SFU Recruiting Tech Veterans to Teach Professional Computer Science

April 08, 2022

By Katie Knorr

Guillaume Colley wears two hats: one as full-time manager of customer analytics and predictive modeling at Lululemon and the other as instructor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Computing Science.

“I find it deeply rewarding to watch people grow into well-rounded analytics professionals with fulfilling careers and to think that I might have played a small role in that,” he says.

Colley teaches a new graduate course at SFU called “Data Science for Business,” a special topics course about the intricacies of applying data science models and techniques within the context of business requirements and stakeholder buy-in.

SFU’s School of Computing Science hired Colley to design and deliver this course, in particular for students enrolled in the master's in professional computer science (MPCS) program, a 16-month applied program for those who want to kickstart a career in the technology sector.

“The goal of the program is to produce graduates who are capable of becoming global technical leaders in industry,” says Jiannan Wang, computing science professor and director of the MPCS. “Business and communication skills are vital for any professional, but educational programs geared toward tech workers often gloss over these skills in favour of more technical knowledge.”

Wang, together with program staff and faculty, want to change this by recruiting experienced technology professionals to teach in the MPCS. In fact, Colley was not the first industry veteran who expressed interest in developing and teaching a course for professional computer science students.

George Chow, former chief technology officer of Simba Technologies (now Magnitude), has served on the MPCS advisory council since the program’s inception in 2014. It was only two years ago when he began teaching CMPT 756: Distributed and Cloud Systems, a course that he helped design.

“I had the privilege of giving a guest lecture to MPCS students when I was a program advisor,” he says. “Their eagerness and interest stuck with me.” 

When the opportunity to create and teach a course presented itself, Chow did not hesitate.

“Being able to share my knowledge and experience in a hands-on setting was compelling – and the rest is history,” he says.

Fast forward to today: MPCS students are reaping the benefits of the specialized industry know-how that Chow and Colley bring to their lectures. One of these students, Zeyu Hu, highly recommends Chow’s course for its industry-aligned content. 

“The more time you invest into learning the course material, the more you get out of it,” he says. “I’ve really paid attention during this course, and the knowledge I have gained helped me ace my recent co-op interview, earning me the respect of a potential employer!” 

Shivek Chhabra, one of Colley’s students, is equally impressed.

“Mr. Colley is an amazing professional. I was awestruck when he pointed out the mistakes in my code in less than two minutes of looking at it,” he says. 

The most valuable take-away for Chhabra?

“Mr. Colley has taught us how we, as data scientists, can communicate our findings in ways that are tied to revenue and can be easily explained to higher management.”

Now, the School of Computing Science is looking for more industry professionals to join Colley and Chow as instructors in the MPCS. 

“I think people who are interested in sharing their knowledge and experience would enjoy this opportunity very much,” says Colley. “I find that I’m also learning about different tools that the students are using that I might not have been aware of, so this teaching opportunity helps me stay on top of the latest trends.”

Tech professionals who are interested in applying for a part-time teaching position are encouraged to contact MPCS program staff at pcs_info@sfu.ca for more information.