Udemy hosts documentary screening, discussion of women in tech

The lack of diversity at tech companies has gotten a lot of media attention in the last couple of years, but real solutions have been few and far between. That’s the backdrop of the documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which was screened to a packed house of guests at Udemy HQ September 14.

To get the crowd of more than 125 attendees warmed up, we assembled a panel to share their own experiences as women and minorities working in tech. They talked about how the film resonated with them, the obstacles they’ve faced (and overcome) in their careers, and what companies and individuals can do to create a more inclusive environment for engineers from all backgrounds.

Panelists, L to R: Tiffany Williams; Sara Hooker; Brenda Jin; Claire Hough; Ingrid Avendaño; Angie Chang; Anita Anderson

Panelists, L to R: Tiffany Williams; Sara Hooker; Brenda Jin; Claire Hough; Ingrid Avendaño; Angie Chang; Anita Anderson

From the film’s website: “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap” exposes the lack of female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gap, highlighting breakthrough efforts that are producing more diverse programmers. With humor and optimism, CODE considers the importance of creating a more balanced tech workforce and asks: What would society gain from having more women and minorities code and how do we get there?

Our panelists were:

  • Anita Anderson – Director of Mobile Application Engineering, Nickelodeon
  • Ingrid Avendaño – Site Reliability Engineer, Uber
  • Angie Chang – VP Strategic Partnerships, Hackbright
  • Claire Hough – SVP of Engineering, Udemy
  • Brenda Jin – Senior Platform Engineer, Slack
  • Tiffany Williams – Software Engineer, Aclima
  • Moderated by Sara Hooker – Data Scientist, Udemy

They represented an interesting mix of paths into the tech world, which made for a lively and insightful pre-movie chat. One common theme was the need for women to speak up and advocate for themselves. That leads perfectly into the next event Udemy’s hosting around diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace: “Negotiate Like a Boss.”

Part of the Breaking Glass Forum series, this event will bring together speakers from the C-suite, human resources, and sales/business development to examine why “women are often uncomfortable negotiating for a better job offer, a raise or a promotion, which can leave us feeling undervalued in our careers. For women of color, pay inequities can be even more pronounced and negative in their impact.”

Udemy is proud to co-sponsor the Breaking Glass Forum with Women in Technology International as part of our “Women at Udemy” program, which aims to connect, empower, and celebrate women in the workplace. Our very own VP of People Lisa Haugh will be on the panel sharing her negotiating tips, and the discussion will be followed by an interactive workshop where attendees can practice key negotiation tactics with professional coaches and receive direct feedback on how to improve.

Negotiate Like a Boss is happening at Udemy HQ October 11; space is limited so register early!

Sparking kids’ path to high school

By JD Scalzo, Udemy Experience Coordinator


Alejandra and her Spark mentee

Being a learning company means different things depending on the context. At Udemy, one of our foundational values is encouraging learning among our own team as well as the instructor and student community who teach and take courses in our marketplace. But we also strive to cultivate and support the love of learning at any age among the general public.

A prime example of this value in action is our continued partnership with Spark, a nonprofit that helps underserved youth become motivated learners and connected community members through mentorships with working professionals. The organization’s goals are to reduce high school dropout rates and set participating students up for ongoing success.

Here’s how Spark works. On “match night,” mentors are paired with students based on similar interests and shared project goals. Together, they develop action plans for what they’ll work on during the program. Creativity and innovation are the name of the game, as students and mentors collaborate on cool projects like making a movie trailer, a dance video, a restaurant concept, and a mobile app specifically designed for middle schoolers. Of this year’s projects, 92% involved one or more STEM subject (science, technology, engineering, math).

I first encountered Spark when I signed up to be a mentor last fall and later served as Udemy’s corporate liaison during the spring 2016 semester. Then, at the end of the term, I was named 2016 Impact Champion! Flattered and awestruck, I didn’t really know what that meant until Spark shared some data around Udemy’s contributions. Our accomplishments include:

  • More than 760 hours of volunteering by 31 mentors since spring 2015, when our partnership began
  • Mentored 19 students from Roosevelt Middle School and 13 students from MLK Jr. Middle School, both of which belong to the SF Unified School District
Student Sonte with mentors DQ and Lauren

Student Sonte with mentors DQ and Lauren

The success of the Udemy-Spark partnership extends far beyond the projects themselves. The bond between students and mentors is powerful and inspiring on both sides. Take the example of Sonte, an 8th grader from Roosevelt Middle School, who teamed up with Udemy employees and first-time mentors David Quintanilla and Lauren Rosenfeld. “I admire my mentors because they were nice,” Sonte told Spark. “I could trust them, and they helped me learn a lot.” David and Lauren, meanwhile, found the experience so worthwhile, they worked with another student from MLK Jr. Middle School in the spring. I was really moved by how compassionate and involved they were with their students.  

It’s quite a unique bond, as I know from my own stint as a mentor. I was paired up with a quiet, charming 7th grader who wanted to improve her public speaking skills. Together, we decided she’d have an easier time on the speaking part if she chose a topic she was already passionate about. She chose to talk about her cat, Cupid, and what it’s like to be a cat owner. She shared the story of how she got Cupid and presented her research on different types of cats. I even got to take her to KitTea, a cat café here in San Francisco (trust me, it’s real!). It was interesting and somewhat heartbreaking to peek into the psyche of a middle-school student who thought she was so bad at speaking, she would get nervous and even cry when she had to present to her class. Over the course of 10 weeks, she eventually realized she only needed to apply patience, courage, and preparation in order to be a very good speaker. It’s a skill she’ll keep practicing and one that will definitely be to her advantage in the future.

Spark is a young but ambitious organization. They’re now collecting data and getting feedback from students and mentors to further develop the program, but their results so far have already made a big impact. According to Spark, 91% of their students notably improve their classroom engagement, attendance, and grades, while 90% of them complete 8th grade and are on track for high school graduation.

Helping make Spark students successful is just one way Udemy is proud to be a learning company. We had so much fun working with these middle-school kids and can’t wait for our next community engagement events.

Kristin of Udemy with her Spark student

Kristin of Udemy with her Spark student

Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn on expanding global opportunity, teaching on Udemy

We were thrilled to announce earlier this week that Pulitzer Prize-winning, husband-and-wife duo Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have published a Udemy course called “How to Make a Difference,” based on their books Half the Sky and A Path Appears. As they describe it, the course “is designed for anyone who wants to leave a mark on the world, make a difference, and learn a few secrets about how to live a happier, healthier and more meaningful life.”

Half The SkyNicholas and Sheryl recently did an email Q&A with us to share why they decided to create an online course on Udemy and what they hope it will accomplish. They’re also doing a private video Q&A later this month, and enrolled students will receive more details on that soon!

Udemy: How does teaching online fit into your other activities, i.e., why not just another book? What was the trigger that made you decide you should create an online course and why do you see Udemy’s teaching/learning marketplace as the right channel for sharing your content and getting people involved in your project(s)?

Nicholas/Sheryl: We care deeply about the issues in our books–about empowering women worldwide, and helping people make a difference. But frankly, not everyone reads books: Picking up a 300-page book is a significant barrier, while watching videos may be a little easier and friendlier. We’ve heard a lot about online courses and thought we would experiment with this as a way of engaging our audiences–and challenging them.

Udemy: What were your goals and expectations when you started out to create this course? Did you have any misconceptions that were corrected along the way? Any happy surprises?

Nicholas/Sheryl: We frankly didn’t know what to expect, and it was pretty informal. We filmed in our house, without a script, just talking about particular topics. So it felt kind of cozy and informal. We do a lot of television, and this was much more casual than that–which was nice!

p. 172 The end-of-year party for students at Kennedy and Jessica's school in Kibera. Most of the students test above American grade levels, even though English is often their third language (Nicholas Kristof)

The end-of-year party for students in Kibera. (Nicholas Kristof)

Udemy: Why do people need an online course to teach them how to “make a difference”? What can you achieve through a Udemy course that isn’t possible in other formats?

Nicholas/Sheryl: A Udemy course probably isn’t the only way to get particular information, any more than a book is, or a documentary. Rather we think of the information we’ve acquired, and we want to distribute it across platforms. Some people like books and will want to access it that way. Others will watch our television documentaries. And some will find an online course the most engaging way to interact with us and the material. We’re platform neutral!

Udemy: What do you think of the power and potential of online learning to help people around the world improve their lives? How does this fit with the current state of higher education, especially in the U.S., where college is too expensive and inaccessible for many?

Nicholas/Sheryl: American universities were talking a lot about globalizing through overseas campuses, and then that conversation was overtaken to some degree by online courses. Look, we’re still believers in direct in-person teaching where that’s feasible. That’s optimal. But it’s not always practical, and the truth is that access to the best classrooms has always been limited. Now all of a sudden a kid in the tribal areas of Pakistan who has an Internet connection can take an online course, and so can a Nigerian girl or a Mongolian boy. A classroom can be expanded from 50 people to 7 billion, and that’s a fantastic boon for the capacity for human learning.

Udemy: What do you tell your three children or hope for them as far as their own educations are concerned? What are the things that keep you up at night when you think about the world they will inherit?

mukhtar1 mai not for course

Mukhtar Mai fought against her sexual assaulters and started a school for girls in Punjab, Pakistan. (Nicholas Kristof)

Nicholas/Sheryl: We tell them that it’s important not just to possess knowledge but to have critical thinking, strong social and communication skills, the capacity for leadership–and, maybe most important, the ability to solve problems. Those are the skills that will be needed in the mid-21st century. In the past, the most important skills were repetitive ones–the blacksmith, the boot maker, even the salesman–but increasingly those will be taken over by machines, and humans will be given the tasks involving creativity, problem solving, leadership and communication.

Udemy: Who’s the intended audience for this course, and what are the top one or two takeaways you’d want every student to get out of it? What are the actions you hope they’ll take as a result?

Nicholas/Sheryl: Our audience is everyone who yearns for a bit more meaning in life, for a bit more fulfillment or purpose. We think a lot of people would like to do something to make a difference, but they just don’t know how to help–and we want to show them that it is possible. Any one of us may not be able to save the world, but we can help transform the lives of people, by sending them to school, or giving them medicines or whatever the key is. As for what actions people will take after the course, we’ll leave that to them–but we do want them to act in some way. The purpose of this course is not just to educate people, but to help them take steps and do something. that will help others and themselves.

good pick abbas not for in course

Formerly trafficked, Abbas Be now works at the Prajwala women’s shelter in Hyderabad, India. (Nicholas Kristof)

Don’t forget to register for Nicholas and Sheryl’s course so you can join their live, private Q&A!

Here’s How Udemy Gives

On June 26, all Udemy offices (San Francisco, Ankara, and Dublin) spent a day volunteering locally. At Udemy, part of our culture is to give back to our community, particularly around education and youth empowerment. We love interacting with our neighbors and helping them reach their goals, so volunteering isn’t a one-time thing for us. We plan volunteer projects regularly and encourage everyone to step away from their desks to get involved. Here’s a recap of how each Udemy office recently donated its time and energy.

San Francisco
We partnered with HandsOn Bay Area, a group that organizes service projects for innovative companies, to beautify Buena Vista Horace Mann Elementary School in San Francisco’s Mission District. Buena Vista Horace Mann is colorful and airy, with students from kindergarten to 8th grade. Our team pitched in on several projects: building a greenhouse in the playground, painting an accent wall in the teachers’ lounge, organizing classrooms, and painting the school’s values at the building entrance. Because the school is in a bilingual community that serves both Spanish and English speakers, values such as perseverance (perseverancia) were painted in both languages. The SF volunteers had a great time building, painting, and organizing the school and enjoyed a day in the sun helping the community!

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In Turkey, Udemy employees visited the “Village For Children With Leukemia,” an organization that’s building a Circle of Life facility to provide health and recreational services to families of kids with leukemia and other forms of cancer. It’s a home away from home for patients who have come to Ankara to receive treatment, complete with a guest house offering 5-star hotel service as well as K-12 school facilities, a restaurant, health center, fitness center, athletic facilities and much more. Udemy spent time with the young patients and donated much-needed items like clothes, bed linens, stationery, and toys. We also participated in some workshops that give family members a chance to learn skills like knitting, handicrafts, baking, and floriculture.

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Volunteers from Udemy’s Dublin office worked with a children’s charity called Scouting Ireland, whose aim is to support and develop the social, physical, and intellectual skills of young children. We spent our time sprucing up their urban garden space, which was very overgrown and unusable. We put a lot of elbow grease into such physical activities as weeding, stripping ivy from walls, and clearing overgrowth, so that Scouting Ireland can now use the space for the club’s activities and skills training. Luckily, the weather was on our side, and we got a lovely sunny day while doing this outdoor work. There were many aching limbs over the weekend as a result, but it was all worth it!

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We value these opportunities to give back to our respective communities and look forward to more volunteer events in the future.

Instructor Thomas Leuthard: Street photographer supporting street kids

Udemy instructor Thomas Leuthard is a street photographer from Switzerland whose Udemy courses help other aspiring street artists around the world hone their craft. He prides himself on sharing his full knowledge with his students and keeping no secrets from them.

Thomas has seen great financial success through Udemy and wanted to find a way to share a portion of his earnings with others in need. He found Burundi Kids, a nonprofit organization that supports children in Burundi, and pledged to donate the first €2,500 in sales of his new course Contact Sheets: Begin to take & select great street photo (German version: Kontaktabzüge: Wie ich eine Szene auf der Strasse erarbeite) to the group. In less than 10 days he was able to collect and donate €2,570. On top of that, Udemy has contributed an additional €500 through our Social Innovation program.

It only costs €25 to buy school materials for one child for an entire year through Burundi Kids, so Thomas and Udemy will be supporting more than 100 children with this joint campaign. Read more about the project in Thomas’ own words here.

Notes from CGI: Pioneers are everywhere

One of my favorite things about working at Udemy is being part of helping people realize dreams for themselves – no matter how big or small those dreams may be. We think everyone learning, teaching or training on Udemy is an explorer, and the most important step is the first one. Our “people” are the ones out there looking for something better for themselves and their families. They believe in themselves and their employees enough to invest time and money in learning something new.

I spent the past few days with another group of explorers at the Clinton Foundation’s CGI America annual gathering. This year’s event was in Denver, super fitting when you consider the city’s history and the hearty pioneering folks who built a city in the Rockies.

Former President Bill Clinton kicked off the event with the theme of all-stakeholder decision-making. He spoke about the need to get everyone at the table – even when messy – to get the best solutions to meet real challenges. True to form, it was the most diverse professional gathering I’ve ever attended with nearly equal representation from the public, private and nonprofit/NGO sectors.

The conversations at the event were frequently messy – not everyone’s agendas matched up perfectly, and the language used was so different that it was sometimes difficult to understand each other. Despite that, clear themes emerged. People can be extraordinary resourceful, and virtually everyone wants to feel like they’re making forward progress – in multiple facets of their lives. These themes felt so universal and so familiar to what we talk about every day at Udemy.

Living and working in a place that’s virtually synonymous with entrepreneurship (San Francisco), I also realized how narrowly some of us in technology define innovation. I was most blown away by the level of innovation happening in places like Detroit and Buffalo, cities so radically transformed (gutted really) by decades of globalization and relentless shifts in technology. Leaders and everyday people in these places were ready for radical measures. But, it turns out that radical measures start with a series of small steps.

The people re-settling Detroit are not unlike the old homesteaders who bet on themselves and their families and actualized a bigger, better future. All of these small, individual actions are adding up to something truly massive.

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/.

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.


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.

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.

New Free Course to Help Public School Parents Navigate School System

For many parents living in California, grappling with the public school system can be anxiety-inducing. Parents simply want the best educations for their children, but navigating the complexities of the system – and becoming an active and productive member of it – can be confusing and fraught. To alleviate those concerns, the nonprofit Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco has published a free Udemy course on the state’s School Governance structure. The course covers how parents can become involved in groups where they can provide input on their school’s priorities and how money is being spent.

The course focuses on several key areas:

  • What school governance is, how it works and why it is important for any parent with a child in the public school system
  • The overarching concepts of how school is governed in California – School Site Councils and English Learner Advisory committees
  • The role parents and caregivers can play in the public school system to enable academic success and enhanced school governance

The course, which was made possible through a grant from Udemy’s Social Innovation program, is designed to foster community involvement in the state school system and empower parents and caregivers to become active participants. It’s available through the Udemy website as well as on mobile devices, which is ideal for busy parents. The course is approximately 1.5 hours long and is free for anyone. It is also available in Spanish and Chinese. To take the course, visit Udemy’s website.