Select Page

Udacity Student Success

It is Winter Solstice morning. I am on my bike, headed to the cafe. The air is cold, but clear, and the sun is bright.

I am seated, my laptop on my lap. I have no idea what to write. I need to write. It’s been a long year. The previous 3 months have seen our company on a frenetic pace—launch, announcement, launch. Am I out of stories?

I type “success” into my browser. My browser knows what to do. It loads the page for me. This is what I see first:

“This experience has absolutely changed my life—I wouldn’t have a job right now otherwise.” —OSCAR ESTRADA

I am not out of stories!

The page to which I am referring is our newly-launched Student Success Stories page, and I adore it. It is a Wall of Student Success.

It has been my honor and my pleasure to work on many of these stories. I remember each of them so clearly. I remember the first time I sat down to start working through interview responses from James Peterson. Did I know then that his story would be featured in The New York Times? I did not. Did he know, back when he was working his maintenance job at McDonald’s, that his triumphant journey to a dream role as a Front-End Engineer would be highlighted in The New York Times? Honestly, he may have. His drive is that strong. More than that, his spirit is so generous:

“I hope the Udacity experience can be as transformative and revealing for others as it has been for me.”

I remember when we spoke with Mangalambigai Sivaramakrishnan about her journey. We discussed her life in depth. We learned how she’d left the workforce to raise a family, and how challenging it was to try and return to work. Rejected resumes, dismissive recruiters, dead-end interviews; she’d been through it all. Then came Udacity. She ultimately graduated from not one but two Nanodegree programs. The last question we asked her was, did she have a new job?

“I am happy to share that I got a Front-End Applications Software Engineer role at YieldBot and it is all I ever wanted in a job. I have smart and supportive teammates, I get to work on the latest technologies, and we are building beautiful products! Thank you, Udacity!”

I realize all I’ve really written about here are things I’ve already written about. But that’s ok. I am writing. This is something I’ve learned from James, from Mangalambigai, and from ALL the incredible Udacity students who commit every day to empowering themselves through learning. I have learned that you must DO.

I remember working on a story about Ryan Waite. I remember being so affected by his honesty, his faith in himself, his desire to succeed. He couldn’t afford college. He was working two low-end retail jobs for minimum wage. He knew the odds were against him, but that didn’t stop him. He knew he had a talent. He just needed to believe that mattered.

“Building my confidence was really important, because of what I was up against. I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. Others did. I knew I’d have to work harder, and I knew I could. But I also had to believe I could succeed.”

Most of all, I remember the advice he offered.

“Be open to the old saying: ‘Anything’s possible.’ Decide what you want to do, come up with a dedicated plan of action, and stick to it. Nothing great comes easy.”

Are you in need of a bit of motivation today? Visit this page. I promise you’ll come away renewed.

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.