Igor Salamin from PLVision Explains how IT Companies are Changing Education in Lviv

17 Jul, 2017

Igor Salamin is a Competence Manager at PLVIsion. The company is actively involved in launching new innovative educational programs initiated by Lviv IT Cluster at Lviv universities. Igor Salamin participated in the expert groups of three programs of Lviv Polytechnic and Ivan Franko National University. Moreover, PLVision has also sponsored the IoT Lab and purchased furniture for IoT program classrooms at Lviv Polytechnic, as well as for Data Science & Intelligent Systems program at LNU. What motivates the company to spend a lot of time, effort, and money to support changes in the Ukrainian educational system? – Let’s find out in our interview.

We joined the initiative to launch and modernize educational programs at Lviv universities because of lack of well-educated engineers. IT companies must focus on software services and cannot spare too much time for teaching new specialists. We would like our universities to not just boast graduating thousands of IT specialists every year, but to really educate good experts. Today second-year students do not differ a lot from graduates – they are equally not qualified enough. The problem of Ukrainian students is the fact they are studying outdated technologies.

When students come to a job interview at our company, most of them aren’t developers or engineers. Yes, they can code, this is what they learned at the university, but they need more complex knowledge. IT specialists spend only around 20% of their working time coding, but most of the time they spend thinking how to solve a problem within their business goals.

It doesn’t take so much time to learn how to code or test. But you need to think why you are doing this, how it influences the whole program or product, how it changes the business model of the client and the end-user. Global thinking is what most of the students lack, same as all Ukrainians. We are usually waiting for what our boss will tell us to do. But the boss has another boss, and it goes on. Few people make up the top management, the top of the company pyramid, who are responsible for all the processes in general. Everybody needs to be an expert in their niche and be responsible for their own activities, but always in a global context.

Working in IT means always learning

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The technology world is changing at an extreme pace. With the rise of the Internet, information is spreading increasingly fast. People don’t work in a closed space, but in a global context, solving problems together. At our universities, students use textbooks on outdated technologies, and in 5 years these technologies will be even more irrelevant. The youth needs to be ready to learn constantly, to be interested in new technologies, and we need to cultivate this readiness. No need to get stuck on one programming language – you must learn to study and think, to understand directions for future development.

PLVision specializes in Software Defined Networking and Internet of Things. The core of these technologies are devices, hardware, but its potential is fully realized via software located on the remote controller. Devices change much slower than the software. Take the iPhone – the device hasn’t changed radically from 1st to 7th version, but its software has progressed beyond recognition.

PLVision joined the first IoT Program when the school year has already begun. The company provided several mentors because it’s very important to practice what you learn. A lecturer cannot teach many practical things, but an engineer who works with technologies every day can show all tips and tricks. Students are divided into small groups, and each group has their dedicated mentor. They work together on a certain task, and the mentor helps them to achieve goals, reviews their ideas and completed projects, sometimes meeting with them at the university or at our office.

Together with other experts I also supervise term papers at the IoT program, and I’ve noticed that the students’ skills have substantially improved after the first year of study. They know what they want, they create real projects and participate in startup competitions. It is very likely that one of their projects will improve the life of our city in the next years.

I also participated in the launching of the Artificial Intelligence program at Lviv Polytechnic, especially in creating the syllabus. We canceled outdated subjects and added new ones. Now we are building the courses and lectures in detail. The syllabus is created in such a way that each subject logically continues the previous one. If students miss one subject, it will be hard for them to understand the next one. Companies have their own corporate courses and training, libraries, etc., and we’re sharing these materials with the universities. Next, we must find teachers – some of the university lecturers can teach certain subjects, but many of them have to improve their qualifications.

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Professors and lecturers at Lviv universities may have differing motivations. Some of them just need financing from IT companies, but others really want to improve the education system. I believe that this is just the beginning. I think that with joint efforts we can change a lot.

We add more English lessons on every university year. We also plan to restructure these lessons, make them more focused on what the IT sphere needs. We may also have to make some changes to the programs during the studies, because you cannot predict everything. The universities accepted such terms of cooperation.

The students of innovative programs don’t have summer holidays

Most IT companies already want to hire students from the IoT program after the first year of study. But we decided to wait. It’s true that these students are very different from typical Ukrainian students. It’s much harder for them to study because they have to learn a lot. For example, there are summer holidays at Ukrainian universities now, but IoT students have summer camps and summer projects they need to work on. For them, studying is a permanent process, not just sitting through the lectures.

When we launch all these programs and adjust the studying process, it will be much easier. Every year we expect to have more and more students on the program. Another concept from IT that we practice is mentorship. We want senior students to help their younger colleagues. This is how it works at IT companies, where seniors are mentoring juniors. Our goal is to make education a life cycle.

Everything we are working on at IT companies will be on the market in two or three years. We are growing together with the industry, and the company understands that it will need more power tomorrow. We need more people, fresh ideas, and this can be provided only by the young talented generation.

We want students to take as much knowledge from their universities as possible. That’s why we will continue to contribute to the modernization of university programs. The better universities perform, the better IT companies perform, involving more  qualified IT experts.