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Juggling work and study at ITMO University: CS edition

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We talked to the graduates of the Speech Information Systems MA program at ITMO about the ways our university helped jumpstart their careers. [More stories from our startups]:

ITMO University

The curriculum

The curriculum of the ITMO Speech Information Systems program includes subjects such as digital signal processing, machine learning, multimodal biometrics, speech/sound recognition, and natural language processing. These are some of the most promising areas in modern computer science, and this list is regularly revised to stay current and relevant. Our graduates’ core competencies make them attractive to market-leading businesses, and ease the process of their transition from full-time studying to full-time work.

“The Speech Information Systems MA program gave me the skills and the knowledge pertaining to software architecture and development, AI systems and machine learning in particular. It helped me land a job, as well as enrol into a Ph. D program, which I successfully completed in 2019,” said Dmitry Ryumin, a research fellow at the speech and multimodal interface laboratory of the St. Petersburg Institute for Informatics and Automation of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Our students are encouraged to participate in international conferences related to speech processing, machine learning, data mining, computer vision, neural networks and artificial intelligence. This, too, helps them grow professionally. Once they graduate, they get an opportunity to continue working towards a dual-degree Ph. D, thanks to our partnerships with universities from Germany and Czechia.

For example, Aleksei Romanenko — the winner of the university’s “Best MA thesis” award in 2015 — is currently a Ph. D student. Once he graduates, he’ll get a dual degree, as if he studied at both ITMO and the University of Ulm. Dmitry Ryumin, the person we spoke to earlier in the article, spent three months interning at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen during his Ph. D studies.

Work experience

We partnered with the Speech Technology Center to help students put whatever they learned on campus into practice. At the beginning of each year, MA students pick a topic to research under the supervision of either a member of our academic staff or one of our partner companies’ employees. At the end of each semester, they report their findings and present their papers. Just like that, they get to ‘field test’ their knowledge, learn their way around commercial equipment and develop public speaking skills. Many of the students get hired by one of our partner companies even before they graduate.

“I got a job at the Speech Technology Center as a first-year MA student. My work duties include: AI training, reading academic articles, and incorporating the ideas found in those articles into our products,” said Yuri Agafonov, an STC researcher.

Speech Technology Center

This collaboration strategy works out really well. Our students graduate with actual commercial experience that helps them find employment.

Juggling work and study

As a rule, all students are employed in addition to their educational pursuits, often from the very get-go. According to Yuri Agafonov, the schedules of MA students are less demanding to allow for ‘greater attention to research’. Some classes are remote or pre-recorded, and can be viewed at the students’ leisure. Some days are meant to be completely dedicated to internships and research.

Working in the field also helps the educational process. Students are motivated by the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice. “I helped develop the Surdoserver educational portal for the hard of hearing while studying for my MA,” explained Dmitry Ryumin. The Speech Technology Center is very accommodating to employees with academic commitments outside of work.

“Of course, juggling work and study is hard, but it’s doable. The most important thing is to ease yourself into the routine, and gradually increase your workload. The Speech Technology Center started me off at half the normal workload, and increased it incrementally.”

— Yuri Agafonov

Some students are already working in the field, and enrol into our MA program to study the latest in biometrics and speech synthesis. That was the case with Anton Alsufiev, a Speech Technology Center project manager.

“I enrolled into the speech systems program at the age of 26, when I was already an employee of the STC. At my dayjob I manage research projects, including those funded by the government. The educational process is built so that the students can combine academic pursuits with commercial work. Their new-found knowledge can be immediately put into practice.”

— Anton Alsufiev

As you can see, all our MA students get ample opportunities for employment. By the time they get their Master’s degrees, they’re proper professionals, ready to shape the future of speech tech and multimodal biometrics.

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