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Friday, January 6, 2017

Udacity Intensive Connect Data Analyst Machine Learning Nanodegrees

Udacity is making two nanodegrees available for Udacity Connect or Udacity intensive: Data Analyst and Machine Learning Engineers. Its in-person meetup lessons utilizes the online material but features a bootcamp-like part-time learning opportunity with industry / professional classmates. Here are some PROs and CONs of Udacity Intensive Connect

  • PROs
    • Affordable price tag
      • The intensive class unlocks the corresponding online material for months, it is a much better deal than Udacity expensive monthly nanodegree price tag well north of $100
      • It's a bargain compared to coding bootcamps
    • Udacity markets its program as : bootcamp level intensity, in-person collaboration, accountability, part-time, no need to leave or quit your current job
    • Fast paced, stringent project timeline
    • Attend classes with diverse and experienced industry professionals
    • In-person lectures that are more targeted and easily adjusted for the needs of the class. High quality, in-person lectures, Q&A opportunities, one-on-one help. 
  • CONs
    • It is still expensive the price tag will be near $1000 or more
    • The physical location may be an hour away from your current location. I had to commute from San Francisco to San Jose. Ultimately it didn't work out. 
    • It still relies heavily on the online videos. If those videos didn't speak to you, the in-person interactions may not be able to shift your learning retention.  
    • Fast paced, stringent project timeline
    • Attend classes with diverse and experienced industry professionals. Not always beginner friendly
    • It is a significant time commitment
    • A lot of studying on the side, additional studying, looking up additional materials is required. The online videos will not provide all the information needed to complete the projects.
    • Significant in-person time commitment. Not attending the sessions will cause you to lose a lot of materials as they are not available online. It will put you behind schedule. I had to miss sessions because of business trips and it was hard to catch up.
Conclusion: for me personally, Udacity Connect or Udacity intensive helped me finish the Machine Learning Engineering Nanodegree. It has some rough spots as the program is in its early stages. But it is improving fast! Over the few months of learning, I could see the program changing. This program did get me start to think about Machine Learning in depth. I have discovered my interest. Once you know what machine learning is, it is easy to learn it online. A lot of time will be spent playing with datasets hands-on any way. Without those practices, it is not possible to take on a real job as a machine learning engineer. Your connect experience can vary with the instructor and classmates, as all inter-personal interactions do. 

The holy grail question: can you become a machine learning engineer after completing the nanodegree?
No, your knowledge, experience will not be sufficient. People get Phd's in this field. But it will open you up for some pretty awesome career paths.  More practice, knowledge acquisition is needed. You will need a strong portfolio of exemplifying projects. You will become a much better data analyst, putting you closer to a data scientist role than an analyst role. The Nanodegree will not be sufficient to get you a job at Google. However, if you are already experienced, already in the industry, just need some technical skills to climb over a hill, this course can really help you make the transition internally. 

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