Udemy’s “Most Influential Women”

Udemy is lucky enough to work with not one, but two, of the Bay Area’s “Most Influential Women in Business”: Alexandra Sepulveda, deputy general counsel, and Claire Hough, senior vice president of engineering. These two role models inspire us with their leadership, intelligence, and compassion day in and day out.

04dc04fWe took this special opportunity to sit down with Alexandra to find out a bit more about her career and what it means to be an
influential woman. Here’s what we learned:

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in Chile. My family had a farm full of horses, barn cats, and chickens. I was what some would call a “child Dr. Doolittle,” always playing with the animals and attempting to care for the wounded chickens with way too many bandages. I wanted to become a veterinarian. That is, until high school, when I realized how much math was required. I still thought I would get there, but the SATs sealed the deal. I saw the differences in my math and verbal scores and decided to pursue my strengths instead.

What’s the most difficult professional lesson you’ve learned?

Be very careful whom you hitch your star to. It’s natural to idolize the person with the most impressive experience, but it’s important to listen to your gut, choose the right person and the right connection. Pick someone just a few steps ahead of you career-wise and not just someone with a fancy title. Many times, an experience that is closer to yours is more helpful when you’re starting out in your career.  

What inspired you to join Udemy?

My mom’s experience as a teacher in Chile. I got to experience firsthand what education can do for people’s lives, and it made a huge impact on me. Udemy offered me an opportunity to be a part of this kind of impactful work and also to work with an amazing leader in our VP of people and general counsel, Lisa Haugh.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I get to work with people who allow me to step out of the “lawyer box.” I have a lot of experience seeing how different strategies have gone right and gone very wrong. At Udemy, my opinion on important decisions and experiences outside of my legal duties are valued and encouraged.

What does being an “influential woman in business” mean to you?

I want to use it as an opportunity to put forward a different vision of what it means to be a lawyer. I use every part of myself in providing legal advice, from bad jokes to role-playing to train others on business negotiations. If I have a platform to change people’s perceptions of what a lawyer is, how a lawyer talks, and what a lawyer teaches, I’ll take it with honor.

Happy employees make customers happy #MySuccessMetric

shutterstock_150555248Popular wisdom would suggest having happy customers takes priority over happy employees. I think it’s more nuanced than that.

At Udemy, the answer was very simple at first. Any startup has to focus on market fit, growth, revenue, and customer satisfaction almost exclusively at the beginning, when survival comes before all else. However, it wasn’t long before we also figured out that employees know customers best, and happy, empowered employees lead to satisfied customers. We hired our first HR lead in 2014 when we hit 30 employees (earlier than most startups) because we had already invested heavily in our culture and wanted to ensure employee success and happiness would continue to grow along with our other metrics.

Hitting the 10-million-student mark earlier this year was a huge milestone, but we look beyond revenue and enrollment numbers to gauge our success. As CEO, I’m now focused on scalability and sustainability, and we’re tracking other critical signals to measure our success, such as course reviews to measure quality and minutes of consumption to measure engagement.

Similarly, I’ve shifted how I evaluate our success as a company internally and want to make sure our mission of helping people build the lives they imagine also applies to everyone who works here. That’s why my metric for success is employee engagement as a holistic measure of company health. When the people at Udemy are engaged, rewarded, challenged, and supported, they perform better — and that’s directly reflected in the company’s overall performance. Innovation happens at the edges, where employees touch customers directly, so it’s critical to empower people in ways that make them feel good about their roles at work and, in turn, foster positive customer interactions.

There isn’t an exact science to fostering employee satisfaction, especially at a company that’s moving and evolving so quickly, but we have a few foundational practices that ultimately drive our business success too.

  • Show me the data: We conduct engagement surveys every 6-12 months viaCulture Amp and compare our responses to other “new tech” companies through Culture Amp’s benchmarks. When I see that 96% would recommend Udemy as a great place to work (versus 83% average at other “new tech” companies), as our most recent survey showed, I know we’re doing something right. From there, we dig into the details and how we can get all the metrics upon which we base employee happiness up to that rate of approval.
  • Hire the right people: Anyone we bring on board has to identify with Udemy’s values, mission, and expectations. People who are deeply invested in the value of lifelong learning feel connected to our mission every day and that translates into superior job performance. In fact, 88% of Udemy employees say our company vision motivates them. Commitment to our mission raises student satisfaction, as they learn skills and achieve their goals, and drives employees, who value the real impact they’re having on people’s lives. Sometimes, however, we get it wrong and bring on someone who doesn’t work out. They’ll be great for another team, just not ours. The key is to recognize and fix it quickly before the rest of the team starts grumbling.
  • Go above and beyond to retain them: It’s crucial to foster an environment that supports growth and development from Day One. Millennials are an ever-increasing presence in the workforce, and they cite training and development opportunities as their number one factor in job selection, and that’s certainly an area where a learning company like Udemy can really shine. Figuring out how we can improve employee satisfaction and retention is so important to me I personally review all exit interviews. These reports contain the most truthful insights into managers and culture. Another crucial part of retention is empowering managers to move employees around to make sure every team and team member is functioning at the highest level.
  • Don’t keep them in the dark: Getting frequent feedback on job performance and transparent communication keep employees engaged in their work and the company. Our process is called the “Udemy Conversation.” It’s an ongoing dialogue between managers and workers that helps teams make on-the-fly adjustments to goals and priorities, rather than waiting for a once-a-year review period. Employees are encouraged to set ambitious goals but have support from their managers to shift focus as needed and not worry about “failing.” Our business moves fast, and our people appreciate having open channels with their managers to revisit, revise, and reprioritize their work. The flip side of this is identifying and moving out low performers efficiently.

So, sure, I check our revenue numbers and track our growth all the time, but these days, I’m really watching employee happiness as a metric of Udemy’s success. With a strong workforce and low turnover, we can continue working toward meeting our goals and helping more people access high-quality online learning resources. The impact a company makes on the world will always be its true bottom line — but it all starts with our employees being happy and deeply committed to what they do.

April 29, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Welcome to the weekend! Check out these articles for the latest on learning, teaching, and careers.

Professors hate online education. To save colleges, they have to learn to love it.
We’ve previously shared articles about how college faculty and administrators have been resisting the pull of online learning, even as their students are embracing it. Here, a professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland urges his colleagues to open their minds to what he sees as an inevitable move toward more web-based instruction.

Impress your new employer by solving problems they didn’t know they had
If you’re a creative thinker who likes puzzling through a tough challenge, employers will love you. This writer suggests looking at big problems in the workplace as perfect opportunities to take initiative and demonstrate your value.

Bill Gates: Ed tech has underachieved, but better days are ahead
The Microsoft founder has been talking about the education space a lot these days and using his tremendous influence to shine a light on how tech companies, in particular, can help improve schools in the U.S. and around the world. Udemy CEO Dennis Yang was at the ASU GSV Summit where Gates suggested focusing on three areas: effective personalized learning solutions, an evidence base that works, and adoption of proven technologies.

The career funnel is upside-down
The director of Hamilton College’s career center looks at recent research into why so many grads are “funneling” into the consulting, finance, and tech fields, and agrees with findings that colleges and universities themselves are to blame.

National Teacher of the Year: I was a teenage mom, and teachers changed my life
Here’s a wonderful feel-good story to take into the weekend. Read about Jahana Hayes, who realized her dream of becoming a high school history teacher, despite growing up in a disadvantaged area and becoming pregnant at age 17. She’ll visit the White House next week and then spend a year traveling the country “as an ambassador for a profession that has been battered and bruised by bitter debates over education policy.”

Celebrating “Best Places to Work” 2016

2016 has been off to a big start for the Udemy team — we surpassed 10 million students, acquired Talentbuddy, simplified our pricing, and launched a new course-taking experience, just to name a few. We’ve been busy making major strides toward delivering the best possible learning and teaching experiences to help people succeed. This week, we were especially excited to celebrate that hard work and the people responsible for making Udemy a place where amazing things are accomplished every day.

We pride ourselves on a culture that encourages innovation, creativity, passion, and teamwork, and it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones who think so ;)

For the second year in a row, the San Francisco Business Times named Udemy a Best Place to Work in the Bay Area!” We ranked 14th on the list of mid-size companies in the top 125, and celebrated the honor in style. Here’s a peek of our champagne brunch festivities:

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PS. We’re hiring!


April 22, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Hey, it’s Friday! Got big plans for the weekend?

Scale up your CV through digital learning
First up, read our CEO Dennis Yang’s advice to working adults in India looking to get (and stay) ahead in their careers.

After years of intensive analysis, Google discovers the key to good teamwork is being nice
So much of our work these days requires cross-team collaboration, sometimes even among people in different locations. While you might think the most important success factor is who’s on your team, Google found, as the headline says, being respectful and considerate of others is the real “magic formula.”

The average 29-year-old
We’re all guilty to some extent of generalizing when we talk about Baby Boomers or millennials or twenty-somethings. This article, with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dispels many popular assumptions to show that “most people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s (a) didn’t graduate from college, (b) aren’t living in a city, and (c) generally hate being called ‘millennials.’”

Greater competition for college places means higher anxiety too
Just the latest dispatch from the crazy world of higher ed, where would-be students are applying to more schools with the help of the Common Application and schools are celebrating “their record-setting applicant pools.” The sad underlying truth is that high school seniors are just playing a numbers game, trying to up their chances of being accepted anywhere at all.

How to avoid extinction in today’s business world
Yvonne Wassenaar is the CIO of software analytics company New Relic, and she shared some words of wisdom at the Girls in Tech Catalyst conference. Here are some highlights, such as how women can overcome the fear of failing and not being perfect.  

India: Scale Up Your CV Through Digital Learning

shutterstock_236322589This article originally appeared on IndiaPages.

How do you keep learning and gaining new skills when you’re working full-time and don’t have easy access to local resources or training through your employer?

Given the rapid pace of change in today’s workplace and the increase in occupations impacted by automation, the question is hardly theoretical. Indeed, earning a university degree is no longer adequate preparation for sustaining one’s career over a lifetime. We’ve reached a critical juncture in our global economy where everyone needs to embrace lifelong learning and take initiative for upskilling themselves — but not everyone knows where to go for that type of education.

For more and more Indians, the answer has been to go online. My company, Udemy, typically sees the strongest demand in areas with young populations with growing technical economies, which describes India to a tee. We currently have almost a thousand India-based instructors teaching more than 3,300 courses, and more than a million Indian students are enrolled in our courses (a figure that’s more than doubled over the past year).

These include students like Harsh Raj, 27, of Bhubaneswar, who took sales and marketing courses so he could move into a different field of work;Vivekanand Avasarala, 33, of Mumbai, who supplemented his logistics/finance degree with courses in algorithms, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence; and Amer Deep Gurung, 36, of Pune, who’s been working in IT for more than a dozen years but needs to keep up with new technologies and frameworks like AngularJS.

Overcome barriers of time and space

We’re actually just at the beginning of seeing the potential impact of online learning in India, but the demand is clearly there. By extending access beyond physical classrooms, online learning can help mitigate the need, expense, and logistical complications of in-person training and maximize use of existing educational resources.

Moreover, online learning does a better job connecting students to the most relevant and sought-after skills for today’s workplace, especially India’s hot tech startup scene. In India, entrepreneurship skills are among the fastest-growing courses by enrollment on Udemy, while core technical skills such as web development and programming are the most popular categories overall.

Whether hoping to launch a startup or work for one, Indian professionals don’t necessarily have the time, money, or desire to return to full-time education. Online learning fills the gaps in someone’s skill set with actionable knowledge that can be applied as soon as it’s gained. That’s a huge selling point for working adults who aren’t interested in theory and prefer to dive directly into the instruction that will help them reach their career goals quickly. [Read more…]

April 15, 2016: Friday News Roundup

It’s tax day in the U.S., so if you haven’t finished your return, perhaps you should head over to the marketplace and find a course to help you meet the midnight deadline. If you’ve already filed, just kick back and check out this week’s news.

The next hot job in Silicon Valley is for poets
Here’s a possible ray of hope for wordsmiths wondering how their skills fit into today’s technology- and data-centric workplace. Behind tools like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana are teams of novelists, comedians, and scriptwriters who give personality and backstories to those virtual assistants as well as productivity and medical apps.  

Students not after certificates now
In this Q&A Udemy CEO Dennis Yang discusses online learning trends in India. As he explains, India has a huge population of young people but is facing a shortage of schools and teachers. According to Dennis, “Online learning can help scale existing resources without building an entirely new infrastructure by opening more access to education outside of the traditional classroom and providing an opportunity for teachers to reach larger numbers of students online.”

Shedding light on our leadership development crisis
Why do companies spend $50 billion every year on professional development programs when only 37% of leaders say they’re effective? Great question. This opinion piece suggests most of those programs focus too much on teaching workers how to “do” something better without helping them learn how to “be” better. Developing self-awareness among employees is an essential step in grooming people to become leaders.

Forget millennials — why you should hire someone over 55
Surprise — older workers actually know a thing or two about “how businesses work, have important people and office skills, and often require less training to get up to speed.” According to another staffing expert, “They also communicate well. Years of navigating the workplace environment often give them the diplomatic skills to navigate the workplace.” It’s true, however, that they might not bring as much value to the office hacky-sack circle…

Why teachers on TV have to be incompetent or inspiring
Have you ever noticed how teachers are portrayed in your favorite TV shows and movies? This article makes a strong case that they’re usually depicted as bumbling idiots (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) or heroes of the inner city (“Dangerous Minds”). Rarely do they show the difficult work of teaching. This might make for fun entertainment, but it isn’t giving would-be teachers a realistic image of their profession and might even be driving some away.

Unearth these hidden gems on Udemy

Hidden GemsMany people associate Udemy with courses on tech, business, and professional development, and it’s true those are popular categories, but they hardly represent the full breadth of courses you can find in our marketplace. Spend some time digging through our library, and we guarantee you’ll come across some unexpected offerings on more obscure topics. While these courses may not attract the following of a Python programming course, each has an instructor who was passionate and committed enough to create a course and share their knowledge with the world.

With that in mind, we bring you Udemy’s Hidden Gems, a recurring blog feature where we’ll introduce you to courses from the deeper reaches of our marketplace. They’re the kinds of courses that might inspire you to start a new hobby or just give you something new and quirky to spark conversation at a dinner party.

To kick us off, DQ and Caroline from our quality team have assembled this first batch of hidden gems and tell us why these courses deserve their moment in the spotlight.

As a follow-up to Women’s History Month, here are some new engaging and creative courses by female Udemy instructors that combine great content with outstanding production values.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 3.17.53 PMThe Secret to a Bird- and Butterfly-Filled Backyard
What we liked: With her enthusiasm and colorful presentation style, landscape designer Linda Kelso will convince anyone with a backyard to make their thumb a little greener. This course steps students through how to cultivate a thriving ecosystem of helpful birds and insects to protect your home and garden.

Wedding Guide: Planning and Saving Money on Your Wedding Day
What we liked: Planning a wedding is a massive ordeal. The instructor of this course has years of experience in the wedding business as videographer and presents her content with crystal-like clarity, taking students through common pitfalls and decisions better than your best friend or bridesmaids ever could!

Calligraphy for Beginners: Creating Strong LinesScreen Shot 2016-04-14 at 3.17.36 PM
What we liked: Anyone who enjoys the feeling of putting pen to paper will love this project-based introduction to the Pilot Parallel Pen. Instructor Alice Young has an infectious personality and is a calligrapher and designer with a decade of experience working for multinational ad agencies.

Periscope: How to Improve Your Scopes and Grow Followers
What we liked: Vickie Maris goes beyond the basics of Periscope broadcasting to share insightful tips for building your brand and influence. Through the screen, you can feel that Vickie really wants you to succeed, which may be all the motivation you need to become a Periscope superstar.

Drone Masterclass: Your Complete Guide to DJI Drones 
What we liked: The video quality for this course is amazing! Kate Kay is a professional photographer who is using her skills to immerse students in the world of drones. The course is very comprehensive and breaks down all of the things you’ll need to get outside and fly your drone for the first time.

And here are a few more gems we just had to include too!

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 3.20.43 PMDrumming for Beginners – Simple Way to Learn How to Drum
What we liked: Hugh Edwards is just so excited to teach new students how to drum. He makes the learning process very approachable by giving students a variety of options for how they can practice — including using  pots and pans you have in your home! 

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 3.17.24 PMCooking Class – 12 Brunch Sandwich Maker Recipes From Japan
What we liked: This cooking class does such a great job of walking students step by step through every unique sandwich recipe. We love the time-lapse video and camera angle, which gives students a unique view of the instructor at work in the kitchen.

Ultra Memory Masterclass – Improve Your Memory Today
What we liked: Awesome tips and hacks on how to improve memory in all aspects of your daily life. Bob Kittell does such a thorough job of walking students through every example, you’ll really feel like you can apply the skills you learn  immediately.

Announcing Our New Student Course-Taking Experience

View this message in: EspañolDeutsch日本語, or Português.

Here at Udemy, we’re committed to building the best place to learn online and helping our 10 million students achieve their learning goals. Today, we’re thrilled to release a new course-taking experience, completely rebuilt with a learning-first approach.

Learning science, user research, and your input helped shape the improved experience. Now, course content is front and center, and you have more ways than ever to tailor your learning.

What’s new:

  • Immerse yourself: A full-screen course player minimizes distractions so that you can get the most out of your time on Udemy.
  • Control the pace: Player controls and keyboard shortcuts enable you to easily speed up, slow down, or replay parts of lectures. Learning at your own speed has never been easier.
  • Save moments for later: Annotate and access the parts of courses that are most important to you using Bookmarks (formerly called Notes).
  • Get answers… fast: Quickly find answers to your questions and view the most popular ones. Help other students by marking responses as helpful or replying to a question. Discussions are now Questions.

The redesigned course-taking experience is the latest example of our dedication to making learning on Udemy more rewarding, relevant, and accessible. And this is just the start. We’re constantly exploring new ways to evolve our platform, ensuring students learn what they set out to achieve.

Rob Wong is VP of Product at Udemy.

PayPal Invests in Workplace Skills Development with Rollout of Udemy for Business

Rapid change is the new normal in today’s fast-paced workplace. The work of the future requires a commitment to developing the skills of our workforce today. That’s why PayPal Learning is taking a big step in investing more in the skills training and development of its employees with the rollout of a new learning platform, Udemy for Business.

Once live, 5,000 PayPal employees in offices around the world will gain access to Udemy for Business’ high-quality content library of over 1,600 courses on a variety of topics ranging from programming and leadership skills to meditation and stress management. Courses are taught by world class experts such as Guy Kawasaki and Rob Percival, and well known educational institutions including the Drucker Institute and Wiley and Sons. Courses are continually added to the content library each month, ensuring that PayPal employees have access to the most sought-after skills.

Courses are available on-demand and PayPal employees can take them at their own pace across web and mobile devices – providing the flexibility for employees to learn what they want, at the precise moment of need. A dynamic online course experience allows students to speed up the pace of instruction, bookmark important tutorials, or save the lecture for future reference.

In addition to the curated library of courses, PayPal sees great opportunity to host its own training materials on its Udemy for Business learning platform. “We are constantly seeking new ways to empower PayPal employees to succeed and thrive. The flexibility of Udemy for Business allows us to put continuous learning right at the fingertips of our employees in a modern, meaningful way,” said PayPal Chief Learning Officer, Derek Hann.

“PayPal is on the cutting edge of everything they do and their approach to learning and development is no exception. We are thrilled to collaborate with PayPal as they continue to invest in developing their employees by arming them with the most advanced skills,” added Udemy for Business General Manager, Darren Shimkus.

PayPal will introduce employees to these new learning resources at their upcoming Learning Fair which builds excitement around their employee learning initiatives.

[Read more…]