Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. Sunil Kumar Pandey is presently working as the Director (IT) of I.T.S, Ghaziabad. His roles and responsibilities include managing IT Programs of the institute, Design, Development and management & monitoring IT Infrastructure. He has gained a considerable work experience of more than 2 decades working at ITS. He is an Executive Data Scientist and has been trained on OBE (Outcome-based Evaluation) by NBA for Washington Accord.
Dr. Pandey has been awarded various prestigious awards of IT Industry including - CIO Crown Award – 2018, Cyber Sentinel Award -2018, Next CSO – 2018, BIG CIO 100 Award- 2018 by Trescon Global at “BIO CIO Show & Awards – 2018” and many more. He has published over 50+ Papers in Journals/ Magazines of National & International repute. He has been speaking at various conclaves, summits including World Education Summit, Edutech Congress, Indian Science Congress etc., National & International conferences, Training programs & workshops across the country. He is a member of Board of Studies of GNA University, Phagwara, Punjab and Member Academic Council, I.T.S, Mohan Nagar, Ghaziabad
Dr. Sunil Pandey’s experience in the education sector has been satisfactory and amazing
I started my professional career in IT Industry after my formal education and joined academic fraternity about 2 decades back at I.T.S, Mohan Nagar, Ghaziabad. I see the academics as a noble profession which is nothing but a process of transformation of an individual into a responsible citizen with values & ethics and a competent professional who inspires others to learn, apply & contribute in the growth of the nation directly or indirectly, irrespective of profession, domain, place and position.
My personal experience in the education sector has been simply amazing. It gives a sense of satisfaction, seeing the belief and kind of trust in the eyes of students and their parents that their ward is in safer hands for learning. The hope that their career will be bright & successful, makes me more responsible and inspires to do something which can make some difference in their lives.
There is no other profession which makes you a professional, who always symbolizes a good human being, a great combination of knowledge & humbleness, always willing & open to learning & self-update, ready to share and give back his or her own exploration and learning to others to take it forward. I am of the firm belief that working in the education sector, in its true spirit in spite of all technology evolutions, developments & changes in pedagogy, the teacher in society enjoys the same kind of respect and the expectations of society remain same as it were in the past.
A democratic leadership style is motivational as well as challenging
I am a believer of the philosophy that unless every team member participates in the process it cannot be implemented. We, at I.T.S, Ghaziabad follow the participative approach of management and every stakeholder is encouraged to give his/her feedback, suggestions and share observations to make the learning happen in the way possible.
It is always an interesting challenge to manage a faculty, who enjoy equal status, unlike other hierarchical structure-based organizations or bureaucratic set-up.
Dealing with the significant challenge of making students industry-ready
The biggest challenge, as a leading academic institutiong professional courses, I see the gaps between the curriculum and the industries’ requirements and expectations from students. Understanding these gaps requires continuous dialogue & interaction with industry, identifying required technology & concepts and its implementation and ensuring that it reaches to . We at I.T.S, Ghaziabad, from the very beginning itself, have always down the emphasis on this dimension.
We have always focused on creating strong Industry-Academia collaboration
The regular visits of Industry Leaders of leading organizations from all verticals of the Industry ample opportunities to the students to interact with them, understand what their expectations are and above all it boosts their confidence too. This has immensely helped us in interest of students in learning other skills which are not part of their regular course curriculum but very important as far as their career prospects are concerned. We have started different labs including – Big Data Lab, IoT Lab, Mobile Application Development Labs etc. which have really become a great place of learning by doing.
Managing time while handling numerous responsibilities of a Director
Being the Director (IT) at I.T.S, I am entrusted with the responsibilities of not only managing the academic programs but also being responsible for IT infrastructure management, upgrading, security and monitoring. These responsibilities require lots of engagements with many stakeholders including – academics, parents, students, vendors, accrediting & affiliating agencies, staff, faculty, corporate and our own Institute. To ensure that everything is in place including the proper planning, task allocation, monitoring mechanism and controlling in case of any deviation is required. This cannot be achieved without proper time management and well-planned strategy.
In such a scenario, time management is very crucial to ensure that everything runs as per the plan. To achieve this, we prepare a charter and a checklist for academics as an academic calendar that includes all the academic activities including course delivery, assessment, and events along with their dates, name of the person responsible and target audience.
Likewise, we also have a system of preparing Teaching Lecture Evaluation Plan (TLEP) which is prepared by every faculty for their respective courses and includes a lecture-wise plan with topics to be covered in the specific session, its reference material, the pedagogy for a specific topic, references and tools to be used. This helps in monitoring the academic progress at any point in time. This is communicated to all concerns at the beginning of the session so as the resource allocation, all the logistics and other necessary arrangements are taken care of by respective departments.
Likewise, we have a schedule for IT Infrastructure including – all the devices, equipments and facilities for its due maintenance schedule, availability chart on daily basis for entire infrastructure, any issue needs serviceability, AMC dues (in case it is outsourced), staff on duty at various places, Upgrade schedule, Software License-renewal schedule with due dates and so on. This has helped us in keeping our IT Infrastructure, facilities and services around the clock.
The Skill Development Cell ensures to develop all the required skills in the students
We have our separate Skill Development Cell in place which works continuously on understanding the technologies, concepts and practices followed by the Industry. It always works on finding the gaps in the curriculum and identify the Technology and skills student needs to be trained in order to improve their employability prospects.
This cell plans the Workshops, training modules and other activities to equip the students with required technology and skill sets based on student’s interest areas. we are offering students with training and workshops on technologies like – Big data, R programming, Python, Data Analytics, Mobile Application Developments IoT and Software Testing.
For these we have designed Labs and all the required and hardware are made available in the dedicated labs. Apart from these technical front, we are also giving equal importance on grooming students’ front too to improve their personality, communication and attributes which are equally important for their employability.
Our alumni network is strong and beneficial for the current students regarding placements opportunities
It has been amazing in the last 2 decades. The presence of our Alumni in various global companies including Oracle, Infosys, IBM, Microsoft, TCS, Amazon and other leading organization at leadership positions itself speaks its volume. In the last 2 decades, the journey has been really amazing and now our alumni have started extending their support in recruiting the existing students which have an increased number of options available to the students when it comes to placements.
Our regular events for Alumni have become a great platform for our Alumni to know each other and many of the Alumnus have got their career progression through the reference of our Alumni. In addition, we have taken several initiatives to expose our students with the live Industry experience, working and culture and for this, each of our students is sent for at least 5 Industry visits to get exposed to it in leading IT Giants including TCS, AMD, HP, ALT etc.
Establishing a relationship with the students being the Director
I, as the Director, consider myself a teacher first because, in my opinion, it is a teacher who is accepted and respected by students. It is also important that students find space to meet, interact and share their feedback with me as it is very crucial for the betterment of the system. We have a practice of formal meeting with students at least once a month with every batch. This is in addition to a time window of 1 Hour daily kept for students after their class timings.
In addition to this, we have a practice of formal feedback mechanism where students are asked for their feedback without disclosing their identity. This feedback is analyzed and appropriate majors are decided based on it. We also have placed a feedback kiosk for students where they can submit and record their feedback on various services and departments directly online at any point of time which is kept confidential and available only to the Director (to me) and the higher authorities for any required steps to be taken. This provides students with ample opportunities to meet, interact and share their feedback with me and with Course Chairperson. However, most of their issues are resolved at the level of the Course Chairperson.
In today’s world, an ideal school environment would be a technology-driven learning environment
The ideal environment is one where students have the opportunity to explore, experiment, learn and demonstrate the innovativeness. This means the academic should run in Practical based earner- Centric model rather than a traditional Teacher-Centric approach.
We, I.T.S, Ghaziabad have always followed this philosophy and encouraged this. The different labs on current technologies have been updated as per the required changes, exploring and learning technologies in the interest of students under the guidance of trained resources on these technologies makes I.T.S, Ghaziabad an ideal place of learning. Our endeavour has been to create classrooms a happening place which is an engaging, vibrant and real place of learning. To facilitate this all of our classrooms and computer labs are equipped with a high class of audio-visual aids, internet connectivity and provision of online learning methods including NPTEL, swayam initiative, video conferencing facility to make the classrooms a real place of learning.
We ensure that our students adopt the latest technologies
In a globally competitive environment, to ensure the success of our students, we plan to focus on keeping our IT Infrastructure competitive, keeping our faculty updated with the latest developments and research taking place around. The Faculty Development of our Institute shall be among our top-5 priorities in the next five years. We will continue to work for technology adoption to improve our functioning and to provide exposure to our students with these technology advancements and newer concepts coming up.
We have planned for tie-ups and collaboration with leading companies for training, exposure and development of our students
We have also planned for establishing Virtual Reality Labs, Gaming Labs and other labs for research purpose in our I.T.S, Mohan Nagar, Ghaziabad campus. This will help students and faculty both to understand these dominating technologies, its applications and how to work on these.
Soft skills are very crucial for students’ successful professional career
With the increased globalization and changed approaches, today, it has become very important to be able to work in a team, comprising of team members, from different cultural background, languages, beliefs and nations. In such an environment, students are expected to be able to communicate, cooperate and collaborate with their team members and other teams too. This requires grooming their soft skills. So, Soft skills are expected to be very crucial for a successful professional career.
Likewise, the process and procedures are also changing at a faster pace. The adoption of agile methods is also posing a big challenge before the organizations and the academic institutions to prepare students in such a way that they are able to understand and appreciate their role in a complete project/ product life cycle rather than just on a specific task. This would require to have a bird’s-eye view of the entire process. As an academic institute, this is very important in creating awareness and equipping students with basic fundamentals and underlying principles of these methodologies.
Important key points for aspiring students and current youth
To succeed in this fast-changing and competitive world, aspiring students need to:
- have self-belief & confidence,
- be flexible,
- always be ethical and respect values,
- keep themselves strong on fundamentals of your core subjects,
- have a learning & practical approach,
- keep assessing & evaluating themselves,
- always be open for feedback,
- keep thinking out of box solution and be innovative.
If you follow these basics, there is no dearth of opportunities and even sky is not a limiting factor for your success.