AiThority Interview With Gabe Dalporto, CEO at Udacity
You are leading one of the most prolific Edutech platforms. How did you arrive at Udacity?
For me the journey was personal. Prior to joining Udacity, I had been spending a lot of my time thinking about my home state of West Virginia. Growing up, WV had a vibrant economy based on coal and natural resources. Over the years, those high-paying coal jobs were lost due to automation and global competition.
When I go back these days, many of the towns are a shell of what they were, and many of the jobs are low-paying service sector jobs. At the same time, the population density of geniuses in WV is the same as Silicon Valley. As I thought about how to leverage all that talent and reboot an economy, the answer I kept coming to was we need to reskill West Virginians on the careers of the future like Software Development, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, and even Digital Marketing. These are high-paying, high-demand jobs that can be done anywhere.
As all of these ideas were percolating in my mind, I met the visionary founder of Udacity, Sebastian Thrun. He had the same vision and convinced me I could help WV and also help the entire world by doing this at Udacity. Honestly, there was no way I could have said “no”.
As the CEO of an online tech firm, what are the unique challenges you tackle with your team on a daily basis?
There are so many!!! We’re inventing a whole new category, a whole new way to get people the skills they need. We believe we have a superior pedagogy, which is a fancy way of saying teaching methodology.
We’re the fastest, most effective way to get employable job skills in the jobs of the future. But it’s really hard to produce that content to our high standards, so one of the biggest challenges is the scalability of our content production. We’ve made huge strides in the past year on the process, and are now building a tech platform to streamline and automate all the workflows.
How is running an Edutech company different from a traditional B2B tech firm?
It’s not that different actually. We started in the consumer space but found our product-market fit in Enterprise. Giant enterprises are going through massive digital transformations, and they frankly don’t have enough people trained on the skills necessary to execute those transformations. So enterprises started coming to us to get their people ready.
We spent a bunch of time with these enterprises – these are companies with tens or hundreds of thousands of employees – to deeply understand their needs, and craft customized solutions for them. So in a way, we have developed an enterprise SaaS-type selling motion.
Your resources are a goldmine for AI and Data Science teams. Tell us about your research and tech integrations that benefit B2B Marketing and Sales teams?
Absolutely. We’ve probably got the best, most comprehensive set of AI/Machine Learning/Data Science programs in the world. We can take people from Beginner to Business Analyst, from Business Analyst to Data Scientist, and from Data Scientist to Machine Learning engineer.
For enterprises, we can create custom learning paths. For example, with Shell, we developed a custom “citizen data scientist” path for them.
When customers are picking convenience over experience, how do you balance the two using Analytics and Intelligence?
For us, we start with the outcomes. To get someone into a new job, they need two things. First, they need to graduate. Second, they need practitioner-level skills. We focus on those two metrics.
What are the graduation rates, and do they come out of the Nanodegree with hard skills? The first is easy to measure. The second is inherent in the design of our programs. A core element of our learning methodology is project-based learning.
As an example, in our self-driving car Nanodegree, for a student to graduate, they have to upload their code into our self-driving car, and the car drives around a course using that code, avoiding obstacles, stopping on red and going on green. If they don’t pass, they get a detailed code review with specific feedback, and they fix it and submit again. So to graduate, you have to actually produce employable code.
Any unique business-centric experience you had during the COVID-19?
For sure. It was a very scary time. We didn’t know how COVID would affect our business. Obviously, our first priority was keeping everyone safe and healthy. Then we thought about the pain people were feeling. We’ve seen about 40,000,000 people file for unemployment. Many of those jobs aren’t coming back. So we rolled out a scholarship program to help many in need. We also rolled out a program where anyone can get a full free month of access to our platform.
If you work really hard, you can complete an ND in about a month, so we wanted to get access to the broadest group of people possible, and get them on their way to a new career.
Thank you, Gabe! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Gabe Dalporto is the Chief Executive Officer of Udacity, the online learning platform that is democratizing education and career advancement for millions of users around the world. Prior to joining Udacity, Gabe held several leadership roles at Lending Tree and helped to oversee the company’s transition into a fully diversified financial services marketplace.
Gabe’s leadership at Udacity reflects his personal commitment to improving the lives of those living in areas where employment is changing the most, including his home state of West Virginia.
Udacity’s mission is to power careers through tech education. Every industry is being impacted by modern technology. As companies everywhere adapt and transform their businesses, they’re looking to hire people with the tech skills to match their goals. We work with the world’s technology leaders to teach these critical tech skills through our powerful and flexible digital education platform. Now even the busiest learners can be prepared to take on the most in-demand tech roles.