Dependable Software Systems
Alumnus Story — Touraj Vaziri
Before enrolling in the MEL, Touraj Vaziri spent three years with Brock Solutions, developing automation systems for the aviation industry. Wanting to launch the next stage of his professional career, he saw the MEL as an opportunity to acquire formal training in business and leadership to balance his strong technical skills.
Software development projects often take longer to implement than expected. And while there are many reasons for this, Touraj Vaziri thinks one key reason is that many team leaders do not invest the time to acquire the soft skills that would make them more effective working within and leading teams.
“Software engineers are often promoted to a team lead position after a few years, and companies seem to assume that they’ll develop their leadership skills on the job. The problem is that many people managing teams are really good at the technical part of their job, but not as good at leading people because they’ve never spent time learning the necessary skills.”
This was one of the primary reasons Touraj applied to the Master of Engineering program in Dependable Software Systems: to bring his leadership and business skills up to the same level as his technical strengths.
“I didn’t choose a straight MBA because I wanted a degree that was still connected to the software industry, which often uses project management approaches — like agile methodologies — that differ from those used in other industries. The MEL’s combination of engineering and leadership in a one-year program was exactly what I was looking for.”
High tech, high touch
Touraj says his engineering classes explored cutting-edge technologies and applications in artificial intelligence, machine learning, distributed systems and Big Data. He and the other students in the program also collaborated on an eight-month capstone project, where they developed a mobile application to enable communication and reliable access and transfer of information between health-care practitioners during wound care management.
And, as he expected, the business and leadership courses strengthened his skills in this area. “The focus on case studies in the business classes allowed me to explore many different scenarios, and the insights I developed in these classes have already proved useful in a wide range of situations — from working with teams and resolving conflicts to being more confident in interviews and presentations.”
Learning from his classmates
The other students in the Dependable Software Systems program also contributed to Touraj’s education. Bringing international experience and insights from diverse industries, they offered alternative perspectives on the issues being discussed.
“It was fantastic,” says Touraj. “When I was at Brock Solutions, I was primarily surrounded by other software developers. During the MEL, I learned so much from my colleagues as they brought diverse skills to the class and had different views on problems we were trying to solve. This was so much better than if there had been five other people just like me!”
Pursuing a career in consulting
After finishing the 12-month program in December 2016, Touraj took time off to travel before embarking on a new career in consulting and the opportunity to work on projects across industry sectors.
“My master’s degree gives me more credibility, and I now have the mix of technical and soft skills that businesses are looking for when hiring consultants.”
Touraj recently completed a three-month project with the City of Burnaby — assessing the performance of a commercial software product and providing recommendations based on the results — and he is now working on a virtual reality project at the BC Tech Innovation Hub.
“I am more confident in the strengths I can offer organizations, and am able to speak to both the technical and business side of the equation. Being able to combine the two — to see both perspectives — really helps you come up with strong solutions to problems.”