In recent years, a trend has been introduced in Ukraine’s IT industry of close and deep cooperation with institutions of higher education. The process is fairly organic, because it arises from successful synergy among IT environments which want to have qualified young experts and universities which are interested in cooperation with one of the business areas in Ukraine with the most prospects. This creates conditions for a win-win strategy for the IT industry and universities, a consquence of which is the formation of an ecosystem where each of the players is aware of the importance and necessity of maximum mutual cooperation.

The UCU Applied Sciences Faculty has set a goal of preparing world-class experts in the IT field for the Ukrainian market. From the time of its establishment, it has been guided by the principle that IT education is always about interaction. A young expert is not “one player in the field” – entering the IT environment, this person comes into an interactive environment where the IT industry is the best place for practice and for implementing one’s knowledge and potential.

A successful example of such synergy in cooperation is the partnership between the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty and ELEKS Software (Eleks), which since 2015 has been involved with developing quality IT education at UCU. In 2017, the two institutions signed a strategic partnership agreement, which opened new horizons of cooperation between the faculty and Eleks.

We will present a summary of the years of interaction between Eleks and the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty, the history of a cooperation which, from year to year, is gaining momentum.

From the time of its establishment, the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty has closely cooperated with the Data Science Office (DSO) and Business Analysis Office (BAO) at Eleks. The heads of these departments at that time, Serhiy Shelpuk and Andriy Kosar, actively took part in forming the faculty’s educational programs, and, in addition, were the first specialists in the industry who taught educational courses in the program and helped organize the first research clubs. Serhiy Shelpuk inspired the idea of an artificial intelligence club, which many students became involved with. Thanks to the noticeable success of this club, and also the high level of interest in it on the part of students, the area of artificial intelligence began to rapidly develop on the faculty and eventually became one of the main educational and research vectors which today forms the faculty’s focus. Oleh Smolkin, a graduate of the UCU Computer Science Program, then a 3rd-year student, was one of the first students to intern at DSO Eleks, specifically thanks to his active involvement in the work of the AI club, and today Oleh Smolkin is actively helping in teaching the course in artificial intelligence for bachelor’s students, combining teaching activities with research work at the UCU Machine Learning Laboratory. Now a whole cohort of the faculty’s talented students are interning or have some involvement with Eleks.

The laboratory (MLLab), based at the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty, was founded in 2018, and today 14 researchers work there. The strategic partnership with Eleks had a significant influence on the laboratory’s development. It is entirely understandable that such an ambitious project needed external, long-term support, and Eleks helped the idea of such a laboratory become a reality. DSO Eleks helped develop the main directions of work of the UCU Machine Learning Laboratory, in particular the research areas deep learning, reinforcement learning, computer vision, and others. In addition, the first scholarly publications in computer vision were done together with specialists from Eleks. The first residents of the laboratory were master’s students in the Data Science Program who received scholarships from Eleks. The laboratory was for them a place of study and work on scholarly projects. Yaroslava Lochman, a graduate of the UCU Data Science Master’s Program, was one of the first researchers at the laboratory, which, thanks to the support of Eleks, continued research in computer vision. Very recently, Yaroslava Lochman interned at the Facebook Reality Lab in Pittsburgh (USA) where, under the direction of J. Pritts, the lab deepened its development of camera auto-calibration. Orest Kupyn, a graduate of the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty, also actively works in the field of computer vision. During his studies in the master’s program, he also interned at DSO Eleks and, as a result of cooperation, he prepared a very successful article in computer vision which was presented at the prestigious conference Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR). Today, this publication already has more than 200 citations and is the most cited work at the faculty.

Taras Firman, Data Science Competency Manager at Eleks, has cooperated with the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty for more than four years. The history of his cooperation with UCU began thanks to a monthly meeting organized by the faculty, “Coffee and Data Science,” at which students of the university and workers from the industry discussed actual problems in Data Science. The faculty then had the task of proposing a selection of educational disciplines to prepare the best specialists in machine learning. With significant practical experience, Taras Firman and other workers from the industry took part in forming the faculty’s educational portfolio. First, Taras Firman began his cooperation with the faculty in the role of guest teacher, teaching separate modules in the course “Theory of Decision-Making” together with Associate Professor Stepan Fedynyak, Assistant Dean of the faculty. Successfully testing this approach in practice, eventually Taras Firman offered his own courses “Prognosis and Operations Research” and “Machine Learning” for students of the faculty.

An internship system based at Eleks is actively operating. It includes five weeks of internship at the company, during which students receive practical experience working on separate projects under the direction of specialists. Very often after such internships, students receive offers to work full-time at the company. Taras Firman is also responsible for internships in the Data Science Office at Eleks, and he mentors and teaches students during the internships. Regardless of the crisis, this year 16 students of the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty interned at Eleks, and four of them are now working full-time at the company. One of the demands of such a two-way cooperation is the student’s successful studies at UCU – it’s not enough simply to work well at Eleks: it’s very important to have good academic standing at UCU. “The cooperation between UCU and Eleks looks very harmonious, because it brings dividends to both institutions: the students acquire quality, practical competencies at the company, and Eleks, for its part, can prepare for itself good specialists who eventually will work at the company. In the labor market it’s much more difficult to find good specialists, but at UCU there is an opportunity to support both a fine expert and also a person guided by solid values.” So Taras Firman comments on the advantages of such a system. In the machine learning course, there are some assistants among the students who eventually, with successful results, will also intern at Eleks. Together with them, for a few years now specialists from the Design Office at Eleks are teaching bachelor’s students the course Product Design, which also has internships and assistants helping with the course. Business analysts from Eleks also teach their own separate course on the faculty for students of the Business Analysis in IT Program.

Specialists from Eleks also actively direct the process of students writing diploma work, and they help them choose research themes which match today’s trends in scholarship and correspond to current needs and demands which exist in the IT industry. Orest Rehusevych, now studying at the UCU Data Science Master’s Program and also working at Eleks, has a successful story of cooperation with specialists from the company. Under the direction of Taras Firman, Orest Rehusevych’s work  “movie2trailer: Unsupervised trailer generation using Anomaly detection”  smoothly grew into serious research which Orest eventually presented at the prestigious conference “25th Computer Vision Winter Workshop.”

“We are particularly glad that the absolute majority of our graduates become workers at leading IT companies in Ukraine and the world. We are proud that we are able to offer the Ukrainian IT industry unique graduates, not simply good workers, but researchers who have the experience of high-quality research and are ready to take on difficult technological tasks. We are please that our students are valued most for their scholarly potential and also for their non-standard approaches to solving problems and the tasks that exist in the IT industry.” So Yaroslav Prytula, Dean of the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty, comments on cooperation in the academic field with Eleks.

From the very beginning of the establishment of the UCU Faculty of Applied Sciences, Eleks has provided scholarships for the best students. Over the years of cooperation, 16 students have received scholarship support from Eleks.

This year the UCU Faculty of Applied Sciences opened a 10-month certificate program in Data Engineering, the first program in Ukraine that offers a full selection of the knowledge and skills necessary for the profession of Data Engineer. Specialists from Eleks made a significant contribution to forming the idea of such a program. They are actively involved in forming a quality offering for the market and also provided consulting to the organizers of the program regarding the relevant resources necessary for the profession of Data Engineer. This fall, the certificate program was successfully launched, and four workers from the company were among the participants. And in January 2021 the Winter UCU Design School began. Among the teachers were workers from Eleks: Vyacheslav Shestopalov, a design manager at the company, and Yevheniy Shykiryavyi, a senior designer at Eleks, together teach the bloc “Inclusive Design,” and Olha Tkachenko, Senior Marketing Designer at Eleks, will teach the students the basics of visual design.

For me, as a person whose full attention is focused on the training and development of the company’s specialists, strategic cooperation with UCU is largely about the professional development of our specialists who act as lecturers, mentors or diploma project managers. By teaching others, investing my time in passing on such valuable practical experience to students, my colleagues develop and grow, expand their expertise and gain invaluable experience. And in this context, the long-term cooperation between ELEKS and UCU is so complementary and useful for both parties that we would like to wish us to continue create and implement interesting innovative projects, share experiences and build an IT community based on common values, visions and opportunities” – comments on collaboration between two institutions Oleksandra Mokiy, Head of Training and Development Office at Eleks.

The co-founder of Eleks, Oleksiy Skrypnyk, considers that, in coming years, the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty has and will continue to support the spirit of constant improvement. “We all are striving so that the Applied Sciences Faculty will develop in quantity and in quality. Development allows the expansion of academic schools, which means transformation into a research university. I would like the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty not to be afraid to raise an already high bar. Because today’s impressive achievements can and should be multiplied in the future.” In addition, Oleksiy Skrypnyk is convinced that, on the road to building a good educational system, society as a whole, and also business in particular, must make a reasonable contribution to supporting the younger generation in Ukraine. “This mission can be carried out only through the close cooperation of educational institutions and responsible business, and the interaction between the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty and the Eleks company can be a successful example for others.” So Oleksiy Skrypnyk sums up the importance of synergy between universities and various segments of business in Ukraine.

Author – Andriy Hrynykha, Faculty of Applied Science, Communications Manager, Ukrainian Catholic University
Source: Progressive communities