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Friday, January 6, 2017

Udacity Intensive Connect Data Analyst Machine Learning Nanodegrees

Udacity is making two nanodegrees available for Udacity Intensive Connect: 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
    • 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 will 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, the Udacity Intensive Connect sessions did not work out. The No.1 reason was that the online materials play a significant role, is less cohesive, is not stand-alone. I cannot rely on the online materials to learn machine learning. But this program did get me start to think about Machine Learning. I realized that I had a strong interest in ML, and a lot of materials are available online for free once you get pass that initial block. 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.

The holy grail question: can you become a machine learning engineer after completing the nanodegree?
No, your knowledge, experience will not be sufficient. More practice, knowledge acquisition is needed. 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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