General Assembly Alumni Spotlights

By The SwitchUp Team | Updated 9/29/2023

SwitchUp and General Assembly (GA) have partnered to showcase recent alum experiences through our Alumni Spotlight series. This series highlights what students learned, how their careers were impacted, and why they felt their bootcamp was worth it. 

Note: The interviews below have been edited for grammar and clarity and are individual contributions. They do not reflect the views of SwitchUp or General Assembly.

Learn more about General Assembly bootcamps and their wide range of program offerings. 

Jonathan Liang

Current Role: Associate Software Engineer at John Hancock

Program Focus: Full-Stack Software Engineering 

Program Format: Part Time

Program Environment: Online 

Graduated: June 2023

What Made You Decide To Pursue a Bootcamp?

Originally, I was working as a Consultant/IT Auditor right out of college. While I enjoyed working with many different clients, the work just did not interest me, and the working hours were often long. I really loved technology, but unfortunately, I couldn’t switch to a more technical role because my background was perceived to not be technical enough. So, I knew that I needed some way to build up my skills. 

That was when I learned about General Assembly’s bootcamp from my cousin, who was a GA alum and successful software engineer. There were, of course, many ways to switch to a career in software engineering, but a bootcamp seemed to offer the best return on investment. Going back to school for a computer science degree would take too long, and it is expensive. Attempting to learn to code on my own would be hard to keep myself motivated and accountable. I wanted a synchronous classroom environment that had the support of other students and instructors without having to pay full price for a college degree. For me, a bootcamp was the clear choice. 

What Made You Choose General Assembly?

I chose General Assembly mainly because of two reasons: 1) they have many successful alumni, and 2) the program was very flexible and worked well with my schedule. 

I learned about many alums from GA who now work at some of the best tech companies in the world, like Google, Apple, and Facebook. Knowing that my cousin graduated from GA and now works for a top tech company led me to realize that GA had the tools and support to make me successful.

Additionally, GA is the clear winner in flexibility when it comes to part-time programs. Many career switchers will quickly realize that it takes money to pay for a bootcamp, but they may also have a financial obligation to their families, so quitting their current jobs to take a bootcamp would be very difficult. For me, despite continuing to work full time, I was still able to work with GA’s part-time program because they had many cohort formats to choose from. 

What Was Your Experience Like?

My goals before joining GA were pretty simple. I wanted to build a portfolio of exciting projects to showcase my skills and land a new software engineering position after graduating. General Assembly allowed me to reach and even exceed those goals. 

My instructors definitely blew me away. What I really liked about my instructors (Paul Chapman, Deja Yang, Gore Auluck, and Bee Johnson) was that they had real-life experience as software engineers outside of class and could make connections between what we learned in class and on the job. Additionally, they always brought enthusiasm and excitement to the class, and the lectures were never dull. I was really in awe of how intelligent they were, being able to break down such complicated concepts so that they were clear and understandable.

The projects I worked on gave me a chance to not only use what I learned in class to build something exciting but it also gave me the opportunity to utilize additional technologies and take things to another level. For example, cloud computing and Azure are trending topics that I was interested in, but I didn’t learn them in the bootcamp. GA gave me the tools to learn these things on my own and eventually implement them into my later projects. When I was interviewing for my current software engineering role, my interviewers were impressed that I took the initiative to learn new technologies on my own. 

I really liked the general class format, which consisted of a beginning warm up, lecture, lab, and homework assignment. It really allowed us to learn new concepts while also being able to apply them. Additionally, I loved being able to interact with my classmates, especially during the labs. I think what I also really liked was that the class environment was very open. Whether you were an introvert or extrovert, no one was judged, and everyone was able to contribute to the class. I think the classes are generally between 20 - 25; however, my class size was 15 students. I personally liked this class size because it was small enough to allow instructors to provide support for all of us but also big enough to allow us to interact with each other. 

My classmates came from various backgrounds, like project management, food service, education, and web development. All were very hard working and intelligent in their own ways. They were always open to helping and sharing resources with others, and I was able to learn many things from them.

The classes and assignments had a good balance of various difficulties. Some of the topics and assignments (like Python and coding fundamentals) seemed easy because I had some previous coding experience. However, there were some classes and assignments like React, Express, and PostgreSQL that challenged me to think and really push myself.

How Did General Assembly Prepare You for a Career?

Of course, with any new job, there are always new things that you will need to learn. However, I greatly believe GA gave me the tools to be able to learn new things on my own. Additionally, concepts from the coding languages that I learned at GA could be applied in other languages, even if the syntax is different.

The bootcamp provided career services, and I received great support from my coaches, Jason Schulte and Mick Mize, whom I learned a lot from about the recruiting process, how to optimize my LinkedIn, and how to network efficiently. I was able to network with alumni and companies during my time with and after graduating from GA. GA offers workshops to graduates in collaboration with companies such as Google, where you get to meet with recruiters and learn about various topics like how to optimize your resume, etc. Additionally, GA provides job referrals to job postings from their partner companies. 

It took me about two months to land a new software engineering role, which I think is decent considering what has been going on in the tech world today.

What Did You Enjoy About Your Experience at General Assembly?

What really made my experience at General Assembly amazing was my instructors. I not only learned so much from them, but I was always excited and willing to bring my best to every class because of them. Additionally, I learned so much from my classmates, and they inspired me to go beyond my comfort zone with my projects. 

Are You Satisfied With Your Bootcamp Experience?

I am satisfied with my bootcamp experience with General Assembly. Of course, like all bootcamps and programs, nothing is perfect, and there are always things that can be improved upon. But looking back, I am so grateful that I had a great experience with General Assembly. Graduating from General Assembly allowed me to switch to software engineering. It really expanded my technical tool belt with technologies and languages like JavaScript, CSS, HTML, React, and SQL. 

Before I started the program, I thought the General Assembly bootcamp was a bit pricey even though it was cheaper than a college degree and some other bootcamps out there. However, after finishing the program and getting a new software engineering job, I realized the program was definitely worth it. Everything from my exciting and profoundly knowledgeable instructors to the career coaching support to the immense knowledge I gained during the program made everything worth it in the end. 

I would definitely recommend General Assembly to others! 

What Advice Do You Have for Others Who Are Considering a Bootcamp?

While a bootcamp will give you the tools you need to find a new software engineering job, it alone will not get you a job. You should fully utilize everything the bootcamp has to offer and go beyond the minimum requirements on projects. Whether it’s going to office hours or implementing new technologies on a project besides the ones you learned in class, doing these things will really set you apart from your peers and give you a better chance at landing a job. Doing a bootcamp takes a lot, so stay committed!

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