The Audacity to Change

How a 6-month technology course at Udacity helped Anna Preis — and thousands of other people this year — change her life through a new career in tech.

Udacity - The Audacity to Change

Eight years ago, Anna Preis, originally from Poland, found herself in Dublin, Ireland, in a dead-end job working the phones for a payday lender. She hated getting people to take out high-interest loans she knew they could never afford to repay, but she had to meet her quotas to keep her job. “It was heart destroying,” she says. She talked to customers all day long but was never able to truly help them. A string of customer service and customer retention jobs followed, until late last year when a particularly awful day at work caused her to question everything. “I wanted to do something about my life,” she says.

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Our Next Chapter

I founded Udacity to democratize education. Since 2011, Udacity has been on a mission to provide global access to education and economic opportunity. We have educated millions of students in over 190 countries, enabling many to pursue careers in cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.

In 2013, I recruited Vishal Makhijani as my trusted partner. Vish joined Udacity as COO and President. In 2016, with my full support, the Udacity Board of Directors appointed Vish as our new CEO, and I became chairman and president.

Over the last five years, Vish worked with hundreds of tech companies to build curriculum focused on opening up new career opportunities for our students. Under Vish’s leadership, we launched more than thirty Nanodegree programs in areas such as artificial intelligence, data science, self-driving cars, and digital marketing. We expanded our operations into China, India, Brazil, the Middle East, and Europe, and we started a fast-growing new enterprise division.

With Vish at the helm, Udacity grew from a niche startup into a global educational force, one that stands for educational excellence and true economic gains for our students. Vish recruited a world-class team, growing our company from 50 to more than 500 talented and devoted people. Without Vish’s leadership and relentless dedication, Udacity would not be where it is today.

Today I am sad to report that Vish has decided to move on to new challenges. Our Board of Directors has initiated a CEO search, led by Peter Levine from Andreessen Horowitz. In the interim, as Udacity’s founder and now executive chairman, I will work closely with Udacity’s leadership team to run the business and collaborate on a search for our new CEO. Going forward, our commitment remains to our students and partners to deliver true career outcomes and economic gains. We all believe education is a basic human right. We will not rest until everyone on this planet can have an equal seat at the table of economic opportunity.

I am grateful to Vish and our incredible team for what we have already accomplished. And I am incredibly excited for what comes next.

Thank you, Vish!

Sebastian Thrun

Self-Driving Cars for Everyone!

Get on the road to a Self-Driving Car Career - Udacity - blog

I am super pumped to announce a new Udacity Nanodegree offering: an introductory program to Self-Driving Cars. As you all know well, I have been working on self-driving cars for over a decade. I founded Google’s self-driving car team, and launched Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Nanodegree program last year at this time. This program has already educated more self-driving car engineers than all universities combined. And while the first group has not even graduated, nearly 60 students have already found new jobs at companies like BMW, Lockheed Martin, NIO, Volvo, and Amazon Robotics.

However, our existing Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program has many prerequisites. It is built for seasoned software engineers, who wish to dive into the nitty gritty details of how to make a self-driving car.

Our new Intro to Self-Driving Cars Nanodegree program lets anyone with minimal programming experience taste the thrills of building self-driving cars. We empower you to understand the essentials of programming a self-driving car: from machine learning to object-oriented programming to probabilistic robotics. When you graduate from this program with your very own Nanodegree credential in hand, you won’t quite be an expert (yet). However, you will have experienced what it means to build self-driving cars, and hopefully will engage in a path of learning that will forever change your life. You will get guaranteed admission into the advanced Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program upon completion.

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From Grand Challenge to Nanodegree Program

Udacity Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program

In 2004, DARPA held the first Grand Challenge for an autonomous car to drive 142 miles through the Mojave desert in under 10 hours. Fifteen cars participated, none finished. In 2005, the Challenge was repeated and 23 cars entered. Four finished under 10 hours and our car “Stanley” won in 6 hours and 53 minutes—11 minutes ahead of the next car. Then, in 2010, the Google self-driving car navigated 1,000 miles of public roads in California, an unbelievable advance from that first challenge.

Today, six years later, autonomous cars have become one of the hottest areas for innovation. The Boston Consulting Group estimates the market for autonomous cars will hit $42 billion in 2025. The World Health Organization reports there are 1.2 million traffic fatalities globally every year and driverless cars could be poised to save no less than 1 million lives per year.

Technology companies, automotive manufacturers, media giants, and start-ups around the world are rapidly pushing new advances in this space, whether it be hardware or software. And, they all need talent.

This is where Udacity comes in. Today, we are announcing that our Udacity Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program  is open for students to apply. It is the first and only program of its kind where most people with an internet connection—from Detroit to Damascus and from Adelaide to Aleppo—can learn the skills they need to work in one of the most amazing fields of our time.

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Udacity Turns 5, by Sebastian Thrun

I can’t believe it. It’s been an exhilarating five years. Today, Udacity turns five!

Udacity started with a phone call to Peter Norvig. I wondered if it made sense to take our Stanford class CS223 “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” online, and make it available to all people in this world. Peter was enthusiastic, and along with my co-founders David Stavens and Mike Sokolsky, we made it happen. This wasn’t the first MOOC, but it was the one that put Massive Open Online Courses on the map. In a few weeks, we gathered 160,000 students. Our course taught Artificial Intelligence to more people than all other AI professors combined at the time.

Fast forward to today. Udacity is now rapidly becoming the place to go for lifelong learning, where millions are learning the latest skills that Silicon Valley has to offer. Tech giants like AT&T, Google, Facebook, Amazon, GitHub, and MongoDB are using us to reach any willing learner in the world. And companies are eagerly hiring our graduates. We have educated more students than many four-year colleges. And recently, we started placing our graduates in jobs in the tech industry and beyond, based on their Nanodegree program credentials.

Our fifth anniversary is a great moment of reflection. To many, education is a numbers game. It’s about tuition, graduation rates, enrollment. To me, education is all about people. Every time I receive a thank-you note from a student, a letter on how we changed a person’s career, I am in tears. I have this very deep belief that if we open up high-quality education, if we truly democratize it, if we give every human being on this planet a fair chance, we will make a huge difference. Today, high-quality education is a privilege of the few. Our vision at Udacity is to make high-quality education a basic human right. If we do this, I truly believe we can double the world’s GDP.

I look back at the past five years and feel we did the impossible. We created a company that allows eager learners of all geographies and all ages to engage in meaningful education, and to live their lives’ dreams.  

First and foremost, Udacity is a story of our amazing students. Many have stayed with us through the years, assisted us in improving our offerings, and helped us spread the word. I really want to thank every single student who has been willing to trust us as a source of learning. Udacity would not exist without you, and you are the focus of our work.  And yes, every single student who discovers their dream career through Udacity makes me believe life is worth living.

It’s also the story of our partners like AT&T, Google, and so many others who are bravely standing with us to redefine education, with the singular vision of giving every human being in this world an equal chance. We are humbled by the level of dedication and friendship that has developed over the past five years.

Finally, Udacity is our team—a team that is united in the vision to make higher education accessible to everyone in the world. The amount of sweat and dedication of every single member of the Udacity family is beyond belief and I am grateful and inspired by you every single day.

Thank you students, thank you partners, and thank you Udacity!

Udacity has a new ___!

Udacity was started with the mission to democratize education. I wanted it to be the place for people to get an education to get a job to change their lives. Today, we have achieved that with millions enrolled in our free courses and more students in our Nanodegree programs than many four-year colleges.

Now, it’s time to scale our operations rapidly and begin the next chapter of Udacity. Three years ago, I recruited Vishal Makhijani to Udacity. Vish had most recently served as Zynga’s COO and SVP, overseeing some of its rapid growth in the gaming industry. He had also spent years at Yahoo scaling their operations. When Vish joined Udacity, we just started tossing around the idea of Nanodegree credentials and working closely with Silicon Valley tech giants. Since then, Vish has been an amazing partner in building our product and business in the United States and overseas so that we could raise $105 million in our most recent round.

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A New Job Guarantee

ND-Plus_Facebook

In 2010, we started Google x to pursue moon shots, moving impossible ideas into reality to change people’s lives forever. In education, the biggest moon shot is connecting learning to jobs. Get an education to get a job to change your life.

Today, we are launching a new program at Udacity, called Nanodegree Plus. Earn a Nanodegree credential and we will guarantee you a job within six months of graduation, or give you 100% of your tuition back.  

Over the last 18 months, our Nanodegree programs have begun to emerge as the place to go to learn technical skills to get a new job or advance a career. They are backed by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, GitHub and AT&T among others—teaching students the latest technical skills for today’s workforce. Already, Udacity graduates are working at companies like Google, Nest, Accenture, AT&T, Amazon, Salesforce, Rakuten, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Intuit and many others in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Over the past few months, we have actively placed Udacity students into jobs. Some have joined Udacity, others have taken jobs at our partner companies. While these initial placements were done quietly, today we are formally launching a job guarantee to eligible US students.

Initially, our new Nanodegree Plus program will be available for Android Developer,” “iOS Developer,” “Machine Learning Engineer” and “Senior Web Developer,” at $299 per month starting today. Students enrolling in these programs will work closely with our Career Services team, and enroll in our new Career Advisor program and Career Concierge services. In time, we plan to roll out the program to other countries and other Nanodegree tracks.

Today’s job landscape is changing with new types of jobs being created and job tenure shortening. The new Nanodegree Plus program offers students the latest technology skills for jobs that are most in demand today, like Android and iOS developers, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional education and a job guarantee at the end.