Computer Science Majors Examine Potential Careers Up Close
Last Wednesday, as campus bustled with students making their way to and from class, a handful of Moravian College computer science majors were headed to SunGard’s Bethlehem offices for an education of their own. One of the world’s leading software and technology services companies, SunGard has partnered with Moravian to allow students to job shadow employees, granting the undergraduates an up-close view of their potential careers.
The SunGard partnership is one of several initiatives undertaken by the College’s computer science program this semester, allowing students to gain a better understanding of what awaits them post-graduation.
“This is a great opportunity to see what a 9-5 job is like,” said Ben Coleman, associate professor of computer science. “It will allow our students to see if this career path is what they want, or don’t want, and allow them to refocus on where they want to go.”
In addition to partnering with SunGard, the computer science program is also working closely with Merck, among the world’s leading pharmaceutical, chemical and life science companies. Alumnus Pete Lega ’85, director of emerging technology at Merck, has been pivotal in the company’s ongoing relationship with the College.
The ultimate goal of the two initiatives is to highlight potential career paths, according to Coleman, who has been instrumental in cultivating the collaborations with SunGard and Merck.
Through a personal connection with David Amidon, a manager at SunGard, Coleman sparked up a conversation about procuring internships for his students. Following an on-site meeting, which included an informal sit down with six Moravian alumni employed the company, Coleman realized that job shadowing opportunities might be more beneficial. “Maybe eventually there will be internships, but I think right now this is better because all of our students get this opportunity,” he said.
I want our students to find what books the developers are reading and how they are continuing to learn. I want them to understand what a typical day is like.”
– Ben Coleman
Sitting side by side with a SunGard employee for an afternoon offers numerous benefits, and students are instructed to take advantage of the opportunity, asking questions early and often. “I want our students to find what books the developers are reading and how they are continuing to learn,” Coleman said. “I want them to understand what a typical day is like.” Additionally, SunGard employees have visited campus to demo their software for the computer science majors. Students will also sit in – via phone – on software design meetings, gaining a “fly on the wall” perspective.
Coleman said SunGard offers a real-world view of the computer field's corporate structure, and how testing and support are critical components of the company's work.
In January, Moravian students also began learning more about the inner workings of Merck, which might interest students more drawn to research and development.
Seniors enrolled in the CAPSTONE experience are partnering with Merck to work on OpenMRS, a collaborative open source project to develop software to support the delivery of health care in developing countries. Boiled down the OpenMRS initiative will allow students to improve their coding skills, while benefiting people in countries on the front lines against HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other public health challenges.
The initiative grew out of an idea Coleman devised while attending a summer workshop on integrating open-source projects into the curriculum. This idea eventually led him to OpenMRS, which has seen tremendously grown in recent years. “They have a rich development community for an open source project, and we look forward to getting hooked into that and contributing to the project,” Coleman said.
Currently, students are concentrating on “introductory tickets,” learning the nuances of this gigantic code base. Coleman said the inclusion of OpenMRS experience on a job resume will be a great ice breaker for Moravian graduates during job interviews. “This is something you don’t normally get in an undergraduate experience,” he added.
The collaboration with Merck and OpenMRS isn’t based on outcomes, but rather the process. It’s more about learning, according to Coleman. “We actually use the term productively lost,” he laughed.
Alek Szilagyi ’14 and Myles Barros ’14, two Moravian students interning at Merck this semester, are enrolled in the CAPSTONE course and have been a great asset moving the collaborative work forward. “They have really been leaders in this class,” Coleman said.
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