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.