Inclusion Interviews - with John Furno, Head of Partnerships at General Assembly


Inclusion Interviews, joanna-jewitt

Our Inclusion Interview series by Joanna Jewitt features different speakers from various industries about new D&I initiatives. This campaign is running alongside our own internal educational piece and inclusion strategy. For this series, we've been catching up with our network to see what inclusion initiatives they've been involved with and effectively implemented across their space. 

Could you give us a short introduction of yourself, your role, and how you’ve got involved with General Assembly’s D&I strategy?

Hello! My name is John Furno, Head of Partnerships & Growth at General Assembly.  There, my role is to organise and curate events by focusing on partnering with the highest quality brands and speakers in order to make GA front of mind when it comes to tech and digital. 

My focus was simple as I knew the tech industry had been viewed to be historically male-run. I wanted to use my role to shake up the industry by driving more diversity and inclusion within our learning environment to upskill. This was achieved through curating impactful events to drive this change, which lead me joining our global DEI committee, sparking initiatives to build gender balance and inclusion within GA globally.

Why do you believe it is important for every business to have a focus on D&I?

D&I is not just some buzz word or tick box for organisations. As an openly gay man, inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is slowly but surely getting better, but we still have a long way to go, especially within the workplace and not just for the queer community. Studies have shown that having a diverse team creates a better company and innovative thinking.

The London campus prides itself on creating a safe learning environment, making sure everyone feels valued and welcome.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion to us mean others of all backgrounds see themselves represented, heard, and respected, paving the way for future learners and leaders helping them pursue the career they love.

How have you seen D&I policies and initiatives change over the last year?

In relation to other organizations, I pride GA on being able to create an open and collaborative environment/ team culture which encourages my colleagues to bring ideas to the table and feel valued for the positive impact we’re creating. Due to this, I feel valued and respected without the need of hierarchy to reach KPI's set, feeding off a diverse team with different viewpoints, experience, culture and more.  

What D&I initiatives have you implemented or been a part of that have been successful?

On the side of growing our London community, I am also the creator and founder of queer publication ‘A Bundle of Sticks’, a chance for the LGBTQ+ community to share their coming out stories to help inspire others.

With this, I was incredibly grateful to have the support of GA help spark a conversation and drive awareness around queer issues within my community. 

In celebration for the month of Pride, I witnessed an abundance of generosity when GA asked to help fund the printing of 800 copies to leave around campus, helping to drive and channel D&I within the industry as well as donating to 3 LGBTQ+ charities that year to help raise awareness.

What are the next steps for General Assembly D&I agenda?

Already GA is driving countless initiatives and looking for new and impactful ways to make D&I a top priority.

Introducing their ’See Her Excel’ scholarship - helping women break into the tech industry by providing £1500 off their tuition, this has seen General Assembly look to shake up the industry and become a safe and inclusive learning environment.

GA is also delivering countless events to their community that aim to spark conversation and display impactful content, along with introducing employee resource groups and our global DEI committee which hopes to keep the conversation going around next steps for General Assembly’s D&I agenda!