Careers in ICT
A degree in Computer Science opens up a multitude of career opportunities, including working in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry itself, applying ICT in various other fields, and academic and research careers. Some of our graduates also go on to work in other fields, with a solid foundation of Computer Science to help them. The graduates highlighted here illustrate some of the exciting opportunities in all of these varied areas. Who knows, you too could end up at NASA designing Mars rovers!
One of the main employment areas for Computer Scientists is obviously the ICT industry itself. Graduates of the Department have gone to join international companies such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and SAP, as well as a wide range of local companies. Geoff Rehmet now works for Internet Solutions, one of the largest local Internet service providers in South Africa. Geoff studied at Rhodes from 1989 to 1994, obtaining a BSc, BSc(Honours) and MSc in Computer Science, all with distinction.
Based on recommendations that Rhodes University had the best Computer Science department in the country, just before my 18th birthday, I decided to forsake the bright lights and big city, and make my way to Grahamstown, where I spent the next six years. Almost at the beginning of my academic career I first gained exposure to the Internet. Fortunately, the environment at Rhodes was such that students had ready access to the Internet. Although I was not aware of it at the time, the Internet would an essential component of my future career.
After my Bachelor's and Honours degrees in Computer Science, I went on to read for my MSc, doing research into systems that used idle time on computers to perform huge computations. It is very gratifying now, to see that the concepts, which we worked on as lab prototypes then, are widely used today, for applications such as modelling the effects of global warming.
After completing my studies at Rhodes, I first worked at Gold Fields, where I was responsible for designing a new wide area network, using the same Internet technologies, which I had been learning about as a student. I was also instrumental in championing the adoption of email and other Internet applications at Gold Fields.
In 1998, at the height of the Internet boom, I decided to move into the Internet industry, and joined Internet Solutions (IS). My initial stint at IS was in the operations division, where I was involved in introducing a number of new technologies and systems.
With time I have developed an interest in turning technology into business opportunities. This saw me move into new business development. I currently spend most of my time on product development.
A new interest, on which I spend quite a bit of time, is telecommunications regulation, which gives me the opportunity to explore the effects of changing technologies on the laws and regulations which govern our industry. This work also gives me the opportunity to be involved in the processes which shape the laws which govern the industry in which I work.
When I first started studying, I had little clue of where my studies would take me. In fact, I had never heard of the Internet before my student days. Now however, it is a thread through many aspects of my life, whether for work, to share my rock climbing photos with friends, or to keep in touch with friends and relatives all over the world.
Many of our students go on to careers in a wide variety of different fields, such as banking, telecommunications, mining, entertainment, consumer products, etc., where they apply Information and Communication Technology to the specific needs of those sectors. Gary studied at Rhodes from 1983 to 1986, obtaining a BSc in Computer Science and Statistics, before joining the motor vehicle industry.
I started at Volkswagen of South Africa on the Graduate Training programme immediately after I had finished my degree. At the end of the Graduate Training programme I was placed into the IBM Mainframe Performance and Capacity Planning Department where I started my practical ICT journey.
I have been involved in the implementation of a mainframe security system, a mainframe database and application development environment and various SAP systems. I have also run ICT projects that cut across our organization.
I am currently responsible for the ICT Infrastructure for the corporate ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and DW (Data Warehousing) systems and the ICT infrastructure for Computer Aided Design and Manufacture.
One of the benefits of working for an international company is the opportunity to travel overseas. I always enjoy visiting Volkswagen AG in Wolfsburg, Germany. Over the years I have developed wonderful friends in Wolfsburg and every time I visit "HQ" I find my evenings taken up renewing these friendships.
When I look back at my career I am always reminded of the education that I received at Rhodes and its impact on my life. This education reaches beyond the academic and into the life experience of being a student in Grahamstown. Rhodes is truly a place "where leaders learn".
Several of our graduates have entered careers as researchers and lecturers at various universities around the world (among them the University of Bristol, the University of Glasgow, University of Tasmania, University of Queensland, University of Zimbabwe, University of Namibia and the University of Cape Town). Notably many of our staff are also former students. Madeleine Wright followed an unusual path, coming from a career in the humanities and developing an interest in the applications of ICT to the production of dictionaries. Adèle Lobb spent some time in the ICT industry and then as a school teacher, before joining the Computer Science Department. Both of them are now involved in advanced research and lecturing in the Department.
Madeleine Wright: My main computing interests are Computer Languages (especially Java), XML and Web Services, in which I am currently completing an MSc at Rhodes. I teach an Honours module on Java Enterprise and a Software Development module on Unit Testing and CVS. The focus for my Honours degree in Computer Science (also from Rhodes) was an XML Compiler based on the Coco Compiler developed by Professor Pat Terry.
I came to Computer Science from a literary and linguistic background. I think that Computer Languages are quite similar to more rigorous natural languages such as Latin in that they have a vocabulary and a strict syntax, but I also think that all aspects of computing are fun (and I have a secret passion for gadgets!). I gained a BA (Hons) and an MA, both in English from Cambridge University, where I also completed a Postgraduate teaching course. Since coming to South Africa with my husband, I have taught in the English Department at Rhodes and also worked as an editor in the Dictionary Unit for South African English, where I co-edited the Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles (OUP, 1996) and the Concise Oxford South African Dictionary (OUP, 2002). It was while I was working at the DSAE that I developed an interest in SGML and XML that led to an interest in Computer Science and a change of career.
Adèle Lobb: I started working life in general system support, which included systems training. I then moved on to Clipper programming for database applications. Moving to Bulawayo forced a career change, and I started teaching high school mathematics and computing. A few years later, my husband and I returned to Grahamstown where I taught high school Computer Studies part-time, and joined the Computer Science Department as a part-time Teaching Assistant. Soon thereafter I was able to get a full-time lecturing position. I also obtained an Honours degree, specializing in Computer Graphics, which started my interest in Graphics and Virtual Reality. I am now doing research for a Masters degree in Graphics, focusing on interactive multimedia entertainment for small children.
Some graduates use a platform of Computer Science to enter into careers in other fields. Liam Pedersen was a student at Rhodes from 1989 to 1992, doing first a BSc with four majors (Computer Science, Physics with Electronics, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics), then a BSc(Honours) with distinction in Computer Science and Physics/Electronics. He then went on to study robotics in the USA and now works for NASA. Liam is a leader in the field of robotics and is a prominent figure in the media and on the international robotics conference circuit.
I am the principle investigator on several NASA projects, including the development of single cycle instrument capabilities for the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory mission and a robotic traverse of Antarctica. I am currently based at NASA's Ames Research Centre in Silicon Valley, California.
At Rhodes I earned a B.Sc in Physics with Electronics, Computer Science, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, followed by a B.Sc.(Hons) in Physics with Electronics and Computer Science. I was awarded Academic Honours for distinctions in all four majors of my B.Sc degree. A Fulbright Scholarship then took me to the United States where I attended George Washington University, Washington DC, and came away with an M.S.E.E in Robotics and Automation. I was then accepted into the Ph.D. programme at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I earned a doctorate in Robotics in 2001.
After completing my Ph.D. studies, I joined the Intelligent Robotics Group at the Computational Sciences Division of NASA's Ames Research Center. My prior work includes a Bayes network based rock classifier used by a robot to autonomously identify meteorites in Antarctica; automated instrument placement for planetary rovers and various robotic field campaigns in polar regions and deserts across the world. In addition to this work, I am leading a project to build a solar and wind powered rover for a biological survey of Antarctic ice sheets.