Connecting with Silicon Valley: masterclass for ICT Grad School students

October 2016


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The first cohort of master’s students at Auckland ICT Graduate School had their eyes opened to all sorts of possibilities when they were treated to a masterclass from a Silicon Valley tech guru.

Silicon valleyPolycom’s co-founder and chief evangelist Jeff Rodman joined students live from Silicon Valley using video collaboration technologies to deliver a masterclass on creativity and innovation. Auckland ICT Graduate School master’s students from both the universities of Auckland and Waikato participated in the masterclass and Q & A session. 

Rodman says he was “absolutely delighted” to meet with the New Zealand students to share his experiences about what a truly great idea can achieve.

“It has never been a more exciting time to be joining the ICT industry as the impact of digital transformation and ideas like the workplace of the future continue to reshape the way we work, regardless of industry,” he says.

His presentation focused on creativity and how to harness innovative ideas.

“When people ask me what is creativity, I often talk about blue sky ideas. More often than not blue sky ideas don’t always tie to existing ideas or the way people think.  Part of the fun is translating these ideas into something that brings value to the users.”

Students were split into breakout groups to complete a series of ‘Practical Creativity’ problems developed by Rodman. Three groups then reported their findings to the wider audience. 

The students got a lot out of the class, many relishing the chance to interact with someone like Rodman, who holds over 40 patents and has built Polycom into a billion-dollar organisation since co-founding it more than 25 years ago.

Student Ashwin Silveira says Jeff Rodman provided a different insight into how IT actually functions.

“It wasn’t just about having the skills for a specific job or task but also some added ingredients like creativity, ability to solve problems, communication that actually helps you flourish in an ICT industry,” he says.

Fellow student Mark Rodrigues agrees.

“Deep subject knowledge and technical skill is mandatory – you need that, but it is not enough. Given the rapid changes in our area of study, in the IT sector, the ability to retain enthusiasm and love for the subject is what will lead to success, however you may define the term. Jeff showed us in practical terms, directly and indirectly, how we need enthusiasm, commitment and passion to succeed.”

These students are at the forefront of New Zealand’s technology sector, which NZ Tech has described as the fastest growing and third largest export earner for the country.

Auckland’s ICT Graduate School started in November 2015 and is a collaboration between the universities of Auckland and Waikato. It is one of three graduate schools to which the New Zealand Government has committed more than $28 million over four years to develop. In its first academic intake year, students are studying towards a Master of Information Technology and a Postgraduate Certificate in Information Technology.

University of Auckland computer science professor (and director of Auckland ICT Graduate School) Gillian Dobbie was pleased to give students a taste of Silicon Valley with Jeff Rodman’s talk.

“Auckland ICT Graduate School aims to give students industry experience while they study, providing them with the opportunity to make and build connections with the ICT industry,” she says.  

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