Financing education is a huge decision at any point of life—even more so in such uncertain times. That’s where an income share agreement (ISA) might be a great option to invest in yourself. In professional education, an ISA is not a loan, but rather a financial structure where tuition is repaid as a percentage of your monthly income for a fixed number of years.
At General Assembly, our ISA, Catalyst, allows students to learn in-demand tech skills in our full-time immersive courses and land a job with the help of our career services team. Repayment begins only once you secure a role earning at least $40,000 per year. After you’ve reached the minimum income threshold, you’ll start paying back 10% percent of your monthly earned income over 48 months.
Currently, the U.S. earns low marks when it comes to voter turnout: nearly half of all eligible voters didn’t vote in the previous presidential election. For many, not having time off from class or work limits the time window of getting to the polls, coupled with the fact that our electoral process can feel like an intimidating maze to navigate — for first-time voters and experienced voters alike.
As a global education company with a community of learners 1-million strong, General Assembly is committed to showing up as a voice for positive change during this historic election cycle and beyond.
That’s why we decided to giveall U.S. staff and students the day off on November 3, 2020. And that’s why we’ve created the Make A Plan Resource Guide for our students, staff, and broader GA community. We want everyone to have helpful tools and resources at their fingertips to make a plan to vote and get involved in the political process.
We understand it’s a lot: checking your registration status, downloading a preview ballot in advance, seeking free rides to get to the polls… However, have no fear — our guide incorporates a wide breadth of resources and organizations that help simplify everything so you can focus on what you need to do (vote!).
Our guide in no way captures every last detail, but we hope it can serve as a useful resource, and that you’ll commit to making a voting plan — in whatever way, shape, or form that you can.
On the first day of school, I wasn’t used to wearing my new big red backpack. Within five minutes of walking in the door — late — I had managed to swing it around, knock over a glass of water on the table behind me, send a flood toward my teacher’s materials, run out of the room to get paper towels, and somehow get lost on my way back to the classroom.
My grandmother used to say, “If you eat a bug for breakfast, nothing worse can happen to you the rest of the day.” I closed my eyes and hoped she was right as I sank into my seat next to a tiny 20-something personal trainer.
Grandmas are always right. The personal trainer was friendly and funny and just as new to the tech curriculum as I. General Assembly’s well-documented ethos of inclusivity went well beyond race and gender, and I felt genuinely welcomed as an older student. The course itself was a transformational one. My learnings at GA sent me into a new career in UX design that has been far more fulfilling than I expected — I’m proud to say that I’m now also part of the GA instructional team.
But my concerns about heading back into the classroom as an adult learner were real, and took time and effort to overcome. Sure, I had decades of experience in nonprofit management, even leading tech organizations… but I hadn’t been in a classroom as a student since grad school, nearly two decades before. Did I even remember how to study? I was used to getting a good night’s sleep (knock wood) and not plugging all-nighters. ( Do “the kids” even call them all-nighters anymore?) I was comfortable using technology, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between a megabyte and a megabit without sneaking a look at Wikipedia. And while I’d heard of Zoom, the first image that came to mind was a bunch of PBS kids in striped rugby shirts(“I’m Houli!”)
Going back into the classroom in your 40s and 50s can cause a lot of anxiety, from uncertainty about whether your hard-won professional background is the right fit for a course of study, to concern whether you’re up to both the pace or the technology.
Are you the same person you were on your first day of high school? No. But that’s a good thing. Read on to see why this may be the best time in your life to learn and master the skills you need to change careers successfully.
Your Energy is Different
A recent article in Forbes quoted healthcare CEO Angela Bovill’s answer to a question she’s frequently asked: “Why do you hire people over 60 to be on your team?” Bovill’s response is a powerful one. She says, “Having older people on staff creates a calming force for an organization. There is less panic. They have seen a lot and are less jittery, less anxious than they may have been earlier in their career.”
A piece from the AARP — an organization that knows something about the group in question — goes even further:
“Researchers at the University of Kentucky surveyed large and small companies to assess how employers evaluate their older workers. The respondents said that workers 50 or older are more reliable than the younger generations; they show up for work on time. They have a stronger work ethic, too; the younger worker is more likely to arrive late and leave early. Older workers’ experience makes them better able to manage problems and respond to emergencies, and it makes them valuable mentors to younger people in the firm. Plus, they know how to deal with people and provide better service to customers.”
Your life experiences and earned perspective can help you keep moving toward your educational goal, where others may give up. Consider the story of Brenda Echols, who went back to school for a master’s degree in nursing at age 58. Brenda says, “My biggest challenge was overcoming breast cancer while working on my degree. It almost took me out of school, but when I thought about it and talked it over, I decided to hold on and hold out as strong as I could…Being a student helped me maintain my focus during my challenges. My dream sustained me, along with family and friends. I never missed a beat.”
Your Brain is Different
As a returning older student, you’re probably not going to pass for a digital native (a term coined by educator Marc Prensky to describe someone born after 1980), but you have other very significant strengths.
You’re more likely to know what you want to do, and you’re ready to focus. Your commitment to continued learning makes teaching a pleasure for instructors and can inspire younger students. You’re also experienced at juggling multiple high-stakes commitments; some of my most dedicated, organized, and successful digital bootcamp students have been single moms, who have made an art form out of prioritizing and delegating.
Older learners tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity and subtle distinctions between complex concepts. In my experience, more seasoned students are less likely to ask narrow questions like “Will this be on the test?” and more likely to ask broader ones, like “Why is this important to know?” Instead of passively attending lectures, older learners actively engage, seek relevance, and look for ways to apply their learning to real-life situations — great practice for job interviews.
As we grow older, we tend to become stronger at tasks that demand crystallized intelligence. The ability to use previously attained information, facts, knowledge, and experiences to solve new challenges comes with time. This ability to conceptualize new contexts is incredibly useful and frequently seen in adult learners, but virtually impossible to teach.
Side note: Prensky has since abandoned the term “digital native” in favor of “digital wisdom.”
Your Opportunities Are Different (& Better Than Ever)
The coming “silver tsunami,” also known in more positive terms as the longevity economy, ranks as one of the most significant forces shaping the U.S. economy and society. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that individuals 65 years and older will account for more than 21% of the country’s population as soon as 2030. Older Americans live longer, on average (cheers for that!), and remain active in the workforce.
The next adjacent age group is deepening its relationship with work as well. In 1994, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of working Americans age 55 or older was just 11.9%; by 2024, that number is expected to rise to 24.8%, at that point becoming the largest age cohort in the workforce.
Of course, older Americans represent more than a portion of the workforce; they’re also an enormous, growing market for a variety of products, goods, services, and experiences — many created or enabled by technology. The benefits of the diverse workforce that so many companies are striving to create include advantages that only come from hiring older workers. In the near future, the most successful products and services will likely be built and designed by older adults with a keen understanding of and lived experience within the 40+ demographic.
Numerous studies demonstrate that older, tenured people are more successful entrepreneurs, more reliable workers, and more profitable employees. Contrary to popular belief, not all startup founders and visionaries are fresh out of college: a Kauffman Foundation study found that 26% of all startups in 2015 were created by people ages 55–64; in 1997, the figure was just 15%.
The Downsides & Upsides
Age bias, or ageism, is still a real issue. It can be hard to find an internship or apprenticeship if you haven’t just graduated with an undergrad degree. In addition, imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re inadequate or a failure despite an abundance of evidence that you are both eminently qualified and undeniably talented, comes for us all. It can be discouraging to the point of debilitation, if not countered with persistent hard work and support from family and friends.
For experienced professionals accustomed to scheduling their days (and their coffee breaks), it can be an adjustment to go back to a conventional academic schedule, and accredited educational schools like General Assembly are appropriately rigorous about timeliness and attendance. The new guidelines about public contact during the age of COVID-19 means you won’t just be learning the software programs on your syllabus — you’ll also be learning how to navigate a virtual classroom, how to access materials and tutorials online, and how to schedule class projects with teammates in different time zones — while remaining in the safety and comfort of your environment.
The good news is that GA is one of the pioneers in remote learning, long before the pandemic, and we continue to evolve. We’ve continued to make significant investments not just in core technology, but also in curriculum development and instructor training. Our classroom instructional teams are experts in the latest techniques and best practices to make your student experience seamless, engaging, and fulfilling — both online and in person.
If you look at it one-dimensionally, there are definite concerns you could worry about when pondering a return to the classroom after an extended time away. However, if you look at the opportunity with a growth mindset, a commitment to lifelong learning, and undertake it with clear eyes and trusted support, the sky’s the limit.
Need more encouragement? Consider this quote: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.” (This was, in fact, not my grandmother, but rather French philosopher Michel de Montaigne in the late 1500s.)
Not convinced by philosophy? Consider science: studies show that as many as 85% of things that we worry about don’t come true.
Even if some of your worries actualize, my grandmother advises that you write everything off as a bug before breakfast. Kick imposter syndrome to the curb. Use that big, agile brain of yours. Learn something new and change the world. We’re ready to help you create a career you’ll love.
As the global job market has slowed down in the wake of COVID-19, career changers and job seekers face challenges like never before — from virtual networking to making their LinkedIn profiles stand out amongst candidates. As a pioneer in the bootcamp space, General Assembly has learned to pivot and reinvent the train-to-hire approach to help full-time Immersive program graduates get hired. That’s where our global career coaches come in: they know the hiring trends of their cities better than anyone at GA. In this year of great uncertainty, we asked them to share what they’re seeing and how they’re encouraging their students. (Note: These observations represent a collective pulse check of many — not all — of our hiring markets.)
What hiring trends are happening right now?
Late summer 2020 has shown some improvements, with companies removing hiring freezes and, in some cases, slowly beginning to climb back toward pre-pandemic levels.
Industries that are picking up include computer software, InfoTech, FinTech, marketing and advertising, and EdTech. Companies that are well-funded and have high potential to increase staff are in FinTech, e-commerce, infotech, AI, healthcare, BioTech, robotics, education, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.
Companies are also investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, big data, automation, SaaS (software-as-a-service), and FinTech solutions.
Competition is intense and there are fewer roles: read below for tips on how to stand out (hint: network, network, network).
There’s an abundance of freelance and contract work available, and companies with under 50 employees can be opportunistic places to apply to. Many smaller companies appear willing to take on junior talent, especially if they have additional projects in their portfolios.
Despite job opportunities starting to open up in many locations, a large number of them are remote-first or remote only, and it can still be incredibly challenging to get an interview.
What’s the best thing job seekers can do right now?
Network, network, network. Trust and own your worth and talk to people about what you want to be doing and the value you bring. Believe in word-of-mouth power, and practice as many mock or informational interviews and coffee dates as you can.
Work on projects, pro bono work, or contract work with a real client or with professionals outside of your discipline. This will help build your resume and create standout applications that show your continuation of technical competencies and collaboration skills.
Take what you can as quickly as you can. Now isn’t the time to be highly selective or aspire to multiple offers. Because it’s more competitive than ever, the goal is to get started as soon as possible.
Keep an open mind! Don’t close off any opportunity — everything is worth exploring.
Consider finding a mentor. You may not get traditional guidance at a startup, but a mentor can be that person to give the support you need. Most mentors are self-found, so there’s never a bad time to start looking.
Focus on continuing to develop and grow your new skill set while applying and networking, because when you do land an interview, you will need to discuss what you’ve accomplished over the past few months.
Stay motivated and find time for self-care. Remember that ambiguity is one of the toughest things about a job search. Be consistent about following up if you don’t get responses to initial applications. Make connections with peers and colleagues in the area you’re searching. And remember that it’s ok to be deflated and disappointed by rejection. Once you accept that, you can move onto what you can influence: other opportunities.
What is GA doing differently to support students in this highly competitive job market?
GA has streamlined its job sourcing strategies to work globally and has created a team of 30 network builders to support the cultivation, engagement, and job sourcing for our students.
The launching of global initiatives is to benefit all graduates regardless of location — post-course regional networking and coaching sessions are being made available.
A partnership with our sister company, Vettery, allows GA grads to create profiles and put them directly in front of over 8,000 hiring organizations.
Our career coaches continue to be deeply invested in their 1:1 coaching and strategy work with grads.
Teams in our local markets regularly provide pulse checks of cities’ hiring trends, jobs particular to the region, and the landscape of how tech is evolving in each location.
Leaping into a new career is daunting at any point in life, especially at this moment, but we hope this advice from our career coaches is reassuring.
As General Assembly embarks on a new chapter within a new world, we’ve turned to Lisa Lewin for CEO leadership at this shifted moment — and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
On her first day as CEO at General Assembly, Lisa Lewin sat down with Co-Founder and outgoing GA CEO Jake Schwartz to share more about her journey and passion for education in a Zoom fireside chat with our global GA team.
An Excerpt From Their Conversation:
Jake: Tell us more about your background!
Lisa: I have spent the better part of my career in education, art, science, and the business of education. I have always been deeply dedicated to impact — that’s the thing that ties everything together in my career. I’m a believer that the way to be happy in this life is to try to help others flourish, and I think education is a place to do that. I have spent time at big companies like McGraw Hill and Pearson, and I also built my own tech company that created curriculums for post-secondary institutions.
Jake: How did you end up at GA? What was your first introduction to GA?
Lisa: GA is kind of sprinkled throughout my career and has inserted itself into my life in random ways over the past few years. And I’ll just give a couple of examples. When I launched my own tech company, I was the first employee, so I literally had to build everything, including doing the code myself on our first products. I needed to learn and refine my skills in product development and design and took a GA course to do just that. It was an incredible experience, and so I became a fan way back then in the early days of GA.
Then, at Pearson, I ran the global technology and product team with over 1,000 people across every continent. I always had great faith if I was sending one of my staff to GA — engineers, UX experts, data scientists — that they were going to come back with immediately applicable skills. If you’re going to invest like that, you’ve got to believe there’s an ROI, and there was always an ROI when I would send people to GA.
And then lastly, just this year, I needed something fixed so I called a handyman I used to call all the time for help. I sent him a text, and he was like, “Actually, I don’t do that anymore.” He went on to explain how he had launched an entirely new, amazing career in web development by getting a certificate at a place called GA. So as someone who has dedicated her career to education and deeply believes in impact, that is a long-winded way of saying I’m super excited to be here and have been a fan for a very long time.
Jake: One question we always ask our employees when they join the company at our “team lunch” gatherings, is who was your favorite teacher you ever had, and why?
Lisa: My mother was a teacher who actually taught me how to read at home. And that was marvelous. She’s definitely the teacher that has had the biggest influence on my life. Outside of her, it’s a tie between my music teacher and history teacher. The music teacher, because he created the model that I hope I use now, which is giving feedback with kindness, understanding how to help people get better, and giving critical feedback in a humane way. And then, the history teacher helped form my brain’s ability to recognize patterns. History is about pattern recognition. How do you balance between applying what you know to be true and successful, while also staying open to new input, new information, and being agile?
Jake: I don’t know how many CEO transitions have happened during a worldwide pandemic. At GA, we’ve had quite a journey converting everything from offline to online in a matter of days. It’s such a unique moment, and I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the opportunity for GA, and how we think about our role at this moment where everything seems in flux.
Lisa: There is a genuine, legitimate need for what we’re doing right now. Yet, there are businesses out there trying to figure out what to push into the universe. I don’t want to be in that kind of business in a world where there is no shortage of needs. Why bother producing things where you have to invent or create demand?
In a world where there is no shortage of needs, particularly for people who are trying to get a rung on the economic ladder, for people who recently lost their employment or are in industries that have completely collapsed, our core mission to help people find meaningful work is legitimately useful and in need right now.
I also want to say one other thing about this moment, and about business in general. I just don’t see the point in coming to work and ignoring that the world is on fire. I’ve got to believe I’m not the only person in the universe who wakes up in the morning and starts “doom-scrolling” through the news. There’s no point (in) trying to shut that off for the workday. What I say all the time is that business leaders have a choice in “a world on fire”: we have a choice to be arsonists, bystanders or firefighters, and only one of those is the right choice. Businesses won’t solve all the universe’s problems, but we need to acknowledge that we are in a moment where the communities and customers we serve are experiencing a public health crisis, layered on top of a climate crisis, layered on top of inequitable distribution of wealth and opportunity. We need to ask ourselves how we can be thoughtfully and strategically helpful.
We need to ask ourselves how we can ensure that the world is getting better as we get bigger and better. That’s a healthy question all businesses should be asking right now.
Why are UX skills continually in demand by top companies? Spend half an hour with expert GA instructor Javi Calderon to learn why and see if it’s right for your career. He’ll give you an overview of:
What the world of UX design encompasses and why it matters.
Fundamental tools and techniques used by professional designers.
Resources to continue learning about UX.
If you’re ready to go further, explore our upcoming User Experience Design course to cement a foundation in creating digital experiences that power revenue, loyalty, and product success.Or learn how to become a job-ready UX designer with our 12-week, full-time User Experience Design Immersive program.
This month, GA is rolling out major improvements to our evening and 1-week User Experience Design and Visual Design programs! Driven by student and instructor feedback, the Instructional Design team has partnered with the expert faculty members from our Product Advisory Boards to revamp both courses. With InVision reporting that 70% of design teams have increased headcount over the past year1, we want to help you reach your career goals by providing expertly crafted lessons in UX and visual design that meet the moment.
What’s Changing With User Experience Design?
Leveraging the Design Framework in Lesson Design
In analyzing student and instructor feedback, we learned that we weren’t spending enough time on the “How?”behind creating UX deliverables at the beginning of the course. Instead of following a typical lesson flow that starts with overarching definitions of design thinking, user research, prototyping, and critique, we now leverage the Double Diamond framework2 to inform lesson progression. By observing the iterative nature of design in our curriculum, students will be able to start user research by Week 1 and begin sketching their designs as early as Week 2, working through the UX design process more than once throughout the course.
Flexible, Accessible Design Tooling
Our Instructional Design team works to strike a good balance between instruction and innovation, and this is evident in how we approach teaching design tools.
On the one hand, too much emphasis on tools at the beginning of a course can shift the students’ focus away from truly grasping foundational design concepts and skills. On the other, it’s difficult to illustrate how a more technical concept can be applied without the use of design tools.
In addition to that balance, we also want to account for the fact that different employers require different tools — and the top design tools can change from year to year. So, our end goal is to ensure that our students are well-versed and well-practiced in core skills so that they can easily pick up different tools as required by their employers.
Our solution is to introduce a design tool tutorial — a companion to the course materials — with resources and weekly design challenges. The tutorial currently features Figma but can be modified to feature another platform such as Sketch or Adobe XD. The tutorial is also mapped to the course’s final project to make pacing and time spent outside of class more manageable and productive.
The final project now has three specialization tracks: Research, UI, and Generalist. This enables students to customize their learning experience based on personal and professional interests, career focus, and available time.
We’re using the Double Diamond framework in our Visual Design course to group visual design concepts in a way that illustrates the discipline’s iterative nature and more organically integrates UX concepts throughout the program.
We improved the final project prompts to include a broader range of industries, including food, nonprofit, fitness, and connected homes. The company structures and product offerings have also been expanded to account for visual design in both digital and non-digital spaces. This way, students will be able to choose and customize projects that benefit both their career focus and their personal interests.
We have reworked the curriculum to place more emphasis on design research and content strategy. This will help encourage students to:
Make research-based design decisions.
Tell a holistic story through content.
Think more critically about content types and design elements before wireframing begins.
By popular demand, we’re bringing back the course’s imagery lesson and incorporating an additional application-focused imagery session so that students can further refine their wireframes using images, as well as typography and color.
Demand for data scientists has increased 663% in five years, and the call for machine learning skills is up 809%.* In this free lesson, GA instructor Danny Malter will give you a better understanding of data science, including:
What data science skills could do for your career.
Examples of how data science impacts the real world.
Algorithms in action.
When you’re ready to go further, explore our upcoming Data Science course to cement your foundation in machine learning, predictive models, and Python programming. Or get inspired by these resources:
For many students, enrolling in a career-accelerating bootcamp can be a daunting decision, especially when it’s conducted entirely online. How do students stay engaged and accountable while learning remotely? We connected with GA student Fletcher Jones to walk us through his day-to-day in our Software Engineering Immersive program. He graduated in July 2020 and landed a job as a software engineer at Safe & Reliable Healthcare shortly after.
Before coming to GA, I was an actor, a model, and a recording artist. I also had experience as a former student ambassador for the U.S. State Department, and after graduating from college, I worked as a marketing consultant. Later, I worked closely with Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2020 campaign for president.
After the presidential race changed, I — like many others — found myself out of the job. And that’s not all: At this point, the pandemic had begun, and the U.S. entered a tumultuous period of race relations. It was a difficult decision but I decided it was best to take on the challenge of a career change while spending some time at my parents’ home in North Carolina. I wanted a path with more job security that also strengthened my problem-solving skills — following my passion for computer science at GA seemed like the best solution. It was.
My instructor was based on the West Coast, so by being on the East Coast during the course (and being a night owl), this provided amazing flexibility. Given the time difference, my schedule probably isn’t typical for a GA student, but learning remotely at GA gives you even more control over your day and how you use your time when you’re not in class. Plus, all the sessions are recorded, so you can revisit at any point. For me, that was a huge benefit to learning online because the recorded lessons were so helpful for taking notes. Online learning was not my first choice, but it was definitely the best one. I’d absolutely do it again.
Here’s what my average day looked like during the course:
7:30 a.m. — Rise & Shine
Given the noon start time on the East Coast, I was able to enjoy a relaxed morning routine. This really helped me start class with energy and a positive attitude every day.
8–11 a.m. — Morning Routine
I would start my day with a walk around the neighborhood — sometimes with my mom, and sometimes solo while listening to music. When I returned home, I’d eat breakfast and do some stretching, too.
11:30 a.m. – Check the Day’s Schedule
Every day, we’d have lectures on at least two topics concerning front-end or back-end programming. They would be split into a morning exercise, module one, lunch, and then module two. Here’s a sample of the schedule:
We’d often begin with a morning exercise (or afternoon in my case). These could range from an assigned coding challenge, to a quick lab exercise, or a breakout group discussing an engineering topic. After these exercises, one member would present the group’s learnings. Everyone comes into the class at different levels of experience, so these sessions were really valuable to learn from students who might have more background in coding.
Here’s an example of a coding challenge — I especially appreciated this one because it showed up on a technical interview during my job search! I was able to complete it in class and present my solution to the instructor for feedback.
12:30 p.m. — First Module Begins
Module 1 is a mix of instructor lecture and (depending on how intensive it is) related lab exercises. These are never solo — you’re always working in pairs or small groups. We would share computer screens using Zoom to work through these, in addition to other tools like our computers’ terminals, Chrome browser, and Visual Studio Code (or another preferred text editor).
The lectures on React really stood out to me — I instantly fell in love with them. It’s such a useful library that allows you to build out robust apps that remain scalable with relative ease. I’m grateful that Dalton, my lead instructor, did such a great job capturing my attention with React and the MERN stack because these are what I currently use at my job. Dalton was always eager to answer questions and would always make sure his students completely understood the topics.
These lectures started with a walkthrough of how React is implemented on Facebook (which it was created for). That visual was really helpful in understanding the fundamentals. Dalton would highlight specific parts of posts, comments, or profiles — things we were already familiar with — and explain to us how they were coded in React. Later in the week, we put all the basics together to create a fully functional app using React and other technologies from earlier in the course (MongoDB, Express.js, and Node.js).
1:30 p.m.— 15-Minute Break
Just the right amount of time to brew a cup of Yerba Mate to get me through the rest of the day. After, we would reconvene to wrap up Module 1.
3:30 p.m.—First Module Ends, One-Hour break
Here I would eat with my family, sometimes take a walk, or on really rough days… take a nap!
4:30 p.m. — Second Module Begins
For the majority of the course, the time allotted for second modules was usually spent in a lab to get hands-on practice and dive deeper into the ideas we learned during the first module. For instance, our first module on React was followed with a lab exercise that brought our app prototypes to life.
5 p.m. — 5-Minute Break
Sometimes our instructor would see people yawning, and we’d have a five minute break. Or sometimes we’d get a bio break if a lecture was really long. It’s nice that our instructor paid attention to little things like that.
6 p.m. — Presenting Group Work
After a brief break, we’d present group work. Sometimes you’d get assigned into groups to work through an activity, or in Slack, you could use reactions to request teammates. Using Zoom’s breakout sessions, this kind of group work was engaging and motivating. It’s so valuable to troubleshoot with people from (seemingly) unrelated backgrounds to learn how they problem-solve.
One person from each group would agree to present. Sometimes, it was intimidating to see the progress others were making, but most times, I felt that I “got” a concept or solved a problem more quickly. Ups and downs are just part of the day-to-day, and everyone progresses differently throughout the course.
7 p.m. — 15-Minute Break 2.0
During these breaks, I’d interact with my family or just chill for a few minutes.
8 p.m. — Class Ends
8 p.m. — Dinner
My parents would wait for me to finish class, and we’d sit down together to catch up on the day and what happened in class — easily the best part of my day.
9 p.m. — After-Hours Support
After-hours support is something students can take advantage of a few times a week if necessary. Adonis, our teaching assistant, was great and had wide-ranging knowledge in both front-end and back-end development. Adonis helped me get a better grasp on working on servers, specifically using MongoDB with Express. I was having trouble with the database for one of my portfolio projects, Notify, which was a streaming music service using the SoundCloud API. Adonis spent about an hour helping me figure out the bug.
10:00 p.m. — Start Homework
At this point I would complete any unfinished labs and review exercises that need more attention.
Midnight — Ideal Bedtime
Eight hours of sleep was everything. Sometimes, I wouldn’t get to bed until even later; it felt good to go to bed knowing that I did the best as I could, and that nothing was hanging over my head. I was actually doing something and making progress — with the pandemic and all, I hadn’t felt that in a long time.
Two other key areas where I spent time throughout the course were prepping with my career coach and working on my final project.
Meeting With Career Coaches and Portfolio Development
Rashid Campbell, a member of the Outcomes team, was my career coach at GA. Rashid did more than just prepare us for our job search — he was our frontline defense against burnout and genuinely cared about how I was doing as a human being, not just as a student. Learning in an Immersive is intense to begin with, but during the pandemic there was added stress!
On Tuesdays we would meet for two to three hours to work on my resume, personal branding, job applications, and technical interview prep. Additionally, one requirement for students to receive Outcomes support was that we had to create a portfolio summarizing our five projects. I would make time for this kind of work toward the end of the course on many days.
The Capstone Project
For their capstone projects, students mimic a team-client interaction, collaborating to build and deploy a full-stack application that fulfills provided specs. The final result integrates functionality from a third-party API. Instructors urge students to choose a capstone project grounded in a personal passion or a problem they’re excited to tackle.
During the last week of the course, the schedule was very open to allow for deep focus on your project. Any lectures were mostly optional, and we could take breaks whenever we needed. We had an open classroom policy — almost like a workplace environment — so that we could focus solely on the project.
My Final Project
My capstone project was inspired by my background in acting. A lot of people in the arts lack a centralized place to find fellow creatives to collaborate with on projects or events (or promote them). I created a wireframe for a website called Accolade, which helps creatives and artists stay connected and collaborate. Creatives can post and spread the word about their upcoming performances, showcases, or premieres on the site. They can also post an ad looking for actors, models, photographers, or videographers, and more.
First, I had to draft a wireframe of what it would look like and document its features, user interface, and tech dependencies — like a map API to display event locations.
On the day of presentations, students would give praise and “grows” — constructive criticism grounded in an empathetic understanding of how hard it can be to put yourself out there. This approach helped some students feel more comfortable with having their work in the spotlight.
Learning remotely at GA offered more support from fellow students than I ever expected. Everyone was so understanding when there were two deaths in my family during the course. When I got my job offer, Rashid helped with salary negotiations. I still keep in touch with students from my class as they get started on their new career paths. This was a period of my life that I will never forget — through the people I met. It was an authentic milestone.
Over the years, I used to feel anxious about all my loose ends. I have done so many things: I earned a journalism degree after 4 years of college; I jumped from entertainment, to politics, to whatever paid the bills. I looked at my peers who stuck to one thing and admired how far they went. After this experience, I realized that my diverse experiences are my superpower. I can literally do anything I put my mind to.