Tag Archives: engineering

Event: 75-year celebration for Prof. Mathai Joseph, and talk by Pankaj Jalote on Research in Engineering

ACM-India (Association for Computing Machinery) And CSI-Pune (Computer Society of India Pune Chapter) invites you for an event to felicitate Prof. Mathai Joseph on his 75th birthday. 16th June, 4pm, at Persistent Systems, SB Road.

With a distinguished career that spans industry (TRDDC) and academia (TIFR, University of Warwick), Mathai is among the few who have witnessed the story of the Indian software industry unfold.

On this occasion, there is also a talk by Pankaj Jalote, director of IIIT Delhi (earlier HoD CS at IIT-Kanpur).

A Career in Research in Engineering

Talk by Prof. Pankaj Jalote

There is sometimes a lack of clarity about what research is, how is engineering research different from engineering, and what does it mean to be an effective researcher. In this talk we will first discuss what research is, relationship between science and engineering research, difference between academic and industrial research, between applied and basic research, etc. Then we will discuss how research is evaluated and some aspects of building an effective engineering research career.

About the Speaker

Pankaj Jalote is the Director of IIIT-Delhi (Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi). Earlier he has been an Assistant Professor at University of Maryland College Park, Chair Professor at IIT Delhi, and Head of Computer Science Department at IIT Kanpur. He has also been Vice President at Infosys for 2 years, Visiting Researcher at Microsoft in Redmond for 1 year, and Interim Vice Chancellor of Delhi Technological University (DTU) for six months.

He has a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur, MS from Pennsylvania State University, and Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of five books, some of which have been translated in Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc, and the Indian edition of his text on Software Engineering was adjudged the bestselling book by the publisher. His main area of interest is Software Engineering. He has served on the editorial boards of IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Intl. Journal on Empirical Software Engineering, and IEEE Trans. on Services Computing. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and INAE.

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Felicitation of Prof. Mathai Joseph

Prof. Mathai Joseph will be in conversation with Anand Deshpande, Persistent and Venkatesh R, TRDDC.

Registration and fees

The event is on Saturday, 16th June, at 4pm. At Dewang Mehta auditorium, Bhageerath, Persistent Systems, SB Road.

This event is free and open for everyone to attend. Please register using this link: https://goo.gl/forms/hUjFPA3nuWVDFQyb2

Enhance Education: Pune Based startup focusing on Tablet-based education

Enhance Education (the new startup of founders Akshat Shrivastava and Arun Prabhudesai) is focusing on “tablet” computers (i.e. like iPad, but cheaper) as a primary feature of their eLearning platform that they hope will be used by colleges all over India to significantly improve the education provided to students / trainees. They are partnering with Amplify Mindware (a group of Institutions under Bharati Vidyapeeth) to help deploy this technology/service across a large number of institutions in India.

The basic idea is this:

  • Enhance Education has subject matter experts who produce high quality educational content, which is put up on their website (as part of their My Open Campus).
  • Educational Institutions (who would be customers of Enhance Education) sign-up for making My Open Campus content to their students.
  • Students are given internet-enabled “Enhance E-Pads” which can access content from My Open Campus over the internet. The Enhance E-Pads are android based touch-screen tablet devices that are expected to cost Rs. 3000 (and are likely to get cheaper over time).

In Enhance Educations’s Management Team, PuneTech readers (more accurately, Pune Open Coffee Club Members) will notice a bunch of familiar faces:

  • Akshat Shrivastava – CEO of Enhance Education. CEO of outsourcing company XanaduTec, and also founder of Alabot. @broadcalling on twitter.
  • Arun Prabhudesai – Head of Technology for Enhance Education. Also founder of http://trak.in, the very popular India Business Blog, and previously CEO of http://hover.in. @8ap and @trakin on twitter.

Vikas Kumar, founder of BrainVisa, is also listed as an eLearning Advisor.

The latest press release from Enhance Education is here. There’s a lot more information about Enhance Education on their blog – check it out.

Do a do-it-yourself Masters degree in CS with Parag Shah

(This article is a guest post by Parag Shah and first appeared on his blog. It is reproduced here with permission. Parag is a senior software engineer, who has his own one-person software company. In addition, he is also very interested in utilizing new media technologies such as blogs, podcasts, and screencasts to create a personalized, self paced, learning environment. He is in the process of creating mentoring services that use new media technologies, for helping software developers improve their programming skills. In this article he talks about how you can get for free the same education that a student of a Masters degree in the US could get. He is planning on going through it himself, and hopes you will join him.)

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Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune

Since my formal education, a lot of advances have taken place in software development. I have been able to keep up with a few with regular reading and practice. But a lot of this learning has been a bit random, and as a result a bit dissipated as well. I feel like I want to engage in continuous learning, in a more organized manner.

Over the years there are several core concepts which I have forgotten because I have not been able to use them in my regular work. I feel like relearning those concepts.

I think the volume and content of both these can constitute a masters course in Computer Science. But I do not want to go back to school. Not because there is anything wrong with school – I had a great time in grad school. But here’s why…

I don’t want to go back to school because I want to define the courses I want to learn, and not pick up from what’s offered.

I don’t want to go back to school because I want to be able to learn at my own pace, which at times may be slower than 1 course per semester.

I don’t want to go back to school because I do not want to spend a fortune learning stuff which I can learn myself using free resources.

I don’t want to go back to school because I would rather create online/social credentials than get a school certificate.

I don’t want to go back to school because I want to demonstrate that a person can not only get knowledge but also credentials if they engage in disciplined self-study and leave learning trails on the Internet.

So this time I am doing a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) masters in Computer Science. so I can refresh things I have forgotten and learn new technologies and concepts which have gained importance in recent times, in an organized way.

I did a Masters in Computer Science more than a decade back. Since then, Internet, communication technologies, and social networking, have made it possible for someone to do a similar program all by themselves, using open courseware, and social learning.

By doing this program, I am not only planning to enhance my own knowledge, but am also hoping to show how one can get a Master’s education worth of knowledge, and credentials, by self learning, and without spending a fortune. Here’s a very brief statement of purpose.

My DIY Learning Process:

I have created a learning plan which outlines at a high level the topics I want to learn. I will study one or two topics at a time, and at a manageable pace, given other work commitments.

Once the topics to learn have been identified, I will identify learning resources, forums, and mentors for that topic.

A very basic study plan is to study the material, and make notes of my understanding, as well as questions and thoughts, I get in my mind as I am learning. I will make these notes available on a special blog. This blog will serve as a personal knowledge base (I can refer to it in the future), as well as a learning trail (for proof of study and understanding).

All the homework I do while I am taking a course will be made available in the public domain. I will either post it on my blog, or if the homework involves coding, on a public open source repository such as Github. I will also do one or more projects to practice the entire body of knowledge as a whole and publish that too in the public domain.

I will also create presentations of what I learn, and make them available in the public domain.

I will connect with mentors who are experts in the topic I am learning. Depending on their time availability I will request them to help me identify gaps in my understanding, and validate my knowledge.

When I have doubts, I will ask questions on Internet forums. If my questions are not answered satisfactorily on the forums, I will refer them to my mentors.

Please visit my learning plan for further details.

Establishing Credentials:

A person can have several reasons for learning. One is for the knowledge (either for the joy of knowing something, or for more practical application of the knowledge), and another for establishing credentials, so someone else may entrust us with work which requires such knowledge. A self learned person may have the knowledge, but may lack credentials to prove it. It is also possible for a person studying in a silo to think he has grokked what he just learned, when in reality he may not have understood the matter properly. To be able to provide proof of knowledge as well as to validate my learning with other practitioners, I plan to engage in what can be loosely classified as social learning.

I will do the following to document my learning and to engage with the community of practitioners, in the hope of validating my knowledge and establishing credentials for what I learn:

  • Answer questions on forums
  • Blog my study notes, and clearly articulate my takeaway from all the lectures I view, or text I read
  • Create presentations and post them on YOUTube, or other video sharing services
  • Publish homework on open source code repositories such as GitHub, etc
  • Request my mentors to quiz me to help me find gaps in my understanding of a topic. I will publish the quiz as audio/video and request the mentor to post their feedback in the public domain
  • Take quizzes and tests wherever possible and economical

So I am leaving these learning crumbs on various places on the Internet, but I need something to bring everything together. Something which can serve as the focal point, or a lens into all my learning. I created a wiki site to serve as the focal point.

Have you been meaning to learn something yourself? Perhaps you can do your own DIY course in whatever interests you. Here is a lens into my DIY experiment.

About the Author – Parag Shah

Parag has an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and over 12 years of industry experience developing software and several years experience training developers in Java, and software design principles. Parag’s current obsession is to show that it is possible to do a DIY masters in Computer Science using open courseware and social learning principles. Check out his experiment at http://opencs.wikidot.com.

How to choose an Engineering college & branch after 12th

This article, which has advice for students who plan to do a degree in Engineering, has been posted here on PuneTech, partially in response to some of the comments we’re getting for this PuneTech article, and also partially because I’m sure most PuneTech readers get asked this question by relatives and friends, and I’m hoping that at least some of the advice here will be helpful

If you’ve just finished your 12th standard, and are interested in getting an Engineering degree, which college, and which branch of Engineering to choose can seem like the most difficult, and at the same time, the most important decision of your life. People have been asking me this question for almost 20 years now, and based on my varied experience, here is the advice that I give to prospective engineers.

I can distill my advice down to this sentence:

Get into the best college (in a good city) that you can – whatever the branch.

I’ll explain in a little more detail.

Branch is not all that important

That’s right. Most students and parents seem to be very focused on getting in to the “best” branch (Computer Science, Electronics & Telecommunications, Mechanical, Chemical, Civil, etc.) Everybody wants to get into the “top” branch. Everybody wants to know which branch has the best “scope” in the future.

This is misguided. There are a number of reasons why the branch doesn’t matter all that much:

  • If you study in a good college, all branches have “scope”. There are successful businesses and well-paying jobs in all disciplines, including civil engineering, and chemical engineering. And the vast majority of computer science graduates in the country do not have decent jobs (because there are so many of them!) If you study in a bad college, a good branch is not going to help you. Also, so called “good” branches with lots of “scope” tend to be over-crowded, because everyone is entering that field. And finally, nobody really knows which branch will have the most “scope” 10 years from now. (When I did my Engineering, my friends took Computer Science in VJTI because they couldn’t get into more sought after branches like E&TC and Mechanical!)
  • Changing of field is very common amongst engineers. Just looking at my batchmates, I know metallurgical engineers who are in advertising agencies, mechanical engineers who are into banking and finance, chemical engineers working on Bollywood movies, and computer scientists in the insurance industry doing non-computer stuff. What branch you get your degree in is forgotten within 5 years of graduating.
  • What branch the student is interested in, is irrelevant. This is a big one. 12th standard students tell me, “I am more interested in Computers. I don’t like Mechanical.” Frankly, in 12th standard, you have no clue what any particular field involves. If for a field, hundreds of colleges in the country are giving engineering degrees in that field, then almost by definition, that field has interesting and cool work going on all over the world. If you find that field boring, then, the most likely explanation is that you’ve been taught that subject by a bad teacher. My guess would be this: any subject that you find very interesting was probably taught to you by a good teacher, and for every boring subject, there’s probably a bad teacher of that subject sometime in your past. A good professor in any branch can make the branch come alive for you.

I am not asking you to ignore the branch entirely. All I’m saying is that give it a little less importance than you are currently giving it.

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Madras (Chennai)
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Guwahati
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Kanpur
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Kharagpur
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Bombay
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Roorkee
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Bhubaneshwar
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Gandhinagar
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Hyderabad
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Indore
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Jodhpur
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Patna
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Rupnagar
Location of the 15 IITs in India. Source wikipedia.

College does matter

The original IITs, and BITs Pilani, are clearly better than other engineering colleges. Most NITs are better than most state engineering colleges (except the top state colleges). Top state colleges (e.g. COEP, VJTI, PICT) are clearly better than the second-tier engineering colleges. And so on. (Unfortunately, I don’t really know how good or bad the new IITs are. You’ll need to make that judgement on your own.)

It’s fashionable to say the college doesn’t matter. And it is very common to trot out examples of students from terrible colleges who have succeeded in life. But that’s flawed logic. Students who succeed inspite of being in a bad college, are probably succeeding in spite of the college, not because of the college. And probably would have done even better if they had been in a better college.

Better colleges have better systems of education, better professors, and better “resume value” (which, whether you like it or not, is a factor for a long, long time.) Also, in better colleges, you have better classmates. This matters in the short term (because better classmates means more influence of friends who are interested in the right things), and the long term (better “network”).

So, here’s my (controversial) advice: if you are getting a not-so-good branch in a very good college, vs. a good branch in a not-so-good college, you should definitely choose the not-so-good branch in the very good college. I would definitely pick Metallurgical Engineering in IIT-Bombay, over Computer Science in MIT. If the colleges are sort-of-comparable, then go for the “better” branch (for whatever definition of “better”). For example, if you have Mechanical Engineering in COEP, and Computer Science in VIT, then go for VIT – because althought COEP is better than VIT, it is not all that much better.

Note: I am not saying that you’re screwed if you get into a bad college. There are enough examples to prove that good, motivated students can shine from anywhere. All I’m saying is that if you have a choice, then choose better college over better branch. If you get into a bad college, then work hard, ignore your professors, and try to get guides/mentors/projects from industry (right away, not just in the last year).

City also matters

To a large extent, success in life is not simply about academic knowledge. It is also about a whole bunch of other factors – what we call “exposure”. This involves all kinds of things – like interactions with industry, various (non-academic) activities that you indulge in in a city, seeing the various interesting and different things that people are doing in the city, opportunities of getting involved in various initiatives, and generally “smartness” (as in “The Bombay exposure has really made him smart.”)

So, doing a degree in Pune or Bombay, is, in my opinion, clearly better than doing it in a college in Amravati.

Also, please get out of your parents’ house. Stay in a hostel, or a rented flat with a bunch of your classmates, or something. That will propel you into the real world, give you some maturity, and the ability to deal with all kinds of issues that you need to deal with, when you are no longer staying under a protective cover provided by your parents. This is an important part of your education at this stage.

Engineering vs other fields of study

Frankly, I am not qualified to give advice on whether you should do Engineering or something else. If you find that you’re interested in some “alternate” career (e.g. photography, movies, music, art, design, whatever), here are some thoughts that you might find helpful:

  • Try to find out which are the top institutes in the country where you can get a degree or certificate or whatever it is that helps with learn the field that you’re interested in. Then find out what it takes to get admission to that institute and how much it costs. And then make a detailed plan as to how you could actually do it. This will significantly improve the chances that you’ll be allowed to do it, and also that you’ll succeed in your chosen career. I would love to see more and more students in India follow this path.
  • If you can’t get into one of the top institutes, maybe you should listen to your parents? It’s difficult to justify a risky career move on the basis of a mediocre education in that field.
  • I find that most students who claim to be interested in such alternate careers are too lazy to actually do the work needed to create the plan mentioned in the first bullet-point. If you’re one of those lazy bums, then you don’t really deserve to follow your so-called chosen career. Give up, and do whatever stupid engineering degree that your parents want you to do. Alternative career paths are for people who are really passionate and are willing to put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
  • If you are not really sure of what alternate career you want to pursue, but just have a vague notion that you want to do something other than Engineering, then you’re probably not ready for an alternative career yet. No point in going for a off-the-beaten-path, risky path unless you’re really passionate about something and clear about what you want. You’ll be better off with a conventional degree, until you figure out your passion.
  • Medical vs. Engineering: Again, I’m not really qualified to give advice about whether you should go for engineering or Medicine. However, note: there are many students who avoid the medical side because they hate 10th or 12th std. biology. In this case, remember that doing a medical degree is not at all like 12th std. biology. So, this alone is not a good enough reason for rejecting medicine. Try to talk to, and find out more, from some real doctors what it is like to study medicine. You should consider medicine as a career, especially if you like people more than you like machines or software programs. If you’re not good at maths or logic, engineering is not for you.

Conclusion

If you disagree with me, please leave a comment below, with supporting arguments, and we can discuss.

If you know a 12th std student who could benefit from this article (or the discussion in the comments), please mail them this link.

Some of this advice is also applicable to engineering graduates who are planning on going abroad for a Masters degree. I’m planning on writing a detailed article specifically covering that case – issues to consider when applying for a Masters in the US. I’ll write that article one of these days – so make sure you’re subscribed to PuneTech, so you don’t miss it.

Updates

(After this post was published, readers posted a number of interesting, insightful and detailed comments. You should really read all the comments on this post, but I’ve summarized some of the important points here for the lazy folks.)

  • A number of people disagree with me about whether branch matters or not. See the comments of Neeran, Dhananjay, Vikram Karve, and Rajan Chandi for more details; and also my responses to those comments. I would summarize it as: if you’re on of those well-informed students who really know what branch they find interesting, then for you, branch does matter a lot.
  • There appears to be a lot of support for the “get out of your parents house; stay in a hostel/flat” directive. Parents and students, both, please heed this advice.
  • Amit has posted a list of non-IIT, Indian colleges that he considers “good”, based on his experience of hiring people from various colleges, and seeing how they performed. (Note however, the purpose of this article is not really to produce a ranking of colleges – that is too controversial and subjective. Form your own impressions of the quality of various colleges (from whatever sources you can), and then use the advice in this article to decide how to choose between those colleges.)
  • Ajay Garg points out that if you really need all kinds of details about engineering admissions (like lists of colleges, branches, cut-off marks, etc.) then go2engineering.com is a great site

Update 2: The contents of this article are now available as a Marathi language podcast, over at TechMarathi.com

Update 3: If you’ve cleared the IIT-JEE and are wondering which IIT to join, and which branch to choose, and whether to go for an IIT or NIT, this article by Prof. Dheeraj Sanghi of IIT-Kanpur might help. He updates it every year.

Update 4: All commentors who’re asking me about whether to choose college A or college B – Sorry, I have not really bothered to keep track of rankings and quality of colleges. So, the judgement about whether a college is significantly better than another college needs to be done by you using other sources of information. Most importantly, all those asking me which has better scope/prospects ECE, or CS, or IT, or whatever else, you missed the whole point of the article, didn’t you? The branch does not matter. If you can’t decide, just pick whichever branch has a higher cutoff. Some experienced commentors have suggested that interests are important, and students who have a strong interest in a particular branch, should choose that branch. Well, if you did have a strong interest in one branch, then you wouldn’t be here asking a question about which branch to take. If which branch to take is not very clear to you, then you don’t have an interest in any branch, and just take the branch with the highest cutoff in the best college that you can get into.

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Tech Trends for 2015, by Anand Deshpande, Shridhar Shukla, Monish Darda

On Monday, I participated in a Panel Discussion “Technology Trends” organized by CSI Pune at MIT college. The panelists were Anand Deshpande, CEO of Persistent Systems, Shridhar Shukla, MD of GS Lab, Monish Darda, GM of BladeLogic India (which is now a part of BMC Software), and me.

Anand asked each of us to prepare a list of 5 technology trends that we felt would be important in the year 2015, and then we would compare and contrast our lists. I’ve already published my own list of 5 things for students to focus on last week. Basically I cheated by listing a just a couple of technology trends, and filled out the list with one technology non-trend, and a couple of non-technology non-trends.

Here are my quick-n-dirty notes of the other panelists tech trends, and other points that came up during the discussion.

Here is Shridhar’s list:

  • Shridhar’s trend #1: Immersive environments for consumers – from games to education. Partial virtual reality. We will have more audio, video, multi-media, and more interactivity. Use of keyboards and menu driven interfaces will reduce. Tip for students based on trend #1: don’t look down on GUIs. On a related note, sadly, none of the students had heard of TED. Shridhar asked them all to go and google it and to checking out “The Sixth Sense” TED video.
  • Shridhar’s trend #2: totally integrated communication and information dissemination.
  • Shridhar’s trend #3: Cloud computing, elastic computing. Computing on demand.
  • Shridhar’s trend #4: Analytics. Analytics for business, for government, for corporates. Analyzing data, trends. Mining databases.
  • Shridhar’s trend #5: Sophisticated design and test environments. As clouds gain prominence, large server farms with hundreds of thousands of servers will become common. As analytics become necessary, really complicated, distributed processes will run to do the complex computations. All of this will require very sophisticated environments, management tools and testing infrastructure. Hardcore computer science students are the ones who will be required to design, build and maintain this.

Monish’s list:

  • Monish’s trend #1: Infrastructure will be commoditized, and interface to the final user will assume increasing importance
  • Monish’s trend #2: Coming up with ideas – for things people use, will be most important. Actually developing the software will be trivial. Already, things like AWS makes a very sophisticated server farm available to anybody. And lots of open source software makes really complex software easy to put together. Hence, building the software is no longer the challenge. Thinking of what to build will be the more difficult task.
  • Monish’s trend #3: Ideas combining multiple fields will rule. Use of technology in other areas (e.g. music) will increase. So far, software industry was driven by the needs of the software industry first, and then other “enterprise” industries (like banking, finance). But software will cross over into more and more mainstream uses. Be ready for the convergence, and meeting of the domains.
  • Monish’s trend #4: Sophisticated management of centralized, huge infrastructure setups.

Anand’s list:

  • Anand’s trend #1: Sensors. Ubiquitous tiny computing devices that don’t even look like computers. All networked. And
  • Anand trend #2: The next billion users. Mobile. New devices. New interfaces. Non-English interfaces. In fact, non-text interfaces.
  • Anand’s trend #3: Analytics. Sophisticated processing of large amounts of data, and making sense out of the mess.
  • Anand’s trend #4: User interface design. New interfaces, non-text, non-keyboard interfaces. For the next billion users.
  • Anand’s trend #5: Multi-disciplinary products. Many different sciences intersecting with technology to produce interesting new products.

These lists of 5 trends had been prepared independently, without any collaboration. So it is interesting to note the commonalities. Usability. Sophisticated data analysis. Sophisticated management of huge infrastructure setups. The next billion users. And combining different disciplines. Thinking about these commonalities and then wondering about how to position ourselves to take advantage of these trends will form the topic of another post, another day.

Until then, here are some random observations. (Note: one of the speakers before the panel discussion was Deepak Shikarpur, and some of these observations are by him)

  • “In the world of Google, memory has no value” – Deepak
  • “Our students are in the 21st century. Teachers are from 20th century. And governance is 19th century” -Deepak
  • “Earning crores of rupees is your birthright, and you can have it.” – Deepak
  • Sad. Monish asked how many students had read Isaac Asimov. There were just a couple
  • Monish encouraged students to go and read about string theory.
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5 things that Computer Science Engineering students should focus on

What should students be really focusing on? Somebody asked me this question recently – Imagine students who are in 2nd or 3rd year of their degree course right now. They’ll spend a few years finishing college, and a few years just learning the ropes at their first job. So it will really be about 5 years before their career really starts. What will the software technology world be like at that time, and what are the skills that students can work on acquiring right now to ensure that they are well positioned to thrive?

Of course, 5 years is a long time, and to quote Neils Bohr, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Still I think some general trends are clear, and there are some other timeless skills that are worth looking at. Based on that I’m giving my list below.

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Click on this icon to see all PuneTech articles related to tech education in Pune

But wait!

Let me not bias your thoughts. Before you read my list, skip to the comments section below, and put down your list. Then read my list and critique it again in the comments. Hopefully we can have a good discussion that will benefit students.

So, here’s my list of areas students need to be thinking about:

  • The next billion customers: The IT revolution has probably reached a billion people of the world so far. In the next 5 years, it will reach the next billion. These will be a very different set of people. Many of them will be illiterate – so you need to focus on non-text, non-English interfaces – video, animations, voice recognition. Search for “English Seekho” to get an idea of what I mean. Most won’t have money or electricity for computers, so mobile devices will rule – so you need to start playing with mobile platforms like Android. In general, search for the “the next billion” and you’ll find some interesting material put together by the likes of Nokia, and MIT giving you ideas on what to focus on.
  • Usability: As IT touches the lives of more and more people, less and less of them will be “computer savvy”, and less and less of them will view computing devices as something that needs to be learnt. Consequently, the products that will succeed, will be the ones that are easy to use. And making something easy to use is rather difficult. It is a sub-discipline of computer science, and there is a lot of theory, and a bunch of well-defined algorithms and practices you can use to make things easy to use. The whole area is called HCI (Human Computer Interaction), and UCD (User Centered Design) is a part of it. It’s an area that you must be familiar with
  • Computer Science Fundamentals: This will never go out of fashion, and yes, when I look at students coming out of our colleges, this appears to be a rather neglected area. Far too much emphasis on specific programming languages, and specific “technologies” is a mistake. Whatever the future holds, you will be well served by knowing the basic theory of computer sciences. Learn data-structures and algorithms. If you don’t have a favourite data-structure, and an algorithm that you find beautiful, then your computer science education is incomplete. If, after seeing an algorithm, your first thought is not about the complexity of the algorithm (O(n), O(log n), etc.), then you need to hit your books again. If you’ve only learned Java and C#, and you don’t really understand pointers, heaps, stacks, you will sooner or later be at a disadvantage. Understand the basics. And while you’re at it, also learn mathematics and statistics.
  • Presentation skills: This is not a computer science skill, but this is one of the most important skills that computer science students are missing. You must treat presentation as equally important, or more important than your program, design, and algorithms. And you must spend as much time learning presentation (from books, in classes, and in practice) as you spent on programming languages, and computer science subjects. I’m sure you haven’t done that, hence this item in my list. You should know how to write well. Not just papers and documents, but much more importantly, emails, and blog posts, and facebook wall postings, and tweets. You must think about what the user/reader/client wants to know (instead of what you know and want to tell). And of course, you must know how to speak well. How to tell a story instead of listing some arcane facts about your work. How to leave out stuff that you find extremely interesting, but the listener doesn’t.
  • Economics: Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert says: “When you have a working knowledge of economics, it’s like having a mild super power.” Basically, if you understand the fundamentals of economics, you can see and understand what drives people and technologies and success and failure a lot better than people who do not understand it. I hated the fact that I was made to study economics in IIT for my computer science course. It seemed like a complete waste of my time. Now, looking back, I think it was probably the most important course.

What do you think students should be focusing on?

(Note: I’m supposed to be participating in a panel discussion in MIT on Monday, 7th Sept, on this topic. Instead of going there and spewing my gyaan, I thought I would take this opportunity to have a larger discussion on this topic, and your comments will help me do a better job (or go there with a better list), so please leave comments. Thanks.)

(Update: Please note: Many comments on this article are by 12th std. students who want to know how to select an engineering college or branch. In response to all of those, I’ve written an article on how 12th std students should select an engineering college/branch. Please read that article, and ask your doubts there. I will be deleting any comments on this post that are related 12th std choices.)

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Peepaal – Bringing Industry and Academics Together

improving engineering education in PuneThis is the third in PuneTech’s Improving Education series of posts detailing the efforts being taken by people in the tech industry in Pune to give our students a chance at giving their career a solid foundation by acquiring skills that are valued in the industry with guidance from experienced mentors from the industry. The first in the series was Techstart.in, a program to nurture the passions of students by guiding them to implement specific, and interesting projects. The second was KQInfoTech’s Post Graduate Diploma in Systems Programming where the students don’t actually pay for the course, but end up being funded by industry in return for completing projects.

The third is “Peepaal – Continuous Community Learning” is an online and offline community of industry professionals, college faculty, and students that aims at providing continuous guidance to students through knowledge, best practices and processes. This is a description of Peepaal in the words of one of the founders:

1. Introduction – Bringing Industry and Academics Together

Bill Gates (Windows) , Steve Jobs(Mac, iPod, iPhone), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google), Orkut Büyükkökten (Orkut), Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook) , Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail)  apart from being successful have one important fact in common. They were all young when they dreamed of transforming the world into a better place to live. The truth is the pioneers in the technology field have been youngsters who have time and again brought new path breaking perspectives and solutions.

After 25 years in the IT field India has become the outsourcing hub of the world albeit with some deficiencies. On the pioneering front we are still some steps behind. Why in spite having such a large pool of vastly talented students are we still lagging behind? This is a million dollar question. But the answer to the question is easy.

Our students have always learned in a vacuum far away from the reality. Firstly they only have a very distant view of the needs of the industry and secondly they have passive view on the problems faced by the people and society. Good industrial skills are needed to become successful professionals of the IT industry.  Identifying practical problems and solving them will make the leaders and pioneers of tomorrow.

Peepaal aims to become that easily accessible Bridge between the students and the industry. Peepaal aims to become that great ladder on which the pioneers and leaders of tomorrow will climb and make a difference to the society we live in. Peepaal aims to become that Guru who will always show the right path to the students. Peepaal aims to become that Family who will nurture the students to become as independent as possible. Peepaal aims to become that Friend who will bring students with similar thoughts and interest together.

2. Do our talented students need improvement? Can it be done?

The Peepaal initiative was born out of our various interactions with students, faculty and our experience with freshers entering the industry. Each of these experiences reemphasized the significant need for Industry to provide a very strong collaborative role in shaping students and supporting faculty in delivering industry relevant knowledge to students to ensure they are more well rounded professionals by the time they enter the industry. It was also clear that this is not possible without continuous support from the industry and a collaborative model for delivering knowledge, best practices and processes.

While there are a number of areas that require focus we have identified some core focus areas for Peepaal and use projects as a mechanism for being able to deliver these improvements.

Why Projects? Well Projects have been something the students have been actively working on during their course curriculum and their is a significant focus on projects among students and faculty and we think it is a great mechanism to deliver knowledge. The issue however is that the current process of executing projects leaves a lot to be desired.

We expect to significantly alter the way student projects are executed and help them in the following:

  • Innovate: Projects can be a key medium to innovate and learn new ideas and principles and apply them in real world. We expect Peepaal guided projects to be able to help students to Innovate in the real world and follow cutting edge technology trends. In addition we believe the core CS fundamental concepts are key to ensuring that students deliver value from their project. Concepts like Data Structures, DBMS, operating Systems for example have to be understand and applied well on projects so that students learn by doing.
  • Execute: If a project does not succeed, the value of the effort is reduced to naught and it turns into an academic exercise. There are various industry proven methods like “Proof of Concept” implementation which helps support this. We expect the Peepaal Barcamps and the online portal to serve as checkpoints and support mechanism to significantly increase the number of successful projects.
  • Showcase: While an Idea looks great on paper and even after it is successfully executed it all boils down to how well you can showcase it. This applies to student projects as well. There is a considerable lack of awareness of the need and techniques to successfully showcase a project to an audience. Through a continuous stream of Barcamps and presentations we expect to significantly raise the bar on project presentations.

3. Objectives of Peepaal

How does Peepaal plan to solve the problem areas? Following are the high level steps Peepaal is undertaking at a brisk pace:

  • Establish strong collaboration between students and the industry to bring the students into reality.
  • Establish strong collaboration between students in various campuses.
  • Engage the faculty in healthy discussions and suggest solutions to the problems they face to enable successful projects.
  • Help students in the entire life cycle of their projects.
  • Provide technical and industrial knowledge,best practices to the students in an easy to understand format.
  • Compliment the students academic education with the learning and applications of the latest trends and technologies.
  • Provide guidance to the students in every manner so that they do not have to reinvent the wheel like the students of the past.
  • Encourage innovative ideas from the students that will have profound effect on the society we live in.
  • Encourage discussions so that students open up to share problems and seek solutions.

4. Peepaal Online Portal

Peepaal online portal http://www.peepaal.org/campus provides the much needed platform where the students, faculty and the industry come together. Following are the objectives it aims to meet:

  • Establish a strong communication mechanism between the students and the industry. Students, Faculty post questions on the discussion forums and the industry experts answer them in a simple easy to understand format.
  • Provide Students with articles that give them insight on the latest trends and technologies.
  • Prevent Students from re-inventing the wheel by suggesting them right tools,techniques and designs.
  • Provide Students with a forum to improve their interpersonal skills.
  • Provide industry experts a simple way to interact with students instead of visiting their colleges.
  • Provide industry experts to talk to a greater audience and use this greater audience in useful ways.
  • Community features that will get students with like thoughts together.

5. Peepaal Barcamps

Peepaal Barcamps are an innovative process model to guide the students in the entire life cycle of their project. Peepaal aims to be as close to students as possible in this regard. Peepaal engages face to face with the students during the course of their project through various Project BarCamps and campus events.

We have already conducted a number of BarCamps in the first season where we addresses close to 1000 students across various colleges across Pune. Starting January we will conduct an additional 18 Barcamps across 10 colleges in Pune where expect to work with close to 1500 students on their projects.

Some of the colleges that we are currently work with include Symbiosis, Nowrosjee Wadia, PICT, MIT, VIT, Fergusson, Modern, SP College.

6. Peepaal Linked-in community

Peepaal has setup a linked in community. This is the place where the industry experts, students and faculty will get together for discussions and debates. These discussions will give Peepaal great insights into the initiative and further improving the initiative.

http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/1454357/1D32262ADD49

7. Get Involved !!!

All of us are aware that our educational system needs a lot of support if we want to sow the seeds for transformation in society for the future. The source for innovation and execution lie in our future students and it is all of us as experienced professionals who are best suited to provide this support. All it would take is a few hours of your time online or offline to make this impact. You can join us in our discussions online, on the portal, in the linked in community or join us for the Barcamps.

The number of Industry professionals have grown rapidly since we have started and we have close to 50 Industry professionals registered for the initiative and over 800 students impacted by the program. We do however need a lot more industry participation to ensure we have significantly broader impact across a larger number of students. If you are an Industry Professional, Faculty or a student and if all of this makes sense to you and you would like to join us on this initiative drop us a line at peepaalcampus@gmail.com and we would be happy to meet up with you to get started.

What to expect – Industry Professionals

An industry professional who wants to get involved with Peepaal should expect to:

  • Conduct Mock Interviews
  • Discuss and Refine Project Ideas
  • Mentor Projects Online
  • Own Technical Focus Areas
  • Drive Technology Trends
  • Support Campus Contact Programs
  • Collaborate with your campus
  • Discuss and Collaborate with Peers online

All you need is 2 hours a week

What to expact – Students

A student who gets involved in Peepaal can expect the following help:

  • Prepare for Placements
  • Identify, Plan and Execute Projects
  • Identify Technical and Soft Skill Needs
  • Showcase Competencies
  • Understand Technology Trends
  • Plan and execute Barcamps
  • Collaborate with Industry Experts
  • Discuss and Collaborate with Peers online

All you need is a few hours a week.

Related links:

Know any other Pune initiatives that belong to this series? Let us know.

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Do an industry-supported “free” PG Diploma in Systems Programming

This is the second in PuneTech’s Improving Education series of posts detailing the efforts being taken by people in the tech industry in Pune to give our students a chance at giving their career a solid foundation by acquiring skills that are valued in the industry with guidance from experienced mentors from the industry. The first in the series was Techstart.in, a program to nurture the passions of students by guiding them to implement specific, and interesting projects. Today we cover KQInfoTech’s idea of having a Post Graduate Diploma in Systems Programming where the students don’t actually pay for the course, but end up being funded by industry in return for completing projects.

KQInfoTech was started by Anurag Agarwal and Anand Mitra, both of whom chucked high-paying jobs in the industry because they felt that there was a desperate need to work on the quality of students that is being churned out by our colleges. For the last year or so, they have been trying various experiements in education, at the engineering college level. All their experiments are based on one basic premise: students’ ability to pay should not be a deterrent – in other words, the offerings should be free for the students; KQInfoTech focuses on finding alternative ways to pay for the costs of running the course. Their latest offering is the KQInfoTech PG Diploma in Systems programming which they explain thus:

This PG Diploma is for the people looking for making a career in the system programming.

It is a program in the “Gurukul” tradition of education. There are two unique features to this program :

  • Cost: Your education does not depend on your capacity to pay. This course is effectively free. Your education gets paid by your work during this program.
  • Work experience: You are also getting real industry work experience during your education. During this course, you will get one year worth industry experience.

Does working in Linux Kernel, writing device drivers for Unix and Windows, writing system level programs that interacts closely with operating system interests you? But you don’t have the right skill set for this.

KQInfotech is lead by people who have spent decades working in the area of file system, kernel programming, Linux kernel etc. They are ready to educate you in “Art of System Programming”. Are you ready for all the hard and interesting work required?

It is a unique post graduate program of one year, which would provide you education as well as work experience. This program will cover Unix internals, Linux kernel programming, Multi-threading, Windows internals, Writing device drivers etc.
1. Industry Experience

Experience gained working on live industry project is more important than just theory based education. Two third of this program’s duration will be spent on real industry project as interns. Beside gaining industry experience, internship makes this program free for participants.
2. Course Details

Experience of Unix or System Programming is not a pre-requisite for the course.

The course is divided into three broad areas namely Unix internals, Linux Kernel and Windows System programming. To cement the concepts candidate will have to submit a month long project or thesis in each area. Whole course is divided into a number of modules. These modules are:

  • Introduction of Unix
  • Advance system programming in Unix
  • Rapid development tools
  • POSIX multi threading
  • Linux Kernel internals
  • Linux device driver development
  • WinAPI
  • Windows device driver development

Each module will be covered over a duration of 4 to 6 weeks and each project will run for 4 weeks.The program stresses on imparting knowledge through practicals and hence more than 50% of the time will be spent on programming.

3. Eligibility

Participants with following qualifications can apply for this course.

  • BCS, or BSc with Computer Science
  • MCS/MCA final year students
  • BE in any field
  • People with industry experience

4. Selection Process

Candidates will be selected on the basis of a written technical and aptitude test, followed by a technical and personal interview. Syllabus for technical test contains :

  • C programming language
  • Data structure and algorithms
  • Operating system concepts

Entrance exam will be held on 20th Jan at 10:00 AM. Duration of exam will be 2 hours.

Diploma course will start from 2nd Feb.

Next batch will start from 3rd Aug. Corresponding entrance exam will be held on 20th July.
5. Logistics

It is an intense program with 12 hours of daily commitment for one year. One third of that time would be training and the rest will be internship.

There will be security deposit of 10,000/- (Ten thousand) rupees for this course. On completion of this course, deposit will be returned to the participant. Every participant needs to have a laptop for this course, participant can bring their own laptop, or we can arrange one for them for a security deposit of 25,000/- (Twenty five thousand). At the end of the course, the participant can return the laptop to get back the deposit.

6. Placement

Market for system programming is huge. There are a large number of companies looking for people with these skills. Symantec, Symphony, Calsoft, Persistent, Marvell, KPIT, Wipro, Infosys are to name few of them.

We will provide placement assistance to all participants.

The website for this course is here. For more details on Anurag and Anand’s background see the about us page on KQInfoTech.

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