About the contest

The National Student Competition I am a Professional is one of the flagship projects of the presidential platform Russia – the Land of Opportunities. The main focus of the contest lies not on the depth of the participants’ knowledge or the breadth of their erudition but mainly on their professional skills that will help them become high-class specialists of the future. This year, the competition was held for the fourth time.

Its organizers and partners are the country's top universities and major companies, including Sberbank, VTB Bank, Rosatom, Gazprombank, Yandex, and many others. ITMO University is traditionally one of the main venues for the contest, as well as the It’s Your Call school, also supported by Sberbank.

The contest’s online round was held on November 27 – December 13, 2020, and the finals will begin in mid-February and last till late April, 2021. Although the final round is always held at major Russian universities, this year, the organizers will take into account the epidemiological situation when choosing the format of the event.

The results of the contest will be announced in May 2021. Medalists, winners, and prize-winners will receive admission privileges when applying for Master’s and PhD programs at leading Russian universities, as well as the chance to do their internships at large specialized companies. Moreover, the medalists will receive 100-300,000 ruble rewards.

New tracks

The list of fields is updated annually to reflect the changes in the labor market and wishes of students, and this year, the organizers added 11 new tracks, including Mathematical Modeling, Quantum Technologies, Aircraft Industry, and some others.

ITMO University offers five main tracks: Information and Cybersecurity, Programming and Information Technology, Robotics, as well as two new ones – Machine Learning (instead of Big Data), and Technological Entrepreneurship.

Irina Deeva, curator of the Machine Learning track and an engineer at ITMO’s National Center for Cognitive Technologies, notes that they changed not only the track’s title but also its content. 

Irina Deeva
Irina Deeva

“The old name – Big Data – covers a wide range of different topics, and participants usually face only some of the machine learning problems at the contest. That’s why we think that the new one more accurately reflects the essence of the tasks offered,” she explains. “The track’s main feature is real industrial and research problems. The contest’s participants are challenged not only to run ready-made solutions but also use their creative thinking and intellectual curiosity to achieve the best results.”

While the online round aimed to test the students’ ability to solve machine learning problems, namely, regression, classifications, or clustering, the final round will let students develop full-fledged pipeline solutions for specific business tasks. The board will then assess the participants’ abilities to break real industrial or research challenges into simpler machine learning problems. 

Technological Entrepreneurship

One of this year’s new tracks is Technological Entrepreneurship, curated by a team from ITMO’s Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations. As noted by Maksim Ivanov, an engineer at the Faculty and an organizer of the contest, the new track stands out by its multidisciplinarity and individual approach to evaluating the participants' work.

“Being savvy in economics and marketing is simply not enough to become a successful entrepreneur, you need to know a bit of everything, have a broad outlook, and be able to quickly adapt to new situations. At the qualifying stage, we assessed the participants’ knowledge of technologies and their ability to correctly identify market opportunities. But in the finals, they will present their own entrepreneurial projects and demonstrate their pros, opportunities, and ways of the implementation to the board,” he says.

Maksim Ivanov
Maksim Ivanov

According to Maksim Ivanov, the track organizers focused on an individual approach.

“Usually, there are typical tasks with correct and incorrect answers in similar tracks like economics or marketing, but we want to fully follow the individual approach,” he adds.

The test tasks of the qualifying stage covered the topics of technology trends, project management, business models, and product value, but detailed case studies had the highest scores. Participants had to develop product positioning and a go-to-market strategy for a small vortex hydroelectric generator.  

Maksim Ivanov stresses that one of the main reasons for adding this track was to prove that students with great academic performance can also be successful in entrepreneurial projects. For students, this is a chance to test themselves, their choice and interests, as well as engage more in the field and meet like-minded people.

Egor Bondarenko. Photo courtesy of the subject
Egor Bondarenko. Photo courtesy of the subject

One of the participants, Egor Bondarenko, a first-year Master’s student of the Data Analytics program at ITMO’s Higher School of Digital Culture, said that he wanted to test his abilities and systematize his knowledge. 

“I got my Bachelor’s degree in economics, and now I’m studying data analysis, so I’ve always been engaged in business, consulting, and IT. ITMO has an excellent program in creating technology businesses that helped me learn more about technology entrepreneurship. I understood that it’s not simply a set of facts but a whole area of knowledge with its own concepts and approaches. That’s when I decided to take part in the contest. Plus, I wanted to launch my own startup. I was driven by the idea to systematize my knowledge and keep myself in good shape. I try to regularly participate in case championships, hackathons, and other competitions as this way I can always stay on top of things, make useful and interesting acquaintances, and even find job opportunities,” he says.

It’s Your Call Summer School

It’s Your Call Winter School 2020
It’s Your Call Winter School 2020

The joint project of ITMO University and Sberbank – the It’s Your Call School – is usually held in February, but due to the epidemiological situation in 2021, it will take place in summer. Its program is primarily designed for students interested in machine learning, information and cybersecurity, programming and information technology, as well as robotics. This year, the school launches a new track – Technological Entrepreneurship.

The summer school will host various lectures and workshops by keynote speakers from Sberbank, Yandex, and JetBrains, as well as other major tech companies. In addition to specialized classes, there will be courses on creative thinking and the development of other soft skills.