What is a JavaScript library?

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JavaScript is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world. It’s a scripting language used by developers to create interactive user interfaces that display dynamic content. It is s referred to as The Language of the Web Browser because it is the most commonly used language to build web applications and works well across all web browsers

As the popularity of JavaScript increased and more people were using it to build websites and applications, the JavaScript community recognized that certain patterns in the code were being used repeatedly to accomplish the same tasks.

This re-writing of code and recognizing that certain JS functions need to be implemented multiple times led to the development of JavaScript libraries and frameworks. For instance, reoccurring animations and interactive forms that appear in different places on a website or app were repetitive tasks that could be automated by using a code snippet as needed without writing code every time.

Generally speaking, JavaScript libraries are collections of prewritten code snippets that can be used and reused to perform common JavaScript functions. A particular JavaScript library code can be plugged into the rest of your project’s code on an as-needed basis. This led to faster development and fewer vulnerabilities to have errors.

jQuery 

There are many libraries and frameworks available to JavaScript developers today, but the concept of a JavaScript library was initiated with the creation of jQuery. jQuery is a JavaScript library designed to simplify HTML, DOM (Document Object Model) manipulation, and event handling, CSS animations, and Ajax. At the time, the jQuery library shortened the syntax and simplified the code, making it easy to understand and increased web developer productivity. 

All a web developer had to do was install jQuery and use prewritten code snippets to manipulate the virtual DOM. For example, if a developer wants to add an autocomplete feature in a search bar on their site, they would insert the appropriate jQuery code snippet into the project’s code. When a user enters text into the search bar, the jQuery code snippet retrieves the feature from the jQuery library and displays it in the user’s modern browser. 

React JS

In 2011, Facebook created a JavaScript library called React, which specializes in helping developers build user interfaces or UI’s. React

 JS is a web component-based library and an open source JavaSscript framework that helps developers design simple views for each state of the JavaScript application. React is also extremely smart in that it does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of efficiently updating and rendering the right components when there is a change in data or the state of the JavaScript application.

Today, React is the most popular JavaScript library, and companies use it all over the world like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Netflix, Instagram, Amazon, Twitter, and much more. 

The web component-based library allows developers to avoid the pitfalls of rewriting code and dealing with complicated debugging. With React, you can reuse and recycle different components across the web application or other products.

Components such as navigation bars, buttons, cards, forms, sections, and the like can all be reused like little building blocks that make the web application. A library like React dramatically increases the development speed with fewer bugs and makes extremely performant applications. 

Library vs. Framework 

Perhaps one of the most common topics of discussion in the software community is the difference between a library and a framework. As we see above, jQuery and React are libraries with prewritten code snippets that we can use and reuse to build applications.

So while JavaScript libraries are a specialized tool for on-demand use, JavaScript frameworks are a full toolset that helps shape and organize your website or application. In other words, libraries are about using what is needed for the task, while frameworks provide you with all the tools you could need even if you don’t particularly need all of them. 

Think of it like cooking some pasta. When using a JavaScript library, you simply grab the pot, pan, ingredients to make the pasta, and plates to serve. You only require only the things you need to make pasta. When thinking about a JavaScript framework, imagine an entire fully loaded kitchen. Another way to think about it can be that JavaScript libraries are like pieces of furniture that add style and function to an already constructed house. At the same time, frameworks are templates you can use to build the house itself. 

Examples of an open source JavaScript framework includes Angular, Ember JS, and Vue JS. These are some of the most popular frameworks with large communities and support systems. Frameworks provide a structure to base your entire application around, and developers can safely work within the structure’s rules.

The advantage of frameworks is the overall efficiency and organization. The disadvantage is that a developer has less freedom to work around the rules and conventions specific to a particular JS framework. Libraries, on the other hand, give developers more freedom to use different code and snippets but do not provide the type of structure and convention that comes with a framework.

What is a JavaScript framework?

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A JavaScript framework is a collection of JavaScript code libraries that provide a web developer with pre-written code for routine programming tasks. Frameworks are structures with a particular context and help you create web applications within that context. 

It is completely possible to build strong web applications without JavaScript frameworks, but frameworks provide a template that handles common programming patterns. Each time you have to build an application, you don’t need to write code for every single feature from scratch. Instead, you can build upon an existing feature set. 

JavaScript frameworks, like most other frameworks, provide some rules and guidelines. Using these rules and guidelines, any developer can make complex applications faster and more efficiently than if they decided to build from scratch. The rules and guidelines help shape and organize your website or web application too!

For example, think about a potter’s wheel where you can build pots. The potter’s wheel is your framework; it has certain consistencies that you have to work with. The wheel rotates, and you can use that rotation to build pots of different shapes and sizes.

You can build pots, plates, cups, bowls, or even cylindrical sculptures. But you can’t build a house with it; you need to find a different framework for that. 

Framework vs. Library 

A common topic of discussion in the software community is the difference between a framework and a library. In truth, experts have suggested that the line between them can be blurry, but it is useful to make the distinction.

While a JS framework is a full toolset that helps shape and organize your website or application, a JS library, on the other hand, is a collection of pre-written code snippets that are less about shaping your application and more about providing a use-as-needed library of features. 

Model View Controller (MVC) 

Modern JavaScript frameworks use a software design pattern called Model–View–Controller. It is commonly used for developing user interfaces that divide related programming logic into three interconnected elements.

The model is the central web component of the pattern as it is the application’s dynamic data structure. It manages the data of the application.

The view consists of all the code that has to do with representing the application’s data — the code for the user interface.

The controller is the interpreter. It accepts inputs and converts them into commands for the model or view.

Frameworks are built around the MVC design pattern to provide structure and adaptability in software development. 

JavaScript is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages globally and has more frameworks than any other language. Since JavaScript is used for both client-side and server-side code, there are many frameworks to work with. Some of the most popular frameworks include: 

Front-End Frameworks

React

React.js is an efficient and flexible JavaScript library for building user interfaces created by Facebook. Technically, React is a JS library, but it is often discussed as a web framework and is compared to any other open source JavaScript framework.

React makes it easy to create interactive user interfaces because it has predictable JavaScript code that is easy to debug. Furthermore, it provides a REACT component system where blocks of JavaScript code can be written once and reused repeatedly in different parts of the application or even other applications. 

Angular

AngularJS is a popular enterprise-level JavaScript framework used for developing large and complex business applications. It is an open-source web framework created by Google and supported by both Google and Microsoft. 

Vue 

Vue.js is a progressive framework for building user interfaces. It is an up-and-coming framework that helps developers in integrating with other libraries and existing projects. It has an ecosystem of libraries that allow developers to create complex and solid single-page applications. 

Back-End Frameworks

Express 

Express.js is a flexible, minimalistic, lightweight, and well-supported framework for Node.js applications. It is likely the most popular framework for server-side Node.js applications. Express provides a wide range of HTTP utilities, as well as high-performance speed. It is great for developing a simple, single-page application that can handle multiple requests at the same time. 

Next.js

Next.js is a minimalistic framework that allows a a JavaScript developer to create a server-side rendering and static web applications using React.js. It is one of the newest and hottest frameworks that takes pride in its ease of use. Many of the problems developers experience while building applications using React.js are solved using Next.js. It has many important features included “out of the box,” and makes development a JavaScript breeze. 

In the current job market, the most popular JavaScript framework/library is React.js. Since JavaScript has so many frameworks, it can sometimes be hard to decide which one to start learning. You could start with any framework, but if your goal is to get a job, you will have better odds if you learn React first. The same can be said for Express.js as a back-end framework as it is the most widely used and sought-after framework. 

JavaScript frameworks are more adaptable for designing web applications and make working with JavaScript easier and smoother. This is why they are so popular among developers. A variety of frameworks exist because they can be applied to solve different problems. When choosing a framework, carefully consider your project requirements before deciding to implement any particular JavaScript framework. In addition to all the unique technical features of JavaScript frameworks, each framework comes with its own learning curve, community engagement/support, documentation, and compatibility. 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY & FUNDACIĂ“N ADECCO: DISABILITY INCLUSIVENESS IN TECH

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Did you know that Spain is one of the hardest-hit countries of the pandemic? Many of the millions of jobs lost will not be available again due to automation and new technologies — a problem that will challenge individuals with disabilities more, since their digital skills gap was already wider pre-pandemic. We believe this is the moment for action to support workers whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the pandemic and create opportunities for them to pursue careers in fields with strong long-term prospects.

That is why we at General Assembly and FundaciĂłn Adecco are incredibly proud to have partnered and reskilled 15 individuals with disabilities into software engineers.

According to Dolores García Autero, Fundación Adecco’s CFO, “The digital revolution is sharply increasing the demand for tech professionals; in our country, however, there is a deficit of such profiles. Through this program, we aim to contribute to closing the skills gap while, at the same time, increasing the presence of people with disabilities in tech roles, where they are currently underrepresented.”

The “TecnologĂ­a y Discapacidad” report published by the FundaciĂłn Adecco and Keysight Technologies Spain shows that: 

  • 45% of individuals with disabilities find barriers to entry in new technologies. 
  • 32% say the reason is due to lack of accessibility features 
  • 16% report simply not having the resources to acquire new technology. 
  • Over 70% of individuals surveyed believe the pandemic will prevent them from finding employment.

By offering GA’s 3-month full-time Software Engineering Immersive (SEI) course to these individuals, our goal was to equip them with the skills needed to pursue a profession with excellent long-term prospects and increase accessibility awareness in software and web solutions through the work of our graduates.

“This has been, by far the most intense learning experience I’ve ever had, and a true mental and physical challenge. I barely knew what HTML was and, after only three months, I can now consider myself a developer! To say that I am proud of my achievement would be an understatement. A whole professional future has opened up to me where I can succeed regardless of my motor impairment.” —Ismael Gonzalez, SEI graduate

Taught and adapted by Pedro Martín, a trained pedagogue and SEI graduate himself, the course was General Assembly’s first social impact initiative in Europe — and the first program delivered entirely in Spanish. According to Pedro, more than the sheer happiness of teaching in Spanish and being able to give back to the community, the course opened his eyes to how “disabilities can be superpowers.”

“We had students who had difficulties with their manual dexterity. It wasn’t easy for them to type on a keyboard, so they took their time to just think about what the best code to type would be, instead of just trial and error. This approach made them very thoughtful members of the group, and they showed the rest of us how the economy of keystrokes can make an impact on how we developed software.”

In addition to learning the key foundational skills in class, students then developed four projects: 

  1. A video game in vanilla JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. 
  2. A React application, consisting of 2 APIs. 
  3. A MERN (Mongo, Express, React, Node) stack application. 
  4. A PERN (PostgreSQL, Express, React, Node) stack application. 

All are now walking away from the program with new skills and a portfolio of work to showcase to potential employers.

The job search process is being aided by Fundación Adecco, which is providing career coaching and networking opportunities. In less than two months after graduation, the candidates have been interviewed by an average of five companies — and four individuals have already accepted a job offer!

We are eager to watch these new tech professionals thrive and look forward to following their robust careers. At the same time, we remain committed to creating partnerships and programs that enable affordable and accessible education, contribute to a diverse tech talent pipeline, and promote social mobility through careers in tech.

A Product Management Career Map Developed by GA’s Product Management Standards Board

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Businesses have shifted from traditional ways of operating to truly becoming customer-centric digital organizations — and the global pandemic has accelerated this inevitable shift. Product managers, who sit at the nexus of customer needs, business strategy, and technology, play a critical part in building their companies’ digital fluency so organizations can evolve and transform their products to meet market and customer demands. 

That said, product management is often ill-defined as a function, especially in traditional companies, and business leaders and managers have a responsibility to precisely understand product management skills and careers to help these nascent leaders succeed and unlock their full potential. 

By developing and integrating product managers as strategic thinkers who help evolve organizations into being customer-centric, leaders and managers can tap into many benefits:

  1. Improved leadership pipeline and succession planning: Product managers are responsible for many things, but skills development strategies to level-up their subject matter expertise into leadership roles are not often clear. By connecting product management skills to a long-term and articulated career path, you can improve your leadership pipeline and increase career satisfaction for your product managers.
  2. Clear hiring objectives: Evaluating candidates against a documented set of skills can decrease bias and help recruiters make vital distinctions between hiring project managers, product managers, and product owners. 
  3. Increased product management talent pipeline: Creating consistency around what early-career professionals understand a product manager to be and what they must learn creates access to product management careers for people who don’t already have product managers in their networks.

We formed the Product Management Standards Board with a wide-ranging set of product management leaders across the consumer goods, technology, finance, and education sectors. We’ll channel our collective experience into increasing clarity of and access to product management skills and careers so that the next generation of product management talent can maximize their impact in organizations and the world.

We’ve crafted a career framework as a valuable tool for:

  • Product leaders who want to build capable, well-balanced teams.
  • Aspiring product managers who want to understand what skills they need to enter the field and help lead organizations.
  • Mid-career professionals who wish to understand their career options.
  • HR leaders who want to build transparent, consistent career pathways.

What Defines an Excellent Product Manager?

We drafted a career map that captures our collective thinking about what makes a product manager and the career paths and associated skills required for an employee to one day become a product leader.

Let’s break down each section of the framework and see how they’re used to guide
career progression. 

Associate Product Manager 

To begin a career in product management, individuals often move into associate product management roles from within or outside an organization with some existing understanding of the business, product, and/or customer base. While we firmly believe anyone can become a product manager starting at the associate level, we commonly see analysts, software engineers, designers, project managers, or product marketers moving into this role. In this stage of career development, product managers learn to use data to make decisions, influence without authority, and understand the balancing act of prioritization.

Product Manager

Product managers learn a mix of skills based on their particular product, area of responsibility, and expertise. Product managers in charge of a new product or feature may heavily focus on research and development. In contrast, product managers responsible for improving the quality and efficacy of an existing product or feature may focus more on data analysis to understand what drives an improved experience.

Squad leadership is critical to ensuring all people understand the goal they are working towards and what success will look like. Product managers at a large organization have the opportunity to either specialize in a single domain or can work with their managers to rotate ownership over product areas to develop a breadth of experience and skills.

Product managers at a startup will likely get to experience all of these skills in rapid rotation as their teams iterate quickly to identify product-market-fit and the right set of features for their product.

Senior Product Manager

The senior product manager level is where product managers start differentiating between becoming “craftmasters” in the individual contributor path or people managers on the leadership path. While craftmasters still need to provide inspiring team leadership to those working on the product, they often become particularly versed in a product domain, like product growth and analytics.

In contrast, a people manager in this role largely focuses on team management skills. Either way, this role is a critical step in someone’s career as it allows them an opportunity to practice developing and sharing a vision for a product with their team and working with more moving parts to guide people towards that vision. Understanding and prioritizing these moving parts become a key skill to develop at this level.

Additionally, the responsibilities to make decisions related to product growth also increase here. This level is a product manager’s opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of how business, market, and product intersect to inform the direction of the product and distinctly articulate how they expect that product to impact the company’s financials.

Director of Product

At this career point, directors of product are making a critical transition from manager to leader. They have to bring the threads of the product strategy and the product roadmap together and take ownership and responsibility for their decisions and impact. The Director of Product also starts to gain ownership of the cost side of their decisions – at some companies, this can extend as far as P&L ownership for project and product costs. They move into managing a portfolio of products and connecting the dots between how they work collectively for users and guide teams to work through complex problems to develop goals on a longer, future-driven timeline. 

VP or Head of Product 

Once an individual reaches this leadership level, they have mastered the key functional skills of product. They are now the pivotal connection point between the rest of the company’s leadership plans and the product team. They have to get beyond “product speak” and help connect the dots between technology, customers, and business goals with other leaders and employees across the business. There is a fair amount of time spent aligning resources and plans with other leaders to drive the strategy forward. As product leaders, they are also driving innovative thinking and are responsible for either the entirety of the product or a significant portfolio in terms of the company’s financials. 

A Few Notes

We’ve had many rich discussions while building out the career map and teased out some nuances listed below that may come to mind as you work your way through this framework.

What about a product owner?

While product owners play a critical function, we do not see this as being a distinct job title for someone. If you’re curious about the distinction and who might play a product ownership function in your teams, read Product Dave on Medium

What about the difference between startups and large organizations and everything in-between?

Product leaders at a large organization should consider rotating their product managers between a few different areas before moving them into more senior roles to build a range of skills sustainably. Product managers at a startup will likely get to experience all of these skills in rapid succession as their teams iterate quickly to identify product-market-fit and the right set of features for their product.

Does the framework change for “craftmaster” vs. “leadership” paths?

We have focused this framework more on the leadership path, but there is a continued path as an individual contributor, especially within larger organizations. Senior product managers, principals, and distinguished product management roles often see product managers tackle increasingly complex problems and mentor their colleagues on critical product skills while remaining in the “craftmaster” path.

Where do tangential functions fit in?

Some roles work closely with product managers to enable the full execution of products, but they are excluded on this map as they are adjacent to a product manager career path. A few of these functions include pricing analysts, product marketers, and product operations. 

What happens after VP of Product?

The next step after VP of Product is very dependent on the organization. Some VPs of Product already report to the CEO or a business unit owner, in which case, those roles would be the next step. In other organizations, a Chief Product Officer role exists and becomes the next step. Data from Emsi shows that there has been a 140% increase in CPO postings from Nov 2019 to Nov 2020; a clear reflection of organizations’ increasing awareness of the value of the role of product leadership in aligning customer needs, technology, and business strategy, and the increasing number of opportunities for advancement to the executive suite in this field.

Next Steps: Putting Words Into Action

We formed the Product Management Standards Board to increase clarity of and
access to skills and careers so the next generation of product management talent can maximize their global impact in organizations. Our career framework is a first step toward achieving this goal, but it’s only effective if followed by action.

To put this theory into action, we have started using this framework within our
organizations to:

  • Explain career progression and roles across our teams to guide development conversations and linking individual activities to strategic objectives on our product teams.
  • Guide high-potential employees on how to maximize their leadership skills.
  • Evaluate job candidates based on their skills match with the function for which they are applying, rather than exclusively what schools they’ve gone to or previous roles they’ve held. 

If you could benefit from these same actions, we encourage you to join us in using the framework for similar purposes in your organizations. Our industry needs to use a common language around product management, and that language extends beyond our board.

This is a living document, and we’ll be seeking feedback from partners in our executive teams, industry associations, and peers around the world. We’re also asking you. If you have feedback on how this could be useful for you, please let us know at cheers@ga.co.

By coalescing on what it takes to succeed in product management careers, we can begin to solve some of the pertinent talent challenges facing the profession and better prepare the next generation of leaders. We look forward to working to standardize product management career paths together.

Five Ways to Build Organizational Data Literacy

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Data is everywhere and in every part of your business; however, data is often left for technical teams to figure out. In recent years, data has been prioritized in digital transformation efforts, with an increasing amount of businesses striving to be data-first. Hoping to leverage new tools, technologies and hiring data analysts and scientists are often overlooking one essential fact: data is for everyone, and every employee can benefit from acquiring data skills.

Businesses who leave skills out of the equation in their data transformation efforts are further widening their skill gaps. In fact, according to Accenture, 74% of employees report feeling overwhelmed when working with data. According to Deloitte, contributors aren’t the only ones; 67% of leaders say they are not comfortable accessing or using data. It’s time to change all of this.

Perhaps this anxiety and discomfort stem from businesses misunderstanding the role every employee has in leveraging data: 

  • Leaders set the vision and use data to ensure that they are making the right business decisions. 
  • Data practitioners solve complex problems with a blend of technical ability in analytics and data science. 
  • The broader organization uses data to understand impact, communicate results, and make decisions. 

All roles can benefit from upskilling to shift mindsets, gain fluency, and build efficiencies across the business, with building literacy across the broader organization being the most urgent priority.

What does data literacy look like?

Data literacy is the ability to create, read, and analyze data, and then communicate that information and use it effectively. To do this, people must understand how data is collected, where it comes from, what it shows, how it can be used, and why it’s important. 

Being data-literate means understanding:

  • Data Culture
    • Literacy Goal:  Understanding the data lifecycle, data roles and responsibilities, and how data flows through an organization. 
  • Data Ethics & Privacy
    • Literacy Goal:   Explain why ethics and privacy are essential and understand the role each employee has to play. 
  • Data Visualizations
    • Literacy Goal:  Learn why common types of visualizations are chosen to promote certain comparisons and interpret the information. 
  • Statistics
    • Literacy Goal:  Describe data and spot trends in visualizations. 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    • Literacy Goal:  Identify opportunities to integrate AI and data science tools within your workflow.

Giving data skills to all employees will help businesses meet their loftiest data transformation goals. Training all employees comes with many benefits, such as higher decision quality and improved cross-functional communication. According to Deloitte, in companies where all employees train on analytics, 88% exceeded their business goals.

Five Ways to Build a Data-Literate Organization

1. Understand How Data is Being Used in Your Business

Shifting mindsets at the top of the org chart is essential to becoming a data-literate org. Being a role model for your employees helps build trust with your new skills — they will help you form a data-driven agenda. With the right skills, you’ll be able to prioritize projects with the most business impact.  Data literacy also helps you effectively communicate with data practitioners within your organization and help focus your contributors on the data points that truly matter.

2. Define Preferred Data Usage in Your Business 

Data is plentiful, so narrowing that data down to only the most essential points is imperative to success. Understand what data you wish to collect and track, how that data will be used, and what tools and skills are needed to leverage that data successfully. 

3. Get Leadership Buy-in Across the Business

Getting buy-in from leaders across  the business is essential to establishing a data-first culture. Any strategic initiative starts at the top, and leaders that understand the power of a strong data culture will be willing to make the tools, training, and people investments necessary to build one. 

4. Create a Training Plan

Once you know what data you wish to use, consider which skills would be the most beneficial. Remember, everyone can benefit from training. We recommend building literacy skills where there are definite gaps among leaders and across the broader organization.

5. Put New Skills Into Practice

Your plan is in place! Now, give your teams learning opportunities and explain why these skills will matter to the business’s success.After training, provide team members opportunities to practice their new skills by giving them goals directly related to using, communicating with, and becoming more data-proficient.

Continue to offer learning opportunities for those employees who wish to advance past literacy and into hard skills. Consider upskilling your data practitioners to become more efficient.

In an era of increased digitization, many businesses still don’t know how to use data to gain  critical insights and information on goals and objectives. From the intern to the C-suite, it’s more important than ever for all business members to create, read, analyze, and communicate data pertaining to these objectives. Data literacy at all levels can and should be encouraged to future proof the organization and support overall business goals. Investing in upskilling to ensure that everyone is comfortable bringing data to the table has ROIs well beyond cost. 

Thinking about building your teams’ data literacy? Learn more about how our data curriculum can help your business make this powerful pivot.

What Is Digital Transformation?

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We are in the midst of a grand economic experiment catalyzed by COVID-19 to accelerate digital transformation efforts in almost every business. The days of arguing whether digital transformation is the right path are over. Simply put, companies that don’t modernize will fail. That said, not every company is on the same journey. By the end of 2019, nearly 20% of enterprise organizations had not started digital transformation efforts. Another 40% said they were currently undergoing it, and budgets are rising to match. IDC forecasts global spending for digital transformation rose by about 17.9% in 2019 to $1.18 trillion. Partially due to COVID-19, that number is expected to increase by another 10.4% in 2020.

If you asked businesses before the pandemic about the importance of digital transformation, most would agree that it was important, but not all would prioritize it in the same ways. However, digitization becomes crucial very quickly when tens of millions of people must work from home, and non-essential businesses are closed to foot traffic.

Look at the shift in global consumer sentiment in the first week of May:

Source: McKinsey

While some of these shifts were temporary, many are not. We see fundamental changes in the way the economy works. A recent IDG survey found that 59% of IT decision-makers have accelerated their efforts with spending likely to grow by more than 10% in 2020. Demand for skills in technology, data analysis, product, marketing, and UX are higher than ever as companies shift to a new model that emphasizes  remote operations.

Time is no longer a luxury for organizations that had not yet started or been in the early stages of planning digital transformation efforts. The new normal requires businesses to be agile and digital.

What is a Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of remodeling existing business processes to meet the current market — specifically, the needs of the customer. Until recently, that included banks implementing mobile apps and investing heavily in FinTech, or healthcare organizations digitizing records and connecting devices and people seamlessly across a large network, etc.  Digital transformation was previously about supplementing existing offerings with new technologies that met consumers where they were most likely to engage.

Post-COVID-19, digital transformation is still about these things. One of the many challenges large organizations have with digital transformation is that they attempt to implement small efforts within silos in a much larger company infrastructure — digital transformation is bigger than that. It’s about recognizing the core ways to interact with customers and making smart investments to address specific challenges.

Why is digital transformation different from simple digitization? The latter is about shifting away from paper-based and analog processes. It’s about making data accessible to everyone in an organization and connecting employees at all levels. Digital transformation is about leveraging those changes to improve the relationship between your company and your customers with things like personalized messaging, configurable products and services, and more accessible, catered customer service offerings.

Of course, these efforts can be difficult to execute. To date, less than 30% of them have succeeded, and only 16% have improved performance and resulted in long-term changes. While smaller businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) are significantly more likely to succeed, enterprise organizations are challenged to realize demonstrable returns. However, it’s not the concept that’s flawed; it’s the process. Too many organizations start from the top, thinking of the technologies and tools and not the people who will implement them.

Digital transformation relies on people at multiple levels. Not only are highly skilled individuals in marketing, IT, and product required to implement new initiatives, the entire workforce must buy into these changes. Without high levels of adoption, large investments in new software and processes can quickly look like mistakes.

Why Are Digital Transformations Important?

More than 80% of decision-makers in technology and engineering see a mismatch between the skills workers have, and the skills companies need. The biggest gaps are in strategic thinking and analysis: data analytics, data science, innovation strategy, and web development, among others. That talent gap with organizations is growing as more companies are eager to bring on top-tier talent to steer their efforts into the next decade. Digitization addresses this by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to support internal workers and enable the development of the right skills for the necessary work.

Furthermore, companies should be looking at the staff they already have to see how they can help support digital transformation goals. The Build vs. Buy Approach to Talent allows companies to build internal competencies that support digital transformation. We know that 75% of digital transformations fail because companies focus on systems instead of including talent as a critical enabler. Of the large chunk that fails, 70% are due to a lack of user adoption and behavioral change. Digital transformation isn’t only about buying the flashiest new tools. It’s about crafting a strategy that your employees are willing and able to implement. You need buy-in from every level of an organization. When employees embrace the concept of digital transformation, technology becomes secondary. As employees work in ways they never have before, this is more important than ever.

This might all sound like a lot of work. Coming into 2021, many companies had long put off this process because of that perception. But, the growth potential is staggering. MGI estimated that an additional $13 trillion could be added to global GDP in just 10 years by implementing AI, automation, and digitization. Despite that, only 25% of the economic potential of digitization has yet been captured. And that’s the average. In some industries, the digital frontier gap is significantly larger — especially in revenue generation, automation, and digitization of the workforce.

Despite the delays before this year, many chief executives now see the value of digital transformation. Two-thirds of CEOs expect to change their business models due to digital technologies, and 77% of digitally mature companies are more likely to grow digital roles in the next three years. These trends have only continued in light of COVID-19.  A July survey showed that the number of days spent at home by employees had grown four-fold. Ultimately, all remote employees require technological support. Think about all the technology that we rely upon that needs adequate support, too: Cloud-based applications. WAN modernization efforts to support a dispersed workforce and maintain network security. Improvements to active directory and identity management.

The impact of digital transformation efforts leads to fundamental changes in departmental models as well. Marketing, for example, is leveraging AI to improve the customer experience across the board. With 80% of companies now using AI chatbots and 84% of customer-focused companies spending heavily to improve mobile experiences, the way organizations engage with prospects and customers has fundamentally changed in the last half-decade.

The Impact of Digital Transformation (Done Right)

Over the past six months, workforce digitization has accelerated faster than at any point in the last twenty years. For organizations ahead of the game, it was a chance to put their innovative efforts to the test. For those who had delayed digital transformation initiatives, it was a major challenge. With limited resources, a highly competitive talent pool, and an uncertain future reshaped by the events of 2020, it’s more important than ever to develop a strategy that guides your business forward. This is a massive opportunity for leaders who understand the moment we are in, to arm their organizations with the tools, resources, and processes needed to succeed.

Where are you observing digital skill gaps within your organization? Learn more about how we can help.

Portfolio Project Spotlight: Software Engineering Immersive

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Every graduate of our Software Engineering Immersive programs gets the opportunity to work on a portfolio-grade final project. The experience gives students a chance to apply their newfound skills in programming languages and problem-solving to real-world issues and scenarios, as well as gaining invaluable insights and impactful results that they can use to stand out in their job searches.

Here are a few of our instructors’ favorites.


Save the ocean

Jiha Hwang, a visual interaction designer at Lopelos Project Group, created an app to raise ocean pollution awareness, allowing users to share tips for reducing plastic use. She used Rails, React, and PostgreSQL to build the app and deployed it with Heroku.


FRIDGIFY

Sathya Ram and Marichka Tsiuriak, now both front-end developers, created this eater-friendly organizational tool using MongoDB, Express, React, and Node. The animated web app allows you to categorize the contents of your fridge and track their expiration dates.


SETTLERS OF CATTAN

Bryant Cabrera, now a software engineer at Amazon, built a web-based adaptation of this popular board game. Powered by HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery, the app allows players to test their logic and negotiation skills just as they would in person.


Four New Skilling Solutions for Powerful Data Transformation

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Data is integral to every business. It helps organizations set strategies, report on wins and losses, make smarter business decisions, and is the connective tissue between leaders and teams. However, as businesses lean into a data-first future, through digital transformation, they must also take into account the skills needed to successfully leverage data.

According to New Vantage Partners, only 24% of organizations have successfully become data-driven. Organizations undergoing data transformations don’t typically fail because of tools or technology but because of talent-related challenges, such as cultural resistance and lack of leadership, contributing to a general discomfort communicating with and using data. A study by Accenture confirms that 74% of employees feel overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data.

It’s time to change all of that. Investment in data upskilling for existing talent is a step in the right direction for businesses hoping to benefit from the full use of data and AI. From mindset training for leaders to upskilling functional practitioners on modern practices to fluency for the broader organization, businesses must begin to see the opportunity and importance of data transformation in the context of employee skills.

Introducing Four New Training Programs to Embed Data Skills Into Your Organization

We’ve had the pleasure of helping businesses, such as Guardian and Booz Allen Hamilton, build data-driven workforces from within through upskilling and reskilling. Our work with the AI & Data Science Standards Board and our customer and industry research helps us to understand what training each employee — from leader to contributor— needs to successfully leverage data within their roles.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, we saw an opportunity to further enable teams to transform into data-driven organizations. Over the last few months, we’ve been hard at work refreshing existing training programs for leaders and functional practitioners and building new ones for the broader organization, all connecting to the most emergent data-skilling needs.

Here’s a quick overview of those programs:

  • Data Literacy On Demand [New]: Data literacy for all employees has become a must-have for businesses striving to build a data-first culture. This flexible training solution fits right into your employee’s workflow and gives them the foundational knowledge they need to start interpreting and communicating with data. 
  • Building Data Literacy [New]: For deeper, more targeted data literacy training, we created a brand new workshop, Building Data Literacy. Use Building Data Literacy to train smaller cohorts of employees or as a deeper, more hands-on follow-up to Data Literacy On Demand. 
  • AI for Leaders [Refreshed]: We refreshed our AI for Leaders workshop to better focus on giving organizations a place to start when considering AI. This approach for getting started with AI was validated by our AI & Data Science Standards Board members. 
  • Advanced Analytics Accelerator [Refreshed]: Advanced Analytics Accelerator is one of our most popular data programs. We used client feedback to develop a new assessment approach and refresh the curriculum to better meet learner needs. New assessments help show learner uplift and mastery of concepts covered in the program.

These new programs will allow you to: 

  • Take the First Step With Data & AI: Move transformation initiatives forward by giving every audience in your business foundational data and AI skills. 
  • Stay on the Cutting-Edge With Content Validated by Experts: Give your people real world, actionable insights with training programs that are created with and delivered by subject matter experts. 
  • Reach Employees With Relevant Training: Maximize learner retention with curricula designed and delivered in the right format for your learning objectives.

More to Come

Over the next few months, we will be releasing more useful workforce insights, updated training programs, and more. Keep your eyes on the GA blog or get in touch with us to hear the latest.

Want to learn more about how we can help your organization lean into a data-first future? Download the full catalog of GA’s data skilling solutions here.

How to Finance a Career Change

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With the growing costs of traditional education programs, launching a new career can feel a lot like a chicken or egg dilemma. Unfortunately, when it comes to education, not everyone has the financial flexibility to make a large down payment, commit to a repayment plan, or invest in their future.

This was the case for Sharif York. With a background in 3D animation, he knew that he wanted to pursue a career through General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) bootcamp, but his financial situation prevented him from taking that critical next step. Sharif’s life changed when he discovered our income share agreement (ISA) program, Catalyst. Catalyst gives full-time students the space to focus more on class — not payments — by allowing them to pay their tuition after they secure a job. With the financial stress out of the way, Sharif was able to land a product designer role at AT&T in 2019 — less than a month after graduating and all without a loan or upfront payments. 

What were you doing before you came to GA? What prompted you to make a career change?

Before GA, I was pursuing a career in 3D animation, but that industry requires you to move to specific regions. I was also freelancing as an animator and web designer. After learning more about user experience (UX), user interface (UI), and product design, I realized the money was great, you can work across so many different industries because they all need an improved product (regardless if it’s digital or tangible), and it has plenty of growth opportunities. One Christmas, I asked for four giant UX and interaction design text books. — let’s just say my entire summer was spent studying those books. 

Why did you choose GA over other programs?

I discovered GA early on while researching user experience. During the first year studying UX, I never took the bootcamp, but two or so years later I decided to take the leap. I saw other programs, but GA stood out to me due to its Atlanta location at Ponce City Market, regular free events, and other opportunities that helped get out of my comfort zone. Inspiring colleagues of mine had also taken the course and landed jobs soon after. 

How did Catalyst help in your decision to enroll at GA? What made you choose it over the other financing options we offer? 

The Catalyst program allowed me to take the course without having to pay anything out of pocket during the class. This definitely helped in my situation because it would have been hard to balance a full-time job and GA. Catalyst offered a way to take the course and make the payments in the future, which was ideal.

Describe your experience with the Outcomes program at GA. What was the job search like? How long did it take for you to get a job? 

The Outcomes Team is the best. But it will only work if you want it to work. If you take your homework seriously, push yourself to apply to jobs, and work on personal branding, it will pay off. I can’t tell people enough, if you don’t take Outcomes seriously enough, your experience will be much tougher. It took me less than a month to get a job. I went full speed ahead on LinkedIn after the course, met up with industry professionals for coffee or a Zoom, and reached out to people who work at specific companies to discuss their roles. This all helped me land a job less than a month after the course.

What are your biggest takeaways from the program? How did the skills you learned at GA help you with your current role?

The collaboration skills I learned from Outcomes, in-class work, and group work are the biggest things that helped me in my current position. Regardless if you’re a UX designer or a developer, you need to be engaged with the projects and your team. On the job, there’s nobody who will hold your hand while you’re working on complex products and problems: sometimes it can take months to figure out a role. If you can’t be a part of a team and collaborate with others, it will be very hard moving forward. I say that as a person who used to take a long time to open up.   

Since graduating, how has GA impacted your career?

I got a job at AT&T, and I met incredible people who are now a part of my network. I also made some close friends who helped me get out of my shell and realize the importance of new connections. 

Do you have any advice for students who are hesitant to take that leap and switch careers? 

Your educational or professional background isn’t the key to landing a new job. For instance, I saw a lawyer come to GA and get a UX job right away. Rather, experience is everything, and companies are finally realizing that. Gain that experience at GA while you’re working on your projects. Embrace the help of your classmates and instructor. If you put in the work both in class and during the job hunt, success will come. And if you have a goal of switching into a better career, just do it. If you hesitate and think about it too long, the opportunity will come and go. Never give up!!!

8 Best UX Design Portfolio Examples

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The UX portfolio website has superseded the business card as a UX designer’s most essential professional networking tool. Especially these days, as the UX design industry pivots abruptly to a predominantly remote professio­­­n, UX designers communicate their professional identities virtually through their online presence to navigate the constricted job market successfully. 

In my middling work experience as a UX designer over the years, I’ve been involved in countless UX designer portfolio reviews on both sides of the hiring process. Having personally benefited from industry mentorship in my own career, I’m excited to share what inside intelligence I can back with the design community, to encourage emerging UX designers to represent themselves more effectively to hiring managers and potential clients.

As with any other good user experience, a UX portfolio website should consider the user’s mindset during a visit. Bear in mind, companies typically automate their hiring processes using HR software, with workflows designed to evaluate as many qualified applicants as quickly as possible. Conciseness is merciful to reviewers digging through a pile of applications. The reviewer expects immediate access to all the information they need within the online portfolio to accomplish their evaluation. Within twenty seconds, the UX recruiter should understand your pitch, get a sense for your work, and have your contact information at their fingertips, ready to take the next step in their hiring workflow.

For full disclosure, I’ve pulled all of these examples from my own personal orbit, and included friends and colleagues who I respect and want to uplift. Let’s explore my thought process when looking at how each designer’s site uniquely succeeds and looking for patterns to model a great UX design portfolio.

1. Total class: Liya Xu

Liya Xu is an accomplished UX designer and Amazon alum, now returning to graduate school to study design management at Pratt. She leverages her technical know-how combined with her visual sensibility to craft excellent applications. Really, check out her work.

This online portfolio example has the character of a fashion spread, with well-selected attributes and succinctly written content. She allows the viewer plenty of breathing room in the empty space of the layout, to process the impact of her UX portfolio content. The case studies fall in reverse chronological order, most recent and impressive work at the top. A visitor gains immediate access to an example of work “above the fold,” peeking up from the bottom of the home screen. The experience conveys an overall modern, professional effect.

2. Authenticity: Seka Sekanwagi

Seka Sekanwagi works at Cash App as a UX researcher and has a well-rounded background in product design, interaction design, UX, and UI. His degree is actually in industrial design, crafting objects and tools, and bringing that same human-centered mindset to his design work. A genuine empathetic interest in other people drives his user research, questioning the meaning behind core user needs and translating them into tangible quality improvements.

The imagery and copywriting of Seka’s design portfolio establish his credibility while expressing his individuality. Selectively-edited messaging demonstrates the level of thoughtfulness that goes into his work output. He formats his work qualifications in simple typesetting, reducing the cognitive load on the visitor, and inviting them to review his qualifications at their leisure.

3. Perfect Pitch: Roochita Chachra

Roochita Chachra is an Austin-based UX designer and recent General Assembly immersive graduate who is highly active in the local creative community. Roochita enters UX design from the adjacent worlds of graphic design and digital marketing and is transitioning her career focus to allow her more opportunities to conduct user research, prototype, and problem-solve.

Whenever repositioning for a new avenue of design work, it takes self-restraint to hide old projects  and work samples that don’t reflect your updated professional image. A UX design portfolio needs to represent the type of work you’re looking for, not just what you’ve done. Roochita focuses hers on the UX design process, and supports it with plenty of explanations and artifacts to show the output.

4. Pure Enthusiasm: Ljupcho Sulev

Ljupcho Sulev approaches his UX projects with a passion and a positive attitude. Originally from Macedonia, he works for SoftServe out of Sofia, Bulgaria. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Ljupcho on a project, conducting user interviews and analyzing research side-by-side for weeks. His sunny disposition brightens the spirits of his team members and elevates the work.

Ljupcho’s profile is sparse and direct. He highlights his career achievements by pairing photography with bold infographics, letting his enthusiasm pop off the screen. The minimal digital portfolio design aesthetic allows the content to take priority over the visuals. 

5. Scannability: Aimen Awan

Aimen Awan is a UX designer with a background in software engineering and information experience design. Aimen optimizes her case studies for the viewer to scan quickly, with summaries at the top denoting her role and responsibilities on the project. Scrolling down the page, project artifacts illustrate the design process, increasing the fidelity successively up to the final product.

When developing a UX portfolio for a job search, take a lean approach like Aimen — gather feedback and iterate on your design. We designers are all susceptible to over-designing our work, nitpicking well past diminishing returns.

The most useful digital portfolio feedback comes from submitting actual job applications and gauging the response, so the earlier you have something ready to share, the better. Think of it as a user test — submitting a batch of applications and fishing for feedback from hiring leads or a potential client. Every response is a valuable piece of data and should help you refine your messaging and presentation.

6. Approachability: Ke Wang

Ke Wang writes his UX portfolio with a tone of casual levity (with bonus points for rhyming) while his About section reads like a social media status update. He pulls it off because his case studies scroll through examples of his overwhelming talent and work.

Website design covers some crucially important goals which require some entirely human skills. Relating to the website visitor in an approachable way is the hallmark of intuitive user experience and a good heuristic of success.

7. Clear Storytelling: Phill Abraham

Phill Abraham is a graduate of General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive course. Like many other UX designers, Phill arrived through a circuitous career path, with a background in psychology and experience in documentary film. He is actively involved in the local design scene, building out his book of projects.

Each case study shapes a compelling narrative of Phill’s design process. A project from his experience as a documentary filmmaker bolsters his UX portfolio and speaks to his capability to perform as a professional. Documentary is, after all, a quintessential form of user research. Phill applies his storytelling sensibility in presenting the case studies, outlining his thorough process step-by-step. As the website visitor scrolls down the page, they experience a neat narrative arch outlining the scenario, the design process, and the final product.

8. The Resume Homepage: Samantha Li

Samantha is a design manager at Capital One and an all-around UX champion. An active organizer within the design community, she mentors students and early-career UX designers working to break into the industry. Her own UX portfolio website outlines her career journey in the form of an extended resume and is as dense as a novel. An evaluator doesn’t even have to click to find all of the relevant information.

The resume homepage is a great design pattern for more established professionals with a long list of accomplishments. As a best practice, scrutinize what you publish diligently. Password-protecting case studies helps avoid any disputes over showing sensitive client work, and you may need to censor any personal data that may appear in your photographs and artifacts.

Conclusion

Job hunting poses challenges even for design professionals with advanced experience. Candidates need to squeeze their credentials into a digestible size to communicate their entire work history to reviewers in a short window of attention. The importance of every element of the online UX design portfolio becomes amplified, and dialing in the nuances of messaging makes a difference in getting noticed. Emerging UX designers face an uphill challenge as they’re fleshing out their portfolio projects. UX professionals in the job market are judged by their list of accomplished projects, which is frustrating for early-career UX designers who may be struggling to get their foot in the door with shorter resumes. The only course of action is bootstrapping through some initial projects — side projects, student projects, volunteer work, and ultimately paid UX design jobs — to demonstrate applied skills. A great UX portfolio effectively communicates your ability and value to potential clients.