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A Glimpse to the Journey of a Computer Science Professor in Pakistan

By Salma Abbass posted 28 days ago

  

Enterprise Computing and Computer Science Interview with Dr.Memon Zulfiqar!

 

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your journey with computer science and coding that got you here today?

I am Professor Memon Zulfiqar, I belong to the northern part of the Sindh Province, a district called Shikarpur, which is a very underprivileged and deprived area. The accessibility to schools was not easy. I used to walk 3 Kilometers daily to reach my school. Fortunately, my father was running a small shop of newspaper advertising designing on a small computer.  I first became interested in computers at the age of 8 years, when my father took apart our old computer and showed me how each part worked and demonstrated how certain connectors could be made to store and transmit information. As I grew older and learned more about the field, I realized that the emphasis had become more on software development and data management than the science of research and discovery.

During my college years, I believed that I wanted to become a software developer. That’s why I chose the University of Sindh to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Belonging from a deprived area, I couldn’t bear the expense of my studies and hence applied for various scholarships. Fortunately, I have been awarded the Sindh Endowment Scholarship for my initial 2 years of bachelor’s degree, and later looking at my exceptional grades and performance, my University awarded me an Institutional Merit-Based Scholarship for the later 2 years. The passion for studying and learning Computer Science has made me receive a Silver Medal in my bachelor’s degree.

To follow my career path and to explore more about Computers, I joined the master’s program at FAST University Karachi to pursue further. The only barrier in the path of achieving my career goal was funding. Fortunately, and looking at my exceptional bachelor’s degree grades and professional experience, I have been awarded the Sindh Endowment Scholarship again for my Masters's. This award was literally my lifeline, otherwise, I would have been returned back to my hometown and could never have completed my studies further. As my master’s studies were research-based, which has triggered me to write research articles as well. I successfully published various research articles, two of which were published in a very high reputed international journal IEEE Access. Both of these articles are utilizing various Machine learning algorithms to learn and predict the future occurrence of specific events. I have also published and participated in international conferences, where I presented my research work in front of hundreds of audiences, which greatly appreciated my work and findings.

Later, I was awarded a scholarship to pursue my Ph.D. studies by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in The Netherlands where I successfully obtained my Ph.D. degree. Presently, I am working as a Full Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (NUCES-FAST), Karachi, Pakistan.

As a computer science professor, what are the most essential skills that you think are necessary for the students to acquire for the future of work in the tech sector? (enterprise computing, programming languages, etc.)

The most essential skills that students need to acquire is the skill of working positively and collaboratively in a team. No software product can be developed individually, so the students need to understand the importance of working positively in a team, understanding the ideas and initiatives of other members, and considering those in a positive manner.

Another important skill is communication skills that the students need to learn. This includes communication with clients, the end-user, your peers, partners, sponsors, and collaborators. A proper good communication style is the key to success while explaining your way of thoughts and working with others so that you can receive positive responses. Only after learning these two essential skills, then you excel in technical concepts, like server-side programming languages, databases, front-end development and cybersecurity. Among all is the skill of enterprise development as to learn the needs of large-scale enterprises and addressing those in terms of software and database development.

How can we bridge the gap between formal learning in schools and enhance coding and enterprise computing learning for youth?

In my view, teaching Computer Science, should not be based on a topic of a chapter in the book or on an outline, but rather learning in CS should be based on around a topic, like how to transfer payments between countries, or how to keep an eye on your home remotely, or how to allow patient to see his medical record/tests results online, or how to implement the transfer of payment operation using a mobile phone, etc. I mean, when things/concepts studied in the class become more visibly connected with things that are happening outside in real life or that can be seen visually through technology, will ultimately motivate students to learn the concepts behind these real-life events. I don't see anything wrong with school being fun and the kids being excited about what they're doing. This topic-based learning will be not so boring, and it will be more interesting, so students don't get tired of learning new concepts. The idea is to place greater emphasis on skills and technology while touching all the elements of all subjects. We need to focus on preparing the kids for the digital age. What I mean is, it should not be any more like: Maths is maths for the maths teacher. If we are not careful, then maybe our schools are going to turn into outdoor museums, where we are still learning the same ways that we were learning 100 years ago. In a nutshell, rather than teaching a topic of a chapter in a single class, in my view, we need to take a problem, or an event that is occurring in the real life, or a task or operation that we need to perform in our lives, and then take all those concepts from the book that are needed to implement that operation and teach them as a whole. In this way, we will accomplish two things: First and obviously we will cover our entire curriculum in a time allotted for it, and second which is more important, is to give the student an ability to apply the concepts learned in the class to solve/implement a real-world problem.

Any particular projects at IBMZ that you are excited to introduce to your students?

I am really fascinated by looking at the diversity of the projects that are available at IBMZ. I’ll surely want the students to look at various Z skills.  IBM Z Virtual Enterprise Computing Learning Journeys is an opportunity for everyone, and it’s free! Check it out here! https://community.ibm.com/community/user/ibmz-and-linuxone/blogs/melissa-sassi1/2021/04/01/2-free-virtual-enterprise-computing-learning-journ

How do you think we can use Enterprise computing and coding in the Tech for good to positively impact the local community?

We need to build a conceptual multidimensional framework that considers four dimensions that impact socioeconomic development: policy, business, technology, and society. I believe the enterprise computing and coding in the Tech development takes place in both underdeveloped economies, as well as in highly developed economies, and while the effects of specific factors may vary in the strength and focus of their impact, the general concepts and relationships in the proposed framework still apply. That framework will serve as an aid to future researchers in directing and focusing, dealing with technology for socioeconomic development to positively impact the local community.

Any last words you want to say?

IBMZ is a very good, productive, and innovative initiative. I highly recommend to students looking to learn the basics of coding to check IBMZ free resources on the Global Student hub of the Z community and the free badges students can earn. read here for more! 

 

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