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Home » Women in STEM » Teamwork is key to being a successful software engineer

Dr. Mary Giblin

Lecturer in Software Engineering – Faculty of Engineering and Informatics, TUS

Dr. Sheila Fallon

Lecturer in Software Engineering, TUS

Malavika Padmakumar

Student, Masters in Applied Software Engineering, TUS

An imaginative and practical course is helping produce work-ready software engineers who have valuable teamworking skills, whilst also encouraging diversity.

Teamwork advice from sports leaders, solving ancient Egyptian murder mysteries and learning work-ready skills that make you hyper-employable are just some of the reasons why so many women are taking the MSc in Applied Software Engineering at the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS), Athlone Campus.

“Half of our students are now women – that is far higher than the average for IT graduates, which is only one in five,” says Dr Mary Giblin, Course Coordinator and Lecturer on the course at TUS Athlone.

“We try hard to attract people with degrees in any relevant disciplines and it is not limited to young people. Software engineering suits many women because it is a flexible career that lends itself to hybrid working and the skills are in demand.”

Challenging misconceptions

Many people picture software engineers as young men with just a computer for company, but Mary says: “That’s a myth. Software engineering is most successful when carried out by diverse teams of people working together – which is why we put so much emphasis on teamwork.”

The one-year postgraduate course covers computing fundamentals, software design, implementation and testing and focuses on practical problem-solving skills. It is free, students get a bursary toward financial and living expenses and there is a paid internship with tech and communications company Ericsson, one of the sponsors of the course alongside ICT Skillnet Ireland.

The course aims to create work-ready graduates, and those who pass with honours are offered a full-time permanent job as a software engineer with Ericsson in Athlone.

Senior Ericsson engineers coach the students throughout the projects and that provides networking opportunities on both sides.

Dr. Mary Giblin

Importance of teamwork

Course Lecturer Dr Sheila Fallon says: “Teamwork is so important in software development that we teach a module that helps students understand the strengths of themselves and others and use personality profiling and self-awareness training to aid in teamworking.”

“The development process has its origin in the theory of the Rugby scrum,” says Sheila. “We’ve had guest speakers from the sports world including Roscommon County football manager Anthony Cunningham and Kevin Walsh from 100% Personal Training talking to students about team motivation, commitment and how to regroup when things go wrong.”

Another training initiative includes solving an online murder mystery. “It is based on a real historical event in ancient Egypt,” explains Sheila. “Students work together using the mechanics of escape room games to solve the mystery.”

Industry work experience

Students work on a three-month industry-focussed project, specified by Ericsson, which enables students to work in teams to create a software product, working in a lab modelled on Ericsson’s own local facility, using its collaboration tools.

Mary says: “Senior Ericsson engineers coach the students throughout the projects and that provides networking opportunities on both sides. It gives invaluable insights into the Ericsson way of working and prepares students for their internships.”

First-hand experience

Malavika Padmakumar discovered programming languages during her first degree in physics. Curious to know more, she started studying the Java language online after graduating and then joined the TUS Applied Software Engineering course.

“I changed my career plans to do this course. It takes you through from the basics to testing software within six months,” says Malavika. “I love the focus on practical work and its great that 50% of the students are women.

“The students are all from different backgrounds and some have more experience with IT than others, so we talk and work together and learn from each other.

“Many women think software development means sitting alone with a computer, but this course is all about collaboration and sharing our thoughts. It never feels like you are going to a class – you learn new things daily. It’s an opportunity for everyone.”

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