Over the years Yandex has launched several education initiatives ranging from learning platforms to high school and master’s level courses. 2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of one of our most impactful educational initiatives, the Yandex School of Data Analysis (YSDA), a free Master's-level program in Computer Science and Data Analysis. In Russia, Yandex is privileged to have access to some of the most talented math and science minds in the world but 10 years ago, Yandex co-founders Arkady Volozh and Ilya Segalovich realized there was a real need to foster these talents and offer students a program for advanced data science.
“Together with well-known pattern recognition specialist, Ilya Muchnik, our co-founders considered the need beyond programmers, to programmers with advanced knowledge of the most modern machine learning practices. There was a serious demand for people to lead Yandex and the entire industry down a new path,” says Yandex Director of Human Resources and Director of Computer Science Department at YSDA, Lena Bunina. “And it was clear that we needed to undertake this ourselves.”
Since 2007, the YSDA has been offering Russian students two vigorous years of training from top experts in the most advanced data science topics. Students leave with a profound understanding of theoretical foundations and hands-on experience in applications such as computer vision and machine translation. “At YSDA, we focus less on theories and more on developing well-rounded students,” says Bunina. “It’s important for students to work in labs, solve problems and receive practical experience.” YSDA students have a unique opportunity to put their data processing and research skills to use as part of YSDA’s collaboration with the LHCb experiment at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
YSDA students also have internship opportunities at Yandex that allow them to further expand their training. Interns have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Yandex data scientists helping to deliver our users exceptional customer experiences.
Initially, the school started in Moscow instructing a class of 80 students in the department of Data Analysis. Our academic reputation, coupled with the growing demand for data scientists in today’s AI-centric world,, have created a huge demand for YSDA courses. Last year we received over 4,000 applications from top universities, welcoming 211 students who passed our rigorous entrance exams.
Today, the program has campus branches in Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Minsk, plus online offerings in both English and Russian on Coursera and partnerships with some of Russia's leading research institutions and universities. The Yandex School of Data Analysis offers the Department of Data Analysis and the Department of Computer Science, and with a specialization in Big Data.
At the YSDA, it’s our mission to prepare students to succeed far beyond the walls of our classrooms. “YSDA’s unique blend of science and practice prepares graduates for a wide range of professional options in science, research, product development, analytics and more,” says Misha Levin, Chief Data Scientist at Yandex.Market and YSDA lecturer.
In 2009, we graduated our first 36 students and this past year proudly graduated 123 students. After ten years, over 600 YSDA graduates are changing the way technology impacts our lives. One of them is Ruslan Mavlyutov, a 2011 YSDA graduate who now works as a Machine Learning Engineer at Apple. “YSDA elevated my machine learning career and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to study there,” says Mavlyutov. “My peers and I had the unique opportunity to be early ML ‘adopters’ at YSDA enabling us to start and lead ML endeavours at Yandex and other tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.”
“YSDA has created a network of bright minds that pumps ideas across countries, industries and companies. In almost every well-known IT company I can find someone who has studied at the YSDA." Mavlyutov adds, "Those are the people whom you can trust and rely on their expertise.”
We’re excited to be at the forefront educating the next generation of data scientists over the next 10 years. Thank you to all of past and present students and instructors of the Yandex School of Data Analysis!
On September 23, 1997, the Yandex search engine was unveiled at the SofTool Exhibition. Soon after launching Yandex, our cofounders Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh saw an opportunity to provide users with more than a search engine. “The user’s journey doesn’t end with search. We understood that very early on,” said Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh. In our first five years, Yandex added a number of services, including email, news and image search, eCommerce, and online payments. We also launched Yandex.Direct, the Russian Internet’s first contextual ad placement service for businesses who wanted to advertise on Yandex.
In addition to helping users find the things they want online, by the mid-2000s, Yandex began supporting users’ offline navigation needs as well. In 2004, we launched Yandex.Maps and two years later, we began displaying traffic information for users in Moscow, helping them better traverse the city’s notoriously congested streets. “Over the years, the internet has not only grown in size, it has also penetrated into all spheres of life,” said Dmitry Ivanov, Head of Discovery Products, who joined Yandex in 2003. “At Yandex, we’ve kept pace with this growth, expanding our services across many areas of users’ lives.”
Longtime Yandex employee and IR Director, Katya Zhukova recalls one of her favorite memories from the early days, “We constantly thought about our users and joked that every new product had to be designed simply enough that anyone, including Arkady Volozh’s mother, could use it. We called it 'Volozh’s Mothers Test.'" A combination of top tech talent, as well as best-in-class technology, have enabled Yandex to make products that pass the test.
In 2007, we opened the Yandex School of Data Analysis, a free Master’s-level program in Computer Science and Data Analysis. Many graduates have gone on to work at Yandex and grow our machine learning technologies. “I truly believe that it is not just the deep expertise in machine learning, AI, neural networks and the brightest, most talented employees, but also this user-oriented approach that has brought us to where we are today,” says Katya.
By 2011, the world began to take notice. We held our initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock market. We also launched Yandex.Taxi, our market-leading on-demand transportation service.
Grigory Bakunov who leads all health care related initiatives for Yandex and has been with Yandex for over 15 years describes the maturation of Yandex over time as “we started as a typical startup: do it faster, fail, do it again but another way. But year by year we grew a full stack of new technologies and systems. Some of them are now state of the art and at the bleeding edge of computer science.”
In the past five years we have focused on personalizing our products and services to the increasingly mobile needs of users and businesses. 2017 has been a breakout year for Yandex. Our Yandex.Taxi business merged with Uber to form a new company that will serve 127 cities across six countries. We announced a joint venture with Sberbank to further develop our Yandex.Market platform. We also open-sourced a machine learning library based on gradient boosting called CatBoost. 2017 also ushered in greater choice for millions of Russian Android users who can now select their preferred search engine on their mobile devices.
“As I reflect back on the past 20 years, I want to thank the entire team at Yandex, and our users, for joining us on this journey,” said Yandex CEO, Arkady Volozh. “We remain committed to our mission helping users better navigate the online and offline world. Wherever the destination – online, offline, or something new altogether – users can trust Yandex to take them there.”