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From Humanities Major to Sofware Engineer: Amy Weiner on working at Udemy

At Udemy, we believe that people can be and do anything if given the opportunity to learn. Our own Amy Weiner shares her journey from an undergraduate humanities major to a Udemy software engineer.

DSC_9850What is your educational background?

I graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Jewish Studies, and minoring in both Environmental Science and Modern Hebrew Language. Thereafter, I attended Stanford University, where I received a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Engineering, with a focus on atmosphere/energy. During my studies at Stanford, I took some introductory programming courses through the Computer Science department, as well as some courses that required programming in my department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. As a result of taking these classes, I became increasingly interested in computer science and software engineering, and decided to pursue General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive bootcamp program in San Francisco in order to learn full-stack web development. I wanted to become a professional software engineer.

Why did you choose to work at Udemy?

My primary reasons for choosing to work at Udemy are twofold: first of all, after having completed two years of graduate school myself, I relate to and highly value the mission of “helping anyone learn anything,” especially if it is actualized in such a convenient and affordable manner. Secondly, I had been using the Udemy platform somewhat, and was impressed with the product. And now that I have been working at Udemy for nearly a year, I cannot imagine working elsewhere. I am continuously happy and proud to work for an organization that seeks to provide more accessible skills-based education to individuals on a global scale.

When did you start as an intern at Udemy?

I started working at Udemy towards the end of August 2014, as an intern on the back-end engineering team, and became a full-time, salaried employee by the middle of November of that year.

How would you describe your first day(s) at your internship?

The first few days at the office went surprisingly smoothly. I recall the work being  simultaneously challenging and fun. In general, the entire internship experience was exciting, stimulating, and rewarding. While I felt as though I had finally succeeded at becoming a software engineer, I immediately realized how much I still have to learn.

What surprised you about Udemy?

Even though I was familiar with the increasing trend amongst Silicon Valley/Bay Area tech companies in offering employees generous and lavish perks, I was still pleasantly surprised to be on the receiving end of such benefits.

What projects did you work on as an intern?

As an intern, I worked on projects similar to those of my senior-level team members. At the time, we were heavily focused on migrating various back-end functionality from our PHP codebase to that of Django. Therefore, I was tasked with assignments which revolved around this migration. This entailed the actual porting over of the code, and teaching myself python, Django, and PHP along the way.

How would you describe your team?

DSC_9851My team is awesome! From the moment I started my internship, I felt welcomed into the group. I was particularly appreciative of how patient my coworkers were with training a new intern. Furthermore, I was especially struck by how fun and unpretentious my team is. We comprise a diverse, bright, and interesting group of individuals. Not only are my colleagues extremely talented engineers, but they are great people as well. We often engage in rather entertaining discussions on matters ranging from religion to politics to film and television, and anything in-between.

What have some of your favorite moments been?

It is difficult to formulate a list of my favorite Udemy moments, since our company has such a rich and well-developed culture; however, a few salient occurrences do come to mind. During the beginning of my internship period at Udemy, one of our instructors, Nick Walter, visited the office in order to deliver cupcakes, and give a speech thanking everyone at Udemy for dramatically improving his life. It was especially powerful to personally witness the positive impact of all of our work. Additionally, other memorable events have been the company holiday party, the wine and cheese tasting, the impromptu champagne celebrations, team happy hours and dinners, volunteering activities, and most recently, the partnership with Benesse.

What is your proudest Udemy accomplishment?

Most certainly, my proudest Udemy accomplishment is becoming a full-time, salaried team member. As someone who does not hold a computer science degree, I believe my success is a testament to the fact that with sufficient tenacity and dedication, one can achieve one’s goals. Even now, I still regularly experience moments of disbelief that I am actually a software engineer.

Do you have any advice for young engineers looking to land a job?

Yes, indeed. My advice to burgeoning software engineers who are actively looking to get hired is as follows:

First of all, be persistent–follow up with the appropriate individuals at the company for which you are interviewing. Secondly, do not allow a rejection to discourage or deter you from your efforts. Furthermore, manage your own expectations, which requires one to both understand the current talent landscape, and to be acutely aware of where one places along the gamut. This is an extremely competitive industry; therefore, it is essential to stay ahead of the curve with regards to mastering the fundamentals, and staying abreast of any new programming languages, frameworks, best practices, technologies, tools, etc. Along this vein, remain humble and open–ensure that your skills match the job description for which you are applying, and if not, identify any outstanding skills gaps, and aggressively work to close/eliminate them. Finally, be flexible–do not be afraid to ask for an internship opportunity, to take a job as a stepping-stone, or to create a new position at the company.