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Software Engineering Program Boosts Workforce

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Software Engineering Program Boosts Workforce

Nov. 29, 2022
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Industry has been involved in the the College of Engineering's software engineering degree program from the early days of curriculum planning and continues to play an instrumental advisory role.

Global demand for software engineers is exploding. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 10-year growth for this career at a remarkable 22%.

Sharon ONeal head shot
Sharon ONeal

“There is an increasing need for software engineers as the world becomes more connected and technological advances continue to rely heavily on software to deliver the functionality that has become an integral part of modern lifestyles,” said Sharon ONeal, professor of practice and director of the newest undergraduate degree program in the College of Engineering.

Software engineers are developing the technology to advance economies, keep nations safe, build smart cities, automate manufacturing, treat and cure diseases, and explore and command space.

“Software engineers are some of the most highly sought-after career professionals today,” added ONeal.

Now in its second year, the software engineering program is administered by the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering.

Applied Learning Mirrors Industry Perspective

Industry has been involved in the degree program from the early days of curriculum planning and continues to play an instrumental advisory role. ONeal brought to the table more than 35 years of experience with Raytheon Technologies, including as software engineering director charged with overseeing more than 550 employees.

In addition to Raytheon, several companies and organizations – Hill Air Force Base, Intel, Jet Propulsion Lab, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman Corp., Oakridge National Labs, Sandia National Labs, Snap Inc. and UA Data Science Institute – have supported the program. They are all involved for much the same reason: to ensure students are well prepared for the workforce.

The built-in industry perspective is one big reason courses are highly relevant to modern software engineering practices.

“Throughout their four years in the undergraduate program, students are immersed in real-world projects that use tools and practices mimicking what students will encounter in their careers,” ONeal said.

Longtime industry partner Northrop Grumman sponsors the college’s capstone projects, supports job fairs and hires about 100 interns each year, some from UA Engineering, to work at the company’s launch vehicle business in Chandler, Arizona.

“By understanding industry while learning the building blocks of software engineering, students are set up for opportunities to excel in their careers right from the start,” said Mark Hansen, director of software engineering with Northrop Grumman’s Space Systems.

Software engineers at Northrop Grumman design, develop, build and support aircraft, spacecraft, cybersecurity systems and launch vehicles, including for missions to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

Intern Delivers the Goods at Snap Inc.

Richardo Alonso Larez, a first-generation college student and junior in the software engineering program, said the combination of industry perspective and applied learning prepared him for his recent internship with Snap Inc.’s engineering security team in Santa Monica, California.

Richardo Alonso Larez on a beach
Richardo Alonso Larez

Larez is part of Snap Inc.’s SnapCats program, which will continue this summer with the company hiring 10 UA student interns.

Proper software development takes much more than working code, he said. It also includes documentation and engineering discipline with an eye to the future. Aspects such as the industry’s needs and code security must also be considered.

“The internal access control system I worked on helped a large tech company make tangible changes to its engineering processes,” said Larez, whose academic emphasis is on cybersecurity.