Dennis Yang named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Award winner

Dennis Yang_UdemyWe’re thrilled to announce that our CEO Dennis Yang received the
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Award in the Tech-Enabled Services category in the Northern California region. Just as the Udemy team kicked off the Udemy LIVE welcome reception at Udemy HQ, Dennis climbed on stage at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose to proudly accept his award on behalf of the entire Udemy community.

Shared success

Dennis delivered the good news with this note to the company: “Your hard work and the contributions of our instructors combined with our mission were recognized by Ernst and Young through the Northern California Entrepreneur Of The Year.” This hits the nail on the head. The power behind Udemy is the hard work of exceptional executive leadership, dedicated team members, and passionate instructors who together bring courses to students in every corner of the globe. We’re very honored that this work to forward our mission of helping people build the lives they imagine has been recognized through Dennis’ major award win!

This year is an extra special one for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award program, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary milestone. The award recognizes “outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.” Dennis was selected by an independent panel of judges after multiple rounds of submissions and interviews. Here’s a sneak peek that aired at the gala:

Onward and upward

As a Northern California regional award winner, Dennis is now in contention for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 national program. National finalists and award winners will be announced at the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs in November 2016. From there, the U.S. Entrepreneur Of The Year Overall Award winner moves on to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in Monaco, June 2017.

Hidden gems for June

Hidden GemsThis month brought us a bumper crop of decidedly different courses, and Caroline and DQ from the review team have handpicked a few notable newcomers. Plenty to choose from if you like to party, play, and decompress.

The Complete MEGA JAM Hip Hop Class
What we liked: In this excellently produced hip-hop dance course, instructor Jasmine Meakin breaks down moves so clearly, you’ll feel like you’re right there in her light-filled studio. Just preview her “Work It” clip for a glimpse of the energetic dancing you’ll be learning to perform.

Start a Hookah Rental Business & Party – Work From Home
What we liked: Four-person team Bring Da Fire started a hookah business a few years ago and wants to show you how to do the same. Students get to know these guys and their personalities, as they go through all the ins and outs of buying equipment, negotiating with nightclubs, and making a hookah rental business into a successful venture.

One-Minute Meditation
What we liked: Instructor James Chiello is clear and to the point in this free introduction to meditation. His warm-but-no-frills approach coupled with his 15 years of experience as practitioner and teacher make him an ideal guide to what is now widely recognized as an incredibly healthy and performance-boosting practice.

Birthday Party Game Plan
What we liked: This course is jam-packed with imaginative ideas and suggestions for throwing a fun birthday party that will engage kids in active gameplay. Jocelyn Greene also provides a lot of practical tips around the logistics of picking a location and setting up. The “Bear Hunt” game idea is our favorite lecture!

Learn Basketball Shooting – Master The Basics & Shoot Better
What we liked: Joel McKenzie and his team go above and beyond to get a variety of camera shots so students can see exactly what he’s demonstrating. Joel’s goal is to help students quickly build confidence in their shooting abilities, and he provides tips and insights that only come with years of experience.

Growing Tomato Heaven: Garden-grown tomatoes made easy!
What we liked: Instructor Rick Stone really, REALLY loves gardening, and he has an easygoing, approachable teaching style that’s welcoming whether you have a green thumb or not. With this course, he wants his students to become known for growing the yummiest tomatoes in the neighborhood so they never have to buy the bland ones found at the grocery store.

May 27, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Welcome to Friday and happy Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., where the debate over how, when, and why people should learn coding is really heating up. Read on for a great profile of Udemy for Business—and don’t miss our special request at the end!

American schools are teaching our kids how to code all wrong
We’ve shared some stories in previous roundups about whether we’re missing the point in our push to train more programmers. This article accuses American schools of teaching a “light and fluffy version of computer science” that fails to impart a deep understanding of the discipline.

Change your career without having to start all over again
We know a lot of students come to Udemy because they’re looking to make a career switch. The writer here offers a few strategies for leveraging past experience and transferring it to your new role. Among her suggestions: Find opportunities where inexperience is a virtue, such as joining a troubled company where you’re seen as a fresh outsider.

The number of new businesses in the US is falling off a cliff
Market-watchers are starting to get less bullish on tech companies, but there’s another indicator that our economy isn’t as robust as it had been. According to the Economic Innovation Group, “Fewer new businesses were created in the last five years in the U.S. than any period since at least 1980.” Moreover, startup creation is happening in a very limited number of major metro areas and the new businesses aren’t the type that used to anchor the middle-class, like restaurants or construction firms.

Big companies turn to San Francisco-based Udemy for training
This profile story explores why companies are increasingly recognizing the need to update their learning and development programs and how Udemy for Business is meeting that demand. As VP of Udemy for Business Darren Shimkus explains, millennial workers value training highly but they don’t want the same old boring, dry training content most companies are known for. A senior training specialist AdRoll, a Udemy for Business customer, is quoted saying, “One of our biggest initiatives is creating learning paths for every function across the company, and Udemy is a critical part of that.”

Langbos Care Centre fundraiser
Lastly, please consider supporting Udemy partner Just Creative’s fundraiser in support of the children at the Langbos Creche & Care Centre in South Africa. Making a donation will enter you in a drawing to win a $50 Udemy course voucher, among other great prizes. Just Creative is one of the most popular design blogs out there, and founder Jacob Cass has been a great friend of Udemy.

2016 Learning Trends on Udemy

Check out the infographic we just released showing what people around the U.S. are learning on Udemy and the interesting geographic and generational trends we’re tracking. Are you typical of your age and city?

May 20, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Hope everyone had a great week. It’s time to sit back and soak up some news about older people in the workforce, growing numbers of talented folks staying independent, and a feel-good story to wrap things up.

Why high-skilled freelancers are leaving corporate life behind
Here’s further evidence that having a rich combination of skills in different areas is more valuable than being an accomplished specialist at one thing. Those generalists are increasingly choosing to go freelance rather than in-house, posing interesting challenges around hiring.

Disproving beliefs about the economy and aging
This article dispels some common myths around older workers, such as the idea that they drag down the economy by not contributing to it or that, when they do keep working, they block younger people from job opportunities. With these misconceptions debunked, it makes good economic sense to retain older employees.

College is worth it if you have these six experiences
The debate rages on: is that diploma worth the soaring cost? A recent Gallup poll suggests the answer is a qualified yes, but being a high-performing student isn’t enough. College grads tend to thrive if they’ve formed relationships with mentors and had professors who got them excited about learning. It also helps to be involved in extracurriculars and have a job or internship that leverages the knowledge and skills they’re studying.

The languages the world is trying to learn
This is just kind of cool. You may not be surprised to see that English tops the list in many countries around the world, but what are people in predominantly English-speaking countries learning? In the U.S. and parts of Scandinavia, it’s Spanish. Elsewhere, French and German still attract the most language learners.

This 54-year-old custodian just graduated from the college he cleaned at night
Finally, meet Michael Vaudreuil, who went to work as a janitor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts after his plastering business tanked in the 2008 recession. “It was about a 50 percent pay cut, the work wasn’t stimulating, but the benefits were good. He decided he would take advantage of every free benefit the school offered so it would feel like he was making more money.” This week, Michael graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

May 13, 2016: Friday News Roundup

It’s Friday the 13th, so try to avoid bad luck and black cats today. We’ve got some thought-provoking reads this week about what aspiring programmers should or shouldn’t learn, the truth about millennials, and some ideas from the Udemy for Business team.

Please don’t learn to code
This piece got a lot of people talking and debating. The author, an iOS engineer, suggests that those who’ve been advocating for more people attending coding bootcamps and the like are missing the bigger picture of what it means to be a great programmer. Rather than simply learning languages and generating code, aspiring engineers need first to understand the problem in front of them and why it needs solving, according to this writer.

The three skills every software developer should learn
Software paragon Joel Spolsky doesn’t necessarily disagree with the previous article. He, too, advises people not to focus exclusively on the hot tech skills of the moment. Instead, Spolsky points to three fundamentals every programmer should learn: economics, writing, and C programming.

How badly companies misunderstand millennials
No, millennials aren’t just looking for the employer with the coolest rock wall and most tempting snack selection. According to a new Gallup poll, we’re seeing a shift from “paycheck to purpose” as the most important factor when millennials go job-hunting. Moreover, 59 percent of millennials rate opportunities to learn and grow as “extremely important” when applying for a new job.

The thing employers look for when hiring recent graduates
Okay, so if millennials want career development and purpose from their employers, what do employers want from new grads? In a word: internships. And other “experiences outside academics.” There are interesting findings from the Chronicle of Higher Education about how different industries value different aspects of a resume, whether it’s grades, major, or work experience.

Consumerization of learning
Here, Udemy for Business Director of Product Marketing Yvonne Chen explains why companies need to deliver training that’s less corporate and more consumer-oriented. That means making engaging content available across devices and on demand whenever employees want or need to pick up new skills.

Hey, grads: Your major is not your destiny

shutterstock_57140281At 22, I hit one of my first major life milestones: receiving my degree in chemical engineering. Those four years of hard work and late nights had led to this moment of celebration—yet something felt amiss. After pursuing and reaching goals for so long as a student, I no longer knew what the road forward looked like.

I’d just finished an internship where my job was to design safety valves for chemical reactors. I didn’t find much joy in it. Instead, I was actually spending a lot of my time worrying I was going to get someone hurt or worse. Previously, I’d thrown everything I had into chemical engineering, but now, at this late date, I realized I didn’t want to make it my career.

What I wish I could have told my anxiety-ridden, 22-year-old self is this: Your major is not your destiny.

In fact, your first job isn’t your destiny either. I moved away from engineering and took a job with a big accounting firm, despite not knowing much about finance. After that I spent time at a venture capital firm and then an internet marketing startup.

At the time, I was struggling to find my fit, but looking back, those early choices were good ones. I shouldn’t have worried so much! In fact, what I picked up in my wanderings is the same advice I’d share with today’s new grads.

Be patient: You’re eager, energetic, and full of ideas, but before you rush to present your thoughts to the board of directors, slow down and listen. College isn’t the end of learning; it’s just the beginning of a new phase. Use your newcomer status to observe and soak up on-the-job lessons about your work environment, interpersonal dynamics, decision making, communication styles, etc. Appreciate the transition from classroom to real world, and don’t feel bad about not having everything figured out. You’ve got time!

Go broad: Even if you think you’ve nailed down your perfect career path, keep an open mind and expose yourself to as many different things as possible early in your working life. As I found from my experience in consulting, you don’t know what you don’t know. And you can’t continue growing and evolving as a professional if you don’t stay curious and receptive to new skills, new responsibilities, and new points of view. Now’s the time for exploration and experimentation; you can specialize later.

Get mentors:  Now that I’m a CEO, I don’t get as many new hires approaching me directly for guidance. I suspect they assume I’m too busy or “important” for such interactions or they’re afraid of looking green and clueless. All of that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know from speaking with colleagues that we all feel an obligation to help when junior employees want to tap into our experience. We were all in their shoes at one point. So, don’t be afraid to approach your senior coworkers and ask to chat over coffee. You may very well find a mentor for life.

Always be learning: If I had only one piece of advice, this would be it. Take a risk and try something unfamiliar while you’re still new to the game. In fact, my other suggestions all add up to embracing a learning mindset. If you’re taking the time to listen, venturing beyond your comfort zone, and seeking guidance from more experienced colleagues, you’ll always be growing. And that will make you a valuable team member and contributor over the course of your entire career, no matter where you end up.

Back when I graduated, “job-hopping” was frowned upon and perceived as signaling a lack of commitment and seriousness. The average worker today has 12 different jobs (and counting) by the time they turn 40. Exploring new career paths and constantly evolving as a professional are now normal, expected parts of the journey. Tools like online learning give people the opportunity to reinvent themselves and create the lives they desire in a way that just wasn’t possible in the past.

If you’re 22 and just entering the world of work, go into it with an open mind and boundless curiosity. Not only will a lifelong learning attitude serve you well, it’ll make the journey a lot more interesting and rewarding.

Hidden gems for May

Hidden GemsCheck out this new batch of quirky courses published in the Udemy marketplace this month. DQ and Caroline from the quality team are back with their picks for these under-the-radar topics you shouldn’t miss.

How to Create an Abstract Painting with your Dog
What we liked: Instructor Tatiana Ambrose takes a unique approach to dog training. Here, she shows students how to bond with their dogs by creating a piece of art together — no kidding. Students pick up great tips on using positive reinforcement to train their pooches, along with a painting that’s sure to become a valuable family heirloom.

Learning The Darbuka – An Introduction For Beginners
What we liked: Middle Eastern percussionist Malik Terblizi joins forces with instructor Somesh De Swardt to introduce students to the sounds and cultural history of the darbuka dounbek, a goblet drum that produces a wide range of pitch sounds. This interactive learning experience will help novices master basic rhythms while intermediates can improve their technique.

BareBones Bartending: Become a Working Bartender!
What we liked: Nicholas Peach and Geoff Nichols walk students through classic cocktail recipes with clarity and confidence. Whether you’re looking to become a professional mixologist or just want to impress your friends, the course aims to skip the filler content of traditional bartender schools and get you right to learning the good stuff.

Build a Gaming PC for Less than $1000
What we liked: Self-professed “complete computer geek” Cody Ray Miller does an amazing job explaining the technical aspects of building your own computer so you’re ready to start gaming in no time. Rather than offering up a one-size-fits-all solution, Miller provides guidance on designing custom systems for different budgets. Students also come away with skills for diagnosing, troubleshooting, and repairing PC hardware.

Bring Sustainable Happiness to Life!
What we liked: This course is like spending quality time with your good friend and instructor Catherine O’Brien, who shot many of her videos while sitting outside surrounded by nature, flowers, and sunshine. Instead of focusing on attaining individual happiness, O’Brien speaks to the countless interconnections we have with family, neighbors, coworkers, and friends and how we can make choices that lead to greater happiness and well-being for ourselves and others.  

First lesson for maintaining a healthy culture: Hands off

culture lisa

By Lisa Haugh, VP of People and General Counsel

This is my second year here at Udemy with us being nominated as a “best place to work” by the San Francisco Business Times. Since my job title is VP of People and I head up our Employee Success team, you’d think I’d be exchanging high-fives all around. Of course, my team is super-excited for this honor, but that’s because we get to be a part of an amazing company, not because we had all that much to do with it. And I believe that’s as it should be.

If you think creating a great company culture and getting employees engaged and excited about working here is the sole responsibility of the traditional HR department or senior management, you’re dead wrong. We might help grease the skids, but it’s the employees themselves who make this company what it is. The things that really make people happy about where they work and engaged in their jobs aren’t company mandates; they happen organically, without the heavy hand of management.

I’ve worked at other places where a “bottoms-up culture” would’ve referred to a tendency toward heavy drinking at happy hour. At Udemy however, it means that everyone has equal opportunity to shape our culture and introduce activities that bring more meaning and enjoyment to our work lives. When we hire, we look beyond experience and education to see if candidates align with our values and share this attitude of contributing to the collective good as well as being excited to be part of something bigger than just a job.

My mind goes back to biology class, when we learned about bacteria by growing cultures in petri dishes. As the experiments showed, bacteria will grow and thrive when placed in the right environment. Unlike houseplants, bacteria don’t need help from humans to provide water and sunlight for healthy growth. And bacteria are pretty darned successful, prolific microorganisms. At the risk of equating our people to bacteria, we’ve taken the same approach, creating an environment where Udemy employees’ grow their own culture without management interference — much better than treating them like delicate hothouse flowers with high-maintenance needs.

We love how the cool stuff that defines Udemy culture started outside the Employee Success team. Here are just a few of our secrets:

  • Culture Club: This team of Udemy employees meets regularly to generate ideas and plan activities to enrich the experience of working here. We’ve volunteered as concession sellers at AT&T Park to raise money for a youth development program, hosted hackathons, and tutored school kids. We’ve also had groups organize weekend trips to Lake Tahoe and Big Sur.
  • Living our values: As a learning company, we all feel strongly about having opportunities to develop ourselves personally and professionally. In addition to having unlimited access to Udemy courses, we hold “hashes” open to all on relevant topics like learning science, we take courses together during “study hall,” and individual teams schedule time to DEAL — “drop everything and learn.”
  • Mission-driven: We can truly say we have a world-changing vision at Udemy. When your mission is to help people around the world build the lives they imagine through access to quality learning resources, it definitely lends weight to the daily routine. We know from employee surveys that people are attracted to Udemy because they believe in what we’re doing and want to contribute. They also appreciate our social innovation program, which extends grants and discounts to nonprofits and NGOs.

Speaking of surveys, we just did an engagement survey, and the numbers tell the story, with 96% of employees saying they’d recommend Udemy as a great place to work. And it’s the employees who’ve made this happen.

It all goes to show that the best cultures don’t come from what a company does for its employees but what employees have the freedom to create for themselves.

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.