17 April 2014

Information Technology (University of Newcastle)

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The degree course I chose at the “University of Newcastle” (UoN) was the Bachelor of “Information Technology” (Digital Media and Entertainment/Software Development and Applications).

Why did you choose this degree? Why this university?

Throughout my life, I have always been interested in computers. Using and creating them really taught me that they could change the world. When I finished high school, however, I was unsure of what area of IT I wanted to be in: I was conflicted between web design and technical support, with an intense curiosity for software development. I chose to do BIT over Computer Science or Software Engineering as it was much broader and would allow me to find out which areas I liked the most. To be honest, not a lot of thought went into choosing UoN, as I only live 15 minutes away from it. Perhaps researching other alternatives would have been wise, but I don’t regret my decision. Luckily, the place is highly ranked in engineering!  

What were the admission requirements and how did you manage to fulfil them?

In Australia, New South Wales (the state I live in), we have to face perilous tests at the end of high school where we can collect our Higher School Certificate (HSC). Our results are calculated into an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) score and each University around NSW has a designated cut-off score for each of their degrees. Thankfully, I was given an offer by UoN on my first try, which was achieved by pouring many hours of my life into study. Hearing the experiences of others also helped me understand how much work I should have been putting in.  

New Castle_Callan

How much were the fees?

Long answer. In Australia, we have a system called HECS where we start paying off our fees once we start earning over a certain amount annually. So while I’m not sure of the exact figure, it doesn’t really matter at this stage as payment occurs “in the background”. Short answer: too much. 

How was the study plan structured?

To get a degree, UoN students have to complete a certain amount of units (courses). In my case, it was 240 units. Each course is usually worth 10 units, so this means I had to complete 24 courses. Therefore, I studied 4 courses a semester, which is the standard “full time” work load. Unlike other Universities, we’re not bogged down with irrelevant compulsory courses, so you wouldn’t see me sitting in on lectures about fine art, or French literature. Alas, I found software-related courses to be the most interesting as each course, while challenging, made me more curious in pursuing a career in software development. The least interesting courses would have to be some dryer topics such as project management and foundations of IT.  

Could you tell us more about your personal experience at university and whether anything could be improved in your degree course?

New Castle 2_Callan Rossella

I was a fairly average student throughout my degree, as clubs and extra-curricular activities aren’t too big at UoN (at least in my faculty). Course work and working on outside jobs took up most of my time. That was, until the head of my faculty posted something about a course in Michigan. Little did I know that it would have changed my life. The people I met there were nothing short of incredible, but the course itself wasn’t so much. It was rather poorly organised, and I didn’t learn too much from it. That being said, the people and experiences more than made up for it, so I wouldn’t say that it was a negative experience. 

Were you happy with life outside university?

Absolutely. Mainly because I was accustomed to it before starting Uni. This means that I was able to hang out with all of my local friends, so things didn’t really change from high school. Thankfully, my parents were nice enough to let me live with them. With my newly acquired Uni friends, we mainly spent our spare time talking about nerdy things, from games to softwares. But more importantly, we often study together and bounce ideas off of each other. We all had our strengths and weaknesses, so there was a bit of friendly competition. It was all rather productive. 

What would you suggest to those who are willing to start a similar path?

Go for it. Uni is a very satisfying and engaging experience that you will love and cherish for the rest of your life. The people you will meet will not only be of great character, but will push you intellectually everyday.  

Your next step?

Currently, I am in two jobs:

Acespire – small web development company I formed with a friend. We also do general IT stuff. I run it now.

Deckee – my full time job. I’m the co-founder and lead of software development.  

How did you choose your field?

Around second year, I really started researching internships and entry-level positions so that I could get a general idea of how much work I should be putting in. I started big, and researched what companies like Microsoft and Apple are expecting in a graduate, and then went to Seek (Australia’s monster.com) to get a broader picture.

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