IT the future for SF State Students
As workplaces go global, document and messaging technologies are the threads that hold together Apple Computer's manufacturing operations in Taiwan, marketing maneuvers in the U.S. and tech support in India.
 

On September 10, 2007, armed with a PowerPoint presentation, U.S. Army General David Petraeus presented Congress with his case for continuing the U.S. war in Iraq.

Using PowerPoint generated graphs and spreadsheets, Patraeus argued that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq has been effective in decreasing the number of bombings in various Iraqi neighborhoods and provinces over the past months. According to Dr. David Ellis, who teaches Differential Equations at the SF State College Of Science And Engineering, it was a compelling argument.

As information technology is championed at the highest levels of government, the information technology fluency standard for todays students is rising.

In the marketing industry PowerPoint is now the standard for business presentations. The accounting industry has secure database systems using internal controls, and rapid growth in the semi-conductor industry will lead to further advancements in all areas, according to a common belief called Moore’s Law. Graduating students must face the challenge of integrating Microsoft Office and various document and messenging services, into their daily lives. The goal is simple and effective communication.

Dr. Ellis says he teaches his students three steps to converting their often complex research data into a form that can be presented persuasively using various brands of information technology software: (1) accumulation of raw data, (2) inputting the data into a model to show how variables interact, and (3) presenting the data in an organized and convincing format.

In the first step, raw data is tallied. In the second step computational programs like MATLAB or Mathematica may be used to integrate the variables. And, in the third step, complex information is simplified through graphic illustrations using programs like Excel or PowerPoint, according to Ellis.

No matter what technology is used to decipher complex facts, Ellis said he wants students to know that communicating the end result is important. Classes focus on answering the question, “Can you make your case from the data?”

After sitting down, counting the numbers and interpreting the data, “communication of the results is very important,” said SF State Accounting Professor Jon O’Shaunessy.

Before any of the above duties are done, the accountant must have internal controls in
place, insuring that nobody that has access to inventory records and the accounting database.

In a course titled Accounting Information Systems, O’Shaunessy teaches students how password protected Excel spreadsheets and a “segregation of duties” can prevent a coworker from absconding with cash and the receipt for the day.

To simulate the workplace experience while in class, Sanjit Sengupta, of the SF State school of Marketing, uses ilearn, SF State’s Learning Management System. He says that it is “same as large companies that use management software systems with integrated schedules, bulletins and document handling.”

He reminds students that no matter what software is in use, in order to close sales deals in all business transactions, customer relations must be strong and buyers have to be comfortable, said Sengupta. “Technology cannot make amends for poor writing and speaking skills.”

One fundamental change in the workplace can be seen in what Sengupta said, involves “a global dispersion of talent.” As company operations spread across national borders, complex interface marketing technology is necessary.

Apple Computers conducts research and development in China, manufactures their products in Taiwan, runs distribution and marketing in the U.S. and South America —their two biggest markets—and offers tech-support from India, according to Sengupta.

Sengupta said that such far-flung operations require human interaction and a high level of coordination using information technology programs like Excel, PowerPoint and Linux. Linux, which is free to download, is found in more humble companies and in developing countries.

SF State alumni and electrical engineer Bjoy Santos said that many students believe in the myth that “whatever you learn in school, you never use.”

“This is not the case,” Santos said, of his experience upon entering the workplace in the semi-conductor industry.

Santos said that he “didn’t do well in school” before graduating from SFSU in 2000, but now acts as the exclusive liaison between Apple computers and his employer, Intersil, an integrated circuits manufacturer.

Santos uses email, phone and video conference calling to communicate with Apple representatives around the world, but said, “I’d rather have a face-to-face. Your presence gives importance to the subject.”

Video conferencing is effective in business and education, but too synthetic, according to Santos. “We like the classroom. You see the professor, his movement, and you get an emotional feeling.”

Students can look forward to improved video conferencing presentations, as people like SF State alumni Antolin Agatep make advancements in micro-controllers.

Agatep graduated in 1993 with a degree in electrical engineering, and now designs micro-controllers used for everything from TVs to microwaves and aircraft.

“Your typical camera has multiple functions with multiple micro-controllers,” all monitoring, and triggering responses to, real world signals, Agatep said.

The modern airplane is an example of a highly automated workplace, equipped with “triple redundant” embedded micro-controllers that monitor variables like cabin temperature, tire pressure, fuel efficiency and altitude before triggering the best response to the conditions, according to Agatep.

This level of technology may never come to the common office space, but social networking is an even better catalyst to productivity, according to Agatep, who said that “Nobody exists in a vacuum.”

As a self-proclaimed “jack of all trades,” while in school, Agatep hung out with civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, and learned most of what he knows through collaborating with others.

The past decade has shown that as information technology develops, humanity will experience an exponential rise in creativity according to Agatep.

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