A group of Moravian College computer science majors are looking forward to their careers with more insight about the realities of the workplace thanks to a new partnership with SunGard K-12 Education. The initiative offered the students an insider’s look at the software development process and provided them real-world experiences that should prove beneficial as they launch their careers.
Moravian College Associate Professor of Computer Science Ben Coleman says the shadowing initiative complements and enhances the students’ collegiate experience.
“While studying the various ideas in books is good, actually seeing them applied is better,” Dr. Coleman explains. “What I think students miss just seeing the process on paper is the reality of how often and how large change can be in software design. So I think it’s incredibly valuable to have the students hear firsthand from developers what Scrum, the framework for managing software projects and application development, is like and how it contributes to their work. For our students, really hearing all of the voices—customers, sales, support, etc.—that come into design decisions enriches their understanding of what the process provides to a development team.”
With SunGard K-12 Education energized by the possibility of giving back to the future of our profession, a team—including David Amidon, project manager; Mike Folcher, development manager of eFinancePLUS and a Moravian College alumnus of the Class of 1998; Jeff Miller, development manager of eSchoolPLUS; and Beth Pianucci, director of documentation, testing, and education—was formed to develop and coordinate the shadowing initiative.
Amidon says that he was overwhelmed by the positive reception he received as he approached his colleagues about the program. “We experienced enthusiastic participation from across our organization,” he says. “So we were able to build a pretty robust offering for the students.”
The focus of the program was a half-day shadowing experience for 20 students. “The students had an action-packed half day with us,” explains Amidon. “They shadowed a development technical resource for an hour and support resource for an hour. In between the two shadowing opportunities, they heard about our Quality Assurance program. They attended a Scrum meeting. And, they had a half-hour feedback discussion with me at the end of the day.”
Earlier in the semester, the students were introduced to the Scrum methodology through their curriculum at Moravian. To provide them some context for their shadowing experiences, SunGard K-12’s Education Team traveled to the college to demonstrate our software products for the students. Before their half-day in the Bethlehem office, the students also attended an orientation session presented by Amidon.
For each of the seniors, Jaime Weaver, senior recruiter, arranged mock interviews with our most experienced managers. In addition, all of the students could sign up to listen in remotely on a design discussion with our highest-level analysts and were provided recordings of sprint reviews, which are meetings at which development efforts are shared with internal staff and external customers and course corrections are identified. At the close of the sessions, a reception and networking event was held at the Bethlehem office.
“The whole experience was perspective broadening for them,” says Amidon, noting that the students gained a better appreciation of the daily realities of software development and saw many technically oriented careers beyond programming.
“We hope that their education will be better for having contacted real-world issues that just don’t come up in an academic environment,” he says. “I consider it a strong indication that we achieved our goal that I frequently heard them say sentences that began with, ‘I never knew…’ or ‘I didn’t realize…’ during the feedback sessions.”
Reflecting on the initiative, Dr. Coleman also believes the students gained much value from their interaction with the SunGard K-12 Education team.
“Our students were thrilled to have the opportunity to come into SunGard K-12 and see what’s happening in the real world,” he says. “I just want to express how grateful I am for the way that everyone has been so open to this process. It’s a wonderful relationship that we’ve established, and I look forward to doing it again next year.”