Dependable Software Systems – Sohum Bilawal Joshi
Alumnus Story — Sohum Bilawal Joshi
After working for several years at Alpha ICT – in both the US and India – as a research and development engineer and project manager, Sohum Bilawal began thinking about graduate school. As much as he liked solving technical challenges, he was increasingly interested in his project management roles for the opportunity to work with others and co-ordinate multidisciplinary teams to achieve a shared goal.
“I began looking for master’s degrees in engineering management because I recognized that I lacked formal training in project management,” he says. “When I saw the MEL in Dependable Software Systems, it was an easy choice. I liked that it was offered at a renowned university like UBC and that it brought together business education with technical education in software development.”
Integrated courses deepen skills
Sohum says that he valued the MEL’s software engineering courses as they covered both technical and non-technical topics.
Technical classes on software testing and error-resilient computing systems, for example, were balanced out by a course on software project management, which explored a range of strategies for successfully overseeing and managing product development.
The MEL in Dependable Software Systems also includes a capstone design project that enables students to apply their knowledge to an open-ended problem. In 2020, students chose from practical research projects focused on block chain, the Internet of Things and machine learning. Sohum’s team developed a concept for an Ethereum-based electric vehicle charging system that he describes as “an Airbnb for electric vehicle charging.”
Sohum also appreciated the relevance of the MEL’s business and leadership classes, which account for 40% of the curriculum.
“The content we covered was extremely helpful and relevant,” he says. “We explored a range of business topics, like how to motivate your team, which everyone working in a professional capacity should know.”
Jumping into startup culture
During the MEL, Sohum participated in the Creative Destruction Lab – an elective course where students work directly with high-tech ventures and advise them on business development. He describes the experience as “offering amazing insight into entrepreneurship and startup culture.”
The course had an added benefit for Sohum, when he noticed an intriguing job opportunity on one of the class’s Slack channels. He successfully applied for the position of technical director at Momentum Testing, a company offering rapid on-site COVID testing, and began working even before he graduated from the MEL.
“It felt like an exciting and relevant opportunity,” he says, explaining that both the technical and business courses gave him a strong foundation for success. “The course taught me to ask relevant questions regarding issues I might not have considered before – like cybersecurity – and the answers to look for. I better understand all the different aspects that go into a project from the technical side, and the business classes have taught me the fundamentals of what it takes to run a company, which has been invaluable.”
After a few months at Momentum Testing, Sohum got an exciting opportunity to be a product manager at another startup, Legible, an open access publishing and reading platform. His full-time role at Legible allows him to bring together his passions for engineering and management.
“The MEL prepared me well for this position, and I feel confident knowing that I have the skills needed to both manage teams and ask the right questions on the technology side.”
He continues to work part-time as a business lead with Momentum Testing helping them pivot into a new direction as market needs change.
Sohum is also involved with Scrapless, a startup venture that aims to eliminate food waste by connecting restaurants, grocers and other food businesses with consumers who are looking for deals. Businesses can sell unused food at a discount, rather than throwing away any surplus or unsold items. “As is common with any small startup,” he says, “I’m helping out wherever I can, so both on the technical and business side of things.”
For Sohum, the MEL is all about connections – between courses, ideas, and people.
“Our instructors always asked us to consider how everything connects together, encouraging us to think about how our learning about core software concepts might apply to a business course looking at a case study on change management. I would definitely advise anyone in this program to explore those connections, and not just think ‘oh, I’m just a software engineer so this doesn’t apply to me.’ It’s a unique program and there’s value in leveraging that – whether you’re applying for a job or just talking with people. You also never know where those connections will lead: I got involved with Scrapless because of someone I met through the MEL and I got my first job through a course Slack channel.”
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