Feb. 13, 2019

Students join the digital revolution through new engineering degree

Software engineering master's degree part of initiative to improve tech training across Alberta
Meghan McGee and Julian Mulia
Meghan McGee and Julian Mulia Riley Brandt

A Rosetta Stone for the digital revolution.

With his nose to a grindstone of coding, computer algorithms and class assignments, Julian Mulia says that’s what the University of Calgary’s new master’s degree in software engineering is proving to be.

Just as the famed black slab proved invaluable for archaeologists deciphering ancient hieroglyphs, Mulia says the Schulich School of Engineering’s new master's program is already allowing him to act as a translator for two very different spheres of expertise.

“Between this and my chemical engineering degree, I can speak to chemical engineering companies and explain the impact of digitization from a software engineering perspective,” says Mulia, who balances schooling with a full-time career as a strategy and operations consultant.

“I can understand what works from both perspectives, and with this master’s degree, you become a translator for both worlds.”

A chance to bolster engineering education through tech

Mulia is one of 40 engineering graduates who’ve jumped at a chance to bolster their education and industry experience with a fast-track master’s degree, focused on a high-tech future.

In as few as eight months of intensive study, students in the Master of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a focus on software engineering work to enhance their engineering skills and position themselves for careers in an economy where computer tech is becoming universal.

“There’s going to become a point where if you’re not literate in software, you are going to get left behind,” explains Mulia.

“Now when I’m meeting with my clients, I can already talk to them and tell them realistically what they can do from a digital perspective, whether it’s analyzing fluids in a pipeline or optimizing oil production.”

Industry leaders see need for digital literacy

For Mulia there’s no question that software engineering is the future, and team leaders at Deloitte Canada concur, supporting Mulia as he balances work and school.

James Nesbitt, consulting partner at Deloitte, says the company has recognized a need for “digital literacy” as the world moves to a high-tech, software-driven future, and Schulich’s new master’s program looks like a solution.

“We see Julian’s program as doing two things; one it’s really helping us up our game, drive value, and bring some real subject matter expertise to the table,” says Nesbitt. “Second, it’s helping us internally understand where that value can be and how we need to organize to meet the upcoming demand, and what skills we need to build as people change the way they do business.”

Alberta moving to diversify its economy

The new master’s program, which will continue next year, is part of a broader five-year commitment made by the Government of Alberta in the spring to add 3,000 tech training spaces across the province.

With Alberta moving to diversify its economy and tech talent in demand worldwide, the fast-track master’s degree in software engineering is designed to inspire engineers seeking to enhance their skills and better position themselves for a new economy.

“In one year, graduates will leave this program with expertise, experience and insight to help them succeed as entrepreneurs and leaders of the digital revolution,” explains Dr. Bill Rosehart, dean of the Schulich School of Engineering.

“As Alberta moves to a tech-driven future, we want our engineers to be well positioned for success, and this program is part of that strategy.”

A whole new trajectory

And while some students, like Mulia, plan to accentuate a current engineering career with software expertise, others in the new program say their entire career trajectory has now changed.

Meghan McGee, who graduated as an electrical engineer two years ago, says software engineering has become her new passion, and she’s now looking to forge a career in wearable technology.

“I absolutely found my passion, and it’s blown my mind how much we have learned in the past four months,” says McGee. “Software to me is like a fun puzzle that I can’t stop working on.”

A powerful combination for success

The success of the first cohort, and continued demand for the fast-track master’s degree in software engineering has impressed even those who spearheaded the new program.

“This program provides our graduates with software engineering and data analytics skills which creates a powerful combination with their background and experience,” says Dr. Mohammad Moshirpour, PhD, an instructor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“It is wonderful to see their enthusiasm and the amazing results they have achieved in this program.”

Applications for this program for the Fall 2019 intake will open in the near future.