Daleth Hildebrand, who earned her CIS diploma at UFV, is currently working fulltime with a small Vancouver company called NCOL while continuing to work toward finishing third and fourth year and earning her CIS degree.
“At NCOL I've had the opportunity to manage technical projects, help recruit and manage contract workers, help train individuals, provide customer service, and even to flex my creative side learning some graphic design skills. I'm constantly amazed at the level of responsibility I have in only two and a half years on the job,” she says.
The business and communication skills she picked up at UFV in addition to her computing skills are coming in handy.
“My favorite aspect of UFV's CIS program has always been the dual emphasis on both technical skills and soft skills,” she says “The communication and business knowledge is very valuable.”
Hildebrand also credits experience gained as president of the UFV Computer Information Systems Student Association and participating in UFV’s co-op program, which provides paid work experience in a student’s field, as keys to her success.
Tania Smith entered UCFV's CIS program in 1998. She had previously completed a Bachelor of Science degree at UBC and spent time working as a scanning electron microscopist in Burnaby. Two factors led Tania to choose UCFV: proximity to her home in Abbotsford and a recommendation from her husband, who was enjoying his experience in the program. She knew she was on the right track when she was offered work after only four months in the program.
Tania completed the CIS diploma and then "laddered" into the CIS degree program, which she is now close to completing. The program offered the flexibility she needed to accommodate several years as a full-time stay-at-home mom. Tania currently does web design contract work from home and co-owns a software development company called Gowko.
Tania’s advice to students entering the program focuses on the importance of networking to future career prospects. "Get into the co-op program or volunteer your time at the Student Computing Centre," she suggests. "Get to know your classmates, and become involved with the Computer Information Systems Student Association."
Tania believes that being female in the world of computer information systems is a lot easier than being female in the engineering world. "For some reason," she says, "it is a lot more acceptable (i.e., you are less likely to be asked to perform stereotypical female tasks such as make coffee, photocopies, etc.) and you are treated more as an equal. Perhaps it is because most of the work is ‘behind the scenes’: either programming at your desk, or fixing printer problems -- it doesn't matter who is doing the work so long as it is getting done.
"I think that women can even be more successful than their male counterparts in computer information systems," she says, because men who venture down this path are typically less communicative -- an essential skill for rising through the ranks of a company. Management requires good communication skills, and if you don't like to communicate, you won't do well."Co-workers seem to appreciate a female presence as well," she notes. "I think having a gender-balanced workplace makes for a more productive environment. Having different ways of thinking can only increase the synergy of any office environment."
Louise Lapierre was the mother of two small children and living in Mission when she decided to seek a career change by taking the two-year CIS diploma at UCFV over a decade ago.
“My co-op experience got me my first job, so that was very valuable,” she notes.
Lapierre continues to live in Mission, and is now employed as a senior programmer/analyst. Her advice for people thinking of entering the field of computing is to make sure you’re chasing a passion, not just a paycheque.
“Make sure you actually have an interest in the subject. My interest has always been in the programming or application development side of computers, as opposed to hardware. My advice to any programmer is you need to have the ability to problem solve and the ability to analyze at the detail level.”
Stuart Bowness enrolled in the CIS diploma program in 2000 and laddered to the degree to complete his BCIS in 2005. Since graduating, Stuart moved to Victoria and has gone on to start his own company Sentient Development with two other UCFV graduates and also works for a web development company named Zero One Design.
Having the option to go to UBC or SFU, Stuart ultimately chose to study CIS at UCFV for three reasons:
“Firstly their computer information systems department was less focused on straight math and programming, and more on business and project management. Of course the program still has a strong math and programming core but overall the program was more rounded than programs that other universities offered. This well-rounded approach to education certainly has placed me in a good position as I have successfully managed my own company over the past year.
The second reason was the small class sizes. All too frequently I would hear the moans and groans from my friend’s in UBC’s engineering programs as they commented on the large class sizes (200-300+), the inadequate equipment, and the lack of open time to question professors. At UCFV I enjoyed small class sizes averaging 20 students per class, and had plenty of quality 1 on 1 instruction during their office hours. I found professors to be approachable and I wasn’t told once that they were too busy to see me.
The third reason ties into a point I mentioned briefly in the previous paragraph, which was equipment. Not only does UCFV have a state of the art networking lab, but they also have a number of excellent computer labs that had a lot of accessibility. I actually knew people who didn’t own a computer and just did all their homework at the labs at the university. My friends going to UBC were shocked when they found that they were often using 4-5 year old PC’s and were forced to purchase their own computers out of necessity. When I started doing the CISCO certification courses I was extremely happy with the access students were given to the advanced networking labs.” he says.
The experience at UCFV taught Stuart that “The sky is the limit” and he believes if he had taken a similar program at another university he would not be working for himself right now. “The CIS degree program provided me with a breadth of knowledge in a large number of subject areas outside of the usual “programming” courses that seem to be the bulk of most other comp-sci degrees. I was allowed to take business electives, communications electives, economics, and even an art class in painting and drawing. All of these subjects combined with the hands-on approach to hardware and programming have combined to give me an enormous amount of versatility in the industry I’m in.”
Some advice Stuart gives to students considering the CIS program is to not give up, do what you are passionate about, stay away from computer games, and explore other options outside computer and math classes.
Guo Cheng joined the CIS department from Beijing Concord High School in Beijing, China in 2001, and completed the CIS Degree in 2005 with a minor in Mathematics. With a very competitive job market in China it was a no-brainer for Guo Cheng that he needed post secondary education. “Even people who have bachelor degrees would have a really hard time to find an “average” job. So taking post-secondary is kind of a “must” for me.” On an exchange student visit to Abbotsford Secondary high school he heard of UCFV.
He comments that he found the instructors very accommodating. “They have always being patient with me while I was struggling to figure out the next word to say. So I want to thank all of the teachers who had being remained patiently while waiting to hear my questions over and over again.” Guo Cheng attributes his success also to the small class sizes and availability of instructors.
Guo Cheng has advice for new students: ”Talk with your favorite instructors about you the courses and future plans. They usually have some very good ideas that may help you to either succeed in the course or in your life “. He advises to think carefully about you goals. "If you would like to study further consider a math minor and work hard to keep your GPA high. Get enough exercise; it helps with problem solving and designing projects by clearing the brain."
Paul Franklin, Paul Kroeker and Joseph Yu from the Math department all played a role in helping Guo Cheng to succeed. He further mentions Gary Ridsdale and Chris Watkiss that introduced him to the beauty of computer programming.
Currently living in Abbotsford, Guo Cheng is moving to Alberta to start a Masters in Computer Science in Fall 2006 at the University of Calgary. The CIS Department is very proud of what Guo Cheng has accomplished and wishes him all the best for a very successful future.