Venturing into software engineering
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.