| ||Mohd Arif Ansari ||In the second half of 2018, I was looking for ways to upgrade my skill set. What the IT industry has taught me over the last 3 years is to constantly keep updating myself with latest trends and technologies to maintain employability & relevant. I was trying to find something that would be simple enough for me to start from scratch as well as complex enough to teach me skills to be able to solve real world scenarios and problems that I could face in the industry.
In recent years the rise of MOOCs has been phenomenal, offering learning material across multiple domains and discipline across geographies for a fraction of price. More importantly, owing to the enrolments in MOOCs the students also get to connect with peers across geographies and hence expand their professional networks. I have closely checked the courses in the top 3 MOOCs and looked into their course materials. I wanted to experience Machine Learning concepts and see whether I would like to continue with this as a career option.
Why I finally chose Udacity out of the top three is owing to these three distinct reasons:
1) The introductory courses which act as pre-requisites for the main course (Machine Learning in my case) are very well explained and instils the concepts very clearly so that the same can be used in the future.
2) The course material is easy to follow and the Udacity community is pretty big and extremely helpful (In form of Udacity Forums/Communities, Nanodegree channels in SLACK, blogposts in Medium etc.)
3) If the above 2 points were not good enough to convince me to immediately enroll, the next point certainly did. A limited time offer was going on the Udacity India site, where the Machine Learning Foundation Nanodegree was being offered for a big discount. Well, that was the final catalyst.
The overall experience over the last 2 months have been extremely wonderful. Although the courses are self-paced, there are tentative due dates for each module which always ensures that you are constantly in touch with the course material. Based on my experience, having worked on multiple programming languages in my career, the first module on Python programming passed on like a breeze. The reviews on project submission has been really helpful and the communities are awesome. However, the learning challenges started flowing in from the second and third modules when descriptive and inferential statistics knocked my door.
I had previously studied statistics when I was in school. So, starting again with all these concepts packed up in one module initially seemed too much work! However, the instructors were really motivating and the videos were pretty well organised to ensure concepts are slowly built up. Also hands on exercises after every single module ensures that you clearly understand what you are learning. The initial phase quickly bore off after I started putting a little extra time and effort. Once the same was done, I felt really confident with what I had learned. Whenever I would see data in a spreadsheet, I would literally start planning in my mind the type of analysis that could potentially be performed. The really good aspect about the courses in Udacity is that you are expected to build up your concepts and be strong enough to face real world scenarios once you have obtained your Nanodegree.
Another question which I usually receive from my friends when they hear that I am enrolled in a Nanodegree program is whether the Nanodegree program really worth it. I bet a lot of you would have the same question.
Well I cannot answer it simply as a Yes or No. Rather let me explain you a few points which should help in understanding the scenario.
1) You get to list the Nanodegree in your profile in LinkedIn and your resume thereby highlighting the fact that you have been associated with an organisation and have completed certain assignments and gained specific knowledge on a specific skill set. For employers, a candidate that showcases skill set is lot more job worthy than those who don’t.
2) The Nanodegree Program keeps you motivated to complete your course once you have enrolled. Just like a conventional degree, completing the course will give you enormous satisfaction for the hard work. It will also give you the confidence to highlight your new skill set.
3) Udacity provides a state of the art course material along with real world data sets and files for analysis. While you are working on the Nanodegree program, you can decide to showcase your findings in your blog/website and play around with the datasets and files to freely create/analyze something that you had not been asked to do in your course. This will not only help you to explore your skillset, highlighting the same in your blog/website will be an added advantage for highlighting your skills in the next job interview.
4) The big multinational companies have started prioritising candidates with additional certifications & determine the competencies and skill sets of an associate. Hence a Nanodegree may allow you to switch career path within your current organisation itself.
5) Last but not the least, the feedback that you receive from peers all around the world as well as mentors help in building your professional network as well as builds up your competency. |