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At Udacity, students are our number one priority. We recently redesigned our Nanodegree programs and launched new services to help students master the skills necessary to advance their career. We’ve heard some great stories and are excited to share them with you.
This week, we’re featuring a student who not only leveraged what he learned to innovate at his company, but also inspired others to enroll in Nanodegree programs so that they too could add significant value to their careers. Sundar Krishnan is a lead data scientist at Comcast who took Udacity’s Deep Learning Nanodegree program to develop a new skill set. He also inspired the creation of a “no-meeting” day, which enables employees to invest time in learning. Let’s hear more about his experience in the program.
As a lead data scientist, what motivated you to enroll in the Deep Learning and the Flying Car Nanodegree programs?
In my current role as a lead data scientist, I am responsible for predictive modeling for the marketing and machine learning workflow automation for Comcast. Currently, we’re in the exploration phase, which is where I gather industry information ––like what Google or Amazon does–– and bring the ideas back to the team for exploration. My role is to find ways to constantly build the team’s capabilities and to discover new ways to innovate.
When I started hearing all these buzzwords about deep learning and AI, I started attending conferences to increase my knowledge. As I started doing more research on the topic, I discovered that Udacity had both a Deep Learning free course, which they developed with Google, as well as a Deep Learning Nanodegree program, which had recently launched at the time. I decided to enroll in the Nanodegree program. In terms of the Flying Car program, I enrolled just out of my own curiosity after I realized what I could learn from Udacity.
Is your Nanodegree program experience fulfilling your expectations?
Yes. Whenever I want to learn something new, I come to Udacity first. They try to add as much content as possible, and now, it’s really a self-serve platform. I love the way Udacity teachers approach their classes. Their presentations are short, crisp and to the point. The interface is very intuitive, which makes the class more engaging. Plus, the assignments are more specific to the industry that I’m currently working in. All of these reasons keep me loving Udacity more and more. In addition, the projects were helpful because I was able to take what I learned from Udacity and apply it directly in my work while taking the program.
We are pairing students with personal mentors. Do you interact with your mentor?
While I’ve received emails about individual tech mentors, I haven’t actually leveraged their services. I’ve used the forum and have found that everyone has been very responsive. When I post questions about my Deep Learning program, I get an immediate response. Even when I missed the Flying Car discount, I was able to reach out and get assistance. The responses were quick, and that is what I really liked.
I imagine that your time is limited. How were you able to balance your life with school work?
When I decided that I was going to do the Deep Learning program, I knew that I would need to dedicate a certain amount of time to it in order to excel. I went to my manager and asked for four hours a week to learn new things. He approved it as long as I was committed to completing my primary work responsibilities in the rest of the hours. My manager was so supportive of it, and that is one of the reasons that I was able to excel and complete the program.
At Comcast, they see the value of investing in learning something new and consider learning to be part of career development. Comcast has now implemented a “no-meeting Tuesday,” which gives every employee the time to learn what they want during that time frame. I think that’s pretty awesome. The Comcast SLTs are interested in people’s growth and have been very supportive.
In regards to Udacity’s flexibility, there were a few things that helped me manage my time and fit my Udacity work into my schedule. Initially, I couldn’t start the Deep Learning Nanodegree on the scheduled date, and so, I emailed Udacity to see if they could shift the start date. They happily moved it to accommodate my work schedule. Also, every time there’s an assignment deadline, Udacity sends email reminders to help you stay on track. I was not able to submit my final assignment on time, and they offered to give me one extra month to complete it so I wouldn’t miss out after all the work I had already done. That was incredibly helpful because meeting my internal work deadlines had to be my priority.
How have the projects helped you with your skills and career pursuits?
In the Deep Learning program, I worked on an English to French translation project. The project was important to my work here at Comcast because we have teams that focus on subtitles for content. So, I got an idea: “What if we could detect and then change the subtitle of the movie from one language to another using this program?”
Actually, I created a prototype of it. First, I listened to the user’s language that was spoken into the voice remote. Then, I used Google’s voice detection to understand what language they were speaking. Once I knew what language they were speaking, I converted subtitles from English to that language.
That was a direct application that I leveraged from the Deep Learning Nanodegree program. I did an internal presentation and everyone was very excited. I loved it. The prototype evolved into voice-to-text translation and detection, plus language translation for movie subtitle conversions. I also learned other valuable things like image classification, using CNN, RNN, and many others.
I created tutorials, showing different ways to run things and presented them to my colleagues. My presentation sparked a lot of interest among my colleagues. Many of my colleagues were so excited they signed up for Udacity programs themselves. I’m happy that I was at the forefront, leading and showing how I could apply what I learned at Udacity to our company.
As you plan your next steps, how has career coaching and services been useful to you?
I just started using career services. My resume got reviewed, and I liked the feedback that I received. I still have another career planning part to complete.
How do you see this program impacting your career?
Since everything that Udacity taught in the curriculum was so aligned with what I wanted to study in deep learning, picking Udacity was an easy choice. In making that choice, I was able to develop new language translation tools for my company and inspire others to learn new things that could also advance the company. Being the first one to do this has been a very positive experience for me. When I’m curious about something new, I turn to Udacity to learn about it. Recently, I enrolled in the Flying Car Nanodegree program. I’ve always been fascinated by drones, and I’m eager to learn how they work. Instead of just watching them fly, I want to understand how to create my own. This will continue to fuel my curiosity.
Congratulations on adding new innovations to your company and building more value in your career. We’re excited to see you get real, tangible value from the goals you’ve set for yourself.
If you would like to learn more about gaining in-demand skills with Udacity Nanodegree programs, check out our programs here.