Many problems encountered in science and engineering can be formulated as estimating a low-rank object (e.g., matrices and tensors) from incomplete, and possibly corrupted, linear measurements. Through the lens of matrix and tensor factorization, one of the most popular approaches is to employ simple iterative algorithms such as gradient descent (GD) to recover the low-rank factors directly, which allow for small memory and computation footprints. However, the convergence rate of GD depends linearly, and sometimes even quadratically, on the condition number of the low-rank object, and therefore, GD slows down painstakingly when the problem is ill-conditioned. This chapter introduces a new algorithmic approach, dubbed scaled gradient descent (ScaledGD), that provably converges linearly at a constant rate independent of the condition number of the low-rank object, while maintaining the low per-iteration cost of gradient descent for a variety of tasks including sensing, robust principal component analysis and completion. In addition, ScaledGD continues to admit fast global convergence to the minimax-optimal solution, again almost independent of the condition number, from a small random initialization when the rank is over-specified in the presence of Gaussian noise. In total, ScaledGD highlights the power of appropriate preconditioning in accelerating nonconvex statistical estimation, where the iteration-varying preconditioners promote desirable invariance properties of the trajectory with respect to the symmetry in low-rank factorization without hurting generalization.