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Education Meets Opportunity: Yeeling's Story

AT&T is in the midst of one of the most significant transformations in our 140-year history. We've evolved from a telephone company, to a data-powered technology company.

AT&T invests in education and job training to create a diverse and skilled workforce that powers our company — and our country — for the future. Through the AT&T Aspire initiative, AT&T helps provide the education and training people need to get and keep good jobs. AT&T Aspire brings together the power of our network — our employees, our technology and our work with best-in-class organizations — to make education and job training accessible to more people.

One of the ways we bring these skills to our current and future employees is through unique collaborations with external organizations. In 2014, we teamed up with Georgia Tech and Udacity to launch the first-ever Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS). The program is delivered completely online. It confers the same degree as the on-campus program, but at a fraction of the cost.

By making graduate degrees and certifications available online at lower rates, we are removing barriers for students who wouldn't otherwise be able to access or afford higher education.

"We've turned to technology and innovative programs like OMS CS to help our current and future employees adapt to the ever-changing workforce," said Scott Smith, Chief Human Resources Officer, AT&T Communications. "These programs help our employees at all levels and across the globe, as well as prospective job seekers anywhere, develop the skills they need to succeed. It's just one example of how we're using the power of our networks to build a better tomorrow."

As part of the inaugural graduating class, our own Yeeling Lam was one of three AT&T employees and the only woman who walked the stage in the OMS CS' first graduating class. Here's her story…

Driven to succeed

After a scholarship decided her college destiny, Yeeling Lam graduated and started her career as an associate analyst with SBC Communications, known today as AT&T. Sixteen years later, she's a Lead-System engineer in the AT&T Technology Development department with a passion for supporting women in STEM fields.

On her experience with the OMS CS program, she says there's nothing quite like it .

Why earn your master's degree online?

The online program provided flexibility and convenience while enabling me to keep my full-time job. The first semester was tough, getting into the swing of being a student again. But after that, you learn so many new things. It makes you uncomfortable, but that challenge makes you feel more alive.

Why did you pick Georgia Tech's program?

Georgia Tech's reputation and rigorous curriculum was a big draw. The OMS CS degree is the same as their on-campus program. Where else would you get a chance to have office hours with Dr. Sebastian Thrun, the co-founder of Udacity — and just chat about driverless cars and other cool projects he worked on with Google? Live office hours in your pajamas! I wasn't expecting that.

What did you find most challenging and rewarding about your experience??

When I started, the most challenging aspects were time management and being a part of the first cohort, tackling logistic and tools issues in silo. However, there are a growing number of student-organized communities and study groups to support each other and help prospective students.

The most rewarding aspect is learning and applying all the advanced concepts from classes to my professional and personal life. The experience opened my mind to a whole new level of possibilities.

What advice would you give to others considering this program?

Go for it and be prepared to work hard! It is unlike MOOC [massive open online courses] classes to which most people are accustomed. The OMS CS carries Georgia Tech's rigorous on-campus requirements into the online "classroom" and requires a lot of self-discipline, time management, and commitment to succeed. Classes are tough and stressful at times, but at the end, you will gain more than you could imagine! It is my personal mission to get more women in the program and pursuing technology careers in STEM fields. I want women to know that programs like this exist and are here to support them.

At AT&T we are leading the future for students, for educators and in technology. AT&T Aspire brings together the power of our network — our employees, our technology and our work with best-in-class organizations — to make education and job training accessible to more people.

Through the AT&T Aspire initiative, AT&T helps provide the education and training people need to get and keep good jobs. Since 2008, we've committed $400 million in programs to help students in all 50 states and around the world. Take a few minutes to learn more.

To learn more about the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program visit: https://www.udacity.com/georgia-tech.

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Nicole Anderson, assistant vice president, Social Innovation and President of the AT&T Foundation.