An Introduction to the Dallas Tech Community

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The Dallas-Fort Worth area (DFW) has remained a constant game-changer when it comes to innovation and technology.1 It’s prime real estate for tech talent, with multiple Fortune 1000 companies calling this area home and one of the fastest job-growth rates among major cities. Between the attractive salary potential, budding entrepreneurial scene2, inexpensive real-estate, no state or local income tax, and central geographical location, there are many reasons why the DFW area led the nation in metropolitan population growth in 2020. 

Community is at the center of everything we do, which is why GA Dallas fosters an ecosystem of individuals seeking to transform their careers with expert-led classes and workshops each week. Since opening our doors in 2019, we’ve already attracted more than 19 active hiring partners, ranging from Dallas-raised brands to international corporations. 

Companies and Jobs 

  • Top industries: defense3, financial services, technology, energy4, manufacturing, as well as aviation & aerospace.
  • Major employers5: Walmart, American Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, Southwest Airlines, Target Co., Raytheon, IBM, Mary Kay, and Neiman Marcus. 
  • Large enterprises like Verizon, Wells Fargo, NTT Data, and Lockheed Martin are increasing their IT hiring efforts in DFW.6
  • Adding over 110,000 jobs in March and a potential increase in job growth, Dallas proves to be promising as it bounces back from the pandemic.7

The Dallas Tech Community 

Stay In the Know

Here are just a handful of resources to help you to dive deeper into Dallas tech:

  • Stay up to date with the Dallas startup scene with the Startup Digest Dallas insider newsletter.
  • The Dallas Regional Chamber provides an in-depth logistical view of DFW, the latest in talent attraction, startups and founders to connect with, and economic development news. 
  • Stay apprised. Check out Dallas Innovates for the latest moves within the tech industry, including acquisitions, social impact, new weekly patents & grants filed in Dallas, as well as university collaborations. 

1https://dallasinnovates.com/dallas-rises-to-the-no-2-city-for-tech-professionals-a-new-comptia-report-shows/
2https://dallasinnovates.com/the-innovation-ecosystem-dallas-fort-worth-is-a-big-place-its-also-remarkably-well-connected/
3 http://www.city-data.com/us-cities/The-South/Dallas-Economy.html
4https://realestate.usnews.com/places/texas/dallas-fort-worth/jobs#:~:text=In%20the%20Dallas%20area%2C%20the,manufacturing%2C%20and%20aviation%20and%20aerospace
5 https://destinationdfw.com/Largest-Employers-in-Dallas-Fort-Worth-Texas
6 https://dallas.culturemap.com/news/innovation/11-12-20-dallas-fort-worth-beats-silicon-valley-top-tech-cities-comptia/
7 https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2021/04/16/dallas-fed-texas-jobs-rebounded-march/

Beginner’s Python Cheat Sheet

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Do you want to be a data scientist? Data Science and machine learning are rapidly becoming a vital discipline for all types of businesses. An ability to extract insight and meaning from a large pile of data is a skill set worth its weight in gold. Due to its versatility and ease of use, Python programming has become the programming language of choice for data scientists.

In this Python crash course, we will walk you through a couple of examples using two of the most-used data types: the list and the Pandas DataFrame. The list is self-explanatory; it’s a collection of values set in a one-dimensional array. A Pandas DataFrame is just like a tabular spreadsheet, it has data laid out in columns and rows.

Let’s take a look at a few neat things we can do with lists and DataFrames in Python!
Get the PDF here.

BEGINNER’S Python Cheat Sheet

Lists

Creating Lists

Let’s start this Python tutorial by creating lists. Create an empty list and use a for loop to append new values. What you need to do is:

#add two to each value
my_list = []
for x in range(1,11):
my_list.append(x+2)

We can also do this in one step using list comprehension:

my_list = [x + 2 for x in range(1,11)]

Creating Lists with Conditionals

As above, we will create a list, but now we will only add 2 to the value if it is even.

#add two, but only if x is even
my_list = []
for x in range(1,11):
if x % 2 == 0:
my_list.append(x+2)
else:
my_list.append(x)

Using a list comp:

my_list = [x+2 if x % 2 == 0 else x \
for x in range(1,11)]

Selecting Elements and Basic Stats

Select elements by index.

#get the first/last element
first_ele = my_list[0]
last_ele = my_list[-1]

Some basic stats on lists:

#get max/min/mean value
biggest_val = max(my_list)
smallest_val = min(my_list)avg_val = sum(my_list) / len(my_list)

DataFrames

Reading in Data to a DataFrame

We first need to import the pandas module.

import pandas as pd

Then we can read in data from csv or xlsx files:

df_from_csv = pd.read_csv(‘path/to/my_file.csv’,
sep=’,’,
nrows=10)
xlsx = pd.ExcelFile(‘path/to/excel_file.xlsx’)
df_from_xlsx = pd.read_excel(xlsx, ‘Sheet1’)

Slicing DataFrames

We can slice our DataFrame using conditionals.

df_filter = df[df[‘population’] > 1000000]
df_france = df[df[‘country’] == ‘France’]

Sorting values by a column:

df.sort_values(by=’population’,
ascending=False)

Filling Missing Values

Let’s fill in any missing values with that column’s average value.

df[‘population’] = df[‘population’].fillna(
value=df[‘population’].mean()
)

Applying Functions to Columns

Apply a custom function to every value in one of the DataFrame’s columns.

def fix_zipcode(x):
”’
make sure that zipcodes all have leading zeros
”’
return str(x).zfill(5)
df[‘clean_zip’] = df[‘zip code’].apply(fix_zipcode)

Ready to take on the world of machine learning and data science? Now that you know what you can do with lists and DataFrames using Python language, check out our other Python beginner tutorials and learn about other important concepts of the Python programming language.

8 Tips for Learning Python Fast

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It’s possible to learn Python fast. How fast depends on what you’d like to accomplish with it and how much time you can allocate to study and practice Python on a regular basis. Before we dive in further, I’d like to establish some assumptions I’ve made about you and your reasons for reading this article:

First, I’ll address how quickly you should be able to learn Python. If you’re interested in learning the fundamentals of Python programming, it could take you as little as two weeks to learn, with routine practice. If you’re interested in mastering Python in order to complete complex tasks or projects or spur a career change, then it’s going to take much longer. In this article, I’ll provide tips and resources geared toward helping you gain Python programming knowledge in a short timeframe.

If you’re wondering how much it’s going to cost to learn Python, the answer there is also, “it depends”. There is a large selection of free resources available online, not to mention the various books, courses, and platforms that have been published for beginners.

Another question you might have is, “how hard is it going to be to learn Python?” That also depends. If you have any experience programming in another language such as R, Java, or C++, it’ll probably be easier to learn Python fast than someone who hasn’t programmed before. But learning a programming language like Python is similar to learning a natural language, and everyone’s done that before. You’ll start by memorizing basic vocabulary and learning the rules of the language. Over time, you’ll add new words to your repertoire and test out new ways to use them. Learning Python is no different.

By now you’re thinking, “Okay, this is great. I can learn Python fast, cheap, and easily. Just tell me what to read and point me on my way.” Not so fast. There’s a fourth thing you need to consider and that’s how to learn Python. Research on learning has identified that not all people learn the same way. Some learn best by reading, while others learn best by seeing and hearing. Some people enjoy learning through games rather than courses or lectures. As you review the curated list of resources below, consider your own learning preferences as you evaluate options.

Now let’s dig in. Below are my eight tips to help you learn Python fast.

1. Cover the following Python fundamentals.

At a bare minimum, you (and your resource) must cover the fundamentals. Without understanding them, you’ll have a hard time working through complex problems, projects or use cases. Examples of Python fundamentals include:

  • Variables and types
  • Lists, dictionaries, and sets
  • Basic operators
  • String formatting
  • Basic string operations
  • Conditions
  • Loops
  • Functions
  • List comprehensions
  • Classes and objects

If you’re really pressed for time, all of these fundamentals can be quickly explored on a number of different websites: docs.python.org, RealPython.org, stavros.io, developers.google.com, pythonforbeginners.org. See the section below on “Websites” for more details.

2. Establish a goal for your study.

Before you start learning Python, establish a goal for your study. The challenges you face as you start learning will be easier to overcome when you keep your goal in mind. Additionally, you’ll know what learning material to focus on or skim through as it pertains to your goals. For example, if you’re interested in learning Python for data analysis, you’re going to want to complete exercises, write functions, and learn Python libraries that facilitate data analysis. The following are typical examples of goals for Python that might pertain to you:

  • Data analysis
  • Data science and machine learning
  • Mobile apps
  • Website development
  • Work automation

3. Select a resource (or resources) for learning Python fast.

Python resources can be grouped into three main categories: interactive resources, non-interactive resources, and video resources. In-person courses are also an option, but won’t be covered in this post.

Interactive resources have become common in recent years through the popularization of interactive online courses that provide practical coding challenges and explanations. If it feels like you’re coding, that’s because you actually are. Interactive resources are typically available for free or a nominal fee, or you can sign up for a free trial before you buy. 

Non-interactive resources are your most traditional and time-tested; they’re books (digital and paperback) and websites (“online tutorials”). Many first-time Python learners prefer them due to the familiar and convenient nature of these mediums. As you’ll see, there are many non-interactive resources for you to choose from, and most are free.

Video resources were popularized over the past 10 years by MOOCs (massive online open courses) and resembled university lectures captured on video. In fact, they were often supported or promoted by leading universities. Now, there’s an abundance of video resources for various subjects, including programming in Python. Some of these video resources are pre-recorded courses hosted on learning platforms, and others are live-streamed courses provided by online education providers. General Assembly produces a live course in Python that covers Python fundamentals in one week

Below I’ve compiled a list of resources to help you get a jumpstart on learning Python fast. They fall into the categories laid out above, and at a bare minimum they cover Python basics. Throughout the list, I’ve indicated with an asterisk (*) which resources are free, to the best of my knowledge.

Interactive Resources: Tools and Lessons

  • CodeAcademy: One of the more popular online interactive platforms for learning Python fast. I know many Python programmers, myself included, who have taken CodeAcademy’s Python fundamentals course. It’s great for an absolute beginner, and you can knock it out in a week. It will get you excited about programming in Python. 
  • DataCamp: Short expert videos with immediate hands-on-keyboard exercises. It’s on-par with the CodeAcademy courses. 
  • *PythonTutor.com: A tool that helps you write and visualize code step by step. I recommend pairing this tool with another learning resource. This tool makes learning Python fundamentals a lot easier because you can visualize what your code is doing. 

Non-Interactive Resources

Non-interactive resources fall into two sub-categories: books and websites.

Books

In researching books, I noticed a majority of them were actually catered to existing programmers interested in learning Python or a master Python programmer looking for reliable reference material (“cookbooks”) or specialized literature. Below, I’ve listed only the books I think are helpful for beginners.

Websites

At first, my list started off with over 20 examples of websites covering Python fundamentals. Instead of sharing them all, I decided to only include ones that had a clear advantage in terms of convenience or curriculum. All of these resources are free.

  • *Google’s Python Class: Tutorials, videos, and programming exercises in Python for beginners, from a Python-friendly company. 
  • *Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python: This guide helps you learn and improve your Python code and also teaches you how to set up your coding environment. The site search is incredibly effective at helping you find what you need. I can’t recommend this site enough. 
  • *Python for Everybody: An online book that provides Python learning instruction for those interested in solving data analysis problems. Available in PDF format in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Chinese. 
  • *Python For You and Me: An online book that covers beginner and advanced topics in Python concepts, in addition to introducing a popular Python framework for web applications.
  • *Python.org: The official Python documentation. The site also provides a beginner’s guide, a Python glossary, setup guides, and how-tos.
  • *Programiz in Python: Programiz has a lengthy tutorial on Python fundamentals that’s really well done. It shouldn’t be free, but it is.
  • *RealPython.com: A large collection of specialized Python tutorials, most come with video demonstrations. 
  • *Sololearn: 92 chapters, 275 related quizzes, and several projects covering Python fundamentals that can also be accessed through a mobile app.
  • *Tutorialspoint.com: A no-frills tutorial covering Python basics. 
  • *W3Schools for Python: Another no-nonsense tutorial from a respected web-developer resource. 

Video Resources

Video resources have become increasingly popular and with good reason: they’re convenient. Why read a textbook or tutorial when you can cover the same material in video format on your computer or mobile device? They fall into two sub-categories: pre-recorded video-courses and live video courses.

Pre-Recorded Courses

  • Coursera: A large catalog of popular courses in Python for all levels. Most courses can be taken free, and paid courses come with certifications. You can also view courses on their mobile app.
  • EdX: Hosts university courses that focus on specific use cases for Python (data science, game development, AI) but also cover programming basics. EdX also has a mobile app.
  • Pluralsight: A catalog of videos covering Python fundamentals, as well as specialized topics like machine learning in Python.
  • RealyPython.com: A collection of pre-recorded videos on Python fundamentals for beginners.
  • *TreeHouse: A library of videos of Python basics and intermediate material.
  • EvantoTutsPlus: 7.6 hours of pre-recorded videos on Python fundamentals, plus some intermediate content.  
  • *Udacity: Provides a 5-week course on Python basics. Also covers popular modules in the Python Standard Library and other third-party libraries. 
  • Udemy: A library of popular Python courses for learners of all levels. It’s hard to single out a specific course. I recommend previewing multiple beginner Python courses until you find the one you like most. You can also view courses on their mobile app.

Live Courses

  • General Assembly: This live online course from General Assembly takes all of the guesswork out of learning Python. With General Assembly, you have a curated and comprehensive Python curriculum, a live instructor, a TA, and a network of peers and alumni you can connect with during and after the course.

4. Consider learning a Python library.

In addition to learning Python, it’s beneficial to learn one or two Python libraries. Libraries are collections of specialized functions that serve as “accelerators.” Without them, you’d have to write your own code to complete specialized tasks. For example, Pandas is a very popular library for manipulating tabular data. Numpy helps in performing mathematical and logical operations on arrays. Covering libraries would require another post — for now, review this Python.org page on standard Python libraries and this GitHub page on additional Python libraries.

5. Speed up the Python installation process with Anaconda.

You can go through the trouble of downloading the Python installer from the Python Software Foundation website, and then sourcing and downloading additional libraries; or you can download the Anaconda installer, which already comes with many of the packages you’ll routinely use, especially if you plan on using Python for data analysis or data science

6. Select and install an IDE.

You’ll want to install an integrated development environment (IDE), which is an application that lets you script, test, and run code in Python. 

When it comes to IDEs, the right one is the one that you enjoy using the most. According to various sources, the most popular Python IDEs/text editors are PyCharm, Spyder, Jupyter Notebook, Visual Studio, Atom, and Sublime. First, the good news: They’re all free, so try out a couple before you settle on one. Next, the “bad” news: Each IDE/text editor has a slightly different user interface and set of features, so it will take a bit of time to learn how to use each one.

For Python first-timers, I recommend coding in Jupyter Notebook. It has a simple design and a streamlined set of capabilities that won’t distract and will make it easy to practice and prototype in Python. It also comes with a dedicated display for dataframes and plots. If you download Anaconda, Jupyter Notebook comes pre-installed. Over time, I encourage you to try other IDEs that are better suited for development (Pycharm) or data science (Rodeo) and allow integrations (Sublime). 

Additionally, consider installing an error-handler or autocompleter to complement your IDE, especially if you end up working on lengthy projects. It will point out mistakes and help you write code quicker. Kite is a good option, plus it’s free and integrates with most IDEs.

7. When in doubt, use Google to troubleshoot code.

As you work on Python exercises, examples, and projects, one of the simplest ways to troubleshoot errors will be to learn from other Python developers. Just run a quick internet search and include keywords about your error. For example, “how to combine two lists in Python” or “Python how to convert to datetime” are perfectly acceptable searches to run, and will lead you to a few popular community-based forums such as StackOverFlow, Stack Exchange, Quora, Programiz, and GeeksforGeeks.

8. Schedule your Python learning and stick to it.

This is the part that most people skip, which results in setbacks or delays. Now, all you have left is to set up a schedule. I recommend that you establish a two-week schedule at a minimum to space out your studying and ensure you give yourself enough time to adequately review the Python fundamentals, practice coding in your IDE, and troubleshooting code. Part of the challenge (and fun) of learning Python or any programming language is troubleshooting errors. After your first two weeks, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come, and you’ll have enough practice under your belt to continue learning the more advanced material provided by your chosen resource. 

Concluding thoughts

By this point, we’ve established a minimum learning timeline, you know to select a learning goal for your study, you have a list of learning resources and learning method to choose from, and you know what other coding considerations you’ll need to make. We hope you make the most of these tips to accelerate your Python learning!

What is UX Design?

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“UX” has become a buzzword that UX designers are often asked to define. The discipline of user experience is broad and reaches across many other design disciplines so its meaning can seem elusive. And for UX designers, it can be hard to explain in a few words.

UX Design Focuses on the User

User experience design focuses on designing for how a user interacts with an organization, whether through its services, products, website, or more. This kind of design centers on the user — their needs, goals, frustrations, and motivations.

Who is the user? A person! What type of person? That depends.

Great UX design seeks to understand the person who will be using the product, website, or service. This is really important for a specific reason: Rather than expecting a person to adapt to the specifications laid out in a website, app, or service, a UX designer considers the needs of the person they are designing for, and creates an intuitive interface that adapts to the user.

UX design is human-centered. This type of design is a mindset. It keeps the user at the center of what we do so that the user’s experience can be the best possible.

What’s great about this approach is that users who have a positive experience when interacting with a company or organization are more likely to reward that organization through additional visits, sales, or referrals. A positive user experience can be an economic driver, benefiting everyone.

UX Design’s Origins

We can see some principles of UX design that reach as far back as 4000 BC. Feng Shui is the Chinese philosophy of arranging a physical space to optimize the flow of energy. Much like a UX designer might design an app interface to be intuitive and easy to use, feng shui experts arrange the physical space of a room in the same manner.

We can see other principles of UX design throughout history. When computers entered the scene, human-computer interaction and usability became important disciplines to help people have better experiences.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when Don Norman, a cognitive scientist working at Apple, named this field “UX design.” Norman, who authored The Design of Everyday Things, felt that earlier disciplines of usability and human-computer interaction were too narrow. He wanted a term to describe a role that would encompass a broader range of skills to design human interactions.

Multiple studies from organizations such as McKinsey & Company, the UK Design Council, and others, have found that companies that prioritize design see a financial benefit. This is partly why so many people have taken an interest in UX.

Since user experience design is broad and encompasses several different disciplines, it’s understandable why so many people have questions about what UX design includes and how it relates to graphic design, visual design, product design, user interface design, or marketing.

Common UX Design Myths

Unfortunately, misunderstandings about user experience design have led to assumptions and confusion. You’re likely to run into an employer who believes they understand UX design, but in reality, they only know about one part in reality. Or, you might have a client that says, “I just need some UX.” 

It’s the UX designer’s job to figure out how to educate and inform those around us so we can eliminate these misconceptions.

Myth #1: UX is the same as UI design.

This is the most common misconception I run into. Organizations still think of UX as being focused on the user interface design of a website. They don’t always understand that the UI can improve with solid user research, information architecture, and user testing.

User interface design is a small piece of the overall UX puzzle. Before a UX professional even begins to design the interface, they should have solid research and an understanding of what problem they are trying to solve. Designing a user interface before researching user needs can lead to assumptions that confuse or frustrate your users.

Myth #2: UX is just for digital products.

User experience has been embraced in the digital world, but it’s not just for websites and apps. The foundations of user experience design can be applied across a broad range of industries and be useful for a web designer in developing services and physical products.

Myth #3: UX is just usability.

Usability is an essential component of UX design; it uncovers flaws and defects in the product or service. However, it’s just one part of UX design’s seven major sub-disciplines:

User Research
A UX designer spends time empathizing with users through interviews and observational research. 

Content Strategy
Quality content is a core component of a successful design. Designers must audit and create clear content that people find useful and helpful.

Information Architecture
Content must be organized so that it’s understandable, findable, and meaningful. Information architecture helps users understand their location within a design and what to expect. It informs many parts of the UX design, including the content, interface, and interactions.

Accessibility
By designing for accessibility, a UX designer ensures that all users can access and interact with a service or system regardless of their personal abilities. Accessibility is more than just checking for color contrast. It’s about designing to accommodate a wide range of people.

Usability
Nielsen Norman Group defines usability as “a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.” It also refers to using testing to improve the user’s experience as they interact with your product or service.

Visual Design
Users are more likely to have a positive experience with a design that they enjoy using; designs that are aesthetically pleasing and consistent. UX designers often also need to ensure that the interfaces they design are beautiful and visually clear.

Interaction Design
UX designers who work on a product or system must also consider how that system behaves. Interaction design considers how the system behaves when the user interacts with it to understand what to do.

As you can see, good UX design covers more than usability alone. Depending on the specific role or organization, UX designers may need to have other skills as well.

UX Design Process

A UX designer often manages all of these sub-disciplines as part of the total UX design process. This process is not linear. In fact, it can feel quite messy. It typically looks very similar to a design thinking approach and has five key phases:

1. Empathy

In this phase, a UX strategist seeks to understand the people they are designing for. By developing empathy with the user base, the design team can learn about frustrations and motivations that will help them create better solutions later on. 

UX designers use these tools as part of the empathy phase:

  • User Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Observations
  • Stakeholder Interviews
  • Empathy Maps
  • Proto Personas

2. Definition

During the definition phase, the design team figures out the problem they are trying to solve. Armed with a solid understanding of the user, the design team creates insights from that data to address their core needs. The design team should try to spend as much time as possible in this phase, because it’s a key step before ideation begins.

UX designers use these tools as part of the definition phase:

  • Affinity Diagram
  • Point-of-View Statements
  • User Scenarios
  • Customer Journey Maps
  • Storyboards
  • User Personas
  • Heuristic Evaluations
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Problem Definition

3. Ideation

Once the problem has been identified, the UX design team can start developing ideas to solve that problem. Ideation is all about generating lots of ideas. It’s important to start by thinking of all the ideas you can before narrowing them down to those that are feasible.

UX designers use these tools as part of the ideation phase:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Mind Mapping
  3. User Flow Diagrams

4. Prototyping

The UX design team then decides which of the ideas generated in the previous step to prototype. Prototyping allows the team to communicate the idea, advocate for ideas, and test feasibility. A prototype can be simple or complex. It should be created rapidly so that the idea can be tested.

UX designers use these tools as part of the prototyping phase:

  1. Low-Fidelity Prototypes
  2. High-Fidelity Prototypes
  3. Site Maps
  4. Interactive Prototypes

5. Testing

In the testing phase, a UX design team is trying to find out whether their prototype works or not. This is a time for evaluation, and a time to go back to the users to see how the prototype meets their needs.

UX designers use these tools as part of the testing phase:

  1. Usability Testing
  2. Testing Recommendations & Report

Because this approach is non-linear, sometimes a UX designer will loop back and forth between phases. A UX designer doesn’t always use every tool within all of the phases, but they’ll typically use at least one or two.

What does a UX designer do every day?

A UX designer’s job will vary depending on the role or company. Some companies look for generalists who have experience across all or most of the sub-disciplines described above. Other roles will be more specialized. A UX designer may focus on research or just on prototyping if needed, depending on the position.

Typically, a UX designer works with a team. Sometimes the team will have other UX designers, a product manager, and developers. This team may be responsible for designing products used by customers or internally within the company. Sometimes a designer will work on a single project for months at a time, or they might juggle multiple projects, especially if they work for an agency.

A UX designer is responsible for creating the deliverables of the phase they are working on, keeping their work on time according to the project schedule, and presenting their work. They may need to present to the rest of the design team, internal stakeholders, or clients.

Deliverables created for these audiences can vary. According to a 2015 article from Nielsen Norman Group, UX designers were most likely to create static wireframes and interactive prototypes, followed by flow charts, site maps, and usability reports. When presenting work, interactive prototypes were most common. These deliverables are the most accurate representation of the final product.

In addition to creating wireframes and prototypes, a UX designer may:

  • Plan user research
  • Identify the target audience
  • Interview and survey users
  • Analyze qualitative and quantitative user research
  • Create a content inventory
  • Design a style guide or add to a design library
  • Conduct usability testing
  • Analyze usability testing results

Summary

UX design is like an umbrella that covers multiple areas, and a UX designer is expected to be familiar with all areas. Because UX design is so broad, and because the term itself has become popular relatively recently, it’s often misunderstood. 

At its foundation, good UX design is about putting the user first. By empathizing with the user, a UX designer can create products and services that anticipate and meet users’ needs. The UX process isn’t linear; great UX design is an iterative process that continues to loop back with the user to test and improve the design team’s ideas.

What is EdTech and Why Should It Matter to You?

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Educational Technology image

Education Technology (also known as “EdTech”) refers to an area of digital technology devoted to the development and application of tools (including software, hardware, and appropriate technological processes) intended to promote education.

Put another way, “EdTech is a study and ethical practice for facilitating student learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”

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

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The First Step: Transitioning to a Digital-First Culture

Due to the effects of the pandemic, we know that remote offices are not only surviving — they’re thriving. The digital world is here to stay.

Between consumers’ accelerated adoption of digital behaviors and a permanently changed working culture, the inevitable — and necessary — digital transformation of every industry took unusual leaps forward in the last 18 months. Business leaders across the board are trying to get ahead of the transformation imperative that digitization requires and the economic pressure it adds to their businesses. 

For a problem that requires holistic change, we help make digital transformation manageable. Through our deep and diverse experience, 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 first post, we will share how to begin creating digital mindsets across your business. 

A digital-first culture: What is it, and how do you know when you’ve got it?

For those embarking on a business transformation initiative, the first problem we often hear is, “my business needs to transition to a digital-first culture.” This is understandable, as culture fit is one of the most important aspects on both sides of hiring, and your high-skill candidates want to work on high-skill teams.

So, what is a digital-first culture? It begins with digital literacy, a competency for using digital technology to find, create, evaluate and communicate, across an organization. This basic skill set is the stepping stone to developing comfort with — and ultimate adoption of — digital practices, such as experimentation, iteration, and “antifragile” working practices incorporating continuous learning and growth into everyday work. 

Once literacy is achieved, you can begin unlocking the skills that are the hallmarks of a digital-first culture, such as data literacy, design thinking, and agile project management. From there, teams can advance their use of practical, hands-on skills in data science, marketing analytics, coding, and beyond.

The transition from digital literacy to true digital culture requires these digital processes and technologies to work effectively across the organization. When these digital practices become core to your business — that is when they are the go-to, standard process by which a majority of your company operates — then you may claim a digital-first culture.

Culture… it matters.

To many business leaders, “culture” is a “soft” word that leads directly to a People team — and keeps it there. This is a great place to start culture transformation, but it reflects the siloed way traditional businesses think about talent. While formal development is critical to digital transformation, it needs to touch every part of the organization to cause a real cultural shift. That means engaging leaders across teams to plan the transition, champion new processes, and set appropriate goals.

A learning culture is critical to staying competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. The days of arguing whether digital transformation is the right path are over; not only does transformation drive performance, it is a key element of attracting and retaining top talent. In a January 2021 study, we found that supporting professional growth is a core value of the modern worker. Many ranked “commitment to supporting my professional development to improve in a current role” as the #1 factor in whether they will stay at their company — rather than finding greener pastures elsewhere.

This all points to a positive feedback loop: innovation breeds innovation, and procrastination pulls traditional companies further behind. This is definitional; digital transformation promises that it helps businesses scale non-linearly while keeping costs low — that is, your investment in digital pays dividends long after the work is done. According to BCG, companies that focus on digital culture are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough results than companies that don’t. 

How can you encourage digital culture in your organization? 

The Critical Steps:

Digital literacy often develops in pockets among junior staff, hired-in individuals, or specific strategic teams, but it doesn’t work in silos. Building a workforce that excels in a digital-first context requires engagement of all levels in the organization, from contributors becoming literate to leadership driving digital adoption. 

1. Leaders need to role-model digital behaviors and create a culture where teams thrive in adopting a digital mindset. This requires training to accelerate mindset shifts and learn the latest philosophies for innovation in digital strategy. From there, leaders must set goals and hold teams accountable to digital KPIs — and vocally champion the use of new digital practices.

2. Teams need to understand — and be able to communicate — why digitalization is a business imperative and lead by example with their digital mindset. Peer support is key to empowering teams to make more autonomous decisions that avoid cognitive overload as the business scales.

And, while it makes sense for some roles and teams to be more digitally advanced than others, it is important that all individuals at the company have basic digital literacy. This shared language is important to a cohesive working environment where all employees understand the priorities, are motivated by business milestones, and have opportunities to advance.

Diagnose a Digital Mindset

Luckily, you can prepare your organization to develop its digital culture no matter where you are in the process. Likely, there are digital-first practices you do well today and other areas where you might improve. Here are the top characteristics for digital-savvy organizations — how many do you have?

  • Be customer-centric. You solve customer problems through a seamless, consistent experience based on an empathetic understanding of the customer mindset at each engagement journey phase. 
  • Experiment. You take complex problems and break them down into smaller parts to implement for testing your assumptions early and often.
  • Adopt agile methods. You are nimble, flexible, and good at working across multiple departments. You always close the loop on experiments to maximize team learning.
  • Activate growth. You design tactics to target your customer across each stage of the funnel and spot opportunities to grow product usage. You have metrics to evaluate each stage of the marketing funnel and its impact on business success.
  • Be data-driven. You navigate the proliferation of data and use data at the heart of all decision-making. You’re skilled at data capture, analysis, and visualization to generate and communicate actionable insights across teams.
  • Evaluate trends. You are aware of how emerging trends impact customer expectations, and you routinely evaluate evolving your strategy to meet fluid demand. 

How many boxes did you check (or not)? Whether your business is about to begin a digital journey or already has a digital practice ongoing, it’s helpful to return to basics to understand which qualities of digital culture are working for you today and where you can stand to invest. One of the best actions you can take is to advocate for digital maturity across your organization, helping leaders understand the benefits of developing their digital culture and plans to move forward. 

We’ll share more on how to grow digital impact, accelerate technical hiring, and evaluate what “good” looks like at every stage to help your business get the most leverage out of digital culture in the upcoming posts of this series. Stay tuned.

If you notice specific areas you want to grow, we can help. Explore our catalog here to see the digital literacy and upskilling courses that we provide — from IC to strategic leader and across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology. 

Want further specific advice on how we could help your organization? Get in touch. 

Announcing: In-person workshops are back in GA Sydney!

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Have you heard the news? The GA Australia team is proud to announce that in-person events and workshops in Sydney are BACK! 

Beginning in May, you can now find in-person events and workshops at our Sydney CBD campus here.

Keen to dive into in-person workshops?

Here’s our starting lineup of all-star events and workshops to kickstart your in-person learning:

a few things to keep in mind –

Our Australian campus is a COVID-safe campus, meaning that:

  • Classroom capacity limits apply
  • Frequently used areas are cleaned regularly throughout the day
  • Campus undergoes full cleaning daily
  • Anyone who is experiencing symptoms or has visited a hotspot must not attend in-person workshops

All attendees are required to adhere to local campus guidelines, including:

  • Check-in to campus via the Service NSW app
  • Temperature screening on arrival
  • Adhering to social distancing guidelines in the classroom

If there are any changes to the schedule, you will be notified immediately via email.

Don’t forget to bring your own laptop and charger to participate in our in-person workshops.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about our in-person workshops, reach out to ausnz@ga.co. We can’t wait to welcome you back to campus!

An Introduction to the Philadelphia Tech Community

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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.

1https://www.macrotrends.net/cities/23098/philadelphia/population#:~:text=The%20current%20metro%20area%20population,a%200.18%25%20increase%20from%202018.
2https://selectgreaterphl.com/key-industries/
3 https://selectgreaterphl.com/why-here/
4https://mapping.cbre.com/maps/Scoring-Tech-Talent-2020/
5 https://selectgreaterphl.com/key-industries/
6 https://builtin.com/philadelphia/largest-companies-in-philadelphia
7 https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2019/11/11/7-philadelphia-area-companies-make-deloitte.html
8 https://www.fox.temple.edu/posts/2020/01/philadelphias-hub-for-innovations-in-healthcare/#:~:text=With%20innovations%20deeply%20rooted%20in,cell%2Dbased%20research%20and%20therapies.&text=%E2%80%9CPenn%20has%20contributed%20eight%20FDA,%2C%20or%20%E2%80%9CCellicon%E2%80%9D%20Valley.
9 https://selectgreaterphl.com/cell-and-gene-therapy-and-connected-health/
10 https://gps.chop.edu/news/fda-approves-personalized-cellular-therapy-advanced-leukemia-developed-university-pennsylvania
11 https://technical.ly/jobs/
12 https://www.libertycitypress.com/starting-a-business-in-philly/#:~:text=While%20it’s%20true%20that%20the,government%20support%20for%20early%20entrepreneurs.
13 https://technical.ly/infographic/philadelphia/
14  https://www.phillystartupleaders.org/

An Introduction to the San Diego Tech Community

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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. 

Successful tech companies such as Qualcomm, LunaDNA, and Aira share a common mission — to make the world a better place through innovation and community. With startup gateways such as Fresh Brewed Tech, Startup San Diego, and General Assembly, it is no doubt you’ll find support and opportunities to collaborate in San Diego. 

Companies and Jobs

  • Top industries: defense/military, tourism, international trade, and research/manufacturing.  
  • Major employers: Naval Base San Diego, University of California San Diego (UCSD), San Diego County, Sharp HealthCare, Cubic Corporation, and Pulse Electronics. 
  • San Diego ranks ninth in the nation for tech jobs. 

The San Diego Tech Community

  • The emergence of organizations supporting entrepreneurs is another reason why the city is on track to becoming the next tech hub: 
    • Startup San Diego is a nonprofit organization that upskills, guides, and connects the local community with the right resources to create an equitable startup ecosystem and community. 
    • Connect San Diego provides entrepreneurs access to investors, mentors, and education. 
    • LatinaGeeks empowers and inspires Latinas by sharing technical knowledge, business skills, and entrepreneurship resources. 
    • San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation is a non-profit organization that works to grow San Diego’s economy. 
    • We Tha Plug is a global community of Pan-African, Latinx, and other underrepresented founders, venture capitalists, and angel investors.
    • San Diego Tech Hub (SDTH) offers a vast support network for individuals in tech.  
    • 1 Million Cups San Diego is a free program that empowers entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to start and grow their businesses. 
    • San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange is a nonprofit organization run by local entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs.
    • 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 being March 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:


1https://www.globest.com/2020/01/06/why-san-diego-has-such-a-high-population-of-young-people/
2 https://www.globest.com/2020/05/04/san-diego-ranked-ninth-in-nation-for-tech-jobs/?slreturn=20210204173152

An Introduction to the Twin Cities Tech Community

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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:


1 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/09/top-10-us-cities-for-women-entrepreneurs-according-to-new-report.html
2 https://www.greatermsp.org/