Alumni Success Stories: How Four GA Learners Charted New Career Paths
At General Assembly, we strive to empower people to pursue careers they love. With our learners, this means equipping them with skills and providing them with opportunities to shape rewarding careers for themselves. In this alumni series, we will share stories of our alumni’s journeys in the hopes that their paths will inspire others to chart their own paths to fulfilling careers.
This time, we’re talking to recent GA graduates from our UX design, digital marketing, and data analytics bootcamps on how they came across GA, what their learning experience was like, and the impact that the learning had on their lives.
What were you doing before you came to GA? What led you to us?
Nadira: I was a commercial pilot, and I was in the midst of switching to a different airline when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. After that happened, I wanted to look for my “ikigai”, which is the concept of wanting to find joy in life through purpose, and that’s how I crossed paths with GA.
Ezra: I was studying abroad, and when I came back to Malaysia, I started job-hunting immediately. That was when I noticed how often the terms “UI design” and “UX design” popped up in job postings. Around the same time, I found out about GA through my sister, and that was when I decided to apply for the UX design course to upskill myself.
Aisyah: I was quite unsure of my career path, what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I have experience interning in a marketing position, but that role didn’t really show me what marketing is, it was just database work. Of course, the pandemic made the difficult process of job hunting even more challenging. I’ve always been open to different job opportunities, but I’m still learning and trying to find where my passion lies. So when I found GA’s MySTEP programme, I decided to enroll in the digital marketing course in hopes that that’s where I’ll find my calling.
Nadia: I graduated with a degree in Geology, with the hopes of being able to contribute in efforts to save the environment and combat against climate change. But, due to the competitive state of the oil and gas industry and the Covid-19 pandemic, I was unemployed for almost 2 years. As a result, I struggled a lot on a personal level, and I also had to face a moral dilemma with the idea of working in oil and gas. I was hit with a reality check that the industry is actually against what I stand for in advocating for the environment. So, I was planning to switch to a different career path by pursuing postgraduate studies in Data when I stumbled upon GA and I decided to apply for the MySTEP programme.
How did you feel at the start of the course? What pushed you to move forward?
Nadira: For me, what drove me was the need to learn as much as I can within the entire duration of the course. I took it as a challenge, and a personal mission, to explore UX design and its potential.
Ezra: At first, I was doubtful because I didn’t think that there’s a lot of overlap between UX design and my background in electronic music production. Then I came to the realisation that the mindset is similar—both fields are essentially about creating a product from the earliest stage to present it to a particular audience. They’re both about understanding the user, their thought processes and the way they see the world around them.
Aisyah: I decided to go down the digital marketing path because I wanted to try it out as a career, and I think . As an International Communications and English graduate, I think I could apply a lot of what I’ve learnt in practical scenarios. I also liked that digital marketing is a balance of creative and analytical skills.
Nadia: I figured data analytics would be a great stepping stone for my career change because it exists in almost every industry out there. Plus, I’m a naturally inquisitive person and a problem-solver, and data analytics is all about getting to know people, products, regions—everything, and figuring out their patterns. Coupled with the need to challenge myself, I decided to pursue this path.
What are your biggest takeaways from the classes? How did it affect your way of thinking?
Nadira: As a result of my time with GA, I’ve learnt to embrace continuous life-long learning. I realise that I need to approach problems and challenges with an open mind, and find opportunities to actually make a difference, no matter the industry I’m working in.
Ezra: The course helped me to adopt an objective way of thinking. The first step in any UX design process is to identify the problem, and because of this I learned how to open my mind and adopt a new way of thinking that’s as neutral as possible, so I could properly define what needs to be solved, and the kind of data I need to do so.
For instance, with the UX design challenge, I came into it with a solution in mind, so it was a challenge to reset my perspective and approach the problem with a blank slate. I had to prevent that from clouding my judgement and disrupting my problem solving process.
Aisyah: My experience with marketing before was a lot of working with data, so I was really excited to learn that the GA course has way more than just numbers when it comes to digital marketing. I really enjoyed learning how Google Analytics work and the behind the scenes of social media marketing.
Of course, I expected to learn the basics, but what exceeded my expectations was the fact that the learners were able to handle the tools for the final project. Getting to do mockup ads and create real-world strategies helped me to articulate our understanding of what I’ve learnt.
Nadia: I think one of the main impacts the classes had on my thinking is it taught me to be more detail-oriented and insightful. I realised how important it is to have data to back up whatever decision I make. The course taught me that data analytics is more than just looking at numbers—you actually have to be creative to figure out the right way to look at the data you have to solve problems or answer questions.
How did GA help with your learning experience?
Nadira: I think one of the factors that makes the programme stand out would be the instructors. There was a seamless melding of expert international and Malaysian instructors and mentors, which gave us the benefit of international exposure that is balanced and framed within a local context.
Ezra: I liked how the instructors were helpful in addressing my struggles in class. They gave me various tools to conduct research, and in fact, there was a whole class dedicated to qualitative research, which really helped in pointing me in the right direction. GA also did an amazing job in running the online course. Although I was learning from home, I felt connected with the other 40 learners in my class, and the instructors and mentors were very supportive. They helped us in every step of the journey, and addressed any questions we have, be it in UX design or building professional skills.
Aisyah: I enjoyed the teaching style and the instructors. They were helpful and interactive in a way that made it easy to learn, especially for someone like me who has little knowledge of digital marketing beyond data work. I appreciated that the instructors took the time to guide us through various digital marketing tools, and let us play with it. And I really enjoyed getting to “e-meet” new people, too.
Nadia: The instructors’ support really helped me to transition and adapt to the course. Most of us, myself included, came from a background where we didn’t have any knowledge in data, and the instructors took extra time to guide us through the modules and explained everything in great detail. The classroom environment was really comfortable, too. I’m a generally shy person but there wasn’t a time where I felt hesitant to ask questions. I also liked how the course was very hands-on and I get to actually practise what we learn, rather than just understanding the theory.
How was the GA experience overall, both during and after? What did you like best?
Nadira: I like how GA went beyond just imparting technical knowledge in UX design. My time with GA also taught me valuable professional skills in business communications and connecting with others. It made me realise that, yes, of course, you have to learn the technical hard skills, but you also need good soft skills to secure a good career.
Ezra: The most valuable experience for me might be GA’s professional skills development sessions. They helped me to take a step back and analyse the skills I have, and how I could leverage them to secure a job. It was challenging, at first, as I’ve never really did an audit of my own capabilities and I didn’t know what kind of skills to put on my resume. But GA supported me until I knew how to identify my “brand” and who I am as a person.
Aisyah: Learning in an online classroom setting was definitely interesting. Although we’re in a pandemic, I didn’t face a lot of obstacles and the online format actually made the class easy to commit to. As for what I liked best, as a fresh graduate, I wanted to know what the people in the industry actually do. With GA, I get to understand that not only from my instructors sharing their inspiring experiences, but also from my own learning journey.
Nadia: I enjoyed the professional skill classes, as I got the chance to focus on getting to know myself, my own pros and cons, in order to create my own personal branding. Being able to reflect on who I am as a person and identifying my strengths definitely helped me regain my confidence and rebuild my self-esteem, and I came out of the programme with a more positive outlook on myself. I also liked being able to share the journey of self-discovery with my classmates and the instructors. They helped me realise that shifting careers is not as daunting as I thought it would be.