Leonid Barkalov, Tomsk State University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics, Computing Systems Department, winner of “It’s Your Call!” Semi-Hackathon

I came across the competition by accident: I saw the ad on social media and decided to click on it. After learning that it was hosted by ITMO University, Yandex and Sberbank, I got very excited because I’d been dreaming of doing my Master’s at ITMO since my second year of university studies, so I immediately decided to participate.

I took part in “I am a Professional” through the Computer Science track. I’m majoring in Software Engineering, so I expected that the tasks would resemble some sort of a hackathon, but I was wrong. After the first round, information about the related winter schools started coming in. ITMO University’s “It’s Your Call!” program seemed the most promising because it was very intense; moreover, it included the hackathon that I was waiting for. The competition itself went well and was generally well-organized. The only thing that was lacking was information support; it wasn’t always easy to find information about the competition’s timelines and details, but it’s completely understandable as this was the first “I am a Professional” ever held. I am a sports referee myself and can only imagine the amount of work the competition organizers had to go through.

Although I decided to concentrate my efforts on the “It’s Your Call!” Semi-Hackathon, I did get a “I am a Professional” competition award, too. The hackathon tasks were pretty challenging: we not only had to come up with an original idea, but also pitch it in an interesting and appealing way. The tasks themes were very visionary, I think that Elon Musk would’ve really liked them. The winter school itself was great: I really enjoyed the studies and met amazing people. It was very intense, though: I didn’t have much time to explore the city. But the most important thing for me was that I came one step closer to fulfilling my dream of studying at ITMO: I’ve learned that the Semi-Hackathon winners could be admitted without any exams, and that really motivated me to do my best. I still remember the exciting moment when our unmanned car-sharing project got the second place. It was very challenging, but the experience was definitely worth it.

ITMO University was my number-one study choice because of the cutting-edge IT research pioneered by ITMO’s scientists. I also really like ITMO’s approach to teaching and studying, as well as the opportunities the university offers. I plan to apply for the “Corporate Information Systems Development” Master’s program because it matches my interests and will propel me in the work I’m already doing.

"It's Your Call!" Winter School

Mikhail Belyakov, St. Petersburg Academic University, Department of Applied Maths and Physics, winner of “I am a Professional” Photonics track

I’ve always liked participating in competitions; that’s why when a friend told me about the “I am a Professional” competition, I instantly decided to take part. My experience of participating in different academic contests really helped me to succeed. I’m interested in Physics, Maths and Programming, so I enlisted for four competition tracks: Computer Sciences, Maths, Physics and Photonics. I chose Photonics because I’d just started working in ITMO University’s Nanophotonics and Metamaterials laboratory and I felt like this could give me a head start in the competition.

I was really impressed by how well the competition was organized. For an event of such scale, the organization was impeccable. I also liked that as part of the winter school you had the opportunity to visit a different city and learn from the leading academics in the field. However, I think that the competition would benefit from expanding into interdisciplinary subjects like Bioinformatics as they develop much faster than the more classical research areas. Also, although in theory you could compete in an unlimited amounts of tracks, there were times when due to clashing competition schedules I had to prioritize one over the other. The tasks weren't very different from what I'd already seen on other competitions, but I had a great time talking with lots of like-minded people.

I decided to apply to ITMO University because of the freedom it gives in choosing your own educational path, whilst also supporting you along the way. Being an ITMO graduate opens many doors: the university gives you the opportunities of launching your own start-up or working in a partner company; you can also continue your research if you’d like. There're lots of Master's programs to choose from; I want to study Nanophotonics and Metamaterials, but I'm also considering Computer Science.

Nikita Zhuchkov, Innopolis, Software Development Management, winner of “It’s Your Call!” Winter School Semi-Hackathon

Nikita Zhuchkov
Nikita Zhuchkov

I graduated from the Ulyanovsk State Technical University with a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering and went to Innopolis for my Master’s. My research interests are many and varied, but my main focus lies in human-computer interaction, unmanned aerial vehicles, virtual assistants, fintech, and AR. As one of my hobbies is sports programming, I often take part in various competitions, and this year’s “I am a Professional” competition was no exception. I wanted to participate in seven tracks: Business Informatics, State and Municipal Management, Computer Science, Management, Banking and Finance, Design, and Management in Technical Systems, but I only could choose three, as the dates of the final rounds clashed. I think that this is one of the main disadvantages of the competition.

I became a prize-winner of the competition and the winner of the Semi-Hackathon. Though there were a couple of tasks I found misleading, I really enjoyed the competition. I think that it would be great to further develop this project by making it multi-stage, each stage focusing on one area of computer science, as it is a very broad field.

The winter school exceeded all expectations. It was very well-organized, education and entertainment perfectly balanced each other. What I liked the most was the Semi-Hackathon, Andrey Sebrant’s lecture, and a trip to New Holland and the planetarium.

The competition made me discover more about the winter school and ITMO University, and it greatly contributed to my decision to enter ITMO University as a PhD student.

Vladislav Koval, ITMO University, Department of Laser Systems and Technologies, winner of Photonics track

Vladislav Koval at the Awards ceremony
Vladislav Koval at the Awards ceremony

It was a friend of mine who told me about the competition. The prizes were very enticing, so I decided to give it a try. Since my major is in Laser Technologies, I decided to try my hand at Photonics. As a Master’s student, I conducted my research on the synthesis of periodic submicron structures in porous composite materials. Such structures are used in plasmonics and nanophotonics as sensors. Now I plan to focus on lasers and laser systems, as I’m currently working in a company that produces lasers for space ranging.

The “I am a Professional” competition was held for the first time and immediately became very popular. But in my opinion, the coordinators didn’t really realize how hard it would be to find internships for all winners, which affected the quality of the internships. But they did their best.

I’m going to continue my education at ITMO University as a PhD student at the Department of Laser Systems and Technologies, as I have already made some useful connections there, such as joint projects, grants, publications, etc. Besides, I’m interested in taking part in various international internships and projects, and ITMO offers a great variety of international projects to choose from.

Nikita Torgashov, Kuban State Agrarian University, Information Systems and Technologies, winner of “It’s Your Call!” Semi-Hackathon

Nikita Torgashov
Nikita Torgashov

I don’t remember exactly where I learned about the competition from, probably through Habrahabr. I had taken part in programming competitions before, so it wasn’t hard to make a decision. And the opportunity to enter any university of my choice without entrance examinations motivated me even more. Now, when it’s over, I can say that it was really great. I didn't score as much as I would've liked to, as the tasks were rather different from those I solve every day, but it helped me understand in what direction to look. As for the winter school at ITMO University, I really enjoyed it too. My team took first place in Semi-Hackathon and we were given the opportunity to join the university without exams, and I’m going to use this chance. What I really like about ITMO University is that it offers many international educational programs, some of them conducted in English, as well as Master’s programs in Data Science, which are quite rare in Russian universities.