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This post comes courtesy of Udacity student Esther Camilo dos Reis. She lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is a mother of two. She has completed several Udacity courses, and is currently enrolled in both the Front-End Web Developer and Data Analyst Nanodegree programs. Her journey through online learning has taken her from teacher to tech, and this is her story!

FullSizeRender 2 My Journey started in 2007 when I decided to abandon my career as a high school physics teacher. Despite my love for education, teaching in Brazil is not a rewarding occupation.

I applied for a degree in information systems in a renowned Brazilian University (UNESP). Despite having success in the program, I ultimately decided it was best for my family to continue teaching to earn a living.

Four years later and with one more child, I applied for a PhD project in biological sciences. It was not exactly what I wanted but school was close to home and fit easily into my life.

A Learning Machine

I attempted to integrate my studies with technology as much as possible. My project was all about machine learning to predict phenotypes in bacteria. And that meant I needed to learn artificial intelligence.

Coincidentally, around the same time I received an email from Udacity with the following subject line:

“You (YOU!) Can Take Stanford’s ‘Intro to AI’ Course Next Quarter, For Free”

That A.I. course didn’t just help solve my technical problems; it also helped me understand humans as learning machines. From there I focused on learning faster and took advantage of the other courses Udacity started to offer back in 2012.

What I like the most about the courses is that it’s not like learning with books where the authors are forced to fill [what I perceive as] a minimal amount of pages, often providing information that isn’t always relevant to the subject. The subject matter is always cutting-edge. Of course the basics are taught, but by the end, you will learn something new and useful.

The second course I enrolled in was Web Development, How to Build a Blog with Steve Huffman, where I started to play with Google App Engine. It was amazing!

Women in Technology

Shortly after completing that course, I was selected to attend a course in JavaScript at Code School in partnership with Google. The objective was to get women into the technology field.

In Brazil especially, there is a big bias toward women in the workplace, specifically in tech. And I experienced that first-hand when applying to jobs. Often I’d receive no response when the company would discover that I was a woman.

“I sincerely hope other women understand that they can get there. That would make me very happy.”

At that point I decided to apply for jobs internationally figuring I’d have better odds. And it worked! I was hired as a software developer by a Technology Company in Belgium focused on Biology called Applied Maths.

I sincerely hope other women understand that they can get there. That would make me very happy.

Learning Online

As a whole, the online learning experience really struck a chord with me. I really hate being in a real-world classroom if it’s boring, and I pretend that I’m interested even if I am not. I don’t believe learning works best this way. I believe there’s a mental and even spiritual state one should be in before learning.

I also believe that the traditional education structure struggles with the relationship between professor and student. If you leave an online video you are not hurting anyone’s feelings. But if you stand up and leave the class, then yes, you can offend someone. I think the time people have to interact should be better used. Expositive classes are great with videos.

Udacity’s online courses gave me the freedom to learn effectively and feel confident about it. But in the end, I believe anyone should be held responsible for their own learning journey and having an ultimate goal in mind. Thankfully, Udacity courses and Nanodegree programs already have that in place.

Chris Morell
Chris Morell
Writer, content creator and storyteller dabbling in code. Tweet me with your favorite coffee brewing techniques and/or quotes from The Wire.