Champion a Learning Agenda Inside Your Organization

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We often talk in business about continuous learning. The goal is to learn something new every day and then apply it in ways that make you – and your organization – incrementally better. That idea of constant improvement always comes back to one, fundamental truth.

Knowledge is power.

It’s why, in this age of rapid technological change, the drive toward superior performance will always be led by a focus on Learning and Development (L&D). This is where organizations truly have the opportunity to capitalize and differentiate themselves from competitors.



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Navigating an Enterprise Level Digital Transformation

Digital transformation isn’t a clean and simple process. There is no one singular path when it comes to implementing digital transformation within a company. No one knows this better than Chris Hsu, who was the EVP and GM of HPE software business. He was also the Chief Operating Officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. After HPE sold the software business to Micro Focus, he became the Chief Operating Officer of Micro Focus. Chris joined our COO, Lalit Singh to discuss how companies can lead effective digital transformations in our latest Thought Leader Webinar Series.

Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization needs to use  technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance, Chris Hsu stresses. “Frankly, in today’s day and age, I think that if you are living in old systems and processes, you will be disrupted.”

Fearful of being outflanked by more nimble competitors, companies are seeking to accelerate innovation, experimenting with new digital services and capabilities to augment existing offerings or to slide into adjacent markets. One of the first things companies should do in embarking on a digital transformation is answer this critical question: What business outcomes do you want to achieve?

“It starts with the business outcomes and the new business models you’re going after and working backwards from there,” says Chris Hsu. “There are a number of perspectives to consider including technology, data, and more than anything the people and operational side of the business.”

Companies can follow some key digital transformational tips to affect the kind of change they desire, including:

  • Focus on a clear set of objectives. Whether you’re transforming an existing model or starting from scratch, leaders must reach a consensus on the best path to pursue.
  • Adopt agile execution. Encourage risk taking, enabling even lower-level employees to make decisions, fail fast and learn.
  • Instill focus. Business leaders must recognize it  is a marathon, not a sprint. And in order to present and to be effective over a long period of time, leaders must be mentally and physically fit so they can focus.

While emerging tech and revamped processes are crucial, having the right skills on staff is essential to any digital transformation.

Software engineers, cloud computing specialists and product managers remain key roles for companies seeking to roll out new products and services. DevOps leaders galvanize software development by merging development with operations, enabling companies to continuously iterate software to speed delivery.

Data scientists and data architects are also in high demand, as companies seek to glean insights out of vast troves of data, and transformations lean increasingly on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Companies can lag in digital transformations for several reasons, a few being poor leadership, disconnects between IT and the business, lagging employee engagement and substandard operations. But, according to Chris Hsu, “I think digital transformation, if you’re doing it correctly, should impact all parts of the organization. Digital transformation has the ability to flatten an organization, and to really start to streamline and remove those manual administrative processes that no one really loves doing, and creates the capacity for more customer-facing interactions,  for more innovation, and fundamentally more building of things.”

This is one webinar, you don’t want to miss. View it here.

How companies need to think about the cloud and digital transformation

Enterprises are at a critical juncture: adopt and adapt technology to meet the 24×7 demands of customers, employees, and partners—or risk becoming obsolete. One of the primary shifts in responding to such demands is cloud computing.

As part of our Udacity Thought Leader webinar series, our very own Lalit Singh, COO at Udacity, sat down with Rahul Tripathi, the CTO and VP of Customer Success at Nutanix to discuss the challenges facing companies looking to embrace the cloud while remaining relevant in today’s competitive market. The conversation anchored on how the cloud is the foundational enabler of digital transformation and offers the scale and speed needed for businesses to grow.

When it comes to transforming the infrastructure of a business, both modernization and automation play crucial roles. For organizations looking to bridge the digital skills gap and attract talent, it’s important to move from outdated to next-generation systems that facilitate innovation. Hear Rahul stress how technical skills and soft skills are critical for any business looking to stay competitive and transform into digital enterprises.

Watch as they discuss:

  • What a modern enterprise cloud strategy looks like
  • Why digital transformation requires the right blend of business, IT and soft skills
  • How organizations can take steps to bridge their hiring and training strategies

View webinar

Q&A with AT&T’s John Donovan

John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications sat down with Sebastian Thrun, Udacity’s Executive Chairman as part of Udacity’s ongoing Thought Leader Series to discuss how to lead through change, leverage your employees to turn invention into innovation, and provide teams the skills needed to build tomorrow’s companies.

John manages over 250,000 people. Which begs the question, what’s the key to running an organization that large? For John, it starts with knowing his values, knowing that you’re only as good as the people who work with you and having a relentless focus on training.

“What I noticed early on was how much invention was going on that wasn’t actually going into the innovation. The distinction is invention is the thought and construction and innovation is when it becomes usable to the end user, ” John reflects.

AT&T recognized early on that it needed workers who were trained and ready for the technologies that would drive tomorrow’s business — artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and more.

It was a math problem, according to AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan who recounted the challenge to Sebastian. The percentage of the company’s workforce that was highly technical needed to evolve from where it was a few years ago, about 50% who were already highly technical, to some number close to 85% or 90%, according to Donovan.

“You do the basic math,” said Donovan. “You can’t hire your way there and you can’t acquire yourself there. You really have to start with the workforce you have. How can we help our employees know jobs and skills are transforming?”

That’s the problem that many companies are facing as they look to evolve their businesses for a new era. If they don’t have the trained staff today, it’s not really clear how they will get to where they want to be for tomorrow.

Reimagining work requires you to be proactive about y

our workforce planning, according to Donovan. Pivoting the workforce means being able to identify new areas of growth and helping workers acquire the right skills.

AT&T lets employees access an HR system that shows a career path to a future job they may want and lets them plot their course to that job and then map the curriculum needed to get to that job.

“I have to establish competencies along the way just to stay in my current job,” Donovan said. “Then I can add a badge that certifies I’m competent in a new skill. I can add a nanodegree.”

Listen to the entirety of John and Sebastian’s conversation as they discuss:

John’s leadership style and how he deeply cares about relationships
His strategy for getting honest feedback from his peers
The catalysts for workforce transformation

LISTEN NOW

Educating Our Way Out of the Data Scientist Shortage

It’s no secret that employers are looking for data scientists. They have become the stars of the modern workforce – the most valuable employees.

Companies of all sizes have awoke to the fact that data science, by mining new insights from even decades of accumulated data sets, has the potential to drive efficiencies and increase productivity in ways never previously imagined. Simply put, it has the potential to transform businesses. From Zillow’s home price predictions to Amazon’s recommendation engines, applications of data science have become increasingly accurate, prevalent, and impactful on our everyday lives.

But while “data scientist” has been ranked the “No. 1 Job in America” for three years running now, according to careers website Glassdoor, there’s still a shortage of talent to fill the huge need of employers across every industry. In fact, according to a recent LinkedIn study, businesses across the nation need 151,717 more data scientists right now.

The need is nothing short of stunning.

This is why companies understand that they must increasingly invest in the education of their employees in order to compete in an ever-changing world. At the same time, employees need to recognize that traditional higher education just isn’t designed or equipped  to keep up with the breathtaking pace of technological developments and digital transformation that we see in business every single day. People may intuitively know that learning is a lifelong process. But the modern employees also needs to accept that that continually adding to their skill set is the best way they stay competitive in the job market.

Here’s the reality: Jobs are available. But organizations expect potential employees (and current ones) to have the skills to those critical jobs.

The advantage of this digital transformation is that it’s also changing how we think about education. And it truly can be the answer to solving the data scientist shortage within your company.

This ongoing process of learning can take place digitally and independently of location. E-learning can happen anywhere, anytime: at the workplace, at home, on the train, or in the coffee shop. The subject matter can even be adapted to the precise, tailored requirements of a company. This way, it has maximum added value for employees and employers. For example, last year the automobile company Audi launched its employee “data-camp” training focused on big data and artificial intelligence.

Even companies that specialize in data analysis have recognized their own crying need to create alternatives to the traditional training pathways. After all, they are on the front lines of the digital transformation, and their workers need to have cutting-edge skills.

For example, our customer Alteryx, which develops self-service data analysis software, offers a nanodegree that enables regular employees to become data specialists and to expand their own career opportunities. In this way, companies meet the need for data specialists, while employees sharpen their skill sets, receive additional qualifications and ultimately improve their career opportunities.

It becomes a win-win. Organizations benefit the improved effort of employees. The workers themselves expand their horizons.

Employees who have a background in computer science or mathematics – and interact with numbers, data and programming daily – are ideal candidates in terms of becoming data experts in the company. Udacity’s online course, with concrete sample projects and application examples, is usually enough to give employees the added education they need to take that next step within their own company.

But employees outside of traditional IT departments have opportunities to pursue what is known in the industry as  “Citizen Data Scientists.”The term describes employees who evaluate data but do not program the algorithms themselves. Instead, they use self-service tools. These tools enable the analysis and visualization of large amounts of data with preconfigured workflows. The advantage here is that employees usually know more about the context of the data and can bring that understanding directly into their own departments.

Data isn’t the future. It’s now. And it’s critical to every company in every industry.

Companies are looking everywhere for data scientists. They can be academically trained, educating through  internal further education programs, or this relatively new world of Citizen Data Scientists, It’s clear that businesses need all of them because we live in  a world where data is collected everywhere. It’s clear that companies need to invest in employee training to keep pace with digital transformation.

Faced with this dire shortage of talent, business leaders who want to make the most of data science can’t rely on half-measures and casual hiring processes. What they need is a strategic roadmap toward building data science skills internally and effectively upskilling their talented employees.

Stay tuned for new releases from Udacity Enterprise.

Answering “Yes” to Hard Questions About the SKills Gap, and The Future of Work

A recent article from the University of California’s Chief Innovation Officer, about the impact of disruptive technologies on jobs and skills, poses critical questions about how we connect learning to jobs—today, and in the future.

Future of Work

Everyone from politicians to policy makers, utopianists to university professors, innovators to investors, is talking about the future of work, the fourth industrial revolution, and the automation age. It’s hard to avoid these topics, and if you’re between the ages of, say, 16 and 80, you probably shouldn’t avoid them.

Our work lives are changing, and depending on how we manage the transition, this could either be a new golden age, or a serious shock to the system.

At Udacity, we’re engaged in helping lifelong learners across the globe empower themselves through learning, in order to build rewarding lives and careers. As such, we’re acutely aware of the looming changes—the theories around how it’s going to happen, and what it’s all going to mean.

We engage every day with innovators, educators, students, employees and thought leaders, to better understand what education needs to do, be, and represent as we move forward. We work with recruiters, hiring managers, entrepreneurs, and executives, to better forecast what skills will be needed, where the demand will be, and what career advancement will look like in the days, years, and decades to come. We collaborate with individuals, startups, and global corporations, to better understand how and where the work of the future will happen. In short, we spend a vast amount of time learning from anyone and everyone about what the future holds, and how we can best prepare our students to succeed.

We listen, we talk, we watch, we ask, and we read.

One article that recently impressed us for its ambitious scope, rich degree of insight, and clear-eyed understanding of where the world is heading, is a post by Christine Gulbranson, the Chief Innovation Officer for the University of California System. The article is entitled The Future of Work: The Impact of Disruptive Technologies on Jobs and Skills. Here is a sample of the wisdom Gulbranson shares in this provocative and timely piece:

“It’s not difficult to make some basic calculations about what skill sets will be needed in the future: automate predictable manual labor jobs and the skills demanded for such jobs decreases. More automated factories will increase the demand for hard skills in mechanical engineering, software architecture, coding, algorithms, data structures, data analysis/data science, and machine architecture/design. Increasing gene editing and robotic surgery will increase the demand for software engineers and mechanical engineers who also have medical skills. Move to IoT cities and policy makers and lawyers will need to understand coding, software architecture, economics, and more, on top of what they’re expected to know today.

Clearly with a rise of connected devices and infrastructure, machines, AI, spatial computing, blockchain, and autonomous vehicles, there comes an increase in demand for STEAM skills. However, sitting on top of hard skills is a deep and strong layer for cognitive, analytical, and soft skills. Employers won’t be looking for a degree that signifies what a candidate knows: they will be looking for someone who can learn, combine and analyze, problem-solve, create, and adjust.”

It’s that last sentence that especially resonated with us, because this echoes exactly what we hear directly from employers every single day. The pace of modern business and the rapid advance of technology have significantly altered the hiring landscape in such a way that characteristics such as agility, growth mindset, adaptability, creativity, and grit have emerged as the most important factors in predicting a successful hire.

That’s not to say that acquired skills don’t matter—they do!—but the ability to learn new skills and apply them has become just as important as the skills you already possess.

This is also not to say that educational pedigree doesn’t have a place any longer—it does—but what constitutes credible pedigree is changing rapidly. As we’ve learned in the years since first launching our Nanodegree programs, a Nanodegree credential fulfills a dual role. In addition to affirming your skills acquisition, earning a Nanodegree credential stands as evidence that you are a self-motivated problem-solver who possesses grit and determination.

Gulbranson’s article concludes on a sobering note of caution:

“Finally, as we already know today, if education can’t keep up with changing industry, then the skills gap will hinder technological advancement and adoption.”

She goes on to ask some powerful questions, such as:

  • Are students learning how to learn, handle high complexity, and be flexible?
  • Are they learning how to make the invisible visible, and how to make good decisions using data and analysis?
  • Are there solutions that don’t cost an arm and a leg and last four years when the industry needs a software engineer who is also a psychologist to create a product that detects the mood of drivers and auto-shuts off the car appropriately?

We’re proud to be part of a new generation of learning providers offering opportunities that represent a “yes” answer to all the above, and we’re grateful to innovators like Christine Gulbranson who are out there asking the hard questions, and providing the right answers.

Through your commitment to lifelong learning at your organization, you are helping build rewarding careers for employees, while creating an environment for innovation.

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Visit udacity.com/enterprise to discover how we can help your organization successfully navigate workforce transformation!