digital talent transformation - Software Developer - student success stories - Udacity partnerships

Underdog Devs + Udacity = Transformed Talent Success

Udacity is committed to partnering with organizations to sponsor scholarship programs for underrepresented groups and one partnership is with UnderDog Devs. 

UnderDog Devs, founded in September of 2020, is a group of software developers supporting the formerly incarcerated & disadvantaged in their transition into the software industry.  The organization is run entirely by volunteers and has raised enough funding to pay their learners a stipend while they learn to code so they can focus 100% of their time on learning new skills to achieve a job in tech that will truly transform their lives.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 67.8% of released state prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years, and 76.7% were arrested within five years (Durose, Cooper, & Snyder, 2014).  Reducing recidivism not only protects society at large, but also improves the life quality of individual ex-prisoners.

Read on to learn about Rick Wolter, founder of UnderDog Devs and how the partnership with Udacity is making a difference in the lives of formerly incarcerated and economically disadvantaged individuals.

Rick’s story

Rick grew up in the Orlando, FL and a lack of parental direction led him to running with the wrong crowd and getting in trouble. He eventually ending up in prison when he was 18 years old due to a bad choice.  Rick used his  time in prison to learn about programming and immersed himself in the culture through reading and listening to podcasts.

Upon leaving prison, Rick was able to get into a college program and eventually landed a software engineering job.  He wanted to help others learn how to program and land a job after being released from prison.  He created a community with weekly meetings, open houses and now they are over 500 members strong.

Rick reached out to Udacity in August 2021 asking if Udacity would be willing to support UnderDog Devs by providing Nanodegrees to support 10 of his students. 

Many people may be ready to upskill, but lack the time, focus, and resources to dedicate the months necessary to be ready to interview for software development roles.  They have to financially support themselves and their families, while studying and learning. 

These impactful “needs” created a program called Project Underdog where 8-12 mentees are paired with weekly mentors to prepare them to secure a software engineering job by the end of the program.  They are given 3-months of financial assistance so they can focus on their goals.

Project Underdog Student Success Stories

Over 30 students have gone through Project Underdogs and Rick reports back  that “nearly everyone who took part in our stipend program and enrolled in a Nanodegree was hired, mentioning that they attribute much of their success to Udacity.” Here are few of the graduate’s stories.

  • Richard Dixon – Software Engineer, Corso Systems
    “I appreciate Udacity so much for access to their platform. I took the Full Stack Web Development course dealing with Node, Angular and PostgreSQL. I learned a lot and it was very valuable especially with regards to seeing how the backend connects to the frontend and knowing about migrations with SQL on the backend as I was only using MongoDB before the course.  I would definitely advise a course like this for someone looking to get into programming.”
  • Ryan Dayton – Android Developer, Rekor
    “I’m a felon and construction worker so trying to become a software engineer was a daunting task. I really think that if I wasn’t part of Underdog Devs and didn’t have access to the resources they provide, like Udacity, I wouldn’t have become an Android developer. I was able to go through the Udacity Nanodegree with the help of my Underdog Devs mentors plus the ones provided by Udacity. After the Nanodegree I was more familiar with the Android platform and was able to use the course projects for my resume. Which was one of the reasons I was able to land my first developer role.”
  • Will McQuaid – Software Engineer, Pilot
    “Udacity, in combination with support from Underdog Devs, has made all the difference. Udacity gave me the structure and quality content that is difficult to find. I’ve gone from making no more than 15 dollars an hour doing what I hate to six figures doing what I love. I’m a formerly incarcerated felon and I really don’t think I could have done it on my own. I owe Udacity and Underdog Devs so much. I wanted to change my life and they helped me do just that.”
  • Juan Mariscal – iOS Developer,  West500
    “I’ve wanted to learn iOS programming for a long time but never could get far by trying by myself with free resources.  There’s just too much information and you don’t know what is legit. This is where Udacity shined. It has some very well done content and a direct path of learning. I was able to learn iOS much faster simply by having content I could trust. I would definitely recommend the iOS program at Udacity.”
  • Tavon Gibbs – iOS Intern
    “I did the iOS Nanodegree and absolutely loved it. It really helped me by giving awesome feedback on  my projects.  They made sure I understood the things I could improve on. Between that and Underdog Devs I was really set up for success. I received  an internship with  the skills I learned at Udacity and I couldn’t be happier.”

Moving Forward with Udacity

Udacity has been the perfect platform for what Rick envisioned as a partnership for Underdog Devs. Mentors and mentees had something clear, specific direction within a set timeframe. The organization has zero operating costs and is run entirely by volunteers.  One superstar is Jessica McKellar, who trains all the mentors who help the mentees.  Having walked in the shoes of many of the people who go through the program, Rick believes in “growing flowers, not picking flowers”. 

Learn more about Underdog Devs:
Apple’s Beyond WWDC

Monique Roberts
Monique Roberts
Monique enjoys traveling, photography, and connecting with Udacity students around the world in addition to writing about digital transformation, career upskilling, and innovative technologies.