Earlier this year, Udacity and Google announced the Google Developer Scholarship for students across the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region. On offer was the chance to land a scholarship for Udacity’s Android Basics, Android Developer, Mobile Web Specialist, or Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree programs.
It was an incredibly popular announcement that led to 60,000 scholarship recipients gaining the opportunity to take part in the first Challenge Course phase of the program. There, they started learning the latest programming skills and building their own projects. Then, in the second phase, 6,000 of the top performers earned the opportunity to undertake a full Nanodegree program.
With so many students from around the world taking part, a global online community quickly formed. This was a community that represented 36 nations and 24 languages, with students from a variety of cultural backgrounds, technical knowledge and employment experience. It was distributed and diverse, yet it was united by a common desire: to acquire new digital skills.
As the scholarship comes to a close, students have learned new cutting-edge skills, built projects, and landed incredible jobs. They’ve shown passion and determination, and they’ve leveraged their scholarship and their community to create new futures for themselves. They are masters of collaboration, and they’ve used connections they’ve made, and the knowledge they’ve gained, to transform their lives.
We wanted to share some of the experiences of a few of these extraordinary students and their accomplishments. We’re going to look at the initiatives they led, the work they produced, and the lasting value they’ve taken from the scholarship experience and the community they formed.
Landing a new job
Meet Liron Yitshak Alkalay, an Android Basics Nanodegree program student, from Israel.
Before landing her Android Basics Nanodegree program scholarship, Liron had always doubted her professional abilities. Despite praise and recognition throughout her career, there had always been a voice in her head that said she wasn’t good enough. When she started her scholarship, this all changed.
“The scholarship changed my life and the way I look at the world now. When I got selected, I felt like someone believed in me so much and had given me the chance I was hoping for.”
She found new confidence within the program’s online community. She volunteered wherever she could, becoming a student leader on the forum, and managing the WhatsApp group for other Israeli students. She took on a leading role in helping to motivate and organize her fellow students. And she also learned an important personal lesson: not knowing all the answers, all the time, doesn’t mean your knowledge or value is insignificant. She realized she was her own worst critic, and that she needed to have self-belief to follow her dreams.
Liron took all this confidence and has started a full-time role as a programmer—a dream position for her! Through her hard work on the scholarship, she was able to beat her self-doubt to apply to a job at a high tech company as a QA and implementation specialist. She now works at Accenture.
“By lifting the insecurity I felt, I was able to start a programming position. I work with programmers everyday, and understand that there isn’t anything I can’t do!”
Turning meetups into a new learning opportunity
Meet Diana Vile, from Spain, and Violeta from Argentina, both students on the Front End Web Developer Nanodegree program.
Shortly after relocating from the Netherlands to Barcelona with her family, Diana was awarded a scholarship for Udacity’s Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program. There, she quickly connected with another student, Violeta from Argentina, in the program’s forums. The pair bonded over their shared status as new Barcelona residents, and they started working together on the projects they were building for their programs.
When fellow Barcelona-based residents started organizing local meetups in the city to study together in-person, Diana and Violeta leapt at the chance to get involved. They realized they had many shared interests and wanted to work together even closer. They’d heard about “pair programming”—a programming technique where two developers work in tandem at one workstation to share the work of writing and reviewing code—and were keen to learn more. They found their chance in a prestigious Barcelona program—the Rails Girls Summer of Coding program. However, as relative beginners in the field, they weren’t sure how to even apply for the opportunity. So they looked for advice in the most supportive place they knew— they asked the Udacity community for advice on how to best present their skills, projects, and experience to impress the program’s admissions team. As Diana explains:
“There are some scholarship community members who really helped and supported us during the application process. They were so kind to reach out within their own networks to help us find people that could be our coaches through the application process.
“We have a team of 3-4 coaches now, who are specialists in React, Ruby on Rails, and Ruby. We never thought that we would be selected because we are still just beginners, but we were! This Nanodegree program has made our wildest dreams possible!”
Having an impact in the community
Meet Ahmed, an Android Developer Nanodegree program student, originally from Spain and now living in Gaza.
When Ahmed landed a scholarship to study the Android Developer Nanodegree program, he quickly discovered that he loved the experience of supporting fellow students to work through challenges in the scholarship’s forums. He was collaborating with peers from around the world, and he could see the positive impact that sharing his knowledge and ideas could have. This experience has helped Ahmed realize he can have a similar impact in his own community in Gaza.
“I learned a lot of things from the scholarship community, not only about Android! It’s really what inspired me to do the same here, and give back to my community in Gaza”
Ahmed has become an active member of Gaza Sky Geeks, which is the very first tech hub in Gaza. There, he shares the skills he’s learned in his Nanodegree program with other eager Gazans. He teaches courses, hosts events, and leads workshops, and aims to inspire the same excitement and success he’s seen in the scholarship community.
He faces barriers to his efforts. Living in Gaza, there is a regular threat of violence. The electricity comes on only four hours most days, and the internet connection can be very, very slow. Despite these challenges, Ahmed never goes a day without coding, and is excited by the opportunities he’s creating, both for himself, and for his own community.
The scholarship has been amazing, but really just everything about Udacity has opened me up to a new world, and given me the tools and skills to pursue my dreams.”
Discovering a passion for teaching
Meet Alain, a Front End Web Developer Nanodegree program student from France.
Alain completed a computer engineer degree in 1982, but spent much of his career working in sales, far away from what he learned at university. When he heard about the scholarship, he saw it as the perfect chance to revisit his old passion for computer science. He was excited at the idea of updating his knowledge to more modern programming languages and technologies.
“It truly did help me to reach this purpose, and even more I also learned how to better learn online. But before I applied, people asked me: ‘Hey man, you’re 59, why the hell are you trying to learn more difficult things?’”
Alain didn’t let those questions dampen his motivation. In the scholarship, he quickly became an active community member, and spent a lot of his time coaching and helping his fellow students. He took the lead in several ‘Study Jams’— weekly four-hour long study sessions entirely run by students. It was through doing this kind of work that he realized he was really good at teaching others.
When he graduated from the program, he became a code reviewer at Udacity, and continues to help other Udacity students learn more. He loves to work with students and help them get to that ‘ah-ha’ moment where things really click. He’s also about to start teaching Front End programming courses in France in the fall.
“The most important thing I learned, I think, is now I am sure that 59 is not too late to learn new things, whatever they are.”
These are just a few of the stand-out students in the Google Udacity Scholarship community, but every person who was a part of this program contributed to something that is greater than themselves.
Follow #madewithudacity and #googledeveloperscholars on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to follow more of these students’ incredible work.