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Episode #47: with Alexandre Mendes

23 July, 2020 | 49 mins 43 secs

Don’t miss the latest episode of Newy Tech People with Alexandre Mendes, Program Convenor for Computer Science at the University of Newcastle.

In the episode we cover a range of topics from work integrated learning to artificial intelligence and computer science degrees at the university.

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  • Transcription:

    today we have alex mendes from the university of newcastle welcome alex thank you so much for having me here it’s a pleasure to be here cheers man oh well for the people that don’t uh know who you are can you give people a bit of an overview of who you are what you’re currently doing yes so i am a senior lecturer with the school of electrical engineering computing at the university of newcastle and i’ve been there for 16 years now i’m originally from brazil from rio did my studies over there and came to australia in 2003 uh straight to the university as a research assistant after four years i became a lecturer then a senior lecturer so in total 16 years and i i work with computer science and software engineering my my main areas of research and teaching are artificial intelligence and optimization and uh yeah that’s pretty much what i do nice uh so you would have seen obviously the newcastle technology scene changed quite quite a lot over the past couple of years but you’ve been within that field for 16 years now what’s the biggest changes that you’ve seen in both the comsci degree and also newcastle how it relates to are we having more people go through what have you seen well a lot of things have changed again back in 2003 the city was completely different i used to live in the in the cbd back then and yeah the city like the whole cbd was pretty much empty and now it’s much more alive the university the the degrees they have changed a lot they are much more current in terms of what they teach there is much more industry involvement as well we have changed lots of things one of the things that i hope we touch today as well is work integrated learning there is a very strong collaboration now between local businesses and the university also computer science has changed a lot like 16 years ago there was no artificial intelligence at least as we know now with the whole deep learning and deep neural networks that are coming coming through uh there was nothing like that 16 years ago and cloud computing also was not really much part of the part of the of the scenery and um so yeah it has changed a lot yeah nice so you mentioned the work integrated learning there i know it’s a passion piece of yours as well and i think it also uh provides a significant change from a degree that’s just purely in a classroom i think once you do start to integrate that work integrated learning it provides a lot better pathway from a degree into the workforce talk to me about what you’ve seen from a work integrated learning perspective some successes that you might have had yes so i am the course coordinator for work integrity learning it’s an actual course so you get credit for that it’s different from engineering that they have a industry experience of 12 weeks so for computer science and information technology you have a course that goes across two semesters and students taking taking that course they they choose a project that they have to conduct throughout the year and what we do is we invite companies so we have a list of companies that help us in that regard we invite companies to to put forward small projects that either an individual student or a group of students can can can take from start to finish over one year and then we we publicize those projects to the students the students choose their preferences and then i send their their documentation to the company representative they run interviews so it’s like a job application and and then they pick their their preferred candidates i do the matchmaking and then the student can start you know working for a a business here in the city it’s been very valuable for both businesses and for students because what we teach in the classroom so before i go there it’s very uh it’s very interesting how university behaves or how it moves it’s it’s a very slow moving kind of creature you know like we have we have to be careful with how how we how we change our degrees of what we include and what we remove because we have to kind of serve several masters well we have the students that have to learn we have the companies that will employ them afterwards but the the future employers of students they come from all different places some of our students they want to become scientists some of our students want to work for businesses some others want to to to have their own startup they have their own ideas so we have to kind of cater for all of those different profiles and also very interesting is that well and not many people know that is that we also have to abide by the rules that are given to us by the australian computer society our courses they are accredited by by the australian computer society and and they have very specific rules about what needs to be taught and what should be included in what does not need to be included in a computer science and information technology programs so we have to try and find the the know the the sweet spot you know so that everybody is served at the end very difficult it’s it’s not an easy job because we get sometimes complaints or not complaints but requests from from companies saying i really wish university students came out ready with these sets of skills but those are sometimes particular to that company or to that sector and then we cannot really include that as a core part of the program because that’s that’s only relevant to that specific type of of of business so we have to look at all these all these aspects and that also falls into the the program convener role that i that i have but we can talk about that later perhaps uh but about work integrated learning yes so we send our students to work with local companies and they spend one year there they have these uh experience of working at a real workplace instead of just doing assignments and and group work you know with their colleagues at uni they actually go out and have a they might work in an office and uh with a desk and and then they feel how how how it how it is to actually work for someone and not only for you know grades it’s very it’s very uh interesting to see that uh many of our students are work ready by the end of this every year we get a percentage i would say roughly i would say 20 percent perhaps of our students that are that end up being employed by the business that has taken them yeah it’s a kind of like a try like a trial before yeah try before you buy so they spend one year with that student and then uh they go through all the training process as any other uh staff and then sometimes at the end of the of work in the retailer and of that year the student they see that she has as a valuable you know future employer a employee and uh and then they they they keep that person you know among among their staff oh hey i’ve worked with a lot of companies that actually really do value that work integrated learning and the opportunity to to help future employees or just the next generation get those work skills because i think there is a difference between you know what you learn in a classroom and what you learn you know within a workplace and for organizations it’s a really it’s a really good opportunity for them to help you know help well build the community contribute to the community on uh helping the the next generation but also from their perspective they do they do get some value out of it from from those students being able to provide value over those 12 months yeah and the other thing about working degree learning is that it’s the first time that most of our students will be engaged in a large project sometimes working with other people most of our courses they have short assignments yeah short assessment items that are normally done over the course of uh three weeks and so on uh even group work uh it’s never it’s never uh it never extends over long periods so working the retailer is really the first time that they have to work in larger teams or work at a company with a kind of a boss you know and other people that they have to know have meetings with and so on so it’s it’s comes with the whole experience yeah and that’s such a big part of work life whether it be a technology professional or otherwise but especially for technology professionals you get a lot of technical know-how from a university degree but the secondary side to that is how do you actually take that technical knowledge and work within a team work with others in achieving an outcome and that’s really difficult to teach in a classroom or in a project even as you said those projects are shorter in time frames don’t have the same hierarchy don’t have the same nuances with working with different departments so i think that working on great learning teaches what is really one of the most valuable skills um for an a you know a valuable employee yeah one one of the things that we try to address with work integrity learning is uh soft skills our courses they teach really well the technical skills so that’s not a problem that’s not an issue but soft skills they lag a little bit work integrity learning comes comes to try to to fill that gap so we teach students everything from you know how to write a report or to how to prepare a cv how to prepare a linkedin you know profile page and and how to conduct uh himself or herself in meetings it’s simple things like if you’re working in a group who is going to be the team leader what does a team leader do you know what are the the you know what are the tasks you know how do you assign tasks to your colleagues how do you make sure that they are delivering what is expected how do you set expectations so those are all soft skills that are not really covered in in our courses for the most part and then we try we try to cover those in in work integrate learning both with lectures because work integrity learning also has face-to-face contact hours so we try to teach them in workshops and lectures and then we hope that the workplace is also going to expose them to these to this to this kind of knowledge yeah nice well i don’t think i’ve come across anyone that doesn’t value work integrated learning i think i’ve come across many various conversations around the value of a university degree in in total but that work integrated learning is one piece it definitely gets a lot of positive reviews time and time again you mentioned just before the technical skills and the technical skills are taught well i think one of the conversations that does come up is that relevancy that you mentioned before you’re doing a three year or a four year degree what you learned in that two years with the speed of technology changing how does a course stay relevant in what you learn in year two year three is that still relevant when you come out is that relevant to the market we’re just you mentioned before the challenges of putting together a degree in the different people that you’ve got to please when putting that together you have any thoughts around that relevancy and the speed of technology changing and how universities can can stay relevant yeah it’s a very good question i uh the way that the the university organizes uh its its uh its programs is uh it’s very well thought like first here gives you the the the foundation and also it’s basic programming databases so the basic things that any person that deals with computing needs to know second year you push those skills a little bit forward but you are still a very like like generalist you know computer scientist or information technologist then the third year is where you actually get those skills that are marketable you know that you can actually take to the workforce it’s only really at the last year of the degree and when you see the history of of each course how it’s it’s it’s taught and where it’s taught first year second year or third year the first year courses they stay pretty much like the same for many many years because those are the foundational skills that don’t really change much you might change a language a programming language but everybody needs to know what’s a for loop or what’s an if statement like those are basic concepts that anyone who does programming needs to know then the second year courses they change a little bit more often but not a lot either you know they stay very very like kind of static uh by the lack of a better word but the third year courses those change a lot because those are the ones that are closer to when the student actually leaves and those are the the higher uh level skills that the student needs to learn so those courses they go through frequent of course re-evaluations and reviews and they do change a lot but again we cannot offer courses that are way too specific because again it’s going to to be relevant only for us a very small portion of our students that will go and do a very specific type of job we try to avoid uh giving students kind of credentials that’s not the purpose of of universities like universities they have to teach students uh or provide students the tools on how to become you know self-learners and and and know how to like where they should grow and and what kind of skills they still need to you know to acquire after they finish so this kind of vision so universe is about vision not much giving them just simply skills yeah other but the best part i heard just then as well is that the ability to for students to come out as self-learners uh one of the very common answers i’ve had to people that have done degrees one of the biggest benefits has been around that ability to learn the learning to learn um setting people up so they know how to learn they’ll be better learners in the future because like you may mention there and and people are seeing it whether they’re out as a student or further in that in their career you’re going to have to continue to learn technology changes so quickly anyway having a core skill being taught to you at university even if it’s the most relevant for that day is maybe not going to be relevant two years time yes having the ability to learn and pick up that new skill that is relevant in two years time and then again in three years and four years time as technology continues to change is the core skill that’s of most value indeed i think that that ability to learn the learning to learn that as you said the self-awareness around or self-learning is massive and for me that’s probably my my opinion the biggest thing that university provides yeah and interesting in that sense computer science information technology these are fields where you can learn without without a university right you just have to you just go to youtube and uh like you have tutorials and videos and whole web like youtube channels dedicated to different technologies and with full courses that are like 14 18 hours long and so you can pretty much learn uh by yourself if you want to if you have the you know the the ability to to do so so what does the university offer when i think about universities i think about um not much providing students with only the technical ability of doing a job it’s about it’s about that of course but it’s about all the other skills all the soft skills that if you are at home just learning a new language or a new framework you are not going to develop those you might be very good with using that particular tool but you are not going to be exposed to say group work or or how to uh how to do presentations you know to a live audience those are things that you are not going to practice uh also the university offers you structure so in in the in the beginning you might feel kind of lost about what you should learn first and then what comes next what is the foundation what’s the specialization the university offers you this structure and this is very important because if you take something before before you have all the background required to learn that properly you might lose motivation and then you might think that you didn’t learn properly and didn’t have all these gaps in your knowledge and then eventually you might just drop you know drop uh out of the out of the career you know so university offers these offers structure offers guidance and and and offers the whole experience as well as being part of a community so there is all these different aspects that i that i like to to to raise and sometimes people people forget about that you know and that’s and and that’s probably for me that’s the most important part of uni life yeah i i agree uh you may mention of short courses where do you think the likes of youtube code academy other online short course providers fit into a career for a young or an upcoming it’s called just so not even software just somebody a technology professional so if you’re guiding somebody from a career perspective for a technology professional wants to build a career there where do you think the likes of those short course providers fit into a career they’re very important um what what i think about uni is again like we our courses are very short they are only three years long some some you know some of the of the people listening to this they might think oh three years a long time yeah but actually it’s not so three years especially considering the the breadth of what you have to teach in those three years so pretty much what happens is that you you have to teach those skills those technical skills uh and soft skills but you cannot really cover every single aspect of computer science or i.t it’s just impossible in three years or even four or five so what the the place that i see for these uh youtube channels and online learning you know groups is okay you’ve learned this particular tool or language or framework and you say wow i really like this i would like to know more and i want to specialize in this i see myself developing or building a career in this area then you go online and then you become an expert you’re never going to leave uni as an expert in anything now you need that experience so then you can go online you learn that more more deeply but now you learn that with all the tools that you got in your first and second years yeah and then you go online and then you learn more about a specific tool and you get all these credentials from linkedin or all these different places and and then you you can you can become more a job ready which is another buzzword that no that is out there yeah i i agree i think um from what i’m hearing from you is really like the university degree is for a technology professional really cool a really good core platform of which to build upon you can build your work integrated learning on top of that you can build some short courses on top of that and as you wanna as you said go more niche in your career and become an expert in an area you continue to upskilling in those areas but at the core of it the base of your career of which to build upon is that degree to start with the base is there exactly the foundation is there yeah i agree i think i look at it from a foundational piece as you said you can’t teach everything in there but you do learn core principles and that ability to learn ongoing so yes nice uh you mentioned before i heard it i’m just like come back to this come back to this ai i don’t know it’s been a passion of yours that is something that you are passionate about yes some people out there in the world are scared of ai and it should be yeah um ai may may not influence uh your profession uh or education as a as a whole as a whole we’re currently sitting on ai as a topic um with your overall thoughts well i’ve been working with ai for a long time pretty much since i finished my undergrad studies i started with optimization which is an area of ai and uh it’s really my passion i love that what i see like in beginning ai was more about automation and making processes more efficient and and some in some places are replacing a people in in in factories and you know in businesses and so on but was very localized uh the thing with ai now especially in the last i would say six to seven years with this new area of deep learning and uh and deep neural networks which is what everywhere now is that it’s it it has the potential to take a human typically human a typical human tasks in a much more like spread a in in general way so i’m going to give a few of a couple of examples here i’m not sure if if you have seen a video that came out from google a few that was probably a few months ago it’s not a year ago and was was this google a personal assistant what what they tried was okay i want i want to order a pizza and the person told the personal assistant which was just a kind of a ai you know software in their phone uh to order a pizza and then the that personal assistant already knows what is the nearest you know pizza place and then calls the the the pizza place and then someone answers the call and starts talking and this assistant does like does exactly behaves exactly like a human would behave the voice sounds human it’s not this robotic voice that you see when no in in youtube videos you know of just a a robot reading a piece of text was very natural it had all the human interjections like um and the pauses and it was very clever in in in and it could adjust for unexpected questions from the human side from the human on the other side so if the border should have cheese or not like and then the ai could actually answer that that’s a very telling uh anecdote uh that ai is really getting very close to be in a normal conversation pretty much you you won’t be able to to decide who is human and who is a computer and then when that actually happens you can apply that technology everywhere you can apply that to uh customer service you can apply that to telemarketing you can apply that to like pretty much any kind of of human to human uh interaction that follows a not a precise recipe of you know steps but you can provide some context to the conversation ai will be able to do this and then the job displacement the number of jobs that will be lost will be huge so my my main concern with ai is not that that robots will take over the world that’s that’s not what i’m concerned about what i’m concerned about is uh job losses across several industries and we are not prepared for that so that’s just one of them and then we have self-driving you know vehicles and trucks uh when trucks become self-driving you have all those truckers you know without jobs and cars become self-driving you know uber drivers suddenly have no nowhere to go so the ai is is taking a turn now because of technology mostly that it might have a very strong impact and and we are not uh both like either like aware of those impacts and we don’t we don’t seem to have the the will to take the action or take the actions to prepare society for those impacts and that’s that’s dangerous i find that very dangerous yeah i think the thing you mentioned there is there’s a lot of industries that most people wouldn’t even think about a technology in particular will affect i think people are you know uh are aware that there’s some repetitive tasks that will be taken but it’s not even the repetitive task that you know manufacturing is starting to you know or has already taken over it’s other jobs which other people might think oh no humans will always do that and i will have the capability to take those roles another example that i that i that i like to to give people and to say look this is not only like jobs that are repetitive or or like kind of simpler you know in in in a way if i probably that’s not the best word but if you take for instance uh the role of agp okay when you go to a gp uh office you go there and then the person gives you like asks you a set of questions and then you answer and then hopefully they provide a diagnosis or refer you to someone else to a specialist or something or ask for some tests that is the kind of of interaction that can be easily automated and you just instead of going to a gps you know uh office you’re just going into an empty office with a monitor if you want to have a more personal you know experience you can have a a robot on wheels and the robot might ask you these questions in this perfectly nice and calming voice and then you answer and the robot already has the experience of hundreds of thousands of similar interactions between a patient and doctor you know from all over the world and in all sorts of diseases that were detected what were the questions that were asked that led to the diagnosis and they have this almost infinite knowledge and then you go into this this office like this gp uh practice and then after a few questions that are asked and and you answer them it will provide you know that the system the ai will provide a diagnosis that is probably going to be way better than your average gp it comes with our bias right as well comes without biases yes so the point that i see is is that replacing these these types of jobs with ai is going to be much more a matter of humans feeling comfortable and being confident in the machine than the technology itself so it’s much more a cultural change than a a technological change but that’s just an example of a job that you do think wow this job is going to be safe forever and that’s not the case at all in your opinion how many years we are we talking before these changes started to take place and really affect us look it again it’s a cultural change like technology wise this would this should not take more than 10 years from now this should not take more than 10 years now culturally it might take way longer like of course if we’re going to get rid of all the gps because it’s cheaper to run you know a a a computer terminal uh to do the same job that’s going to be huge pushback from the entire class you know of doctors and practitioners once that is is is overcome then the change will take place in no time at all so the main the main uh hurdle you know to be uh overcome is is humans is is people trying to protect their their niches you know and that’s a big change it’s a big change a lot of people are trying to protect their jobs there’ll be a lot of government influence there about affecting job loss which is fair it’s 100 fair uh you take mining you know like you you go to a mining site now the level of automation is huge yeah but a few years ago you were you know we could talk about uh truck drivers in mining sites earning 120 000 a year 180 000 a year because they could take the truck like from no one one end of the mining site to the other end of the mining site and dump the you know whatever load they they’re carrying and then coming back and doing that a thousand times a day now they are putting like self-driving trucks and replacing those jobs so of course it’s it’s a terrible loss for people that have been involved in that industry in potentially like they’ve they they have invested years in in in upskilling themselves to take that highly profitable job sometimes you know that has has a has an impact in their families and and so on and now comes the machine and takes that all away from them uh that is all so that’s why i’m a bit concerned with the social aspects of this change it’s it’s a change that is completely different from anything that we’ve seen before and it’s going to make the the uh the industrial revolution look like nothing yeah yeah i i i don’t disagree at all i think those changes are definitely coming and it’ll just be it’d be very interesting to see how long that that takes and what the the impacts on society are because i think that the fear is is driven it’s a very real fear around you know job loss and it’s not only you know some people have the fear hey machines are going to kill us all and things like that which are very far-fetched but you know they’re in movies and whatever else but the genera there is a genuine fear there for job loss and how it all affect people because you know i have a look at what we went through with cover just recently um job loss and mental health and society are all tidying extremely tightly together and trying to manage that as a as a government as a society be extremely difficult this is going to be i mean challenges will be everywhere and the other thing that people people are raising now is is the prospect of uh wealth concentration because the company that builds say the first system that that replaces ajp imagine replacing all of the gps in australia how profitable that would be for a company and australia is small industry is small exactly so what do you do with all that money that the company makes like how do you tax that company how do you give that back to the society and to the people that got unemployed now because of this change so there is a lot of like ethical questions to be asked and political questions to be asked and so it’s not only technology technology is very important but we need smart people discussing these topics because they will be like center you know like central to to how australia does in in the next 10 or 20 years i think it’s a very real challenge very real challenge you’re obviously an a very uh a very smart fellow i know we’re having this conversation now about ai i’ve just got a note here you’ve co-authored 84 publications including six books 25 journal papers 53 conference articles yes where did that passion start when i was when i was in uni i was pretty much like any other student i didn’t really know what i wanted to do and then the opportunity came for me to to do a internship in a research center and i applied for that you know for that that scholarship and that completely changed my my vision my life pretty much i just found this new passion it was the the the internship was about optimization and i was using my skills in in something that was useful so at that very moment i decided i want to become an academic so i i that’s what i wanted to do i i saw my supervisors and how they would have their their daily lives and i said no that that’s what i want to do as well so i did that and after that i went straight for a master’s you know program and then phd i and and it’s just part of the job you as as an academic you have to publish because it’s not really that you have to publish it’s more about uh you do research because that’s what you like to do and at the end of the research what do you get you get you know results you get software you get technology developed but in in academia you are not looking for intellectual property you’re not looking for commercialization you don’t really you know care about any of that so what do you do you publish papers you explain what you did you know what were the techniques used and which results you achieved so when you do that like three four times a year which is kind of normal especially if you work in a group not by yourself but suppose you were working a team of researchers say three four researches and you are all helping you are all helping each other like every now and then one of you will come up with a result and then everybody is part of that paper it’s not that i’m the leading author in in every one of those 84 publications it’s it’s that i was part of the team i i helped them in in different ways some of them i am the leading author some others i’m the last author you know but that’s that’s how it goes so someone who has has been doing this for like a long time like over 20 years that number is not it’s not is not that impressive okay so if you talk to any academic you know anyone who loves what they do uh they will have similar numbers it’s it’s perfectly fine and when it comes to the the books you’ve written what what sort of topics are we talking for the books again it’s all about optimization and and those um those are uh more book chapters yeah um so what happens again in in academia is you have an uh editor and uh is who is normally an expert in a field and then they they they put forward these kind of call for chapters and then if you want to make a contribution there so suppose someone is going to write a a a book about artificial intelligence something like that and then so they send you know this call for um you know chapters for the book and then people all over the world you know submit their their chapters or their ideas or their results to that and then then the the editor compiles the book and then publishes that uh it’s different from a a a novel or anything like that it’s very technical and like each chapter is kind of independent yeah even though as a whole like they they bring it together they bring it all together so that’s the idea so i’ve had a few book chapters yes publications and conferences and also publications in scientific journals nice very nice how does somebody go about doing all that whilst working a full-time job and bringing that all together it’s a that’s a lot of work it’s a lot of responsibility do you have any any secrets any productivity tools any advice you would provide to others in whether it be prioritization productivity in and around those those areas yeah first i would touch uh briefly like how academics work what is the what’s the reality of academic life so academics they they they spend 40 of the time teaching and in teaching related activities either face-to-face teaching or preparing exams marking exams and you know preparing lectures for the next for the following week and things like that 40 of the time is research which is writing papers and doing research and and supervising uh students like phd and master’s students and 20 of the time is service which is like participating in university uh committees and making decisions and like about how the universities run or the school is is rent so this is 40 40 20 you know division there so research is just part of of of the jobs 40 of my time it has to be in terms of productivity tools i i kind of have to follow what the university uses know which is of office 365 and uh microsoft teams as well i use that pretty much every day outlook but outside of that but again that’s just because that’s the system that the university provides to all academs so you cannot really escape that and but i also use slack for communicating with my students in groups and research groups i use lac i use notion as well for organizing my tasks and i used to use github for software development but to be 100 honest with you i do very little software development at the moment i’m more kind of i i see myself more as a manager the way that i did uh like when i was was a a masters student or a phd student or when i came here in the first few years as a postdoc as a research assistant i used to do a lot of software development but once you become a lecturer then your role changes but you become a teacher and then you start to supervise students and you start to be part of all these committees and going like meetings every day and all of that and then suddenly you stop coding like you only do coding only if you want to prepare a question for an exam and see if it’s right and and who does the software development your students do so the ones that you are supervising so my master’s students and my phd students they they will do the coding just like i did when i was you know 20 something but right now i do very little uh soft development and that’s a shame because i really love coding i use eclipse until a few years ago as my ide but like to be honest with you it’s been a long time since i actually coded anything oh it sounds like you’ve got enough other things on your plate at the moment um there’s only 70 hours in a day right yes indeed for anyone else that’s sort of obviously impressed by what you’ve done or seen your career is there any books or podcasts or pieces of information you’d really recommend for people to consume normally what i do is well i i work i i i read papers scientific papers that’s what i what i read most of the time that are relevant to my research or to specific areas of my research in my kind of free time what i do is i watch lots of podcasts i like a couple of of podcasts in particular there is one from lex friedman from the mit and he has this podcast that specializes in ai he has very good you know uh uh people that that he interviews he releases like a couple of episodes every week and they’re very long they’re like three hours long they’re but they are amazing like interviews like sciences and movie directors that make movies about like ai and so on so it’s a very wide range of people that interviews i also watch joe rogan’s podcast that is very famous and i follow elo mask of course and i also follow google’s uh deepmind deepmind group and so there are a few places that i go but just again because i like artificial intelligence that’s that’s my niche so i go to all these places but it’s mostly papers ah there’s another one that’s very good called two minute paper yes yes that’s it so that that’s that’s a very interesting one because it it every week the person who runs that that that uh that youtube channel they take a a paper a scientific paper and then goes through that paper in five minutes explaining in very simple terms like what it does what the impact is you know and so on it’s a very interesting uh channel that i follow as well and um books i’m i’m a very uh like i love sci-fi so i read i read all the authors you know articy clark asimov and so on movies yeah all the all the sci-fi and tv series you know uh the experience i’m i’m watching now and uh the movies uh 2001 uh ex machina all these famous movies uh are really awesome yeah but like if if you like the area you consume information both in a technical way and in a kind of more cultural way as well you know for entertainment i guess nice nice if you had to provide some advice to let’s not say a younger version of yourself but he’s somebody that’s going through the university degree or starting to look at a career in technology is there any any one piece of advice that you would you’d give to somebody okay so first if if it’s if it’s someone already at uni my advice is try to go to uni and take uh as much advantage of what is offered to you as you can and what i mean by that is don’t go there only for the courses like sitting for a couple of hours watching someone talk to you you know and then after you’re done you go home or you spend some time doing doing an assignment and then you submit then you get a score at the end of the semester and then you are done universities they offer much more than that it’s a whole experience so there are research groups there are scholarships you can participate in very advanced things and you can and you don’t have to be a final year student to do that you can be a second year student so for instance i i am part of a team of robotics uh at the university called nubot and those are soccer playing robots right and and we take students it’s unpaid so it’s it’s students who really want to take their knowledge and applying something exciting yeah it’s something that they can then develop uh other skills so it’s just a research group where people go there on a voluntary basis and they working with these amazing robots you know that can walk that can kick that can you know see things and it’s all uh autonomous so we use a lot of ai in those in those drops to be able to see the ball to see goal posts to see the field lines and uh to actually walk only walking is very hard and so students can take advantage of that like like we have this team there are many others you know around so if you’re a student and you are in your second year go for try to find those spots they are everywhere it’s just a matter of finding them and then take advantage of that you at the end of your uni degree you have a much richer experience you become more employed employable and at the end you you’re gonna have like more like like better memories you know of what you what you did if you are thinking about doing uni my suggestion is to uh and you want to go for uh computer science or information technology my suggestion is to try to get as much knowledge in like basic programming first and maths as well because that’s going to to give you a good foundation to tackle the first year courses so we have students who come to uni without much maths knowledge or without much programming knowledge and even though the university provides a sort of bridging courses for those students they struggle a lot so if you can if you can learn some of those skills beforehand that’s going to make your journey like easier you know through uni and the thing is is really like universities is is the best time of your life like i love my uni degree i i love my time at uni and i enjoyed every minute like even even the the frustrations and everything like you know in in doing badly in a in a in an exam that helps you grow as well not only the things that went right but the things that went wrong if you see what went wrong with a critical eye that’s where you get the lessons from yeah and um so yeah i just have this perspective of you are in a in an environment of of learning of knowledge take as much advantage as you can yeah of that for those who would like to to get in touch with you to ask you a question what’s the easiest way for somebody to reach out to you so there are two main ways uh if you go to the university website and put my name on the on the search uh bar alexandre mendes the uh my my link like there’s a link to my to my staff page that knows pretty much the first hit and uh you can also google my name just make sure that you that you spell alexandre with an r e at the end because otherwise if it’s alexander mendes you will end up with the uh on the webpage of sam mendes the film director because his name is sam alexander mendes so you end up in his page and definitely not me and or you can find me on on linkedin i’m there as well and yeah if you want to contact me just send me an email or you can call my office and i’m there pretty much all the time very helpful uh insightful for me you’re about your takes on university ai working in a great atlanta there’s a lot a lot there to unpack so i really appreciate your your efforts today thank you so much for having me thank you.

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