See How Michael Built a New Life and Career as a First-Generation College Graduate

Meet Michael! He began learning on Coursera after deciding to pursue a new career in data. Michael has taken several courses and Specializations covering entrepreneurship, data science, communication, and deep learning. In his story below, he shares his thoughts on emerging from poverty to become a successful professional and thought leader in his field. He discusses the role Coursera has played in his journey and his strategy for augmenting his undergraduate education with job-centric learning online.

I’m a first-generation college student. ​​I went to college to break the cycle of poverty. No one in my family graduated from college before. It wasn’t easy. I’d been medically discharged from the Airforce in 2011, and then at one point, I had to take a leave of absence to take care of my mother. I had no money or support to speak of. In 2012, I went back to college for the third time.

For the first two weeks of school, I was homeless. I finally managed to get an apartment with a friend, but I sometimes had to ride my bike 45 minutes to campus because I couldn’t afford gas. I even had to economize the week’s food while studying economics! It’s hard to study when you’re hungry and washing your laundry in a Lowe’s bucket.

Despite all of that, I not only graduated, but I was the recipient of several awards and scholarships. Still, I knew I needed more than just my undergraduate degree to really succeed. I had a hypothesis that my college education, supplemented with Coursera courses, could give me the edge I needed to establish myself professionally. I felt that Coursera would allow me to reach new heights because I could take classes from world-class institutions. I come from such an impoverished background that any college is a dream, let alone colleges like Stanford, University of Michigan, and Rice University. 

Today, I’m a successful professional at Ford. I’ve been recognized as a thought leader and value creator, and my work is well-respected in my field. I believe a part of that stems from courses I’ve taken on Coursera. I’ve learned a great deal about data science, machine learning, and deep learning, and I leverage my analytics knowledge every day at work in new and creative ways. This has empowered me to be both a strong individual contributor and leader. I have the skills now to thrive in tough situations, and I can bring together cross-functional teams to march towards a single goal. 

I’ve been able to break free from the cycle of poverty, and I would not be where I am today without the knowledge and skills I’ve gained on Coursera.

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