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As a students-first organization, we strive to transform our learners’ lives every day. All of our Nanodegree programs and scholarships are guided by this one mission: To train the workforce in the careers of the future.

Our partnership with Microsoft aligned with this mission and we were thrilled to launch the Machine Learning Scholarship program for Microsoft Azure. Soon after we added the DevOps Engineer for Microsoft Azure Nanodegree program and Developer for Microsoft Azure Nanodegree program

Little did we know that this partnership could positively impact the lives of so many students. We’re pleased to work with Microsoft on the Machine Learning Engineer for Microsoft Azure Nanodegree program, and we’re also inspired by the students that have used this opportunity to gain new skills. 

To celebrate our learners, we selected a handful of empowering stories from students who participated in the first phase of the scholarship program. And as you read these testimonials, we hope that you’re inspired to further your education — regardless of the program.

Clarisse Simões Ribeiro, Lead Software Engineer at a Multinational Corporation in Brazil

Clarisse Simões Ribeiro

The first member of her family to work in STEM, Clarisse is a 31-year-old Lead Software Engineer at a multinational company in the electronic and semiconductor industry in Brazil. She is also making her mark by being a female in a male dominated field.. “Being a woman in technology is not easy. However, it is possible and you can do it while having lots of fun and having incredible role models,” she said. 

Clarisse graduated in electrical engineering but was always interested in computer science and related fields. Growing up, she didn’t have any role models in science or engineering but that didn’t stop her from exploring her interest in coding. At the age of 10, she designed her first webpage about Pokemon using HTML (which she learned herself). 

Throughout the last three years of her professional journey, she developed an interest in Machine Learning and Data Science. “After doing a few online courses about ML, Deep Learning, and reading some books, I missed an education focused on the job market with projects based on the real-world and hands-on training. Finally, I got the opportunity to pursue the Microsoft scholarship for the ML Nanodegree. This looks like that single shot opportunity in life that I can’t miss,” Clarisse added.

“I loved the labs, really. They are a real differentiator in the course since they bring hands-on knowledge and practice. I expect to be able to work technically and lead projects related to ML after this course,” she said.

Nirmal Budhathoki, Data Scientist for Microsoft in the United States

Nirmal Budhathoki

In 2007, when Nirmal moved to the United States for his masters, he was uncertain about his future. In 2010, he decided to join the U.S. Army. “During my service with the U.S. Army, I learned about the value of data, and how the right information at the right time can provide great insights to aid business decisions,” Nirmal shared.

Soon after completing his service in the Army, he got a job as a Cyber Security Data Analyst with the Navy. He also completed his MS in Data Science from the University of California, San Diego before joining Microsoft as a Data Scientist in late 2019. 

After seeing a LinkedIn post about the Machine Learning Scholarship program for Microsoft Azure he applied for it. “I’m still new to Microsoft and I wanted to learn the tools and technologies in Machine Learning within Azure. The reason for me to join was to get myself familiar with what Azure has to offer for ML/DataScience,“ he added.

“I loved the fact that Udacity has added Responsible AI as a topic in this course. It’s a very important topic and, unfortunately, it’s often forgotten. The knowledge and skills I gained from this program are very valuable. I will use them at my work to explore and apply the machine learning and deep learning algorithms from Azure in some of the projects or use cases I’m currently working on. I’m already thinking about some Natural Language Processing (NLP ) use-cases in my work where I can apply some of my learnings,” said Nirmal.

Ernitia Paramasari, Environmental Sustainability Consultant in Indonesia

Ernitia Paramasari

As a mother of three pursuing three jobs, it wasn’t easy to complete the first phase of the scholarship program. “I used to get up as early as 3 a.m. every morning to study lessons from the course. I need to do self-development activities before my daily chores because I know how important it’s to keep learning and I enjoy it,” said Ernita.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I have not had as many projects as I used to. With more spare time in hand, I decided to add programming and data science to my skill set. I had already graduated from the Intro to Programming Nanodegree program and was halfway through the Programming for Data Science with Python Nanodegree program when I came across the scholarship page featuring Machine Learning Scholarship program for Microsoft Azure. I have been analyzing data with Microsoft Excel throughout my career. I have recently become interested in machine learning, which has gained popularity, especially for data analysis,” she added.

Ernita aspires to become an Environmental Data Scientist and believes that this scholarship will provide the building blocks for her dream career. “I believe that machine learning skills would enhance my ability to analyze (big) data on environmental sustainability and renewable energy. It will allow me to tell stories about issues such as climate change, the environmental impact of carbon emissions, and the benefits of renewable energy. I can then enable stakeholders to make sound data-driven decisions that will help solve the world’s sustainability problems.”

Gabriela Lopez Espino, Stay-At-Home Mom from Germany

Gabriela Lopez Espino

When Gabriela decided to take a break from her career to take care of her kid, she assumed she’d be away from the office for a couple of years. “But now I have been a stay-home-mom since 2015. I worked as a Laser Engineer at my last job. When I became a mom I started  to miss the professional and intellectual challenges that I had during my job and  when I was in the university,” said Gabriela

After one of her college friends changed their career path to become a Data Scientist, she became  curious about the subject and started looking for online courses. Then she found out about Udacity. “I did the statistics course, then programming on Python, and finally, I did two Nanodegree programs — Data Foundations and Data Analyst — with the help of another scholarship. 

I got pregnant again at the beginning of the challenge phase and had to finish the Nanodegree program with a newborn and a toddler. It was tough, but that made it more interesting and fun!”

“Soon after I got an email from Udacity about the Machine Learning Scholarship program for Microsoft Azure. I chose to apply because Machine Learning was the next topic that I wanted to learn,” she added.

Chiazam Ochiegbu, Mechanical Engineer from Nigeria

Chiazam Ochiegbu

As the last child in a family of seven, Chiazam — a mechanical engineering graduate — is familiar with turning challenges into opportunities. “Education is not cheap in Nigeria. Especially, coming from a family of seven, you stand a slimmer chance of making it to the University compared to your older siblings,” said Chiazam. 

Between Ciazam’s dedication and his family’s support, he studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nigeria and, ultimately, became an asset to the local community. He went on to pursue many people-centered projects until he started working with an airline company. But unfortunately, he got laid off in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chiazam said, “In March 2020, the local airline I worked with laid off 70% of its employees and sadly I was among them. Udacity came through for me by giving me this opportunity to expand my career in an interesting field and most importantly helping me fulfill my desire to solve some of my community’s problems through machine learning. Instead of regretting being laid off, I’m basking in knowledge and I’m satisfied being a member of this big community of passionate learners.”

He loved the practical hands-on training approach of the course. “I felt like a NASA engineer when I trained my first model. I can’t think of a different way to make this learning practical other than the Azure labs. This is the best thing that has happened to me in 2020,” he chuckles.

Sara Ahmed, a Mother of 4 from Saudi Arabia

Sara Ahmed

Life didn’t come easy for the 35-year-old Sara. Education is just one example. Married at age 17, she couldn’t attend university and has four daughters of her own. But as fate would have it, unlike most women from Yemen, she decided to create her own life. 

“I used to hate that many women would just watch, wish, and wait for men to improve their lives. I decided to start changing my life by myself. So I started from the beginning. I learned English and got a part-time job to save money for university tuition . Finally, at 30, I started my higher education and got a bachelor’s degree with honors in Information Technology,” she shared.

Since Sara is considered as a foreign national in Saudi Arabia, she wasn’t accepted for higher education opportunities despite all of her hard work. Sara told us, “When I enrolled in this scholarship, I wasn’t thinking I would get it. This scholarship was the first one for me, especially with a global community. 

I was so shy to participate and communicate with others at first but eventually, I found a lot of nice people ready to help me, encourage me, and be happy for my success. This scholarship really changed my view and helped me see out of the box. Being noticed and welcomed by  this wonderful community has helped me gain trust in humanity and kindness.”

These students are truly inspiring. Stay tuned as we feature some more students who transformed their lives with the Machine Learning Scholarship Program for Microsoft Azure in our next blog.

If you’re interested in gaining new skills in machine learning, enroll in our latest Machine Learning Engineer for Microsoft Azure Nanodegree Program and prepare yourself for the new world of work..

Good luck!

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Ritika Pradhan
Ritika Pradhan
Ritika is the Content Manager at Udacity and is passionate about bringing inspirational student stories to light. When not talking to the amazing Udacity students, she can be found reading an article or watching a video on the internet.