SIT aims to meet the growing
need for software engineers
who are equipped to handle
complex information systems
Prof Wong has mentored more than 120 bachelor's, master's and PhD students like Ms Lim. PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
by hazel tan
FROM developing smart watches to designing enterprise solutions in the cloud, software engineers are increasingly becoming a prized resource among technology companies.
To cater to anticipated demand, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) started offering an undergraduate degree programme in software engineering two months ago.
Software engineering is very much needed by the industry to grow Singapote's economy says Associate Professor Steven Wong Kai Juan, 39, who is the programme's director. ·
"It is difficult to imagine a world without software engineers, given the prevalence of the adoption of computing devices in our everyday lives.
"Organisations, businesses and individuals will only be more reliant on such computing devices and the software running on them over time," adds Prof Wong, who has a doctorate in informatics from the University of Edinburgh and a first class honours degree in computer engineering from Nanyang Technological University.
"With the emergence of the Internet-of-Things where everyday objects, including household devices, are progressively connected to the Internet - the complexity of the software systems required will also increase to manage, process and utilise this vast amount of information and technology," he says.
Fit for purpose
Software engineers will be valued for their ability to "come up with solutions and algorithms to solve complex problems relying on the foundation of mathematics and logic," says Prof Wong, who has taught at SIT for two years.
A software engineer has to ensure that the software system engineered is fit-for-purpose and its operations are sustainable.
"While the programming of a simple software may be outsourced to other countries, it is less optimal or more difficult to outsource the entire engineering of the software system overseas, especially with operationally, critical systems. This is why there is a critical need for software engineers locally," he adds.
Software engineering should not be mistaken for software development or programming, he says.
He explains: "Even though software development is part of software engineering, the job scope and the required knowledge of a software engineer goes beyond that of a programmer.
"It is like comparing electrical technicians to electrical engineers. The ability to connect the wires to a three-pin plug does not make one an electrical engineer.
"Similarly, the ability to programme software applications does not make one a software engineer."
According to Prof Wong, the software engineering programme is the "first undergraduate degree programme offered by a local autonomous university that majors in software engineering".
A team integrated project, an industry certification module and an integrated work-study programme (IWSP) are among the modules offered under the practice- oriented programme, aimed a grooming highly specialised and industry-focused software engineers.
For example, the one-year IWSP is offered in the final year of the course and aims to seamlessly transition SIT graduates into the industry.
"They will take on real work and meaningful capstone projects with their host organisations.
"To integrate the study component into their work experience, students will return to the university while working for an equivalent of two mornings a week," say Prof Wong, who has mentored more than 120 bachelor's, master's and PhD students since he entered academia in 2002.
Giving back from the classroom
Ms Lim Mei Xi, 20, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in information and communication and technology (software engineering), is looking forward to the IWSP.
"This programme allows me to get a degree and, at the same time, gain a year of work experience.
"It will also help me transition from a full-time student to a full-time working adult since I would have learnt to apply what was taught to me before I graduate and find a job," says the first-year undergraduate.
Ms Lim and her classmates may get an opportunity to give back to society through their work. Prof Wong is currently working with government agencies to enable students in SIT's software engineering programme to collectively work on developing software solutions to improve the productivity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore as part of their curriculum.
"Simple solutions developed by software engineers can sometimes help organisations in prove their productivity or help improve the quality of life for various segments of the society," he says.
"Such an arrangement not only benefits the SMEs who are often constrained by resources to develop or procure such solutions themselves, it also helps better train the students to be more industry-ready by exposing them to real-life problems. This is definitely a win-win situation."
Special, Professional Engineers Board Day Of Dedication, The Straits Times, Saturday, November 8, 2014, Pg 18
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