From Humanities Major to Sofware Engineer: Amy Weiner on working at Udemy

At Udemy, we believe that people can be and do anything if given the opportunity to learn. Our own Amy Weiner shares her journey from an undergraduate humanities major to a Udemy software engineer.

DSC_9850What is your educational background?

I graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Jewish Studies, and minoring in both Environmental Science and Modern Hebrew Language. Thereafter, I attended Stanford University, where I received a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Engineering, with a focus on atmosphere/energy. During my studies at Stanford, I took some introductory programming courses through the Computer Science department, as well as some courses that required programming in my department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. As a result of taking these classes, I became increasingly interested in computer science and software engineering, and decided to pursue General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive bootcamp program in San Francisco in order to learn full-stack web development. I wanted to become a professional software engineer.

Why did you choose to work at Udemy?

My primary reasons for choosing to work at Udemy are twofold: first of all, after having completed two years of graduate school myself, I relate to and highly value the mission of “helping anyone learn anything,” especially if it is actualized in such a convenient and affordable manner. Secondly, I had been using the Udemy platform somewhat, and was impressed with the product. And now that I have been working at Udemy for nearly a year, I cannot imagine working elsewhere. I am continuously happy and proud to work for an organization that seeks to provide more accessible skills-based education to individuals on a global scale.

When did you start as an intern at Udemy?

I started working at Udemy towards the end of August 2014, as an intern on the back-end engineering team, and became a full-time, salaried employee by the middle of November of that year.

How would you describe your first day(s) at your internship?

The first few days at the office went surprisingly smoothly. I recall the work being  simultaneously challenging and fun. In general, the entire internship experience was exciting, stimulating, and rewarding. While I felt as though I had finally succeeded at becoming a software engineer, I immediately realized how much I still have to learn.

What surprised you about Udemy?

Even though I was familiar with the increasing trend amongst Silicon Valley/Bay Area tech companies in offering employees generous and lavish perks, I was still pleasantly surprised to be on the receiving end of such benefits.

What projects did you work on as an intern?

As an intern, I worked on projects similar to those of my senior-level team members. At the time, we were heavily focused on migrating various back-end functionality from our PHP codebase to that of Django. Therefore, I was tasked with assignments which revolved around this migration. This entailed the actual porting over of the code, and teaching myself python, Django, and PHP along the way.

How would you describe your team?

DSC_9851My team is awesome! From the moment I started my internship, I felt welcomed into the group. I was particularly appreciative of how patient my coworkers were with training a new intern. Furthermore, I was especially struck by how fun and unpretentious my team is. We comprise a diverse, bright, and interesting group of individuals. Not only are my colleagues extremely talented engineers, but they are great people as well. We often engage in rather entertaining discussions on matters ranging from religion to politics to film and television, and anything in-between.

What have some of your favorite moments been?

It is difficult to formulate a list of my favorite Udemy moments, since our company has such a rich and well-developed culture; however, a few salient occurrences do come to mind. During the beginning of my internship period at Udemy, one of our instructors, Nick Walter, visited the office in order to deliver cupcakes, and give a speech thanking everyone at Udemy for dramatically improving his life. It was especially powerful to personally witness the positive impact of all of our work. Additionally, other memorable events have been the company holiday party, the wine and cheese tasting, the impromptu champagne celebrations, team happy hours and dinners, volunteering activities, and most recently, the partnership with Benesse.

What is your proudest Udemy accomplishment?

Most certainly, my proudest Udemy accomplishment is becoming a full-time, salaried team member. As someone who does not hold a computer science degree, I believe my success is a testament to the fact that with sufficient tenacity and dedication, one can achieve one’s goals. Even now, I still regularly experience moments of disbelief that I am actually a software engineer.

Do you have any advice for young engineers looking to land a job?

Yes, indeed. My advice to burgeoning software engineers who are actively looking to get hired is as follows:

First of all, be persistent–follow up with the appropriate individuals at the company for which you are interviewing. Secondly, do not allow a rejection to discourage or deter you from your efforts. Furthermore, manage your own expectations, which requires one to both understand the current talent landscape, and to be acutely aware of where one places along the gamut. This is an extremely competitive industry; therefore, it is essential to stay ahead of the curve with regards to mastering the fundamentals, and staying abreast of any new programming languages, frameworks, best practices, technologies, tools, etc. Along this vein, remain humble and open–ensure that your skills match the job description for which you are applying, and if not, identify any outstanding skills gaps, and aggressively work to close/eliminate them. Finally, be flexible–do not be afraid to ask for an internship opportunity, to take a job as a stepping-stone, or to create a new position at the company.

Everyone’s feeling the economic upturn — except for Boomers

Americans are finally starting to feel like the economy is on their side.

That’s according to new data released today by Udemy, revealing that Americans feel more secure and stable than they have in years. Eighty-three percent of the 1,000 workers surveyed felt very or somewhat secure in their current jobs.

Everyone is feeling the love – except Baby Boomers, that is. While nearly 8 in ten Millennials believe they’ll see a salary increase this year, only 58 percent of Boomers are optimistic they’ll see the same. Some other generational gaps:

  • Baby Boomers are even less likely to ask for a salary increase. While nearly 30 percent of Millennials asked for a salary increase in the last six months, only six percent of Baby Boomers asked for a raise.
  • Millennials are earning more each year. More than 85 percent of the younger generation made more in 2014 than in 2013, compared to just two-thirds of Boomers.

It’s not only that Millennials are feeling the economic upswing. They’re also the most likely to embrace new ways of making money. Millennials continue to explore freelance work and many have second jobs  to supplement their incomes. Nearly half of Millennial respondents said they worked a second job last year versus just a quarter of Boomers.

The newest generation of workers is bringing a “do whatever it takes” attitude to the workforce, which is echoed in their passion for entrepreneurship: 69 percent of Millennials feel the country and economy would be better off with more self-employment. In a recent Pew Research survey, it found Millennials are the largest group in the workforce and that number reflects the steady growth of freelancers – around one million new freelancers each year for the past decade.

While the survey shows the Boomer generation slowing down, Millennial workers are approaching their careers with an optimistic attitude and an eagerness to constantly learn, grow and strive for greater opportunities.

Udemy Volunteers with Juma at AT&T Park

Last week a group of Udemy team members spent the day volunteering with Juma during the Giants game at AT&T Park. We had an incredible time walking the stands and manning the carts while vending ice cream, coffee and nuts to raise money for local youth’s college funds. Together we achieved $7,700 in total sales. Go team!

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Juma’s mission is to help break the cycle of poverty by ensuring that young people complete a four-year college degree. To learn more about Juma or sign up to volunteer, visit http://www.jumaventures.org/volunteers/.

New Courses from Rheinwerk Publishing

Today we’re excited to announce that Rheinwerk Publishing, Germany’s market leader for topics around computing, design and photography, launched a new catalog of skill-based courses in German on Udemy! The course topics range from Adobe Photoshop to Responsive Web Design to Search Engine Optimization. Rheinwerk Publishing’s Udemy courses can be found here.

Udemy_Storefront_1260x242_V01This partnership is a great step in our international expansion as we aim to empower anyone around the world to learn anything. Frank Visciano, director of content at Udemy shares, “Udemy is dedicated to connecting people with the skills they need to achieve goals and excel in their career path. Through this exciting partnership with Rheinwerk Publishing, we are able to bring new high quality courses to our growing German user base.”

Thorsten Mücke, program manager at Rheinwerk Video is equally excited about the new content available on Udemy. He says, “Our video trainings are an easy way to effectively and fully learn a topic in an engaging way. With Udemy, we have strong partner on our side that allows us to reach even more people with our courses at a place where they really learn.”

About Rheinwerk Publishing

Rheinwerk Publishing was founded in 1999 in Bonn (Germany) under the name “Galileo Press”. Since 2011, the publisher is market leader for topics around computing, design, and photography in Germany. The comprehensive program includes books, e-books and video-trainings, which are targeted at beginners and experts. Another focus of the publisher are books and e-books for SAP, combined under the brand SAP PRESS. The English-speaking SAP program is published by the subsidiary Rheinwerk Publishing in Boston (USA).

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Check out this video featuring real Udemy students from around the world thanking their favorite Udemy instructors. Don’t forget to show some love for the great teachers in your life too!

Tweet your appreciation with the hashtag #UdemyLovesInstructors

An Evening of Innovation: Exploring the Future of HR

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Last week our Udemy for Business team hosted another successful HR Innovators event in partnership with our friends at Culture Amp! More than 200 of the brightest HR and Operations leaders were in attendance to discuss how the role of HR is evolving as today’s workplaces transform.

Guests enjoyed drinks and appetizers over an engaging conversation on the key trends that are shaping tomorrow’s workforce. Our amazing panel members examined how HR teams can use data to boost employee retention, foster positive work culture and even track why employees leave.

Big thanks to Steve McElfresh, VP of People Operations at New Relic, David Hanrahan, VP of Human Resources at Zendesk, Sheila Ryan, VP of Global Human Resources at Glu Mobile, Jason McPherson, Chief Scientist at Culture Amp, and Shelby Wolpa, HR Director at Instacart for sharing their great insights on these and other important topics.

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For the full recap and event video please visit the HR Innovators site. To be included on our invite list for future events, or for product inquiries please email business@udemy.com.

About HR Innovators

The HR Innovators group is comprised of 400+ HR, Operations and business professionals from leading companies in the Bay Area. Through our quarterly event series, HR Innovators members will be able to exchange ideas and best practices on how to keep employees engaged, productive and happy at work and hear from a stellar panel of thought leaders.

So You’re Thinking About Joining Udemy?

Awesome!

We’re growing extremely quickly, and we’re excited to speak with you. Before we connect, you might want to know a bit more about us, our mission, our culture, our philosophies, and our team.

So, without further ado…

OUR MISSION:

To help anyone learn anything.

We’re a long way from achieving this :-). That’s why we need your help! Today we have more than 6 million students in 190+ countries and 80+ languages learning everything from programming to design to photography to cake decorating and more.

That’s amazing, but we’re just getting started. We didn’t launch Udemy to help 6 million people. We launched Udemy to help hundreds of millions of people in all corners of the world.

OUR CULTURE:

We’re a small but growing team with hopes of building a truly great culture. We know we’re only at the beginning, but we try to live our values in the way we work and find people who share our ideals.

It all starts with the phrase –> LET’S GO!

Let’s go help 100 million people learn anything they can imagine. Let’s go get 100,000 instructors to share their knowledge with the world. Let’s go get 10,000 organizations to change the way their employees learn. Let’s go make it so that one day, anyone can truly learn anything.

Our values are:

Learn
Empathize
Take Ownership
nnovate
Show Passion

Get Stuff Done
Open Up

Here’s a little bit on each:

1) Learn

Maybe it’s cliché for a company in education to say this, but our team loves to learn. We read books, we follow blogs, we go to conferences, we swap ideas with peers over coffee… and, of course, we take online courses.

We are our own customers (lifelong learners!), and that makes our work a whole lot more meaningful.

We also try to live this spirit in the way we operate, so we do things like “weekly hashes,” where team members present deep dives into their work and what they’ve learned or “notes emails,” where we share summaries of conversations we’ve had with other startup folks, engineers, marketers, etc.

If you’re not learning, speak up because we’re doing something wrong.

2) Empathize

We meet our customers where they are today and never judge their motivations or aspirations. As eager learners and strivers ourselves, we understand the stimulation and satisfaction that comes from acquiring a new skill and putting it to good use or from helping someone else boost their knowledge. We also understand the barriers that can stand in the way, be they financial, geographic, linguistic, technical, or temporal.

Our mission is to remove those barriers so that anyone who wants to learn or teach has an accessible way to get there. We meet these challenges from a place of optimism and limitless possibility – a belief that we can quite literally change the way the world learns and, in doing so, improve lives.

Empathy is at the heart of everything we do, from the way we design our product to the way we communicate with our students and instructors. For example, we participate actively in discussions in the Udemy Studio, our community group for instructors, and our support team does “flash mobs” so the entire team can get to know our customers.

We’re also respectful and understanding with our coworkers. No matter how fast we’re moving, we take time to think of how our actions affect others.

3) Take Ownership

We’re incredibly goal-oriented. We have top-line goals as a company, we have team goals for the month (or sprint, if you’re an engineer), and each individual team member has goals.

We want folks who are excited about owning those goals and being accountable to the team. It’s not easy when we’re growing as fast as we are (Revenues grew 200% from 2013 to 2014), but it’s challenging and it’s fun.

4) Innovate

We can’t achieve our highly aggressive growth goals if we don’t innovate. That’s not a nice-to-have, it’s an imperative and it’s why we’ve re-architected our entire technology platform from PHP to Python/Django.

Innovation is misunderstood though. It’s not all blue-sky ideas. It’s also smart, small, rigorous, measured improvements to your business. It comes from staying in close contact with your customers and not being afraid to adopt the best practices of the many wise companies that came before you.

5) Show Passion

Take a course. Create a course. Explore Udemy for Business. Give us product feedback. Write into support. Recruit an expert to teach on Udemy. Don’t just tell us about your passion – show it!

This is the value that glues us all together. Our team is deeply committed to our mission and to the success of the students and instructors on Udemy.

Yes, we want folks who are amazing marketers, designers, coders, and salespeople, but even more importantly, we look for people who want to change the way the world learns.

6) Get Stuff Done

We’ll keep this one simple.

We are not pie-in-the-sky strategy people. We like folks who know how to roll up their sleeves and make it happen. Over-thinking isn’t what took us to 6 million students; doing is what did :-)

7) Open Up

We speak our minds, and we’re very direct. We can’t be anything but ourselves. If you like to “allude” to things, this probably isn’t a good fit.

We are also very open communicators. We show it in ways big and small: the open floor plan of our office; the way people will take off their headphones and help if you have a question; the transparency around our company and team goals.

We like folks who get excited by that kind of openness.

8) (unofficial) Like to belt it out during karaoke :-).

OUR PHILOSOPHIES:

There are three philosophies that guide the choices we make and the marketplace we’re building.

1) Diversity is more important than consistency.

Every student is different, and every student learns differently. We could not possibly tell you the best way to teach every subject.

Even more importantly, we don’t believe there is a best way to teach each subject. Thus, instead of producing our own uniform set of courses, we are an open marketplace that empowers instructors to teach and teach differently.

2) Sustainable is more important than free.

You don’t help hundreds of millions of people overnight. You do it slowly, brick by brick, person by person.

We believe in a sustainable model that is built for the long term, one that aligns incentives and will one day help hundreds of thousands of experts teach hundreds of millions of students.

3) Opportunity is more important than a guaranteed outcome.

We believe that providing access and opportunity to many is far more impactful than providing guarantees to a few.

We want to empower the self-motivated. If you’re looking for a quick fix or a guarantee on a new job, we’re not the place for you. But if you’re willing to work hard and reach high, Udemy can help you learn almost anything you need to get there.

OUR TEAM:

We’re an incredibly diverse team of about 150 folks and growing all the time. Half of us were born outside of the US. Thirty-seven percent of us are female. We have varying degrees of experience (we like a mix!), and we represent a huge array of cultures and backgrounds. Most of us are based in San Francisco, but some of us are in Dublin, Ireland and Ankara,Turkey.

We don’t share this because we’re into the cosmetics. Rather, we believe our team should look like our community and the type of students and instructors we’re here to help. Head over to our about page, our LinkedIn profile, or our Glassdoor profile to say hi!

Udemy Announces Addition of Lisa Haugh to Executive Team

Today we’re excited to welcome a new member to our executive team. Lisa Haugh is joining the team as Udemy’s General Counsel and brings with her 15 years of legal expertise from working with various startups and mature companies.

DSC_4547 copyLisa’s unique background spans the types of issues that are making waves in the tech industry. As a strategic advisor on licensing, commercial transactions, corporate and securities law, corporate governance and employment law, she will help guide Udemy’s future legal decisions. Some of her past work includes in-house counsel for companies such as Achievers, Extole, Livescribe, Intraware and OpenTV, as well as an associate with Preston, Gates & Ellis LLP (now K&L Gates LLP).

She joins Udemy at an exciting time of record growth for the company. Over the past year, we have doubled our operations, increased staff headcount and are continuing to look for opportunities for further expansion. Other new hires over the past year include Paul Sebastien, vice president and general manager of Udemy for Business, Richard Qiu, vice president of business development and Dave Arnold, vice president of finance and operations.

When not at work, Lisa can be found in the ocean – she is passionate about any and all ocean sports, be it swimming, scuba diving, surfing or kayaking. She has completed two Ironman triathlons and practices martial arts, and we are excited for her to bring that same strength and determination to Udemy.

Best Places to Work: Q&A with Dennis Yang

Last week we celebrated our Best Places to Work in the Bay Area award! Our VP of HR Pat Schoof sat down with CEO Dennis Yang to reflect on this honor and get his perspective on what makes Udemy such a wonderful place to work. Here’s what Dennis had to share…

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Describe our company culture in five words.

Optimistic, humble, open, collaborative, and energetic.

How do you ensure all Udemy employees know they are valued?

We are big believers that engaged employees are the biggest driver of company performance, so we show employees we value them before they even start. We send a personalized gift that reflects the employee’s interests, such as flowers, wine, sneakers, etc. along with the offer. This shows prospective employees we listened to them during the interview process and that Udemy will be a place where they can pursue their passions. Additionally, our executive team sends welcome emails to make them feel included on our team from the very beginning.

We also want employees to know that we greatly value their feedback. We conduct internal surveys asking questions like, “are you proud to work at Udemy?” and “would you refer someone to work at Udemy?” We use these results to determine our net promoter score (NPS), a metric we actively track to measure employee engagement.

What do you do to create a great work environment for all Udemy employees?

Our open and honest work environment is reflected in our physical space, an open office where everyone sits together. There are no individual offices for anyone. Our leadership communicates across all of our global locations with a variety of regular activities, including a monthly “Dennis and Donuts” Q&A session with me and all-hands meetings where teams share update on priorities and also answer questions. I have lunch with new hires in their first month so I can connect directly with everyone early on. I also have virtual new hire breakfasts with employees in our Ireland and Turkey offices.

How does Udemy create opportunities for individual development and career growth at all levels of the company?

Our business is inherently focused on personal and professional development. Our employees are some of Udemy’s biggest fans — we offer them unlimited free courses and many are also instructors.

Our company values reflect our commitment to career growth and are represented by the acronym “LET’S GO”: learn, empathize, take ownership, ‘nnovate, show passion, get stuff done, open up. Employees are evaluated not only on what they do but also how they do it and how they live out our values. We conduct 360 reviews of our vice presidents and directors so managers, peers and other team members can provide constructive feedback at all levels and leaders can continue to learn and grow. Employees also set both near-term, project-based goals and long-term career goals.

Another way we support our employees pursuit of personal interests is by having flexible work hours. This allows people to participate in external clubs, events, and activities. Internally, we organize volunteer opportunities through our Social Innovation program, where employees can bond while they give back to our community. We also have Udemy groups, such as the Udemy Makers Club, that give like-minded employees a creative outlet.

What do you think are our most popular office perks?

We have a lot of great perks, the most popular being unlimited access to Udemy courses, unlimited time off, and lunch served Monday through Thursday. Lunch is not just about the food either. All employees sit down and eat together to get to know each other and build relationships with coworkers they may not interact with in their course of their regular business.

How does being a Best Place to Work affect our bottom line?

It validates our employees’ contributions and motivates them to keep working hard so Udemy remains a great place to work every day. Additionally, this recognition helps us attract and retain more of the talented employees we need to build our business and fulfill our mission of helping people everywhere explore their passions and dreams to become whoever they want to be.

New Free Course on Mobile App Prototyping

Our one-of-a-kind experience designer and course creator extraordinaire, Pablo Stanley, created a new free course on mobile app prototyping over this past weekend.

The course, Mobile App Design: From Sketches to Interactive Prototypes, offers a quick and practical overview of how to turn whiteboard or paper sketches into mobile prototypes. Learn how to use animations and transitions to convert static drawings into easy-to-understand user flows, products or features.

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Pablo says, “You don’t need design skills to take this course, you only need paper, a pencil and a story waiting to be told :).”

We love seeing Udemites sharing their talents and expertise with rest of the Udemy community. Keep ‘em coming, Pablo! And happy learning, all!