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A Nanodegree in AI Helped a Stay-at-Home Mom Become a Data Scientist

Bronwyn Flores, Specialist, Policy Communications, Consumer Technology Association
In 2008, Melissa Lee – a stay-at-home mom – went back to school full-time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s degree in statistics. Ten years later, she earned a Nanodegree – fast-tracked credentials offered by online learning website Udacity – in artificial intelligence (AI).
Today, she is helping catch hackers as a professional data scientist at AT&T. By applying AI and machine learning to build identity and access management algorithms, Lee identifies irregularities in the company’s network traffic to catch faulty AT&T-app logins.
With the tuition reimbursement from AT&T, Lee was able to complete her AI Nanodegree while working full-time in AT&T’s Chief Data Office on security efforts.
“I continue to push myself to acquire new skills so that I can be a leader in my domain, and because I am committed to developing the skills my team needs me to have – not only for current opportunities, but for those opportunities that we don’t know about yet,” Lee says.
The financial assistance from AT&T is part of the company’s $1 billion commitment to reskill its 250,000-person workforce. The initiative includes offering online courses that provide new skills at all stages of a worker’s career, allowing AT&T to retain its talent and keep up with the speed of innovation. As of 2018, almost 60 percent of AT&T’s management employees enrolled in reskilling programs provided or subsidized by the company.
In CTA’s latest Future of Work survey, business leaders identified software development, data analytics, engineering and AI/machine learning as top skills needed in the future. However, 74 percent of employers say it’s difficult to find skilled candidates.
That’s why strategic programs such as AT&T’s are vital to helping companies address 21st century workforce issues. Udacity’s Nanodegrees are just one component of AT&T’s reskilling effort. Nanodegrees facilitate anytime, anywhere learning and have become a popular accreditation helping many workers gain new skills in the workplace.
Lee says she got into the STEM field because she wanted a successful career doing what she enjoyed – math and programing – and the opportunity to use more technical skills. Her children also inspired her to go back to school and thrive in a growing STEM field.
“We all tell our kids ‘You can do/be anything you want if you work hard.’ I wanted to actively show my kids that that statement is absolutely true,” Lee says. “I wanted them to see it happen.” 
Learn more about CTA’s Future of Work study.