Bertelsmann offers 15,000 scholarships for Udacity’s Online Data Science Course

In a joint initiative with Google and Udacity, Bertelsmann, the international media, services and education company, is inviting the people 18 and older to apply for its “Udacity Data Science Scholarship Program,” in which the company will provide 15,000 three-month Udacity online courses in descriptive statistics.
The class, Intro to Descriptive Statistics, is billed as a starting point for further studies in data science and machine learning. The course requires five to ten hours a week of study and work over three months. The top 10%, or 1500 students, will be awarded one three Nanodegree programs: Data Foundations, Business Analyst, or Data Analyst.
The scholarships are part of a joint initiative by Bertelsmann, Google, and Udacity to promote digital skills both in Europe and globally. The companies announced a total of 75,000 scholarships last year. Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner recognized the project with a “European Digital Skills Award” for Digital Economy and Society in December.
Bertelsmann, which owns media properties around the world, including Penguin Random House, Gruner + Jahr, BMG, is funding this initiative to help address the shortage of workers with these skills. According to Bertelsmann’s CEO Thomas Rabe, “Bertelsmann is becoming more and more digital, so promoting digital skills is one of our top priorities. Data Science is particularly important for many of our digital businesses, and we are very pleased to be offering 15,000 scholarships. Together with our partners Google and Udacity, we are thus attempting to counter the shortage of specialists in the technology sector.”
Udacity is a venture-backed educational organization that is the outgrowth of the free computer science classes that Stanford offered in 2011, which over 100,000 people took. Udacity founder and president Sebastian Thrun describes their mission: “At Udacity, we partner with top employers like Google, Amazon and Facebook to build our Nanodegree programs, credentials backed and built by industry and designed to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.” He adds: “Together with Bertelsmann, we’ve now created an online learning pathway that opens up countless career opportunities. The global demand for qualified employees with advanced data analytics skills has never been higher, and successful graduates of our program will emerge job-ready in the field.”
Interested persons can apply now at The application window closes on April 22, 2018. Scholarship recipients will be selected in May 2018, and start the online course shortly thereafter.
Depending on their prior knowledge of statistics, mathematics and computer science, participants should plan on investing between 5 and 10 hours per week over a period of three months. The course is designed for both beginners and advanced students. At the end of the first phase of the scholarship program, the top 1,500 students can go on to earn a full Udacity Nanodegree credential, either in “Data Foundations,” “Business Analyst,” or “Data Analyst.”

Facebook At Work Will Quickly Change Enterprise Social

It may not yet be generally available, but Facebook at Work is a quickly evolving solution that will change how enterprises think about and conduct social interactions. It will also dramatically change, if not eliminate, the single-person role of Community Manager.
Carrie Basham Young, an experienced and respected social business strategist, published a series of blog posts on Facebook at Work last week. Her main thesis across these posts was that Facebook is playing a long game in which the line between social interaction in people’s personal lives and at work becomes blurred or disappears altogether. Facebook is betting that it can change enterprise social to more closely resemble the way that people interact outside of work, on Facebook.
Young made many other astute observations in the posts, including,

  • Facebook controls the message with respect to its product and the social networking industry in mainstream media
  • Adoption (logging in for the first time) does not equal engagement (ongoing, purposeful use)
  • Facebook at Work is “incredibly easy” to use and may nearly eliminate the need for user training
  • Facebook at Work’s extreme end-user focus may cause problems for enterprises, and IT staff at big companies will have a negative view of Facebook at Work until it incorporates enterprise-grade identity management, security and information lifecycle management functionality
  • Facebook has the power to change the entire conversation, user expectations and their behavior without input from currently active community managers

Changing Nature of Work and Organizations

The present (and future) trend in the workplace is toward fewer managers in less hierarchical organizational structures. However, eliminating roles that command others’ work does not equate with getting rid of those who guide and coordinate work. The need for people who can design, facilitate and monitor people interactions within business networks will only increase as authority, responsibility and accountability are decentralized across the employee base of an organization.
If Young’s assessment of the irreplaceable contributions of community managers is correct, then Facebook’s intention to minimize or eliminate them may be a fatal mistake. Instead, Facebook at Work should give all employees access to the tools that Young cites as necessary for successful community management. By doing so, Facebook would accelerate the existing trend of democratizing authority and distributing work ownership. Everyone would be responsible for contributing to the management of communities in which they are members, and stewardship of them would shift contextually.
This vision is not unprecedented. Over the last two decades, Knowledge Management (KM) has moved away from being a top-down activity started and executed by an individual situated fairly high in a company’s organizational chart. Instead, the notion of Personal KM has gained favor, making all employees responsible for creating, capturing, sharing and using knowledge within their company.
It is possible that day-to-day community management will move in the same direction and become a distributed responsibility and activity. Young clearly acknowledged this when she wrote,

“Facebook will maintain a pure focus on viral adoption, resulting in an industry-wide slow shift away from the concept of managed communities and toward the concept of ad-hoc, self-driven collaboration as a new normal employee behavior”

I disagree with Young’s interpretation of Facebook’s goal for Facebook at Work though. I think Facebook seeks to de-emphasize or eliminate community managers, but not community management. It appears that Facebook at Work has been designed for distributed, bottom-up community coordination, rather than top-down, imposed management. (I sincerely hope that Facebook at Work does not intend to have communities ruled by algorithms that decide which topics and interactions are given preference in an employee’s activity stream.) While this will be unappealing to existing community managers, Facebook’s vision for more self-governed collaboration is consistent with the larger trends that are distributing and democratizing work coordination in increasingly flat, networked organizational structures.

Enterprise Social Will Change Sooner Rather Than Later

Young is right that Facebook at Work will upset the status quo in enterprise social and community management, but I think her timeline is too long. This change is likely to happen in 3 years or less, rather than the 5-10 years she predicts.
It will be faster because Facebook can learn from other vendors in adjacent enterprise software market segments, most notably Box and Dropbox in the Enterprise File Sync and Sharing space. Like Facebook, both of those companies began as consumer-oriented services that emphasized user experience over other considerations, including breadth and depth of functionality. Box has since built an offering that meets many of the security, privacy, administration and integration requirements of business customers.
Dropbox has also undertaken that journey, although it did not begin it until well after Box started. That is an advantage in some ways. Dropbox is moving down the learning curve quickly because it has watched Box and learned from its strategic decisions taken and tactical moves made to effect the consumer-to-enterprise shift.
Facebook will do the same, gaining insight from both Box and Dropbox. This will allow Facebook at Work to become enterprise-ready in a fraction of the time that most expect. Watch for Facebook to gradually expand beta access to Facebook at Work over the coming months, then make a version that meets most enterprise requirements generally available by the end of 2016.

Short takes: Oracle investors dissent, Wunderlist raises $30M, and Aaron Gignan on ‘lean, mean, learning machines’

Oracle investors voted down the proposed compensation plans for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and his executive team. The dissent included investors like the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and labor group Change to Win. At issue is the slowing rate of Oracle’s growth, which was 7.9% in the past year compared to 25% for the S&P 500. Change to Win and others would like to see a new director on the board to oversee compensation plans.

I hardly see any news about Oracle’s efforts in the social sphere, despite their 2011 launch of Oracle Social Network, which has been reconfigured as an element of the Oracle Social Cloud, along with social relationship management and analytics. Last quarter’s results showed new software license and cloud subscription revenue ranging from -4% to 6%, and they don’t break out at a fine enough granularity to get a real sense of social sales.

6Wunderkinder, the company behind Wunderlist, has reported a Series A round of investment of $30 million, with Sequoia joining earlier investors Atomico, Earlybird, and T-Ventures.The German company will be Sequoia’s first investment in that country. The rumor is the company has over 6 million users.

I recently reviewed the company’s new release of Wunderlist (see Wunderlist Pro adds sharing features but falls short) in which I concluded that those that want socially shared todo lists might be better off with other solutions, like Asana. However, $30 million is a lot of dough, so it’s clear that Wunderkinder is going to be adding functionality at a fast clip.

Note also that Sequoia is also an investor in Dropbox, so a closer integration between the two may be in the offing. Wunderlist already plays nicely with Dropbox, but deeper integration might be interesting.

Aaron Gignan wrote a great piece on Medium, The Operating Model That Is Eating The World, in which he wrote

Today’s fastest growing, most profoundly impactful companies are using a completely different operating model. These companies are lean, mean, learning machines. They have an intense bias to action and a tolerance for risk, expressed through frequent experimentation and relentless product iteration. They hack together products and services, test them, and improve them, while their legacy competition edits PowerPoint. They are obsessed with company culture and top tier talent, with an emphasis on employees that can imagine, build, and test their own ideas. They are maniacally focused on customers. They are hypersensitive to friction – in their daily operations and their user experience. They are open, connected, and build with and for their community of users and co-conspirators. They are comfortable with the unknown – business models and customer value are revealed over time. They are driven by a purpose greater than profit; each has its own aspirational “dent in the universe.”

A great piece, showing again how much all businesses can learn from agile start-ups, the ones that get bigger, and then grow to monsters, but never losing that bias toward action and learning. (See What top performers do, and how to do it.)

Estonia’s plan to get 6 year olds coding is a stroke of genius

When should children learn to code? Estonia’s Tiger Leap Foundation wants children as young as six to be enrolled in coding classes — all part of a national program that has already turned this tiny country into a technological powerhouse.

Chicago’s Dabble creates a Craigslist for casual learning

Interested in trying your hand at worm composting or grant writing? Ever felt the desire to make your own sausage or kimchi? There’s a good chance someone on startup Dabble’s website is teaching just such a class this month, and for $20 you can sign up.