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Udacity Scholarship Program Stories: 'Explore Ways To Improve Daily Life!'

AI Track

Participants in the still ongoing second round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program report on their experience with the nanodegree course. Applications for the third round of the scholarship program opened on October 5. Its participants will acquire extensive professional skills in the areas of cloud, data and artificial intelligence.

October 5 marked the launch of the third and final round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program (see interview with Steven Moran, Bertelsmann's CLO or launch article). Around 40,000 people from all over the world have already applied for a scholarship in the fields of cloud, data, or artificial intelligence. They will have the opportunity to acquire extensive expertise and ultimately an internationally accredited degree in one of these three fields over six months, while continuing to work their regular jobs. As in previous years, many Bertelsmann employees are also taking part – or are still considering applying for a scholarship – which is why we give you some insights into the second round in a three-part series. After two participants reported on their experiences with the Cloud track and two others on the Data track, in this final part Brizza Abadier and Carina Kopp share their experiences and views on the course they completed to become AI Product Managers. This course offered in the second round of the scholarship program required no previous knowledge and was therefore ideally suited for interested beginners. With a share of 43 percent, this course also had the most applications.

Rekindling ‘first love’

Brizza Abadier works as a Technical Consultant at Arvato Systems in Malaysia.

“I’ve always loved AI ever since my student days,” she says. “However, my career path is now towards web development, and this scholarship was an opportunity for me to rekindle my first love.” She says she has been able to learn together with other people – and this exchange with like-minded people has increased her interest in the subject even more. Abadier says she is very pleased with the Udacity program itself. “Coming from a different tech field, I was glad that the AI track dealt with the fundamentals of AI,” she says, adding that this made it easier for her to get through the topics as they progressively became more comprehensive and complex. “The real-world examples in each module were also helpful for me to see the possibilities of using AI in our day-to-day lives.” The final project then enabled her to use AI to find a solution to a problem she was passionate about, which she believes will benefit many other people in the long run as well. “So overall, it was a very fruitful experience for me because each module was tailored from learning the basics up to advanced applications,” says the Arvato Systems employee.

One of the biggest challenges for her – and perhaps for many other colleagues working full-time – was time management. For example, she scheduled part of her study timetable, for projects and discussions with other fellow students, to take place during her free time.

“I quickly got into the habit of setting aside a certain amount of time each day to study, even if I had a long day at work,” says Abadier. She also said that the Udacity study plan calendar helped her to study at her own pace while meeting many other scholarship students who were supportive and helpful in answering her questions. “That helped me to stay motivated and focused on finishing the course,” says Abadier. She is currently in the process of improving an IT solution she developed that is related to media production. “Having AI in it will have a significant impact on the user experience and the business model,” she is certain. Among other things, automating workflows for users based on their media assets should help them be more efficient, she says. In sum, Brizza Abadier would recommend the Udacity fellowship program to anyone who loves exploring the endless possibilities of applying new technologies to improve our day-to-day lives. “Also, for those people who love to learn new things with other people, this program offers collaborative learning and is open for everyone who shares the same passions with you.”

‘To better understand how AI impacts everyday life’

Carina Kopp from Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe in Germany is another Udacity Technology Scholarship Program graduate in the field of AI. As Manager Digital Development, she is responsible for the publishing group’s digital product portfolio, such as apps, as well as voice control, e.g. using Alexa skills. She also works on the online coaching platform and is always on the lookout for digital innovations and new product ideas. She applied for the scholarship program “to better understand how artificial intelligence affects our everyday lives and what implications the technologies could have for the publishing group,” she explains. Besides, she says, it is of course exciting to discover what new business models are possible using AI. She says the course taught her the basics of deep learning, machine learning, and AI, allowed her to work on predictive and classification models and automatic image recognition, and introduced her to different data platforms.

“The biggest challenge for me was to get through the complex topics and find the time to study,” says Kopp. She also says that settling into the program, recognizing what opportunities the Udacity community offers, and organizing herself was definitely time-consuming. Still, she managed to complete the Nanodegree program well alongside her job and other challenges, such as the Covid situation. “During lockdown, I easily found the time to do it and was very happy to be able to use that time meaningfully,” she says. “What helped me a lot in organizing myself was the Udacity Schedule Planner feature, which allowed me to create my own schedule and have little reminder emails sent to me every day.”

Knowing that artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important and now that she is much more aware of the possibilities of the technology, the Penguin Random House colleague now wants to try and advance the e-commerce business’s technology at

“For anyone who wants to explore AI on a deeper level and understand how the technology can impact their own work through hands-on learning materials and the development of models, I can only recommend the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program,” says Carina Kopp.

Apply by November 30

Especially all Bertelsmann employees interested in a Udacity Scholarship Program in the fields of cloud, data, or artificial intelligence: Apply now until November 30 for the third round of the scholarship program, in which 15,000 participants will initially take a “Challenge” course. Check out the #UdacityTechScholars landingpage or our program website for the Udacity Tech Scholarship.

Tip: It's also worth asking your respective HR department how your own company is involved in and supports this scholarship program.



Data Track

On October 5, the third and last round of the “Udacity Technology Scholarship Program” started. In the first few days of the application phase, around 12,900 people from all over the world have already applied for a scholarship in the fields of cloud, data or artificial intelligence. They will have the chance to acquire extensive expertise and ultimately an internationally accredited degree in one of these fields within six months, while continuing to work their regular jobs. As in previous years, many Bertelsmann employees will also consider applying for a scholarship. After two participants reported on their experience with the Cloud track in the first installment, two participants from the Data track now share their experience and views. Ferudun Ulutanriverdi at Arvato Systems in Latvia and Michael Rakowski at Gruner + Jahr in Hamburg have just completed their “Predictive Analytics for Business” nanodegree. 

‘A Wonderful Experience’

“I wanted to enhance my knowledge in predictive analytics as I already had some background from my Bachelor’s,” says Ferudun Ulutanriverdi, SAP Purchasing and Inventory Consultant at Arvato Systems, explaining why he was interested in the scholarship program in general, and this Udacity course in particular. “The course was basically at a quality level of a high quality university,” he tells us. “I was very much surprised by how well they organized the whole thing.” He says the instructors who led the course were all really great and did their best to explain their topics in the clearest possible way, and adds that the evaluation of the projects was just as good as evaluations of exam papers at university. “It feels so amazing that as an employee, you feel that you are supported by your company.” He says the greatest challenge was in motivating himself to apply. Nor was it too difficult to reconcile his work, personal life and studies. “I used my free time outside of work,” says Ferudun. “The topic was interesting for me so it was not a huge challenge.” In the end, it took him about two months to finish the course, a month ahead of the deadline. Ferudun is planning to apply the models and use predictive analytics to enhance the results in his investment portfolio. However this is a long-term project, and won’t happen in the near future, he says. “I would recommend the program to anyone who is willing to put some effort to learn a new set of skills.” Udacity nanodegree programs are the right address for acquiring solid knowledge and experience on the topics provided. All in all, he says, “it was a wonderful experience and now I have deep knowledge of predictive analytics!” 

‘The important thing is to study regularly’

Michael Rakowski, Deputy Head of Gruner + Jahr’s Manufacturing department, which is responsible for purchasing printing services for G+J, also took part in the “Predictive Analytics for Business” nanodegree program.

“I wanted to learn digital skills to make myself fit for the future,” he says, explaining his interest. “I graduated from university more than 20 years ago, and I’ll be working for a long time yet. Change is happening faster and faster, and the demands on people are getting higher. Learning will be a constant part of my future. The program came at just the right time.” He says that the program actually exceeded his expectations. “I wasn’t sure at the beginning if I could do it. I wasn’t used to digital learning, let alone in English. But the program is designed in such a way that you can do it. I didn’t expect that at all.” The challenge for Michael Rakowski was organizing the study times for himself, alongside a full-time job and family time. “In the beginning, I wasn’t used to hearing everything in English. But I slowed down the language speed at first, and wrote down and learned all the new vocabulary. After two weeks, I could understand almost everything and could listen to the videos at normal speed,” he reports. Working from home also made things easier. “I put in a lot of the time I would have normally spent commuting to work. In the morning before work and a bit of time after work. It worked out wonderfully that way.” When a tricky assignment came up, he said, his family gave him the space to study on the weekends once in a while. “The important thing is to study regularly and keep at it, then the time commitment is manageable,” he tells us. “During the week, 30 to 60 minutes a day is enough.” Michael Rakowski is sure that his newly acquired knowledge will help him in his day-to-day work. “I analyze quite a bit of data in my work. Mapping the data will definitely look better now, for example. Also, I’ve joined the Tech & Data Community at Bertelsmann now. I definitely want to continue building my skills and be an active participant there.” Rakowski recommends the program to anyone who has some interest in the topics offered. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about emerging topics.”

All Bertelsmann employees interested in a Udacity Scholarship Program in the areas of cloud, data, or artificial intelligence have until November 30 to apply for the third round of the scholarship program, in which 15,000 participants will initially take a “Challenge Course". One tenth of this cohort will then have the opportunity to go on to one of the respective advanced courses and earn a nanodegree.



Cloud Track

‘I’d Advise Anyone To Participate In A Program Like This’

­­Participants in the current round of the Udacity Technology Scholarship Program report on their experiences with the nanodegree course, which is now being extended by two months. The application phase for the third round of the scholarship program begins on October 5. Course participants will acquire extensive expertise in the fields of Cloud, Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Over a six-month period, they acquire extensive expertise in the fields of Cloud, Data, and Artificial Intelligence, tackling complex challenges and practical tasks to eventually earn an internationally accredited degree: What the 1,600 participants in the current round of the Bertelsmann-sponsored Udacity Tech Scholarship Program – including 335 colleagues from Bertelsmann companies – are currently accomplishing in addition to their regular jobs is enormous and, in light of the pandemic that has now been ongoing for a year and a half, an even greater feat than usual. Because of this special hardship, they are now being given two more months to complete their nanodegree. Normally, their studies, which they are completing as part of the second round of Bertelsmann’s “#50000Chances” scholarship initiative launched in 2019, would have ended on September 24. October will see the launch of the third round, which BENET will report on in detail. Overall, the participants in the current round are very appreciative of the course they have completed. In a BENET series, several of them talk about how they managed to stay on the ball and keep their motivation levels up during these particularly challenging times, as well as why they applied for the scholarship program in the first place. Today we start with participants of the most challenging track in this round, the Cloud Track.

‘Projects are very valuable’

It is made up of around 340 students who opted for the “Cloud Developer Using Microsoft Azure” course. Unlike the other two programs, this course required some prior knowledge. Previously, Bertelsmann employees and other external interested parties from around the world had successfully completed the introductory Challenge Course and were able to take a full Udacity nanodegree based on their good performance. For Artur Stepniak, RPA Developer at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions in Poland, Udacity offers an excellent learning model overall, including practical exercises and projects.

“The projects in particular are very valuable,” he says. “They are structured in a way that matches the course content really well. I also wanted to improve my technical skills.” The biggest challenge, he says, was dealing with subject areas that he was previously unfamiliar with as part of the project work – e.g. most recently Microsoft Azure’s resource/application management. And of course, he says, it has been tough to keep up with studies on top of his job and during the coronavirus pandemic. “It was only possible by creating a very tight schedule,” says Stepniak. “I mainly studied in the evenings and did the exercises when my kids were asleep. It wouldn’t have worked any other way.” But, he says, it allowed him to acquire plenty of expertise that he is already using in his daily work. “I use my knowledge from the nanodegree to design robotic process automation (RPA) processes as efficiently as possible,” explains Stepniak, adding that knowledge of Microsoft Azure gives him the opportunity to use cloud resources in business processes and recommend the best solution for a problem at any given time. He recommends the Udacity scholarship program in general and the course he completed in particular: “I’d advise anyone to participate in a program like this. It’s a great opportunity, provided for free by Bertelsmann, to expand your skillset and become a more qualified employee. The knowledge covered in the courses is very important, even outside our work,” he says.


The application phase for the third round begins on October 5

Manuel Tospann, Senior Enterprise Application Integration Consultant in the Commerce division at Arvato Systems in Gütersloh, can only agree with this positive assessment. He deals with consulting and development on application integrations and, in this context, with Microsoft products on a daily basis. For the past year, the focus has been entirely on Microsoft Azure.

“I saw the scholarship program’s Cloud track as an opportunity to expand my list of Azure tools and services, build on my rudimentary Python knowledge, and put my theoretical Git software experience into practice,” says Tospann. The course material provides a good overview of the topics needed for the projects. Udacity also offers many free courses, such as ‘Introduction to Python Programming’, which I used to help me get started with the exercises and projects,” says the Arvato Systems expert. This allowed him to easily master the exercises after each section without further research. The projects are 80 percent a combination of the course exercises – “and the other 20 percent made the projects a little more exciting for me,” explains Tospann. “I especially liked the fact that the projects showed the interplay of many different Azure services.” On the other hand, a high level of attentiveness was often required for the course material, he adds. Microsoft frequently updates the Azure platform, so some of the screenshots included in the course material were already outdated as new versions had been released. He, too, followed a tightly structured timetable to manage his course load. “I found it helpful to set aside several time slots in the day for nanodegree study,” says Tospann. “I was able to review course material most efficiently in the evening and work on the project for that section early in the morning.” The knowledge he gained, he says, enabled him to add new Azure services to his toolbox, giving him a better perspective on requirements and finding the best approach. He said he could only recommend that anyone looking to get into software development in the Azure environment, or to deepen their knowledge, apply for the Udacity Scholarship Program and take away something from it. And he also has a tip for applicants: “Udacity rates the difficulty level for this nanodegree as intermediate. But no one should be put off by the requirement of ‘one to three years of experience in Python.’ Previous knowledge of other programming languages and the aforementioned Python course are sufficient to be able to familiarize yourself with Python relatively quickly,” he reports based on his experience.

All Bertelsmann employees who are interested in a Udacity Scholarship Program in the fields of Cloud, Data, and Artificial Intelligence should mark October 5 in their calendars. That is when the application phase begins for the third round of the scholarship program, in which an 15,000 participants can initially take a Challenge Course. Ten percent of them will have the opportunity to go on to one of the more advanced courses and graduate with a nanodegree.



‘#50000Chances’: Halftime For Current Round Of Scholarship Initiative

In the second round of its “#50000Chances” scholarship initiative, Bertelsmann offered 1,600 participants the chance to earn a full Udacity nanodegree. They could choose between three degrees: “Cloud Developer with Azure,” “Predictive Analytics for Business” and “AI Product Manager.” The six-month courses are now halfway over. 

Bertelsmann introduced the “50000 Chances” Udacity Technology Scholarship Program to support the development of future-critical tech skills over a period of three years. This year, in the second part of the global scholarship initiative, 5,000 participants successfully completed the Challenge Course in March. The completion rate of 33 percent was significantly higher than the average rate of around 25 percent for other external scholarships of this kind. The completion rate for Bertelsmann employees was once again well above that of overall participants, rising even further to 48 percent.

Bertelsmann Chief Learning Officer Steven Moran said: “I’m especially pleased again this year to see the high participation rate of Bertelsmann employees. Their sustained motivation to further their training and acquire important skills in these tech disciplines, driven by the accelerated digitization of our businesses, is something I’m very happy about.”

1,600 of the participants in the Challenge course were given the chance to subsequently earn a full Udacity nanodegree. “Cloud Developer with Azure”, “Predictive Analytics for Business” and “AI Product Manager” were the degrees available for selection. These courses recently celebrated their half-way mark, so it’s been more than three months since they started. This year, due to Corona restrictions, the lively interaction between students is taking place entirely in the virtual realm: Learners worldwide meet for self-organized online learning groups, and the corporate divisions also organize virtual networking sessions to support the exchange among the students.

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