Last Updated on

How One Udacity Student Adapted to Unexpected Change, and Built a Great New Career

Front-End Developer

Life is full of unexpected events, and abrupt changes often challenge us to reflect on our goals and directions in life. The self-reflection one engages in, and the subsequent actions one takes, emerge as defining moments for our futures. Decisions made about education and learning in particular can have profound—and profoundly positive—effects on our lives.

Jake Gornall was working as a music store manager when his son was diagnosed with 22q11.2 Microdeletion Syndrome, a genetic disorder. His family’s future was suddenly uncertain; what did the coming days and years hold, and how would he prepare for them? Above all else, he knew he had to ensure his family would be supported. But he wasn’t confident that his current career could provide that support. What could he do?

Jake began by taking inventory of his interests and skills. He picked up basic coding skills through free online resources, and decided this was a solid path—computer science. But his life had changed drastically. Taking care of his son and family left him with a fraction of the free time he used to have.

“College was out of the question, so I turned to online resources. I learned the basics of coding and computer science from Khan Academy. But I was searching for a way to go deeper, and I found Udacity. The Nanodegree Plus program turned out to be the perfect fit for my situation.”

Jake first enrolled in the Intro to Programming Nanodegree program. As he progressed through the projects, he learned new skills, and developed confidence. After graduating from the program, he enrolled in the Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree Plus program. Given his ultimate goal of advancing his career, the Nanodegree Plus program offered Jake what he needed—hands-on career support, and a job guarantee.  

He successfully completed the program in approximately six months, and began applying to jobs.

“Within two months of graduating, I landed a job at Ascena Retail Group as a Front-End Web Developer. The hiring managers seemed impressed with how much I knew, despite having little job experience.”

Before his son’s diagnosis, Jake had no way of knowing how his life was going to change, or how he’d need to adapt. What he discovered in himself was the potential for positive transformation. His courage, commitment, and desire to succeed powered his learning journey, and he emerged with the skills he needed to land a new opportunity, and start building a new future.

“I honestly believe Udacity gave me the tools I needed to change not only my career, but my life. I look forward to learning more and doing what I can to support the future of online learning.”

We want to take this opportunity to congratulate Jake on his accomplishments, and thank him for sharing his story with us. Jake, we wish you the very best in your new career!

Jake Gornall - Udacity graduate - Front-End Developer


Ready to make an amazing change in your life and career? July 20 – 27 is Discovery Week at Udacity. It’s your chance to learn new skills, advance your career, and save big while you do it! Learn more: Udacity Discovery Week.