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StackUp is a new pragmatic programme specially tailored to help start-ups and SMEs master technology management in the real world. INNOVATE@ISS asks Gloria Ng, Chief of the Startups & SMEs Practice, to tell us about her latest brainchild.
First, there was the Internet. Then 3G, smart phones and social media came along. Within a decade, a technology big bang had followed suit with the explosion of smart devices, super high-speed connectivity, the Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud Computing.
Before the dust could even settle, ICT has evolved into areas like device mesh, virtual reality, the Internet of Things Platforms, Information of Everything and adaptive security architecture. Such is the cosmic pace that has come to characterise the infocomm universe.
To survive in this uncertain environment requires not only plenty of grit, you would need a flair for the creative and a penchant for the unknown. And to excel in it, you would require first-hand, practical knowledge – the kind that comes only from having braved the storms and walked through fires.
While most start-up entrepreneurs and SME owners would know their businesses well, many of them would lack the depth and breadth of technical knowledge and competence to deliver results, and the deep pockets to bring on board experienced Chief Technology Officers to manage the technologies.
It is against this landscape that NUS-ISS has developed the StackUp Programme, a much-needed training programme that promises to help the startups and SMEs manage the complexity of technologies and speed up their product development cycles.
What is the StackUp Programme in a nutshell?
StackUp is a new curriculum designed to transform aspiring technologists into practising professionals. It empowers their imagination and turns ideas into reality.
StackUp will equip students with the right foundational skills, attitude and technical competencies to manage technology development from idea to implementation. The students will learn to develop products using OpenStack, a set of open source software tools to build and manage cloud computing platforms, which many in the industry believe would be the future of cloud computing.
Although our main focus right now are the startups and SMEs, the programme is relevant to any company, from multinationals to governments and not-for-profit organisations, who wants to kick-start, restart, upstart or get a head start on their technology masterplan.
What makes the StackUp Programme stand out from the other technology management programmes that are already in the market?
For a start, this is a truly hands-on programme that provides students with first-hand knowledge and understanding of real-world scenarios and challenges. There are plenty of opportunities for students to participate in in-depth discussion with adjunct lecturers who are practising CTOs, CIOs or engineering directors.
Students also have the option to develop their own products or work on real projects with companies so that they can put their newly-acquired knowledge to use and observe the results directly. Unlike any other courses, each student will complete the programme with a finished product.
We have established internship programmes with accelerators and incubators like SPH Plug & Play, and a cornerstone partnership agreement with Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd where our students will have the opportunities to take on CTO roles and join start-ups as co-founders.
How relevant is this training to the startups and SMEs?
Let’s look at the infocomm evolution over the past two decades. ICT has grown from being a neglected back-office support function into an indispensable front-office operation. In some instances, it has even become anticipatory in its role, with the use of predictive data analytics.
The transformation has seen ICT moving up the value chain from process alignment to business enablement to today’s success determinant, where the state of ICT adoption and readiness would define the competitiveness and performance of the business.
This trend is not just changing the competitive landscape – it is already disrupting conventional business models in many industries, with the potential to drive and possibly derail certain sectors of an economy with the uberfication of core businesses (see illustration below).
It looks like you have to StackUp or ship out. What courses can these companies sign up for then?
We have developed the first three courses under the StackUp Programme. They are ‘Coder in You’, ‘Full Stack Foundation’ and ‘Connect Using APIs’.
‘Coder in You’ is a week-long course to initiate new programmers to coding in an immersive learning environment where the students can learn to tackle interesting problems.
‘Full Stack Foundation’ is a 40-day intermediate course for those with basic coding skills to acquire interdisciplinary skills needed to build a complete app that is packaged, deployed and ready for release.
As for ‘Connect Using APIs’, it provides critical skills to connect client-side apps to the backend as well as other clients. The students will learn to architect, design and build interfaces that deliver an ambient user experience, interoperate with open systems and work with both enterprise and open data.
There are plans to develop more StackUp courses later this year on cloud devops engineering, security engineering, tech product management and product architecture, data analytics and data science, and Big Data engineering.
We also have StackUp Pro where we provide consultation, mentoring and training to organisations to address their technological gaps and needs.
I heard you have some sort of a playbook. What is that?
That will be our StackUp Playbook. It’s actually a code of conduct that we expect our students and teaching staff to abide by when they join the StackUp community. I call them the ‘four enabling B’s’.
We want the students to ‘be immersed in the culture of tech startups’. So, we have created an ambient learning environment that is casual but professional to encourage creativity, expression, collaboration and empowerment. Students will ‘be driven by phenomenon-based learning’ where their ideas are developed into a product that can either address a phenomenon or solve a problem. They will ‘be challenged to get into the habit of learning to learn’ by exploring, experimenting, experiencing through trial and error.
As for my team of adjunct lecturers and myself, we are driven by the common belief that we can shape the attitude of the students by drawing out their passion of learning, build their aptitude by coaching them in critical thinking during the design and development of their tech products and develop their skills using OpenStack that has ready resources available online to support their ongoing learning needs.
Need help to kick-start, restart or get a head-start with your technology roadmap? Start the conversation with Gloria and her team at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit www.stackup.sg to find out more about NUS-ISS’ StackUp Programme.