On Demand
Craft and launch comprehensive multi-channel brand, acquisition, and retention campaigns that drive effective marketing for the digital age. Explore marketing fundamentals, including segmentation, customer insight, CRM, analytics, and automation. 

User Experience Design On Demand
Create digital products that solve user problems and address business demands. Dive into UX design fundamentals, including user research, prototyping, personas, affinity mapping, and wireframing.

Digital Foundations On Demand
Digital Foundations focuses on increasing digital literacy and advancing teams across organizations. Become well-versed in key topics that drive today’s digital economy, including Agile methodology, customer centricity, growth activation, and data-driven decision-making.

Coming Soon: HTML & CSS On Demand
Build professional, responsive websites using modern HTML and CSS. Advance your skills with forms and responsive email templates, while applying UX design best practices.

Coming Soon: JavaScript On Demand
Create rich, interactive websites with the world’s most popular programming language. Learn new JavaScript ES6 features, code more efficiently with jQuery, and pull data from APIs.

HOW DO I KNOW IF ON DEMAND IS FOR ME?

Looking to learn and apply your new skills quickly, or equip your teams with foundational tools that have an immediate impact on the job? On Demand’s premium, self-led content, accessible and mobile-friendly platform, dedicated mentor support, and industry-leading skills assessments are available to help you get up to speed, and meet your career and business goals without making a huge financial or time commitment. There are no prerequisites — all you need is a thirst for learning! Also, look out for HTML & CSS On Demand and JavaScript On Demand, which are scheduled for release in early 2020. 

Request a program guide to get started. For upskilling teams, request a demo to explore our full suite of corporate training programs. Prefer to speak to someone directly? Contact our Admissions team at onlineadmissions@generalassemb.ly.

6 Challenges for Female Business Leaders

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The business world is no longer just a man’s world. According to 2017 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), over 11 million U.S. firms are currently owned and operated by women, contributing over 1.7 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy.

Though these numbers speak volumes to the power and determination of the female spirit, they do not tell the whole story. Women-owned firms are still the minority, and women continue to face unequal pay, sexism, and gender barriers in the workplace. From finding professional mentors to achieving work/life balance, overcoming these obstacles can seem daunting — especially in technical and chief executive roles where the representation of women is far lower than men.

As a woman entrepreneur, business leader, and the CEO and founder of the travel company Acanela Expeditions, I am incredibly passionate about female empowerment in the business arena. Throughout my journey, I have faced several roadblocks throughout my career and have worked hard to develop successful strategies to transform these hurdles into opportunities.

Below, I want to share six common challenges women business leaders face. Hopefully, you will find these tips useful for overcoming each, and feel more empowered to take charge of and thrive in your career.

1.
Challenge: Most of the people in the room are men.
Opportunity: As a woman, I stand out but I’m also more likely to be remembered.

One of the uncomfortable realities of being a women entrepreneur is walking into a business meeting and realizing that you’re one of the few women (if not the only woman) in the room. The pressure of being the only one can be overwhelming. In fact, studies show that individuals who are “onlies” (e.g. the only woman, the only LGBTQ person, the only person of color, etc.) are subject to a higher percentage of bias and discrimination from members of the majority group, whether intentional or not. No wonder it’s so tempting for us to step back and try to blend in with the crowd!

While the temptation to stick out less is strong, most successful female leaders agree that staying true to yourself and playing to your strengths are key to rising above preconceived notions of how women should appear and act at work.

Instead of conforming to the widely held belief of what a leader looks like or should be, I have discovered that it is important to have confidence in myself and the skill sets that brought me to where I am today. “Sticking out” can actually be a positive attribute, giving you the chance to spotlight the unique skills and outlook you bring to the table. So instead of shrinking back, step forward and make a lasting impression by being both seen and heard.

2.
CHALLENGEIt’s hard to build a support network in a “boys club” world.
Opportunity: Seek both men and women as connections and mentors who will help you along your career journey.

It’s no secret that a lack of mentors and advisors can stunt one’s professional growth. After all, in the business world, it’s not always what you know, but who you know.

Yet, a 2017 study by the NAWBO states that over 48% of women in business report finding it difficult to build a healthy support network in male-dominated fields. Despite this challenge, women have an amazing opportunity to collaborate and build strong support networks.

For example, women-oriented networking groups and events, such as the American Express OPEN CEO Bootcamp and the International Association of Women, are indicative of a growing number of networks and professional spaces that focus on supporting and elevating women professionals. Consider becoming involved with networking groups, professional associations, and other organizations that feature and promote successful women leaders. This gives you the opportunity to not only learn from the experiences of seasoned professionals, but also enables you to make and build connections with potential mentors who can offer support and advice later in your career.

It’s important to note that professional support and mentorship for women does not have to come exclusively from women. On the contrary, I have found incredible value in seeking counsel from men who have shared their connections, advice, expertise, and support — all of which helped catapult me into my current role as CEO.

3.
Challenge: It’s increasingly difficult to balance work with my personal life.
Opportunity: Create a healthy work-life blend.

As a female business executive, I have been asked the question time and time again, “Can women really have it all? There are several flaws inherent to this question (not least of which is the fact that my husband and male coworkers never get asked this).

The truth is that both men and women business leaders are challenged with balancing their career and personal life. However, I’ve found that changing the terminology from “work-life balance” to “work-life blend” helped me ease the juggling act of work and family time. Running your own business takes significant time and effort. However, it can also allow more flexibility and control over your schedule.

As the head of Acanela Expeditions, my work bleeds into my personal life and vice versa. Rather than being a separate part of my life, work is a genuine and integral part of it. This doesn’t mean that I’m simply “on” and working all the time. Instead, I’ve intentionally set strategic, as well as realistic career and personal goals that work together to create a healthy lifestyle for me and my family.

4.
Challenge: I lack access to funding.
Opportunity: Identify funding sources that target women-led fundraising initiatives.

According to a Forbes article published in December 2017, female entrepreneurs receive less than 3% of venture capital funds. Though that number is skewed due to the lack of women in business and corporate leadership positions, studies consistently show women founders as less likely to win adequate funding.

As an entrepreneur, this challenge creates an opportunity for you to engage in education and support networks dedicated to helping women-led businesses. Organizations like the Female Founders Alliance, Astia, and Golden Seeds offer coaching workshops to guide early-stage entrepreneurs through the fundraising process and help connect them to potential donors.

5.
Challenge: I constantly encounter the stereotype that “women are more emotional and less decisive than men.”
Opportunity: Women bring diverse physical, mental, and emotional experiences to the conversation.

You’ve probably heard the common stereotype that women are “emotional thinkers” and, therefore, less competent business leaders than men. While some women may think differently than men as a result of their personal and professional experiences, I haven’t found it to be a flaw in business. If anything, it’s an advantage.

In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, gender diversity is good business. Women bring unique perspectives, ideas, and experiences to the table that enrich conversations and lead to better company decisions. It often takes great boldness to make our voices heard, but it is essential, for we have a lot of important opinions and ideas to share with the world.

Harmful stereotypes argue that women are less decisive than men and thus have a difficult time making tough business decisions. However, while I tend to be a more relationally-oriented decision maker, I’ve discovered this characteristic to be helpful in advancing my company. I’d also argue that my relationships with colleagues have enhanced not just my leadership abilities, but also the overall health of my company.

Listening to and involving team members in important conversations has enabled me to make more logical, reasonable, and healthier decisions that steer the company forward. Ultimately, respecting my employees and their opinions has helped me become a more well-rounded and successful business leader.

6.
Challenge: Expectations are often set lower for women.
Opportunity: Then shouldn’t it be easier to exceed them?

Earning the same level of respect and recognition as male colleagues can be a difficult and frustrating experience for women. Senior-level roles in businesses remain dominated by men, and internal biases are alive and well in the workplace.

While this reality has frustrated me greatly, I’ve realized that it has also given me the motivation to not only reach those expectations, but to also surpass them. Don’t be discouraged by low opinions and stereotypes. As we continue to surprise and exceed expectations, we break through one glass ceiling at a time.

Overall, the truth is: Yes, women continue to face unfair gender biases in the workplace. However, when viewed from an empowered perspective, these obstacles can serve to strengthen and elevate women leaders in diverse spaces. Meeting these challenges head on presents an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on your situation and those of future generations. We live in a unique time in history, one in which we have the power and opportunity to band together to break down longstanding barriers, and realize our biggest dreams and career aspirations.  

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Acanela Expeditions is a US-based travel agency that specializes in experiences, people and culture. Kylie Chenn founded Acanela Expeditions in 2015 after spending a semester in Europe. While abroad, she met incredibly talented individuals, or artisans, with stories that deserve to be shared. She created Acanela Expeditions to provide others with the opportunity to meet and learn from these artisans personally. Acanela Expeditions has nearly 100 tours worldwide and continues to explore unique countries to add to their offered locations. For more information, visit www.acanela.com.

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By investing in opportunity, General Assembly helps people all over the world leverage technology to achieve their career goals. Our See Her Excel scholarship reflects our commitment to champion gender diversity and inclusion at all levels, and elevate women in software engineering and data science so they can thrive in the world’s fastest growing industries. Learn more about how GA supports women in tech at ga.co/she.