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Women Who Code and Udacity

The pursuit of educational inclusion brings us into close contact with an absolute wealth of wonderful organizations—motivated communities united around the noble goal of ensuring that any and all aspiring learners have the unfettered opportunity to pursue self-empowerment through education.

Women Who Code

Women Who Code is just such an organization, and we were recently able to work with their Silicon Valley chapter on an event that we hosted here at Udacity HQ.

If you’re not familiar, Women Who Code is a non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. The organization has executed more than 3,000 events around the world, garnered a membership exceeding 50,000 and has a presence in 20 countries.

The event we partnered on was called Careers in Data Science. 70 Women Who Code members joined us at Udacity to network, and to learn more about education opportunities and career pathways in data science. Our guests also enjoyed presentations from expert speakers: four from Udacity, and two from NetBase Solutions.

NetBase Solutions: Speakers

From NetBase we had Karin Golde, and Selman Tunc Yilmaz:

Karin Golde is Director of Data Science at NetBase Solutions, a leader in enterprise social media analytics. Karin holds a PhD in Linguistics from The Ohio State University, and has over 15 years’ experience developing natural language processing technology across several Silicon Valley startups. She now leads a team responsible for prototyping and testing innovative features which enable the NetBase platform to surface valuable consumer insights from a vast collection of social media data.

Selman Yilmaz is a Data Scientist at NetBase Solutions. After obtaining a PhD in Physics from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, he moved to the Bay Area in 2011 as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, where his interest was piqued by the powerful developments in Data Science and related technologies. Before joining NetBase, he dedicated 2 years to transitioning into data science, which involved finishing a Master’s degree in Analytics at the University of San Francisco, technical part-time internships, Kaggle projects and online courses.

Karin spoke in great detail about different kinds of data science roles, and what it takes to fill such roles successfully. She discussed the overarching mission of data science, shared details about her own path, and offered expert perspective on how to grow a data science career.

Selman in turn offered both a chronicle of his own path to a career in data science, and a detailed look at the kind of work he does in his role on a daily basis—the tools, the products, the research, and the results.

Udacity: Speakers

From Udacity, we first had Jessica Jones and Mat Leonard (Content Project Manager and Course Developer respectively!), who actually led off the proceedings, and together presented on the Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree program, highlighting what aspiring learners can expect from the program, and what the program will prepare them for career-wise. In addition, they discussed gender balance both in our Nanodegree program, and across science and engineering fields in general. They concluded with a series of exhortations around outreach as a means for continuing to boost women’s presence in data science.

Rounding out the presentations were Brynn Claypoole and Charlie Turner:

Brynn Claypoole currently works as a Data Analyst for Udacity. In the past she created Udacity’s “Technical Interviewing” course, did bioinformatics research at the University of Pennsylvania as a University Scholar, directed a thousand-person student hackathon called PennApps, and worked as an app developer and consultant for a number of startups. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computational Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Charlie Turner currently works as a Course Developer and Course Manager at Udacity. She holds a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Warwick, previously worked at the Office for National Statistics in the UK, and has over a decade of experience spreading enthusiasm and understanding about mathematics and data. She is currently creating a brand new course for the Data Analyst Nanodegree program.

Brynn gave a 3-part presentation, beginning with an in-depth look at intersections of biology and data science. She then followed with a personal career history, and concluded by sharing insights into how Udacity is using data to improve our own products and services.

Charlie’s talk was a look into the reality of mistakes in data science, illustrated by actual problems encountered inside Udacity. She concluded with a series of important “mis-takeaways”—suggestions for how to deal with and mitigate mistakes:

What can we do about mistakes?


Accept that mistakes happen
Think critically, ask questions
Request feedback


Communicate the mistake
Reflect and share
Accept that mistakes happen!

Women Who Code and Udacity

The event closed with Q&A, and much mingling and socializing. Our guests were such a highly engaged group, and they just couldn’t stop gushing about their love of data! Hopefully needless to say, we were thrilled to host such a passionate group, and to partner with such a committed organization. We thank Women Who Code, we thank our guests, and we can’t wait to host another event! Until then, please enjoy our photos and video from the event—hopefully they’ll give you a sense of what a wonderful night it was!

(Women Who Code from Udacity on Vimeo.)


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The Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree program


Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins is Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He types on a MacBook or iPad by day, and either an Underwood, Remington, or Royal by night. He carries a Moleskine everywhere.