Tag Archives: ga alumni

5 Career Changers Who Will Inspire You to Take the Leap

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Change is inevitable. More specifically, career changes are inevitable. Especially in today’s job market, where the median tenure for the average employee is continuing to decrease. Our lifestyle goals and career aspirations are constantly in flux, but changes are scary. It’s easy to stay in a comfortable, unsatisfying position. The harder and braver thing to do is to take a leap of faith and pursue a career that actually excites you.

At General Assembly, it’s our mission to prepare you for this monumental change through skills training, a growing alumni network of over 25,000 alumni, and outcomes support for our full-time students. Take it from these five career-changing alumni: if you have that nagging feeling in your gut that you’re ready for a change at work, it’s time to reinvent yourself. We’re here to help.

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From Electronic DJ to Systems Architect for NASA: How One Alum is Crafting Her Dream Career

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General Assembly alumni Jade
Jade Johnson is a recent grad of User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly’s Los Angeles campus, where she met “a crew of like-minded thinkers.” After graduating from GA, she briefly worked for NASA as a systems architect. Now, she is living in Berlin and pursuing her career in UX Design. Jade’s love for user experience has helped her build a rewarding career around her artist lifestyle.
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Ohio State Student Gets Immersed in Tech to Follow Her Passion for Social Impact

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After a week spent prototyping and iterating her app idea, Erin Hallerin is using her new technical skills to become a more well-rounded social entrepreneur. She is one of our younger alumni, but still participated in the winter Tech Intensive in Sydney after an inspiring visit to the New York campus with her classmates from The Ohio State University. Now, back at college, Erin is working with a social impact-focused food truck and making plans for the summer while finishing her studies in Business Administration/Finance and International Economic Development.

“The Tech Intensive creates an environment of inspiration and dedication to inspire you to act on whatever business idea has been floating around in your brain with the help of the best brains in the industry.”

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“Hacking the Human Experience” with the Co-founder of Elm

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Elm - Mia and Elissa

Mia Pokriefka enrolled in User Experience Design in January 2014 at General Assembly’s Los Angeles campus. Before long, she was able to combine her passion for serving and empowering people with her newly-learned UX skills into a site called Elm. Together with her best friend, Elissa, and a former classmate, Amanda, Mia is building her own company. Elm teaches everyone the skills you need for life based on other people’s shared experiences.  Continue reading

Alumni Interview: Edward Drax

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General Assembly London Alum Edward Drax

Meet Edward Drax, graduate of General Assembly London’s 10-week Digital Marketing and 10-week Front-End Web Development programs. His career previously spanned advertising (at Saatchi & Saatchi), commercial property development, and a health and wellness business. Edward currently serves as Managing Director of Expense Magic, a mobile and web app that removes the pain of capturing, processing and storing receipts and expenses.

1. Why learn digital marketing when you also have a business to run?

While Expense Magic is part of Paperless Receipts, we are essentially a startup within the larger business. So I recognized early on that traditional marketing would be too expensive, too immeasurable, and too slow for us.

I’d been reading a lot about Push-Pull strategies and the importance of building a relationship with customers, and realized that digital marketing was the way forward. The ability to acquire your true target audience, converse with it, and track how you’re doing every step of the way – I wanted to understand in more depth how to do this.

2. You’ve had experience working with brands both small and big. How would you say digital marketing applies to more established players?

Mastering digital is just as important for big global businesses as it is for small nimble startups. For example, look at Burberry, and see how they are shaking up the fashion industry! For big businesses, it is no longer the case of “I have a product. These are the benefits. You will use it.” It is about establishing a community of followers, and letting people know that you’re here to listen and solve their problems. That is the role digital marketing plays, and if you’re not prepared to listen to your customers, someone else will.

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Alumni Interview: General Assembly Hong Kong Alum Denis Tsoi

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General Assembly Hong Kong Alum Denis Tsoi

Meet Denis Tsoi, a graduate of General Assembly’s 10-week Front-End Web Development course in Hong Kong. In a previous life, Denis worked as a dealer for a precious metals brokerage. He realized that “working in finance is not what it’s cracked up to be,” and since learning to code at GA, he’s embarked on a new career as a web developer at the creative agency Imagination HK.

What inspired you to learn to code?

It all started a year ago when I first joined Dim Sum Labs, a hacker space in Hong Kong. At the time, I didn’t know anything about programming or how to make a website.

One of Dim Sum Labs’ co-founders, William Liang, mentioned an upcoming Startup Weekend event that he’d be mentoring at. I had just finished reading The Lean Startup and The Four Hour Work Week, and thought I’d give it a try. At the event, I noticed a surplus of “business” types, but not many designers or coders. I was frustrated when I realized that I wasn’t one either.

A few months passed. I was applying for jobs, and emailed someone at a startup that I was interested in. While I was bummed that they weren’t hiring, I thought it’d be best to keep in touch since he was so nice over email. I later found out he was teaching GA’s Front-End Web Development course, which I had heard about through somewhere else. It was a sign!

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Where Are They Now? Carolina Garcia

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Carolina Garcia headshot

Meet Carolina Garcia, co-founder of Modabound, an online marketplace for college students to buy and sell fashion items. Along with co-founder Alexa Varsavsky, Carolina enrolled in GA’s Front-End Web Development course out of college, a year after they first launched Modabound. Carolina and Alexa are currently participating in the Techstars London accelerator program, with the goal of expanding to every college campus in America (and beyond!) Emily Lu, General Assembly

Name: Carolina Garcia (@modabound)
Occupation: Co-founder, Modabound

1. What inspired you to learn front-end web development? How has it helped you run your business?

We knew early on that starting a business as non-technical co-founders would be a challenge — we wanted to guide our developers better, and anticipated questions from investors down the road.

As co-founders with front-end skills, we are now able to project manage much more effectively. While we’re also able to contribute with code, the main benefit is being able to communicate our vision more clearly to our developers, having a better grasp of how long projects will take, and ultimately working more closely as a team.

2. What surprised you most about diving into web development?

I was surprised to learn how welcoming the developer community is. Developers love sharing. They talk a lot. They have boards. People are so open to helping each other out and solving problems together. We gained a great framework for understanding from GA’s Front-End Web Development Course, and from there I’ve been amazed by how much you can continue to learn by using the web as a resource.

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Summer 2013 Web Development Immersive Graduation & Reunion

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Last Tuesday night, we held our first joint graduation and alumni reunion for our Web Development Immersive (WDI) students. We admit that it’s a bit unusual — homecoming and graduation events are typically separated by several months and various weather conditions. But we think about education a little bit differently.

From “TA Phil” Lamplugh reflecting that “[being] able to say ‘this doesn’t work because you spelled restaurant wrong’ has been a daily highlight” and WDI Product Manager Mercedes Bent recounting stories from the graduating classes to GA co-founder Matt Brimer imploring students to “always keep [their] education in beta,” the theme of the night was really all about lifelong learning.

In his speech to graduates and alumni, Brimer noted that “Alumni has the connotation that you’re no longer involved. We never want you to leave the GA community.” It’s that mindset that drove the evening, as the ceremony was less about sending graduates off into the world or giving alumni the opportunity to reconnect with each other, and more about alumni welcoming students into the next stage of their education and into the network of WDI alumni.

The strength of that alumni network — less than one year from the first instance of WDI — was readily apparent through the night. Our alumni appreciated the opportunity to welcome new students in, but they didn’t need us to bring them together to stay in contact. It was clear that they had already done that on their own.

In his congratulatory remarks, Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis advised graduates to “brute force their way into the future” while mentioning that there’s never enough good developers in the world. Perhaps no point better illustrates the benefits of the WDI program. Not only are graduates embarking into an in-demand career, they’re doing so together — creating a powerful community of collaborative developers, learning enthusiasts, and most importantly, friends.

If you’re interested in joining this network of alumni, learn more about WDI.

True Coding Stories: Nicky Hughes

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Nicky Hughes, WDI Alumni

Meet Nicky Hughes, graduate of General Assembly’s 12-week Web Development Immersive (WDI) program who recently landed a job as a Rails developer at a startup. It is now a family affair — Nicky’s husband was so inspired, that he just enrolled in WDI too. – Mercedes Bent, General Assembly

Eight months ago, I was an architect in Sydney, Australia. After a three-month crash course in web development from General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) program in New York City, I’m now proud to call myself a Rails developer, with a full-time job back in my hometown at a tech startup called Tapestry.

Coding and web development weren’t new to me. In high school, I studied coding in Visual Basic, but those skills got tucked away in a corner of my memory as I concentrated my energies on a career in architecture.

Originally viewing it solely as a resource that could come in handy at my current job, I started teaching myself Ruby. However, as I got into it, I quickly began to recall the love for coding I developed in high school, and made the decision to leave architecture in pursuit of a career in web development. In order to do this, I’d need a more comprehensive and structured curriculum than simply learning on my own, so I applied for WDI, traveled across the globe to New York City, and set out to write a blog about the experience called, Nicky on Rails.

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Where Are They Now? Brooks Swinnerton

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Brooks Swinnerton headshot

Meet Brooks Swinnerton, graduate (and now Teaching Assistant) of General Assembly’s 10-week Back-End Web Development course. We sat down with Brooks to find out what inspired him to learn to code, what he’s done with his new skills, and why he returned to GA to pay it forward. Emily Lu, General Assembly

Name: Brooks Swinnerton (@bswinnerton)
Occupation: Systems Administrator, New York University; Teaching Assistant, General Assembly

1. What inspired you to learn back-end web development?

Whenever I ran into a problem or inefficiency, I found myself thinking, “There should be an easier way to do X.” When I couldn’t find a solution, my next thought would be, “I wish I could just create it”. That’s why I decided to learn Ruby on Rails — I wanted the knowledge and power to simplify my life.

Now with these skills, I no longer have to “wish” for a solution; I can create it. I have the freedom to drive the product to exactly where I want it to go, right down to the buttons.

2. What’s something exciting you’ve done with your new Ruby on Rails skills?

Back in March I participated in a five-day event called The Startup Bus. The goal was to build a startup on a bus and launch it 1,800 miles later at SXSW. I applied completely on a whim, and a week later found myself boarding a bus in Union Square with 30 strangers. I took this time to work on my startup idea, Readin.gs. We worked on the bus for 13 hours a day, slept very little and fueled up at Walmarts along the way. It was an insane experience, but made some incredible like-minded friends by the end of the trip.

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