Colombia is fast becoming the premiere destination for software outsourcing projects in Latin America, and for good reason. Strong economic development over the past ten years has meant that the Colombian IT and software sectors have experienced exponential growth and show no signs of slowing. Additionally, the talent pool in Colombia is young, motivated, and skilled. With over 42 institutions offering IT and computer science degrees and training courses, more and more graduates are entering the tech world and putting their computer skills to use. English proficiency in Colombia, which is an essential skill for a software developer, has been steadily improving across the country thanks in large part to government investment, non-profit organizations, and foreign programs. Consequently, it's not hard to see why Colombia has lately become a choice destination for outsourcing software development projects. However, there is always room for improvement and innovation in English learning and skill development, especially as more companies from North America start augmenting their software development teams with developers from Colombia. Luckily, in addition to public programs, there are companies working to increase the proficiency of today's students in software development and English.
PSL, one of the largest software development companies in Colombia and the largest exporter of software development services from Colombia to the US, has partnered with Universidad Nacional in Medellin to teach systems engineering students. Taught entirely in English, "New Technology Trends for the Software Development Process" seeks to educate the next generation of developers through participatory, project-based learning. The idea is to introduce systems engineering students to the latest trends in software development by exposing them to experienced, knowledgeable developers and then requiring them to complete a comprehensive prototype of a functional software.
Over the course of sixteen weeks, students receive guidance and in-depth lectures from PSL experts devoted to developing the students' software skills and preparing them to work in client-centered environments. Each week, a senior developer or resident expert from PSL covers topics ranging from SCRUM frameworks, to engineering practices such as, continuous integration and pair programming, to Cloud Computing and Web Development Frameworks. The course is robust and requires students to commit to developing an advanced and expansive English vocabulary in addition to completing programming assignments in real time to demonstrate a working knowledge of the systems and trends covered in the class.
More Than Just a Class
Experienced SCRUM Master, Jhon Jaramillo, taught the first module of the class and expressed his pride in watching the students develop real, viable apps for everyday challenges. "Even the most experienced of developers admit to learning things from their students", Jaramillo noted and added that this program has given PSL access to an understanding of what students are interested in learning, and what technologies they gravitate towards, like Python versus C++. Since the course is built like a sprint based on Agile methodology practices, students address their challenges weekly. They must develop good communication and cultivate self-awareness by actively addressing the areas in which they are having difficulties.
University student Sebastian Villegas Zapata noted that this class is different from the others in his course schedule because, "The class is focused on knowledge that is really used in the industry, with a much more practice-oriented approach than theory, and with the possibility of learning from a wide variety of professionals in different areas."
Andres Felipe Gonzalez Bermudez, another current student, outlined his reasoning for taking the class and highlighted why this class is a great opportunity for university engineering students. "I wanted to take it [this class] because I wanted real world experience about my career, and to know what people are doing out there and how they are doing it. Besides, it is taught by PSL, I couldn't miss that great opportunity."
Furthermore, student Lina Maria Vargas Correa, elaborated on the skills she has already learned after just six classes, "As for the language, I've improved in my interpretation (by listening) and at a technical level I have learned how to give value in time and money to each phase of a project, I have known new tools that facilitate and allow for the creation of good quality software, and optimizing and guaranteeing the success of the project."
The Apps of the Future
Thanks to a hands on approach to learning, students are already working on their final projects. They are learning how to access APIs already in use for free so as to avoid reinventing the wheel. Students are actively incorporating the methodologies learned in class, like SCRUM frameworks and test automation, as well as utilizing technologies such as MongoDB which is an open-source database technology. In the end, they will have a working prototype for an application that solves for an everyday challenge. Below we've highlighted some of the top projects and the everyday problems they hope to address.
- Completing inventory for small stores is a challenge in Colombia. Most small shop owners lack the capital to buy robust inventory programs to allow them to complete accurate orders. This proposed project makes taking inventory possible with only a smart phone. The prototype uses Android, localStorage, Angular - a development platform for building mobile applications and PhoneGap - an open-source network used to create hybrid mobile applications. After its release, shop owners can download the app for free and track customer trends in products and accurately record their inventory.
- The bus system within Colombia is robust, however, there is no centralized system in use to allow riders to see available routes or arrival times within the city. By using Google Maps API, Angular, and native iOS and Android, this project would aggregate bus data into a centralized app so riders can figure out what bus to take before embarking on their journey. Passengers won't have to wait to read the sign on the front of the bus to know where to go.
- Barber shops are getting an upgrade with this proposed app. Now, clients looking for a barber shop near them can open the app to consult a map detailing the nearest barber shop and the ratings for that shop. This prototype was crafted using Angular and Python. Meaning that when you need a haircut right before your date, you don't have to go out of your way to find a barber.
The program has been a big success for both the students and PSL. Currently, PSL is planning to expand the program through a variety of 3 day intensive workshops with various partner universities throughout Colombia. The full course or a customized version will hopefully be available through other universities starting in 2018.
Contact PSL for more information.