Computer grad takes skills to next level

Shubham Kumar, a graduate of the Computer Systems Technician program in 2018, worked in the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) at Research & Innovation for three years, first as a research assistant, then as a research associate, and finally, as a senior research associate, until March 2020. Shubham is employed as a software developer with FCT (First Canadian Title) in Oakville.

Tell us about where you work and what your role involves:

I work for FCT (First Canadian Title) in Oakville, Ont. As we provide title insurance on a variety of products, we develop different web applications to make this work easier for our partners and customers. In my role as a full-stack developer, I build front-end and back-end using Angular and .Net, which are my favourite computer languages.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

While working at R&I, I had the opportunity to learn whatever I wanted and was interested in. I got the chance to grow my technical skills and make them solid, while also learning soft skills, like managing people and resources. I was given the opportunity to present on stage, which boosted my confidence a lot. As an international student, I used to hesitate to ask a question, but while working at R&I, I saw my questions being respected and valued. It helped me a lot to overcome my shyness.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

I worked on the Machine Learning project for industry partner Ferrero [internationally known makers of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella]. They needed environmental tracking data to determine where to plant hazelnut trees in Ontario. We developed a growth monitoring system and created AI algorithms to analyze detailed weather data. It was an exciting project and it helped me to understand a lot of concepts about GIS [geographic information systems], and Environment Science and Agriculture, while working with a large amount of data. When I say a large amount of data, it means weather variables every day at one-hour intervals from the years 2000 to 2019!

“I got the chance to grow my technical skills and make them solid, while also learning soft skills, like managing people and resources.”

You have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Punjab Technical University. What led you to enrol at Niagara College?

After researching the Internet for days, I read a lot of good reviews about Niagara College. Although I was confused about the Computer Systems course, I selected it because it was totally new for me, and I knew it was going to be valuable as a computer programmer.

Most memorable experience at NC?

The day I had the chance to do the presentation on the stage in front of around 600 people [staff and faculty] for Niagara Day. I cannot forget it, as I came out of my comfort zone to present that day.

Shubhum was nervous but pleased to be one of the presenters at Niagara Day in 2018.

A faculty member or someone at R&I who influenced you?

In the beginning, when I joined the R&I team, my lead, Ryan Tunis [senior research associate with AETIC], had been a great influence for me. He encouraged me to get better and learn new technologies. He also valued my ideas and suggestions. These small things helped me to gain more confidence.

Sarah Lepp, [senior research associate with AETIC], had been a good mentor for me at R&I. As she was highly skilled in GIS, she helped me to understand the complex terminology and concepts with simple, understandable language. Dr. Mike Duncan [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Industrial Research Chair for Colleges] helped me with many complex questions. Whenever I was stuck on a problem, he was always there to guide me through to find a way to solve it.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

You shouldn’t see this as just an opportunity to work at R&I, but also the excellent way you can solve real-world problems using your learned knowledge from classes. This is a great opportunity to learn new technologies and grow as much as you want. During this period, while you learn, you can decide what will be your next successful job. I have seen this and experienced it myself.

Proudest achievement?

I got the chance to learn and see the predictions by using Machine Learning for the Ferrero project. It was a great achievement not only to learn it as a novice, but also get meaningful results using a large amount of environment and farming data. It makes me feel proud when I watch my lead presenting my part of the work in front of experts.

Interests outside of work? 

I love playing badminton. 

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Be ready to learn and stay open-minded for new ideas!