The workspaces hardly look the same as they did five or even ten years ago. The set of in-demand skills is constantly updated making a rapid career change the new trend. Since its launch in London, General Assembly, New York-headquartered global education institution focused on technology, business, and design, has helped thousands of hungry minds to upskill and/or find a new fulfilling career. As the co-founder and CEO Jake Schwartz noted in one of his interviews “The one constant with technology is change.” GA’s response is Alternative Education, XXI century tech skills are delivered through the full/part-time courses, immersive, 12-week bootcamp style courses, workshops and more.
Ready to make changes? To help you get started, here are three General Assembly course graduates talking about their experiences, what it’s like to make a life-changing decision and how have the courses shaped their current careers.
Why did you decide to sign up for the course? Why did you choose General Assembly?
Olivia Thompson (UX Design Immersive course graduate): I wanted to find a career that I would be excited to do every day and in which I would be constantly learning and developing skills. I began researching how I could upskill without having to go back and spend another 3 years at university. The UX Design Immersive course offered by General Assembly attracted me because of its length and intensity, to learn on the job opportunity, the experience of the instructors and, after attending the open evening (where I met staff and students), I simply felt that the atmosphere and environment were just right for me.
Erica Porter (Web Development Immersive course graduate): I was spending more and more time trying to teach myself how to code using online resources and started to look for alternatives which would allow me to devote more time and take my interest to the next level. At first, I attended an open evening for a part-time web development course at GA but when I realised that I could take a full-time intensive course which would allow me to change careers, my mind was made up. Before taking the Web Development Immersive (WDI), I attended several open evenings and an intro session on web development, all held by GA. I also had the opportunity to talk to the course producer, instructors and to alumni. There was a lot of support right from the beginning and a feeling of community.
What was the most valuable piece of advice you got from your course instructor?
Jay Paul (Digital Marketing part-time course graduate): Too many to mention! For me as a creative individual, it was important to be reminded that we should never stop being curious.
Olivia: I guess the most valuable advice for me was to always have confidence in my work, never stop trying to learn new things (even though it’s tempting once the course is over), and just keep trying.
Erica: There was a lot of great advice! For me, however, the most valuable piece of advice was not to be afraid to fail. For anyone familiar with web development, they will understand that failing is a key aspect in learning the craft. You should become comfortable with failing before you can experience success. Not being afraid of failure in life is a difficult but amazing thing to try and master!
“I got my job as a UX Designer after attending Meet and Hire event organised by GA at the end of my course.”
Did the course also contribute to your non-technical skills?
Olivia: Definitely so. I got more confident about presenting my skills and abilities. In terms of presentation skills, I have always been a confident public speaker, however, the regular presentation practice at GA led me to become succinct when presenting my work and to expressing my points clearly and confidently. You could see the progress everyone in the class made by the end of the course with the naked eye – I was blown away by everyone’s confidence, presence and also ability to engage in every discussion.
Erica: I couldn’t agree more. We had opportunities to meet and network with people within the tech industry and received a number of talks on really useful topics related to the industry. We were given a really good appreciation of what life would be like once we graduate. We had daily stand-ups and got the experience of what it would be like working as a developer within a team. We were also given lots of opportunity to present our work and to grow in confidence when discussing what we had achieved and what we wanted to achieve next time.
“GA make it clear that you can always come back for career advice once you have graduated.”
How helpful was the course in kickstarting your career?
Olivia: I work for a UX agency called Every Interaction. I seriously love my job! I got it after attending Meet and Hire event that the GA hosted at the end of my course. My current colleagues were at the event, we briefly discussed my work and skills. The very next day I was invited for an interview.
Jay: I joined RNIB as a Marketing Manager (Customers) not long after starting my course at GA. I put my savings into the course, so I was determined to make it a success. Looking back at my decision, I am sure it has actually worked.
Erica: I started my first development job at a startup as a junior full stack developer pretty much straight-away after the course. Support for getting hired starts almost immediately when you enrol in the WDI and at the end of the 12 weeks you are ready to present your portfolio at a Meet and Hire event hosted by GA. I was lucky to find my first position through a contact I made at this event. Each student has dedicated time with an Outcomes Producer who is there to support you in finding your first job. But also, the door is always open and GA make it clear that you can always come back for career advice once you have graduated. In addition, there is an ever increasing number of GA alumni who are there to reach out too, which is a fantastic opportunity for networking with those already working in the industry.
For me as a creative individual, it was important to be reminded that we should never stop being curious.
Jay Paul, Marketing Manager (Customers) at RNIB
What advantages do General Assembly’s courses have versus traditional education?
Olivia: The GA course teaches you what you need to know, whilst you are doing projects. You are given enough time to practice and get comfortable with topics, but you are also pushed enough to make sure that you are always improving.
Erica: The courses are crafted to provide students with the skills they actually need to start their career in development. Course content is updated regularly to reflect trends in the industry and to ensure you have the most up-to-date skill-set. Not every institution would be able to provide this and it is certainly not something possible on a university course. Whilst studying on the WDI you feel like you have access to help and support constantly. Instructors and TAs are always there to help and offer advice. This was definitely not something I have experienced in any other learning environment. GA are also very good at getting the balance between fun and structure right. There are high expectations for you throughout the course, it is intensive learning and every day is planned thoroughly, however, there are so many opportunities for fun and lots of social events which are a great chance to relax and form a very close bond with your classmates.
“General Assembly courses are crafted to provide students with the skills they actually need to start their career in development.”
What do you think helps GA stay on top of the tech industry?
Olivia: Their worldwide network; employing industry professionals who are passionate about teaching and the UX world and want to share their knowledge. And their constant improvements to course content.
Jay: GA has a progressive style of teaching, this culture attracts staff and students who are entrepreneurs, growth hackers – shortly, the best tech masterminds. As a result, it presents a rich network with the industry leaders.
Any advice for people thinking about doing a course with GA?
Olivia: Start with a research. Contact graduates for their experiences. Contact people from within the industry for their thoughts. Go to the open evenings. There you will be able to meet people who are studying/have studied at GA, it will help you to get a feel if you would fit.
Erica: It’s a big life changing commitment so it’s essential to do your research beforehand to make sure it is the right path for you and that you are fully prepared for it.
Are you interested in reading more GA related content? Find them here:
All You Need To Know to Be a Successful UX Designer by Amit, UX Design Instructor at GA
How To Navigate Tech Industry by Samantha Hepburn, Partnerships Lead at GA