Ven­tur­ing into soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Bms Wellness -

THE ad­vent of tech­nol­ogy has cre­ated myr­iad ca­reer op­tions for stu­dents to pur­sue. Among them is soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing, which has in­fil­trated many as­pects of our lives.

Dr Im­ran Ghani, se­nior lec­turer of soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing at Monash Uni­ver­sity Malaysia’s School of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, shares his in­sight into the uni­ver­sity’s Bach­e­lor of Soft­ware En­gi­neer­ing (Hons) pro­gramme and its job prospects.

A com­mon ques­tion asked by many is: What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a com­puter sci­ence de­gree and a soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing de­gree?

Soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing is a branch of com­puter sci­ence. Dr Im­ran ex­plains that com­puter sci­ence is a highly tech­ni­cal field where stu­dents study sub­jects such as com­put­ing the­o­ries and com­put­er­re­lated func­tions, in­clud­ing al­go­rithms and com­puter net­works.

While soft­ware en­gi­neers have at­tributes of com­puter sci­ence grad­u­ates, they are equipped with added knowl­edge and skills in qual­ity assurance, soft­ware de­sign and non-tech­ni­cal as­pects such as man­ag­ing client re­la­tion­ships, time and bud­get.

Monash is the first uni­ver­sity in Malaysia to of­fer a four-year hon­ours pro­gramme in soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing. Its com­puter sci­ence pro­gramme is three years in du­ra­tion.

At Monash Malaysia, the soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing pro­gramme is man­aged by two fac­ul­ties – the School of En­gi­neer­ing and School of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy.

Among the sub­jects taught is the Ag­ile process, a type of soft­ware de­vel­op­ment method­ol­ogy. Dr Im­ran ex­plains that the Ag­ile process works by break­ing a soft­ware de­vel­op­ment project into chunks.

For ex­am­ple, to de­velop a soft­ware with 100 fea­tures, the soft­ware pro­gram­mer starts by choos­ing 10 im­por­tant fea­tures to un­dergo six phases – anal­y­sis, de­sign, cod­ing or pro­gram­ming, test­ing, de­liv­ery and main­te­nance. Upon com­ple­tion, these 10 fea­tures are de­liv­ered to the cus­tomer.

Once the prod­uct is handed to the cus­tomer to be used on a large scale, prob­lems may crop up. This is when soft­ware en­gi­neers pro­ceed with main­te­nance works to an­a­lyse prob­lems and find so­lu­tions. The process con­tin­ues with the fol­low­ing 10 fea­tures un­til com­pleted.

Dr Im­ran says that the Ag­ile process en­ables soft­ware en­gi­neers to fix er­rors more ef­fi­ciently than if they were to si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­velop 100 fea­tures and de­liver them to the cus­tomer, which is a tra­di­tional method known as the Wa­ter­fall model.

Ac­cord­ing to him, while the Ag­ile process is a heavy sub­ject with many ar­eas, it em­pha­sises team col­lab­o­ra­tion and is less bu­reau­cratic com­pared to the Wa­ter­fall ap­proach.

“Ag­ile is in high de­mand in the Malaysian in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (IT) in­dus­try and not many uni­ver­si­ties have ex­per­tise in that,” he adds.

Monash’s soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing pro­gramme is a com­bi­na­tion of course­work and re­search projects, with the lat­ter done by fourth year stu­dents.

Apart from learn­ing to code and gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the Ag­ile process, grad­u­ates are equipped with skills in qual­ity assurance and soft­ware se­cu­rity.

“In­dus­try prac­ti­tion­ers usu­ally com­plain that many IT stu­dents have good tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise but lack com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and the abil­ity to write good doc­u­men­ta­tion,” says Dr Im­ran.

Hence, stu­dents are taught how to an­a­lyse and solve clients’ prob­lems as well as im­prove their in­ter­per­sonal and in­trap­er­sonal skills.

Top stu­dents from each in­take have the op­por­tu­nity to be se­lected for the uni­ver­sity’s half-year In­dus­try Based Learn­ing (IBL) pro­gramme, which sees stu­dents gain­ing in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence and en­gag­ing in projects with global or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Grad­u­ates can work in var­i­ous fields, in­clud­ing health­care, bank­ing and tourism. Ad­di­tion­ally, there are nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties for em­ploy­ment as a game de­vel­oper, IT con­sul­tant and plan­ner or part of an IT start-up.

Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­searcher Ip­sos’ 2013-2017 sur­vey, soft­ware en­gi­neers are ranked first and sec­ond re­spec­tively for job ti­tles with the high­est va­can­cies in Mul­ti­me­dia Su­per Cor­ri­dor (MSC) and non-MSC sta­tus com­pa­nies. The sur­vey es­ti­mated 7,000 va­can­cies to be filled be­tween 2014 and 2017.

In ad­di­tion, a 2014 study by Kelly Ser­vices re­vealed that the salary range for soft­ware en­gi­neers with two to three years of ex­pe­ri­ence is be­tween RM4,500 and RM6,000. For more in­for­ma­tion on pro­grammes of­fered by the School of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, visit www.in­fotech.monash.edu.my

Monash Malaysia’s four-year Bach­e­lor of Soft­ware En­gi­neer­ing (Hons) pro­gramme equips stu­dents with the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and soft skills needed to be suc­cess­ful soft­ware en­gi­neers.

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