James Peterson Udacity Student Success

When a Udacity student graduates, we celebrate it wholeheartedly. When a Udacity graduate begins the process of pursuing a new role, a new job, a new career, we support them every step of the way. When a Udacity graduate lands a new job, we shout to the stars in praise of their achievement. And, we share their story! Which is exactly what we have the pleasure of doing today. Readers, meet James Peterson!

His is quite a story, and we are fortunate he was willing to take some time to answer some questions, and share some insights. But before jumping into our chat, a couple key things to note about James’ story.

Rewind to 2014. James is in community college. He is unhappy with the experience, but financial obstacles are making it difficult to see viable alternatives ahead. He moves from a maintenance job at McDonald’s into the kitchen at a fast-food Italian restaurant, and it is during this period that he discovers online education, and Udacity. What follows is an incredible tale of self-empowerment through learning. We won’t spoil the ending, but you’ll be amazed when you realize how quickly this all takes place. Now, let’s meet James!

James, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! So, let’s get right into it: Why did you choose online education? And more specifically, why Udacity?

After my first year of community college I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to major in. I’ve always had a genuine interest in computers, so Computer Science seemed like a great choice. The summer after school was over I realized I had a weak background in math—and zero programming experience—so I decided to self-study a little calculus and programming before the next semester started. I found the “Coursera Calculus I” online course, and it was a revelation! I was able to learn at my own pace, and learn from the comfort of my own home. It was also free, which was very nice. It was then I realized how empowering online education can be.

I really found Python to be quite fascinating. The idea of code re-usability, the object-oriented paradigm, and getting my code to run had me hooked. I wanted to know what it would take to make a career out of my curiosities. Through a little research I came across coding bootcamps. The curriculum of most of the bootcamps were aimed towards web development. I could not afford the costs, nor did I think I would be truly interested in the web as a whole. Being visually inclined, I wanted to combine my interests in the arts as well as programming. Some Googling led me towards front-end web development, and this was the mix I was hoping for.

I returned to online education, and began going through various coding exercises with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I knew this was exactly what I wanted. Numerous sources cited Udacity as a great online resource for learning programming. The Front-End Web Development Nanodegree provided the curriculum I needed in order for me to progress towards becoming a web developer. And that’s pretty much how it happened!

You mentioned an interest in the arts. Is that a passion for you? And how does that inform your programming work?

I’d say I’m passionate about creating great visual experiences. It’s satisfying to know that what I’ve created can be of use to others, and have meaning for them. The presentation layer of the web has enabled me to achieve this consistently, because it provides me with the platform from which I can deliver my form of art to a global audience. Being able to share my work in this way enables me to reach an infinite amount of people. I look forward to sharing my digital and non-digital works for all to enjoy; today, and continuing in the future.

If you could list the three most important things about your learning experience with Udacity, and with online learning in general, what would they be?

I think the greatest advantages for me were going at my own pace, saving money, and above all else learning practical skills. Udacity is self-paced, a fraction of the cost of college, and it teaches the most modern practices.

How about challenges? Were there times during your Nanodegree studies when you felt really stuck? If so, how did you work through those difficulties and overcome those challenges?

There were many times where I struggled to achieve what I desired throughout this program. As tasks became increasingly more difficult, I learned to adopt a lot of pre-existing ideas and incorporate them into my own way of thinking. Also, sometimes just walking away from a problem for a short period of time would give me the time I needed to eventually solve something really difficult.

When I wasn’t at my desk, I’d get these spontaneous ideas and would write them down, and then I couldn’t wait to try them once I got home. Solutions would even come to me in a dream or just after I awoke!

The Udacity forums also provided a lot of guidance, and helped me to find solutions to problems throughout the entire program. I would usually reserve the forum as my last option, after many hapless attempts on my own, or after exhausting other online resources.

Has your experience with the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program enabled you to alter the direction of your life and career?

I wanted to transition into working with technology, and the Nanodegree provided me the path I needed to follow. “Traditional” schooling wasn’t what I was hoping for, and on top of that, my work didn’t feel beneficial to society. Transitioning into this field was the one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

Which brings us to the big question! Are you working in your chosen field now?

Yes! I secured a position as a Jr. Front-End Engineer at Einstein Industries, and I did so through the assistance and resources provided by Udacity. The curriculum really prepared me to be a productive member of the team.

Fantastic! That’s so great! So, any last thoughts?

I hope the Udacity experience can be as transformative and revealing for others as it has been for me.

Thank you James, and congratulations from all of us at Udacity!


As you can see, James is a passionate, driven, thoughtful, and above all kind individual, who through his hard work and determination, has launched an amazing new career for himself. That last response is an especially wonderful demonstration of his character—when asked to offer his final thoughts, his wishes are for other students.

His use of the word “transformative” is really perfect, as that’s exactly what has happened here—James has transformed his life.

Please join all at Udacity in celebrating James’ achievements, and let’s indeed hope that many, many more students can experience the same kinds of revelations and transformations!


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