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Join us as we catch up with Udacity students previously featured on our blog, to see what they’re working on today.
The end of a calendar year is traditionally a time for both reflection and prediction. At Udacity, our reflections and predictions focus on you—what you’ve done, and what you’ll do next.
Below, we revisit twelve Udacity students previously featured on our blog, to discover how things are progressing in their lives today.
On January 12, 2018, we published an article about Richard Morgan. His story was a compelling one. After 30 years spent in a range of other industries, he decided he needed to make a significant career move if he was going to say relevant and productive. It wasn’t easy. He was 49 years old, and in addition to the expected obstacles of entering a new field at that age, he had personal challenges he had to wrestle with as well:
“I’m 49 years old, and I found retraining my brain to learn something new was a challenge. I had to completely rebuild my thinking process, and it was—at times—really painful.”
Richard succeeded. He launched a new career as a software developer at a company called ClaimPilot, and was able to relocate his family to his favorite part of Texas. We checked in with Richard, and here’s what he had to say:
“Everything is going great! Still with ClaimPilot here in College Station, Texas. I’m doing more project management than coding, and the work is very fast-paced so it keeps me crazy busy. The project management side is very fulfilling. I’m playing a valuable role by keeping projects organized and on track, and I interact with people at all levels of our company, and the client companies, and the outside companies that our clients exchange data with.”
Congratulations Richard, all those hard changes are paying off!
In February, we had the pleasure of introducing you to Kat Halo. At the time we featured her, she had just convinced her current employer to create a new role just for her, on the strength of what she’d learned and accomplished in Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program. It was a real career victory for her, as it enabled her to stay with a company she loved, in a field she loved, but move into a new arena that was creatively more fulfilling for her. We could tell from the first moment we met Kat that creative digital marketing was a real passion, and we had the distinct feeling we’d be seeing more news from her before the year was out. We were right!
“My partner and I recently relocated to New York city at the end of September for a corporate relocation, and after a week-and-a-half of applying like crazy to all kinds of marketing jobs, I just accepted a position as an assistant media planner in a healthcare marketing agency! I’m so elated right now, and so thankful I was able to achieve my goals through my learnings at Udacity.“
Such outstanding news, Kat!
In March of 2018 we shared a truly remarkable story of teamwork, friendship, and determination. It all took place under the auspices of the Google Developer Scholarship initiative. In our article, we introduced you to Melinda Kostenszki. She—along with a team of Hungarian students who earned scholarships through the initiative—built a new app called BloodDroid, that could help people find their closest blood donation center, and set reminders so that they actually donated blood. When we talked to Melinda back in March, the group (which included Mónika Csontos, Miklós Mayer, Dániel Vokó, Viktória Schmideg, Bence Kónya, Karolin Fornet, Petra Lehoczky) had just presented their app to the Hungarian National Blood Transfusion Service, gotten a great response, and were already fast at work implementing the updates that had been requested. Their group story was such a powerful one, but we were especially curious to find out how Melinda was doing outside of the BloodDroid experience—had she been able continue along her path as an app developer? Was she building new ideas on her own? We spoke with her recently to find out:
“I’m actually working on three different apps! First is the finalization of my capstone project for the Android Developer Nanodegree program. The second is a business app that I’m working on with my husband (he makes the server-side part), and the third one is what I call a “learning app”—something I’m working on to practice new skills and gather more experience in coding. I’m actually building my own chat app!”
One of the great pieces of news we’d shared in the March post was that every single member of the BloodDroid team ultimately landed full scholarships for the advanced Android Developer Nanodegree program, and it’s amazing to now watch Melinda coming to the finish line!
What do you do when the career you plan for, work for, and finally achieve, turns out to not be what you wanted after all? That was the reality that faced Samuel Almeida. A self-described “planner,” Samuel had worked with focus and discipline to launch a pharmaceutical career, and that’s exactly what he was ultimately able to do. As Adam Lane wrote when we featured Samuel on our blog back in April of 2018, “When he landed his first job in the field, it felt like the realization of a dream that had been years in the making.” The problem was, he didn’t actually enjoy the job, and the dream very nearly became a nightmare. He was unfulfilled, and unhappy. It was a difficult admission to make to himself, but it was the truth, and he had to do something about it. That’s when he brought Udacity into his plans, and within two months of graduating from the Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree program, he landed his first job as a developer! Samuel’s story of career change was an amazing one, but we were curious to find out how he is today. Was the developer’s life really the life for him?
We’re happy to report that Samuel is still very busy in his developer career!
“Today, I work at letras.mus.br (or letras.com for the English or Spanish version). It is the biggest song lyrics site in Brazil. Much of the site content is provided by a very active community that we moderate for approval. I’m a Back-End Developer and I have two main goals; the first is to work on database maintenance, and the second is to improve the contribution and moderation systems for the site. It’s very challenging because it’s a new programming language I didn’t know: Go. So I’m not using the tools, techniques, and frameworks I learned during my Nanodegree program, as I was doing in my previous job. But I’m really grateful for the quality of my Udacity learning experience, because I realize that I have the knowledge to communicate, to find solutions, and to learn these technologies, even though they are new to me.”
When we interviewed Serene Liu back in May of 2018, we came away so impressed by her focus, her determination, and her courage. When Serene first came to Udacity, she was at the very beginning of what would become an amazing journey. She began by enrolling in our Intro to Programming Nanodegree program. After that, she started the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program, and then landed a Grow with Google Scholarship to study Mobile Web development. By that time, she’d built up enough of a project portfolio to start reaching out to her connections, and ultimately, she landed her first developer role! We couldn’t wait to follow up with Serene to find out if the role was everything she’d hoped it would be. Here’s what she said when we asked her how things were going:
“I’m loving my job. As I am the only engineer working on a particular area of the product, I get to do a little bit of everything, not just front end. I guess I’m basically full stack at the moment, although I only know a tiny bit of anything. Still a ton to learn. It’s a great working environment and all my colleagues have been super helpful. I’m just focusing on learning as much as I can.”
“I’m loving my job.” Four of the most beautiful words in the world, and music to our ears!
In June, we shared Andrew Huschka’s story, highlighting his unique reasons for taking a Nanodegree program. Andrew was an engineer at an oil company, and he loved his job. He was also involved in a project with his alma mater Kansas State—an initiative that supports engineering students with mentoring and training to focus on building skills that enhance employability when they graduate. As Andrew put it, “I thought that if I was going to stand in front of students and preach the importance of lifelong learning, I should be prepared to practice what I preach. So my Udacity experience was the way to do that—to demonstrate I was keeping my skills fresh by learning something new.” So Andrew enrolled in, and graduated from, the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program! When we interviewed him, he hinted that a new and exciting opportunity was on the horizon. As it turns out, he’s landed a new role, is now managing a team of 11, and best of all, he’s become a real ambassador for the Udacity learning experience, even going so far as to encourage his recruiting team to start looking at Udacity candidates!
“I have actually been working with my division, and it was just approved in the last month to hire a Data Analyst Co-Op. Depending on performance, they would be brought on full time. I made the pitch to our recruiting department to look at non-traditional locations for someone who can bring impact to business results right away (with Udacity as an example of that avenue).”
It is so wonderful to see Andrew being such an advocate for Udacity learners, and we recently learned that he is actually working directly with our Alumni team to source a graduate of our Digital Analyst Nanodegree program for the open role on his team!
If you read our post from July 6, 2018 about Suhasini Gadam, you know she’s a seriously dedicated lifelong learner. By the time we managed to catch up with her for that post, she was already on her third Nanodegree program! Despite earning an MBA and Master’s in Engineering Management, Suhasini struggled to find employment when she moved to the US from India. Her interview experiences, frustrating as they were, had made clear to her she just didn’t have the skills recruiters and hiring managers were looking for. That was all she needed to know to get to work! Three Nanodegree programs later, we’re thrilled to report that Suhasini is doing great. She’s just taken on a new position with a really exciting company. Here’s how she describes it:
“My new role at Automation Anywhere is focused on developing new products and bringing them to market in a way that resonates really well with our customers and partners. I love the work here; we are a fast-moving company that tries to find innovative solutions to challenging business problems. The future promises a hyper-digitized, hyper-connected economy that will entail humans and intelligent machines working together, creating new types of jobs altogether that will leverage the strengths of a human (creativity, ingenuity and innovation).”
Antal Berenyi has always been focused, disciplined, and hard-working. At the point he first came to Udacity, he already had a successful 20+ year career in tech. So why would someone with that kind of background and success want to enroll with Udacity?
“I started reading more and more about machine learning, and became excited about all its different potential uses. I thought it would be useful to know about the techniques, tools, and tricks of the trade in machine learning so that I could use them in my job. I was really excited about how machine learning could be used to find patterns, and make predictions about data that you couldn’t analyze by hand. ”
Antal remained with his same company after graduating from his Udacity program, but he moved to a new and exciting role, and was able to start working on machine learning and data science challenges, courtesy of what he’d learned in our classrooms. We checked in with Antal recently, to see how things were progressing:
“I am continuing my work as a Data Engineer at Eurofins. I am learning to use new tools like RapidMiner (a data science platform that unites data prep, machine learning, and predictive model deployment) to be more effective at my job. I have also been working for the past month on implementing an algorithm to classify drug compound toxicity signatures.”
Keep on learning Antal, we love it!
September afforded us the opportunity to share an interview we conducted with four-time Nanodegree grad Gil Akos, about the launch of his new financial services app Astra. As you might guess after learning that Gil has completed four Nanodegree programs, he’s a seriously driven individual! His entrepreneurial spirit has impressed everyone at Udacity, and Astra is starting to gain some impressive traction since launching. Most recently, the company was featured in a case study published by Dwolla, a new partner: Astra Empowers Users to Save With Dwolla. Gil has been a real inspiration to Udacity students far and wide, and in our interview, he shared some great advice:
As the founder of a company, you now have responsibility for finding talent to work in your business. What are you looking for in recruits, and how can applicants impress you?
As a Udacity graduate myself, I can confidently say that Udacity graduates are already self-motivated, perpetual learners—which is highly valuable for any startup. Beyond that, I’d be looking for optimism, grit, and an eagerness to get involved and take on challenges. I also want to see things you’ve done—a prototype you’ve built, or an article you’ve written, or an open-source contribution you’ve worked on where you can explain its relevance to what we do as a company.
On October 19, 2018, we wrote about Jamaal Davis. He’s an extraordinary individual, with a fantastic story to tell, and we would have gladly shared it at any time. But there was a specific reason for this specific timing—Jamaal was about to join us as a panelist for our Udacity Festival event. We’d tapped him to speak about the topic of career change; something he knew a great deal about. As it turned out, his insights during the panel (along with those of fellow panelist Xi Palazzolo) were so brilliant, the we ended up writing three more posts based on what he had to share! Proof positive that Udacity learners like Jamaal are not only tireless advocates for themselves and their own career aspirations, they’re also out there ready and willing to help new career changers make the leap!
Here are the posts that Jamaal was recently featured in:
- Walking the Walk: How to go from learning the skills, to using the skills, to successfully changing careers
- Talking the Talk: Discover the mindset shift that leads to successful career change
- Networking with your Network: Walk it, Talk it, Work it
Give that November was just last month, it’s probably a bit early for doing career follow-ups on students we featured, but that’s not to say that these stories don’t have pretty rapid impacts. For example, we wrote about Ricardo Diaz on November 24, 2018, and his post almost immediately triggered a remarkable series of conversations on Hacker News around “non-traditional” career paths, hiring practices, interview strategies, the changing hiring landscape, the emergence of transformational skills, and so much more! His story is pretty powerful—two years ago, he was down and out in Venezuela, short on money and skills, and wondering what to do with his life. Since then, he’s graduated from no less than four Nanodegree programs, and landed a job as a Machine Learning Engineer in Peru! As to those comments, this was certainly one of our favorites:
“Employers don’t care where you went to school. They care about what you’ve done in the past (doesn’t matter if it’s at work or on the side) and what you can bring to the table. I had to compete with people with PhDs for my current AV job but I got the job because of the whole package of skills that I bring rather than theoretical knowledge in a single niche topic.”
Ricardo is living proof that there is more than one way to establish a path to career success, but it’s also important to remember that while the paths may differ, what those paths ask of those who trod them is the same—commitment, dedication, determination, grit, tenacity, and a relentless willingness to meet obstacles with effort. And as to Ricardo’s own thoughts on the reaction to his post?
“The blog changed my life completely. People and recruiters are constantly reaching out with new opportunities, and I’ve been receiving a lot of messages and compliments from people who want to accomplish the same thing. I’m very happy to know that somehow I helped a lot of people to be motivated to accomplish their goals and dreams.”
And so here we are in December! Despite barely being halfway through the month, we’ve already had the honor of sharing stories about wonderful lifelong learners like Lucia Gonzalez and Robin Stringer, and we’re already looking forward to sharing updates on their successes in 2019’s End-of-Year wrap!
We’re also really looking forward to a more imminent milestone—in a recent post titled “The Audacity to Change,” Udacity Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Sebastian Thrun noted that by the end of this year, nearly 65,000 people from 160 countries will have graduated from Udacity Nanodegree programs! Together with their predecessors, these graduates will be part of one of the most dynamic and engaged alumni communities anywhere in the world, and even as I write this, our graduates are making connections, sharing resources, and creating opportunities for one another.
This is the true spirit of Udacity in action. This spirit has been everywhere in evidence throughout 2018, and it will be again in 2019. A spirit of community, of support, and of potential—recognized, and realized.
To all of our students past, present, and future, we say to you: Here’s to the year of learning that was, and the year of learning that will be!
See you in 2019!