Social Impact Category Archives - General Assembly Blog

Global Resource Guide

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General Assembly’s mission is to empower people to pursue the work they love, and we recognize that not all individuals have the same level of access and opportunity. That’s why we launched the Social Impact initiative five years ago to create pathways for students from underserved and underrepresented communities into tech, marketing, and data design.

Our newest Social Impact program is a partnership that combines student-friendly financing with additional coaching, mentorship, referrals to local and community resources, as well as access to emergency funds. 

The program launched in fall 2019, and I joined the team in late December of 2019 as the Social Impact Program Services Lead, tasked with leading the supportive service programming for students enrolled via our Catalyst Income Share Agreements. Within my first 90 days on the job, the world as we know it changed, and we found ourselves in the epicenter of a global pandemic. 

This post was originally scheduled to be released in response to the global health crisis. However, the recent murders of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Abery, and Breonna Taylor have not only shaken us to our core, but have also triggered an immediate response to gather and circulate self care and mental health resources for our entire GA community, but most importantly, our black students and staff members. We recognized the necessity to share information and create supportive spaces; to gather and form communities of healing and strength during this time.

The Social Impact 2020 Global Resource Guide was created to provide real-time support to individuals looking for resources right now. This Resource Guide consists of an expansive list of supports covering categories such as:

  • Bill and Payment Relief
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Mental Health and Wellness
  • Emergency Cash Assistance 

The resources are provided by local nonprofits, government agencies, grassroots organizations, private foundations, and corporations. We’ve also included anything that might be useful to our community: from where to find free diapers, tips for indoor socializing at any age, and where to find free storage for students who may be displaced and need to leave their college campuses. We did our best to take into account the unique needs of everyone who may have been affected by the recent events, with support catered to people of diverse races and ethnicities, specific industry/professional backgrounds, various age ranges, all gender identities, and people who identify as LGBTQIA+.

We are committed to standing with our black students and staff members as we fight racism and work to build a more equitable and just society for all. This work is demanding, nonstop, and at times, overwhelming. Knowing this, we have to remember to take care of ourselves. This guide highlights a comprehensive list of black mental health and self care resources that include online directories for black therapists and licensed mental health practitioners, pro bono services, virtual healing spaces, town halls, as well as fact sheets to manage emotions and create opportunities for safe spaces and important ongoing conversations.

As we focus on developing coping strategies, building resiliency, and looking towards a better tomorrow, regional mental health and wellness resources are also highlighted, focusing on providing comfort to anyone who may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, anger, loss, grief, and even confusion. A variety of helplines, on demand or text-based counseling services, meditation resources, and wellness apps are also showcased, offering something for everyone at any time. 

The guide covers 14 individual regions, comprising five countries across four continents.

  • Canada: Toronto 
  • United States: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Washington DC, Los Angeles, NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle
  • United Kingdom: London
  • Asia Pacific: Singapore
  • Australia: Sydney/Melbourne

The Global Resource Guide originally grew out of a call to action responding to the needs of our General Assembly community during a time of crisis. It has blossomed into a comprehensive document that not only supports the needs of the GA community, but a larger global community. 

I’m sharing this guide with you because there is a resource in this document for everyone. I encourage you to take the time to take a look, and continue to pass it on.

Get the Resource Guide

We Will Not Be Complicit

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Black life and Black lives matter. Silence and idleness in the face of systemic oppression are complicity, and we are not complicit. General Assembly stands with those across the U.S. and around the world1 fighting against racism, police brutality, and the widespread, systemic violence against Black people that has taken place throughout our global history. We know that the lives we lost can never be replaced, and we stand with the anger and bravery of protestors and activists risking their lives in the pursuit of justice.

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Michelle Cusseaux, Dominique Fells, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor — and countless others whose many names we may never know — continue to shake us to our cores. 

Over the past few weeks, we have taken important internal steps to accelerate the work we need to do as a company to truly create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable GA environment for our employees, students, clients, and alumni. We have a lot of work to do. Still, as a company, we are committed to educating ourselves, supporting racial justice organizations, and engaging in activism and the political process. We have also pushed ourselves to ask: “How can we take more responsibility as a GA community to build a just and equitable world?” 

GA helps people find meaningful work by training them with digital, technological skills, but most importantly, we view our work and advocacy within a broader movement towards social justice. That said, we know that we are also a part of an education and workforce ecosystem that often perpetuates the systemic racism that exists in every facet of American — and global — societies. 

This work begins at home. We commit to increasing the diversity of our leadership and executive teams and developing professional growth pathways for our Black staff. We are also making a company-wide commitment to hiring more Black talent, and to using our platform to educate employers and other training providers on building inclusive talent pipelines. 

In the weeks and months to come, we will speak up and take action to elevate ideas, norms, and values that can dismantle white supremacy2 and move the needle towards justice. Below are three spaces that we believe GA can work within to drive change. 

1. Increase access to high-quality education and training for Black students in underserved communities.

  • The U.S. education system is set up to offer nearly limitless opportunity to those in positions of privilege and far less to those without any. Our responsibility as an education provider is to create pathways to social and economic mobility for communities who have been historically locked out.
  • We need to be intentional and proactive about building partnerships with community organizations to support students from underserved communities and those who have been incarcerated. This will require further investment in financing alternatives that can reduce the cost of education, and shift the risk away from learners by holding providers accountable for ensuring successful job outcomes. GA must expand comprehensive support for students with wraparound services (such as childcare, transportation, and mental health) that help remove the roadblocks that often prevent people from pursuing or completing their education.
  • GA’s commitment: We will seek out employers to partner with on the expansion of our impactful Digital Academy and Managed Service Provider Partner Models to attract, nurture, and actively promote Black talent. We will donate our educational products to nonprofit organizations focused on fostering Black talent. We will deepen the support we offer students, such as emergency funds, case management, referrals, and tech equipment. We will formalize the work we are doing to leverage our students’ talents and alumni to support nonprofits and small businesses, focusing on racial justice organizations and Black-owned businesses.

2. Work with hiring partners to end biased hiring and enable new practices that get more Black talent into jobs.

  • For most people, getting a good job is the ultimate goal of their education and training experience. That makes it easy for employers to blame labor market inequality on the mythical “pipeline problem” and shift responsibility onto education providers, rather than making investments in existing talent or new pipelines of talent. 
  • Employers must do better. To start, that means concrete actions such as removing college degree requirements from job postings and implementing skills-based hiring practices that recognize performance rather than pedigree. It includes practices like “Banning the Box” to open doors for formerly incarcerated job seekers, and eliminating unpaid internships that favor those with the means to support themselves to work without pay. Employers must recognize the incredible potential of their people already employed and create talent pivots and pathways for new roles and functions. 
  • GA’s commitment: We will urge our hiring partners and clients to make public commitments to hiring Black talent and to make investments in upskilling or reskilling existing talent. We will direct Talent Acquisition, Career Coaches, and Local Campus Partnerships to use our voice and position to publicly call attention to biased hiring practices that disproportionately affect Black applicants. We will hold partners who want to hire our students accountable for making these changes. 

3. Advocate for policies that boost access and affordability of high-quality education and training for Black people, and mobilize our community to participate in the political process. 

  • From the U.S. Department of Education’s revocation of nondiscrimination guidelines to the outright provocations of violence from the President and his surrogates, it’s clear that we cannot rely on federal policymakers to make meaningful advancements when it comes to equity and racial justice.
  • Policies can be a lever for change in an election year — they’re more important than ever. We know there’s bipartisan support for ideas at the federal level such as job training tax credits or apprenticeships that can expand access to education. There’s momentum at the state and local level for ideas such as portable benefits that can better protect workers in a changing labor market. It’s also encouraging to see signs of collaboration and movement over the past weeks on urgent issues that aren’t directly related to education, like reinvesting police funding. 
  • As 2020 candidates’ platforms evolve in the coming months, we all have an opportunity to raise our voices to advocate for federal, state, and local policies that can begin to chip away at America’s legacy of systemic racism. We can ensure that incoming elected officials make good on their responsibility to implement those necessary policies.
  • GA’s commitment: We will increase our efforts to advocate for legislation at the federal, state, and local levels to create pathways into high-skill, high-wage jobs for members of underserved communities. We will amplify amicus briefs in support of social justice issues, and take on external pro bono legal work. We will continue to push for a new social contract to strengthen the social safety net. We will educate our community on ways to get more involved in the political process while boosting voter registration deadlines, and local and federal election dates. We will close our U.S. offices on November 3, 2020, to allow our entire community to vote.

We take our commitments seriously, and understand that sincere and meaningful allyship is an ongoing journey. The truth is, we have many things to learn, so we will continue educating ourselves, speaking up, and embracing challenges to continue our growth process. We also appreciate ideas we may not have thought of that can help us create a more just and equitable world.


1General Assembly is a global education company with campuses in seven countries. We know that the current measures to dismantle systemic racism in the United States are not the same measures to address injustices in other parts of the world. The above statement focuses on the language, context, and our actions in the United States, and we look forward to sharing additional commitments across our other locations that are aligned with their regional political, social, and cultural realities.

2The term “White supremacy” has different nuances in other countries and cultures. This article, “White Nationalism is an International Threat” provides a high-level view on how it shows up internationally.

Remembering Why We Celebrate Pride

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“As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across
America, there’s no reason for celebration.”

— Marsha P. Johnson, gay liberation activist and central figure in the Stonewall riots

LGBTQ+ Community:

With its iconic marches and vibrant colors, Pride is both a time of celebration, as well as a recognition of the Stonewall Rebellion’s anniversary, which birthed the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Today — a world of unrest that echoes the very Stonewall riots that gave us the Pride we know — is the time to focus on the spirit of that uprising and save the celebrations for another day. 

Marsha P. Johnson, the Black trans woman who catalyzed the Stonewall Rebellion, said it best: “As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America, there’s no reason for celebration.” As protests across the nation respond to systemic police brutality against the Black community, there is a bright, necessary light on violence against People of Color — including LGBTQ+ People of Color, who experience these injustices differently. 

Today, in the United States: 

  • Data shows that Black people who identify as LGBTQ+ have the highest rates of unemployment, lack of insurance coverage, food insecurity, and income below the poverty level than both non-Black LGBTQ+ people and non-LGBTQ+ Black people.
  • Young LGBT People of Color are at higher risk of homelessness. An estimated 20–40% of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBT or believe they may be LGBTQ+. One study found that among homeless youth who identify as gay or lesbian, 44% identified as Black and 26% as Latino. 
  • Black transgender women are disproportionately victims of harassment and violence; last year, there were 26 reported deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States caused by acts of violence. Black trans women accounted for the majority of these losses.

The path forward is paved with solidarity. We hope these injustices are rectified soon so that all of us can celebrate and heal — not just a privileged few. In the meantime, we’re here to support you with resources and workshops focused on LGBTQ+ topics. For more information on how you can stand with People of Color, read our post, Why We Should All Be Angry, by our very own Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, James Page.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Don’t stay silent.

Events:

  • 6/11 – Diversity & Inclusion in Tech
  • 6/24 – Leading at the Intersection: Our Identities in the Workplace 
  • 6/25 – Drag Queen Bingo for the Ali Forney Center
  • 6/25 – Radical Pride, Radical Allyship: Community Talk, Workshop & Dance  
  • 6/26 – Designing for All: Why Accessibility Matters 
  • 6/30 – How They Got There: LGBTQIA Leaders 
  • 7/6 – Celebrating Pride: A Road to Self-Acceptance

Why We Should All Be Angry

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General Assembly (GA) is a community committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We aim to provide a welcoming environment for everyone at GA: students, staff, instructors, clients, and anyone who walks through our doors, physical or virtual. No matter what, we strive to uphold our work value to “Keep Getting Better” in our diversity journey.

In the United States, where many in our community are located, there is a long history of violence and harassment against People of Color. Now that many people carry cameras with them and have instant access to social media, these acts of violence and harassment are more likely to be swiftly and readily exposed. In recent weeks, we have experienced a shared sense of grief and horror over the untimely deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the harassment of Christian Cooper.

We stand with Black and Brown People and are fully committed to creating physically and emotionally safe spaces for our entire GA community. Black lives matter. We do not tolerate racism or racial harassment of any kind — and we never will. In that spirit, we share this reflection by James Page, General Assembly’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:

As a Black man in America, I’ve been aware since my teen years that others’ fears are closely linked to my skin color. While I found some humor when a White woman would clutch her purse as I walked by, there was also significant frustration. I was a nerdy Catholic school kid who liked to crack a joke. However, my identity as a Black man was perceived as dangerous and threatening in a way that superseded anything else about me.

In 2016, I took a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture with my 13-year-old son. I will never forget the Emmett Till exhibit, where an open casket holds a photo of Emmett’s beaten and deformed face. I was frozen. I held my son’s hand, and without any real awareness, tears began to roll down my face. 

My son asked me what was wrong. I explained that Emmett was a 14-year-old African-American boy who was visiting family in Mississippi in 1955. A White woman accused him of whistling at her, and he was brutally beaten and murdered by two White men. The killers were found not guilty, even though they admitted to killing him one year later. They were confident that the American legal system would protect them. Sixty-two years later, Emmett’s accuser admitted she lied — he never whistled at her. Her false accusation was enough to end that young man’s life with no recourse to his accuser or his murderers. 

Fair-minded people can agree that taking another human life is wrong, and share the sense of outrage at the senseless, recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. However, the story of Emmett Till and its connection to the story of Amy Cooper speaks to a much deeper pattern of racism, exploitation, and injustice that is pervasive and prevalent in our society. 

Why am I angry at the justice system and our police force? Why am I angry at Amy Cooper? Why should we all be angry? Because she shared the same sense of privilege and entitlement as Emmett’s accuser when she called the police on Christian Cooper. She knew that if she called 911 and expressed fear as a White woman threatened by a Black man, she would be believed, and a Black man would be punished, regardless of what actually happened. She weaponized her racial advantage and it could have been lethal to Christian Cooper: just as it was when Carolyn Bryant lied about Emmett Till, when Eleanor Strubing accused Joseph Spell of rape, and when Tom Robinson was accused of raping Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Black men have been conditioned to fear the police, the U.S. justice system, and White women. It is well known that when the cops, or “the posse” show up, the Black man — a 14-year-old Black boy visiting family, a Black man in a consensual relationship with a White woman, a Black character in one of the greatest novels of all time, or a Black Harvard grad birdwatching in a park — can be arrested, beaten, jailed, abused, and subjected to extreme acts of violence. His Black body can be deemed disposable, be made an example of, and deemed unimportant, a piece of property for the public; another piece of “strange fruit – blood on the leaves, blood at the root.” 

While fear is closely linked to my identity, passed on from generation to generation, it is a fear that I must submit to — unbelievable in 2020. I must learn and follow the unspoken rules. I must fear the police, the justice system, bank lenders, the President of the United States, and the White woman clutching her purse — innocuous people or protectors under any other circumstance. As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, “It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be Black.”

The only way to end this ongoing cycle is to educate ourselves, show up for People of Color, and get involved in the political process. This is not a new moment in our nation’s history, but part of the ongoing suffering, injustice, and inhumane treatment of minorities; these acts of aggression, violence, and unequal rights we are experiencing right now create real trauma for communities of color who have to live every day in fear. All of us have a role to play in dismantling institutional racism in this country; all of us must help address — and heal — that trauma. Now is the time to stand together and say, “No. More.” 

If you are looking for ways to show up as an ally in this time, here are some places to get started — we share a handful of resources and it is by no means exhaustive: 

  • Spend time reading and learning. Read the work of James Baldwin, Ta-Nahesi Coates, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Richard Wright, and Malcolm X. More recent books like How to be Antiracist, White Fragility, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, and White Rage provide contemporary insight on how to show up for communities of color. Purchase them from your local bookstore, and check out more resources here. They are truly eye-opening.
  • Engage with media created by People of Color. Read TheGrio, The Root, Ellen McGirt’s Race Forward, and Rachel Cargle. Listen to podcasts like Code Switch, Intersectionality Matters, and Race Forward
  • Support organizations that are moving the needle on racial justice. Color of Change, Campaign Zero, the Anti-Racism Project, the NAACP, UnidosUS, and the ACLU are but a handful of the organizations working nationally and locally for social justice issues facing communities of color. Sign up for their mailing lists, donate, respond to their calls to action, and find other ways to get involved. 
  • Stand up for People of Color. When you see wrong, stand up for what is right. Call out racist actions — explicit or implicit — when you see them. When justice is compromised, protest, and challenge it until it creates change. You can learn more about how to be an ally here and here.
  • Get involved in the political process. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, demand accountability from your elected officials and advocate and support candidates who share your values. Most importantly, vote (register here) – and encourage others in your community to do the same. 

At General Assembly, we will never compromise on ensuring that everyone within our community gets treated with dignity and respect. In the spirit of our shared commitment to learning, we urge all of you to engage on these issues with curiosity, humility, empathy, and self-awareness in service of active dialogue, brave allyship, and the human goodness that can be brought out by all of us. 

What’s the Difference Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity?

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Diversity Equity Inclusion Distinction

The often-used terms diversity, equity, and inclusion have distinct meanings. Here’s why that matters, and how they work together.

Diversity. Inclusion. Equity. These words and the issues they point to loom large in tech. It’s hard to go a week without reading an article about a company touting its dedication to diversity, while another is called out for tolerating oppressive comments and workplace practices.

From 2014–2016, Google spent $265 million to increase its diversity numbers (to little avail), a number that has become even more well known after the company recently fired an employee who wrote a memo against diversity efforts. In a 2017 survey of tech employees, 72% reported that diversity and inclusion was important to their company. In another report, which surveyed over 700 startup founders, 45% of respondents reported that they talked about diversity and inclusion internally in the last year. The majority of participants in that survey believe that the tech industry’s employee makeup will be representative of the U.S. population in 2030, though that’s a far cry from where we are now.

With all this talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in tech, there is no better time to dig deep and establish shared, fundamental understandings of these terms and their meanings. In my work as a DEI facilitator working with tech companies and in many less formal conversations, I’ve found that there’s widespread confusion. People get tripped up not only on definitions, but on how to use these terms to create goals and action plans for themselves and their organizations. When we can’t get on the same page, we can’t take the next step. So let’s start at the beginning and create a shared understanding of DEI together.

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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 of women’s leadership. 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 to female leadership 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 for career advancement in the workplace.

Below, I want to share six common challenges female entrepreneurs and business leaders face. Hopefully, you will find these tips useful for breaking through potential barriers, 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 female leader is walking into a business meeting and realizing that you’re one of the few women (if not the only woman) in the room among your male counterparts. 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 successful 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 in career development. 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 a female executive. 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 in leadership positions 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 fewer 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 their male counterparts. 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 gender 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 skills and 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 in not only entry level roles, but also in senior roles. 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 gender 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 long-standing and new potential barriers on the horizon, 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.

How to Make a Career Change

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YOUR UNTAPPED PROFESSIONAL POTENTIAL

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by Ashley Rudolph and Tom Ogletree

How GA’s new income-share agreement program is removing barriers to education and career change.

Embarking on a career change is a major investment. To say it’s a tough endeavor is an understatement, as it usually requires time, money, and effort to bridge skills gaps and make inroads in a new field or profession.

At General Assembly, we’ve helped over 13,000 individuals with finding a job and launching new careers through our full-time Immersive programs in coding, data, and UX design. GA courses aren’t cheap, but they have a high return on investment and are specifically designed to prepare students to be successful and secure high-wage, high-potential roles as web developers, data scientists, and UX designers.

However, many students can’t financially afford this education out of pocket. About 40% of our full-time students use third-party funding sources — including loans, scholarships, GI Bill® benefits, and government programs — to attend GA. There are more seeking who would like to do the same, but half of those who apply for loans get turned down, and our pool of scholarship funding is not big enough to meet demand.

The fact of the matter is that many of our students already have debt from past education or credit cards that affects their ability to secure new financing. Today, the typical college student borrower graduates with an average of $22,000 in debt. A recent study revealed that over 30% of recent student borrowers are facing serious struggles with repaying debt loads. The combination of existing repayment obligations and the looming risk of default leaves many adults with extremely limited funds to devote to continuing education. It’s a frustrating cycle — individuals are stuck in low-paying jobs they don’t love, but they can’t afford the education that will fast-track them into a new line of work.

At GA, we never want a student’s financial struggles to stand in the way of their motivation to break into a new profession. In order to create more access to our rewarding programs, we sought out new ways for career-changers to financially fund their education.

One concept that caught our attention was income share agreements (ISAs), a model of income-based repayment that’s gaining traction among education and training providers. After nearly two years designing this program, we’re excited to launch Catalyst, GA’s ISA program. Since many people are curious about ISAs, we wanted to share some insight around why they’re a viable option for many students pursuing this program, regardless of their income, credit history, or background.

You can read about how and why we created the Catalyst program in more detail in our white paper, Untapped Potential.

How GA’s Catalyst ISA Program Works

The gist of the Catalyst program is this: Students can accomplish taking a full-time GA Immersive course in web development, data science, or UX design at no upfront cost. After they graduate and land a job earning at least $40,000 annually, they’ll start paying back 10% of their income over 48 monthly payments.

We chose this income share amount because it’s comparable to what students might pay for a loan, based on our typical starting salaries. According to PayScale, average starting salaries for web developers are $54,365 nationally, and data from Climb Credit, one of our loan partners, shows that GA graduates report median starting salaries of $60,000 after taking an Immersive course.

Payments are maxed out at 1.5 times the initial cost of tuition (currently about $15,000), meaning that higher earners may end up paying as much as $22,425 total, while lower earners will pay less. We’re working with Vemo Education, the largest provider of ISAs in the United States, to manage the program’s day-to-day operations and administration.

We think these terms benefit career-changers for several reasons:

  • Approval based on future potential. Many loan applicants get rejected because of low credit scores or other debt. Acceptance to Catalyst instead depends on students’ drive and readiness to thrive in the course and on the job.
  • Employment first, payments later. Students can devote their time and energy to excelling in class and job searching — without the looming stress of upcoming payments.
  • Career focus. ISAs and career support go hand in hand. GA’s Career Services team is dedicated to making sure students land a job in their field of study through one-on-one coaching, exclusive hiring events, networking opportunities, and more.
  • Flexible career pathways. The $40,000 minimum salary allows students to accept a lower-paying job they’re passionate about, cultivate a freelance business, or even start their own company without the pressure of loan repayments.
  • Life happens? Payments stop. Students can pause payments at any time if they stop working, whether due to unemployment or personal, family, or health-related reasons.

Our Approach to ISAs

We took a student-centric, research-based approach in deciding whether to introduce ISAs. It was essential to develop a model that does not put the burden only on the student, but also ensures that GA is incentivized to help participants meet their career goals. First and foremost, we wanted to introduce an option that would be attractive to all individuals, regardless of income, credit history, or background.

Data from the ISA industry at large informed our approach to designing the Catalyst program, but our own unique experience serving thousands of students defined our terms. Here are some of the considerations we made while exploring ISAs as a payment option:

  • Student feedback. We reached out to alumni to understand whether or not an ISA-type structure would be appealing to them. We learned what features resonated with our community and built them into our program. More than anything else, students valued not having to make payments while in school and during their job search.
  • Current payment performance data and trends. After analyzing data from past GA applicants and students, we knew that affordability was still a frequent barrier. Loans, government funding, and scholarships are increasingly popular options for our community, but we couldn’t meet demand due to obstacles like a small scholarship pool and applicants’ inability to secure loans.
  • A strong focus on career outcomes. It’s incredible what GA students can achieve after taking one of our full-time programs, regardless of their educational and professional backgrounds. We strongly believe that ISAs can’t work without outcomes-based programming, and GA’s Career Services team is solely focused on ensuring that students in our full-time courses have the tools and skill sets they need to land a job after they graduate. We track student progress, have a Big Four accounting firm audit our job-placement data, and share our outcomes reports publicly every year.
  • Likelihood of students’ success. Students’ actions prior to enrollment reliably indicate how they’ll perform in their course and job search. To ensure Catalyst participants are prepared, applicants must complete our admissions requirements, course pre-work, and a readiness assessment. Our data shows that good performance on the assessment is the best predictor of success in the program and the job search.
  • Commitment to transparency. ISAs are new and we know there’s still a lot to learn about the model, but we’re optimistic. Because of this, we’re pledging to define key success metrics and make them publicly available.

Thanks to funding from the investment firm Kennedy Lewis, we’re able to serve 5,000 students through the Catalyst program in the coming years. We chose to work with the company because of its alignment with our mission and the goals of the program. “The positive social impacts of ISAs are extensive because they align the quality of the education with the cost,” said David Chene, co-founder and managing partner at Kennedy Lewis. “ISAs avoid the debt trap associated with student loan debt as a student will never be asked to pay more than they can afford.”

We’ll learn a lot along the way and are committed to maintaining transparency with our students, our partners, and others interested in the future of ISAs for accelerated career training and work experience. We’ll share updates regularly as we learn, iterate, and improve so we can continue to create greater access to GA’s programs and empower students to pursue professions they love.

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Ashley Rudolph is GA’s Director of Consumer Operations and Financing, overseeing global campus operations, as well as General Assembly’s loan and income share agreement programs.

Tom Ogletree is Senior Director of Social Impact and External Affairs and manages GA’s communications, public affairs, and social impact initiatives.

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Since 2011, General Assembly has trained individuals and teams online and on campus through experiential education in the fields of coding, data, design, and business. We believe everyone should have access to leading-edge education that will transform their careers — and their lives. Learn more about our Catalyst ISA program and other financing options, and find out what we’re doing to break down barriers to employment, diversify the workforce, and close the skills gap.

How is The Workforce Changing?

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Putting The Future of Work In a Global Context

Six countries’ skill-building programs and policy initiatives in the age of automation.

Today’s workforce and the workforce of tomorrow is not just changing. It’s undergoing a seismic shift that, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, “is happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact” compared to the Industrial Revolution.

The reality is that professionals grapple with a volatile economy where the shelf-life of skills is shrinking, hybrid jobs are increasing, and fears about automation’s disruptive impact on the job market make headlines every week. In the U.S., despite surging stocks and historic GDP growth, people’s incomes and wages haven’t kept up and income inequality continues to accelerate.

Around the globe, governments and employers alike recognize that areas such as AI and automation are quickly reshaping the global workforce. And the gap between the skills workers have and the skills companies need is growing wider as workers struggle to keep pace with emerging technologies in fast-growing industries.

In my role at General Assembly, I get the opportunity to speak with U.S. policymakers and analysts who grapple with employment and workforce development issues, and formulate solutions to ensure Americans can succeed in the new world of work. In these conversations, examples of education and workforce investment models spearheaded in other cities and countries often come up, and how we might repurpose them. Global training providers like GA are also partnering with organizations to craft upskilling and reskilling programs that arm professionals with cutting-edge skills, and also generate creative sources for talent in an increasingly competitive market.

We know technology is rapidly changing and transforming the global workforce. What’s less clear is how this transformation will take place — and what policymakers, learning and development providers, and business leaders should be doing to prepare for the future in the labor force.

Navigating the Future of Work Through a Global Lens

In our new white paper, which we developed in collaboration with Whiteboard Advisors and features a foreword from former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, we uncover a lot of useful insights about how the U.S. and other industrialized nations are navigating these employment and workforce issues. Our study examines the experience and policy initiatives of six countries — Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Singapore, and Switzerland — and their strategies to improve upskilling, economic mobility, and employability in an evolving, and, at times, turbulent marketplace.

While the U.S. economy and labor market have unique characteristics with a diverse workforce, we discovered there are lessons to be learned from other developed economies pursuing workforce development programs and initiatives.

For example, we examine Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) program, which provides government support toward helping people pursue non-college skills training. Or, consider Germany’s Dual Training System, where companies partner with publicly-funded vocational schools to provide job training.

As American politicians, educators, and business leaders, we must ask ourselves: How can the startling impact of these innovative approaches be applied within a U.S. context and environment? It’s a question industry stakeholders and experts have posed to the General Assembly with increased frequency since we were acquired by The Adecco Group in April 2018. As the largest human capital solutions company in the world, The Adecco Group is an active participant in the highly successful Swiss apprenticeship model, a government-led initiative that provides young Swiss professionals paid apprenticeships designed in partnership with Swiss companies, and that’s recognized around the world as a paradigm for work-based learning.

Putting the Future of Work in a Global Context offers a high-level analysis of these and other examples of skill- and employability-building initiatives in industrialized nations, as well as a few observations:

  • Nobody has it figured out. Even when there are highly sophisticated programs in place that combine the best of the public, private, and social sectors, these programs haven’t always had the desired impact. For example, France’s Personal Training Account (“Compte personnel de formation” or the CPF) enables private and public sector employees to track work hours, which turn into credits for vocational and professional training schemes. On paper, access to training dollars with no strings attached seems like a surefire way to ensure French citizens can consistently upskill and reskill. However, just 6% of French workers took advantage of the training, despite the reality that 64% of that population would like to retrain in different fields or career paths.
  • Exportability is great in theory but tough in practice. Most of these programs are inextricably linked to the highly specific dynamics among labor market actors — companies, unions, and education and training providers — within each country, making it hard to replicate the best ideas elsewhere. Denmark’s “Flexicurity” model has some incredibly compelling features. Workers have greater security through generous government-funded unemployment benefits and education, retraining, and job training opportunities that help them return quickly to the labor market after they lose a job. Employers also win thanks to flexible contracts that allow them to hire and fire at will without incurring excessive costs for dismissing employees. As a result, litigation due to dismissals is rare. It would be difficult to imagine this program functioning in a large, heterogeneous country like the United States, which lacks the same tight alignment between government, employers, and trade unions.
  • There are still many good ideas worth exploring further. That’s not to say there isn’t massive potential in these models, which can inform U.S. domestic education and workforce policy. Given the breadth and variety of American industry, it would be hard to imagine the level of coordination and cohesion, which has made the Vocational and Professional Education and Training System (VPET) such a success story in Switzerland, working stateside. With that said, many of the guiding principles — stackable credentials, designated learning pathways, and funded apprenticeships — could be replicated in the U.S. It’s already happening: the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, along with Accenture, delivered an in-depth report in 2017 that demonstrated how various Swiss companies have adapted the VET program, some for more than 10 years, for their U.S. operations.

Today’s increasingly global workplace demands a more nuanced, comprehensive understanding of the different ways governments and industries are addressing and responding to economic mega trends. Our hope is that this paper can begin a conversation about the lessons, ideas, and insights that other countries have to share with U.S. policymakers, employers, and practitioners on how to respond to and anticipate the future of work and education.

General Assembly’s Global Community

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General Assembly is an international community, made up of over 1 million technologists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators, and creators from all over the world. GA was was founded on a global vision of the world that represents how people today work and live — and it’s clear that the future of tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship will only reach its full potential through a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Our community gathers at many of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world, like Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, Sydney, and Toronto. We strive to ensure that the GA community is not just a reflection of the world today, but of the world we want to see in the future.

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General Assembly and Adobe Team Up to Bring New Talent to the Tech World

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General Assembly Adobe Digital Academy

Adobe Digital Academy students on the General Assembly campus in San Francisco

General Assembly is proud to be partnering with Adobe in the development of the Adobe Digital Academy, a Bay Area–based program focused on offering opportunities in technology to underrepresented communities. Adobe supports high-potential candidates through partnership with General Assembly’s Opportunity Fund and Adobe technical internships. Selected candidates receive Opportunity Fund scholarships for General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) course followed by a three-month technical internship in Adobe’s offices, with the goal of hiring interns for a full-time position.

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