Originally trained as a fashion designer, Lauren Chilcote (Front-End Web Development, New 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Jay Telles (User Experience Design Immersive, Denver) 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 diagrams, interviewed, tested, 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.
When James Goatcher (Web Development Immersive Remote, online) 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.
After nearly 10 years at a youth-focused nonprofit, Gladia Castro considered herself a “big kid at heart.” But although she was passionate about her work running development programs, she felt exhausted by the long hours and low pay. With her eye on tech, Castro turned to her brother, a visual designer, for advice. “He told me about user experience (UX) design and that was all I needed to hear,” says Castro. “I was shocked because a lot of what a UX designer does is what I had been doing at my job, except for the design software.”
After hearing good things from his friends, Castro’s brother suggested looking into General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) program. While researching the course, she had “a huge epiphany.” she says. “I knew I was going to be a UX designer.”
With no formal design experience, Castro quit her job and enrolled full-time at GA San Francisco. For 10 weeks, she studied the ins and outs of UX, practicing skills like user research, wireframing, affinity mapping, and more. For her final project, Castro built an app to help a technologically underserved group: seniors. “My focus was researching solutions and designing a user interface (UI) that helps family members communicate with their loved ones — without the pressure of intimidating technology.”
With guidance from GA’s Outcomes program, Castro gained the tools and confidence to secure a role as a product associate at Flipcause, a company that assists nonprofits with fundraising and community engagement. After so many years in the nonprofit sector, the impact she’s making at Flipcause is especially rewarding: “I see our impact every day. We are constantly saving small organizations time and resources to increase supporter engagement to advance their missions,” Castro says. “That’s the most gratifying experience — to know that I’m designing better solutions and experiences to help nonprofits every day.”
In her role, Castro designs user experiences and helps troubleshoot with developers. She even converted the team to using Sketch, the industry-standard design program she learned to use at GA. “I love that each day is different and that I’m expanding my skills in design and coding as well,” she says.
“Why can’t you make money doing that?” This simple question from Garrett Estrin’s wife changed the course of his life and career. “That” was building websites, something Estrin had been doing as a hobby for more than 15 years while managing a grocery store in Orange County, California. After graduating with a business degree, he didn’t have much luck finding a role that wouldn’t require a significant pay cut from his managerial salary. It wasn’t until his wife posed that life-changing question that he even thought about a career in web development.
“Within four months of that conversation, we had sold our house, moved to West Los Angeles, and I was enrolled at General Assembly Los Angeles looking to completely change careers,” says Estrin.
While shopping around for programs, Estrin took a positive recommendation from a friend who suggested GA and did his research. “What made me choose GA was the welcoming, you-can-do-it attitude I got from everyone I talked to who was connected to the program,” he says. He chose the Web Development Immersive (WDI) program, where he could sharpen and grow his coding skills while collaborating with other students. “The best thing about WDI was being able to learn and apply our newfound skills with the other people in our class,” says Estrin. “Everyone was always so excited to be there, and it made the lectures more interesting because everyone was engaged.”
Estrin credits the GA Outcomes team as crucial resource for getting ahead professionally and landing that first role after graduation. “The guidance offered makes a daunting task like finding a job in an industry that you are new to seem very attainable,” he says. “They make you feel like you’re prepared for every interaction with a potential employer and that you have a leg up on other candidates. The GA outcomes team is what really sets GA apart from any other kind of school.”
Armed with tighter skills, Estrin landed a gig as a user interface (UI) developer with Centerfield Media, a company offering marketing and sales solutions for some of the largest names in communications tech, such as Xfinity, AT&T, Sprint, and DirecTV. “What I love most about working at Centerfield is that I am able to take the base skills I learned at GA and build on them to solve real-world problems,” he says. “We are able to see exactly how many visitors come to our web pages, as well as how many of them convert into sales. With those kinds of quantifiable metrics, it’s very easy to see your individual contribution.”
Along with his new developer role, Estrin also stays close to the GA community that helped him reinvent his career as a TA for WDI. He makes sure students clearly understand lessons, and assists them in solving issues using the same tool that changed his life — finding alternate solutions to tough problems.
Erika Schneider (part-time User Experience Design, Boston) was ready to take her career to the next level. She had nearly a decade of web design experience under her belt, allowing her to build custom websites using HTML and CSS. But she wanted to complement her skills with formal training in user experience design, which solves user problems through empathy, user research, prototyping, and more.
To accomplish this, Schneider spent 10 weeks in GA’s part-time User Experience Design course in Boston. Throughout the course, Schneider learned about the complete UX design process, including usability testing, wireframing, and more skills she leverages in work with clients.
“I finished the class armed with a very strong portfolio piece and presentation that I used when interviewing for UX design positions,” says Schneider, who leveraged her new skills to become a UX design lead at Platinion, a tech subsidiary of the global Boston Consulting Group. “I truly believe that this, in combination with instructor coaching, were what helped me achieve my goal of pivoting my career to becoming a user experience designer.”