Resource Spotlight: General Assembly

Feb 5, 2017

Resource Spotlight: General Assembly

Feb 5, 2017

This week we spoke to Anne Bosman, Regional Director of General Assembly. General Assembly is an edtech company empowering the community by teaching in-demand skills in business, technology and more. They recently moved to a new office space so check them out below!

GH: What is General Assembly?

General Assembly (GA) is an education company on a mission to empower a global community to pursue work they love. Focusing on the most relevant and in-demand skills across data, design, business and technology, GA is confronting a skills gap through best-in-class instruction and providing access to employment opportunities. GA works with students online and in person across 25 campuses in 6 countries. GA also works with employers to help companies source, assess, and transform talent. Additionally, GA’s focus on affordable and accessible education combined with our education-to-employment approach is helping to create a diverse talent pipeline for today’s workforce.

GH: How did General Assembly get started?

GA was founded in 2011, initially as a community for entrepreneurs in NYC. As part of creating a space for startups to work alongside each other, one of its unique elements was that every company had to share its knowledge with the larger group. Today, GA is a global education company that has helped more than 400,000 students around the world gain skills in data, design, business and technology.

GH: How did you build your team?

As a vital educational partner to many of Boston’s top employers, we understand how important it is to find top talent.  As we grew our team over the past few years, we focused more on qualitative competencies, such as mindset, energy, positivity and culture fit, than hard skills.  This has helped us to stay nimble as we’ve grown quickly (like many startups, the GA Boston team members are no strangers to wearing multiple hats and shifting priorities often).  It has also helped us provide growth opportunities and exciting paths for individuals who are passionate about learning and building a meaningful career.  As we continue to evolve and grow as a company and a team, we remain focused on keeping people at the heart of all that we do – our employees, our instructors, our students, and our partners – as it is the people who truly inspire and drive us to be the best we can be.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and “make it work” moments–can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

Over the summer we had the opportunity to run what turned out to be the biggest offline ad campaign for General Assembly with the MBTA. Problem was, we needed to get the entire campaign pulled together in under two weeks so that we could have it launch in time for “back to school” excitement. We recruited Boston area alumni to help us collaboratively develop a vision for the ads #LifeatGA, hired a photographer for a alumni photo shoot, and once we got the photos done we had just five days to put the design together. We were lucky enough to have our creative team in New York, who supports all 16 of our cities, put their projects on hold to work with us on what was an all hands on deck, “make it work” moment. P.S. Some of the ads are still up on the red line – see if you can spot one!

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

The Boston ecosystem is so well connected and over the past four years has truly embraced and supported what GA is doing for the people of Boston.  As a company, General Assembly invests a lot of energy and resources into developing meaningful partnerships at the local level and being a vital resource for the community.  We co-host free events multiple times a week with thought leaders and pioneers such as Creative Mornings, MassTLC, and City Awake; we partner with nonprofits and local government agencies on workforce development initiatives; and we work with companies to help them with their talent needs and support them in developing their employees. It is through these relationships that we have been able to grow so successfully in a way that is valuable and meaningful to the greater Boston community.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking in your perspective?

As with many other cities, Boston’s tech ecosystem still lacks diversity both in terms of who is working in tech as well as the user for which technical innovations are being designed.

This is why we have made diversifying the digital workforce a core part of our mission by providing educational and employment opportunities to underrepresented minority groups and those who would otherwise not have access.  You can see this most readily through GA’s social impact initiatives such as the Opportunity Fund, which provides scholarship funding towards our immersive courses; inclusive public events we design and run such as the upcoming Diversity in Tech: Stop Talking, Start Taking Action with Design in partnership with one of our favorite nonprofit partners Resilient Coders; and awards such as the MIT Inclusive Innovation Finalist Award we were granted in the fall of 2016.

GH: What was the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

Having spent more than 10 years of my career in the startup community, I’ve received a lot of great advice. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given recently is one of GA’s core values: “the first time is always handmade.” Oftentimes when working at an early stage, high growth startup you can feel under-resourced and overwhelmed. Rather than feeling helpless, remembering that you can, and really should, start with a basic prototype before skipping to a fancy, overengineered solution makes you feel empowered with a clear vision of how to take the next steps forward.  It also opens up opportunities for failure and learning which can be more valuable than a multitude of other resources.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

After almost four years of operating out of coworking spaces, we moved into a dedicated, 13,000 square foot campus at 125 Summer Street in downtown Boston. This was probably the biggest milestone in all of GA Boston’s history! It is a beautiful and inspiring space that has helped cement GA as a central part of the Boston community and become a hub for learners, employers, innovators, partners, and thought leaders throughout the entire region. It’s also a symbol of our commitment to the greater Boston area. We see the campus not only as an opportunity for growth in terms of the number of students and employers we can serve, but also as a platform for local tech and career related events, meetups and other community events.

GH: What does the future hold for General Assembly?

Even though we just moved into a brand new space, we’ve already got our sights set on the next local expansion. In November 2016, we launched a grant-funded 13 week Web Development Immersive program in Providence for underemployed and unemployed Rhode Islanders in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and local nonprofit TechHire RI. This pilot program has proven to be an overwhelming success in providing vital training and employment opportunities completely tuition-free to students who would otherwise have never been afforded the opportunity.  GA’s education is also proving to be a vital resource for the State of Rhode Island as they work towards filling the gap between the demand in tech jobs from large companies, such as GE, CVS and Johnson & Johnson, and the talent and skills of candidates in their community.  We have truly enjoyed the strong partnerships we have developed with the government, nonprofit and employer partners in Rhode Island and are looking forward to expanding this program and other offerings in Providence in 2017.

Learn more about General Assembly here.

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