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In September 2017, Lyft and Udacity announced the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship Program, a joint program dedicated to increasing diversity in the field of self-driving cars, and helping people take that first step to becoming a self-driving car engineer. Over 8,000 people from around the world applied for the 400 available scholarships to Udacity’s Intro to Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program.
According to a recent Boston Consulting Group study, partially autonomous cars will be available in large numbers by next year with the biggest growth in the next two decades. By 2025, the market for partially and fully autonomous vehicles is estimated at $42 billion (and $77 billion by 2035). According to Catalyst, however, women held only 26.7% of jobs in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle equipment manufacturing industry in 2017.
Diversity is crucial for creating solutions that serve everyone. That’s why Udacity and Lyft partnered to create these scholarships specifically targeted to communities that are underrepresented in technology industry roles. The 400 scholarship winners came from more than 30 countries, including Bolivia, Cameroon and Bangladesh, 29% identified as Black or African American, another 29% identified as Hispanic or Latinx, 19% considered themselves a member of the LGBTQ community, and over 40% were women.
In honor of International Women’s Day–a day to raise awareness on women’s rights and equality–we would like to highlight a few of the exceptional women, their personal journeys to success and how they are inspiring change in autonomous systems tech.
These are their stories.
Meya: Recent College-Grad Lands Job as Software Application Engineer at Workday
Meya completed the the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship as she was finishing up her degree in Computer Science at California State University, Monterey Bay. As a student, she interned at the Space Systems Lab of the Naval Postgraduate School, where she programmed a High Altitude Balloon payload using a Raspberry Pi and Python. While she felt comfortable working in an academic setting, learning with Udacity taught Meya what it takes to succeed in a technical business environment: She learned how to review code, collaborate on Slack, and most importantly, solve problems independently. She graduated from college in May 2018 and started a new job as a software developer in July. “The interviewers were really impressed with my Intro to Self-Driving Car Nanodegree, especially my GitHub profile and portfolio of projects,” she said. “It was a real differentiator.” As a next career step, Meya plans to enroll in Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program in order to transition into a role with more machine learning and computer vision skills.
Ana: Back-End Developer Uses Computer Vision Skills to Identify Criminals in Bolivia
Ana, a back-end developer based in La Paz, Bolivia, came to Udacity looking to take a data course. When she found the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship instead, she decided to apply. She was accepted into the program and soon discovered her passion for AI and Computer Vision. “The course was demanding but I enjoyed learning new, challenging concepts and using them for a project at work,” she said. She also participated in a local hackathon, where her team created a program that used AI to identify criminals. This type of real-world application was exactly what she was looking for and further cemented her interest in learning more. At the moment, she is in the second round application for a Fulbright Scholarship, which, if she wins, will be used for a masters in data science, with a focus on AI and computer vision.
Hirza: Testing Engineer Finds Her Perfect Work-Life-Balance at Barclays Bank
As the mother of a two and four-year-old, Hirza was grateful to have a remote job as a Testing Engineer that gave her the flexibility to take care of her family. Her interest in automation moved her apply for the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship. “Before starting the program, I never thought about applying for new roles,” she said. “But the scholarship helped me learn the skills and gain the confidence I needed to look for a job I love.” Last October, she landed a job as a Software Development Engineer at Barclays in her hometown Whippany, New Jersey. The hiring managers were most impressed with Hirza’s ability to learn how to learn. “No company expects you to know every tool they use,” she said. “But if you can show that you’re a self-starter and excited to learn, they’ll be confident to hire you.”
These are just some of the powerful stories that the Lyft-Udacity Scholarship program has produced around the world. They are the stories of discovery and reinvention, of courage and the audacity to learn something new. Scholars come from many different countries and backgrounds, but they are united by a drive to learn new skills and advance their careers. We are so proud of every single one!