The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: May 2014

Thoughts from a Recent Graduate

 A look at the Brandeis GPS student experience through the eyes of recent graduate from our Master of Software Engineering Program, Megan Tsai. 

My time with Brandeis GPS has been very helpful for my career. This is a feeling shared by all of my fellow GPS graduates. During commencement, IMG_1230the student speaker shared his experience of taking a discussion or an idea from class and applying it directly to his job. Many of the GPS graduates sitting in front of me were nodding their heads in agreement. There were several times I was able take what I had learned just the night before and take my work to the next level.

As one of the few students in an entry level position in all of my courses, my experience in the master’s degree program involved mostly sharing my perspective as an entry level worker. This allowed me to gain career advice from experienced fellow students and instructors. GPS courses are not just for established workers with years of experiences under their belt. GPS courses are for anyone who wants to advance his or her career, exchange ideas with people from different backgrounds, and catch up on the latest technologies and techniques. 

The types of cIMG_1262ourses offered allow software engineers of different capacities to learn something new. The fact that GPS courses are online helps professionals living around the world connect through an academic environment. The online courses also allow busy people find  time in their day to complete the course requirements. Ten courses may seem impossible for any one busy with work, life and other commitments. However, the flexible nature of GPS courses will help anyone achieve the dream of obtaining an advanced degree.

Is Healthcare the Next Frontier for Big Data?

The health care industry has always been at the center of emerging technology as a leader in the research and application of advanced sciences. Now, more than ever, the industry is on the edge of an innovation boom. Health care information technology possesses vast potential for advancement, making the field fertile ground for game-changing innovation and the next great frontier for big data.

The use of electronic health records (EHR), electronic prescribing, and digital imaging by health care providers has exploded in recent years, Health Affairs reports and the global health information exchange (HIE) market is projected to grow nearly ten percent per year, reaching $878 million in 2018, according to Healthcare Informatics.

But despite massive growth, health care IT faces a number of barriers slowing advancement.

When it comes to health information technologies, demand is outpacing delivery. Users desire higher levels of performance beyond the capacity of current IT solutions.

“Providers certainly want to do things that vendor technology doesn’t allow right now,” Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC), said to Healthcare Informatics.

program-hero-health-medical-informaticsOne reason technology is lagging is health care IT systems are independently developed and operated. Rather than one massive network, there are numerous “small shops developing unique products at high cost with no one achieving significant economies of scale or scope,” Health Affairs reported. As a result, innovations are isolated, progress is siloed, and technology cannot meaningfully advance.

To deliver the highest quality of care, the health care community must unite disparate systems in a centralized database. But, this is easier said than done. The industry must be sure to maintain the highest standards of security complying with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

As a result, the health care IT industry currently faces a crucial challenge: devise an overarching system that guarantees security, sustainability, and scale.

The key to unlocking solutions is Big Data are the informaticians who translate mountains of statistics into meaningful healthcare IT applications.

“The growing role of information technology within health-care delivery has created the Electronic-Prescribingneed to deepen the pool of informaticians who can help organizations maximize the effectiveness of their investment in information technology—and in so doing maximize impact on safety, quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of care,” the American Medical Informatics Association noted. The future of health care hinges on the ability to connect the big data dots and apply insights to a creating and practicing a smart IT strategy.

Organizations have thrown themselves into the big data trenches to innovate solutions to the problem facing their industry. Ninety-five percent of healthcare CEOs said they were exploring better ways to harness and manage big data, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported. With the commitment of the health care community, plus the right talent and resources, industry-advancing innovations won’t be far behind.

Health care is indisputably the next great frontier for big data. How we seek, receive, and pay for health care is poised to fundamentally change and health care informaticians will be leading the evolution.

Find out more about the opportunities in health care information technology at the MS in Health and Medical Informatics Virtual Open House on June 3rd.

Advice at Rabb ceremony: ‘Geek Out’

Original Post: http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2014/may/commencement/rabb.html

by: Leah Burrows

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In Sunday’s kickoff diploma ceremony, the Division of Graduate Professional Studies at the Rabb School of Continuing Studies conferred nearly 100 graduate degrees and certificates on a diverse group of professionals from across the country and around the world.

The ceremony awarded graduate certificates and master’s degrees in bioinformatics, information security, information technology management, project and program management, health and medical informatics, virtual management and software engineering.

The graduates, most of whom worked full-time jobs as they pursued their degrees and certificates, shared the spotlight with their families, who were praised for their support and patience.

“Friends and family members should get a graduate degree in understanding,” said Anne Marando, executive director of the Division of Graduate Professional Studies.

Student speaker Robert Havasy, MS ’14, agreed, thanking his family for “propping me up when I thought about quitting, when the work seemed too much.”

Havasy, the corporate team lead for product and technology development at the Center for Connected Health, highlighted the differences between Rabb graduates and others receiving their degrees on Sunday.

Many of these students will spend the next few years figuring out what they want to do, struggling to find their place in the work force and searching for a mentor, Havasy said.

“What makes Rabb unique is the vast majority of us came here from established careers,” Havasy told his fellow graduates. “We will return to work next week or, more likely, tomorrow. We will become mentors to these students. So spend time with your interns, use your influence to promote diversity, civility and integrity in the workplace.”

Eric Siegel ’91, the founder of Predictive Analytics World and Text Analytics World, gave the keynote address. He urged the graduates to “do what you love and love what you do.”

EricSeigelStudent“My advice to you is geek out,” Siegel said. “Get into it. Find that thing in your work you get a thrill out of.  The holy grail in your work life is finding that thing that gives you a kick.”

Siegel, the executive editor of Predictive Analytics Times and the author of “Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die,” received his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis in computer science.

He shared his own experiences geeking out about predictive analytics, theater and teaching. The self-proclaimed “singing professor” lived up to his name, serenading graduates with a few verses from his songs about problem solving and analytics.

“It is a priority to find the fun in your work life,” he told the graduates.

Pursing an education while working a full-time job wasn’t always fun for many of Sunday’s graduates but it was fulfilling.

“This was such a rewarding experience,” said Rocky Moscoso, who received a Master’s of Software Engineering. “I had 14 years of experience in the field before coming to Brandeis and I was able to use what I learned at work in the classroom and visa versa.”

Veronica Orozco, who also received a Master’s of Software Engineering, agreed.

“This experience was insane, overwhelming and totally worth it,” she said.

About the Author:

Leah is the  News and Communications Specialist at Brandeis University, generating content for the university’s website and magazine. Leah also writes for her own blog: wordsbyleah.com

Student Speaker & GPS Graduate: Rob Havasy

rob_havasy casual cropped low-res

Rob Havasy, Brandeis GPS’ student speaker for commencement, is graduating with his Master of Science in Health and Medical Informatics. Rob is currently the Corporate Team Lead for Product & Technology Development at PartnersHealthcare, Center for Connected Health. Rob is passionate about technology and its potential to significantly improve the outcomes of our healthcare system. His unique combination of experience – understanding the science, the business, and the technical aspects of healthcare allow him to approach problems from a variety of perspectives.

Rob explains, “after starting a career in a new industry, the Brandeis Health and Medical Informatics program gave me the knowledge and insights I needed to quickly understand and tackle the challenges facing healthcare”

Rob notes that interacting with faculty and students from around the country and around the world provided him valuable diversity of opinions about the real issues we face on a daily basis. The flexible format of Brandeis GPS courses enabled him to focus on both his career and education at the same time. He was able to immediately apply his classroom learning to his job.

“In an academic medical environment, education is highly valued; everyone has letters

An example of Rob's photography

An example of Rob’s photography

after their name. Adding the MS, along with the Brandeis name has generated new opportunities for me within my organization.”

Outside of his career, Rob enjoys photography, his motorcycle, blogging and spending time with his daughter. Rob currently lives in central Massachusetts.

Cloud Computing and the OpenStack Advantage

by: Nagendra Nyamgondalu, Senior Engineering Manager at IBM India and Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Software Engineering Alum

It was only a few years back that most IT managers I spoke to would smirk when they heard  the  term  “cloud” in  a  conversation.  They  either  didn’t  believe  that  cloud cloud-iaas computing  would  be  viable  for  their  businesses’  IT  needs  or  were  skeptical  about  the maturity  of  the  technology.  And  rightly  so.  But,  a  lot  has  changed  since  then.  The  technology, tools and services available for businesses considering adoption of a public cloud, setting up their own private cloud or treading the middle path of a hybrid one, has  made  rapid  strides.  Now,  the  same  IT  managers  are  very  focused  on  deploying  workloads and applications on the cloud for cost reduction and improved efficiency.

Businesses  today  have  the  choice  of  consuming  Infrastructure  as  a  service  (IaaS),  Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS). As you can imagine, these models map directly to the building blocks of a typical data center. Servers, storage and networks form the infrastructure on top of which, the required platforms are built such as databases, application servers or web servers and tools for design and development. Once the two foundational layers are in place, the applications that provide the actual business value can be run on top. While all three models are indisputable parts of the bigger picture that is Cloud Computing, I have chosen to focus on IaaS here. After all, infrastructure is the first step to a successful IT deployment.

Essentially, IaaS is the ability to control and automate pools of resources, be it compute, storage,  network  or  others  and  provision  it  on-­‐demand.  Delivering  IaaS  requires  technology  that  provides  efficient  and  quick  provisioning,  smart  scheduling  for deployment  of  virtual  machines  and  workloads,  support  for  most  hardware  and  of  course, true scalability. OpenStack is an open source framework founded by Rackspace Hosting  and  NASA  that  takes  a  community  approach  to  make  all  this  possible.  It  was  designed  with  scalability  and  elasticity  as  the  overarching  theme  and  a  share­nothing, distribute-­‐everything approach. This enables OpenStack to be horizontally scalable and asynchronous. Since inception, the community has grown to a formidable number with many  technology  vendors  such  as  IBM,  Cisco,  Intel,  HP  and  others  embracing  it.  The  undoubted advantage that a community-­‐based approach brings, especially to something like IaaS, is the extensive support for a long list of devices and cloud standards. When a new type of storage or a next generation network switch is introduced to the market, the vendors have a lot to gain by contributing support drivers for their offerings to the community. Similar support for proprietary technology has dependencies on customer demand and the competitive dynamics amongst the vendors -­‐ this almost always results in delayed support, if that. While proprietary versus open source is always a debate, the innovation and cost benefits that open alternatives have provided in the recent years, has  clearly  made  CIOs  take  notice.  Support  for  a  variety  of  hypervisors,  Open  APIs,  support  for  object  or  block  storage  and  the  mostly  self-­‐sufficient  management capabilities are some of the common themes I hear on why businesses are increasingly adapting OpenStack. Additionally, the distributed architecture cloud_securityof OpenStack where each component (such as Compute, Network, Storage & Security) runs as a separate process connected  via  a  lightweight  message  broker,  makes  it  easy  for  ISVs  looking  to  build  value-­‐adds  on  top  of  the  stack.  All  the  right  ingredients  for  a  complete  cloud management solution for IaaS.

Most  IT  managers  dream  of  the  day  when  every  request  for  infrastructure  is  satisfied  instantly by the click of a button regardless of the type being requested, workloads run smoothly and fail-­‐over seamlessly when there is a need to, resource usage is constantly optimal  and  adding  additional  hardware  to  the  pool  is  a  smooth  exercise.  Business  managers dream of the day when they have instant access to the infrastructure needed to run their brand new application and once it is up, it stays up. Aaah Utopia.

The good news is it is possible here and now.

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Nagendra Nyamgondalu is a Senior Engineering Manager at IBM in India. He is a 2003 graduate from Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies’ Master of Software Engineering Program.

 

How to Think Like the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Original Post: http://bostinno.streetwise.co/2014/05/06/how-to-be-a-successful-entrepreneur/

From Steve Jobs to Ariana Huffington, entrepreneurs are the movers and shakers of our modern world, transforming ideas into empires and concepts into cultures. While anyone can claim to have “the next great business idea,” an extraordinary few can translate those ideas into a viable business. That requires much more than a single stroke of brilliance; it takes a unique blend of boldness, passion, and business know-how that not too many possess.

There is no step-by-step formula to successfully launching and leading your own venture. Every entrepreneur has his or her own unique business philosophy and strategies for success. But, it seems there are a few overarching hallmarks of a great entrepreneur.

If you’re itching to start your own company and create game-changing innovations, start taking notes. Here are seven habits of successful entrepreneurs. Adopt these habits, and hopefully, you’ll start thinking (and earning) like a successful entrepreneur.

1. Act first, think second

1. Act first, think second

Successful entrepreneurs are not afraid to take risks. They are quick to act even in face of great uncertainty. Rather than spending exorbitant time analyzing, planning, and predicting; they take action. Sure, sometimes the outcome of this speedy decision-making isn’t exactly ideal, but quite often, boldly seizing the moment before it’s too late pays off. If they do make mistakes, the best entrepreneurs learn from them, pick themselves up, and continue to innovate.

“They act, learn from what they find, and act again,” Paul B. Brown said in Forbes.

2. Be a lifelong learner

2. Be a lifelong learner

Great entrepreneurs are constantly curious. They deeply desire to know how products work, how people think and endlessly ask, “why?” This thirst for knowledge not only keeps them well-informed about their industry and the larger world, it enables them to detect opportunity early and innovate breakthrough products.

3. Delegate

3. Delegate

Even the greatest geniuses of our time did not achieve fame and fortune all on their own. The best entrepreneurs know how to build a team whom they can trust to help them realize their vision. Recruiting the right people and delegating effectively is a hallmark of a great CEO. This empowers you to achieve more than you ever could alone. Plus, collaboration is the seed of innovation.

4. Tune into market needs

4. Tune into market needs

Plenty of people can spout brilliant, forward-thinking ideas, but if they are unable to match these schemes with a need in the market, they’re useless. Successful entrepreneurs start with a market need. They don’t let arrogance about their “genius” ideas dictate their actions. The market is their master.

 

5. See the silver linings

5. See the silver linings

When unexpected complications and dilemmas obstruct the path to success, great entrepreneurs don’t see problems, they see opportunity. Armed with this positive attitude, they do not waste time stressing over setbacks. Instead, they find the silver lining in negative situations and discover unexpected opportunities. While they do not wear rose-colored glasses, the best business owners are not bogged down by failure. They continue to be agile innovators and remain ahead of the game.

6. Put people first

6. Put people first

The best entrepreneurs put people first both internally within their organization and externally, when serving customers. Successful ventures are led by those with an immense capacity for empathy and are able to understand other people’s perspectives. Being able to step beyond your limited viewpoint and truly observe, listen, and understand those around you is a crucial asset. It enables entrepreneurs to let the customer’s needs – not their own ideas – dictate strategy. It also helps them encourage loyalty, productivity, and camaraderie among their employees.

7. Never be satisfied

7. Never be satisfied

The best entrepreneurs are never “done” with a project. They would continue to iterate and improve a product for all eternity if time and money permitted.

“Great entrepreneurs are fanatical about improving their products and services…They’ll spend extraordinary time and effort simply to get things right,” said Geoffrey James in Inc.

And if they do complete one project, they waste no time before diving into a new venture, building upon the success of their most recent product. This quest to always be better is what enables successful entrepreneurs to create industry-leading products and be endless sources of innovation.

 

Design Your Agile Project, Part 1

by: Johanna Rothman

Find the original post here: http://www.jrothman.com/blog/mpd/2014/03/design-your-agile-project-part-1-2.html

The more I see teams transition to agile, the more I am convinced that each team is unique. Each project is unique. Each organizational context is unique. Why would you take an off-the-shelf solution that does not fit your context? (I wrote Manage It! because I believe in a context-driven approach to project management in general.)

One of the nice things about Scrum is the inspect-and-adapt approach to it. Unfortunately, most people do not marry the XP engineering practices with Scrum, which means they don’t understand why their transition to agile fails. In fact, they think that Scrum alone,without the engineering practices, is agile. How many times do you hear “Scrum/Agile”? (I hear it too many times. Way too many.)

I like kanban, because you can see where the work is. “We have a lot of features in process.” Or, “Our testers never get to done.” (I hate when I hear that. Hate it! That’s an example of people not working as a cross-functional team to get to done. Makes me nuts. But that’s a symptom, not a cause.) A kanban board often provides more data than a Scrum board does.

Can there be guidelines for people transitioning to agile? Or guidelines for projects in a program? There can be principles. Let’s explore them.

The first one is to start by knowing how your product releases, starting with the end in mind. I’m a fan of continuous delivery of code into the code base. Can you deliver your product that way? Maybe.

How Does Your Product Release?

I wish there were just two kinds of products: those that released continuously, as in Software as a Service, and those with hardware, that released infrequently. The infrequent releases release that way because of the cost to release. But, there’s a continuum of release frequency:

Potential Release Frequency

How expensive is it to release your product? The expense of release will change your business decision about when to release your product.

You want to separate the business decision of releasing your product from making your software releasable.

That is, the more to the left of the continuum you are, the more you can marry your releases to your iterations or your features, if you want. Your project portfolio decisions are easier to make, and they can occur as often as you want, as long as you get to done, every feature or iteration.

The more to the right of the continuum you are, the more you need to separate the business decision of releasing from finishing features or iterations. The more to the right of the continuum, the more important it is to be able to get to done on a regular basis, so you can make good project portfolio decisions. Why? Because you often have money tied up in long-lead item expenses. You have to make decisions early for committing to hardware or Non Recurring Engineering expenses.

How Complex is Your Product?

Let’s look at the Cynefin model to see if it has suggestions for how we should think about our projects:

CynefinI’ll talk more about you might want to use the Cynefin model to analyze your project or program in a later post. Sorry, it’s a system, and I can’t do it all justice in one post.

In the meantime, take a look at the Cynefin model, and see where you think you might fall in the model.

Do you have one collocated cross-functional team who wants to transition to agile? You are in the “known knowns” situation for agile. As for your product, you are likely in the “known unknowns” situation. Are you willing to use the engineering practices and work in one- or two-week iterations? Almost anything in the agile or lean community will work for you.

As soon as you have more than one or two teams, or you have geographically distributed teams, or you are on the right hand side of the “Potential for Release Frequency” chart above, do you see how you are no longer in the “Complicated” or “Obvious” side of the Cynefin model? You have too many unknowns.

Where Are We Now?

Here are my principles:

  1. Separate the business decision for product release from the software being releasable all the time. Whatever you have for a product, you want the software to be releasable.
  2. Understand what kind of a product you have. The closer you are to the right side of the product release frequency, the more you need a program, and the more you need a kanban to see where everything is in your organization, so you can choose to do something about them.
  3. Make sure your batch size is as small as you can make it, program or project. The smaller your features, the more you will see your throughput. The shorter your iteration, the more feedback you will obtain from your product owner and “the business.” You want the feedback so you can learn, and so your management can manage the project portfolio.
  4. Use the engineering practices. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you do not keep your stories small so that you can develop automated unit tests, automated system tests, use continuous integration, swarm around stories or pair, and use the XP practices in general, you will not have the safety net that agile provides you to practice at a sustainable pace. You will start wondering why you are always breathless, putting in overtime, never able to do what you want to do.

If you have technical debt, start to pay it down a little at a time, as you implement features. You didn’t accumulate it all at once. Pay it off a little at a time. Or, decide that you need a project to prevent the cost of delay for release. If you are a technical team, you have a choice to be professional. No one is asking you to estimate without providing your own safety net. Do not do so.

This post is for the easier transitions, the people who want to transition, the people who are collocated, the people who have more knowns than unknowns. The next post is for the people who have fewer knowns. Stay tuned.

Johanna Rothman

Graduates with Roots in STEM Face Growing Career Opportunities

By:

As we enter May, young people here in Boston and across the country are about to embark on a new chapter in their lives. Many will be graduating from college and taking their first step into the great, wide, professional world. Question marks fill their future as they wonder what kind of opportunities await them and their hard-earned bachelor’s degrees.

While it is impossible to forecast the job market with absolute certainty, it is undeniable that the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) hold the greatest opportunities for job seekers now and in the future. Industries like renewable energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and technology are rapidly growing and demand increasing numbers of skilled workers to sustain their expansion.

The computer and math occupations account for close to half of all STEM employment, followed by engineering with 32 percent, and then physical and life sciences at 13 percent, according to U.S. Department of Commerce. Significant growth is projected for computer and mathematical scientists, engineers and engineering technicians, architects and architectural technicians and more STEM occupations.

Those with strong STEM education backgrounds “will find themselves at the center of our new economy,” tech expert Vinay Trivedi said in the Huffington Post.

But unfortunately demand is outpacing supply when it comes to STEM-related careers. Fewer students are pursuing advanced math and science degrees, creating a problematic skills gap threatening the United States’ position in the new global economy.

The U.S. ranks 30th in math and 23rd in science, according to latest Program for International Student Assessment; and the latest ACT results show that only 44 percent of our high school graduates are ready for college-level math, and just 36 percent are ready for college-level science, the National Math & Science Initiative reported.

The impact of the skills deficit which develops in secondary level education has deleterious consequences once those students reach college. Many students abandon interest in STEM career by the end of their sophomore year, Irv Epstein, Professor of Chemistry at Brandeis University, observed.

It is a national imperative to reverse this trend. President Barack Obama declared creating the next generation of STEM leaders an educational priority for the nation at his State of the Union Address in January.

“I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that–openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work,” he said. “That’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.”

Many have answered President Obama’s call to improve STEM education. In addition to early education initiatives, select colleges and universities have stepped up including Brandeis University who has partnered with the Posse Foundation to provide merit-based scholarships to minority students interested in pursuing STEM degrees.

But meanwhile, as programs launch to serve the next generation of students, the STEM jobs are still waiting, available for current job seekers who have the skills and ambition to seize the opportunity.

For those who lack adequate STEM skills but are eager to break into expanding, innovative industries, there is a way for them to bridge the skills gap: graduate education. Don’t wait for a job to pop up that fits your resume. Act now to get the training you need for the jobs available.

Original Post: http://bostinno.streetwise.co/channels/stem-education-leads-to-career-opportunity-1/

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