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This year, we are honored to celebrate Women’s History Month throughout the month of March and International Women’s Day on March 8 by introducing you to three of our students. In keeping with this year’s International Women’s Day theme of “balance for better,” we hope you find inspiration in each student’s journey, and their ability to balance busy lives with their desire to progress in their career and better the balance of women in tech roles.
Flavia Izquierdo began her career as a software engineer. She excelled in the role, working for a number of exciting companies in Spain and Germany. But, after six years in the industry, she began to feel unfulfilled with her work.
“I just didn’t feel like it was interesting enough and I wanted to change, but my next thought was—what can I do? I’m not that young.”
At the same time, Flavia had to consider what would be more fulfilling? One of her first thoughts: data. Whenever her projects involved working with data, she found herself drawn to the possibilities and conclusions one could draw. She let this interest lead her. After researching data analyst jobs and looking for relevant online learning options for gaining these skills, Udacity’s Data Analyst Nanodegree program stood out.
“It just felt right. The structure, the projects, content…and the fact that you started from the very beginning and built analytical skills from the base all the way up to data wrangling—it seemed like a program that gave you a well-rounded set of skills.”
As her passion for data grew, she realized trying to balance data study and work didn’t feel right for her. She wanted to invest even more time in the program, so took the leap and quit her job as a software engineer. Flavia spent the next six months steadily learning the industry skills she had seen on numerous data analyst job descriptions.
“I really focused on the projects and put all of my effort into the content, especially the data wrangling project. I remember working really hard for a week but actually enjoying it!”
She completed her final project in early November 2018. The same day she received her graduation certificate, she began looking and applying for jobs.
“I was a bit afraid because, you know, this was a career change. I had a technical background, but no work experience in analytics. I had prepared myself to believe a new job might take a while”
To her surprise, she began hearing back from companies almost immediately. Over the next month, she attended numerous interviews, explaining her previous career and passion for a new future in data. One company, in particular, stood out as a truly exciting opportunity.
“I accepted a data analyst role with my dream company—Mercedes-Benz Consulting!”
She’s a couple of months into the role and loving it. It’s a job she finds fulfilling, and striking the right balance was key to landing it.
“Balance is something I had to find. First, and the most difficult, is to know what you want, and after that, don’t be scared to fight for it. In my case, I knew I wanted to change my career. But it took me some time to decide to break with my comfortable old job and start the Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree program.”
And even if you find balance, she adds, you must dig deeper:
“With willpower, constancy and perseverance you can make it. It doesn’t matter how many times you hear “you are crazy” or “you are not going to make” or “this is not for you”. Do not let this deter you – you must fight. I have always said luck doesn’t exist, but in reality, it does – it must be you who goes out, looks and fights for it. Balanced women don’t sit back, waiting for their dreams to come true, they stand up and make, paint, create and catch them!”
Laura Cardon, much like Flavia, was well into a career as a communications coordinator for a Denver-based non-profit. She had studied marketing and PR during her undergraduate years, and built a career that utilized her marketing skills and passion for non-profit initiatives.
“I had been working for a small non-profit for a few years, managing the tactical marketing efforts but was feeling an urge to grow. Being at a small organization, I didn’t see a lot of opportunity.”
Luckily, her organization provided an annual stipend to pursue professional development training. She thought about how she could grow. Digital marketing was an obvious choice. When she was studying as an undergraduate, digital marketing was all but non-existent. There was no Instagram, AdWords, or Facebook marketing.
A colleague introduced her to Udacity and the Digital Marketing Nanodegree program seemed like a great fit. She enrolled and found a way to balance her work and her studies.
“With my heavy workload, I had to double down on my Nanodegree program over the weeknights and weekends. I would spend most of my free time going through lessons and crafting projects.”
Her manager started to notice her marketing efforts evolving. After working at a tactical level for years, she was able to think more strategically and contribute more to big-picture conversations about campaign direction, metrics, and measuring success. As her skills and confidence grew, so did her interest in pursuing a new, more challenging role.
“When I graduated, I felt like I had these new skills, as well as a new knowledge about the industry – about job titles and positions that I never would have considered previously. “
She began casually monitoring local job postings and happened upon one that looked particularly appealing. Laura wanted to stay in the non-profit world and this new opportunity would allow for career growth. She interviewed and was able to land the role of director of communications. The Nanodegree program prepared her to speak more knowledgeably about the work she had accomplished and what she could provide in a new role.
“In this new role, I have the opportunity to build our marketing plan from the ground up. Not only am I strategically planning, I’m digging into our email performance, click-through rates, and the website optimization to find out where we can grow—I get to impact everything. Before Udacity, I wouldn’t have had the mindset to come into a job like this.”
For Laura, obtaining this career growth was a dual effort in building skills and balancing her work-life.
“I think it’s important to realize – learning new skills will likely mean replacing time you usually spend on hobbies or with friends with time put towards learning. I spent a lot of weekends working on Udacity – I knew it would be temporary and the short-term sacrifice was worth it. I tried to remember not to be too hard on myself about doing everything perfectly, and instead focus on actually absorbing the skills I was being exposed to.”
Hanna Chen, like Flavia and Laura, was interested in doing something more. In her work collaborating with fellow Graphic Designers in advertising agencies, she was spending a lot of time working with vendors and clients, and less time on projects she was truly passionate about. She had some experience with front-end development and had always enjoyed the technical aspect of programming tasks.
“I liked the process-driven nature of development; creating, testing, and then implementing. Graphic design had become very transactional, without an emphasis on reviewing the product of one’s work.”
After noticing her disenchantment with the advertising industry, Hanna’s partner nudged her to get more serious about her interest in programming and introduced her to Udacity.
With a familiarity and comfort in front-end programming, Hanna looked over the Nanodegree program catalog and landed on the React Nanodegree program.
“React seemed to be everywhere – job postings, articles, everyone was talking about how important this new language was.”
She decided: this was it! She wanted a career change and was going to just go for it! The syllabus covered the exact topics she was looking for, and she was comforted knowing that the project reviews meant someone would be providing the feedback she had been searching for.
“The projects were challenging but I felt prepared because the syllabus was explicit in the requirements. I was able to ask questions, submit projects, and get real feedback about my code and how I could improve. The weekly check-ins were very helpful with keeping me on track.”
Her skills were growing and she was beginning to feel like this was a true launching point for her next career. As three months came and went, Hanna finished the program and immediately began her job search.
“I added my Nanodegree program certificate to my LinkedIn profile, and within a day, recruiters started reaching out to me. In particular, they would call and mention my Github profile which I had created with Udacity. They would comment on how my code was organized and how that was exactly the skillset they were looking for.”
Of the numerous recruiters she spoke with, one company, stood out—Shopify. As a well-known tech company, it was a dream come true for Hanna.
“I went through the interview process and got offered a developer role…It’s amazing, I actually get to build projects that are tested and expected to last long-term!”
Hanna, like Flavia, knew she wanted a change and had to make the choice about taking action.
Each of these women took a risk on themselves; they trusted their ability to learn, change, and grow. They were able to balance their lives, their fears about change, and determination to do and be more…we feel honored to celebrate them.