Udacity 2017: The Year in Review

Udacity 2017: The Year in Review

Udacity 2017 Year in Review

A great deal can happen in a year. We’re not always conscious of this as we go about our daily lives, but it becomes immediately apparent when we pause to reflect. The experience of creating a “Year in Review” post affords us a special opportunity to think back on all the things we’ve learned, experienced, and achieved together.

2017 has been an extraordinary year for the global Udacity community. We’ve grown at a remarkable rate—our family of employees runs into the many hundreds now, we have expert Udacity project reviewers in over 60 different countries, and nearly a million-and-a-half new students, residing in virtually every country on the planet, entered our classrooms this year. We helped fund over 100,000 scholarships in 2017. We count over 100 different companies as partners and collaborators. We now offer over 20 different Nanodegree programs, more than half of which we launched this year. Udacity students submitted over 300,000 projects in 2017.

And yet, we still feel we’ve only just begun!

Everywhere in the world there are passionate, dedicated, hardworking lifelong learners eager to advance their lives and their careers, each of whom deserves full access to world-class learning opportunities. Our goal is to reach every one of you. This is what we strive for, and this is the challenge we look forward to every day.

But just for a moment at least, we’d like to pause, and look back at 2017.


We didn’t waste any time getting going in 2017. Less than two weeks into the New Year, we launched one of our most ambitious Nanodegree programs ever: the Deep Learning Nanodegree Foundation program. There was no precedent for this, no one else offered anything like it, and we had no way of knowing what kind of response we’d receive. We’re still stunned as we look back at the numbers now, and see that nearly 6,000 students enrolled in the inaugural class!

Deep Learning Nanodegree Foundation Program [Trailer]

On top of that, over 30,000 of you have since pored over the new curriculum we introduced:

Deep Learning Nanodegree Foundation Program Syllabus, In Depth

January also made clear early on that Udacity—and our students!—would be busy at the global level throughout 2017. As but one example, we were very excited in January to join hands with the MiSK Foundation in Saudi Arabia, under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, in a joint initiative to award over 2,600 scholarships in Android Development, Web Development, and Data Science in the region.


February afforded us one of the earliest opportunities of the year to both experience—and celebrate!—the impact of scholarship initiatives we launched in partnership with Google at the end of 2016. We published Tam Love’s story about her scholarship experience, entitled How a Google Android Scholarship for Udacity Has Changed My Life, on our Medium publication:

“This has been an amazing experience so far and I honestly can’t wait to see what I learn and achieve throughout the next two months. I am so grateful, and so thrilled that I am finally learning mobile development. I’ve enjoyed gaining skills in Android and experimenting so much that I definitely want to pursue a career path as an Android developer upon completion of the Scholarship.”  (Stay tuned for more news from Tam later in the year!)

We also announced one of the craziest events of the entire year: a challenge to our Self-Driving Car students to actually race a real self-driving car around a real race track! Oliver Cameron announced the challenge in a post entitled: Race Self-Driving Cars With Udacity! (You can find out what actually happened on the track when you get to April!)


On March 8th, we hosted our annual Intersect event, at a scale much larger than anything we’d ever attempted before. Hundreds of people attended in person, and some 30,000 joined via the event’s livestream.

Featured speakers included: Astro Teller (X), Ashwin Ram (Amazon Alexa), Steven Abrams (IBM Watson), Yoki Matsuoka (Nest), Rana El Kaliouby (Affectiva), and of course Sebastian Thrun, our founder.

Keynote: Sebastian Thrun | Udacity Intersect 2017

We also announced an incredible group of new hiring partners at the event, including: X (Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory), MegaBots, Fiat Chrysler, iRobot, Lockheed Martin, 1mg, CI&T, Delphi, IBM Brazil, Innovation Works, Kuka, Paytm, Rakuten, Renovo, Ross Intelligence, SAP, Telefonica Vivo Brazil, Velodyne, Zalando, ZEISS, and Zomato.

Possibly the biggest announcement of the day was the launch of two new Nanodegree programs: Digital Marketing and Robotics! Both these programs would go on to have remarkable years, with Digital Marketing being particularly notable for its international impact—Brazil has emerged as the #1 country for the program worldwide!

Depoimentos Alunos Nanodegree Marketing Digital – Udacity [Brazil]

You can read all about Intersect 2017 here. (And, you can get early bird tickets to Intersect 2018 here!)


We introduced all sorts of exciting things in April, beginning with an all-new classroom experience!

New Udacity Classroom

We also took our Udacity Talks series on the road, as Sebastian Thrun visited legendary mythbuster Jamie Hyneman on-site at his M5 Industries!

Udacity Talks Episode 9 | Jamie Hyneman | Former Mythbuster, M5 Industries

It was a great month for industry partnerships as well: Facebook announced our new Mobile Developer Education initiative at their annual F8 conference, and we announced a new Firebase Analytics course built in collaboration with Google!

(Remember how me mentioned above that Tam Love’s story would get even better? You can read about that in a post we published together in April 2017 entitled: Incredible Experiences Happened after Udacity & Google Gave Me Courage to Share My Story.)

We closed out April with great news from Udacity India about the launch of Udacity Propel, our first career fair in the country, which we debuted in collaboration with companies like Paytm, MapMyIndia, Innerchef, 1Mg, Rivigo, Qualtech, GoFro, Indiarush, Simform, Witty Feed, Healers at Home, Kayako, and Trade Logic. Here is Ishan Gupta, India’s Managing Director, about the historic launch:

“Currently, there is a huge gap in the hiring expectations of recruiters and skills possessed by tech graduates. In a scenario like this, where there is an increased demand for skilled candidates, we are excited to launch Udacity Propel and collaborate with industry leaders as our hiring partners. Propel aims to provide students an opportunity to fast track their careers by interviewing with top companies in the Indian ecosystem. We are confident that through this long term strategic partnership, we will be able to offer the best talent to the industry for all dynamic tech roles.”

Oh, and about that self-driving car race? You can read an in-depth report here!


If Deep Learning is one of our most ambitious Nanodegree programs, Intro to Programming is probably one of our most important ones, and in May, we rolled out new and more inclusive pricing structures—something we were really excited to announce!

Intro to Programming - udacity

As we wrote in this post from May 1st:

“Programming is an indispensable skill in today’s world. Technology is everywhere, and learning to code is one of the most valuable and useful things you can do. In your professional life, having programming knowledge will open new opportunities, and significantly enhance your ability to launch or advance a career.”

We also launched a groundbreaking effort to take Udacity Connect, our blended learning offering, on the road—to Nevada!

“Nevada is enjoying significant economic development success and the best companies in the world are coming here. Partnerships with innovation leaders are central to promoting job growth that is consistent, sustainable and diversified, and we’re excited to join Udacity, local employers and EDAWN for a program that will create powerful connections between our rapidly-growing technology sector and our local talent.” —Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada

May was also the month Udacity was recognized as a 2017 CNBC Disruptor 50 company!


We were humbled and excited to receive another nice nod of recognition in June of 2017:

Udacity named to MIT Technology Review’s 2017 list of 50 Smartest Companies

While recognition is certainly appreciated, we were in truth far more excited to launch another new program for our students, the React Nanodegree program! On our Medium publication, we shared 8 Reasons to Learn React with Udacity.

And speaking of our Medium publication, we had the honor of publishing what has since become 2017’s most-read post, authored by our very own Brad Crispin!

How I learned to code in my 30s

“Reflecting on my path to becoming a software engineer, I made a lot of mistakes and I got a few things right. In total, I was unemployed for over a year. I learned humility, perseverance and focus. I am fortunate to be working with awesome colleagues, for a company whose mission I value, doing work I love. My advice: immerse, get mentorship, and don’t look back.”


Our ongoing pursuit of finding new and better ways of delivering valuable content to our students took us into uncharted territory in early July, when we announced our new podcast: The Drawing Board! The launch was super exciting, and before the sun set on that magical day, we found ourselves as the #4 Technology Podcast on iTunes, right behind The Wall Street Journal’s podcast!

The Drawing Board - Launch - Udacity


That was a great deal of fun, but what we really enjoyed in July was sharing success stories from our students. Like the one about Jake Gornall entitled From Music Store Manager to Front-End Developer:

“Jake Gornall was working as a music store manager when his son was diagnosed with 22q11.2 Microdeletion Syndrome, a genetic disorder. His family’s future was suddenly uncertain; what did the coming days and years hold, and how would he prepare for them? Above all else, he knew he had to ensure his family would be supported. But he wasn’t confident that his current career could provide that support. What could he do?”


The wonderful student success stories just kept coming in August!

How a Two-Time Nanodegree Program Graduate’s Involvement in His Local Tech Community Led to a Machine Learning Job with Disney

Put Your Soul Into It: Lifelong Learning and The Pursuit of Happiness

How one Udacity graduate’s personal health journey led to a better life, and a brand-new career!

One of the most unique student success stories we’ve ever had the pleasure of publishing came from Zackarey Thoutt, who wrote a post for us about his rather remarkable experience—to give you an idea just how remarkable, here’s the headline from Vice’s Motherboard magazine, who wrote about Zack in August: A Neural Network Wrote the Next ‘Game of Thrones’ Book Because George R.R. Martin Hasn’t. You can read his own account of this amazing tale here.

We celebrated two key launches in August as well. The first of which was a hiring challenge with our partner Bosch.

Udacity Bosch - Path Planning Challenge - Self Driving Car

Here’s how Udacity’s Kirsten Bailey described it in her post:

“To help Bosch meet the demands of their growing Automated Driving team, Udacity is pleased to announce a Path Planning Challenge sponsored by Bosch, which will give actively enrolled students in our Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program the opportunity to showcase their skills and earn an interview for a Planning Engineer role with Bosch’s Automated Driving team.”

We then ended August on a high note with the launch of another new Nanodegree program, the Data Foundations Nanodegree program, which was announced by Christian Plagemann, our VP of Learning at Udacity:

“If you’re a beginner to data, and ready to learn foundational data skills to increase your knowledge and advance your career, the Data Foundations Nanodegree program is perfect for you. Enroll today!”


The second Udacity Propel event was held in Bangalore in September of 2017, and between the two Propel career fairs, our hiring partners in India conducted over 800 job interviews, and more than 40 Udacity graduates received job offers from just these two events!

We had great news from our Europe team in September as well—the launch of 60,000 Challenge Scholarships from Udacity and Google! (This initiative would go on to win a really special award later in the year, which you’ll read about shortly!)

Our China team joined the parade of great September news with a fantastic new challenge for students worldwide:

Introducing AI Challenger, a $300,000 Global AI Competition for Students

Udacity COO Clarissa Shen introduced the challenge with these words:

“Artificial Intelligence has hit fever pitch in China. From cutting-edge tech powerhouses to established large corporations, everyone is setting up new AI Labs, hiring new talent, and announcing new platforms. “AI First” is the order of the day in China, and the excitement around this transformational technology is incredible. Udacity is thrilled to be playing a key role, through important partnerships with companies such as Tencent, Didi Chuxing, and Alibaba.”

Amidst all this wonderful news from our international teams, we rolled out some major enhancements to our Data Analysts Nanodegree program, and then followed that right up with a data-themed student success story:

How a former professor turned stay-at-home parent enrolled with Udacity and became a Data Analyst

I’m not sure we realized it at the time, but looking back now, September was one of the most remarkable months of the year. In addition to all the above, we also launched two more Nanodegree programs!

Two New Nanodegree Programs

Both of these new programs focus on the future of smart transportation. Sebastian Thrun introduced our new Intro to Self-Driving Cars Nanodegree program in a post entitled Self-Driving Cars for Everyone!, in which he wrote the following:

“Our new Intro to Self-Driving Cars Nanodegree program lets anyone with minimal programming experience taste the thrills of building self-driving cars. As self-driving cars start taking over the world, everyone should be a part of this revolution. I am very confident that Udacity students will be the catalyst, and by offering this new introductory Nanodegree program, I really want to draw YOU in!”

The second of our two new offerings easily ranks as the most ambitious program we’ve offered yet: The Flying Car Nanodegree program! Nicholas Roy, Bisplinghoff Professor in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, is an instructor in the program, and he introduced it to the world in this post:

Building the Future of Smart Transportation

We wrapped up this rather extraordinary September with a hiring partner event just down the road from Udacity HQ in Mountain View, which you can read about here. It was a fantastic event, with a tremendous roster of hiring partners in attendance: Amazon, BMW, Bosch, Continental, Didi Chuxing, IBM Watson, Google, JD.com, Lyft, Mercedes-Benz, NVIDIA, Uber ATG, Volkswagen, and Voyage.

Udacity hiring partner pop-up - hero

Whew! What a September!


You’d think things would slow down after a month like that, but that was not to be the case, as October featured a little bit of everything, including:

Plus, another wonderful student success story!

How Udacity student Megha Maheshwari transformed her early passion for engineering into an autonomous vehicle career.

And finally, good news from our Middle East and North Africa (MENA) team! On October 21, 2017, we announced a partnership with the Dubai government to launch the One Million Arab Coders program, an initiative led by the Dubai Future Foundation, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.


October’s great news from Egypt would be shortly followed by our official launch in the MENA region, which you’ll read about in December below!

In the meantime, if you can believe it, we also announced another new Nanodegree program in November, the new Google AdWords Nanodegree program! This was great news for our digital marketing students, as Google AdWords skills are virtually indispensable if you want to be a truly elite professional in the field.

Robotics students got some great news in November as well, as we welcomed NVIDIA as a new curriculum partner, and presented our Term 2 curriculum.

Finally, we got to add a nice little feather to the Udacity cap when LinkedIn named us one of their top companies of 2017!


Which brings us to December! The month got off to a great start as we celebrated the very first graduates of our pioneering Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program at a special Graduation Celebration event—you can read about the celebration here.

Udacity Self-Driving Car Graduation 4Udacity Self-Driving Car Graduation 5Udacity Self-Driving Car Graduation 6

As mentioned above, we also officially launched in the MENA region, as announced by Udacity COO Clarissa Shen at the RiseUp Conference in Cairo:

“Bringing Udacity to a new region in the world is an experience that is at once both humbling and exciting. Our mission is to democratize education—to provide every lifelong learner on the planet with access to world-class learning opportunities that will enable them to build rewarding lives. Today, we are so proud to formally announce the launch of our Middle East and North Africa operations!”

We also launched the final new Nanodegree program of the year, our new Design Sprint Foundations Nanodegree program!

And finally, remember earlier in this post, when we mentioned that our EU scholarships initiative with Google would go on to win a special award? Leah Wiedenmann, who manages PR & Communications for Udacity in Europe, had the pleasure of announcing the good news:

“In 2016, the European Commission launched the first European Digital Skills Awards to honor outstanding initiatives that significantly improve Europeans’ competence to use digital technology. This year’s awards have just been announced, and we’re delighted that the European Commission has awarded Udacity, and our partners Bertelsmann and Google, the 2017 Digital Skills Award in the ‘Digital Skills for ICT Professionals’ category.”

Leah reflected on the significance of this award in the conclusion of her post:

“Being recognized by the European Commission is so much more than a testament to Bertelsmann, Google, and Udacity. It’s a testament to the 10,000 students who took a leap for their careers, landed exciting new jobs, and led by example.”

Leah’s words offer the perfect note to end our Year-in-Review on, as they sum up perfectly what 2017 was all about: you, our students.

In trusting Udacity with your learning, you’ve given us the greatest gift imaginable—the opportunity to be a part of your life. On behalf of us all at Udacity, thank you! Here’s to what’s been a wonderful 2017, and here’s to an even more amazing 2018!