Coaching the next generation of software engineers? This is how we do it!

The week before Christmas, we coached the IT students of UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) during their project week, and we must say: we are amazed by what these students achieved that week! We’re so grateful that we had the opportunity to coach this next generation of software engineers. So what did we do all week? And why was our attendance important? Read on and find out!

Our mission at UCLL

“Our students don’t only have to be technically skilled; they also have to learn how to handle a project in a structured way (Agile). To practice these skills, we create a realistic business context for our second-year students, and this is where DPG Media comes in. The assistance of a company like DPG Media during a project week assures our relevance as a university. The DPG Media professionals take the guidance of the students to a higher level. After all, DPG Media has the practical experience and know-how that we, as lecturers, have limited possession of. It’s nice that also the lecturers can learn from the knowledge and best practices shared by DPG Media IT,” explains Greetje Jongen, one of UCLL’s lecturers.

So the big challenge for the students was to combine everything they’ve learned in different lessons in one project. Our job was to coach the students in their first encounter with the agile way of working in a business context.

Business case: a digital ticketing system that prevents long waiting queues for new students to apply at UCLL during open info days.
Mission: presenting a minimum viable product of the business case at the end of the week.

So how did we guide the students to achieve their goal? Keep on reading!

Teaching students the agile way of software engineering

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User story mapping session with the students

That said, we did have high-level features and user stories, so each team started working on their approach. Most of them worked in daily sprints. Now how did we help the students?

  • We helped them facilitate and improve stand-ups and retros
  • We helped the students prioritize
  • We set up Kanban boards
  • We taught them one-piece-flow, limiting the work in progress, the difference between local (individual) efficiency and global (team) effectivity
  • We helped and pushed them to the drawing board to improve collaboration, e.g. by drawing wireframes
  • We provided suggestions for the demo
  • We asked a lot of questions to have them reflect on what they were doing and why
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Guiding the IT students of UCLL during their project week

“It was amazing to hear students say things like ‘Dude, it’s bugs first!’ ; ‘Duh, we’re working together on one screen, that’s one-piece-flow.’ or ‘Don’t forget your regression tests. We have to make sure everything is still up and running for the demo!’’’, tells Jeroen Beullens, one of our technical coaches.

Scrum master Jan Pellegrims continues:

“The students even talked about how they would go faster by doing less at the same time, and whether they should stop building new features if the other ones aren’t finished yet … it was a blessing for my ears ;) At the end of the week, they really valued open communication, shared the same vision, and acknowledged retrospectives as a way to improve their way of working continuously.”

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Glad to be part of the “glad” during a mad-sad-glad retro ;)

With these quotes, we rest our case because they cover exactly why we invest in coaching the next generation of software engineers! Agreed? Agreed!

We may look like a media group, but we are really a tech company. We are the tech team behind the digital products of all DPG Media’s brands and internal apps!

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