This post comes courtesy of Udacity student Esther Camilo dos Reis. She lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is a mother of two. She has completed several Udacity courses, and is currently enrolled in both the Front-End Web Developer and Data Analyst Nanodegree programs. Her journey through online learning has taken her from teacher to tech, and this is her story!
My Journey started in 2007 when I decided to abandon my career as a high school physics teacher. Despite my love for education, teaching in Brazil is not a rewarding occupation.
I applied for a degree in information systems in a renowned Brazilian University (UNESP). Despite having success in the program, I ultimately decided it was best for my family to continue teaching to earn a living.
Four years later and with one more child, I applied for a PhD project in biological sciences. It was not exactly what I wanted but school was close to home and fit easily into my life.
A Learning Machine
I attempted to integrate my studies with technology as much as possible. My project was all about machine learning to predict phenotypes in bacteria. And that meant I needed to learn artificial intelligence.
Coincidentally, around the same time I received an email from Udacity with the following subject line:
“You (YOU!) Can Take Stanford’s ‘Intro to AI’ Course Next Quarter, For Free”
At Udacity, we’re constantly exploring ways to help our students succeed, and recently we’ve been focused on a couple key questions:
What would happen if we opened up new ways for our students to help each other? Could students help each other achieve their long-term learning goals?
Every month, Udacity welcomes a new cohort of learners, each learner with a career goal in mind and a desire to master vital skills. They’re signing up for Nanodegree programs: 6–12 month hands-on learning experiences during which each student builds a portfolio of career-relevant projects. Upon finishing, a student emerges with a Nanodegree certificate, a credential that will open up doors to achieve their next career goal in tech.
Here’s the thing: Online learning is both incredibly rewarding and has moments where it can feel incredibly difficult. Most of our students are juggling one or more jobs and have a full plate of life commitments. We’ve heard from students that online learning can present similar dynamics to dieting or exercise —they know that their daily actions will get them to a long term goal, but it can be difficult to dedicate time to learning regularly while balancing other priorities. Success requires tenacity, energy, and patience.
Here’s the other thing: Most of our students who set a career goal do it on their own. They may share the goal with their friends or a significant other, but ultimately the day to day accountability can feel solitary. We know that it’s all too easy to tell yourself that today just isn’t the day or there’s a temptation to put off working on your Nanodegree project in favor of another commitment.
My name is Stefanie Gross, and this is my Udacity Student Success story!
When I started the Intro to Programming Nanodegree program, I was in the middle of a full-time internship in Marketing and Corporate Communication in Frankfurt, Germany. It was just one of many internships I completed to ultimately help me find a job that I’m really passionate about.
Although the job situation in Germany is good, it usually takes some time for recent media graduates to get a foot in the door. There are just too many highly qualified applicants and too few positions available, so you have to find a way to stand out from the crowd.
I always try to learn new things and expand my horizons. But as it turns out, it’s quite difficult to find a company in Germany that supports that mentality. I don’t like the idea of feeling as if I’m stagnating. Unfortunately, with a 40-hour week during my internship and some freelancing on the side, there’s only so much time left in the week to take up new challenges.
There is virtually no field in the modern employment landscape that does not rely on data. The Oakland Athletics made data so famous it became a Brad Pitt movie!
But when I ask you what you want to be when you grow up, are you likely to say “Data Analyst?” Probably not. Why is that?
Could it be a holdover sentiment from another era, when data really wasn’t very exciting? Say “data” to some people and it may conjure in their minds images of anonymous automatons squinting through bifocals at reams of seemingly unintelligible numbers as they sit hunched over drab desks in drab offices producing drab reports for drab enterprises that do drab things.
Or maybe it’s the idea that data only ever sits in the backseat? Data provides the numbers, but someone else goes out and gets the glory? Data cast as the perennial Cyrano de Bergerac?
Maybe data just seems too hard?
Whatever the reasons why Data Analyst may not be tip of tongue when it comes to career choices, it may be time to revise any prevailing assumptions about the field, because data has never been hotter as a career. Why? Because EVERYONE needs to know how to collect it, analyze it, contextualize it, report on it, and act on it.
As educators with a mission to democratize education, we are concerned with issues of affordability. As providers of technical content designed to equip students with specialized skills, we are concerned with issues of accessibility. As a career-focused organization committed to seeing every student we teach emerge from our courses informed, inspired, and in demand, we are concerned with issues of equality. As a Silicon Valley company founded in the tech space, we are concerned with issues of inclusion. As a global company, we are concerned with issues of opportunity.
Introducing Our Diversity Series
The word diversity invokes so much, it’s almost impossible to imagine accomplishing a comprehensive understanding of the subject. What we can pursue, however, is an understanding of diversity issues as they inform — and are informed by — areas of critical importance to our mission, and to our organization.
With that in mind, we are launching a series on our blog that will chronicle some of these investigations, so that we can share the concepts we’re wrestling with, the challenges we’re facing, the discoveries we’re making and — hopefully — the changes we’re instigating. This post is our introduction to this series.
As a company devoted to democratizing education, we are always aiming to reach further and touch more lives. Driven by the mantra of “students first” and the desire to see every student we teach be in demand, our hope is to see Nanodegree programs growing all over the globe. A year ago, that was all this was: a hope. But today, we have over 10,000 students enrolled!
One of our fastest-growing countries in student engagement and interest is India. It is already our second largest student base; perhaps not surprising as India boasts the world’s second largest developer population with 3 million software developers. With the right resources and focus, India has the potential to have the #1 developer population by 2018. Which makes today’s announcement all the more exciting for us.
Successful entrepreneurs are either crazy, risk-embracing visionaries unafraid to gamble everything to bring their radical innovations to life, or they’re not.
Chances are, they’re not.
Owning your own successful business does require a bit of an independent streak perhaps, but what you really need are a broad set of skills, a good deal of relevant experience, and a willingness to try and try again.
There are probably as many reasons why people want to be entrepreneurs as there are new businesses launching, and while your journey will ultimately be unique to you, it can be very helpful to understand what motivates other like-minded travelers — what their challenges and opportunities are, and how they rise above the former and take advantage of the latter.