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"A Chance To Learn At My Own Pace" | AI Student Stories

Last September, Bertelsmann launched the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program, a new, comprehensive scholarship initiative. Upon completion of the initial Challenge Course, the top ten percent of graduates received a scholarship for a full-fledged Udacity Nanodegree program in the fields of cloud, data or artificial intelligence. Employees of all Bertelsmann companies were also eligible to qualify for one of the three Nanodegree programs as part of the professional development initiative. In an interview with BENET, some of them talk about their experience with the “Udacity Technology Scholarship Program. 

In the third and final part of our series, Julia Xu, Senior Director Strategy and Investments/M&A at BMG in the U.S., Patrick Guiran, Technical Head of Data and Emailing at Prisma Media in France, Iris Tan, Senior Technical Consultant in the Microsoft Business Unit at Arvato Systems in Malaysia, and Paolo de Luca, CRM Operator at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions in Italy talk, among other things, about what they learned in the “Deep Learning” Nanodegree program, how they can apply the acquired knowledge in their jobs, and what they especially enjoyed about the course.

BENET: Please describe your experience with the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program for us. 

Julia Xu: The scholarship was a very rewarding experience for me. Beyond the knowledge gained, it also provided me with an opportunity to engage and connect with like-minded individuals.

Paolo de Luca: It was quite challenging. I worked on projects for at least an hour a day. With this constancy I was able to understand what we have been taught. It wasn’t always easy, but I managed to overcome the difficulties with the commitment and help of the other participants and mentors.

Iris Tan: The quality of the course is very good. All of the tutors in the course are very professional and able to explain the syllabus in a clear and easy-to-follow way. I liked that they also provided additional resources for us in many of the lessons. And the tests during the course help to check whether we have really understood the course.

BENET: Please describe your experience with the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program for us.

Patrick Guiran: The Nanodegree is about machine learning and artificial intelligence. Among other things we learned to predict events based on historical data or to automatically detect elements in pictures and videos. 

Iris Tan: In this Nanodegree we learned about different kinds of artificial neural networks and used them to perform tasks like classification, prediction, feature extraction, and generating new data from a training set. During the course, we learned the basics of deep learning, and towards the end how to deploy an artificial neural network (ANN) on the AWS Sagemaker platform. 

Paolo de Luca: The Nanodegree program explores the various techniques used in artificial intelligence. In the field of neural networks, for example, we worked on a bike-sharing prediction model. Based on data from previous years, we developed models that predict how many people would rent a bike on a given day. After dealing with the subject of Artificial Neural Networks, we tackled the subject of Convolutional Neural Networks via image recognition, for example using images of different dog breeds. We also dealt with Recurrent Neural Networks and Generative Adversarial Networks as well as Sentiment Analysis. The latter was about recognizing the sentiment of a film review, i.e. whether it was positive or negative towards the movie, and then applying this model via the provider AWS on any device as a HTML file. 

BENET: What did you especially like about the Nanodegree program, and what was the challenge for you personally? 

Paolo de Luca: I especially liked the objectives of the proposed projects because they were completely new and original compared to classic programming courses. This motivated me to continue the course. The challenge for me was to understand these programs to be able to modify them and adapt them to my ideas to obtain new results.

Iris Tan: As a mother of two children, it’s difficult for me to find time to study. But the Nanodegree gave me the chance to learn at my own pace. I like the Udacity scheduler planner feature, which allows us to plan our study plan our study and how many hours we spend on the course on which days. 

Julia Xu: I really enjoy the coding projects, as they provide hands-on experience applying the concepts learned in the classroom and allow me to dust off my coding skills. The fact that our code was reviewed by industry experts gave us invaluable feedback on how to improve. Balancing the course with my job was a good lesson in time management. 

BENET: How did you manage to complete the Nanodegree program alongside your job? 

Julia Xu: I used the time after work to study, which often resulted in late-night coding sessions. 

Patrick Guiran: The secret is: Have a schedule and stick to it. I mostly worked on the Nanodegree in the evenings, after work and also after spending time with my family. This was the best way for me to study undisturbed. 

Paolo de Luca: Before the lockdown, I had planned to study in the evenings after 10 p.m., after my children had gone to bed. During the lockdown, I changed my schedule and studied early in the morning. As I work part-time, I was able to manage it all well. 

Iris Tan: I spent one or two hours each day on the Nanodegree before going to bed. My husband took care of the kids in the evening so I could concentrate on my studies. 

BENET: How are you able to use the knowledge from the Nanodegree program in your everyday work? 

Paolo de Luca: The model that I could make good use of in my job is what we learned from the bike-sharing example. I’d like to deepen my knowledge of it and study projects about e-commerce. 

Patrick Guiran: During the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program, you are always learning new skills in the context of your everyday work. This makes it very easy to find opportunities to apply them in your own work. 

Iris Tan: Machine learning is getting more and more relevant to our day-to-day life. With the knowledge gained from the Deep-Learning Nanodegree program I am able to create applications or machines that help to simplify and automate complex tasks that used to require human interaction. 

Julia Xu: I work with a lot of startups, connecting innovative technology with our business divisions. Artificial intelligence is an increasingly hot topic in the tech community. The knowledge gained through this Nanodegree helps me engage with, vet, and understand the companies I work with on a deeper level. Understanding artificial intelligence in greater detail also helps me think about the ways in which a technology can impact and improve our business. 

About the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program 

Over a period of three years, Bertelsmann is funding 50,000 tech scholarships on the Udacity online education platform (see BENET report). Each year, the initiative awards 15,000 scholarships for the “Challenge Course” in the fields of Cloud, Data and AI, followed by 1,600 scholarships for the Nanodegree program. 

In the second round of the scholarship initiative, Bertelsmann will offer the Cloud Nanodegree with a focus on the cloud computing provider Azure, the “Predictive Analytics for Business” Nanodegree program, and the “AI Product Manager” program. Applications for these programs will be accepted starting September 15, 2020. The scholarship is aimed equally at people with and without programming or IT experience. 

If you would like to be notified about the start of the application phase, please click on the following link to register for an automatic email notification: (benet)

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