Alumni Story: Focusing in on a Coding Career

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Molly Kraus

Molly Kraus (Web Development ImmersiveNew York City), then a Seattle hairstylist who sold paintings of pet portraits on Etsy, was unhappy with her career path and craving a change. So she moved to New York and enrolled in GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive course. Her previous coding experience? Updating a few lines of HTML on her MySpace page in high school. “Writing code seemed unattainable to me because the logic seemed so complicated and the code looked so foreign, but GA taught me otherwise,” she says. “Coding has reignited my passion for learning and problem-solving.”

In 12 weeks, Kraus learned essential coding skills — like HTML, JavaScript, and APIs — that web developers use to create functional websites and apps. Since graduating, she’s landed a front-end web developer role at the ticket aggregator and search engine TicketIQ, and continues to leverage her talent at local hackathons and GA events. “I tell everyone how GA changed my life,” she says. “I successfully made the career change I wanted. I am a web developer!”

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Alumni Story: Coding for Good

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Student Melody Serra

Melody Serra (Web Development ImmersiveSan Francisco) began her web development journey when she saw students in a Bay Area private school learning how to code, a vital skill set which wasn’t offered in the public school where she taught previously. Serra made it her mission to teach communities facing barriers to tech education how to code — but first she needed to learn how to do it herself.

In General Assembly’s 12-week, full-time Web Development Immersive (WDI) course in San Francisco, Serra dived deep into the coding languages and problem-solving strategies needed to become a full-stack developer. “Although WDI was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had to overcome, it was also one of the most rewarding,” she said. 

After completing WDI, Serra volunteered at the San Quentin State Prison’s Last Mile program, teaching coding skills that individuals could use to build a career after they leave prison. Since then, she has returned to GA to teach web development, and is also a full-time tech instructor for Year Up, a work training program for young adults. “I’m so thankful to General Assembly for providing me with the skills I needed to empower others to pursue their dreams,” she said. “After WDI my life has never been the same. General Assembly opened so many doors.”

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Alumni Story: Blending JavaScript With Journalism

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Student Melissa DePuydt

Melissa DePuydt (Web Development ImmersiveWashington, D.C) was tired of being held back by her lack of web development skills. As a writer at a marketing company, she was tasked with digital storytelling — but her team wouldn’t hire a developer to execute the ideas. She decided, “If my company couldn’t hire a web developer to make my life easier, then I would become a developer myself.” She then quit her job, and enrolled in GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive (WDI) in Washington, D.C.

During WDI, DePuydt uncovered a love for JavaScript and discovered where it intersected with her journalism background. Four days after the course ended, she parlayed her new skills and experience into a job offer from the Washington Post. “My behind-the-scenes role is to build features that house the work of the Post’s talented news reporters and graphics editors,” DePuydt says. “They’re creating exactly the kind of content I had always envisioned — and I get to play a role in it.”

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Alumni Story: From Underwear Designer to Web Designer

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Lauren Chilcote

Originally trained as a fashion designer, Lauren Chilcote (Front-End Web DevelopmentNew York City) found herself in a job as surprising as it is essential: designing underwear at an intimate-apparel company. Eventually, though, she found the role monotonous, and wanted more from her career than creating the world’s undies. 

For fun, Chilcote had taught herself the basics of HTML and CSS, but she wanted a more structured learning environment to help make coding her career. “In contrast to garment or print design, web apps feel more like living, breathing pieces of work,” she says of her decision to enroll in General Assembly’s Front-End Web Development (FEWD) course at our New York campus. “There’s immediate gratification in writing code and viewing your work locally, designing in the browser and debugging. There’s a tighter feedback loop that allows you to iterate on your work faster and make improvements.”

With new skills and networking opportunities, she got real-world experience through a freelance gig overhauling a local restaurant’s website, which led to a full-time role as a design technologist at the career advice startup Talent Inc.

“FEWD was the challenge my brain had been craving,” says Lauren, who splits her time between front-end web development and design to help Talent’s clients revamp resumes and get job interviews. “I wanted a change, and GA was the right stepping stone.”

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Alumni Story: Adding Dimension to Visual Stories

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Larry Buchanan

In 2012, Larry Buchanan was working as a freelance print journalist, but limited in the types of stories he could tell. “I wanted to tell visual stories, combining text, image and data, and I figured learning to code would help me do that,” he said. To learn how to create new ways of narration, he turned to our full-time Web Development Immersive program in NYC, where he learned essential skills like HTMLCSSJavaScript, and more.

After graduating, he landed a freelance role creating interactive graphics for The New Yorker. Then, The New York Times came a-knocking: Buchanan now serves as a graphics editor there, joining journalistic know-how with creative coding to tell visual stories. “We combine text, images, data, video, animation, 3-D models, and illustration, to help readers understand the news through maps, charts, diagrams and interactive pieces,” he said. “I barely knew how to code when I started at GA, but now it’s an integral part of my job.”

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Alumni Story: From U.S. Coast Guard to Software Engineer

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Student Joshua Mitchell

For Joshua Mitchell, keeping his head above water was proving tough. After earning a degree in psychology he realized he’d never use and an unexpected medical discharge from the United States Coast Guard, Mitchell was left feeling unmoored and looking for a career direction he could feel good about. “I had no idea what I was going to do,” he recounts. But his powerlessness was not to last: His girlfriend’s father, a front-end developer, pointed him toward some HTML and CSS tutorials. Once he completed them, a pathway was suddenly clear. “I began looking into the career outlook for developers in Boston, and I was amazed to see the future job projections,” says Mitchell. “That’s when I realized how secure something like this could be, and for me, that’s what I wanted — security.”

A lover of building things and DIY projects, coding was a natural fit for Mitchell. “Web development allows me to tap into my creative side, and for a career, I believe that’s of great importance,” he says. After investigating Boston-area coding schools, he had little success getting his questions answered. But it was different with General Assembly Boston: “The first time I called GA, I was connected with someone to talk to immediately. It felt more inviting and welcoming.”

Once Mitchell enrolled and dove into the curriculum, it was clear how intense the course would be. He says that the Web Development Immersive program was “one of the most challenging things” he’s ever done. He credits his instructors with helping him learn to “struggle properly.” “I don’t mean struggle in a negative way,” says Mitchell. “Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’ GA taught me to embrace the struggle, and that’s what I do each time I take on something new.” He says that his experience has given him more than raw skills in JavaScriptAPIs, and Git — it’s given him an increased confidence in his own abilities: “I proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that will never leave me.”

But graduation day wasn’t the end of Mitchell’s GA journey. The Outcomes team, which provides personalized support to help Immersive students develop skills in networking, professional branding, and more, was instrumental in helping him find a job after the course. “My experience [with Outcomes] was great,” he says. “Finding a job can be even more stressful than the program itself. The team did a great job helping me set up my LinkedIn profile and resume, and taught me how to catch the eyes of potential employers.”

And that’s exactly what happened: Shortly after graduation, Mitchell became a user interface (UI) software engineer at financial tech company Vestmark, making 50% more than his previous salary. He works with a team he loves and feels that GA prepared him to be a lifelong learner. “GA has taught me how to teach myself,” Mitchell says. “That could include learning new tech, or something as simple as finding relevant information about JavaScript methods.” Able to arm himself with new skills to tackle any project, and Mitchell has the mindset to stay competitive in today’s changing tech world.

You can love your work, too. Whether you want to start a new career, advance your current role with coding skills, or be empowered to pursue your passions, there’s an option for you.

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Alumni Story: Shooting for the Stars — and a Data Science Career

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Josephine Ho

Being stuck in the middle wasn’t working for Josephine Ho. After two different careers, earning a master’s degree, and five years spent launching global campaigns and managing teams for billion-dollar projects, she found herself in a frustrating spot: no longer entry-level, but not quite management. Having just missed out on another opportunity, Ho was starting to feel hopeless. But when a friend recommended checking out General Assembly, she saw a path to action and wasted no time. Ho headed to an info session at General Assembly Los Angeles that very evening, where she met her future Data Science Immersive (DSI) instructor.

After researching the program, it was Ho’s love of data that solidified her decision to enroll in DSI. “I’ve always been passionate about data, but the skills used at my jobs always stopped at Excel and Tableau,” says Ho. “When I saw how quickly the data landscape had transformed, I knew I had to learn the newer technologies that are taking over the data landscape.”

Once classes began, Ho was struck by the dedication of her instructors. “Our teachers literally gave us their all — their energy, their support, their time. They genuinely cared about us and believed in us, which gave us confidence. My cohort worked as hard as we could because our teachers did that for us.” That class camaraderie was also a vital part of Ho’s experience. She made invaluable connections with her classmates; they all leaned on each other for support throughout the rigorous program.

Armed with a wealth of data science skills, including machine learning, data modeling, and SQL, and guidance from the Career Services team on how to manage and optimize her job search, Ho set out to find her first data science role. She eventually landed a job as a DevOps engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she’s seen a 33% increase from her last role. Her intensive training in the industry’s most relevant skills has helped Ho become a multifaceted member of her team, allowing for cross-departmental collaboration.

Ho’s experience at General Assembly revitalized both her professional life and her drive to keep learning, something that will elevate her career for years to come. “I love that I am always learning at my new job. My GA teachers helped me get my foot in the door, and now I can pick it up from here and grow my career,” says Ho. “They helped me set a foundation in tech, speak the lingo, and know the tools — I have been building off that.” With a GA education, a new network of fellow data scientists, and a coveted role at NASA, it seems as though the sky is the limit for Josephine Ho.

Make change. Join Ho and thousands of other GA alumni in the quest for betterment. From full-time career accelerators, to part-time evening courses, to short-form bootcamps, be empowered to achieve your goals at GA.Ask a Question About Our Data Science Programs

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Alumni Story: From Cosmetics to Coding

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Jeanette Adelson

The beauty industry was anything but pretty for Jeanette Adelson. After landing in the cosmetics world following a string of service industry jobs, Adelson found herself overworked and underpaid. “I’d been looking for a way out for a long time, but nothing seemed like an obvious answer,” Adelson said. “Even with coding, I knew I was taking risks. But I also knew I had to keep taking risks if I wanted to win eventually.”

When a coworker left to take a role at General Assembly Austin, Adelson saw her opportunity. She enrolled in GA’s full-time Web Development Immersive and found a program that not only gave her a comprehensive web development background, but also surrounded her with inspiring educators and supportive classmates. Beyond key programming skills — like JavaScriptAPIs, and responsive web design — WDI also focused on creating connections between students and prospective companies, as well as networking. Adelson left the 12-week program feeling prepared to not just do the job, but to find a role, nail both standard and technical interviews, and get hired.

And she did. Armed with the experience of WDI, Adelson went on to become a technical success manager at Bazaarvoice, a software company specializing in content solutions. There, she helps clients grow their businesses by turning user-generated content into engagement and sales.

She attributes her newfound career success to GA’s comprehensive curriculum, which she says gave her “a good understanding of how the internet works, from start to finish.” But beyond empowering Adelson to excel at her job, GA also helped her find a role that she’s excited to fill every day: “I love the work I do and the people I work with, and I enjoy helping clients understand the software better. That can be rewarding.”

You can love your work, too. Whether you want to start a new career, advance your your current role with coding skills, or be empowered to pursue your passions, there’s an option for you.

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Alumni Story: Seeing UX in Everything

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Jay Telles (User Experience Design ImmersiveDenver) had an 18-year history in advertising and design before pursuing UX design. In GA’s rigorous User Experience Design Immersive course in Denver, he dove into collaboration, developing interpersonal soft skills while building concrete UX and teamwork skills on client projects. “We brainstormed, created affinity diagramsinterviewedtested, designed and learned about UX design every day while having a lot of fun,” he says. Now as a UX designer at Zen Planner, which provides member management software for fitness centers, Telles says, “I apply my UX skills to every project. I collaborate with other teams in the company, most of them composed of non-designers, through UX strategies and exercises to improve our products.”

Telles says he now sees UX design everywhere, in everything. “UXDI was a dynamic, in-depth course that showed me useful ways to better understand the interactions between users, business goals and technology restraints,” he says. “When I see a product or a service that lacks or shines, I immediately see how much applying UX principles can make or break an idea,” he says.

Read more about how Telles and his GA Denver classmates are making it in UX.

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Alumni Story: Career Transformation From Home

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Student James Goatcher

When James Goatcher (Web Development Immersive Remoteonline) enrolled in GA’s Web Development Immersive Remote program, he had recently moved home to Los Angeles to spend more time with family. “I entered WDIR hoping to leave with two takeaways: to acquire a new marketable skill and to have confidence applying that skill professionally,” he says. “I can say with certainty that both expectations were met and exceeded.”

Goatcher said learning remotely in GA’s virtual classroom — with live expert instruction and regular collaboration with classmates — didn’t hinder his experience. “You really get a sense of who your instructors and classmates are, which totally enhances the experience,” he says. “The icing on the cake: It was damn fun, too.”

Just six days after graduating, he was hired as an interactive developer at Xaxis, a programmatic advertising agency. “Just thinking back on the technical test from my job’s interviewing process, there was no way I could have completed it without the skills gained from [the program],” he says.

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