Udacity is a learning platform. It offers practitioner level skills in emerging technologies. It’s Nanodegree programs provide credentials earned through a series of online courses and projects in an array of subjects from self-driving cars and AI to data science and digital marketing.
Recently, we had the honour of conducting an interview with Mr Lalit Singh, COO, Udacity.
Given below is the interview.
Q. Tell us about your journey. How you ended up with Udacity?
I come from a small village in Uttar Pradesh, India which meant that access to education didn’t come easy to me. As a kid I used to travel 8 kilometer everyday to reach my school. Back then, I used to wonder how great it would have been if my school could come to me and I could devote more time towards learning.
After my MBA, I worked with various global organisations like GE (in India) and EDS (in the US). EDS was acquired by HP in 2008 where I went on to become the Digital Transformation Leader. As a part of my role I had to transform HP’s software business from old-school/legacy, on-premise, and disjointed systems to seamless and scalable big-data and cloud-based architecture powered by 20 best-in-class SaaS applications. It was then that I realized that education, especially reskilling and upskilling, is still a challenge. I spent a significant portion of transformation budget in training the employees but it was not very effective. It was then, I realized that there has to be a better solution to transform employees when companies drive digital transformations, and I started looking for answers. In January 2019, I was introduced to Sebastian Thrun, Founder and Chairman of Udacity. When he shared the mission of Udacity, I immediately fell in love with it and realized that this was it. So when I got this opportunity to join Udacity, I was excited as I had the opportunity to contribute to resolve the challenges that I faced earlier in my life – as a student, a working professional and a business leader. The mission of Udacity aligned with what I wanted to do and hence I joined the organization as COO in February 2019.
2. How Digital Transformation is changing the industry?
Digital transformation is, without a doubt, the key driver of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. It has accelerated the speed at which companies can, and indeed are, driving their business operations which directly translates into enhanced productivity and growth. This is a broader perspective. On the microscopic level, the uptake of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, cloud computing, data analytics, etc. has boosted the efficiency and effectiveness of various organizational processes. These abound in the form of augmented inter- and cross-team competence, reduced processing time, optimized decision-making, enhanced customer service delivery, and so on.
3. How Hyper Agile Applications are helping organizations in utilizing the potential of teams?
With newer innovation-driven players rapidly entering the business ecosystem, larger companies are realizing that they need to make structural changes if they are to deliver low operating costs while staying ahead of their competitors. It is here that Hyper Agile Applications are entering the picture, fast replacing legacy systems and processes deployed by these companies. This new-age methodology enables organizations to unlock the full potential of their teams by facilitating them with shorter and frequent feedback cycles, automated processing, streamlined workflows, parallel product development, and so on. Simply put, the combined benefit of Hyper Agile Applications is enhanced product development and delivery in a more cost-efficient and timely manner.
4. How Udacity is helping organizations to cope with modern technologies?
In a short span, the technology landscape has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, the pace of digital advancement is accelerating as we speak and businesses across sectors are increasingly leveraging digital technologies to boost their growth trajectory. On the one hand, this is definitely a good thing for industries. On the other hand, this is also causing the skill gap in the workforce to become ever wider as professionals are suddenly being expected to exhibit technological proficiency without prior training. Over time, the demand for professionals with specialization in niche technologies has also become prominent. World Economic forum predicts that over 10 years 800M jobs will be lost to automation and digital technologies and additional 375M employees have to re-skill themselves to stay relevant in their companies. It’s a 1.2 billion people problem.
Udacity steps in here to meet this demand by equipping professionals with practitioner level skills in future-looking bleeding-edge technologies. Our Nanodegree programs cover a range of technologies such as AI, machine learning, programming, self-driving cars, autonomous systems, data science, cloud, digital marketing, and business analytics, among others. By engaging with cutting-edge Nanodegree programs offered on our platform, users – working professionals as well as students – can up-skill themselves in various technologies to become future-ready for emerging job roles.
5. Udacity has introduced some new courses like AI Product Manager, Marketing Analytics. What is the significance of these courses?
AI is at the core of all new-age technologies. Hence, all the digital tools being adopted by businesses the world over are being powered by AI. Against such a backdrop, it becomes necessary to learn how much value is AI creating for the business, and how the benefits can be optimized by creating data-driven and action-centric strategies. Our new courses including AI for Product Manager, Marketing Analytics, etc. enable professionals to do exactly that.
6. Can you tell us about the trend across industries?
The most dominant trend which is shaping industries across sectors is the rise of digital-first corporations that, in turn, are driving the economy of their respective nations. Just in 2019, corporates are expected to spend ~$1.2T in digital transformation and this spend will continue to increase over the next 10-15 years. Hence, in sync with the growing demand for technologically-skilled professionals, people are increasingly choosing to up-skill and re-skill themselves in niche technologies. At Udacity, we work with more than 70 enterprise customers globally to support them in their employee reskilling and upskilling initiatives. We have witnessed that this trend is common across organisations – legacy or new age.
7. What are the opportunities you foresee in this sector?
The growth opportunities in advanced technologies are immense – be it on an individual level or organizational. As companies are growing cognizant of the advantages of tech integration into their digital infrastructure, the demand for professionals with excellent tech skills is booming. In other words, digital disruption has become the engine of high-value job creation and people are fast responding to meet the demand. Furthermore, the focus on R&D has also improved and so has the number of specialists entering into this domain. All in all, the future looks extremely optimistic.
(Image – Udacity)