International Women’s Day 2018: 5 Women, 5 Stories

International Women’s Day 2018: 5 Women, 5 Stories

International Women's Day - Udacity - Hero

Udacity is honored to support women across the globe empowering themselves through learning, and we join the world in celebrating International Women’s Day! Today, we share the stories of five exceptional women who have mastered new skills, and advanced their lives and careers.

Rachael Farnsworth

International Women's Day - Udacity - Rachael FarnsworthRachael Farnsworth built a successful ten-year career in publishing, but it all ended abruptly when her company downsized. Her life upended, she grabbed a job in IT support, and set about trying to figure out how to rebuild and redirect her career.

The stakes would have been high in any circumstances, but her situation was made more pressing by the fact that she and her husband had two young children to raise. What she really wanted was a career that offered flexible hours and remote working options, but that felt like wishful thinking at best, and realistically, it just didn’t seem possible.

She was nonetheless determined to find a solution. She’d always harbored an interest in technology, and despite never feeling confident about there being viable career opportunities available to her, she started researching. When she discovered an announcement for a Google-sponsored Web and Android Scholarship, Rachael believed she’d found the answer.

She applied, and was accepted!

In her application, she emphasized her desire to build a career that would enable her to maintain her commitment to her family. Now, she was faced with the reality of making this balance work. Rachael and her husband made a big decision. Rachael would quit her job so she could work on the scholarship full-time. They would dip into their savings to sustain them. The knew it was a risk, but they believed the sacrifice was worth it.

Committing full-time to the program paid off immediately. Rachael was able to exert all her energies towards gaining new skills, and spend the time she needed to complete each project to the high standards she set for herself. When her motivation flagged, the community sustained her—she was inspired to keep going by the many other mothers in the program who were sharing their own experiences and challenges.

Rachael’s commitment to quality was so impressive, she earned a full scholarship—an offer only made to the top-performing scholarship students. She is now busy working through the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program, and feels certain she is well on the way to a tech career that fits her personal and professional goals.

“I am just thrilled about the scholarship opportunity, especially as it relates to the future. This industry gives me the possibility of working remotely, which would be an incredible benefit when I think about my family and the unpredictable schedule that comes with having children.”

Shana Hagood

International Women's Day - Udacity - Shana HagoodFrom the outside, it may have seemed like Shana Hagood was primed for a tech career from an early age. She is a Silicon Valley native who attended computer programming camp as a child. She grew up around people in tech. But while she did find coding interesting, she never considered it as a career. Instead, Shana took a different path. She pursued her enthusiasm for arts and culture. Her interests were diverse, ranging from music, to fashion, to design. The language and culture of Japan emerged as a primary passion for her.

She loved the experiences she engaged in, but the wide range of her interests made it challenging to produce the kind of career progress she’d envisioned. Eventually, she had to admit it was time to take stock of her situation, and rethink her plans.

The truth was, she was working in a hospitality job she didn’t like, and her creative passions weren’t translating to career success. She began to consider programming again—maybe it made sense as a career after all. Her friends and family were ready to support her. They encouraged Shana to enroll in a coding bootcamp, and they even gathered together the money to support her during her studies.

Emboldened by their support, she quit her job, and took the leap. She worked so hard, but despite her determined efforts, she couldn’t advance to the next level in the program. She was devastated. More than anything else, she felt like she’d let everyone down. Her confidence evaporated. The temptation to blame herself was almost overwhelming, as was the desire to just give up. But instead, Shana refused to succumb. She gave herself permission to believe that it wasn’t all her fault. It was that act of self-forgiveness that made what came next possible.

Udacity was what happened next. It was a completely different kind of learning experience, and as it turned out, exactly the right one for Shana. She enrolled in the Intro to Programming Nanodegree program, and immediately felt reinvigorated. She started making progress almost immediately, and began to believe anew that she was capable of succeeding. With every project submission, her confidence grew. By the time of her graduation, she felt like a new person.

Today, Shana has a great job, and she’s happily continuing to learn new skills. She’s excited about her future, and confident about her long-term career aspirations. She’s focusing on Japan again, and looking for ways to integrate her coding skills with her passion for the Japanese language to create a new career for herself. Best of all, she’s happy.

“Completing my Nanodegree program really showed me how resilient I am, so that I know I’m capable of achieving whatever I want to achieve throughout my career.”

Kat Halo

International Women's Day - Udacity - Kat HaloSome stories are best told chronologically—starting at the beginning, and working towards the present. That’s what we did when we first introduced Kat Halo to our readers. But today, it’s our pleasure to begin Kat’s story with the very latest:

“I have some great updates. I’m being given more and more projects by our CEO—from graphic design to social media campaigns. Today, I found out I am getting my own laptop loaded with everything from Microsoft Suite to Adobe Creative Suite, as well as subscriptions to my social media manager programs. It’s a great feeling to know that my hard work through Udacity has opened doors I thought I would never walk through!”

Kat’s story didn’t begin in marketing. She worked in healthcare—a field she’d been inspired to enter in the aftermath of witnessing the wonderful care her father received during his battle with cancer. She enjoyed her work, and she loved supporting her patients. Still, something was lacking, and she longed to express herself more creatively in her work. When her company started investing in marketing, a light bulb went on in her mind. Unfortunately, the marketing budget was allocated elsewhere, and realistically, she had no claim on it—she had no demonstrable marketing skills.

That realization marked the beginning of a new chapter in Kat’s life and career. She resolved to learn the skills she needed, and when she discovered Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, she knew it was the right opportunity. Balancing her day job against nights in the Udacity classroom was no easy feat, but while she was often exhausted, her excitement and growing confidence sustained her.

Her co-workers noticed the change, and everyone was impressed by the creative ideas she started informally sharing. Her manager even suggested she make a presentation to the company about her vision for new marketing strategies. The end result was a brand-new role created just for Kat—Marketing & Social Media Coordinator! This represented the best of both worlds; she could continue on with her existing responsibilities, while simultaneously exploring the possibilities her new role offered.

Managing two different jobs certainly presents its share of challenges, but as is evident from the quote we shared at the beginning, things just keep on getting better. Kat is thriving, the company is thriving, and the door is open to an ever-brighter future.

Deeya Ranjan

International Women's Day - Udacity - Deeya RanjanIn her native India, Deeya Ranjan had a dream career. She worked for L’Oreal as a marketer, and she loved everything about it. She loved creating and executing campaigns. She loved talking to people about her products. She loved translating the insights she gleaned into successful new initiatives.

Leaving that behind, and quitting the job she loved, was a hard decision, but relocating to the U.S. for her husband’s job was the right choice for her family. She told her manager they’d be back in a year.

A year later, Deeya and her husband had built a wonderful new life for themselves. They loved where they were living, they were raising a young child, and her husband was very happy in his job. When her manager called to see if they’d be returning, and to ask whether she’d be willing to rejoin the company, she was flattered. But she declined. They were in the U.S. to stay.

With the move now undeniably permanent, Deeya began to think more deeply about her future. Her career had been on pause for a year—now, it was seemingly over. What would she do next? She tried a few online courses, and enrolled in an Environmental Studies Course from De Anza College. She took up internship and volunteer work for a number of environmental charitable organizations, but while these projects aligned with her values, they didn’t amount to a career. She wanted to be a working professional again, but she felt a bit lost; as if her life was a question she didn’t know how to answer.

As it turns out, the answer was right in front of her all along, and with just a bit more soul-searching, it become obvious—she was a marketer. That’s who she was, and that’s what she loved. Just because she wasn’t actively working in marketing, didn’t mean she wasn’t a marketer anymore.

She knew she’d need to skill up to compensate for her time away, so she started looking for ways to update her skills. She found Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, and enrolled immediately. She was back in the game, and couldn’t have been happier.

From there, everything moved quickly. Deeya blazed through the Nanodegree program, and after she graduated, she quickly got an interview and dazzled the recruiter with her ideas. She landed a great new marketing coordinator role, and has fallen in love with marketing all over again.

“I finally felt like I found the perfect blend of new skills and my past experience. I am loving my new job! It’s so exciting because I have the confidence in my own abilities to take risks and reach many people through digital marketing.”

Jennifer Tsou

International Women's Day - Udacity - Jennifer TsouAchieving a measure of career success is generally a good thing, but as the quote goes, it isn’t always “all it’s cracked up to be.” Early success, particularly if you’re not doing exactly what you’d dreamed of for the long term, can actually be an obstacle when it comes to pursuing your dream career—it’s hard to leave a stable situation behind to pursue your real passions.

This was the dilemma that Jennifer Tsou faced. She’d established the beginnings of a successful career as a Relationship Banker, but while she enjoyed engaging with her customers and clients, it was the data behind the finance that really intrigued her. She dreamed of a different career, but felt guilty for doing so—who was she to go throwing away a perfectly good career on a pipe dream? After all, she had no technical background at all.

Despite her self-doubts, Jennifer began spending her nights researching opportunities to learn data skills, and she eventually started taking free courses online. The experiences were powerful—with each course completed, her confidence grew. Balancing her studies with her day job become progressively more challenging, but the empowerment she felt was irresistible. Enrolling in Udacity’s Data Analyst Nanodegree program was a huge leap forward for her—the time commitment was more intensive, the work more challenging, and she still needed to maintain her full-time job.

As hard as the work was, the positive feedback she received on her project submissions inspired her and drove her on, and she kept up a fierce pace throughout. It was a challenging six months, but it was so worthwhile—within 3 weeks of starting to apply for data jobs, she was offered a position as a Data Analyst!

“When they called and said ‘Congratulations, we would like to offer you a position as a Data Analyst,” I couldn’t concentrate … my mind was on cloud nine, I was just so happy. Udacity made me realize how important it is to actually like your job, and to wake up excited to go to work.”


We’re honored these incredible women chose to learn with Udacity, and humbled to have played a role in their amazing achievements. Please join us in celebrating their successes!