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IT panel shows students fast-track

Computer Science Class in Gainesville
Jianjun "James" Yang, assistant professor of computer science, teaches encoding in one of his computer science courses.

Students unsure of what to do beyond earning a degree to secure a job in information technology recently received an eye-opening experience.

The Information Technology (IT) Industry Panel, hosted by the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega Campus, featured seven accomplished mentors of the IT industry to discuss what computer science and computer information systems students can do to make themselves more marketable to hiring companies.

Dr. Bryson Payne, interim department head of UNG's Computer Science Department, said attending students were better able to envision themselves in a computer science or information technology career, adding that now is an excellent time to be studying computer science at the University of North Georgia.

“From our first seven computer science graduates in 1984 to more than 350 computer science and computer information systems majors at the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses today, our students have gone into exciting careers regionally and internationally at companies from IBM, Adobe, Equifax, Blizzard Games and AT&T to local businesses and governmental organizations," Payne said.

Panelists discuss student options and opportunities.
The panelists discuss student opportunities.

Payne also said this is the first semester featuring an independent Department of Computer Science, but the department is building on a proud, 30-year tradition from the partnership in the former Department of Mathematics & Computer Science.

The panel included speakers from many IT disciplines, including JoAnne Taylor, former vice president of global telecommunications for IBM, and Scott Hand, a software engineer for and a UNG computer science alumnus.

"The industry panelists shared their time and experience with our students to give them a glimpse of the bright job prospects for computer science and information systems graduates," Payne said. “We’re fortunate to have such accomplished professionals and alumni investing in the next generation of IT leaders.”

The focus of the discussion was to provide students with the knowledge to take advantage of opportunities that provide experience and skills outside the normal realm of pursuing a degree—though some advice was offered on particular courses that can be critical in preparing students for their career fields.

Panelists gave their insights on the fastest-growing IT fields such as big data, business intelligence and analytics, and mobile and cloud computing. They also noted specific technology skills that will help students land the best jobs faster—including agile development, database and object-oriented programming, and networking.

Some of the topics included what non-course experiences, such as internships and volunteer work, firms are looking for as they search for new hires. The panelists also discussed what modern opportunities and outlets students should take advantage of to optimize their career paths.

Internships ranked high on the list of experiences that the panelists recommended; computer information systems majors complete an internship as part of their degree program at UNG. All of the panelists agreed that effective communication is one of the most important “soft skills” that technology graduates today need, along with the ability to work well in a team environment.

Another IT panel will be held on the Gainesville campus April 17, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., in room 108 of the Continuing Education Auditorium.

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