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“We are certain that jobs will be very different in five years’ time” – Dr. Dave Parry, AUT

Auckland University of Technology's Head of Computer Science, Dr. Dave Parry, speaks to BrainGain Magazine about the must-have qualities for information technology graduates and more.
BY Skendha Singh |   31-10-2018

business-care-clinic

Dr. Dave Parry is Associate Professor at the Auckland University of Technology. He is Head of the Department of Computer Science and Program Leader of the Master in Health Informatics. Earlier this year, Dr. Parry spoke to BrainGain Magazine about what he teaches at AUT, why its important and how the university is preparing its graduates for the future. He also shared important advice for international students.

Edited excerpts from the conversation are below.

Q. Please tell us a little bit more about the program you teach at AUT - Master in Health Informatics?

A: The [program’s] looking at the use of information technology in healthcare. The reason why I think it’s an important program is because everybody needs healthcare, and increasingly, IT is being used in healthcare. Also, as we are coming up with fields like big data and with universal access to knowledge via the internet.

[All this is changing] the role of health systems. It is evolving from a system where you have an individual relationship with somebody who knows a lot of things, and whom you go to when you’re sick, to a system where you help manage your health, and you are dealing with lot of professionals, who have to share and make sense of your information, and then find out the most efficient and effective treatment, especially in terms of safety, privacy, and quality of care.
 

Q. The future of jobs is a major concern for graduates of all fields, especially in your field - Information Technology. How do you address that concern?
A:
You’re absolutely right. One of the things that is very true in our field is that we are certain that the jobs now will be very different in five years’ time. [An] IT professional would never expect to be doing same things in 10 years’ time as they are now.

So, we prepare students by focusing on problem-solving, and collaboration with people in different teams. Also, on how to self-try problems –  that means you’re proactive, and you’re attempting to find solutions yourself rather than just use the countless solutions we have already. That’s our approach.
 

Q. What are the essential qualities for IT professionals today?
A:
One is that people [need to be] very adaptable. As long as you can avoid being prejudiced and being afraid of change, then you will be fine. At the same time, you have to be fairly demanding and to say this is what we need a system to do. We want to make systems and technologies for people rather than push people to fit with the systems.

The really important [qualities] for young people coming into the field – curiosity, an ability to work with different people, to understand problems in different ways, an ability to reflect on what they need and what they’re doing, so that they can explain and build on that. Finally, an acceptance that things are going to change, and that’s going to be our future.
 

Q. What does being international mean to the Auckland University of Technology?

Dr. Dave Parry
Dr. Dave Parry, Auckland University of Technology

A: One of the advantages we have is that we are a truly international university. We often have a lot of different cultures in a classroom. Everybody is coming to learn new things. And one of the biggest issues is being open to that.

One of the things I always emphasize is not so much that you have to change your culture, but to realize that other people have different backgrounds. This is important. In NZ, it is common to have very mixed environments. For example, in my department, there are 20 lecturers, and they come from 9 different countries. We are already international before having students.
 

Q. How do you help students from diverse backgrounds transition to a New Zealand education?
A:
We have been very fortunate that, in most cases, our students are strong - they are good at learning, they have done a lot of hard work. And one of my jobs is to try and support their achievement, understand what they need in particular support, and what they need from support services. But also, at the same time, be sympathetic to the fact that often there’s cultural shock, and a lot of change. That said, we have to keep moving forward and be reassuring that they will manage.  And they do that. They do that very well!
 

Q. Who is an ideal applicant for AUT?
A:
Oh, good.  Well, what we really like is, we like people who have got enquiring minds, and we like people who are prepared to take a little bit of risk, to try something new. We will support you very strongly and it’s a two-way partnership.

One of things that we do very early is build up that level of trust. I’ll just give you an example, I was talking to some students last week, and they were saying we like the teaching, but in some ways, we learn more from other people in the class. So, being able to be open and develop [is important].  That will help you in the world of work in the future.
 

Q. Is there a message you would like to share with international students?
A:
Yup. I’d say go for it. You will be scared. It will be difficult at times. But you will get over that. I am still close friends with many of the international students whom I taught maybe 10-15 years ago.

[As an international student] you develop a whole new perspective on the world - not just the learning, not just the school, but also an ability to understand your own potential. As soon as you can do that, success is in your grasp.
 

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