Sophie Houser and Andrea Gonzales, creators of Tampon Run and authors of Girl Code.
Coding knowledge can be used to do more than build a great website or land a lucrative job. It also has the power to inspire personal growth and shine a light on social issues.
Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser learned this firsthand when the video game they created, Tampon Run — in which players throw tampons at bullies and tackle taboos surrounding menstruation — went viral in 2014. Gonzales and Houser, then teenagers, met as students at the all-girls coding program Girls Who Code in New York City and created the game as their final project.
Three months into my first job out of college, as a web developer at a financial reporting company, I wiped out every single one of my company’s client records in one command. I had uploaded a script meant to eliminate one client, but quickly realized that it removed all of them and I couldn’t get the records back. (This was in the early 2000s, when it was less common to work locally before sending code to your live website.) I went into full-on crisis mode and started getting my resume ready, resigned to the fact that I was going to be fired. I was even Googling to see if I could be sued for what I had done.
Thankfully, a tech manager saved the day by telling me about the company’s nightly database backup and we quickly fixed most of the problem. But until that moment, I was sweating bullets.
As a web developer, you’re going to fail — often, and sometimes in huge ways — whether you’re a newbie or a veteran (see this recent mishap at GitLab.com, for example). But messing up doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, when it does happen, staying calm is key because panic can cloud your judgement and force you to make rash decisions.
Former Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning (left) announces the creation of the Army Digital Service at a recent event at General Assembly’s NYC headquarters, alongside Defense Digital Service Director Chris Lynch and journalist Jeff Jarvis. Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Crisp.
National security and cybersecurity are growing concerns for many Americans, especially as talk of hacking and digital espionage dominate headlines and rattle daily life. Protecting the country and developing tools to keep citizens safe are top priorities for the U.S. government, and, in recent years, it has turned to top tech talent to rapidly innovate, problem solve, and find security vulnerabilities. This is particularly true within the Department of Defense, whose progress its staffers admit has been slowed down by outdated tools and processes that lag behind private tech companies’ capabilities.
That’s where Defense Digital Service (DDS) comes in. Since launching in late 2015, the program — a branch of the government’s tech startup, U.S. Digital Service (USDS) — has worked on projects involving cybersecurity, veterans’ medical records, cutting-edge GPS systems, and more. DDS’ cybersecurity initiatives Hack the Pentagon and Hack the Army (known as bug bounties) invited civilian hackers to search for vulnerabilities within five public-facing government websites, then rewarded them in cash for their findings.
Now the Army has its own dedicated team called Army Digital Service, which launched in December. Continuing the pioneering work of DDS, it will leverage tech expertise to solve inefficiencies related to Army recruiting, veteran affairs, and more. Earlier this month, Air Force Digital Service launched as well, and the team’s agenda is currently in the works.
Author and tech-industry veteran John Rossman, whose new book takes a deep dive into the Internet of Things.
When it comes to enhancing customer experiences and improving business operations, the future lies in the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT is the ability to take an analog or physical capability and create a digital version of that experience. For example, the Nest thermostat helps lower energy costs by using sensors and your phone’s location to adjust the temperature when you leave the house. Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator allows you to order groceries from FreshDirect right from its door.
From a business standpoint, IoT technology allows for smarter, data-driven models that enable higher efficiency and better outcomes. From a consumer standpoint, it can transform the way we think about some of our most routine daily actions. IoT technology requires elements of data science and analytics, product management, and user experience — and because of this, it’s a cross-functional industry with tons of opportunity for growth.
Coding knowledge is power — whether you’re an independent business owner, creative professional, or simply someone with an interest in the web. When you know how to code, you can build your own website and have full control over your web presence. If you work regularly with your company’s web team, you’ll be able to speak their language and improve communication — and you’ll be able to make some changes yourself instead of calling on them to do it.
Since founding General Assembly in 2011, I’ve heard some incredible stories from our students and graduates. One of my favorites is about Jerome Hardaway. Jerome came to GA after five years in the United States Air Force. He dreamed of tackling persistent diversity gaps in the technology sector by breaking down barriers for other veterans and people of color.
Today, General Assembly is making a couple of big announcements.
First, we have closed on our company’s first acquisition — Canadian tech and design career accelerator, Bitmaker. We’ve known the folks at Bitmaker for a long time and I’ve been incredibly impressed with the way their CEO, Andrew Mawer, has built his Toronto-based organization. I’ve watched him lead his team and grow their community to become Canada’s largest career accelerator, and I’m so excited to have them be part of GA as we continue to pursue our long-term vision around education-to-employment.
Second, we are announcing the largest expansion of our campus footprint in GA’s history — we are increasing our number of campuses by over 60%. Our ongoing mission is to impact people’s careers and more broadly solve the talent needs of employers everywhere. We see big opportunities to leverage our burgeoning online communities and audiences with new campuses that are closer to the biggest pockets of potential students, just outside of traditional urban hotspots more commonly associated with the tech sector.
“The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn,” Flynn says of his numerous GA courses. “After learning Ruby on Rails … I was confident that I wanted dive deeper into web development.” That confidence and his faith in the Web Development Immersive curriculum gave Flynn the courage he needed to make the tough decision to leave his role with GA and jump into the program with both feet.
The GA Alumni community turned out to be Flynn’s path to his next adventure and first web development role. Though not a GA alum himself, Joshua Brueckner of Air Tailor (an online service that helps users effortlessly have clothes tailored and repaired) found Flynn through a GA alumni list and brought him on as technical co-founder. In the summer of 2017, they were part of the 1% of companies accepted into the Techstars accelerator program, a program for emerging startups that gives founding teams access to funds, facilities, and guidance from seasoned entrepreneurs.
In the end, Flynn’s experience at GA — both as an employee and a student — improved his ability to adapt to changing situations: “When building a new tech startup, founders have to wear a lot of hats. The classes I helped build and the classes I’ve taken have given me a broad set of knowledge and a network of smart, creative people to look to for guidance.” His new day to day might pull him in a lot of different directions, but Flynn says he’s happier than ever: “My favorite part about my job is developing new digital features for our customers and retail clients, but honestly, I love it all. The responsibility I get to have working on a big idea with a small team pushes and inspires me to keep learning and growing, and has challenged me to be a better person in a lot of ways.” Between the training, support, and post-graduation connections, General Assembly Flynn’s comprehensive solution for education and tech-world success.
Angela Maugey was burnt out on the culinary world. After seven years as a chef and a stint teaching cooking skills to hospital patients, she realized that her future was not in the kitchen. Having a coder for a partner, she was exposed to the wonders of Raspberry Pi — a small computer used to learn basic programming through practical projects — before taking some free online courses. “I was spending increasing amounts of my spare time in front of the computer, enjoying what I was doing,” Maugey says.
With a coding career in her sights, Maugey began researching programs near home. On a friend’s recommendation (who happened to be a General Assembly alum), Maugey looked into GA and saw it offered not just great instruction, but a supportive community. After chatting with the team at GA London and attending an open evening, Maugey discovered she was eligible for a scholarship that could be used for the full-time Web Development Immersive (WDI) program. That sealed the deal: “I was pretty anxious about making such a big change to my life … but the scholarship was way too big an opportunity to turn down, so I went for it!”
After the rigors of the Intensive came the challenges of the job search process. Maugey says that she was nervous, but knew she wasn’t alone in her job search, backed by support and guidance from the GA Outcomes team. “I was pretty anxious about writing CVs, interviews, and the like,” she says. “But there was an endless amount of resources and always someone from Outcomes available to give advice.” Eventually, Maugey found her first coding role at an on-site Meet and Hire event hosted by the Outcomes team. As a junior software engineer at OnCare, a company aimed at solving the elderly care crisis through tech, Maugey builds software that helps in-home care workers do their jobs more easily.
In addition to a 36% pay increase from her previous role, she also enjoys more satisfaction from her work: “I love the feeling I get from breaking down a problem and finding a solution, and the sense of pride I have seeing my code being used live in the world!”
Like millions of us, Andrea Kennedy (Web Development Immersive, London) grew up a Star Wars fan. Flash forward to 2015, when instead of watching The Force Awakens in the theatre, she was rubbing elbows with its cast at the European premiere. A graduate of General Assembly’s second-ever Web Development Immersive course in London, Kennedy works as a front-end developer and technical project manager for the London-based creative studio Powster. When the firm was tasked with creating the official U.K. home page for the film, she played a major role in building out the styling, animation, and functionality of its pages.
Kennedy turned to coding while working as a historical research consultant. “I was frustrated by the lack of permanent positions in the heritage and museums industry,” she says. “I wanted to skill up without going back for a second master’s degree, so I started looking at tech programmes.”
That’s when she found GA — and the Force. “I definitely wouldn’t be at this company, working on the Star Wars site, without having retrained through General Assembly,” she says. “It’s made a huge impact on my life. Learning to code opened so many doors to an industry I was previously completely uninvolved with.”
Kennedy has also leveraged her skills to teach budding developers at GA’s London campus. “I’ve had the experience of going from total newb to competent developer, so there is an element of being able to relate to what is often a pretty shocking coding-learning curve,” she says.