Protocol | Workplace

‘There aren't enough data scientists’: How the future of reskilling in tech is changing.

Both ed tech and traditional institutions are addressing how to train for future tech jobs.

Graduation cap on a laptop screen

Ed-tech companies are stepping in to help companies reskill and retain tech employees.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The person who builds or programs your self-driving car may never step foot in a classroom for a higher degree, and some education and industry professionals are totally OK with that.

The tech labor shortage persists and the number of unfilled jobs in the U.S. has remained high. As of June 2021, job openings had increased to a high of 10.1 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an increasing need for highly-skilled tech workers, organizations are utilizing ed-tech programs to reduce attrition and fill job openings faster. The old model of waiting for students to matriculate from specialized master's and Ph.D. programs has changed.

In Eightfold AI's March 2021 survey of over 200 manager-level employees, almost 50% said their top management goal for the year is to cross-train and upskill their employees, while almost 30% said their goal is to reduce turnover rates.

"Upskilling and reskilling is very critical. There aren't enough data scientists, there aren't enough people with those digital skills," said Kamal Ahluwalia, president of Eightfold AI. He told Protocol that the talent platform has partnered with companies spanning over 18 industries to help train employees for new roles using its own AI software. It partners with education technology companies to provide the necessary courses for workers to reskill.

One of the companies still helping to bridge that gap is Udacity. Many in the industry are familiar with its nano-degrees, ranging from cloud computing to programming. And while in the past an employee might have enrolled themselves individually and taken on the cost alone, Udacity has its share of corporate partners. Udacity founder and executive chairman Sebastian Thrun, who also founded Google's self-driving project, told Protocol that corporations are frequently picking up the tab for employees enrolled in a program. Udacity has partnered with Bertelsmann, AT&T and Google for additional scholarship opportunities. Without help from a corporation, a typical graduate might spend about $1,500, he said — a cost that could prompt some employees to move on to other companies that would be more willing to invest in their development and enable them to move into a new role.

"I firmly believe that the future of education has to be lifelong," Thrun told Protocol. "I really believe this very deeply. And I contrast this with the model that we have so far — you go to college, [and] once you get your degree you're done. The model is going to kind of fail going forward, because you can find really amazing engineers in their 40s that by nature could not have learned about self-driving cars in college."

Thrun told Protocol that the program's target remains reskilling and upskilling tech workers in the age bracket of 24 to 65. Though he makes it clear that Udacity is still not trying to replace traditional universities. He predicts that in 20 years the nano-degrees offered by Udacity will become a reputable degree in addition to those offered by academic institutions.

"I think we're never going to replace the Stanford degree," he told Protocol. "Our strategy has been to push this credential and say, 'This is something that is guaranteed by industry, it meets quality standards without conflicting with universities.' We're never trying to replace existing degrees."

Fusemachines Inc. also does not see itself as a competitor to traditional master's and Ph.D. programs, but rather a way to upskill employees to a point. The ed-tech company differs from Udacity in that its classes are more of a hybrid model, held partially online and on-site with instructors and TAs. It focuses primarily on AI courses for workers both in and outside of the U.S. The goal for its corporate partners is to stop the drain of talent, said Fusemachines founder and CEO Sameer Maskey.

Martial Hebert, dean of the School of Computer Science and a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, said he does not see the rising number of ed-tech companies as competitors. "There's room for many different ways of doing this,'' he told Protocol. "It's not that one is better than another. It serves different populations, with different goals."

He has seen firsthand the voracity with which companies in and outside of tech are looking for qualified tech workers. Currently, Hebert and his colleagues are thinking about how it can reformat its own master's for professionals so they can reach out to broader populations that don't have to be in residence. They are working on AI education offerings for upskilling and reskilling as well. Right now their classes range from machine learning to robotics. The challenge, he said, is maintaining a level of direct experience while also making programs more accessible to prospective students who may be less willing to leave their jobs to attend classes in person.

"All of this is very much a work in progress," said Hebert, who recognizes the accelerating demand for educating professionals. The old model for educating employees is no longer realistic for rapidly changing fields.


How the creators of Spligate built gaming’s newest unicorn

1047 Games is now valued at $1.5 billion after three rounds of funding since May.

1047 Games' Splitgate amassed 13 million downloads when its beta launched in July.

Image: 1047 Games

The creators of Splitgate had a problem. Their new free-to-play video game, a take on the legendary arena shooter Halo with a teleportation twist borrowed from Valve's Portal, was gaining steam during its open beta period in July. But it was happening too quickly.

Splitgate was growing so fast and unexpectedly that the entire game was starting to break, as the servers supporting the game began to, figuratively speaking, melt down. The game went from fewer than 1,000 people playing it at any given moment in time to suddenly having tens of thousands of concurrent players. Then it grew to hundreds of thousands of players, all trying to log in and play at once across PlayStation, Xbox and PC.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

While it's easy to get lost in the operational and technical side of a transaction, it's important to remember the third component of a payment. That is, the human behind the screen.

Over the last two years, many retailers have seen the benefit of investing in new, flexible payments. Ones that reflect the changing lifestyles of younger spenders, who are increasingly holding onto their cash — despite reports to the contrary. This means it's more important than ever for merchants to take note of the latest payment innovations so they can tap into the savings of the COVID-19 generation.

Keep Reading Show less
Antoine Nougue,

Antoine Nougue is Head of Europe at He works with ambitious enterprise businesses to help them scale and grow their operations through payment processing services. He is responsible for leading the European sales, customer success, engineering & implementation teams and is based out of London, U.K.

Protocol | Policy

Why Twitch’s 'hate raid' lawsuit isn’t just about Twitch

When is it OK for tech companies to unmask their anonymous users? And when should a violation of terms of service get someone sued?

The case Twitch is bringing against two hate raiders is hardly black and white.

Photo: Caspar Camille Rubin/Unsplash

It isn't hard to figure out who the bad guys are in Twitch's latest lawsuit against two of its users. On one side are two anonymous "hate raiders" who have been allegedly bombarding the gaming platform with abhorrent attacks on Black and LGBTQ+ users, using armies of bots to do it. On the other side is Twitch, a company that, for all the lumps it's taken for ignoring harassment on its platform, is finally standing up to protect its users against persistent violators whom it's been unable to stop any other way.

But the case Twitch is bringing against these hate raiders is hardly black and white. For starters, the plaintiff here isn't an aggrieved user suing another user for defamation on the platform. The plaintiff is the platform itself. Complicating matters more is the fact that, according to a spokesperson, at least part of Twitch's goal in the case is to "shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks," raising complicated questions about when tech companies should be able to use the courts to unmask their own anonymous users and, just as critically, when they should be able to actually sue them for violating their speech policies.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Protocol | Workplace

Remote work is here to stay. Here are the cybersecurity risks.

Phishing and ransomware are on the rise. Is your remote workforce prepared?

Before your company institutes work-from-home-forever plans, you need to ensure that your workforce is prepared to face the cybersecurity implications of long-term remote work.

Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The delta variant continues to dash or delay return-to-work plans, but before your company institutes work-from-home-forever plans, you need to ensure that your workforce is prepared to face the cybersecurity implications of long-term remote work.

So far in 2021, CrowdStrike has already observed over 1,400 "big game hunting" ransomware incidents and $180 million in ransom demands averaging over $5 million each. That's due in part to the "expanded attack surface that work-from-home creates," according to CTO Michael Sentonas.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at
Protocol | Fintech

When COVID rocked the insurance market, this startup saw opportunity

Ethos has outraised and outmarketed the competition in selling life insurance directly online — but there's still an $887 billion industry to transform.

Life insurance has been slow to change.

Image: courtneyk/Getty Images

Peter Colis cited a striking statistic that he said led him to launch a life insurance startup: One in twenty children will lose a parent before they turn 15.

"No one ever thinks that will happen to them, but that's the statistics," the co-CEO and co-founder of Ethos told Protocol. "If it's a breadwinning parent, the majority of those families will go bankrupt immediately, within three months. Life insurance elegantly solves this problem."

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Latest Stories