Picture this: you’re sitting at a table with an employer on each end. The employer on the left offers to pay you $100 a week. In return, you’ll need to consistently put in five hours of work per day without a hitch. If you stick with it, you’ll get a 10 percent raise that compounds weekly. The employer on the right, meanwhile, offers to pay $900 a week, and you’ll only need to work five hours per day, on average.
Say that you take the first offer. In two months, you’ll be looking at $1,256 of earnings. That’s around $5,944 less than the $7,200 you could’ve earned if you took the second offer. In this scenario, you might be beating yourself up, thinking you made a mistake. What if we fast forward to a year later?
Earning More Through Udacity
It’s easy to calculate your would-be earnings for the second offer. Simply multiply $900 by 52 weeks and you’ll get $46,800. Now, what about the first offer? In addition to the 10 percent raise compounded weekly, you’d get $58,132. That puts you a step above what you would’ve earned had you chosen the second offer, and even further as your earnings increase week by week.
This is the compounding effect. In a nutshell, if you do a small action repeatedly, you’ll get a cumulative and compounding effect over time. It’s this effect that edtech company Udacity swears by.
Its promise goes like this: if you enroll in one of Udacity’s Nanodegree programs and commit at least five hours of your week to study, your technical knowledge builds. Eventually, you’ll have a repertoire of skills that can help you launch a career in tech.
The bonus: you don’t need to wait a year to reap the benefits.
Upskilling with Udacity
In 2018, computer science graduate Pranav Prajapati came to the US to pursue his master’s in business intelligence and analytics. “I came here not thinking too much about what I want to work on or where I want to work,” said Pranav. “I simply wanted to pursue such an amazing opportunity to further my studies.”
As time passed, however, Pranav grew keen to learn further and faster. “I had decided to get into the job market after my nine-month period since coming to the US. As an international student, I was only allowed to work off-campus after nine months of studying,” he said.
Eager to find ways to upskill quickly, Pranav attended tech conferences. “I heard the words ‘coding bootcamp’ thrown a lot…but a bootcamp is a huge commitment. I was already doing the graduate degree. Also, I was looking for something that I can afford to pay without taking out a loan or an income share agreement.”
It was around this time that he came across Udacity. “I already had a computer science background and I had good exposure to the kind of work done in data science and AI so I wanted to expand on what I already had.” While earning his graduate degree, Pranav took on another challenge. He enrolled in Udacity’s Data Engineering Nanodegree program.
“There is no company doing the same kind of model and offering the same features as Udacity…There’s Udemy but, for me, its quality is not at the same level as Udacity. I guess there’s also Coursera, although Coursera is more about bringing academia to the digital space,” said Pranav.
“Udacity is in a different segment altogether. It’s unique.”
Inside the Unique Classrooms of Udacity
The first law of motion states that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. In the same way, knowledge will remain static unless continually built upon by other blocks of knowledge. Knowledge, like interest, compounds and it is this philosophy of perpetual knowledge-building that Udacity strives to instill.
“Honestly, because the courses at Udacity are limited, that means I don’t have the infinite time to introduce my students to all of the special concepts of the field,” said Katie Gamanji, an instructor for Udacity’s Cloud Native Application Architecture Nanodegree program and the ecosystem advocate of Linux Foundation’s CNCF.
“However, the courses should be able to equip them with the fundamentals of the field. And that’s really how it works. Once you have a good base, you can just build on top of it. So, the lessons within the courses are structured with this kind of mindset at the center,” she said.
Nine years since Udacity first came on the edtech scene, it’s managed to roll out over 60 Nanodegree programs. Each of these programs falls under one of Udacity’s seven schools of expertise. You can choose among Udacity’s programming, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, data science, autonomous systems, cybersecurity, and business Nanodegree programs.
The programs last between two and six months, making them ideal for students like Pranav, upskilling professionals, and career-switchers. In that time, Udacity’s veteran instructors work to galvanize the key concepts of their fields and teach the students the main ideas. In Katie’s words, “It’s much more practical than writing a wiki doc.”
So, how does this play out in the classroom?
Udacity Course Curriculum
“For my class, I like to give an overview of the main topics, split it into usually no more than three main domains, and then dive deep into every single domain,” said Katie. “I like to structure it.”
“I think there are so many resources out there but, for me, it’s not about just having sufficient resources. It’s about how you provide them for the students to digest…If they understand what happens within this sphere, they will easily be able to build on top of it.”
“For example, there are hundreds of tools within the cloud native ecosystem. The purpose is not to understand all of them. The purpose is to understand what kind of problems they try to solve,” she said.
“Cloud native is all about interoperability which means you have multiple solutions for the same problem. So as long as you understand what Kubernetes tries to solve, for instance, then you’ll be able to deep dive into other tools and platforms too.”
“Another thing that I like doing is keeping a sturdy line. I’m not just going to introduce tool A and tool B, for example. Instead, I’m going to introduce tool A in integration with tool B. So there’s always going to be a connection between the dots. Nothing is left out of nowhere. There’s structure and within that, I weave a story.”
“It’s highly practical. It’s very down-to-earth. And again, it really equips you with the fundamentals.”
“The projects and the hands-on work that Udacity incorporates were really helpful,” said Pranav. “There were exercises that we needed to do before we could get onto the projects. In terms of assessments, not only did they review the projects, but they also checked the code and how well I documented my stuff. Those were really important.”
Udacity’s rigorous instruction paid off. “Just as when I was about to graduate from the university, somebody picked my project which I worked on as my Data Engineering Nanodegree capstone,” said Pranav.
“So, somebody read the report online and they approached me and said, ‘We have a similar data engineering warehouse implementation. Are you free this semester for a spring co-op at KIND?’ Just like that, I was able to work in a spring co-op. That really helped me a lot because KIND is really popular,” he said, referring to the billion-dollar worth snack company.
“KIND has a million orders every day, so they always want to tweak their data engineering infrastructure. What’s interesting is that in Udacity’s Data Engineering Nanodegree, there were parts where the instructors talked about how you should deal with problems when data just scales up,” said Pranav.
“Basically as a company grows, the data infrastructure and all the analytics tools also need to measure and scale up. This was something that was acknowledged in Udacity and one of the best things I learned over there—the hypothetical scenarios which can actually happen in real life.”
Udacity’s Compounding Effect
After completing his internship at KIND, Pranav secured a data scientist role at Verisk Analytics, a member of S&P 500 and Fortune 1000 companies. “Currently I’m working on global political risk analysis,” said Pranav.
“So, say a company wants to start a project in maybe a place like Istanbul, Turkey. They can use our product and see possible risks in the area. Is there any problem with the labor rights, for example? So, we scrape the Internet and we find out how much risk there is.”
Pranav’s series of accomplishments represents two things: the importance of his willingness to learn and Udacity’s compounding effect. “To best prepare for a Udacity program, the answer is honestly not in something that’s so deeply rooted with having the technical skills,” said Katie. “It’s more about a student’s willingness to learn.”
“The courses are already well-equipped with all the information and resources that they need to go further. So, I think if there’s actually an appetite to understand the topics and get involved, they’ll be able to get what they need,” she said.
It’s this appetite to learn that sparked Pranav’s rise to success. He took on Udacity’s Nanodegree program and stuck with the program. Every week, he put in the time and work needed to complete the coursework.
All of it culminated in his capstone project, which later served as the gateway to multiple opportunities. He scored a co-op placement at a massive company such as KIND and eventually secured a full-time job at a renowned financial data services company such as Verisk Analytics.
The bonus: he didn’t have to wait a year to reap such benefits.
Starting a New Career with Udacity
“The tools, the methodology, and the approach. These are the things that I like at Udacity,” said Katie. “Udacity has a way of embracing different ways of study. I’m a practitioner. So, getting hands-on is what helps me to understand a tool.”
“But then, there’s not only that. There’s also learning by watching a video, reading different texts, and visiting pages online. Udacity has everything in a package,” she said. Pranav added: “Apart from all that, Udacity has a career section where you go through three or four practice interviews and LinkedIn and resume reviews, which I found really helpful.”
“At the university, it wasn’t that holistic. It is more focused on the course. It’s very structured and it’s very rigid also. There’s little room for flexibility. With Udacity, it’s the opposite.”
“The thing is some people question the cost of the programs at Udacity,” said Pranav. “It’s not cheap, yes, but if you do it in the number of months they recommend, it’s a win for you in the long term because you’ll learn a lot and you’ll be able to make use of this.”
“Investing in Udacity pays huge dividends.”
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