FGCU’s required two-semester class, “Mentored Senior Software Engineering Program,” catapults real-world experience to a new level. On the surface, the program is simple: Local companies – either solicited through targeted mailings or recruited by Dr. Fernandez Gonzalez, associate professor of software engineering in the U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering – agree to mentor FGCU senior software engineering students, who then undertake a project germane to the business needs of the mentor company, referred to as a sponsor.
Implementation is a deep dive into the intricacies of the lifestyle of a software engineering process. Each multifaceted project offers students the opportunity to work in an industrial setting with all the expectations and responsibilities of a company employee in terms of meeting deadlines, writing reports, attending meetings and producing deliverables.
Here’s how it works: interested companies visit the class to pitch their software engineering needs to students who then choose a project, split into teams of three or four, and work with their sponsor during the academic year. Their company mentor meets regularly with them to check on their progress, as do FGCU’s Gonzalez and Dr. Huzefa Kagdi, professor and chair of the Department of Software Engineering.
The lifecycle of a software engineering project begins with learning the project’s parameters, or requirements. Then it is onto the design phase, followed by building the architecture or structure of the project. Once the groundwork is complete, the project moves into the implementation phase, which includes coding, testing and, when required, maintenance.
Kagdi said that quite a few companies are developing a talent pipeline. “They’re looking for employees not only with the skill set they need, but also with the values they want.”
Take CallMiner and Arthrex, two of more than two dozen companies partnering with FGCU. Both are community-minded businesses that view their participation in the program as a win-win for students and the companies.
CallMiner is a global leader using conversation analytics to drive business performance improvement. “In essence, we help businesses analyze the interactions with their customers and leverage those insights to improve their business across a vast array of use cases,” said Felix Lepa, senior director, platform development. “From an engineer’s point of view, we leverage AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) across a mindbogglingly huge amount of data and continuously push the envelope from a technology and innovation perspective.”
Of CallMiner’s participation in FGCU’s program, Lepa said, “We believe our participation helps strengthen the local tech community, provides students with a valuable supplement to their education, and helps lift FGCU’s profile. CallMiner benefits from establishing relationships with strong students, which bolsters our recruiting funnel and can provide our own employees with mentoring and leadership experience when working with groups of students.
“It also really helps the university differentiate itself from other schools, providing real-world experience in engineering, which is invaluable. Each year, I am impressed by the students – they are engaged, work hard, have good fundamentals due to their FGCU education, and are a joy to work with.”
In the first six months of this year alone, CallMiner hired 13 FGCU graduates, four as a result of participation in the program and all in engineering related positions. Currently, the company employs at least 60 FGCU alumni, of which 43 work in engineering.
James Hood, (’20, Software Engineering) is one of those students. Of his experience, Hood said, “I gained valuable insights into the software engineering process starting at the ground level. FGCU taught me the fundamentals, but the program allowed me to utilize what I had learned and gain a greater understanding of the building block components to all the analytical and problem-solving aspects of a project.
“With the mentoring program, you’re out of the books and into the field. Beyond that, it solidified how much I enjoy what I do.”
Headquartered in Naples, Arthrex is a global leader in orthopedic surgical device design, research, manufacturing and medical education, developing and releasing more than 1,000 new products and procedures every year to advance minimally invasive orthopedics worldwide.
Uwe Kronewiter, director of Global Marketing Technology for Arthrex, said, “Working with FGCU allows us to engage with the community on a topic that all of us are very passionate about – technology. Working with FGCU students also provides us with an opportunity to educate students about our company and the fact that software engineering is a key strategic capability at Arthrex. Given the shortage of software engineers in the U.S., we had to come up with new and creative ways to find technology talent. In order to gain greater independence from the domestic job market, we decided to make local talent recruitment part of our recruiting strategy.”
Over the years, Arthrex’s partnership with FGCU has successfully yielded several software engineers who started their career at Arthrex as interns, co-ops, or associate developers after graduating from FGCU and who have since become an integral part of Arthrex.
“We are very grateful for the partnership that we have been able to build and nurture with FGCU over the years, specifically with the Software Engineering Department’s Kagdi and Gonzalez,” said Kronewiter. “We have mutual goals that propel us forward and that all involved parties benefit from, including the university, students, as well as Arthrex.”
One of FGCU’s project teams at Arthrex chose to work on a mobile app that would provide users the ability to compare multiple medical device products to each other for educational purposes. “The team went through the main stages of the software development life cycle from planning, requirements gathering, designing, and all the way through to prototyping,” said Kronewiter. “In the end, the team was able to demo and present a working prototype of the app that they developed.”
Kagdi sums it up: “This program is what we, FGCU, are all about. Excellence in teaching, student success, giving back, engaging in the community. It’s a testament to FGCU’s high-quality software engineering program.”