General Assembly chief: DC firms are 'hungry' for tech talent - Technical.ly DC

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General Assembly chief: DC firms are ‘hungry’ for tech talent

G.A.'s Paul Gleger tells us why D.C. tech talent is so in demand. "Everybody's looking for developers."

General Assembly opened in D.C. last September.

(Courtesy of General Assembly)

In a minimalistic but comfy “campus” lodged in a corner of 1776, General Assembly is plugging the bright minds of D.C. into the city’s growing tech industry.

G.A. — a global organization that offers intensive courses in skills like web development, design or data science — set up shop here in September 2013. Now, it’s already enrolled close to 650 students in its full-time and part-time programs, said regional director Paul Gleger.

“I think D.C. is really hungry for all the topics that General Assembly covers,” he said.

At G.A.'s first meet-and-greet, 130 companies were represented — for only 18 graduating students.

That’s because D.C.’s bread-and-butter industries — including government, consulting and nonprofits — are stepping up their demand for tech-savvy employees. “Everybody’s looking for developers,” Gleger said. Data science has also become essential for international organizations that are gathering “terabytes and terabytes of data,” he added. “How else do you process all that information?”

Slowly but surely, the government has also proved itself willing to change.

Chastised by the rocky rollout of the HealthCare.gov website, the administration in March created 18F, a new arm of the General Services Administration that provides digital services to the agencies with a particular focus on user-centric design.

Students who enroll in part-time classes are often trying to acquire new skills to move up within their field or company, Gleger said. But there’s another group of G.A. students, a more eclectic set: those who want to branch out into a new career.

In the three-month intensive classes, they are heavily exposed to local employers who are on the lookout for these skills. And G.A. has tapped into a thirsty market. At its first end-of-trimester meet-and-greet in D.C., an occasion for students to present their projects, 130 companies were represented — for only 18 students, said Gleger.

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The most popular programs in D.C. are front-end and back-end development and user experience design. G.A.’s goal is “to demystify” these skills, said Gleger.

Gleger himself followed a very D.C. path before veering into the world of tech. He grew up in Baltimore then studied international affairs at George Washington University, following up with a stint at the State Department. But after moving to England for a master’s at the London School of Economics, he became involved with the local startup scene —  just as the economic crisis was unfolding.

“I sort of kept that bug ever since,” he said.

The G.A. programs range from about $3,500 for the part-time evening courses to $10,000-$12,000 for a full-time trimester. G.A. also offers one-off classes and weekend workshops. Payment plans, loans and scholarships are available.

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