Lauren Smith, Udacity, Student Success

Career change is a daunting undertaking. It often involves a great deal of risk, and always requires courage, self-confidence, and faith. Some of our favorite stories to share are those in which students bravely challenge themselves to embark on new journeys. Lauren Smith is a wonderful example of this, and we’re so excited to share her story with you today. Lauren very kindly took some time to chat with us, and her thoughtful answers offer great inspiration to anyone considering a new career.

Lauren, thank you so much for talking with us! To begin, can you just share a little about yourself? For example, where do you live, and what were you doing for work before enrolling with Udacity?

My name is Lauren Smith, and I’m from North Attleboro, Massachusetts. After I graduated from college with a Communications Degree, I got a job as an Office Assistant. Within about 7 months, I had worked my way up to an Accounts Payable Coordinator. That’s what I was doing when I found Udacity.

What got you started thinking about making a career change?

I was able to grow within the company, but I still wanted to make a change because I wasn’t being challenged and I wasn’t really interested in what I was doing.

What drove you to finally commit to pursuing a new path?

I knew I wanted to change careers before I enrolled in Udacity, and that was really the main reason why I took a Nanodegree program.  I wanted to go into a field that was more challenging for me, and do something I could think thoroughly about.  In my previous the role, the tasks that I would do were really repetitive, and I wasn’t growing or learning anything new when I came to work everyday.  

How did you hear about Udacity? What made you choose to enroll?

I had taken some free courses a few years before I enrolled in the Front-End Nanodegree program, and I was still on the Udacity mailing list. One day, I received an email about the Nanodegree program. I thought about it for a few months, and finally decided to just jump in and give it a try.

What got you interested in Front-End Web Development specifically?

I’ve always been interested in developing and building things out, and creating something that I could show people and say, “I created this!” But I never had any focused projects or training that could really hold my attention enough to motivate me to get better at it.  I really liked the structure of the Nanodegree program, as it allowed me to start something I’m passionate about learning, and do so in a way that encouraged me to follow through with the program.  

Once you’d enrolled, what was the experience like? Do you recall any really pivotal moments?

There was a transition in the program where I went from creating what I wanted to create to creating something that was user focused.  That was a really important step and a good reminder that this is why I’m becoming a web developer in the first place. I consider this the most challenging part of the Nanodegree, because you have to put yourself—and what you want—to the side, and think about who the user is going to be, and what they want out of the product.  

Ok, here’s the big question: Do you have a new job now?

Yes! I’m now a Web Developer at an ecommerce company in Rhode Island.

Wonderful news, and congratulations! Do you feel that what you learned with Udacity is informing your new role, and are you enjoying what you’re doing now?

I’m faced with new challenges and problems everyday, and I feel more fulfilled in the work I’m doing.  That’s something I love about Front-End Web Development! It never gets repetitive or easy no matter how long you work at it. In my current job, I mostly work on sites that are already up and running for clients, so I’m always working on a couple of different jobs at any given time.  If anything comes up, they’ll submit a ticket and that’s where I come into play.  I’m on such a small team, so I have to be constantly learning.  Udacity taught me how to look at something I’ve never seen before and break it down into smaller pieces so I can understand it.

Any thoughts on what comes next for you?

For now, I’m definitely interested in learning more about front-end, and perfecting those skills, but going forward I could see myself working in full stack and trying to learn some of those skills too.  But for now, I want to see how much I can develop my front-end skills because there’s so much more to learn!

Any final advice for aspiring learners in similar situations as you were in?

Take advantage of the free trials that Udacity offers! That’s what I did with a few of the other Nanodegrees programs and it really helped me decide which direction to take.  I would say take some time to really figure out what you’re interested in, and then give it your all and push through once you find something you’re passionate about. Try and visualize where you can see yourself having a long and happy career. The Udacity forums are a great way to learn from other students about what each Nanodegree entails, and what skills you’ll need to learn to be hired in a certain position in the future.

Thank you Lauren.  Congratulations from everyone at Udacity on your amazing career change!

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Lauren has so many great insights to share, but one thing she said in particular was really striking. When she was describing why she loved her new career so much, she said she is constantly learning. This is such a wonderful expression of exactly the spirit we admire in all our students and graduates. Here’s to Lauren, and here’s to the spirit of lifelong learning!

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Ready to learn something wonderful?