Faculty Spotlight

Faculty Spotlight - Praveen Mittal

Praveen

Tell us about yourself

I have been teaching in the MSSE program since 2013 and have loved every bit of it. I would like to call myself an entrepreneur by heart, although I am not there yet. Some of the roles I've played in my professional life, so far, are a student (forever), a teacher, a coach and, somewhat of an entrepreneur. I love all of these roles and would like to continue them. I have been coaching leaders, teams and organizations around the Twin Cities in the areas of agile, product, lean, devOps and business agility. On the personal side, I grew up in India in the state of Rajasthan (one of the hottest places) and, after finishing my BS in computer science, in 1996 I moved to Minnesota (somewhat cold I guess :))  I am married and have two kids. My little one keeps me quite busy when I am not working. 

What led you to the field of software engineering?

It feels like getting into the field of software engineering was a pleasant accident. While growing up, I never aspired to be a software engineer. The expectations from parents at that time was to be either an engineer or a doctor. I knew I wanted to go to the engineering side so I gave the state level engineering exam and was fortunate to be in the top 100 students. The choice of majors was dependent upon your ranking. Only the top 50 ranking students could get into Electronics and Communication. I had "settle" for the second ranked major, which was Computer Science. I am glad that I had to settle and I consider it a pleasant accident. Once I started programming and got the taste of software engineering, I was obsessed and have been loving it ever since.  

What are your areas of interest in the field?

For the last several years, I have been most curious about business agility, team agility, leadership, and high performing teams. I love to learn and to help leaders, teams, and organizations in this space.

What do you enjoy most about teaching in the MSSE program?

My favorite thing has to be class discussion.  Every year I am amazed at the learning that happens due to the COLLECTIVE knowledge and experience that students bring to the class. Apart from that, I enjoy the in-class exercises and creativity/effort/thoughtfulness students put into their assignments. 

Describe your teaching philosophy. How can a student be successful in your course?

Learning is an interesting phenomena and each of us learns in a variety of ways. For students to really understand concepts, multiple methods need to be applied even for one topic. I try to use a variety of learning methods such as video lectures, required reading, in-class discussions, real life assignments, quizzes, and scenario-based discussions and exercises. 

The key outcome of my course is for students to be in a position to excel in leading or managing a software development team/effort.  After taking this course, I expect students to be able to (doesn’t mean they have to) take a leadership/influencing position at their workplaces.

To get the most out of my course, participate in class discussion, do assignments / readings / quizzes / in-class exercises with sincerity, ask a lot of questions, and reach out to me 1:1 if something is confusing or not clear. Try to contextualize what you learn in the class to your current or prior workplaces and look for ways to apply what you are learning in the real world.  

If you could give students one piece of advice, what would that be?

Be curious. Experiment. Prefer progress over perfection. Sometimes we want to try something and desire to be perfect at the get go. That takes at lot of time or, in most cases, will never happen. Instead, if you break it down into smaller parts and keep experimenting and trying, you will reach your goals faster. Take risks. There is a famous saying “Nothing grows in a comfort zone”. 

 

 

Faculty Spotlight - Allan Tokuda

Allan Tokuda

Tell us about yourself

I graduated from the MSSE program in 2012. I am a Staff Software Engineer at Zipnosis, Inc., where I am part of a scrum team that develops a health care web application. I have been a Vim nerd for many years. I am also a year round bike commuter and generally love the outdoors and the natural world.

What led you to the field of software engineering?

Despite having already been programming for years, in college I chose to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. At the time, I believed software was most useful when paired with something in the physical world. For example, a device may be run by software embedded in it, but must still be hardware in the end to have physical benefits in the real world. Thus, I saw software as a means to an end and I remained interested in the mechanical side of things. One thing I didn't understand yet was the richness and depth of the challenges on the software side. Working in the hard disk drive industry as a mechanical product development engineer, I discovered that my programming skills constantly came up and were useful in many endeavors. I also found that developing software projects was fun and challenging. Within a few short years, it became clear to me that software engineering was a desirable end in and of itself. When I found the MSSE program, I totally devoted my career to software. Since then, I learned that there are massive areas of opportunity that are 100% software (such as Zipnosis). In my spare time, I still love building physical things.

What are your areas of interest in the field?

I am interested in user-centered design. This is usually seen as a UI visual design exercise, and while I enjoy this as well, what really drives a usable design is a strong data model. Thus, understanding and studying the shapes of data is high on my list of interests. I also care a lot about automated testing strategy. I believe good test-driven development is good engineering.

What do you enjoy most about teaching in the MSSE program?

I think at all levels, even in kindergarten, teachers can learn from their students. I believe deeply in interactive, conversational teaching. I believe that the Masters level is the crossover point where the students have just as much to offer to the instructor as the instructor has to teach the student. For me, this is both a challenge and a humbling opportunity to better myself. 

Describe your teaching philosophy. How can a student be successful in your course?

To succeed in my course, or to have success in any of life's endeavors, test yourself constantly. Passive listening is not effective. Completing prompted exercises is better, but is not enough. Learning has occurred when you can produce the information yourself, for your own purpose. See if you can explain the concepts to others. Try to apply them to your own situations.

If you could give students one piece of advice, what would that be?

There is a lot of software out there that is profitable but does not better mankind. We live in a generally prosperous time but everywhere there remains massive human problems. In software, we have the luxury of many available jobs and organizations that are eager to hire, so let's choose where to focus our energy.