From Job to Career: Gary Hill’s Wonderful Student Success Story

Three years and counting into our journey, and we have learned so much—about our students, our mission, ourselves, and the world we share. We often say that learning is lifelong, and we know this to be true firsthand. We are teachers and learners both.

We have learned, for example, that there is a vital difference between a job, and a career. This truth was made so clear to us recently, when we were fortunate enough to meet and talk with Udacity graduate Gary Hill.

I could try and explain how Gary’s journey—his dedication, his commitment, and his great, big heart—exemplifies what’s so vital about this distinction. I could talk about how he learned the Knockout framework and developed a better understanding of how JavaScript objects can be used to create solid, reusable code. And how he gained more confidence to shoot for—and ultimately land—a promotion. But he describes it so eloquently himself, that instead I just encourage you to watch this short video about Gary, his family, and how his decision to pursue an education with Udacity has so positively impacted their lives.

Gary Hill graduated from the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program, and is now Lead Financial Systems Analyst at AT&T. To experience more remarkable stories like Gary’s, please visit our Student Success page.

How to Turn Your Nanodegree Experience into a Job

Remember Ben Halperin, Front-End Nanodegree graduate who turned his Udacity experience into a full-time web developer gig in the health care industry? We recently caught up with Ben in-person to get a better understanding of exactly how he was able to transition from a Udacity education all the way through getting hired for his new job.

Ben delivers some great insight into exactly how his Nanodegree project and learning experience helped in the job interview process. We hope this helps inspire and educate other Udacity students (maybe you?) and shows that career change goals are well within reach. Well done, Ben!


Here’s How Udacity Grad Ben Halperin Landed a Web Dev Job in Health Care

Last Wednesday was a special day here at Udacity HQ. One of our very first front-end Nanodegree graduates Ben Halperin made a visit to our office. Ben’s an awesome guy: extremely friendly, super smart and very motivated. Ben didn’t waste any time, either; he landed a job in the health care industry shortly after graduating. 

We’re working on an in-depth video about Ben’s path from mechanical engineer to web developer, but you can get to know Ben and be inspired by his career path below.

Ben, Kevin and Mike
From left to right: Ben Halperin, Kevin Mayo (Udacity grad turned front-end dev), and Mike Wales (Udacity Course Dev )

I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I started college, and I defaulted to engineering because I liked math and science. It seemed like a broad choice to open a lot of doors. I only started programming last April—I wasn’t happy with the jobs I had in mechanical engineering, and at my last job, a lot of the software we used was so poorly designed and frustrating. That made me want to figure out exactly what was going on with development behind the scenes.

I didn’t know too much about online courses, so I started looking around at what people were saying on various resources. The first class I took was at Code Academy, and from there I was looking for a computer science fundamentals class. I looked at MIT and Stanford’s intro courses, and then based on some reviews I found, I enrolled in Introduction to Computer Science at Udacity.

…the fact that I was doing all this while still working definitely impressed the companies I interviewed with. Having specific examples of things that I built is so helpful.

For me, there was an immediate love of programming and it just felt right—I’d never experienced that in my career, and right away, I knew it was something I wanted to do. It worked out well for me because I had taken just enough courses on my own (and had a decent background) that I felt well-prepared for the Nanodegree. So I never felt super frustrated or that I wasn’t getting enough help along the way. The last project in the Nanodegree was really challenging and getting started was a bit overwhelming. There was at least one other student that gave me some valuable feedback to get to the finish line.

I started glancing at job listings before graduating, but I didn’t do anything too serious until I completed the last project. Then I updated my resume and LinkedIn and tried to get as well-prepared as possible. I used any resource I could find on the job hunt, tried to figure out exactly what I was qualified for, and of course, tried to decide what was a possibility as far as job location.

People at Udacity went out of their way to give me advice to help with the job hunt and interview process. And having the community around the Nanodegree was helpful…

Most of the companies I interviewed with weren’t instantly familiar with Udacity, but they recognized the fact that I had projects and work on GitHub to show off. And the fact that I was doing all this while still working definitely impressed the companies I interviewed with. Having specific examples of things that I built is so helpful.

People at Udacity went out of their way to give me advice to help with the job hunt and interview process. And having the community around the Nanodegree was helpful—students would share LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and portfolios and provide feedback to each other.

Some people may think that $200 per month is a lot, but it’s almost nothing when you think about the opportunity it provides to advance careers. It’s win-win. Either you’re going to simply learn a lot or you’ll gain skills that will help you break into the field that you’re targeting.

Best Student Projects of 2014

Udacity students consistently amaze and inspire us with their motivation and creativity. As 2014 comes to an end, we would like to share some of our favorite student project submissions from this past year.

Android Fundamentals

It’s exciting to see students enter a class with the skeleton of an idea and emerge with a mastery to flesh out that dream into a working reality. In Developing Android Apps, students get a hands-on learning experience from Google’s Android experts on how to create a cloud-connected app that retrieves info from a database. One beautifully built-out project that went above-and-beyond expectations by implementing the Facebook API and cross-user connectivity was the “MeetApp” (think Tinder meets MeetUp). This app is for you if you’ve arrived at an event wishing you knew someone there, only to be making awkward small talk with strangers the whole night. The “MeetApp” facilitates mingling by allowing users who are  attending the same Facebook event to match-up and connect only if the feeling is mutual. This takes the awkwardness out of random FB messaging, and ensures you have a friend even before you step foot into the party. Give it a try at your next Facebook gathering!


Programming Foundations with Python

If you can’t make it to Vegas this holiday, you can recreate the experience with “Slots”, a project from Programming Foundations with Python. It’s simple: you place your bet, give it a “spin” and cross your fingers that you’ll soon be rolling in the that virtual dough. For this Final Project, one of our students was able to create a program that is not only addictively engaging, but demonstrated his understanding of the foundational Python topics and explored new standard libraries, all with code that is well modularized and commented. Try to prove the saying wrong that the “House” always wins.



Front-End Web Development Nanodegree – Javascript Basics

In this course, students master the Javascript programming skills necessary to build a Frogger-style game for their final project. While we supply stock game characters and backdrops, one exceptional student put his own spin on the program. In JavaScript Arcade Clone (Udacity Style), the student transformed Udacity staff into the characters of his game and weaved together a fun backstory to showcase his course experience. See if you can help Miriam and Mike collect and reshelve all the lost course material while dodging the deadly Lady Bugs. Once all resources have been retrieved, you will get a gong ring similar to the one we hear at Udacity whenever a student graduates!



iOS Development Nanodegree – Intro to iOS App Dev with Swift

In the final Intro to iOS App Development project, students use XCode to build an iPhone app that allows users to record a conversation and alter its speed or pitch. As a result, you can annoy your friends with a high pitch Chipmunk sound or a classic Darth Vader one. One student took this project to a whole new level by incorporating “echo” in their recording. To create this effect, the student dove deeper into AVFoundations library than we had covered in the course to discover new applicable methods. He then mixed these with a bit of physics understanding of what an echo is (a reflected copy of a recorded sound played back at a smaller amplitude).


The result is a clever piece of code that takes the current recording, delays it by a set amount of time and then replays it back at a slighter lower volume– an audio tool that would make any auto-tuned artist jealous.

AI For Robotics [Georgia Tech Online Masters in Computer Science]

Artificial Intelligence for Robotics teaches students the basics of Artificial Intelligence and how to apply these concepts to building a self-driving car, and is taught by Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun.


A team of students from Georgia Tech’s Online Masters CS program designed a robot that uses localization and color tracking to detect its position in a room and move towards a designated target, similar to a cat hunting down its prey. Check out their Lego Mindstorms EV3 Wall Tracer + Localization Robot in action here.

Introduction to Java

What better way to guarantee you’ll reign as the Connect Four Champion in your household than to code up a robot to win the game for you? For the Intro to Java Final Project, students are asked to created a Connect Four playing agent, putting into practice all the essential CS concepts they learned such as Object-Oriented Programming, Decision Making, and Iterating. One student’s code in particular stood out because it was elegantly crafted and concise, yet still created a very clever playing agent. The student realized having the agent check whether or not to play a piece in every available slot boils down to a recursive process—an algorithm where a function calls itself. This is a concept all beginning CS students learn, but it usually takes a bit of practice before easily recognizing situations it’s best suited for.


Come into the class a newbie in Computer Science, leave able to program a gaming robot. Brilliant move indeed.

Congrats to all of our students!

Dawoon Choi: Golfer to Programmer

Update: Congratulations to Dawoon, Udacity’s very first Nanodegree graduate!  He has recently completed the Front-End Web Develop Nanodegree and all of us at Udacity wish him much success in all his future endeavors!


As you know, we at Udacity believe that learning is a lifelong activity and that we all have our own personal mountains to climb, our own personal journeys to walk. But without taking that first step down your own yellow brick road, your dream will always be exactly that. A dream.

Understandably, the first step can be an intimidating threshold to cross.  Today, we’re sharing a story from one of our students who has taken his first step, and many others, on his journey to success.

Meet Dawoon!
Meet Dawoon!

Dawoon is both a long-time Udacity student and a member of the inaugural Front-End Web Developer nanodegree. Besides being enrolled in the nanodegree, he has taken and completed fifteen Udacity courses!  When we look at Dawoon’s student profile, we can’t help but cheer for online learning.

Dawoon’s story starts at Yongin University where he had the goal of becoming a professional golfer.  After a while, Dawoon realized, as many university students do, that he did not want to professionally pursue his original choice of study. He dropped out of university, spent time fulfilling his duties in his country’s military, and eventually became an assistant manager at a civil engineering company.

Be Open to New Possibilities

After seeing an article on MOOCs and Udacity, he was intrigued by the Udacity course, How to Build a Startup, but ended up taking his very first course in programming, Intro to Computer Science.  This course opened up an entirely new world for him, and re-energized his quest to continuously learn and better himself.

“Before I learned how to program, I didn’t know our life is surrounded by software. I think there are unlimited posibilities with programming, and I wish I could be a part of big changes or maybe even lead the changes myself. “

Be Persistent

Dawoon knew he loved programming, but wasn’t sure where this enthusiasm was going to lead him.  He continued to take courses with Udacity, including Web Development and several introductory courses in a variety of programming languages, but always hoped for more opportunities to learn front-end web development.  For him, our Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree was the perfect fit, and with it, he hopes to find himself a job in this new field he’s so passionate about.


Be Brave

Despite the unknowns, Dawoon has kept pushing forward.  He realizes he’s found something he enjoys.  He’s set a goal for himself to eventually find a job in Silicon Valley, and along the way, continue to increase his learning.  He has quit his current job at the civil engineering company so he can better focus his time and energy on climbing his personal mountain.

“I’m also interested in machine learning, so I’m going to learn about it.”

Now that he’s taken the first steps, the steps that follow become a little easier.

To see Dawoon’s work through his courses at Udacity and the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree, head over to his online portfolio, which he created as the first project in the nanodegree curriculum!

Student Story on Broadening Access to Education

As we get ready for the Udacity Global Meetup on Saturday, July 20th, we’re thrilled to watch the RSVP count grow and we can’t wait to meet more Udacity students as we celebrate community and job readiness!

Bill, a Udacity student from Los Angeles, will attend the Los Angeles Global Meetup, and we want to share his note on why he supports Udacity’s mission to broaden access to education. He’ll be helping out at the meetup and we can’t thank him enough for not just his volunteer time but this story he shared — stories like these keep us inspired by what we’re all building together:

6 weeks ago, I was visiting Stemnitsa, a small village in Greece where my father’s side of the family is from (my parents are Greek immigrants to the US). I’ve been 9 times to Stemnitsa and I absolutely love the place. People visit there during the summer, so the population during the winter is maybe about 100 people. I recently learned that the local high school students have to travel over 40 minutes by bus to attend school, because Greece’s austerity measures forced the closure of the closer school that they used to attend.

I thought while I was packing my suitcase how great it might be if in 5, 10, 15 years, the local Stemnitsa students could take classes from Udacity from their houses so they wouldn’t have to travel an hour to go to school!

I decided to pack my Udacity t-shirt as a symbol of solidarity for the cause of free, top quality education made available to anyone in the world with an internet connection. Below is a picture of me and my great uncle. He is 92 and has spent most of his life living in Stemnitsa. He is illiterate. I also wanted to wear my Udacity shirt as a symbol that perhaps, if my great uncle were born in different times, he would know how to read and write and he could benefit from all the advantages that literacy gives a person:

Lastly, I also learned just before my trip that one of the top professors at MIT was BORN in Stemnitsa in 1927!

One of the top scientists in the world came from this poor, isolated village and put a dent in the world. What a crazy, mind-bending thought! How many other places in the world; isolated Greek villages, urban slums, farming communities, etc. have their own Profesor Gyftopoulos that we will never know about?This is why I want to help in any way I can, because I’ve seen the setbacks that others have experienced and know that given the right circumstances, most of us will be able to succeed and enrich humanity in the process.