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!

 

Udemy Celebrates Best Places to Work Honor

We’re proud to announce our inclusion on the San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Best Places to Work in the Bay Area list! Our VP of HR Pat Schoof says it best, “It’s due to everyone’s work, positive attitude and input to making a great culture!”

Shannon Hughes and Cara Conceller attended the ceremony at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square recognizing exceptional workplaces to rep Udemy and accept our award for ranking 14th on the list of mid-size companies. Meanwhile, the rest of the SF team had a celebration of their own – complete with eats, drinks, games galore, giant balloons and fresh Udemy swag.

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Our 2015 Social Innovation Grantees

We are delighted to announce our January, February and March Social Innovation grantees. This group includes our first two international grantees — organizations based in the UK and Egypt — we look forward to growing Udemy’s Social Innovation program around the world. Read more about our six winners below! Learn more about our grant program here.

Tahrir Academy

Course: “Genetics and Inheritance” (Arabic)

With 4.5 million views on YouTube, this Egyptian nonprofit is revolutionizing access to education through the creation of engaging learning experiences to “stimulate the minds of Egyptian youth, empowering them to think, choose and decide.” They aim to build the biggest Arabic video library to provide educational content to the 13-18 year-old Egyptian youth demographic. Udemy is delighted to partner to expand the depth of their science offerings. With this grant Tahrir Academy will create a course on Genetics and Inheritance. This course will seek to make science more personalized and engaging, helping students understand their own heritage and variations over generations. We all share humanity; however, each of us was born unique with a fingerprint of genetic material. Tahrir Academy’s course will help students connect and stay engaged with science as a potential career path.

Student Hubs

Course:  “Effective Tutoring to Challenge Educational Disadvantage”

Student Hubs’ mission is to support university students to tutor underachieving pupils, inspiring a life-long commitment to challenging educational disadvantage.  Over the last five years they have placed over 850+ tutors volunteering every week in seven UK cities. Udemy is excited to be able to fund and host their course aimed at helping tutors around the world be more effective in the support they can offer, training volunteers in a wide range of teaching skills, including engagement of pupils, use of effective questioning or child safeguarding.  The organization’s biggest barrier to placing more tutors in the community is not finding willing volunteers, but the cost of hosting enough training sessions! Through the creation of this course, Schools Plus will be able to train more tutors, supporting them more effectively in order to achieve their vision of a world in which every child reaches its academic potential.

Organisation of American States

Course:  “Pedagogical Strategies for the Development of Critical Thinking: Toolkit for teaching practice” (Spanish and English)

The Organization of American States or the OAS or OEA, is an inter-continental organization founded on 30 April 1948, for the purposes of regional solidarity and cooperation among its member states. Today, the OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere.  One of their main lines of action in the Inter American Education Agenda of the OAS is teacher professional development. Teaching teachers about developing critical thinking in students has been identified as one of the needs in the region, training in this strategic area will promote a change in the classroom to improve the education in the Americas. With seven million teachers in the region, OAS is in the position to reach a broad audience.

Urban Age Institute

Course: “Urban Innovation: City Sustainability & Technology Solutions”

The Urban Age Institute works to “foster leadership and innovation between and among cities in areas of strategic urban planning, urban policy, public sector management, sustainable environmental planning, and poverty reduction.” Their course will serve as an introduction to various innovators and initiatives at the bleeding edge of urban sustainability and connected technology. The course focuses on the scaling-up of practical urban solutions in infrastructure, policy, design, equity, technology, energy, mobility, water, finance, and more. The course increases the accessibility of knowledge about innovative urban sustainability solutions, particularly to those working on related challenges, who may not otherwise have the time or resources to participate in industry conferences or undertake relevant professional development.

Community Technology Alliance

Course: Homeless Management Information Systems Data Security

Community Technology Alliance is a nonprofit organization located in San Jose CA. Their mission is to harness technologies to empower communities to develop data-driven solutions to poverty and homelessness. The largest and most extensive project that CTA manages is the HMIS or the Homeless Management Information System for the County of Santa Clara and for several Bay Area Counties for the last 11 years.This HMIS Data Security course is an extension of CTA’s mission to empower because it gives nonprofits and human service agencies around the country the required knowledge and training to properly protect and handle client data. The course will aim to provide considerable saving in time and resources, helping organizations to better serve homeless and vulnerable in their communities.

Wingu

Course: Effective Presentations for NGO’s (Spanish)

Wingu is an Argentinian nonprofit organization whose goal is to bridge the technological gap in the social sector. All of Wingu’s programs are based on the simple principle of making organizations more self­ sufficient and independent by the implementation of new technologies. Their course aims to help NGOs in Argentina and all of Latin America to develop stronger presentation skills, in order to better convey their messages and inspire action for their particular cause.This course will be produced in partnership with Techsoup Global.

New Programming Courses from Frontend Masters

Exciting news to share! This week we launched 19 new courses from our partners at Frontend Masters, the well-known front-end web development training experts. Frontend Masters joins our 14,000+ instructors currently teaching on Udemy. These experts include the founder of AngularJS, creator of JSON, jQuery team members, senior developers and directors at Etsy, Reddit, Paypal and more. Who better to learn from than the experts that are actively shaping the industry?

2015-04-10_0957Frontend Masters’ Udemy courses range from introductions to deep dives geared towards web developers and programmers, front-end and user interface engineers looking to take their skills to the next level and become “masters” themselves. Specific topics include JavaScript, such as Javascript the Good Parts by Douglas Crockford, HTML5/CSS3, AngularJS, responsive web design and website performance.

Learn more about Frontend Masters and view their Udemy courses here. This content is also available to our Udemy for Business customers as part of their subscription to 1000+ of Udemy’s highest-quality courses.

 

Udemy Around the World

Last week, a few team members from Udemy HQ, including Dennis Yang, CEO and Claire Hough, VP of Engineering, traveled abroad to visit the international Udemy offices. The group had the privilege of spending time with the teams first in Ankara, Turkey and then in Dublin, Ireland. It was great to see our core values embodied in each office, and to officially meet some of the amazing new talent dedicated to our mission of helping anyone learn anything.

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It seems like just yesterday we opened our Dublin office, but we’re currently up to 150 total global employees and still growing! Interested in joining the Udemy team? We have open roles in all of our offices, including software engineering and operations positions in Ankara and Dublin. Check out the full list of our current openings here.

 

NEEF Launches Extreme Weather Course on Udemy

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), a nonprofit and national leader in lifelong environmental learning, today announced the launch of their Udemy course on climate change and extreme weather.

According to NEEF, “In 2014, the United States experienced eight weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding one billion dollars each.” The free course, Extreme Weather 101, educates Americans on the real environmental challenges of our time. Through videos, quizzes and toolkits, students learn the basics of how climate change is impacting extreme weather, as well as information on how to safely prepare for these events. We’re thrilled to support NEEF in their mission to connect people to knowledge they use to improve the quality of their lives and the health of the planet.

NEEF received a $2,500 grant through Udemy’s Social Innovation program to create this course. For more information on the program, please email socialinnovation@udemy.com. To learn more about Extreme Weather 101, view the full course announcement here.

Udemy for Business Releases Corporate Training Survey Findings

Jobs are rapidly changing but employee training and onboarding programs have not kept up with the demands of the modernworkplace. Today Udemy for Business released the results of a recent survey aimed at uncovering insight into this training gap and its impact on businesses and employees.

The survey polled 175 HR leaders about their employees’ skills and current training programs. The key finding: 71 percent of HR professionals acknowledge that their employees do not have the skills they need to perform their jobs, yet more than half of the companies surveyed are spending less than $500 a year per employee on training.

Other findings reveal that today’s corporate training programs are:

  • Outdated – In spite of HR decision makers feeling like employees didn’t have all the right skills they needed to do their jobs, only 15 percent of training programs were established or updated in the past year. Fifty-one percent were built inthe last five years, and a third of respondents weren’t sure when training programs were built.
  • Limited – Sixty-eight percent of companies rely solely on on-the-job training for onboarding.
  • Narrow - Seventy-two percent of respondents admitted they are only providing training that is directly related to employees’ roles.
  • Unclear – Of the companies lacking a formal onboarding process, 67 percent aren’t sure if they will be implementing one next year.

Despite acknowledging the skills gap, organizations aren’t training to close it. C-suites and HR decision makers must prioritize training and allocate sufficient resources to successfully scale their workforce. To gain competitive edge and excel, corporate training programs must reflect the current demands and expectations of employees’ skills.

For more on the news, read the full press release. Download and view the full report “At the breaking point – the state of corporate training programs in America” here.

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Udemy’s Teacher Tech Initiative

I had the pleasure of attending the White House Science Fair today for the announcement of Udemy’s Teacher Tech Initiative, in support of President Obama’s campaign to improve computer science education and put more Americans in tech jobs. Udemy’s Teacher Tech Initiative brings free and highly-discounted computer technology courses to K-12 teachers across the country, so teachers can better prepare students for the jobs of the future.

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In its fifth year, the White House Science Fair event celebrates the country’s most outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. Special honor was given this year to girls and women excelling in these fields. Amongst the energetic buzz of student projects and experiments lies the undercurrent of a lack of computer science teachers in America and a need to equip more of our youth – especially girls – with the skills needed to fill the million plus technology jobs predicted to open in the next decade. Sixty-five percent of grade-school kids will have jobs that don’t exist today, and only one in 10 American public schools teach computer science. Udemy’s Teacher Tech Initiative seeks to help close this gap and make it possible for the next generation to take advantage of tech job opportunities.

Among the many amazing organizations joining this campaign is our Udemy for Business customer Esri. They will provide a grant to make its advanced mapping software running on cloud infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) available for free to the more than 100,000 elementary, middle and high schools in the United States. Esri is the global leader of mapping technology and Geographic Information System (GIS) software. Esri uses Udemy for Business to create content that educates people on their technology platform ArcGIS.

At Udemy, we believe that people can be and do anything if given the opportunity to learn. We see our students and instructors embody this notion every day. Take 15 year-old Moksh Jawa, a sophomore at Washington High School in Fremont, California, who is passionate about computer science although there are no related classes offered at his school. He self-studied for the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science exam, founded a computer science club on campus, and last month created an AP computer science exam prep course on Udemy with the aim of making computer science education, and the opportunity of passing the AP computer science exam, accessible to high school students around the globe.

Stories like Moksh’s, coupled with attending today’s Science Fair and meeting some of our country’s most innovative and creative young minds, re-confirms this belief that the opportunities and possibilities for success in technology are infinite. Through Udemy’s Teacher Tech Initiative, we’re honored to do our part in empowering teachers to educate today’s students for a successful tomorrow and demonstrate to their students that you can always learn your way to where you want to go.

 

Data Science Lightning Talks at Udemy

Attn: data hounds! Udemy is hosting a data science event in partnership with SF Data Mining meetup at our office next Thursday, March 26. The evening will consist of a series of inspiring short talks by data scientists in diverse fields from online education to healthcare to network science and data visualization.

Here’s a sneak peek at the lineup:

We’re a very data-driven group of folks here at Udemy and are excited to convene with others interested in working with data. Visit here for more details and to register. Hope to see you there!