The Software Entrepreneurship degree has grown out of the work being done through the Aberdeen Software Factory, which started a number of years ago. The goal of the ASF has been to provide students and recent graduates with paid software development experience on live client projects. The ASF hires students on a project-by-project basis with the aim of providing them with experience so that they have improved employablity skills. This has usually been the case. Indeed, one student found a regular part-time job with a firm after a project while still a student. He could stop working in a cafe and work part-time as developer with an oil-related services firm for the last year of his studies, and then stayed on full-time. The ASF helped the firm realise they needed another person, and he was the right person for the new job.
We also use the ASF as a place to find live clients for working with our MSC Information Technology students each summer. This was where we trialled the idea of students working with startups and other clients, and developed the teaching methods used on the Software Entrepreneurship programme to good success. Students from this programme leave knowing how to develop software as a team, and how to manage their needs and those of the team. A number of them have regularly walked into small startup firms or other SMEs as developers.
Many of the clients for the ASF have been startup firms with ideas for products to develop, and we helped them realise their goals. They come to us with the idea and we develop their vision. They keep the IP as it is their idea; we are only implementing it for them. This startup connection has now grown over time and provided a fruitful network of people, who we have been able to tap into, and help in turn as occassions arise. We also realised that no one else was offering anything like this degree.
The students who took part in the ASF have developed their understanding of software development quickly as they better understood the needs of their live client. This comes through in their improved soft-skills and ways to elicit the needs of clients. They have also come to appreciate that the need for early feedback from clients outweights the wait for a ‘better’ version because clients’ need and appreciation of what’s possible changes.
We realised that what we were doing here with the ASF could become a regular programme for students to develop their own businesses. Why wait for a client, when you can be both the student and the business?
The materials used in the MSc programme are ones that have been used by students in projects with live clients. They are tried and tested. They are there waiting for you to come and learn how to use them to your advantage too.