Celebrating 10 Years: Ian Stirgwolt

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Ian Stirgwolt, one of our client success managers, who works on several social impact projects within GA, including Code for Good and our community reskilling efforts in Louisville and Sacramento. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Ian Stirgwolt: I am a client success manager. I am living in sunny Los Angeles. 

GA: Can you tell us more about your role? 

Ian Stirgwolt: I like to think of the client success manager as the center of our Delivery team. We act as the conduit between our client and all of the different other services that GA offers, such as our Learning Experience Architect team, instructional designers, instructor managers, or operations. 

My focus is on figuring out what our clients need after we’ve signed a contract and then continuously checking in with them, making sure that we are on the right track, and helping to lead our team internally to make sure that we continue on the right track.

GA: Talk us through keeping clients on the right track through a program.

Ian Stirgwolt: A good example is putting together a workshop. A client might think, “Hey, we really want a marketing workshop, and we don’t really know that much about the pertinent details, but you, as the learning partner, are going to help us figure that out.” 

Our Client Success team really can say, “I’ve seen this problem before at another organization.” I think the really great thing about the Client Success team is that we have that shared knowledge. It’s such a tight-knit team that works together to share our experiences, which helps us answer the client’s challenges and challenges that might exist underneath the water, the other 70% of the iceberg. 

GA: You’ve had the opportunity to work with our clients on Code for Good, which is amazing. Can you tell us more? 

Ian Stirgwolt: Code for Good grew out of a program called CODE: Rosie which we did with Disney. It was an effort to help organizations take people from within their company — who might be working in customer service or IT — who have had experience with technology before but are not hard technologists; we turned those individuals into software engineers. CODE: Rosie focused on bringing more female voices into engineering.

We have expanded since then. Code for Good now focuses on taking people from diverse and nontraditional backgrounds, such as women or people of color, into technology roles.

GA: What clients have been involved with Code for Good? 

Ian Stirgwolt: The first cohort we ran went from May to August of 2020. The two clients involved were Humana and Guardian. I think that’s an important thing to highlight because this program focuses on bringing clients together. We wanted to create conversations between these two organizations, in addition to providing a reskilling opportunity. 

Guardian signed on for the second year with Union Pacific — that cohort is currently in progress and will end in mid-July. 

GA: How was the experience working with multiple clients at once? 

Ian Stirgwolt: It was great because we could bring together both organizations to decide on the program itself and what that would look like. Being able to decide on a program that answered all needs can be a herculean effort. 

Seeing cross-pollination within the classroom between the employees at these companies was really interesting. Both Humana and Guardian brought in speakers from their organizations to give students an idea of what they might be working on as they transition to new roles. 

We’ve had people from within this program graduate and move into different roles within Guardian and Humana. Some people went into UX and focused on the front-end, while others have gone into data and analytics. 

It’s exciting to see how the program and speakers influenced the careers of these participants.  

GA: You also get to work on our community reskilling programs. Tell us about that.

Ian Stirgwolt: As COVID-19 set in, we saw a lot of people losing jobs, especially within the leisure and entertainment industries, so we turned our focus to reskilling communities. 

We started partnering with local governments, such as Sacramento, local community partners, such as the Greater Sacramento Urban League, and local companies, such as Humana, who wanted to invest in their communities and upskill people who were losing their jobs during the pandemic.  

Louisville is a really interesting example because Humana came with an identified need. They wanted to help those in their community who had lost their job during the pandemic get into a new career.  

The first part of the program focused on awareness: How do we get people aware that digital- and tech-related jobs are available? That’s when we launched our on-demand programs to the community. The mayor and other community partners got involved in helping us spread the word. 

The second part of the program focused on taking those individuals and getting them through a series of programs to ensure they capitalize on the opportunity. We then opened access to our classes and workshops. 

Phase three took those individuals who participated in phase one and two of the program into our accelerators, including UX, digital marketing, and data analytics, to help them get the skills they needed to take the next step in their career. 

Humana also saw a big need for more data skills, so we set up a data science course split into two paths: data analytics and data science. 

GA: So, basically, you have one of the coolest jobs at GA. Tell us what your favorite part of your job is. 

Ian Stirgwolt: I’m really lucky. The team here at GA is phenomenal. It’s a team where you feel supported. There is so much knowledge, effort, and energy on this team; it’s really inspiring to be part of it.

Another favorite part of the job is the ability to impact through community reskilling and social impact projects. I love working with my clients and helping them along this journey. The ability to impact someone’s life — through education — is inspiring to me.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch.

Celebrating 10 Years: Michelle Bergquist

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Michelle Bergquist, one of our client success managers, who works with several enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees into digital roles. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Michelle Bergquist: I am located in London, England, and my role is client success manager. 

GA: Can you tell me more about your role? 

Michelle Bergquist: It’s my job to make sure that everyone who interacts with our program has a great end-to-end experience, so that’s our clients, students, and instructors. We want them to walk away feeling like they had the best learning experience — everything from the first touchpoint where they know exactly what to expect, to their course to their instructors’ content and what we (GA) expect from them. At every point along their learning journey, they should feel set up for success and leave the program understanding how it all applies to their jobs. 

GA: What’s your favorite part of your job? 

Michelle Bergquist: I would say that’s twofold. It’s a job where you get a lot of immediate satisfaction. It can be only a couple of months from kickoff to the point of the delivery, so I’m planning things in real-time. I see the impact of my efforts almost immediately. 

In the same vein, I absolutely love going back to the feedback from students and seeing them in the classroom to see that impact in real-time. You can see in their feedback what they were able to get out of the course and how they can go back to their teams and improve things right away. 

GA: What’s your favorite GA skilling solution? Tell us why.

Michelle Bergquist: The one that sticks out most to me is our Product Management Accelerator. We ran it for a banking client in January 2021, and I did a post-program interview with one of the participants. She was an engineer for about 18 years and had just transitioned into a product management role. Prior to the course, she struggled with imposter syndrome and constantly thought, “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t have the right skills.” After the course, she said she felt like Superwoman. She felt so confident in herself and knew exactly how to do her job. 

GA: How do you help your customers understand what “good” looks like? 

Michelle Bergquist: It’s about asking the right questions up front, “What does success look like to you? When the program is over, what do you want to say that we’ve accomplished?”

On the Delivery team, we are focused on making sure our customers understand the impact of a learning program, so we do follow-ups post-program at the 30-60-90 day marks. There is a lot of stakeholder management to understand objectives and how we meet them.

GA: What are some common problems you help clients solve? 

Michelle Bergquist: In the data space, it’s the talent pipeline. For example, we’re working with a big bank, and they need staff. So, they’re bringing talent in at certain levels and training them on day one of working with the company. These employees go directly into our programs. 

Within consumer packaged goods, it’s competing with who they see as the leader in their space. If one of their competitors is setting the gold standard in marketing and they want to be at their level, we help them get there with our digital marketing training. 

Consistency across geographies is another challenge. For example, we’re working with a large B2B company in Europe, where they do things differently across their different geos. They want to build that baseline of how everyone should be operating, no matter what country they’re in. It varies across the board, but those are some of the main themes that I see.

GA: What advice do you have for leaders trying to take on the future of work? 

Michelle Bergquist: Be open to new ideas. The old or habitual ways of learning, such as getting a four-year degree, don’t solve the problem anymore. Being open to different ways of learning can make a huge impact. If you’re open, then your employees will be open. 

It really starts with the executive stakeholder setting the bar of what they expect. Some of the best programs we’ve run are when the project sponsors or the client stakeholders are really involved. After that, everyone else steps in and follows behind them. 

For example, we recently had our launch with a consumer packaged goods company, and the general manager of the North American office joined the live launch, which is rare. At the end of the call, she told the team, “I know we’re super busy, but you have to make this a priority. Learning is just as important as your quota. I’m right here with you taking this course. We’re all in this together.” That buy-in helped us to get 100% completion on our CM1 assessment, and that business was immediately able to see the impact.

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch

Celebrating 10 Years: Sarah Hakani

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It takes a community.

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting some of our best people, partners, and instructors. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to be inspired by some incredible stories that have driven the success of our enterprise business.

Keep reading to meet Sarah Hakani, one of our senior learning experience architects, who creates programs for several enterprise businesses to help them upskill and reskill their employees for the future of work. 


GA: Where are you located, and what is your role at GA? 

Sarah Hakani: I am a senior learning experience architect based in Brooklyn, New York.

GA: What is a learning experience architect?

Sarah Hakani: I like to say it’s a hybrid between being an instructional designer and a consultant. What we do is think about what types of learning solutions map to different client needs. What makes us closer to instructional designers is that we’re thinking about adult learning principles, ways to engage with people who are already on their learning journeys, building on prior knowledge, and understanding business context and industry to customize our learning experiences. 

GA: What’s your favorite part of your role?

Sarah Hakani: My favorite part of this role is the impact reports. At the end of a program, there’s always a lot of curiosity, and a lot of “How do we connect this to our business, what’s next, and what do we do tomorrow, based on what we learned today?”

In those moments, there’s always this flood of gratitude and an outpouring of intention that feels really beautiful because it’s all this work that you’ve put in, and you can see, this tangible way that our clients are saying, “This is what I’m going to do with it today.”

I think that very directly translates to the impact reports that happen right after each program. We create a really detailed, honest, and transparent summary of how learners in the room felt about different things. The most rewarding part is that collaborative reflection moment where a client says to us, “You pulled it off; what can we do better next time?” It shows that there’s this desire to continue to get better, and that’s really beautiful — and often rare — in learning experiences.

GA: How do you help businesses find their best learning program?

Sarah Hakani: We start by understanding the business challenges. Leaders come to us and say something like, “We need more first-party data,” or “Our data strategy is weak.” They come to us with a big problem, and we ask, “Have you considered XYZ?” Or “What about this XYZ solution?” Or, “Our instructors work directly in this XYZ field, so what about a workshop that encompasses blank, blank, and blank?” 

It’s a very iterative process, which I really love. 

GA: What is your favorite discipline and why? 

Sarah Hakani: The most fun, for me, is digital marketing because it has the most psychology. So much about digital marketing involves all of us as consumers. We go into the workshops and think, “I am a consumer, and so, these are the ways that people are thinking about targeting me. These are the ways that I am personally thinking about when it comes to empathy mapping and consumer decision journeys.”

There’s a human element to digital marketing that has made it an easier entry point for me to target. It makes our instructors so phenomenal within it, too, because they’re all thinking; they are all consumers. It’s the one discipline where every person has a very personal investment in what digital marketing is, what daily content we consume, and the decisions that content leads us to make.

GA: Tell us about the most exciting program you’ve built for a client. 

Sarah Hakani: My favorite was the UX for Marketers program that I built for a Fortune 100 CPG company in their health care division. Hybrid programs are really exciting for me because we’re designing for people in a different discipline to think about working better cross-functionally, which is half the battle for our enterprise clients. 

How does a marketing team know what request to make of agencies to have the proper UX to guide their consumers? This program was a three-day program, and the most beautiful part was that UX for Marketers — for personal health care — looks different than simply UX for Marketers. 

When you’re thinking about personal health care, often, people are in a frenzy searching for serious topics. There’s an intimacy that comes with searches and understanding their behavior through their searches. Bad UX can completely stress someone out.

This specific learner audience was my favorite because there was so much empathy in the room for the consumer. 

GA: What are some common challenges you hear from enterprise clients? 

Sarah Hakani: I would say the biggest one for digital marketing is definitely the death of cookies and tracking issues. People have been coming to us saying, “We have been collecting this first-party data, and we don’t totally know how to activate it.” 

Another one I’ve seen a lot is this fear of AI. The challenge is thinking about ways to simplify it and make people understand that they’re not going to lose their jobs and that AI is a tool that will help them be much more efficient and have stronger processes that allow people to do better work. 

I’ve also been seeing a lot of UX-related questions because, during the pandemic, people were thinking about their virtual audiences and translating products to a salient digital experience, and iterating. 

GA: We’ve had an incredible 10 years; what are you excited about for the next 10? 

Sarah Hakani: What’s exciting to me about the next 10 years at GA is what reskilling can look like on a community level and what it means to take care of our people… Our mission is rooted in targeting underserved people. 

The pandemic showed that a lot of that is still a reality, and what we need to be doing is thinking about reskilling — not just from an enterprise or consumer level. What GA does really well is equip people with the skills that they need to be okay and for generations after them to be okay. 

If there’s anything I’m excited about, it’s that we took a stance during the pandemic and that the success of that is going to lead to much more shareable knowledge — especially with the most marginalized. That’s a future state that became much more apparent in the last (very unfortunate) year, and I’m really excited to see where we go with it. 

Stay tuned for more incredible stories from our team and partners in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about how GA can make a difference in your business today? Get in touch.

Why DEI Begins & Ends With Learning

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DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a business priority that has lasting impacts on the world around us — and it happens to be a current buzz acronym on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The truth is, the “buzz” surrounding DEI is inconsequential. DEI is a cultural shift that’s here to stay — and it must be woven into every thread of our modern workplace culture. While 76% of organizations agree that DEI is a business priority, few actually made good on their promises and pledges last year, with only 5% meeting their goals.

We all know that real change doesn’t happen overnight — pledges and commitments need to be substantiated with real and actionable plans. Companies need to play the long game by cultivating the talent that exists in unexpected and underserved places, drawing on a more diverse workforce’s collective strengths and perspectives, and bridging the diversity gaps in high-growth fields. 

Why We Are Talking About DEI

What does learning have to do with diversity, equity, and inclusion? And how can learning help organizations make inroads when there are clear obstacles in the way?

Learning levels the playing field by building key skills and, in turn, provides full access and opportunity. By partnering with businesses to reskill, upskill, and train people, we help break through obstacles and make real progress in diversity efforts — at every level.

Our internal/external “always learning” culture is incredibly unique. From our Inclusivity committee to our employee resource groups (ERGs) to our executive DEI department and officers, we are passionate about DEI and its primacy in our work culture. We are passionate about always doing better and always moving forward. While we may not always “get it right,” we are determined to make it right for all. And we want to impart our knowledge and experience — wins, stumbles, and falls — to help others establish their rightful course.

“At the heart of learning is community,” says David Porcaro, VP of Learning and Innovation at GA. “Students learn best when there is a culture of belonging.”

Read on to see how we break down the elements of DEI into actions — and how they pertain to our core.

How To Build a Healthy DEI Culture

Step 1: Transform Diversity Promises Into Actions

Leaders understand that diverse leadership correlates with better business performance, but they need help moving from making verbal promises to taking real actions. Whether on the job, online, or on-campus, we believe that learning environments flourish when every individual’s inherent value and unique gifts and perspectives get illuminated.

“I believe it is essential that businesses make meaningful investments in building diverse, inclusive workplace cultures,” said Lisa Lewin, CEO of General Assembly. “True social progress is not possible without the business community taking meaningful action to address the most intractable problems facing our world.”

But what is a “meaningful investment” in the business space? (And how do you make one?) A meaningful (DEI) investment is sustainable, authentic, and people-driven — it’s when you invest in employees’ skills, cultures, and happiness. By showing vs. telling about your commitment to your people, you are instilling a trust-driven culture that can allow for challenging and transformative conversations and shifts. 360-degree changes can shape workforce cultures and provide real opportunities for diverse individuals — and real global change.


Step 2: Really Commit to Equity & Inclusion

When workplace cultures build an inherent sense of mutual respect, trust, empathy, connectedness, and belonging within their shared communities, they allow the difficult work of continuous learning — and unlearning — to occur. So, how exactly is GA committed to an inclusive culture? And how can we help you build one yourself?

To start, since 2011, GA has been building a culture of belonging and an open door to tech careers. We have been advocates of DEI from the very beginning. We take it very seriously.

What this means for you: When we take our inclusive ethos of belonging — and the training of it —  to an organization, holistic changes inevitably and authentically happen. A good DEI culture is fully inclusive, authentic, and communicative.

How to be committed in your org:

  • Form groups, departments, and committees within your organization to start the conversation. We have a director of DEI who helms all DEI-driven initiatives and communications, along with an Inclusion Committee, numerous ERGs (employee resource groups), and a supportive senior leadership team that serve as honesty checkpoints — they, along with all of our employees, are our ultimate feedback loop.
  • Show the work. These said groups and individuals promote an array of awareness campaigns and communications for heritage months, holidays, and beyond — and make them visible. These comms air internally, publically on our social channel, and in evergreen downloadable resources. 
  • Build the culture — from top to bottom — with the right people. Our senior leadership team and human resources department fully advocate for diverse hires, promotions, and opportunities by utilizing diverse job-seeker sites, taking the necessary time to find the best, most diverse candidates. In order to create a DEI culture, an organization must “do the work” by hiring individuals who inherently support and adopt DEI practices — and provide learning opportunities at every turn. 
  • Be open — and open to change. DEI is not a set-in-stone process. There will be “oops” moments — DEI is a quick-pivoting effort that requires agility, empathy, and patience.

Step 3: Give Open Access to Skilling Opportunities

Reskilling existing employees is crucial to diversifying teams. That means opening up access to departments that are historically less diverse, such as software engineering, and to underserved people groups, such as women and PoC.

Some of our examples: 

  • We partnered with Disney to diversify their tech department by training a group of nontechnical women for roles as software engineers in the CODE: Rosie initiative
  • At Adobe, we helped to create a diversified talent pipeline for skilled engineers with Adobe Digital Academy. Instead of recruiting outside the organization, GA identified and upskilled entry-level talent into digital apprentices. 
  • Similarly, through CODE for Good, we developed a custom digital training curriculum for both Guardian & Humana that reskilled a diverse talent pool of nontechnical employees for careers as software engineers within the company. We brought these two businesses together and developed diverse curriculums for each, providing networking and learning opportunities. CfG is our enterprise coalition that reskills women and underrepresented groups into skilled and empowered software engineers.
  • We are also excited to work with OneTen as a training partner, joining their mission to upskill, hire, and advance one million Black individuals in America over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement.

How do we keep the momentum going?

We’ve identified crucial areas where DEI and learning intersect to largely impact culture in organizations. Fixing a systemic problem from the bottom up doesn’t lead to solving it at the top. Reskilling existing employees becomes crucial to fortifying teams, like offering existing employees career mobility by reskilling them into tech roles.

Ultimately, we must continuously invest in diverse employee bases and build a culture of lifelong learning by upskilling employees to accelerate careers — for every step of their career journeys. The truth is that digital skills are not static, and change is the only guaranteed constant. So, bottom line, all tech professionals, at every stage, need to be able to have the opportunity to skill up to meet the shifting demands of the industry — for a real chance to reach their full potential.

DEI is not a passing movement or one-and-done action. It must permeate every level of the org. DEI is our present and future.

GA Jobs to Be Done: A Series – Build Teams to Thrive in A Digital-First World

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The Third Step: Accelerate Technical Hiring Sustainably

The race for digital transformation has companies across industries under increased economic pressure to digitize. There’s only one issue: Getting ahead of the transformation imperative requires major changes. 

We can help.

Through our deep experience across many types of organizations, we’ve seen leaders’ transformation challenges boil down to four key goals:

  1. Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
  2. Upgrade capabilities to reflect cutting-edge technical skills across marketing, technology, and data functions.
  3. Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires. 
  4. Understand what good looks like — a skill necessary in achieving every goal.

This series, GA Jobs To Be Done, unpacks each of these four goals, providing actionable recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success.

In this series, we’ve revealed how to build a strong digital culture and how to grow the capabilities that allow transformation — but to holistically scale your technology, you need the right talent. 

How do you get the “right” talent? Look internally — and read on. 

Talent Is the End Game

Earlier in the series, we addressed how to set your business up for digital success by upskilling and reskilling your current workforce and aligning your company — from leadership to new ways of working. But scaling these new digital systems, once again, requires acquiring the right talent.

“Help me accelerate my technical hiring” is one of the most common asks we get from executives. Once digital visions are mapped and job functions scoped, companies see the importance of scaling teams — very quickly. Top-performers who have knowledge of technical skills are spending more time interviewing candidates than building technology, causing a major lag in demonstrating transformation-related ROIs.

Rest assured, there’s a way to stay out of this. We studied it, so you can avoid learning the hard way.

The Zero-Sum Game of Buying Talent

Anyone who is hiring knows that good technical talent is hard to come by. To get desired candidates, companies are engaging in a competitive talent battle that is accruing huge recruiting bills and skyrocketing salaries for qualified potential hires. This competition has created a tragedy of the commons in which a $4,000 cost-per-hire is normal, where a company like Netflix can offer a double salary to poach a new recruit, and 70% of employers either have terminated workers due to the implementation of new technology or anticipate doing so.

This is neither a winning strategy for digital companies or the marketplace as a whole. In the meantime, serious inequities have surfaced in underserved and underrepresented groups and their ability to access necessary skill development needed for tomorrow’s roles.

A Virtuous Cycle With Better Market Results

Getting out of this aforementioned vicious cycle is best for your company and the overall market. 

Good news! There is a new and better cycle: Recent studies have shown a $136K potential savings per person from reskilling in-house tech talent instead of layoffs and new hires. Reskilling high-potential employees whose roles may phase out due to automation means you increase your talent pool and demonstrate a willingness to invest in and grow your employees. Contrary to the common fear many companies share (investing in talent only to see their stars work for competitors), these “talent donors” get an incredible boost in employee engagement and loyalty

In fact, companies that invest in talent become more attractive to skilled employees drawn to their growth culture. These investments create a bigger pie for the job market: the more companies grow their internal talent, the more available talent is for the market. Job-filling efficiency also gets boosted.

Many companies are already successfully investing in talent to save time, money, and turnover. Booz Allen Hamilton’s investment in reskilling and upskilling 25,000 workforces across 80+ locations resulted in a growing data capability that secured a 4% lift in contract value and an 11% growth in employee job satisfaction and retention. Some of the largest global technology, insurance, media, and auto companies are doing the same with skilling programs thriving at Interapt, Guardian, Humana, Bloomberg, and more.

Diversity Is a Winning Strategy

While the bidding war for top talent accelerates, the market only exacerbates the well-documented diversity issues within the tech industry. From vast underrepresentation for women and people of color to wage gaps compared to their white peers, institutional barriers prevent a healthy distribution of diverse perspectives in technology.

The exclusivity of skilling access is an obstruction —  and companies are making moves to change that. For example, Disney launched a program called CODE: Rosie to reskill women as developers — and it resulted in a 100% hiring rate for graduates entering technical roles. Guardian and Humana partnered to create the Code for Good coalition that reskilled underrepresented groups (including women, BIPOC, veterans, parents, and LGBTQQIA+ individuals) into engineering roles with perfect program satisfaction scores.

Bottom Line: Invest To Grow

As these programs grow and flourish, it is clear that building talent is the answer to the vicious cycles of talent shortages we see today. Throughout this piece, we’ve highlighted the many opportunities that make building talent more effective than buying it. 

So, how do you accelerate technical hiring for your new stage of growth? Skilling your people from within is simply the most sustainable way. In addition to solving the hiring conundrum and creating numerous additional company and labor market benefits, investing in internal talent also helps you:

  1. Build a talent pipeline to attract and retain high-potential talent.
  2. Make tangible progress on your DEI goals. 
  3. Lower the costs of talent acquisition for tech and data roles.
  4. Reduce the potential shortage risk for projected talent needs,
  5. Reduce the financial and morale impacts of large restructuring efforts by reskilling laid-off workers with competitive skill sets.

As the shifts in digital innovation only accelerate, growing your talent funnel is the most effective strategy for employees, the bottom line, the labor market, and the future of business.

A critical question companies ask is, “How do I know I’m doing everything right?” While “right” means different things to different businesses, we help you benchmark what “good” looks like, so you can set and attain personalized growth goals. We’ll get into all of this in our final installment.

If you’re ready to invest in your talent, we can help today. Explore our catalog to see the digital literacy and upskilling courses that we provide — from IC to strategic leader, across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology. 

Want to get specific about how we could help your organization? Get in touch. 

Alumni Success Stories: How One GA Grad Changed Careers After 10 Years in Finance

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It’s never too late to pursue work you love — that’s what we learned catching up with User Experience Immersive Design (UXDI) alum, Manan Shah, about his journey from senior finance professional to user experience (UX) designer. Working in a high-paying, secure role for over a decade, you might think, “What more could you ask for in a career?” But it wasn’t until after Manan secured a role at JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a senior UX designer that he learned what was missing: work he loved. Learn how he navigated his career change and what he discovered along the way.

I was brought up in a single-parent immigrant household where education and extracurricular activities were important to my mom as long as they pushed me forward. This honed my creativity, as I had to make more with less.

I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in finance and went to work at Lehman Brothers after getting a full-time offer from my internship. I worked there for two years before they went bankrupt, but luckily the division I worked for, Neuberger Berman, was able to spin itself off into a private company.

What were you doing before you came to GA? What was difficult or dissatisfying about it that prompted you to make a change?

At Neuberger Berman, I was most recently a VP in Internal Audit, but there were a few reasons why I decided it was the right time to look for a new challenge. I had worked at the same place for 11 years after graduating college and never even interviewed for a full-time job. I learned how to excel in a structured environment, but I didn’t have the opportunity to flex my creative skills. I also wanted to start a family soon and knew it was my last chance to take a risk and do something different.

What about UX specifically intrigued you to explore it as a career? What was the defining moment that pushed you forward?

Thankfully, my wife encouraged me to look outside of finance. I realized that I wanted to do something future-leaning (i.e. tech) that also repurposed my existing skill set, so I would not have to start from the bottom. I went down a rabbit hole of different career websites and spoke to countless people until I connected with a few design professionals. When I learned about UX, I thought it would be a great fit for my skill set and would incorporate both the left and right sides of my brain.

GA has a great reputation among bootcamps, especially since they have a large employer network. It was also suggested to me by a few people, so I went to an open house. Coincidentally, the instructor was a UX designer at an accounting company. He said things that kept checking boxes for me: 

  • Am I the kind of person who asks how things could be made better?
  • Do I want a seat at the table to advocate for the person actually using the product?
  • Do I like to find new ways to do things, like “hacks”?

When I asked him his opinion on a career change from finance to UX, he intimately understood my skills as an auditor and connected the dots from that role to UX. At that moment, I knew what I wanted as my next challenge.

What was the best thing about UXDI for you and the GA experience overall?

The support and encouragement from my instructors and fellow classmates were key to my success. I was able to help others with concepts I knew, and they helped teach me things I was not as confident in.

The icing on the cake was the final project with a real client. It taught me so much about UX and myself, including what expectations can and cannot be met. It was also one of the main topics I discussed in my first set of interviews.

Can you share more about your capstone project? 

I went into the project with really high expectations, but I was not prepared for the amount of work the client’s product required to achieve its goals and reflect my new skill set. I was disheartened to say the least. I shared my feelings with my team, and they felt similarly. But our instructors pointed out that our project was the best one to highlight the impact we can make with UX. As we finished presenting to the client, we braced for negative feedback. Much to our surprise, the client was overjoyed with our design, and I left feeling so much pride in what I had accomplished. This was a clear example of not judging a book by its cover. 

How has GA been a resource to you in terms of finding a job after completing your program? 

My career coach, Anna, was amazing!!! She made us stick to a plan and carry it out — even when we were insanely busy. Through every up and down, she was a great resource when you needed something, as long as you showed you were committed.

How do you think your background in finance prepared you for your career in UX? 

My finance career honed a lot of the soft and hard skills I use today as a designer, such as running my own projects, time management, prioritization, creating reports and presentations, interviewing auditees, learning from missteps, speaking up or taking a back seat when needed, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data, and problem solving.

What do you love most about your current role?

I was thrilled to get the senior UX designer role at JPMorgan Chase & Co., since it married my previous job as an auditor at an asset management company to my new career. But the things I love the most are:

  • I have met so many interesting, open-minded people who bring fresh ideas and experiences to the table.
  • I am able to own the product from a design perspective. My manager pushes me but also allows me to shine and take in wins. 
  • The product I work on helps users to see their finances in one holistic view. I am helping the greater good, and I feel good at the end of the day because of it.

How did the skills you learned at GA help you in your current career?

I would not be where I am now — which is in a much happier place — without GA. One of the biggest skills my instructors taught me was navigating ambiguity. When I was in finance working as an auditor, I requested everything I needed to accomplish my work. With UX there is no final answer; the discipline as a whole requires some comfort with gray area and making decisions without having all the answers. 

As you know, creativity and logic are not mutually exclusive. How have you witnessed those left-brain and right-brain skills complement each other in your current role? 

As a UX designer, the visual skill set is obviously important, but it is easy to underestimate how much impact an analytical skill set can have on your work. I’ve been brought onto many projects simply to nail down the root cause of a problem we should solve. A seamless and easy consumer experience, at the end of the day, is a logical one. From a collaboration standpoint, I have product and tech partners who appreciate how I can think beyond the design and see the big picture.

Do you find that combo to be an uncommon hybrid skill set that gives you a competitive edge? Or is it something typical in your field?

This is a skill that great designers have. It’s also one that designers can learn, but some pick it up quicker than others. Those that do are able to move onto more complex designs and deliver a cohesive product. I believe that having both enabled me not to have to start my new career from scratch. 

Sometimes, we can unintentionally lock ourselves into a label: “I am a creative” or “I am a technician.” What would you say to someone who is interested in UX but doesn’t consider themself to be either creative or technical enough? 

UX is one of those careers where there is something for everyone. As long as your goal is to produce the best product for the customer, you can find your niche based on your strengths. You can be a designer, researcher, content editor, architect, or any mix of those areas. While being technical or creative will most definitely help, there are so many skills that you can bring to the table that will help you in your journey. Soft skills can elevate you. There are designers who may not be the best at presenting — and if you can’t sell your design, then it doesn’t matter how creative it is. Or, if you can’t convey to the developer what you are designing, it won’t be created as intended. 

In respect to UX, what do you want your legacy to be? Is there a change you want to inspire or a mission that defines the work that’s important to you?

In my prior work, I was able to help my company do things better, but I wanted my work to be more personally fulfilling. In my new career, I wanted to do better for the public and have a direct impact. I want a legacy where I see other competitors using elements of my work because the competition views it as the best experience for their users — which I have already begun to see.

5 Key Excel Skills You Can Learn in Minutes

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Since it was created in 1985, Excel has practically become synonymous with data itself, and still is many years later. Spend a few minutes with our expert instructor in the videos below to learn the kinds of Excel tools that can help you be your own analyst—and make smarter decisions with data. 

How to Create an Excel Bar Chart

Bar charts are an important visual tool that can help express your data over time and tell a story in a visually appealing and digestible way. Learn more in our 2-minute lesson below:

How To Create an Excel Pivot Table

Pivot tables allow you to effectively summarize and highlight the importance of your data sets. They are an important presentation tool and can help you simplify your data. Learn more in our 3-minute lesson below:

How To Create a Histogram in Excel

Histograms provide a visual representation of variations within your data and can help display degrees of difference in an impactful way. Learn more in our 2.5-minute lesson below:

How To Create a Pie Chart in Excel

Pie charts can express percentages of a whole and represents a set period of time and can be helpful to show differences among a handful of categories. Unlike bar charts, it does not express changes over time. Learn more in our 2.5-minute lesson below:

How To Create a VLookup in Excel

A VLookup (vertical lookup) can help you lookup data that is organized vertically. It is useful in helping you spot trends and find important pieces of data that can be difficult to locate in large data sets. Learn more in our 2.5-minute lesson below:

A Beginner’s Guide To Tableau

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Featuring Insights From Iun Chen & Vish Srivastava

Read: 2 Minutes

Tableau is a powerful data analysis and data visualization tool that anyone can use. It can be used by beginners to create simple charts and by advanced practitioners to solve complex business problems. It is user-friendly, easy to learn quickly, and includes a portfolio of business intelligence tools with the potential to give a wide range of roles the advantage of professionally analyzing data.

Simply put, if you can present data in a clear, compelling format, you gain a competitive advantage in today’s data-driven marketplace.

“Tableau enables you to quickly connect disparate data sources and utilize a drag-and-drop interface to analyze data and create dashboards,” says Vish Srivastava, who leads our Data Visualization & Intro to Tableau workshop. As a product leader at Evidation Health, he relies on Tableau to turn around fast data analysis. “For example, product teams use it to analyze user growth and analytics, BizOps teams use it to analyze operational data, and sales teams use it to analyze customer and revenue data.”

Businesses survive and thrive on data. The amount of data available to businesses today is impressive. To keep organizations on a successful path, analysts need to provide the key insights needed to make important decisions.

Here’s where Tableau comes in.

Tableau takes business intelligence to the next level, making it fast and efficient to analyze large amounts of data and create beautiful, presentation-ready visualizations that generate insights.

Data is the lifeblood of modern teams. Being able to quickly answer ad hoc questions and integrate data analysis into your day-to-day decision-making will make you an MVP. Though not all data analysts use Tableau, they do need some way to quickly create data visualizations.

Tableau is the data viz tool of choice.

Tableau is so popular in part because it is easy and fast to learn. In Iun Chen’s Intro to Data Analytics course, students learn the life-changing basics of Tableau in an afternoon. Aspiring analysts come to understand the power of data and the impact their numbers can have. As more data becomes available, there are more opportunities for data to be misused, a risk that every data scientist soon realizes. To quote the Nobel laureate and economist Ronald Coase, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.”

The ethics of data form the foundation of Chen’s syllabus so pitfalls are avoided from the start. “Overanalyzing and manipulating data too deeply can always give you the information you want,” says Chen. “Unfortunately, this is all too common in professional settings, though it’s usually unintentional.”

Tableau is a powerful tool.

Business insights are only as good as the data behind them, and the best data analysts understand that the human choices they make matter.

“Data is the perfect example of garbage in, garbage out,” says Srivastava, who defines good data as data that is ethically collected, complete, objective, and thoroughly analyzed. ”The double-edged sword of using powerful data analysis and visualization tools is that beautiful charts can create a false precision and obfuscate data integrity issues.”

To delve deeper into this topic, Chen recommends How Charts Lie, by Alberto Cairo, an exploration of how data can be altered:

“This book details how the use of data and data visualizations in journalism can be distorted and misleading, without the audience even realizing it, due to the urgency to present findings in a timely manner to the public.”

Want to learn more about Iun?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/iunchen 

Want to learn more about Vish? https://www.linkedin.com/in/vishrutps

7 Tips to Learn Tableau Fast

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Featuring Insights From Iun Chen & Vish Srivastava

Read: 2 Minutes

Let’s get it straight: How difficult is it to learn Tableau for a complete beginner? Are there shortcuts to learning Tableau? Any tips, tricks, or time-saving work-arounds? Thankfully, the answer is yes. Try these top tips, approved by our expert instructors, and start data viz now.

“It’s a little overwhelming at first but as soon as you understand the basics, like what are dimensions and measures, everything falls into place pretty quickly,” says Vish Srivastava, product leader at Evidation Health and GA instructor.

“In essence, you need to understand two things: The basics on how data works — for example, what are common formats of data and what is a primary key? And a basic understanding of data visualization in a business setting. Can you answer the question: When is a time series vs. a pie chart valuable for decision making?”

But can you really learn the basics of Tableau in an afternoon?

“The best way to learn is to download a sample dataset and dive right in and start creating data visualizations. To keep going from there, check out various portfolios online to get inspiration, and try to build those.”

According to Iun Chen, who conducts internal Tableau training at LinkedIn, Tableau is easy to learn, but hard to master.

“The basic concepts of charting and color theory are easy to pick up and can take just a few weeks. However, if you are looking to be a subject matter expert, this can take years to perfect,” she says. 

Chen preps students in her Intro to Data Analytics course to achieve close-to-mastery in these key areas.

  1. Can they quickly prep and analyze large volumes of data?
  2. Identify key information and determine the best visual method to present them?
  3. Take business questions and determine which visualizations to use?
  4. Translate raw datasets to storylines with a beginning, middle, and end? 
  5. Format charts, graphs, titles, text, and images for a polished deliverable? 
  6. Articulate best practices on design and visualization techniques?
  7. Provide feedback on ineffective visualizations and how to improve them?

    This checklist is the closest thing to a Tableau cheat sheet you’ll find. Prioritize these skills, and you’ll waste no time learning Tableau. Now that you know what you need to succeed, you can choose whether to take our Data Analytics course fast or slow. Learn Tableau — along with data analytics tools SQL and Excel — in a 1-week accelerated format, or over 10 weeks in the evening.

Chen sums it up perfectly: “As long as you are actively learning, applying your learnings, and ensuring innovation of your work, you will be a data visualization expert in no time.”

Want to learn more about Iun?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/iunchen 

Want to learn more about Vish? https://www.linkedin.com/in/vishrutps

Top 3 Reasons To Learn Tableau

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Featuring Insights From GA instructor Candace Pereira-Roberts

Read: 2 Minutes

Do you communicate data? Do you want to create more effective data visualizations? Tableau is the data analytics tool you’re looking for. Here are the top three reasons why you should learn how to use Tableau, the popular data viz software focused on business intelligence. Read on for the advantages of being a Tableau professional.

#1 Tableau Is Easy

Data can be complicated. Tableau makes it easy. Tableau is a data visualization tool that takes data and presents it in a user-friendly format of charts and graphs. And here’s the rub: There is no code writing required. You’ll easily master the end-to-end cycle of data analytics.


Need to showcase trends or surface findings? Tableau will make you an expert. Proficiency in business intelligence is a transferable skill that is quickly becoming the lifeblood of organizations. 

“I see students who are new to analytics learn Tableau desktop and be able to develop Tableau worksheets, interactive dashboards, and story points in a couple of weeks — essentially a complete data analysis project,” says Candace Pereira-Roberts, FinServ data engineer and one of our Data Analytics course instructors. She adds, “I like to share knowledge and watch people grow. I learn from my students as well.” 

 #2 Tableau Is Tremendously Useful

Would you rather tell visual stories with data? Or present the same old boring reports and tables? Is that even a question?

“Anyone who works in data should learn tools that help tell data stories with quality visual analytics.” Full stop.

The smart data analyst, data scientist, and data engineer were quick to adopt and use Tableau tool by tool, and it has given those roles a key competitive advantage in the recent data-related hiring frenzy. But their secret is out. And the advantages go beyond the usual tech roles. Having a working knowledge of data, and specifically knowing how to use Tableau, can help many more tech professionals become more attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.

Plus, it has a built-in career boost. Tableau’s visualizations are so elegant, you’ll be confident presenting the business intelligence and actionable insights to key stakeholders. Improving your presentation skills is par for the course.

#3 Tableau Data Analysts Are in Demand

As more and more businesses discover the value of data, the demand for analysts is growing. One advantage of Tableau is that it is so visually pleasing and easy for busy executives — and even the tech-averse — to use and understand. Tableau presents complicated and sophisticated data in a simple visualization format. In other words, CEOs love it.

Think of Tableau as your secret weapon. Once you learn it, you can easily surface critical information to stakeholders in a visually compelling format. That will make you a rockstar in any organization. 

“Tableau helps organizations leverage business intelligence to become more data-driven in their decision-making process.” Pereira-Roberts says. She recommends participating in Makeover Monday to take your skills to an even higher level. 


Want to learn more about Candace? Check out her thoughts on how to become a business intelligence analyst, or connect with her on LinkedIn.