Supporting students and sharing PTPI expertise

Dear EEC and other interested parties,
Following the wonderful conference in Plovdiv, I gave a series of short seminars on data management over two days at Janusz’s school in Katowice. (An additional lecture on my work at NASA was also added at the last minute.) These seminars were an experiment to determine the viability of providing lectures/workshops to our PTPI student members and potentially recruiting other students for our organization. Approximately 250-300 students attended one or more of these lectures. Last week I had a lengthy ‘Skype’ session with Xavi, the computer science teacher at the school. We discussed the feedback he received following the seminars, and possible changes/additions we might make in any future seminars or workshops. These seminars were well received and some detailed points are contained at the end of this email for each seminar.
As Xavi and I considered how any future student-oriented seminars and workshops might be successfully implemented on a wider basis, a number of ideas and points came up:
  • each seminar was intended for a different audience, which worked out very well as many students were able to find at least one seminar that interested them;
  • the most detail-oriented seminar, intended for students with a demonstrated computer science interest, might be better arranged as ‘a day in the life of a data analyst’ (or other position like database administrator) where many of the actual tasks typically done by someone in this field are explained and demonstrated if possible;
  • another idea is to conduct workshops where students can do practical projects that would be useful to PTPI like designing a database for members, or a student alumni network;
  • we should leverage PTPI members in various career fields that either run companies or work for companies that would be willing to host a number of students that could ask questions about a career field from actual practitioners (how did you get into the field, what does your typical day look like, what subjects and skills should I study/acquire, etc.);
  • we must address the logistics of presenting workshops/seminars so that many students from different chapters and countries can attend and participate;
  • a student from Romania suggested we encourage students to continue their studies rather than drop out of school – this could be part of career opportunity seminars;
  • are there other media (like video, audio, teleconferencing, web) we could use effectively to conduct the seminars for this age group.
At this point, I think it would be appropriate to engage several active PTPI students in a committee to discuss what would be of interest to them in this type of educational program, and effective ways to attract students and present the educational material. Their thoughts are most relevant to this type of program. There are obviously many other careers aside from data management that would be of interest to students, so we should explore if there are PTPI people that would be willing to lecture on career opportunities and positions in their respective field.
Please let me know your thoughts and have a wonderful week!
Mike Hermida
Feedback and thoughts on Katowice seminars:
1. Data Management as a Career Option (intended for students that are not sure of the type of career they are interested in)
This was very well received and very well attended. It was oriented toward career options in the field of data management. It did spark interest from some students who thought that computer science was just programming. Students were also very interested in salaries and real-world actual positions. I was familiar with salary ranges in the USA but not in Poland or nearby countries. This should be included in future seminars on this topic.
2. Data from a Business Perspective (intended for business students or business managers)
This topic drew a smaller audience of students that were interested in business and wanted to understand the role that data plays within a business. There was much interest in BIG data, which is a very hot topic in really most business areas. A data model, which reflects the data requirements of specific business areas, was shown to the students and there was quite a bit of interest in that. Data properties, characteristics, value, privacy, security, recovery, and risk were emphasized to highlight many data-related items that a successful business person must understand.
3. Data Management Overview (intended for computer science students)
This topic could be covered very well during a full-year course. Of course, that was unrealistic, so the few hours allotted for this seminar were used to discuss the seven components of data management. Students were engaged but a bit overwhelmed. This is why the idea of  ‘a day in the life of a data analyst’ was mentioned in the main body of this email. A full day devoted to this ‘day in the life …’ in a hands-on workshop would be a better approach to gain a good understanding of data management.
Since I had previously worked for NASA on the Space Shuttle program I pulled together an hour presentation on this work. The work was in software programming on ground-based systems supporting the Shuttle. Some of the students were interested in the functions provided by this software, but others were more interested in the astronauts and their living conditions and other topics on space, which is not really my field. If given again I would add more general material around space flight in the shuttle, the astronauts, and some other space topics.