Meet the Three-Time Nanodegree Graduate Using Deep Learning to Explore an Ancient Turkish Art

In a continuation of celebrating this year’s Women’s History Month, we would like to introduce Ayşin Taşdelen, an artificial intelligence professional and three-time Nanodegree program graduate. She has let her curiosity and desire for new skills lead her through three Nanodegree programs, new jobs, and side projects.

Women's History Artificial Intelligence Ayşin Taşdelen Udacity quote

We recently had a chance to speak with Ayşin to hear about her motivations and interest in pursuing cutting-edge technologies.

You studied mathematics during your university years and then became a programmer, what were some of your initial career goals?

I really enjoyed my university studies, so much so, that I initially looked into becoming a full-time researcher. Leaving academia was a tough decision, I loved learning but also knew that starting a traditional career would help me financially. I decided to go the career route and follow my interest in computer science. My initial career goal was to land a job and improve my programming skills.

As your career has developed, how have you satiated your desire to learn?

Over the years, I have tried to keep up with industry articles and books about the latest computer and tech trends. As the internet surged, I started using online library subscriptions and video learning paths. Reading and watching videos were great, but they only get you so far; I never felt like I was learning enough about a subject or concept, until, Udacity.

How were you introduced to Udacity and how did you choose your first Nanodegree program, Machine Learning?

I had spent eight years working as a software engineer, was in the midst of completing a master’s degree in Business Information Systems, and was setting myself up to be a manager. Up until this point, I had read about artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, machine learning, all of this advanced stuff, but thought that those industries and concepts were out of reach, my future was in IT management.

All of this changed when I read a blog post about TensorFlow by a highly regarded author who was working on a project that predicted butterfly breeds based on images (I also take butterfly photos!). I was amazed by the models and predictions the engineer could create. This is when I started to search for online opportunities to learn more about deep learning. That’s when I found Udacity.

While browsing through Nanodegree programs I saw a familiar name, Peter Norvig, involved with the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program. Previously, I had listened to a number of his lectures and was amazed by his teaching. Without a second thought, I applied to the AIND program—and got rejected.

I decided to finish out my master’s degree over the next six months and take another look at Nanodegree programs when I had more time and could select a foundation program that would lead to the AI program. Six months later, I graduated with my master’s degree and enrolled in the Machine Learning Engineer Nanodegree program.

I’m working on a Deep Learning Classical Art project … We’re using deep learning to collect and explore patterns in ancient Turkish art genres; collecting data about particular genres and classifying them by artist.

How was the experience? Did you encounter challenges?

I found the content to be so clear and concise. Concepts that previously seemed complex were broken down and made easy to understand. Watching videos and then completing projects associated with the content, filled the gaps I had noticed in my previous online learning efforts when I felt as though I wasn’t absorbing any skills.

The projects were challenging; I found that if I didn’t focus on the requirements exactly, I would spend time going back and fixing things. At one point, I submitted a project four times, but I stayed dedicated and pushed myself to keep going. Once I figured out how to focus on the project requirements, I was able to navigate through lessons more quickly. When I completed the Machine Learning program, I immediately enrolled in another.

In addition to the Machine Learning Nanodegree program, you’ve gone on to complete two more Nanodegree programs—what motivates you to keep learning?

All of these technologies are extremely exciting! I am constantly impressed by the scientists who are changing the world with their discoveries. Artificial intelligence, I believe has the most opportunity to bring change for all of us. As a programmer, I’ve always thought, much like every programmer, that my utmost mission is in moving frontiers to the next level, and AI is the way to do that. With the machine learning program, I created a foundation; with the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program, I solidified my passion and gained the skills to apply AI principles; and with the Flying Car and Autonomous Flight Engineer Nanodegree program, I’ve learned how AI can be applied to the 3D world.

am working alongside industry experts; three aeronautics Ph.D. students and the first three alumni to complete the Flying Car Nanodegree program—one of whom is myself!

You recently landed a new software engineering role that utilizes deep learning; did your Udacity learnings impact your ability to land this recent role?

Yes! I was recruited for an Android Developer role, but in the interview, they mentioned they were working to incorporate facial recognition software and computer vision into their products. The company manufactures gates for properties, and they’re working to make something as simple as an entryway, smarter.

I shared more on my Udacity studies, my interest in AI and computer vision, and they were intrigued. I accepted their offer as a Mobile App Developer and worked on that team for a short period, but recently, I started working on a computer vision project. Additionally, I am leading an effort that involves applying deep learning methods to one of our other initiatives.

Beyond work, do you use your new skills on any side projects?

I participated in the Alpha Pilot challenge organized by Lockheed Martin, which is the first AI and drone racing competition! I am so excited about this competition. Our team is working to pass the first stage and hopefully see our drone race against other teams. The opportunity to work on this team is particularly awesome; I had seen a video from similar groups on LinkedIn and thought “What the heck to do I know? I could never participate in this challenge.”

When I saw Alberto Naranjo Galet, a fellow Udacity Alumni, announce that he was looking for teammates to join the Velocity Vector team to enter the competition, I went for it! It’s an incredible experience. I’m working with people like Nuno Marques, a PX4 contributor and a leader in the drone community. I am working alongside industry experts; three aeronautics Ph.D. students and the first three alumni to complete the Flying Car Nanodegree program—one of whom is myself!

I’m also excited about working on a Deep Learning Classical Art project with a professor, Şebnem Özdemir, who invited me to participate based on my skills gained through Udacity. We’re using deep learning to collect and explore patterns in ancient Turkish art genres; collecting data about particular genres and classifying them by artist. We’re focused on one art form, Ebru, which I’ve always loved but never had the time or finances to pursue classes in during university.

My university is located in the old city of Istanbul, where this art form is abundant and many masters teach courses about it. Through this project, I am able to study alongside masters and learn this unique art form. With this project, I am living three of my life goals:

  • Continue my journey to becoming an Ebru Master, through the master-apprenticeship program, lead by Yılmaz Eneş
  • Being a team lead
  • Working as a researcher

Without the skills I obtained through Udacity and the professor running this project, I would never have had this opportunity.

You have accomplished so much! What’s next?

I don’t think I’ve accomplished so much yet! I feel like I triggered the start of a lifelong journey by learning at Udacity, and have so far had the chance to apply what I learned both in industry and academia.

Today, we’re told to have certain expectations about who we are and what we can become; there are so many prerequisites and rules. But this is frankly, not true. I thought I wasn’t able to do so many things until I just tried. I went from a Software Engineer to a Deep Learning and Computer Vision Engineer, who is working on a drone team and advancing the research of classical art. Anything is possible!

My dream is to spend the rest of my life working on new discoveries in AI and computer vision, to find ways to make the world a better place. I hope I can leave something behind or at least contribute to an advancement in tech which the rest of the world can benefit from. This is what I’ll be working towards each and every day.

With a blossoming career and prioritizing always building your skills, how would you inspire others to continue their own learning journey?

When I first started my software engineering career there was no one for me to talk for guidance or friends from college with similar experiences. I’m trying to share my experience and knowledge with others, something I would have wanted so badly back then.

Introducing Programming for Data Science: R and Python

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Udacity is excited to announce the release of a new R Programming track within the popular Programming for Data Science Nanodegree program. Now students can choose to learn either Python or R as they begin their journey into data science. Both the Python and R tracks also include courses on SQL, Command Line, and GitHub.

Introducing Udacity's Data Science Programming for R or Python Nanodegree programs

Udacity’s Data Science track begins with programming as it’s an essential skill for most data science and analytics work. In terms of popularity in the data science field, R and Python dwarf most other programming languages, and much has been written comparing the two. In fact, if you Google “r vs. python” you’ll get over 55,000 results! So rather than give just one more opinion, we’ve pulled together some of the key takeaways on the topic to help you make a decision on which language to learn.

For both R and Python, I’ll begin by introducing the programming language then describing some of the most significant advantages to using it.

What is R?

The programming language R was first released by a group of statisticians in 1994 and has since become widely used by statisticians, researchers, and data analysts around the world. It was created “for statisticians, by statisticians,” and has a wide array of built-in functions and third-party libraries enabling data scientists to accomplish tasks at every step of the data science process.

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How Marcy Fit Re-Skilling For a Mid-Career Change into a Packed Schedule

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve introduced you to numerous women who are balancing their dedication to re-skilling, growing their careers and the demands of everyday life. Marcy Bursac has successfully made a mid-career change in the midst of raising a family.

Marcy Bursac Udacity quote from Front End Web Developer Nanodegree program

When Marcy realized she wanted greater balance in her work-life schedule to allow for more time with her kids and husband, she was faced with a dilemma about her career. She took the time to reimagine what she had done previously, and what she could do next. Over the course of a year, she enrolled in an intensive local tech program, the Udacity Front End Nanodegree program, and became involved in the local tech community. Her experience is marked by motivation, dedication, and hard work. We recently chatted with Marcy to learn how she changed the direction of her career in the midst of an active personal life.

Thank you for chatting with us, Marcy! Can you start by telling us a little about your educational and professional background?

Hi Caroline! As we chat, I am in my home studio having just finished the final assignment for my first MBA course, Accounting.  Milestones are so fun!

After receiving an undergraduate degree, I began work in a non-profit pediatric clinic. I was immediately taken with non-profit work, and thus began an incredibly meaningful chapter in my life. I spent the next 12 years working with several organizations on behalf of underserved populations such as individuals who were homeless and individuals who were unemployed or under-employed.  It was during my time with one organization, Dress for Success Midwest, that I learned about the underrepresentation of women in various STEM-related fields. I was intrigued.

At the same time, a friend of mine worked at MasterCard Foundation, and we were able to collaborate to create a local non-profit tech program with the mission of aiding single moms to rapidly propel their career into tech jobs, to achieve a living wage much more quickly than through a traditional college degree. Seeing women who had never coded building their own program over just a few short weeks, I found my own interest in the tech sector, coding, in particular, growing. In the evenings, I began a free online program which lasted a few lessons until I was lost and I totally put that wild idea to the wayside.

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Your Guide to a Robotics Career in 2019 and Beyond

If you want to work in an industry that will change the world, a robotics career is a top choice. It’s a hyper-growth field, set to revolutionize nearly every industry. From medicine to logistics, agriculture to home gadgets, robotics is going to become one of the twenty-first century’s most important fields.

Guide for robotics jobs in 2019

That makes it a great time to think about a robotics career. The most innovative companies on the planet are currently having to search hard to find the qualified robotic engineering talent they need. If you can offer the experience and skills they are looking for, you can choose from a huge range of roles with interesting projects and impressive salaries.

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How to Choose the Data Science Program That’s Right for You

How to Choose the Data Science Program That's Right for You - Hero Final

The numbers paint a pretty compelling picture, and all the press articles certainly add to the sense of excitement. Everywhere you look, there’s another story about the incredible demand for skilled data scientists. Just two weeks ago, a story from Bloomberg noted that job listings for data scientists on have increased 75% in just three years. Glassdoor has named Data Scientist the best job in the U.S. three years in a row. IBM is predicting a demand increase of nearly 30% in the next two years.

In short, it is an incredible time to become a Data Scientist.

That’s easier said than done, of course. But that’s where Udacity comes in. No matter where your skills and experience are today, we offer a point-of-entry into the world of data, and at Udacity, every data learning path ends with you being ready for success in the field. 

Whether you want to master data science programming with Python and SQL, launch a Data Analyst career, or explore business and predictive analytics, Udacity offers world-class programs, expert instructors, and the opportunity to start building relevant skills right away. We’ve partnered with industry leaders like Tableau, Kaggle, and IBM Watson, to ensure you’re learning the in-demand skills recruiters and hiring managers are looking for.

In this post, I’ll walk you through all the Nanodegree programs in our School of Data Science. I’ll show you what each covers, make clear how they connect, and help you choose the program that’s right for you. In the process, I’ll describe the projects you’ll build, and the skills you’ll learn.

Let’s get started!

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Introducing the Marketing Analytics Nanodegree Program

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According to Paysa, Marketing Analysts earns an average of $81,294, with top earners earning more than $106,818. As salaries in the field heat up, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for marketing professionals with an analytics background is set to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, growth driven by an increased use of data and market research across all industries.

Marketing analysts looking at a graph while building a report

Today, we are excited to launch the Marketing Analytics Nanodegree Program. We collaborated with entrepreneur, startup advisor, and marketing expert Brad Batesole to focus the program on in-demand skills like data visualization, data analysis, campaign reporting, and more.

Program Details

In this program, students will learn foundational data skills and gain an in-depth understanding of Google Analytics, Data Studio, Excel, and Tableau to analyze possible business outcomes, visualize and communicate findings, and produce insights that power business growth.

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Lyft-Udacity Scholarships Drive Women’s Futures Forward

In September 2017, Lyft and Udacity announced the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship Program, a joint program dedicated to increasing diversity in the field of self-driving cars, and helping people take that first step to becoming a self-driving car engineer. Over 8,000 people from around the world applied for the 400 available scholarships to Udacity’s Intro to Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program.  

Lyft sponsors scholarship for Udacity's Intro to Self-Driving Cars program

According to a recent Boston Consulting Group study, partially autonomous cars will be available in large numbers by next year with the biggest growth in the next two decades. By 2025, the market for partially and fully autonomous vehicles is estimated at $42 billion (and $77 billion by 2035). According to Catalyst, however, women held only 26.7% of jobs in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle equipment manufacturing industry in 2017.

Diversity is crucial for creating solutions that serve everyone. That’s why Udacity and Lyft partnered to create these scholarships specifically targeted to communities that are underrepresented in technology industry roles. The 400 scholarship winners came from more than 30 countries, including Bolivia, Cameroon and Bangladesh, 29% identified as Black or African American, another 29% identified as Hispanic or Latinx, 19% considered themselves a member of the LGBTQ community, and over 40% were women.

In honor of International Women’s Day–a day to raise awareness on women’s rights and equality–we would like to highlight a few of the exceptional women, their personal journeys to success and how they are inspiring change in autonomous systems tech.

These are their stories.

Meya: Recent College-Grad Lands Job as Software Application Engineer at Workday

International Women's Day Udacity and Lyft Student Meye

Meya completed the the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship as she was finishing up her degree in Computer Science at California State University, Monterey Bay. As a student, she interned at the Space Systems Lab of the Naval Postgraduate School, where she programmed a High Altitude Balloon payload using a Raspberry Pi and Python. While she felt comfortable working in an academic setting, learning with Udacity taught Meya what it takes to succeed in a technical business environment: She learned how to review code, collaborate on Slack, and most importantly, solve problems independently. She graduated from college in May 2018 and started a new job as a software developer in July. “The interviewers were really impressed with my Intro to Self-Driving Car Nanodegree, especially my GitHub profile and portfolio of projects,” she said. “It was a real differentiator.” As a next career step, Meya plans to enroll in Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program in order to transition into a role with more machine learning and computer vision skills.

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