Around 150 talented students from all over Russia came to ITMO University to take part in the fourth It’s Your Call educational forum. The organizers divided the participants into five fields: information and cyber security, robotics, programming and information technology, technology entrepreneurship, and machine learning.

For the five days of the forum, students had been attending lectures by industry leaders and taking part in workshops in their fields and on essential soft skills. Apart from that, students could take part in various contests, for instance, those in the information security track had the chance to join a CTF (capture the flag – Ed.) hacking tournament.


On the first day of the forum, students were also divided into 15 teams. By the end of the forum, each team had to present a project on a given topic. The topics themselves were quite broad to encourage students’ creativity and imagination. 

“We formed the teams with interdisciplinarity in mind,” explains Alexander Atraschenko, Advisor to ITMO’s Vice Rector for research. “Which means we brought together students in robotics, information security, technology entrepreneurship, programming, and machine learning. Just like it happens in practice: once you start developing a product, you need very different people with various skills on your team. Our teams also worked with mentors who are aware of the development of technology in the short-run and who helped our participants to not get carried away when working on their projects. At the pre-defence, our jury selected the five best teams, one in each track, which presented their ideas at the final.”

The It's Your Call educational forum. Photo by Nikita Seliverstov
The It's Your Call educational forum. Photo by Nikita Seliverstov

At the final, the participants voted for the best presentation thus selecting the winner. ITMO.NEWS talked to the teams awarded in the CTF hacking tournament, as well as the main It’s Your Call! contest. 

Ekaterina Tatanova, winner of the It’s Your Call! CTF tournament 

I came here from Yaroslavl, where I am a first-year Master’s student at Yaroslavl State University. My major is applied maths and informatics. I take part in various competitive programming contests, but this was my first CTF tournament – I never thought I’d take part in those. 

When I came to the forum, I got into the cyber security track, even though I don’t work in this field. I was disappointed at first, but then it turned out to be useful to learn something new. 

The fact that our team came first in the CTF tournament is all thanks to our captain. He had experience of participating in such contests and it was great to learn from him. It was also interesting to see how such events run. Now I want to learn more about this field.

The whole forum in general is a great boost for your soft skills. In the main project contest I was the speaker for my team. It was a great experience of teamwork and presenting our project, even though we didn’t win.

Tatiana Nikulina, third place winner of the It’s Your Call! project contest 

I came here from Samara where I am a fifth-year student at the Povolzhskiy State University of Telecommunications and Informatics. My major is information security. I think it’s one of the most promising fields at the moment. 

I really like taking part in contests like It’s Your Call!, because you can meet a lot of like-minded people that see the world similarly. You also get a lot of positive emotions and learn something new. And, naturally, I was glad to visit St. Petersburg. We’ve brought the best weather with us – it’s now 30 degrees in Samara, and the weather was warm and sunny during this whole week in St. Petersburg. We went to New Holland Island, where the organizers and our tour guide told us a lot about various parts of the city, and then we took a walk around St. Petersburg together. 

I really liked the program of the forum, the speakers were inspiring. I especially enjoyed everything that had to do with information security but other fields stood out, too, for instance, robotics. I work at a children's creativity center and I am very into this field. 

My team developed a project on NLP (Natural Language Processing – Ed.). We analyzed emotions and proposed a system that would detect professional burnout of employees, because it affects the company and it’s efficiency and causes losses. We will definitely keep working on the project, Sberbank’s representatives told us who we should contact. I also think I will be able to invite my friends interested in neuro-linguistic programming to join us. 

The It's Your Call educational forum. Credit:
The It's Your Call educational forum. Credit:

Evgeny Darkhanov and Andrey Donskoy, second place winners of the It’s Your Call! project contest 

Andrey Donskoy: I am a third-year student at St. Petersburg Mining University. I really liked the program of the forum and especially enjoyed talks by particular speakers whose ideas I found useful. I was curious to learn about the ways to present information and speak to the audience so that you are listened to and heard. I think these are the main takeaways for me. 

Evgeny Darkhanov: I study at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology in Moscow. I decided to take part in the forum because I study Research and Development and want to excel in this field. I find it most meaningful to not only do research but also work with research management, from an idea to a commercial product. That’s why I started working on the competencies I might need in this field and my first step was the Technology Management track of the I am a Professional contest and the It’s Your Call! forum.  

Andrey Donskoy: Our project was on recycling face masks that multiplied in the COVID-19 pandemic. We decided to combine the production cycle of polyethylene terephthalate, the most popular polymer in Russia, with face masks recycling. This will allow improving the quality of the final product of recycling, thus raising its price. 

Evgeny Darkhanov: It’s an exciting field with both Sibur and Poliofit doing research in it. As I can work in innovation commercialization thanks to my education, I am naturally planning to keep developing our project. 

Bogdan Tuzovsky, winner of the It’s Your Call! project contest 

I came to the forum from Vladivostok. I study political science, though in the past two years I’ve been interested in startups. I already have experience in presenting products to the public and receiving criticism. That’s why I chose the Technology Management track to boost my skills and meet professionals in the field, who we will be able to collaborate with on our very own products in the future.

I really enjoyed taking part in the forum. Everything was useful, cool, and interesting. Our team won, we were able to create a cool product in a very short time, and I am really happy. At the same time, our idea can really benefit people and can help them make money. 

We created a service that optimizes delivery routes. It helps couriers or delivery people to see the map of traffic lights and plan their routes and speed accordingly so that they can deliver their order in the shortest amount of time. 

The best part is that we have a great well-formed team that you just might see in other projects. Despite the fact that we live in different cities, we now have Zoom, so we will collaborate remotely. Moreover, some of our team members are planning to continue their studies at ITMO, so we might be able to continue working at the university. I am now graduating with my Bachelor’s degree and I am going to enrol in a Master’s program at ITMO.

The It's Your Call educational forum. Credit:
The It's Your Call educational forum. Credit:

About the I am a Professional competition 

The It’s Your Call! educational forum is part of the I am a Professional competition, where ITMO oversees several hi-tech tracks. This year, about 6,500 students took part in ITMO’s online qualification rounds.  

“The I am a Professional contest was conceptualized by Herman Gref,” says Natalia Dolgova, lead HR expert at Sberbank’s cybersecurity department. “He suggested this format that was supported by several universities, including Higher School of Economics and ITMO. We are a technology-oriented company, so we really value the I am a Professional participants. Students who went through the contest are very qualified, they are talented, and are highly in demand. When they come to our job interviews, our departments compete to employ them. The tracks overseen by ITMO have traditionally  very skilled participants and outstanding organization.” 

The I am a Professional contest was held between November 2020 and April 2021. The results will be announced in late May.