With a robust population of 5.8 million people1, Philadelphia (or Philly) boasts a rich and diverse culture founded on hard work and innovation. The growing pool of highly skilled tech talent in the area is a testament to why it’s becoming one of the most promising tech hubs in the country. It’s also home to the nation’s 7th largest workforce (3.4 million) and the top U.S. business school.2
Ranking third in the nation for best cities for women in the tech sector based on the gender pay gap,3 Philadelphians are reshaping the future of work into a more equitable playing field for all. The opportunity for non-technical advancement is also growing at a rapid pace for the emerging tech talent pipeline4 — not to mention the other Pennsylvania cities with growing tech communities, such as Harrisburg, Lancaster, and Pittsburgh.
With its neighborly feel, a deeply connected community is a signature feature of Philadelphia — one that is instrumental to the city’s history as well as its future. GA Philly plans to cultivate thousands of meaningful connections through thoughtful partnership building and learning opportunities by facilitating expert-led classes and workshops and intentional panel discussions each week.
Companies and Jobs
Top industries: life sciences, information technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, energy, financial and professional services, logistics, and manufacturing.5
Major employers:6 Comcast, Day & Zimmerman, Clarivate, Spectra, Health-Union, Sidecar Interactive, Spark Therapeutics, Meet Group, Vici Media, and Phenom People.7
Philadelphia is considered the leader in healthcare innovation with increased investment in biotech.8 The Greater Philadelphia region is home to more than 30 cell and gene therapy development companies,9 as well as the CAR T-cell cancer treatment therapy — developed in a collaboration by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Medicine.10
The recent surge in job postings suggests that exciting possibilities are on the horizon. With a lower cost of living than other major cities, it’s a compelling environment to launch a business and attract new talent.12
The Philadelphia Tech Community
With 5,100 tech businesses,13 organizations like Philly Startup Leaders are creating space for startups to connect with leaders in the community.14
From a women-focused non-profit to a community-led talent marketplace, there are local organizations where you can find resources to start a business, offer your support, or connect with like-minded entrepreneurs.
Want to help diversify the tech talent pipeline? Philly Tech Sistas is a non-profit organization that helps women of color gain technical and professional skills in order to work, thrive, and level up in the tech industry.
Require assistance to build a product or enhance your business? Think Company has a team full of experts in design, developing, and coaching (featuring some of our very own GA alumni!).
Need a diverse and supportive community of fellow tech enthusiasts? Tribaja is not only community-led but offers tons of resources for your next career move.
Having the lowest office rental rates among top metros, Philly is home to some of the most elite co-working spaces such as 1776, CIC Philadelphia, Industrious, and City CoHo — all great places to check out for networking or collaborating with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and creatives.
Stay in the Know
Here are just a handful of resources to help you dive deeper into Philadelphia’s tech and startup ecosystem:
Subscribe to Billy Penn, one of Philly’s media channels for local news and announcements, or Technical.ly Philly for daily updates on navigating Philly’s local economy.
Small Biz Philly covers everything related to launching and growing small businesses.
Check out Philly Mag to stay in the loop on the latest industry trends, events, and upcoming business ventures in the area.
Miles of white-sand beaches, perfect weather, and a red-hot tech scene — welcome to the modern San Diego. With its charming neighborhoods and diverse community, San Diego has been revered as “America’s Finest City.” But in recent years, it’s also quickly gained a reputation as a hotspot for startups and tech jobs, which accounts for almost 9% of total employment. A high concentration of millennials in the area — a characteristic of vibrant tech ecosystems — is only one force bringing San Diego into the future of work. A recent report found that millennials account for 24% of the region’s population and more than half of the population is younger than 39 years old.
Athena is a premier women’s advocacy organization that fast tracks women in STEM through leadership development.
Hera Hub is a women-focused coworking space and business accelerator.
The San Diego tech community also hosts dynamic networking events — the largest beingMarch Mingle — to celebrate the latest technologies and startups of the area. Startup San Diego also organizes annual events, such as San Diego Startup Week Month and Convergence, packed with panel discussions, hands-on workshops, and pitch competitions.
Stay in the Know
If you’re new to the community, this guide by the San Diego startup community will come in handy when navigating the local tech scene. We’ve also listed additional resources to help you keep up with the latest San Diego tech news and events:
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, join some (or all!) of these local groups to meet like-minded individuals and grow your network.
Nestled comfortably in the northern Midwest, Minneapolis and St. Paul — or the Twin Cities — are known for their abundant lakes, expansive parks, and snowy winters. The metro area is home to more than a dozen established Fortune 500 companies, as well as a bustling startup community. From its iconic hospitality to diverse career prospects, the Twin Cities is more than flyover country. Twin Cities Startup Week — with its innovative fly-in program — is proof that it’s a great place to grow a startup and your professional network. According to CNBC, it’s also the best city for women entrepreneurs, having nearly 20% of businesses owned by women and a high early startup success rate of over 80%.
Companies and Jobs
Top industries: healthcare, medical tech, finance, manufacturing, food and agriculture, and more.
Major employers: UnitedHealth Group, Target Corporation, Best Buy, 3M, US Bank, and General Mills.
Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 40% increase in startup investments. There’s also an emergence of startup accelerators such as TechStars and gener8tor.
The Twin Cities Tech Community
The tech community is thriving — organizations like Minnestar make it easy for founders, mentors, volunteers, and employees to connect.
They also host dynamic tech and startup events such as Twin Cities Startup Week — an annual conference with over 200+ events and 15,000+ attendees — and MinneDemo, a showcase of Minnesota-made tech products.
Stay in the Know
Here are just a handful of resources to help you dive deeper into Twin Cities tech:
Salt Lake City has long been a haven for skiers chasing the “best snow on Earth” and adventurers exploring Utah’s many national parks. However, Salt Lake City has recently garnered new attention as a booming tech ecosystem. Multiple high-profile companies — like Adobe and eBay — have opened campuses in the area, while home-grown companies like Qualtrics, Domo, Instructure, Pluralsight, and Lucid have achieved significant success. This tremendous growth across the tech landscape has earned the city the nickname, “Silicon Slopes.” Overall, the tech sector is growing at a tremendous rate in both Utah and Salt Lake City. According to a Gardner report, tech jobs in Utah are growing at twice the rate of the national average, with one in seven jobs based in tech and innovation. In Salt Lake City specifically, tech jobs have grown by 12% since January 20181.
What makes Salt Lake City so attractive for tech companies? For starters, Salt Lake City is a young, highly-educated city, with a median population age of 31.7 years2. The city also boasts the country’s newest international airport, providing easy access for business and personal trips. From a cultural perspective, Utah prides itself on being the Beehive State, reflecting the area’s values of industry, community, and collaboration. This is evident in local organizations like Silicon Slopes — a nonprofit that fosters the startup and tech community through education and events, including the annual Silicon Slopes Summit that hosts more than 15,000 attendees. All of this has resulted in a massive influx of diverse talent to Salt Lake City, particularly in 2020 — LinkedIn’s data showed that Salt Lake City had the second highest gains in net arrivals of any city in the U.S.
Companies and Jobs
Top industries: education, healthcare, and retail.3
Major employers: Wal-Mart, The University of Utah, the state of Utah, Intermountain Health Care, and the U.S. government.4
Utah leads the nation in industry growth in life sciences and recently introduced BioHive, a “healthcare corridor designed to nurture this cutting-edge industry.”5
Salt Lake City’s unemployment rate remains well below the national average at 3.7% in 2020, compared to 6.7% nationally.6
Featuring Insights From Pedro Martin & Matt Studdert
Read: 4 Minutes
Maybe you’re curious about becoming a front-end web developer but want to know what you’re in for before making the leap. Or perhaps you’re weighing whether it would be financially worthwhile to invest the time and money in a career switch. You probably already know that front-end web development is one of the fastest-growing fields out there. So if you want to hear from the insiders why everyone seems to be clamoring to hire this role, read on. Knowledge is power.
We asked our resident experts what it takes to become a star front-end web developer (FEWD). Pedro Martin is a software engineer at Red Badger, and Matt Studdert is the founder of Frontend Mentor. Both are also GA instructors — and both of their answers were surprising.
Martin cites empathy as being the number one characteristic needed in FEWD, and explained that the role demands you consider every decision you make from your user’s perspective.
“You must understand the diversity of all humans consuming the content, so you can build a human-centric solution with accessibility as the core,” he says. “You must understand the intention of the client and adapt or influence the content accordingly. And you must understand that delivering software based on the web is a team effort.“
Similarly, Studdert claims emotional intelligence is most important since a developer’s process of problem-solving is often trial-and-error.
“Starting your journey in web development is to go from error to error, from problem to problem. So at the beginning of your journey, you should be resilient and emotionally intelligent enough to not get frustrated.” He adds, “Most of us have been there, and we can relate to that struggle.”
So about that problem-solving. Just how advanced do you have to be at writing code? To make it as a FEWD, do you have to be a pro at programming?
If you can improve your problem-solving skills and your coding, it will help you massively as a developer. Boosting your value in today’s economy ultimately gives you more freedom, more choices, and more money. (More on that later.)
But writing code isn’t all there is to it. Collaboration is crucial. “As a front-end developer, you’ll be working mainly with UI and UX designers to improve the visual side of the site. You’ll also be communicating with back-end developers on how to integrate with the API. Other team members, like product managers, project managers, and product owners, will be people who you’ll be talking to throughout each week. And if you’re working at an agency, you may also be in meetings with the client and need to present work to them.”
One of the great things about becoming a FEWD is that you can take your skills almost anywhere. While salaries vary widely from country to country, even region to region, one thing is clear: developers are in demand.
“The demand for programmers with all levels of experience is not being matched by the supply,” says Martin. “Here in London, you can start at £30,000, and from there, the sky’s the limit. When I started 6 years ago, it was £24,000, so in only 6 years we have an increase of 25% on the starting salary.”
The advantages of working on staff are many — especially for those just starting out. Here in the U.S., salaries for front-end web developers range from $80K to $115K, according to Glassdoor, though these amounts can vary by geographic location and from country to country.
“Working within a team is especially crucial for new developers, as it’s critical you learn good practices and build up your experience in a professional setting,” says Studdert. Not to mention more stability and the benefits that come with working for a company.
The usual downsides of going freelance apply here, too, like less consistent workflow, having to do business management work like accounting, and time spent chasing clients. But the freedom to decide when, where, and how you want to work can be priceless. As a freelancer, you can charge higher wages and actually gross more than if you were working for somebody else.
In this career path, there is ample room for advancement. As a developer in a large organization, you can advance from entry level to senior to lead, and get salary increases along the way. “Many companies offer career progression paths depending on whether you want to focus on writing code or you prefer to move into more management-focused roles,” says Studdert. “Being a front-end developer can also lead to hybrid responsibilities if it’s something you’re interested in. For example, you could become a full-stack developer and work with back-end code as well. Or you could become a UX engineer and blend front-end work with UX design.”
Whether you join a large firm or become an independent contractor, there are plenty of opportunities to create the career you want. The future is bright for front-end web developers.
Do you see a simple interface as a thing of beauty? Do you look at a design problem like an unfinished work of art? Does reducing user friction give you a sense that all is right in the world? If you answered yes to all of the above, then the role of visual designer is for you.
Visual designers, sometimes called digital designers, are primarily focused on visual communication and take a big-picture approach. Not to be confused with graphic designers, who use design elements like typeface and color to create a product, and may be more limited in scope, visual designers have a broader reach, working across platforms to build a brand identity’s look and feel in a more holistic way.
The visual designer is in a unique position of strength. A problem-solver at heart, the visual designer takes input from a portfolio of stakeholders and uses digital design tools to achieve business goals with a functionally elegant finished product.
There’s never been a better time to join the ranks of designers working in the digital world. The job outlook is decidedly rosy, with opportunities projected to grow much faster than other occupations thanks in part to the pandemic-related surge in mobile and eCommerce. So whether you’re looking to up your game (and your job title), make a career switch, or are just starting out, it literally pays to know what skills are needed as a visual designer.
According to Jason Early, a distinguished faculty member at GA and a 20-year design professional, what it takes to be a successful visual designer has less to do with design and more to do with ingenuity. “Empathy, inquisitiveness, and a desire to learn and solve problems are the most important qualities for a designer to have. Your job is to help address the challenges of an audience.”
But putting those high-minded qualities to work in today’s competitive digital economy often requires fluency with the bottom line. “As a designer, you are always selling to someone,” says Early. “Whether it’s trying to get buy-in from your team on a design direction, project approval from a stakeholder, or an audience to try your product, communication is key. It’s important to understand the business side of the industry you are in. You may be a designer, but your work provides value to the business.”
Early teaches our User Experience Design Immersive, a deep dive into the design discipline that serves as a career launching pad for students who can make the full-time commitment. In this Immersive, he covers the entire design process and offers opportunities to apply lessons to IRL projects. For those looking to gain a competitive edge in their existing jobs, part-time courses can give structure and background to the design process and help formalize a process that many have already been practicing on their own. Even better? Most courses are available online.
So what does a visual designer do all day? Ask five designers what their day looks like, and you’ll get five different answers. That’s in large part because today’s digital economy is fast-moving and ever-evolving — and the reason the field attracts an adventurous talent pool.
As a visual design consultant, Early mostly sets his own schedule, structuring his time around current projects and clients. “My day generally starts with the most important tasks like reviewing project updates, addressing feedback, code reviews — anything to unblock progress. Next, I’ll work on production iterations and improvements, then do email and communication check-ins. Afternoons are usually open for whatever needs my attention. I may be reviewing analytics, generating performance reports for clients, developing new client leads, reviewing my own marketing efforts, or spending time learning about a new tool that I may need for a project.” He adds, “Remember, I’m an independent. In-house roles can look dramatically different.”
Keep in mind that design departments can be staffed differently from company to company, with job titles remaining mostly consistent. A visual designer is tasked with the visual communication of the design, including the look and aesthetic of the product and making sure the use of color, typography, imagery, and layout are working together to satisfy a goal. A user experience designer, on the other hand, is focused on the overall experience of a design, taking into consideration the understanding of an audience and creating a strategic approach to address any challenges the user may face. More traditional job titles such as graphic designer and art director are holding fast, as long as they evolve to meet the needs of the digital economy.
“An art director is a leadership role and manages a team of designers through a project,” explains Early. “The design director is often the next level of leadership up from art director. They are responsible for overseeing the entire design team. A chief creative officer is a C-suite level of leadership for the design team in an organization. They have the widest scope of responsibility as they oversee anything creative in an entire organization, such as product, marketing, or software.” This is just one example of how a visual design department in a large company may be structured.
And what about compensation? What can you expect to earn from a visual designer salary? “This will depend on your market, but the average salary range in the U.S. is around $75K to $140K, according to Glassdoor. This, of course, depends on candidate experience, regional market, industry, and the ability to negotiate. Plus, there can be a difference in salary if you work at an agency vs. independently. Agencies can offer a lower wage and longer hours, but there can be more opportunity to work your way up to higher wages. As an independent, I set a project rate based on the goals the client is trying to reach.”
Early advises working in a team with well-established leadership if you’re looking to fast-track your career. Agencies are great for this as they usually have a well-defined hierarchy. For emerging designers, joining a firm where you will be part of a team of designers offers the most robust opportunities to learn on the job.
If you choose to strike out on your own as an independent designer, it’s a career path that can pay off in many ways. “The benefits of starting your own business are many, including flexibility of time and potentially higher pay.”
Are you a graphic designer intimidated by the prospect of transitioning to digital design work? Are you concerned with your ability to learn new tools and unfamiliar terminology? Those fears are normal and all too common for creative professionals, but the facts — and figures — say otherwise. Core design skills are still core design skills, regardless of the medium. Truthfully, the tech industry needs people just like you.
Graphic design was originally established to meet the needs of print, with a focus on layout and typography, Bridging the gap to digital requires an understanding of how users interact with your product. Read on to find out why your experience is a valuable commodity in today’s job market, no matter what you might assume.
Let’s begin with salary. While the median salary for a graphic designer is $55K, tech- and leadership-driven roles that require similar skills like art director, web designer, or product designer command higher salaries. For example, a web designer just starting out can earn $65K, with a range of up to $140K in senior managerial roles. Even better, stretching your design skill set for positions like user experience (UX) designer can bring your starting salary up to $100K, with more sizable gains as you advance and accrue experience. Salary information according to Glassdoor. Amounts will vary by geographic location and from country to country.
The big question: how do you supercharge your design skills in a way that positions you to crush the job market?
There are practical and relevant ways to supplement your graphic design skills — and skyrocket your salary. Consider our UX Design Immersive (UXDI), a full-time bootcamp that’s available online and designed to launch you into a high-growth, high-paying tech career. “My favorite course to teach is UXDI,” says one of our distinguished faculty members,Jason Early. “I have a lot of time to focus on the students and help them achieve their individual goals. By the time we’ve completed a course, they’re confident and able to start applying what they have learned out in the world.”
Look no further for an inspiring success story. Early started his career as a graphic designer and is a living case study on pushing design skills past traditional boundaries to meet new challenges.
“I have a traditional university training in graphic design and have expanded that into web design, front-end development, and product design over the years. What first attracted me to the design industry was my interest in making things. I wanted to understand how products get made. So I started learning about the different areas that lead into product development. Graphic design taught me visual communication, front-end development taught me digital production, product design taught me how to combine those skills, and an understanding of business taught me how to produce product value.”
Our Immersive graduates emerge equipped with the new skills they need to navigate a career transition, but what about the prior work experience they bring to the new role? Are those traditional design skills transferable?
“Absolutely,” says Early. “They are already going to be familiar with the design process. While graphic design is focused more on visual communication, UX design is more strategic and focused on behavior. The process is the same: research, analysis, exploration, refinement, deployment. The only difference is the result.”
Of course, the best perk of a GA Immersive is that you’ll gain familiarity with the top employers out there, including who is hiring and how to connect to hiring managers, plus the invaluable resource of networking with world-class faculty and a group of like-minded, forward-thinking students (and future colleagues + friends).
Now an independent design consultant with 20 years experience, Early advises those considering a career change to start by thinking about the challenges encountered every day, their causes, and what can be done to address them. “Now, you are beginning to think like a designer,” he says.
A growth mindset and a willingness to learn go a long way. Today’s designers have more tools at their disposal than ever, with a steady influx of new software designed to make the job easier.
“Tools tend to vary by the team and company,” says Early. “I see Figma being adopted more and more by designers. It’s great for remote collaborative design production. Aside from that, being familiar with analytics software and usability testing software is important. Google Analytics and Usertesting are two of the most commonly used, but there are others in the market as well.”
Adapting to innovations is a win-win for all designers. Your work becomes more efficient, your proficiency increases, and your role as a designer becomes even more valuable — and diverse.
Are you curious, adaptable, and strategic? Creative, but not afraid to dive into the numbers now and then? These qualities will take you far in a digital marketing career. Digital marketing spans so many areas of expertise — there’s a perfect job for practically everyone with a problem-solving mindset. Armed with the skills you need to succeed, you’ll have the confidence to lock in a job with plenty of growth potential and a commensurate salary… every step of the way.
Rachel Denton, a digital marketing specialist, and one of our Austin campus instructors, shares her hardwon insights on the industry. Denton started her career as an engineer but was ultimately drawn to marketing because she could use her analytical mindset along with her creativity in a way that played up the strengths of each. It’s a balance she finds extremely rewarding and enthusiastically shares with her students. In her Email Marketing Essentials and Data Analytics courses, she relishes seeing the light bulb moments when students understand a new marketing concept or figure out a data-based strategy for the first time.
“Building a strong foundation is paramount. That means understanding the digital marketing channels and how to create, execute, measure, and optimize digital marketing campaigns. Once students understand these, there are so many directions they can go in the field of digital marketing. It really depends on their passions and interests.”
Let’s break out the individual roles within the field of digital marketing and what you can expect to earn.
Digital Marketing roles include those focused on specific channels such as social media manager, email marketing manager, content marketing manager, paid search manager, SEO manager, and marketing automation manager. Salaries for these roles fall in the range of $70K to $90K, depending on experience. Though they are often entry-point hires at smaller companies, candidates with relevant education and proven tech skill proficiencies have a clear advantage. Be ready to hit the ground running.
Higher-level roles in digital marketing are responsible for overseeing campaigns and managing teams of various sizes. These titles and salary ranges include digital marketing manager, $85K to $120K; digital marketing director, $120K to $160K; VP of marketing, $160K to $220K; and chief marketing officer (CMO), $200K to $500K or more — with the lucky few making millions per year. Compensation packages often include an incentivized bonus, whether based on individual performance, company performance, or both. Additional benefits like stock options or matching retirement funds may be on offer and often negotiable. Salary information is sourced from Glassdoor, but keep in mind that these numbers can vary by geographic location and from country to country.
An Interview with product management veteran John Bartlett
Read: 3 Minutes
Working as a product manager in tech can be an exciting career. But if doing the same thing day after day is your idea of job fulfillment, look elsewhere. Being a product manager requires flexibility, agility, and thinking on your feet because reacting and responding to the shifting needs of the business is exactly what you’ll do. Taking products over the finish line, often in a leadership capacity and as part of a team of designers and developers, has huge rewards. It’s a sense of accomplishment like no other, and it’s why many product managers report high job satisfaction. To get a sense of what working as a product manager is like, we called on John Bartlett, a product management expert who has been bringing products to market for over 20 years. He weighs in on how to pursue a career in product development, the job outlook for product managers, the average salary, and the industry tips he has shared with hundreds of aspiring mentees.
Let’s go back to basics. What initially inspired you to get into product management?
JB: I got into product management the way many people do — by accident. I was at a startup and there wasn’t anyone doing “PM stuff” so I just jumped in and started doing it. After a while, I realized I needed more formal training so I went to work for a larger company that trained their product managers to be focused on the customer. From then on I was hooked, and grew my career working for some very successful companies.
For someone not familiar with the product manager role, can you explain what they do?
JB: The primary role of the product manager is to understand customer problems and to work with a team of designers and developers to help create solutions to those problems. The role involves wearing many hats, along with the ability to juggle multiple priorities and stakeholders, make good decisions for your company and customers, and work hard to solve customer problems. Wherever possible, you should be using data to make those decisions. And, oh yeah, make sure your products are making money for your company!
Where are some of the places a product manager works?
JB: In the tech sector, at companies that build software and hardware products. Or in other sectors like retail — anywhere products and services are being sold online (eCommerce, FinTech, review sites). The PM role is also becoming more popular in IT organizations as they are thinking more about products, rather than projects, for their internal customers. Project managers also exist in other industries outside of tech in everything from insurance products to tractors.
What are some of the programs or software tools that product managers use?
JB: Most use standard office products — MS or Google spreadsheets, presentations, etc. Depending on the role, they may use some prototyping tools like Sketch or Balsamiq. Jira is very popular as a tool for tracking development tasks. Though not designed for PMs, they use it to work with their development teams. Aha and Productboard are two products that are designed for PMs to use for product planning, though usage is not widespread. There are also analytical tools like Google Analytics, Tableau, or Pendo that help to understand how products are being used. SQL can be helpful, as well.
What kind of educational background does someone looking to get into product management need?
JB: You don’t need a tech background to be a product manager unless you’re working on very technical products. A bachelor’s degree is usually required. If your degree is in business, liberal arts, or one where you’ve had to do a lot of writing, even better. A graduate degree like an MBA, while not required, is a plus. What’s important for product managers is the willingness to learn about the technology that’s used in building their products so they can better communicate with their development teams.
What is the typical product manager starting salary?
JB: According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a product manager is $110,500. Associate product managers can start at around $60K–$70K, with a senior product manager salary in the $100K–$150K range. You’ll find that a product manager’s salary can range widely, depending on the company. Product managers at tech companies are highly valued and can skew higher, with a salary range up to $175K.
Where should I start if I want to make a career switch to becoming a product manager?
JB: If you’re working in a company with product managers, make sure to connect with them and ask them lots of questions about the role. If it’s a career that you think you’d like to pursue, sign up for my product management course at GA, where you can learn the most important skills and best practices. I wish there was a program like this available when I was starting out! The classes are made up of students either thinking about a career change, recently in a PM role, or more experienced PMs looking to uplevel their skills. What’s great is that the class is structured to accommodate all of those levels, so I can work with less-experienced students on fundamentals and experienced students on more advanced topics. I also learn so much from the students since they come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.