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How one Udacity student’s years of grit and determination (plus one well-targeted Tweet!) got him his dream job
The process of launching a new career requires a combination of short- and long-term planning. You need to know where you’re headed, and the steps required to get there. Then, you need to put in the actual effort of advancing along your path. When it works, the process can result in your career dreams coming true. But, making the process work can be challenging. You might be able to visualize yourself in a great career, yet not have any idea how to get there. This can easily lead to frustration over not reaching your goal. Or, you might be working really hard, but without a clear end goal; this can result in a feeling of being adrift, and not knowing where you’re headed.
Dominic Monn began learning software development at the age of 15, as part of a 4-year technical apprenticeship made possible by the education system in his native Switzerland. He was a quick learner, with a voracious mind. By the time he was 19, he’d already grown restless, and was looking for new challenges. He found artificial intelligence particularly captivating, and began learning what he could about this new technology, even going so far as to create a presentation for his company on the subject.
His interest grew, and he began to research online learning opportunities that focused on AI. That’s when Dominic discovered Udacity. The timing was fortuitous, as we were on the cusp of launching our groundbreaking Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program. With confidence drawn from free preparatory courses he’d already taken, Dominic applied and was accepted. At 19 years of age, Dominic was suddenly part of a pioneering group of students committed to learning one of the most transformational technologies of our time. He’d found the end goal to justify his efforts, and his future was suddenly coming into focus.
During his first term, Dominic was introduced to various companies in the AI field, including NVIDIA. Their innovative work in AI, deep learning, and autonomous transportation appealed to his restless intellect. Here was something he wanted to be a part of! But how does one actually apply these skills? While he was growing familiar with the theoretical basics of autonomous vehicle engineering, he wasn’t clear yet how the principles were actually applied in the industry.
That all changed when he was exposed—through the Nanodegree program—to the thinking of Bryan Catanzaro, VP of Applied Deep Learning Research at NVIDIA:
“I thought it was awesome that he worked on applied AI. I always thought it was exclusively a theoretical field (which later proved as insanely wrong).”
Bryan’s insights catalyzed the learning experience for Dominic in powerful ways; he was expanding his theoretical knowledge, while simultaneously being challenged to apply his skills to the kinds of practical problems he would face at an autonomous vehicle company:
“With each project, I was building an awesome portfolio of projects which I could show to companies. It also gave me confidence in my skills.”
As Dominic’s project portfolio grew, so too did his determination to change careers from web development to autonomous vehicles. He began his job search during his second term, looking specifically for local roles that would allow him to work with deep learning and artificial intelligence concepts. One company, in particular, kept coming to mind—NVIDIA. Their local Zurich office actually had a few open positions, but although Dominic applied, nothing clicked into place initially. Undeterred, and convinced he was on the right path, Dominic sought out other opportunities:
“I applied to a handful of other companies working in the DL/AI space that were hiring entry-level engineers. Each company actually got back to me or invited me to an interview, but none of these opportunities excited me the way NVIDIA had.”
Dominic had been following Bryan Catanzaro on Twitter since first discovering him through Udacity. One day, something remarkable showed up in Dominic’s feed—Bryan was tweeting that NVIDIA wanted engineers to apply for NVIDIA internships! Dominic decided he had nothing to lose, so he replied directly:
“I expressed my interest in the company, and asked him to reach out to the Zurich offices on my behalf. A week later, I had an interview!”
Dominic went in for a technical interview with the Zurich team. As it turned out, their office was not looking for additional interns. However, the team was so impressed with Dominic, that they requested additional budget to hire him. The request was approved, and he was offered an internship as a deep learning engineer:
“This was perfect! As an intern I wouldn’t be under the pressure to build a product from day one; instead, I would have the chance to learn more, and gain experience with an industry leader!”
He accepted the offer, and is currently in his third month of the internship. He is also working through his final term of the Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program.
Dominic has been on a mission to empower himself through learning since beginning a technical apprenticeship at the age of 15. His passions ultimately drove him towards artificial intelligence and deep learning, but it wasn’t until enrolling in Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program that a vision for his future began to come into focus. Between the curriculum he was studying, and the industry leaders he was being exposed to, he realized what he wanted to do with his life—he wanted to work in the autonomous vehicle industry, at an amazing company like NVIDIA. That this is exactly what has happened is a testament to Dominic’s tenacity, his determination, and his early embrace of a lifelong learning ethos.
That Udacity was able to play a part in Dominic’s remarkable journey is humbling, and also very exciting! Dominic, all of us at Udacity congratulate you on pursuing your passions, and realizing your dreams. We can’t wait to hear about your next accomplishments!