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General Assembly Teaches Hard Skills for Software

General Assembly Seattle

Graduates of the Seattle branch of General Assembly may find jobs at Microsoft or Amazon, and the school’s campus in the historic Seattle Tower does boast a giant chalk mural of Mount Rainier. But the instruction is anything but provincial; rather, students will have the same experience right off Third Avenue in downtown Seattle as they would in London or Hong Kong. That, says local marketing manager Marina Rusinow, is very much by design.

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“We want students to have the same experience,” she says. “We want General Assembly to have this unified community where we can have a student come visit us who has taken a class in London or New York or San Francisco, and get the same boutique experience that they had here.”

Since 2011 the school has graduated tens of thousands of students from 15 outposts around the world. At every one, from the home base in New York City to the latest outpost in Singapore, General Assembly teaches data, design, and business skills with the same intensive curricula, based on concrete projects and portfolio-building.

Not only does this consistency facilitate learning, it also helps General Assembly place almost every graduate in a job. Each class teaches a high-demand skill, then takes students through the job-search process, so they can leverage it anywhere they want to go–or, in the case of tech jobs, where they are needed.

“Companies are struggling,” says Casey Hills, who works with GA’s employer partners. “They’ve tapped the computer-science programs at universities and there’s still a lack of talent. So we’re bridging that gap. Basically, if there’s an audience for it, we’ll put it together.

“Companies come to us first when they need that talent because they know about our track record and they know about our training, they know what kind of development students get in the program. It’s application versus theory–that’s the difference.” Mock interviews, portfolio reviews, and chances to network are just pieces of this application.

“We really do want to create this amazing pool of talent,” Rusinow adds, “and I think the fact that we create so much opportunity for our students during and after the program is our biggest competitive advantage.”
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But even with uniform classes, General Assembly does not expect its students to fit a particular bill. Quite the opposite, says Hills, pointing to a dance instructor, a DJ, and even a standout teen who, with no previous tech experience, learned to code in 12 weeks and got hired right out of the program. That’s the standard, he says, not the exception.

GA also offers scholarships to groups underrepresented in tech, specifically women and minorities. A separate application process lets GA’s partner companies invest in the future of the tech industry. So each course, Hills insists, looks like “a microcosm of Seattle.”

Reflecting its community is a point of pride for GA Seattle and does guide some of its programming, such as Made in Seattle Week, a discussion series that takes place on the campus and celebrates innovation in our community. The school also hosts a wealth of free workshops for those hoping to test the waters. Prospective students ready for the deep end have several options: commit to a part- or full-time class, online or in-person.

As Hills assures us, “What we’ve seen is, if they have the passion, if they have the urgency, if they have the drive, they are successful in their job search.”

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