Corporate Strategies Category Archives - General Assembly Blog

Celebrating 10 Years: Kimberly Graham

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we’re highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Kimberly Graham, who works as an AI transformation leader at Sage — one of our incredible clients. Over the past six months, Kimberly has partnered with us to upskill engineers on data and AI principles for transformation.


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at Sage?

Kimberly Graham: I’m originally from Southern California, but I’m based out of Hayden, Idaho, about 100 miles from the Canadian border. I’m Director of AI Transformation for the Sage AI Labs team. 

Sage is a leading accounting and business management software company with worldwide customers. Sage AI Labs is chartered with helping Sage become an AI-enabled organization. Our customers depend on Sage to manage their businesses. By enabling AI, we’ll help transform the customer experience and provide efficiency and insight gains.

My role as the director of AI transformation helps facilitate that process and develop a path forward with AI and machine learning. Upskilling our internal engineering resources is a big part of that. 

GA: Why did you need a training partner? What was your goal?

Kimberly Graham: Sage AI Labs is a team of individuals with AI, machine learning, and infrastructure experience. We’re working with General Assembly to bring that skillset into the business outside of the Sage AI Labs team — within our product groups. By upskilling a subgroup of our engineers who don’t currently have AI and machine learning training, we can learn from GA and then work in concert with our more tenured AI and machine learning resources. The work that we’re doing with you leverages very current and effective GA training processes to upskill our engineers rather than tackling the upskilling externally.

GA: What made you decide to partner with General Assembly, and what has the experience been like?

Kimberly Graham: I was very picky when selecting a vendor and did a lot of due diligence since it’s such an important decision. When I found General Assembly, it was a natural fit. Working with the GA team feels like a partnership — and I sensed that immediately. We wanted to find a long-term partner to build out a customized training process; GA not only had a strong program but an outstanding reputation and excellent reviews. So, we wanted to start small with a pilot.

The initial pilot included a small group of participants so that we could work closely to understand the experience and content as they worked through the 10-week pilot program. It was very clear that General Assembly understood our mission, what we were looking for, and delivered on that. 

Working with GA has been a true partnership. Communication has been very candid, very thorough, and regular — we initially met weekly to set expectations, hear best practices from GA, and provide feedback. What has impressed me the most is feeling like GA is an extension of our team rather than a vendor. 

GA: You have been running your program throughout COVID-19. Can you tell me about your experience with live remote training? 

Kimberly Graham: When COVID-19 hit, the entire Sage organization went remote. Luckily, the Sage AI Labs team is close to 100% remote anyway. Our team is dispersed worldwide. Therefore, while there were many impacts of the remote working situation due to the pandemic, the impact on our team was somewhat minimized.

One thing that has been wonderful with our first full cohort post-pilot is that we chose participants from Western North America and India. We included participants from Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, and India. It’s brought together engineers from different Sage product lines and engineering teams that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work together otherwise. The feedback from our participants has been outstanding.

We wouldn’t have done an in-person course anyway due to our distributed team. So, the fact that General Assembly offered remote upskilling was beneficial, seamless, and very easy to roll out. 

GA: Your first cohort is just about to end — congratulations! Have you seen any immediate impact or results through this training? 

Kimberly Graham: One of the things that struck me the most during our initial pilot was midway through, just five weeks into the program when Sage hosted an engineering team hackathon. Two of our pilot participants teamed up and participated in recommending an AI feature for a Sage product based on what they had learned from General Assembly in the data science pilot. They won a prize in our hackathon, and five weeks later, they co-delivered the idea as their capstone project for the GA course.

Post-program, they went on to present it in various engineering meetings, an AI brown bag, and more. We’re currently in the process of building and implementing that feature into our product. These two developers were able to address a long-standing product challenge through AI and machine learning. This problem couldn’t have been solved with traditional programming — and that was just five weeks into our pilot program!

The participants from the full cohort will be delivering their capstone projects this evening, so our first cohort of 30 engineers is close to completion. I’m looking forward to seeing what they deliver and am really excited to see what they come up with!  I’m also looking forward to continuing our partnership with the GA team to review the program and modify as needed, moving forward, as we expand with additional cohorts.

GA: How does Sage think about the post-program experience for participants?

Kimberly Graham: The sense of community that is created during the course, such as collaborating, sharing resources, projects, and tips in the Slack channel, is extremely important. I monitor those closely. It’s very collaborative.

I’ve picked up on the need for an ongoing community post-General Assembly upskilling since our participants have valued the collaboration and learning process so much. I’m in the process of working on creating an internal community so that our team members can continue to interact and learn from one another. We already have things such as a Yammer group that I’ve created for AI collaboration, but I want to take that a step further — that’s going to be key. It’s not just a matter of being educated, and then it’s done. It’s very important that our engineers continue to interact, experiment, and collaborate.

GA: When it comes to transformation, many organizations think about technology before people. It sounds like Sage has a different approach. Can you tell me about that? 

Kimberly Graham: I moved over to the Sage AI Labs team a year and a half ago and came from a customer success and marketing background. Our team’s executive leader identified the need to have somebody from the business that didn’t have a technical background come in and understand what it takes to transform the business.

This is my first role as part of an engineering team, and I’m far from technical. Regardless of technology, we’re people who need to adopt technology to make our business work and be at the forefront of our customers’ needs. A big part of the transformation process is to look at things from our customers’ perspectives rather than just technology. One of the biggest elements of our transformation process is factoring in how we can use technology for the betterment of employees and our customers rather than just technology for technology’s sake.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Webinar Recap: Marketing Skills for a Post-COVID-19 Era

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Everything — including the way marketers used data — came to a halt when the pandemic hit. Given that all data builds upon the past, many companies found that what worked in 2019 suddenly became irrelevant in 2020 — a quick and jarring pivot.  

The effectiveness of marketing is measured by the consumer behavior it’s designed to predict. What can marketers do to meet the challenge of consumer behaviors that have changed due to COVID-19 and wider shifts in cultural psychology?

In an hour-long, intensely detailed, and conversational webinar, Matt Tumbleson, brand director for P&G Ventures and GA marketing instructor, sat down to talk post-COVID marketing strategies with Ben Harrell, CMO for Priceline; Philip Markmann, CMO for L’Oréal; Salim Holder, Co-founder + CEO of 4th Avenue Market and GA instructor; Rebekah Rose, director, P&G Ventures; and Rory Sutherland, vice chairman at Ogilvy UK. 

Three Things We Learned

Changes in consumer behavior necessitate changes in how we think about marketing strategy. This expert-driven webinar encouraged marketers to rethink their approach in three key ways: 

1. Data doesn’t drive everything.

Marketing strategists have increasingly found themselves taking a back seat to big data. This is not to say that data-driven marketing strategies have no value, but COVID-19 caused many businesses to flounder as the data they relied on was no longer as informative and impactful as it had once been. 

All told, what became expected consumer behavior morphed in a way that was not effectively predicted by marketing data; there was no precedent in the data most businesses were leveraging to address the psychological and emotional impact that a global pandemic would have on how consumers spend.

2. Marketing must be future-focused, not past-focused.

An ever-present consequence of data is that it’s reactive and not proactive. Ben Harrell sums this succinctly: “What worked yesterday won’t work today. What worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.” Never has that been more true in a post-COVID-19 era, when many consumers have altered not just how they shop, but why they shop and where they shop. Many are questioning whether they need a product at all and opting instead to purchase products or services that deliver deeper meaning or enhance their connections to other people. 

Sutherland importantly notes that “People don’t buy what something is; they buy what it means”.

3. Engage relationally, not transactionally.

Marketers must keep pace with changing customer profiles. Consumers saturate the internet, but COVID-19 accelerated already prolific online activity. As Sutherland explained in an intriguing keynote speech, “Understanding consumers’ wants, needs, motivations, and fears has become much more important following COVID-19.”

This is hardly more visual than with Gen Z, which is distinctly digital-native and cause-driven. Marketing challenges change with every generation, and companies must adapt to how upcoming generations effectively respond to marketing, but Gen Z has proven to upend many cultural marketing expectations. It’s a generation that values an emotional, authentic approach and is quick to flee from companies too heavily focused on the traditional transactional method. If Gen Z is an indication of a longer-lasting trend, marketers really must be quick to adapt.

On to the next. And next…

As Salim Holder of 4th Avenue Marketing pointedly asks in the webinar, “Do we know our consumers as well as we think we do?” This question helps define big ideas you’ll experience in this engaging webinar filled with actionable insights from a panel of marketing experts. Watch the entire webinar here.

Want to learn more about how General Assembly can help you unlock marketing skills for a post-COVID era? Get in touch.

Webinar Recap: Demystifying Big Data & AI

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AI is a powerful tool that can help businesses achieve monumental success. For the last few years, AI has been inaccurately depicted as a tool that will steal jobs from humans. The media, movies, and more have consistently created a false image of AI, what the technology is capable of, and what it means for businesses and society. Truthfully, it’s the people behind AI that determine the outcomes of its use  — not the technology itself.

Gonzague Dromard, our head of France, sat down with the co-founder of Siri and Renault chief scientific officer, Luc Julia, for a webinar discussion on demystifying AI and the big data that makes AI function. Here are the top three things we learned from that discussion.

Essentials To Know 

AI is more than just a buzzword and less than the harbinger of the next tech-driven apocalypse. Instead, AI is a tool with the enormous potential to uplift industries and workers worldwide. Yes, this is daunting — but, no, this does not make AI dangerous.

1. AI’s Framework: It’s Older Than You Might Think 

Although AI may seem to be a modern invention or trend, the groundwork has existed for decades. Artificial intelligence and big data are built around maximizing the efficiency of repetitive processes. Leaning into his new role at Renault, Julia highlighted how the car industry has been using automation for decades, starting in the 1960s with the introduction of industrial robots capable of simple tasks like spot welding. Lan Turing’s landmark paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” was published in 1950, giving us decades to properly define, create, and deploy early concepts of AI.

Although not as “smart” as some might expect, AI, at its fundamental level, is a repeatable set of rules that a machine follows — an instructional map, but certainly not the driver.

2. AI Does Not Destroy Jobs — It Accelerates Them in New Areas

Among the biggest questions that stymie wider acceptance of AI is whether the technology will replace human workers, destroying the livelihoods of millions of people. Dromard and Julia spent a significant portion of the webinar dismantling this misconception by underlining these AI truths:

  1. There are multiple levels to artificial intelligence. If it becomes possible, we are far from a future where AI will completely replace human workers in most industries since AI relies on repetition — and the world at large is dynamic, not static.
  2. Organizations must be proactive and introspective by identifying where efficiencies could exist and how AI can be used. 
  3. Companies thrive and innovate best when existing teams — with diverse backgrounds and experiences — are trained to use big data and AI.

When applied properly, AI creates entirely new industries and provides existing workers the chance to reskill while working alongside AI systems that make less enjoyable, routine tasks easier to accomplish. Since these tasks don’t change, the big data backing them can perform those tasks more quickly and efficiently than human workers. 

3. AI Programmers Must Counter Personal Biases 

News-making examples of bias within AI systems, such as facial recognition technology and hiring algorithms, have raised legitimate questions about whether AI will always be applied ethically. Dromard and Julia also took on this challenging question with strategies for how to ensure that the big data working in the background mitigates the risk of bias in AI systems:

“If we see that people can use it the wrong way, we have the responsibility to raise the flag. Data can be biased because the people designing and creating the data can be biased.” 

As AI integrates more into daily life, data ethics has become imperative to ensure AI does not harm societal equity.

Take the Next Progressive Step With Big Data & AI

As Julia noted in our webinar, “AI is a tool. We have the hammer.” In other words, if you give that hammer to the right person, innovation will happen. Not all workers will know how to use the tool right away or in the right way, but dedicated and ongoing training can create lasting relevancy for businesses and build loyalty among workers.

Bottom line, people are only innovative if they’re trained with intention. When your teams bring their existing skills to the table — and merge that with newly acquired knowledge — real innovation happens. Watch the full webinar here

Want to learn more about how GA can help you build a data-driven team? Get in touch.

Celebrating 10 Years: Steven Longstreet

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Steven Longstreet, one of our instructors, who teaches data to enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work and is a member of our AI and Data Science standards board.


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Steven Longstreet: I work out of the DC campus and live nearby in northern Virginia. I work as an instructor, and I am also a member of the AI and Data Science standards board.

I first discovered GA through a team member, an instructor for GA, who took the 10-week part-time data science course. She wasn’t confident with the content, so I decided to take it with her to support her. I had a blast, and then the GA team asked me to become a data science instructor. 

It was fun to take this class and see how different people were learning and how the program broke down the barriers to data science. 

GA: What is the instructor’s role in learning?

Steven Longstreet: People who sign up for our classes truly want to learn and better themselves. That’s actually one of the coolest things to be a part of. However, the reality is some of the things that we teach are complex, with barriers to learning. My role in learning is making these topics approachable and removing those barriers for each student’s personal journey.

When learning something new, you’re making yourself vulnerable. The instructor has to create an environment where it’s okay to be wrong. It’s my job to understand the student’s barriers and make sure they are okay to be vulnerable and ask questions. 

GA: Why did you get involved in our AI and Data Science standards board?

Steven Longstreet: The whole purpose of the (AI and) Data Science standards board is that the term “data scientists” means absolute dribble. To some people, a data scientist needs to have a Ph.D., and there are other groups who just give out the title to anyone. 

I’ve always struggled with this concept. Part of joining the board was coming together with a group of like-minded people and saying, “What is this term for us? What does it mean? What are the aspects of the new data scientists? What does a career look like? How can we best empower and leverage these people?”

The concept of a scientist is someone who pushes human understanding, and it doesn’t have to be something incredibly dramatic. It can be one microscopic new thing that you uncover that allows human advancement. A data scientist within the organization pushes the understanding of data in a more usable way. We set a clear definition that worked across the range of companies participating in the board.

The other jobs of the AI and Data Science standards board are explaining what a career in this field looks like and making it clear what fields someone can specialize in. We need to be clear about the roles and career path and delineate what these terms mean.

GA: What do you think the most critical data skills are — right now?

Steven Longstreet: Let’s break it into two parts: data engineering and data literacy. 

I’ll start with data engineering because it’s part of your workflow. No matter what. Data needs to be built in the context of the problem you’re trying to solve. These skill sets are both rare and powerful, as a data engineer looks at the needs and resources across the organization to build core data assets with the most powerful and broad applicability. We’ve been talking about big data pretty heavily for about seven years, which can be summarized as more data than you have the resources, skills, or knowledge to wrangle. Maybe 5% of people feel comfortable working with big data, and those people jump into that challenge head-on.

Data literacy is understanding basic data concepts. When I talk about data literacy, I want people to articulate the problem they are trying to solve. Are they trying to forecast something or classify something? It’s about understanding data isn’t perfect and has biases. We build data for a particular context, so you can take the same raw materials and build a pick-up truck or a car, depending on what you’re trying to do with it. In other words, you have to understand why you built your data in the first place.

It’s about knowing what’s possible with data in your field, asking the right questions, and effectively communicating with data people to get the answers.

GA: What advice do you have for leaders who are trying to prepare for the future of work? 

Steven Longstreet: You have to listen to your team, but you also have to recognize that there’s a problem you’re trying to solve. I’m in an industry where people are serving people. Most of my employees are in front of people, but for the last year, we’ve all been working from home. 

The future of work at my company, Hilton, isn’t changing from the face-to-face experience, but we’re listening to our team and realizing many people want flexibility. We are thinking of new ways to bring people together because there are aspects of work that you can’t replicate virtually. 

I think the future of work doesn’t change the fact that human interaction is incredibly important to advance any problem. If one person could work entirely in a vacuum, we wouldn’t talk about Tesla and SpaceX; we’d only talk about Elon Musk. The reality is that a lot of people make work happen; one person rarely solves all the problems by themselves.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

GA Jobs to Be Done: A Series Build Teams To Thrive in A Digital-First World

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The Final Step: Understand What Good Looks Like

As companies across industries race to digitize, maintaining the pace of change required to get across the finish line can be overwhelming — especially for those leading the digital transformation efforts.

We’re here to break it down. 

Through our deep experience across many types of organizations, we’ve seen leaders’ transformation challenges boil down to four key goals:

  1. Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
  2. Upgrade capabilities to reflect cutting-edge technical skills across marketing, technology, and data functions.
  3. Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires. 
  4. Understand what good looks like — a skill necessary in achieving every goal.

This series, Jobs To Be Done, unpacks each of these four goals, providing actionable recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success.

Finally, we’ve come to our final overarching concept: understanding what good looks like. Whether you’re evaluating a digital culture, growing capabilities, or filling talent gaps, it’s hard to know how you’re doing without clear benchmarks. We have some tips.

Defining Success in Uncharted Waters

Congratulations: you’ve bravely inspired your organization to try new things, creating a company with a more agile, empowered workforce, building on the latest cutting-edge technologies and best practices… But what are the details of those practices?  Once you’re deep in uncharted territory, how do you know when you’ve truly succeeded?

It can be difficult to specify what good looks like — especially when the fast-paced nature of digitization often means the goal line keeps moving as you work toward it. A lot of business leaders are largely unfamiliar with the technicalities of digital fields, especially when it comes to the details of the many roles they oversee. This makes it challenging to do simple tasks like mapping out leveling frameworks or evaluating talent.

When it comes to knowing what good looks like, getting an outside perspective can help you chart your way. One of the most helpful, multipurpose tools you can bring into your process is a well-built, quantitative assessment.

The Gold Standard: Map Success Against Data-Forward Assessments

Data-forward assessments that measure adeptness in key skills are tools you can use throughout your digital transformation. They give precise, repeatable data to track over time and leverage in decision-making. 

There are several touchpoints across your workforce pipeline where an assessment can be a big help in defining good — from analyzing candidates in interviews to tracking progress in your reskilling efforts. 

We recommend assessments to help companies improve many areas, such as:

  1. Identify unique skills gaps in existing teams to develop your learning goals. Once you understand the specific areas your team needs to grow, the data will point you in the right direction for your transformation. You can even leverage them to prescribe personalized learning paths that target the specific strengths and areas for growth of each team member, which can be more tailored and effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. 
  2. Benchmark the skills your teams have compared to the industry. With a broadly-used assessment, you not only understand your team’s skills but also how their scores relate to others in your field, allowing you to align your skilling investments with your strategic goals. 
  3. Track improvement of skills over time. Multiple data touchpoints help you learn where you’re making progress and where a new approach may be needed — a key element of an agile workforce. You can also use this data to inform performance reviews, as your top performers set tangible goals and achieve them. 
  4. Guide hiring and staffing decisions. Adding quantitative assessments to your interview processes help remove bias from candidate evaluations and allows you to compare internal and external candidates on a level playing field. In addition, they can identify surprising aptitudes or highlight areas where more evaluation is necessary.

Assessments in the Real World: L’Oréal

One great success story of implementing an assessment into a talent pipeline is L’Oréal. L’Oréal launched an assessment-led program in partnership with us to vet new candidates and encourage continuous learning among its global marketing workforce. 

Leveraging the Certified Marketing 1 (CM1) Assessment, built in partnership with our Marketing Standards Board, L’Oréal defined a company-wide standard for evaluating marketers, which is now fully baked into their talent system. The assessment helps them onboard new hires who meet their 70% benchmark, upskill 85,000 employees worldwide, and identify high-growth candidates for deep-dive training. This approach has driven results in their digital transformation, growing eCommerce sales to 25% of total sales. 

So, what’s next?

Over the last few months, we’ve talked about the top challenges we encounter from leaders of digital transformation efforts. Whether you are beginning to build the broad digital fluency that is a foundation of digital culture — investing in the technical skills upgrade of your teams and expanding top talent, we hope you found valuable tips within these series to help guide your way.

If you’d like to explore the range of courses that GA provides (and get a sense of how your teams stack up to the skills we teach), you can explore our catalog here, which covers roles from IC to strategic leader across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology. 

Want to get specific about how GA could help your organization? Get in touch. 

This concludes our Jobs To Be Done series. We wish you luck on your digital transformation journey!

Celebrating 10 Years: Sarah Hakani

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Sarah Hakani, one of our senior learning experience architects, who creates programs for several enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Sarah Hakani: I am a senior learning experience architect based in Brooklyn, New York.

GA: What is a learning experience architect?

Sarah Hakani: I like to say it’s a hybrid between being an instructional designer and a consultant. What we do is think about what types of learning solutions map to different client needs. What makes us closer to instructional designers is that we’re thinking about adult learning principles, ways to engage with people who are already on their learning journeys, building on prior knowledge, and understanding business context and industry to customize our learning experiences. 

GA: What’s your favorite part of your role?

Sarah Hakani: My favorite part of this role is the impact reports. At the end of a program, there’s always a lot of curiosity, and a lot of “How do we connect this to our business, what’s next, and what do we do tomorrow, based on what we learned today?”

In those moments, there’s always this flood of gratitude and an outpouring of intention that feels really beautiful because it’s all this work that you’ve put in, and you can see, this tangible way that our clients are saying, “This is what I’m going to do with it today.”

I think that very directly translates to the impact reports that happen right after each program. We create a really detailed, honest, and transparent summary of how learners in the room felt about different things. The most rewarding part is that collaborative reflection moment where a client says to us, “You pulled it off; what can we do better next time?” It shows that there’s this desire to continue to get better, and that’s really beautiful — and often rare — in learning experiences.

GA: How do you help businesses find their best learning program?

Sarah Hakani: We start by understanding the business challenges. Leaders come to us and say something like, “We need more first-party data,” or “Our data strategy is weak.” They come to us with a big problem, and we ask, “Have you considered XYZ?” Or “What about this XYZ solution?” Or, “Our instructors work directly in this XYZ field, so what about a workshop that encompasses blank, blank, and blank?” 

It’s a very iterative process, which I really love. 

GA: What is your favorite discipline and why? 

Sarah Hakani: The most fun, for me, is digital marketing because it has the most psychology. So much about digital marketing involves all of us as consumers. We go into the workshops and think, “I am a consumer, and so, these are the ways that people are thinking about targeting me. These are the ways that I am personally thinking about when it comes to empathy mapping and consumer decision journeys.”

There’s a human element to digital marketing that has made it an easier entry point for me to target. It makes our instructors so phenomenal within it, too, because they’re all thinking; they are all consumers. It’s the one discipline where every person has a very personal investment in what digital marketing is, what daily content we consume, and the decisions that content leads us to make.

GA: Tell us about the most exciting program you’ve built for a client. 

Sarah Hakani: My favorite was the UX for Marketers program that I built for a Fortune 100 CPG company in their health care division. Hybrid programs are really exciting for me because we’re designing for people in a different discipline to think about working better cross-functionally, which is half the battle for our enterprise clients. 

How does a marketing team know what request to make of agencies to have the proper UX to guide their consumers? This program was a three-day program, and the most beautiful part was that UX for Marketers — for personal health care — looks different than simply UX for Marketers. 

When you’re thinking about personal health care, often, people are in a frenzy searching for serious topics. There’s an intimacy that comes with searches and understanding their behavior through their searches. Bad UX can completely stress someone out.

This specific learner audience was my favorite because there was so much empathy in the room for the consumer. 

GA: What are some common challenges you hear from enterprise clients? 

Sarah Hakani: I would say the biggest one for digital marketing is definitely the death of cookies and tracking issues. People have been coming to us saying, “We have been collecting this first-party data, and we don’t totally know how to activate it.” 

Another one I’ve seen a lot is this fear of AI. The challenge is thinking about ways to simplify it and make people understand that they’re not going to lose their jobs and that AI is a tool that will help them be much more efficient and have stronger processes that allow people to do better work. 

I’ve also been seeing a lot of UX-related questions because, during the pandemic, people were thinking about their virtual audiences and translating products to a salient digital experience, and iterating. 

GA: We’ve had an incredible 10 years; what are you excited about for the next 10? 

Sarah Hakani: What’s exciting to me about the next 10 years at GA is what reskilling can look like on a community level and what it means to take care of our people… Our mission is rooted in targeting underserved people. 

The pandemic showed that a lot of that is still a reality, and what we need to be doing is thinking about reskilling — not just from an enterprise or consumer level. What GA does really well is equip people with the skills that they need to be okay and for generations after them to be okay. 

If there’s anything I’m excited about, it’s that we took a stance during the pandemic and that the success of that is going to lead to much more shareable knowledge — especially with the most marginalized. That’s a future state that became much more apparent in the last (very unfortunate) year, and I’m really excited to see where we go with it. 

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch.

Celebrating 10 Years: Michelle Bergquist

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Michelle Bergquist, one of our client success managers, who works with several enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees into digital roles. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Michelle Bergquist: I am located in London, England, and my role is client success manager. 

GA: Can you tell me more about your role? 

Michelle Bergquist: It’s my job to make sure that everyone who interacts with our program has a great end-to-end experience, so that’s our clients, students, and instructors. We want them to walk away feeling like they had the best learning experience — everything from the first touchpoint where they know exactly what to expect, to their course to their instructors’ content and what we (GA) expect from them. At every point along their learning journey, they should feel set up for success and leave the program understanding how it all applies to their jobs. 

GA: What’s your favorite part of your job? 

Michelle Bergquist: I would say that’s twofold. It’s a job where you get a lot of immediate satisfaction. It can be only a couple of months from kickoff to the point of the delivery, so I’m planning things in real-time. I see the impact of my efforts almost immediately. 

In the same vein, I absolutely love going back to the feedback from students and seeing them in the classroom to see that impact in real-time. You can see in their feedback what they were able to get out of the course and how they can go back to their teams and improve things right away. 

GA: What’s your favorite GA skilling solution? Tell us why.

Michelle Bergquist: The one that sticks out most to me is our Product Management Accelerator. We ran it for a banking client in January 2021, and I did a post-program interview with one of the participants. She was an engineer for about 18 years and had just transitioned into a product management role. Prior to the course, she struggled with imposter syndrome and constantly thought, “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t have the right skills.” After the course, she said she felt like Superwoman. She felt so confident in herself and knew exactly how to do her job. 

GA: How do you help your customers understand what “good” looks like? 

Michelle Bergquist: It’s about asking the right questions up front, “What does success look like to you? When the program is over, what do you want to say that we’ve accomplished?”

On the Delivery team, we are focused on making sure our customers understand the impact of a learning program, so we do follow-ups post-program at the 30-60-90 day marks. There is a lot of stakeholder management to understand objectives and how we meet them.

GA: What are some common problems you help clients solve? 

Michelle Bergquist: In the data space, it’s the talent pipeline. For example, we’re working with a big bank, and they need staff. So, they’re bringing talent in at certain levels and training them on day one of working with the company. These employees go directly into our programs. 

Within consumer packaged goods, it’s competing with who they see as the leader in their space. If one of their competitors is setting the gold standard in marketing and they want to be at their level, we help them get there with our digital marketing training. 

Consistency across geographies is another challenge. For example, we’re working with a large B2B company in Europe, where they do things differently across their different geos. They want to build that baseline of how everyone should be operating, no matter what country they’re in. It varies across the board, but those are some of the main themes that I see.

GA: What advice do you have for leaders trying to take on the future of work? 

Michelle Bergquist: Be open to new ideas. The old or habitual ways of learning, such as getting a four-year degree, don’t solve the problem anymore. Being open to different ways of learning can make a huge impact. If you’re open, then your employees will be open. 

It really starts with the executive stakeholder setting the bar of what they expect. Some of the best programs we’ve run are when the project sponsors or the client stakeholders are really involved. After that, everyone else steps in and follows behind them. 

For example, we recently had our launch with a consumer packaged goods company, and the general manager of the North American office joined the live launch, which is rare. At the end of the call, she told the team, “I know we’re super busy, but you have to make this a priority. Learning is just as important as your quota. I’m right here with you taking this course. We’re all in this together.” That buy-in helped us to get 100% completion on our CM1 assessment, and that business was immediately able to see the impact.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Celebrating 10 Years: Ian Stirgwolt

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Ian Stirgwolt, one of our client success managers, who works on several social impact projects within GA, including Code for Good and our community reskilling efforts in Louisville and Sacramento. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Ian Stirgwolt: I am a client success manager. I am living in sunny Los Angeles. 

GA: Can you tell us more about your role? 

Ian Stirgwolt: I like to think of the client success manager as the center of our Delivery team. We act as the conduit between our client and all of the different other services that GA offers, such as our Learning Experience Architect team, instructional designers, instructor managers, or operations. 

My focus is on figuring out what our clients need after we’ve signed a contract and then continuously checking in with them, making sure that we are on the right track, and helping to lead our team internally to make sure that we continue on the right track.

GA: Talk us through keeping clients on the right track through a program.

Ian Stirgwolt: A good example is putting together a workshop. A client might think, “Hey, we really want a marketing workshop, and we don’t really know that much about the pertinent details, but you, as the learning partner, are going to help us figure that out.” 

Our Client Success team really can say, “I’ve seen this problem before at another organization.” I think the really great thing about the Client Success team is that we have that shared knowledge. It’s such a tight-knit team that works together to share our experiences, which helps us answer the client’s challenges and challenges that might exist underneath the water, the other 70% of the iceberg. 

GA: You’ve had the opportunity to work with our clients on Code for Good, which is amazing. Can you tell us more? 

Ian Stirgwolt: Code for Good grew out of a program called CODE: Rosie which we did with Disney. It was an effort to help organizations take people from within their company — who might be working in customer service or IT — who have had experience with technology before but are not hard technologists; we turned those individuals into software engineers. CODE: Rosie focused on bringing more female voices into engineering.

We have expanded since then. Code for Good now focuses on taking people from diverse and nontraditional backgrounds, such as women or people of color, into technology roles.

GA: What clients have been involved with Code for Good? 

Ian Stirgwolt: The first cohort we ran went from May to August of 2020. The two clients involved were Humana and Guardian. I think that’s an important thing to highlight because this program focuses on bringing clients together. We wanted to create conversations between these two organizations, in addition to providing a reskilling opportunity. 

Guardian signed on for the second year with Union Pacific — that cohort is currently in progress and will end in mid-July. 

GA: How was the experience working with multiple clients at once? 

Ian Stirgwolt: It was great because we could bring together both organizations to decide on the program itself and what that would look like. Being able to decide on a program that answered all needs can be a herculean effort. 

Seeing cross-pollination within the classroom between the employees at these companies was really interesting. Both Humana and Guardian brought in speakers from their organizations to give students an idea of what they might be working on as they transition to new roles. 

We’ve had people from within this program graduate and move into different roles within Guardian and Humana. Some people went into UX and focused on the front-end, while others have gone into data and analytics. 

It’s exciting to see how the program and speakers influenced the careers of these participants.  

GA: You also get to work on our community reskilling programs. Tell us about that.

Ian Stirgwolt: As COVID-19 set in, we saw a lot of people losing jobs, especially within the leisure and entertainment industries, so we turned our focus to reskilling communities. 

We started partnering with local governments, such as Sacramento, local community partners, such as the Greater Sacramento Urban League, and local companies, such as Humana, who wanted to invest in their communities and upskill people who were losing their jobs during the pandemic.  

Louisville is a really interesting example because Humana came with an identified need. They wanted to help those in their community who had lost their job during the pandemic get into a new career.  

The first part of the program focused on awareness: How do we get people aware that digital- and tech-related jobs are available? That’s when we launched our on-demand programs to the community. The mayor and other community partners got involved in helping us spread the word. 

The second part of the program focused on taking those individuals and getting them through a series of programs to ensure they capitalize on the opportunity. We then opened access to our classes and workshops. 

Phase three took those individuals who participated in phase one and two of the program into our accelerators, including UX, digital marketing, and data analytics, to help them get the skills they needed to take the next step in their career. 

Humana also saw a big need for more data skills, so we set up a data science course split into two paths: data analytics and data science. 

GA: So, basically, you have one of the coolest jobs at GA. Tell us what your favorite part of your job is. 

Ian Stirgwolt: I’m really lucky. The team here at GA is phenomenal. It’s a team where you feel supported. There is so much knowledge, effort, and energy on this team; it’s really inspiring to be part of it.

Another favorite part of the job is the ability to impact through community reskilling and social impact projects. I love working with my clients and helping them along this journey. The ability to impact someone’s life — through education — is inspiring to me.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch.

Celebrating 10 Years: Devanshu Mehrotra

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Devanshu Mehrotra, one of our instructors, who teaches data to enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: I live in Jersey City. I’ve been an instructor at GA since 2015. I was involved with GA when we were still in our nascent stages, and I helped develop some of the analytics curricula. 

I do quite a few things: I teach data analytics, data science, and advanced analytics — pretty much anything data-specific I’ve been involved in at one point or the other.

GA: What is your favorite course to teach and why? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: That’s a tough one. For me, teaching is very much more a subject of what the participants are like than the subject I’m teaching. For example, if I’m teaching SQL: I teach SQL within analytics, I teach SQL within advanced analytics, and I also teach SQL as a standalone. The delivery doesn’t change much, but if the participants are engaged, and if I’m able to draw them out of their shells and get them to be themselves while doing some fairly complicated coding, that is very rewarding.

GA: How did you get started working with data? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: I took a very meandering path to data in the sense that I’m not traditionally data-educated. I have a degree in finance and accounting, and I started out as a financial statement auditor accountant at Deloitte.

The more time I spent auditing, the more I saw the need to move away from manual testing. So, I taught myself an audit-related software called Idea and became the “Idea Champion.” Anytime anyone wanted their general ledgers analyzed or wanted a complicated transaction analyzed, they would send me the data even if I wasn’t working on that particular audit.

That got me thinking maybe I should be working on my analytics skills rather than focusing on accounting. Subsequently, I successfully interviewed with Freddie Mac for a data analytics senior auditor, which launched my analytics career.

A year later, Freddie Mac paid for me to attend a part-time data science course at General Assembly. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become an instructor. Since then, my career has been an intersection of all of my experiences. I’m currently a VP focusing on analytics within the audit department at an investment bank, so there’s the finance part and accounting part. My job is to develop their internal analytics, digitization processes, and building the analytics department out.

GA: What is the role of the instructor, and how do you impact the learning experience?

Devanshu Mehrotra: I was a terrible student because I grew up in India and had undiagnosed ADHD — things were just boring. If the teacher was not engaging, I just could not be bothered to pay attention in class. I would just do whatever I wanted.

When I came to the U.S and started engaging with teachers in college, my classes were segmented into teachers interested in teaching and teachers who couldn’t bother with engagement. For the engaging, I was always in the front row asking questions. For the unengaging teachers, I was in the back of the class. 

I promised myself that if I ever ended up teaching, I would be the kind of teacher that would have engaged me if I was in my own class. I think the instructor’s role in learning is very significant. Part of that comes from empathy; it comes from putting yourself in the learner’s shoes, and it comes from wanting to be entertaining.

It is a very powerful feeling when somebody leaves class knowing, “Analytics is what I want to do,” which keeps me going. 

GA: As a leader in a business, what role do you think learning plays in digital transformation? 

Devanshu Mehrotra: I have worked for two different investment banks where I’ve created an analytics team from scratch — learning was an essential part of the process. 

Think about the skill sets valued in the market right now, and think about the people making a lot of money in the market. 20 years ago, if you thought about people having jobs and becoming millionaires, you would think finance; you would think Wall Street. 

What do you think today when you think of people making millions very quickly? I think Facebook, Google, Netflix, and startups. You’re now competing with companies that can pay more, teach more, and give benefits like free food, etc. How do you compete in that type of market? 

The best way to compete is to identify people who have an aptitude and upskill them internally because you are showing trust in them, and you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and invest in them. 

As a leader, think about when Steve Jobs came onto the stage in 2007 and put the iPhone up. That’s where the revolution started. Since then, the way we do things has completely changed. That computer that you’re carrying in your pocket, your cell phone, has changed entirely. The next 10–20 years are just going to compound it. The future will come at you faster and come at you with more complex problems, so you grow with it or you get left behind. If you’re not learning, you’re dying.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Celebrating 10 Years: Callum Goodwilliam

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Callum Goodwilliam, our manager of instruction in Europe, who pairs our expert instructors with enterprise clients to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Callum Goodwilliam: I am currently based in Valencia, Spain, and I am the manager of instruction in Europe.

GA: Tell us a little bit about your role. 

Callum Goodwilliam: I think of myself as a coach first, but my role certainly contains elements of recruitment, as we’re always looking for new instructors who bring specific skill sets and deep subject matter expertise. 

Recruitment is a cornerstone of what we do, but I’ve never described myself as a recruiter because normally, that’s a process where you’re handing that person on to an organization. A big difference for us is once we’ve found the right person, we’re preparing them for the classroom. So, it’s going through extensive training and ongoing support 1:1 with a person to make sure they will become a great instructor.

We stay with the person for their entire life cycle at GA. So, that’s a big distinction and why I really like my work, as I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with so many amazing people.

GA: What is the instructor’s role in learning, and how do you think they impact the learning experience? 

Callum Goodwilliam: The instructors are the center of the learning experience. Of course, great content and the programs designed by our instructional designers or learning experience architects are critical to the learning experience, but the instructor sits at the heart of that experience for our students. They’re bringing the content to life and building relationships with the students in the classroom. They’re also breathing life into the curriculum through their experiences, examples, and  real-world interactions. 

To be a good instructor, you have to have an interest in people and have a deep interest in bringing your subject to life. I’ve asked a lot of people what qualities their favorite teachers have, and it’s usually one of three reasons: 

1. Knowledge: They have deep subject matter expertise, love what they do, and know the subject inside out.

2. Empathy: They care about you, your goals, what you want to achieve, and what matters to you as a person.

3. Challenge: They know how to stretch you beyond what you thought was possible. 

For me, these are all connected. You have to care about where someone’s going to help push them effectively. 

GA: How do you match an enterprise business with an instructor?

Callum Goodwilliam: It depends on the client context and the needs of the organization. For some organizations, depending on the learning goals and objectives, it might be advisable to match a specific organization and a specific sector with an instructor from the same space or industry. 

Other times, it might be more valuable for that organization to get a counter perspective. For example, if the organization running the program is established and very large, it may be best to have an instructor come in from a smaller organization or a startup for balancing and supportive viewpoints and ideas. 

That’s where really understanding what the client’s problem is and what their goals are can help. 

GA: What advice do you have for leaders who are trying to prepare for the future of work?

Callum Goodwilliam: I’m a firm advocate for learning being at the heart of every organization to ensure that a company can cope with the speed of change around us. 

I believe organizations have a responsibility to drive positive change in the world. They should be equipping employees, not just for the future of work in their organization, but also for their own future. 

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and I do the work I do because I believe we are all collectively responsible for making work better for people. Hopefully, doing this makes the world a little better along the way. 

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch