A successful IT job interview is not just about having the right answers, it’s also knowing how to ask the right questions.
But to ask those questions and to feel confident in your role, you really need to have proven industry experience – tricky if you’re trying to break into a new field.
At RMIT there is a strong focus on exposing postgraduate students to industry practice to ensure they are well-equipped and job ready before they even graduate.
Through work placements, students are positioned either off-campus within an organisation or on-campus within a student group to gain valuable industry insight as they work on a real-world project.
Associate Professor James Harland, Associate Dean, Student Experience in the School of Science at RMIT, said industry experience is fundamental to the degree structure.
“Work placements are compulsory in the postgraduate Information Technology degree, while in the equivalent Computer Science course, students must either do a placement on location or a research project on campus,” Harland said.
“These opportunities provide real-world experience, in that the students work in teams on a project for an external client, just as they would in industry.
“It also means that students have a complete project experience; from initial idea through to implementation, testing and deployment.”
In addition, project experiences provide students with a specific context in which to test and develop skills such as oral presentations, written reports, team organisation and project management.
These can then be used as part of a job application or portfolio, which provides employers with a very clear idea of the students' abilities.
Aditi Gupta completed a Master of Computer Science at RMIT and believes the industry placement helped her secure a role at Telstra.
“During my final semester I had the opportunity to work with Deloitte as part of the Project Work course,” Gupta said.
“This was my first industry experience and it allowed me to engage with stakeholders and ask the right questions, which is crucial when you deal with executives in large organisations.
“I have now secured a job as the finance systems strategy lead at Telstra which involves liaising with Telstra IT to help deliver some of our key finance systems strategic initiatives and systems.”
Similarly, Jin Hu increased her career prospects through industry-based projects and networking opportunities while studying a Master of Information Technology.
“RMIT has a great reputation for providing industry connections, including internship opportunities and exposure to the job market prior to graduation,” Hu said.
“I completed a postgraduate project where my team and I worked with a financial company in Melbourne to help them build their website.
“The entire semester was spent dealing with clients, working in a team, solving problems and so on.
“The experience was invaluable as it was something that we could not necessarily learn from sitting in a lecture theatre.”
Hu now works as a software engineer at Inference Solutions where she develops cloud-based interactive voice response (IVR) platforms.
According to Harland, both the companies and the roles students are placed in vary greatly.
“Our students have ended up in a range of places – from individual entrepreneurs looking to develop a prototype, to worldwide companies such as Rolls-Royce, and Australian firms such as the Commonwealth Bank,” he said.
“Positions also vary, with some students taking on multiple roles in the one project.
“This may involve conversing with clients to elicit; specify and refine requirements; development of designs; writing software that implements the design; documenting and testing various aspects of the system; and deploying the final application according to the client's specification (such as setting up a website with the final product).”
Harland said students often crave experience of this kind.
“It not only provides close contact with relevant people in industry, but also gives them confidence in their own skills and ability, and in a competitive job market, that can make all the difference.”
Story: Rebecca McGillivray