The Institute - December 2019 - 11

can scale based on users and geography.
Because startups are heavy users of
cloud computing platforms, it's assumed
that most software engineering students
understand how the systems work-but
that's often not the case, Devadiga says.
Students need a practical understanding
of infrastructure architecture design
patterns, DevOps, and cloud platform
services such as compute instances, object
storage, and queueing services. The ability
to create applications that can execute in
such services as Amazon Elastic Compute
Cloud is important.
"Students need to know these
infrastructure components to design

scalable solutions to today's big data
problems," Devadiga says. "This is especially
important for startups, as their entire software stack is deployed in cloud platforms."
There are many online resources that
students can use to supplement their university coursework. Several are free or
discounted for IEEE student members.

by investing in and partnering with startups. He's also the managing partner
at Perception Vision Medical Technologies,
a fast-growing startup involved with AI,
based in Guangzhou, China.
Xu says many technologists struggle when
they start their own company. "Running
their own business is foreign to many engineers, because they don't understand the
process," he says. "They fail because there
are too many gaps in their knowledge." Xu
calls that gap the "entrepreneurship Grand
Canyon," with engineers on one side and
entrepreneurs on the other.
Xu identified four actions that engineers
can take to narrow the divide.

be aware of the speed of change of the
broader engineering discipline.
"A cutting-edge technology today can
become a dinosaur tomorrow. Don't
become obsolete."


Being an expert in a single area can
cause you to lose perspective, Xu says.
"This is not to say that specialization is
wrong," he adds, "but I think that as you
keep specializing, it's also important to


Devadiga acknowledges that changing
the curriculum will be slow. "It's not as
if the current curriculum isn't good or
doesn't work," he says. He suggests small
modifications be made to see how those
help the industry.


There are a host of things that engineers
turned founders need to know besides
technology, Xu says, such as businessmodel development, venture-capital processes, communication, leadership, and
how to prepare pitches to investors.
"Engineers will have a far greater impact
to society if they are able to understand
entrepreneurship," he says. "I've coached
hundreds of brilliant engineers over the
years, and I found they are held back
because of their mindset."
There are many entrepreneurship programs out there, he notes. One valuable
resource is the IEEE Entrepreneurship program, which offers online resources and

He says the Carnegie Mellon program
he received his master's degree from has
already developed a new curriculum that
fills in some of the gaps, and Devadiga
expects those changes to be adopted by
other schools.
"The good thing in academia is that students learn a lot of things-which gives them
a better perspective on decision-making,"
Devadiga says. "Even if they aren't using
what they learn directly, the education they
get helps them make the right decisions."
This article originally appeared online as
"Software Engineering Grads Lack the Skills
Startups Need."

both online and in-person events for people
to meet and support one another. Its IEEE
N3XT event series provides startups with
opportunities to connect with venture capitalists and others who might help them
get their company off the ground.
Some corporations, including Cisco
and Siemens, offer entrepreneurship
training to their employees in the form
of boot camps.
Colleges such as  Stanford  and
the University of California, Berkeley, are
doing a good job of incorporating entrepreneurship courses into their engineering
programs, Xu says.

Entrepreneurs have to deal with a lot of
uncertainties and unknowns. That is not
easy for engineers, who often know what
they have to do and prefer to stick to fundamental principles, Xu says. Startup


DEC 2019



The Institute - December 2019

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