Providing students with an insight about the industry

As part of MITA’s outreach towards students who are interested in pursuing a career in Information Technology, a study unit is being delivered, where students are given an insight of what it means to work in the IT industry

paul_cocks
Paul Cocks
9 March 2017, 9:49am
Student Andrea Mallia with Daniela Chetcuti, Prof Frank Zammit and Dr Vincent-Anthony Marmara
Student Andrea Mallia with Daniela Chetcuti, Prof Frank Zammit and Dr Vincent-Anthony Marmara
As part of MITA’s outreach towards students who are interested in pursuing a career in Information Technology, a study unit is being delivered, where students are given an insight of what it means to work in the IT industry. We have spoken to MITA’s coordinator of the unit, Daniela Chetcuti who gave us an overview of the unit. The Dean of the Faculty of Economy, Management and Accountancy (FEMA), Professor Frank Bezzina, together with Assistant Lecturer, Dr Vincent-Anthony Marmara gave us their views about this unit and their collaboration with MITA. Andrea Mallia also gave us her feedback as a student who attended for this module.  

Daniela Chetcuti
  • What is the name of the study unit that is being delivered by MITA? What does it consist of?


The name of the module is “ICT Industry Insights”. This module exposes students to the industry, rather than the academic part. It is being delivered by MITA experts who tackle particular topics during every session. They are first exposed to Government’s strategy about technology, they are given an explanation about the reasons why a strategy is formulated, by whom is it drafted and the different roles played by Government and MITA. They are also introduced to Project Management because MITA’s work is based on projects. This is not only the situation in MITA but also in the industry in general which also implements projects. To have a project manager explaining what it feels like in the industry helps to provide a student with a more tangible experience that compliments the academic aspect learnt in the previous years. 
  • How important is this study unit for MITA and what are its main goals?


This study unit is very important for MITA as it helps to prepare students to be in tune with what the industry requires. Our remit is to include technology in both education and the industry. It is therefore important that there is a bridge between what the industry needs and the skills turning out from University and other educational institutions. 

It is important for us because we are trying to shape what we know and deliver it to students. Our goal is to use our ways to prepare students for their careers. In fact, through other projects we also try to expose students to the work environment both during summer and winter. In this way, they can get accustomed to the office environment and to the conversations they have with their colleagues. It is important for them to feel what it is like as it is completely different from when you leave school. The way you discuss with your colleagues is different from when you talk to other students. Therefore, it is important that students are exposed to how they should behave and communicate when entering an office environment. 
  • As a study unit, is it required for students to proceed with their studies as part of their degree?


Yes, it is a compulsory module. Students have to pass this module to progress to the next level. From this year, the module will also be offered to the Faculty of ICT as MITA operates in this sector and it is important for us to be in contact with students from this faculty. For this purpose we have extended this study unit, although our principal collaboration will continue to be with FEMA. Students from the Faculty of ICT who wish to choose this unit can select this unit as an elective module and attend with students from FEMA. 
  • How are students assessed during this unit?


As we already explained, our main goal is to expose these students to the industry. Therefore, we wanted to reflect this also in our assessment. The assessment is divided into three parts. Each student needs to prepare a presentation on a case study presented on different modules. Students are allowed to work in groups but we check that every student contributes in the preparation and execution of the presentation. We present them with a boardroom set-up and a real case study where the project manager presents an actual project to see how the students follow the steps that were previously taught during class. All the class is present during the presentation and permitted to ask questions to the presenters. It is a very professional assessment where students also need to come wearing their professional attire. In itself, this presentation involves a lot of work and maybe it was not given enough weight in the assessment. In fact, this year we have amended its weight. 

Another task for the students is divided into two sub-tasks. The first task is to formulate a reflective summary of all the modules within the study. However, we pretend a seamless combination of these modules and how they are applied within MITA or any other organisation, rather than just a summary in isolation. 

In the other task, students are presented with a case-study that includes modules from the unit and from which they need to prepare a project initiation document. They are given a scenario where the Executive Chairman or the Minister sends them a request for a particular task through this case study and they have to present their document on how to implement the project. 

On the latter two tasks, the work has to be done individually. However, students have expressed more difficulty in the presentation. The fact that they had to present in front of such an audience might have affected them phsycologically and caused them to be stressed. However, they all did well as they took the task very seriously and presented themselves in a very professional manner. 

This is the third running of the study unit and I am very happy with the result we had in the previous two years. 
  • As an organisation within the IT industry, how does MITA deliver lectures in this module?


The delivery of this module is given through MITA experts who apart from delivering these lectures and working with Government, they also have a variety of clients from the private sector. Lessons are not only delivered at University. In fact, we have taken our students to MITA’s Data Centre where apart from delivering the lecture about emerging technologies, we have also given them a tour of the data centre, the call centre and the server room where they could observe the infrastructure. I must say they were all in awe and it showed how much this works. Student comments were positive and I think that it is important to expose students to the environment which they are not accustomed to as somehow it helps them to learn and take a lot more out of it. 

Regarding the content of our lectures, it is based on real content. We are not lecturers and neither academics. Students get their academic content from their professors at University. We try to complement by providing a practical insight to what they are being taught. 
  • What type of business situations are students exposed to?


We expose them to several projects such as software lifecycle management where a project manager takes care of a particular software development project and another project management like the implementation of whiteboards in schools. They get to know how this came about, the coordination of the logistic part with schools, the relevant training that was given and the processes of project management itself such as stakeholder management. Students are given a walk through all of the process. In this way, they can learn about the particular tangible process. 
  • Does this study unit expose students to advances in technology? 


Every year, we revise our subjects according to the changes in technology. For example, in the last year MITA has launched the National Strategy on Cyber Security and the Government Strategy on Mobile Apps. We are also introducing those subjects in the lectures. You cannot work in a vacuum and you must keep abreast with the latest technologies that emerge. 

We have a module about emerging technologies so in itself it requests that we expose students to what is emerging. Be sure that students themselves let you know if you teach them about any technologies that are outdated. Last year we worked on a subject about application development. This year we will be having a topic about this development and why it is being implemented in government. 

Prof Frank Bezzina, Dr Vincent-Anthony Marmara and Andrea Mallia
Prof Frank Bezzina, Dr Vincent-Anthony Marmara and Andrea Mallia
Educators
  • Which degree does this study unit form part of?


This study unit forms part of the programme of the BSc Honours in Business and IT which is offered by FEMA, in collaboration with the Faculty of Information Communications Technology (FICT) at the University of Malta. 
  • How did this collaboration with MITA come about?


When I took over my role as Head of Department of Management, I requested a meeting with MITA’s Executive Chairman, Mr Tony Sultana and MITA’s Head of Strategy and Business, Engineer Emanuel Darmanin. During this meeting, we discussed and explored potential ways in which MITA and FEMA can collaborate. This module is a result of that meeting. 
  • What careers can students endeavour to pursue following the successful attainment of their degree?


Apart from technical staff, today organisations need people who are capable of understanding strategies and help the operations to improve. In this context, we have created this unit to create a strong bridge or marriage between IT techniques and aspects of leadership. 

A few months ago I performed a tracer study to see where our students are going after they study the degree that we are offering. Our students are working as Systems and Business Analysts, Junior Web Software Developers and Designers, Junior Database Administrators, Junior IT Consultants, IT Technical Communicators, Software testers, project leaders, IT recruiters, IT tutors, research analysts and even some entrepreneurs in IT. 
  • What plans do you have for any future collaboration with MITA? 


Yes, in the last weeks there were discussions between MITA and our Department. Through this course of Business and IT we are applying for EU funds together with MITA and the Faculty to work on several projects together. Our goal is that in the future we continue doing our best so that MITA and FEMA collaborate together. We believe that it is important for our students to understand the bridge between what they learn at University and what the industry really needs. That is the most important thing for us. It would be futile for any student to do a course at University if he or she cannot understand what the industry needs. Therefore, our aim is to continue working together to achieve more for the students. 
  • How was the feedback about this study unit so far?


I would like to emphasize that our main goal is not to teach content to our students but to help them form their character. Everyone knows that after some time the conmtent becomes absolete but the skills they learn will be theirs to keep throughout their careers. These units, together with internships within MITA and other organisations, really help these students. It is also important that students embark on Erasmus exchange programmes where they can spend up to one year learning abroad. 

It is also important to note that there were many students who took ideas from these units to develop their thesis or identified a mentor with whom they can work on it. We are very satisfied with this collaboration and this study unit is like the cherry on the cake of the course. 

We are happy that all of our students get employed, with a number of them getting contracts even before they finish their studies. However, as I have emphasized before, our interest is not limited to helping them find a job but also to help them in the formation of their character. 

Student – Andrea Mallia
  • What was your overall experience of this study unit, given that its delivery was somewhat different?


What we enjoyed mostly about this course is that it provided hands on experience unlike other modules which focus completely on theory. This helped us to gain further insight on how the industry and MITA work. In this way, we were given an insight of what we will encounter when we eventually complete our studies and start working. 

We also enjoyed our relationship with the tutors. It helped us to feel more comfortable to ask questions and to engage ourselves during lessons. They created a welcoming environment that helped us learn more. 
  • What did you take away from this experience?


As part of the assignment we had to prepare and deliver a presentation to people who actually work in the industry. Therefore, we had to prepare ourselves more for this challenge. In this way, we improved our presentation skills to a more professional level. 
  • In your opinion, what would you improve or add to this module?


As we have already told Daniela, we suggest an amendment to the weight of the assignment carried out. We believe that it should be given more weight, being that the presentation involved a lot of work. 

We also think that it could help if students are taken for more on-site visits. We went to MITA’s Data Centre and saw the ongoing operation. For us it was an important hands on experience and so it would be interesting to organise more of these visits. 

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Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...