Why is there a lack of decent IT specialists?

It may seem that in Russia there are thousands of IT specialists. Moreover, Russian programmers are considered the best in the world. But IT companies complain that they have nobody to hire, especially in the area of game development.

“The problem is that the companies need to teach IT specialists how to develop games by working in a team and how to participate in business processes. And it costs a fortune to educate an employee so he or she could benefit the company,” says Andrey Karsakov.

Skills that students usually don’t acquire during their university education they usually only get later on the job. Only an employee who is experienced in gamedev can understand and analyze the process of game development. Only he or she knows how to make a profitable product.

There are large corporations with a lot of staff. And it’s easy to be hired there if you are just a good programmer. But understanding the specifics of the field can make you a more valuable employee. The level of integration in business processes that a company requires for a game developer is often much higher than for IT specialists who work in enterprise development (for example, in the financial or resource extraction sector). That is, a game developer should understand programming and 3D modeling as well as the processes around it” ­ - commented Andrey Karsakov.

Credit: pikabu.ru
Credit: pikabu.ru

So what should we do?

It’s simple! Education in these fields should be more practice oriented. During the Master’s Degree Program, students of the High-Performance Computing Department have an opportunity to join a research team that work on real development projects.

During the first semester of the Master’s Degree Program students learn about current projects. Starting from the second semester a student can become a staff of the University and work on some real projects. The schedule of the lessons make it possible to combine study and work. For example, students of the HPC department worked on modeling hydro-meteorological characteristics of the ocean which was ordered by a large resource extraction company. Today, they work on numerous projects in the fields of healthcare, urbanism, architecture, finance etc.

Now we are negotiating with several IT companies so that the students could work as a trainee under the supervision of a University employee and company representative. It is very important that companies can participate in the educational process.

Andrey Karsakov
Andrey Karsakov

“After we started to create some educational activities in the area of game development we noticed a surge of interest of IT companies in the University. The regular IT graduate is not enough for them. Companies want to hire a great specialist. But for us it is not just about hiring. We would like the students to get essential knowledge and practical experience during their education. That is why we are trying to cooperate with the industry as much as we can,”   says Andrey Karsakov.

Companies should not be afraid to give students some production tasks because this is how they invest in the company’s future. And the main investment is to organize some lectures with top-managers of companies so they can share their experience. In that case the graduate will be ready to act in real life. For example, specialists from Bytex, that organized the conference, already run a facultative intensive course on game testing. 

For the next year of the Master’s Degree Program “Computer Game Development Technologies” there is an aim to have more partners that could be supervisors for students’ projects. The program was launched this year and 10 students enrolled. Those who survived after the first semester are already involved in projects of HPC department.

In gamedev, it’s common knowledge that young specialists have a lack of practical experience. Of course, this is often the case in any field. In the past, employers agreed to train graduates on the job, but now it is considered too expensive. That is why companies, like Bytex, would like to participate in the educational process. This was the main theme of the conference.

Credit: pikabu.ru
Credit: pikabu.ru

Andrey Lankin, Senior Vendor Manager at Wargaming, shared about their educational program. Evgeny Tarakanov, R&D expert from the Cyprian office of Wargaming who has experience of teaching in Russian universities briefly talked about his ideal of gamedev education and why in his opinion British higher education is not the ideal one. Dmitry Dolgov, technical producer of 1С Games Studio, who has been teaching in Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University, described the reasons why classical laboratory work is not enough for the modern IT student.

I was glad that the approach we have chosen at HPC department for this Masters’ Degree Program is exactly what businesses expect. The conference itself had positive feedback because the main problems in the field were identified” – says Andrey Karsakov.

We asked Alexander Torgovkin, head of educational department of Bytex, what they expect from the graduates.

Why is there such a gap between education and real professional competency?

It seems that the main problem these days is that education is not practice oriented enough. That is why the aim of our courses of training and adaptation of newcomers is to tell them about all the aspects of the profession and give them some practical skills. For old employees we also have some refresher courses.

What is the best strategy for IT companies to educate students?

There is no recipe for success. Every university, every company and every region have their own specifics. So we are trying to be flexible. According to universities’ requests we participate and support in some career guidance meetings and competitions. We would be happy to organize some master classes, intensive courses and to host some students for practice in the company.

In your opinion what can universities give their students that they can’t get during practice?  Maybe it is better to skip Master’s Degree Programs and start looking for a job to get practical skills?

The main aim of university is to form a set of professional competences that will improve. So when we speak about replacing theory with practice or vice versa, we create bounds. Knowledge without practice is nothing, but practice without knowledge is impossible. That is why Master’s Degree Programs are a way to tune-up. The key is to make the right choice.

Translated by Elizaveta Menis