Mentoring at Monash University

One of our core values is to give back to our industry, so that we can nurture the new wave of talent coming through and expose ourselves to new ways of thinking.  Over the years we have been invited as Industry Mentors for the Industry Experience Studio Project at Monash University, which is the final capstone project for Masters students completing their study. The aim of the project is to get students engaging with a relatively complex domain and then to deliver an app or website that uses this information to benefit the community.

Underlying this is the development of valuable real world working practices, both in terms of hard technical and soft skills.  Students are expected work in an agile manner, timelining the required sprints and managing the available resources from within their own teams.

Whale Lovers and WikiCharity – Student projects that connected people with data in meaningful ways.

Ignite were allocated a ‘studio’ of five teams made up of students from across the Faculty of IT in Data Science, Business Information Systems, Project Management, Networks and Security and Information Technology.  Our role was to give feedback on each iteration, answer questions and prompt discussion on what they could include to expand their offering and make it more relevant to the target audience. The development of the initial idea into a working model required the students to cover all roles from within their team, from understanding and researching the initial community design problem, to complex predictive data modelling to the development of resilient front and back end user interfaces.

Over the twelve weeks we saw the teams grow exponentially – there were issues around team dynamics, complete idea redesigns, heated discussions around technology platforms and a stupidly high number of all-night sessions pulled.

The common threads that permeated through each of the teams were that:

  • coming up with the data led use case is challenging,
  • data science is about finding relevant, complete and clean datasets as much as it is about creating complex models.

Sound familiar to the common challenges that data professionals face every day?

Suburb Smart win their category.

The program culminated in an Expo, giving fifty-four teams an opportunity  to showcase their work to peers, mentors and  a group of impartial judges.  With prizes available for each social category, the tension was high, suits were worn, team t-shirts printed, and bowls of sweets proffered. The Ignite studio was ecstatic to learn that three of five studio teams won their categories. So those annoying hard questions were of benefit.

Thanks goes to the studio mentors, Peter and Yiwei, who ran the sessions on the ground level, and mentioned that our ‘thoughtful comments and encouragement made a big difference in their overall performance by semester’s end.’

Collectively we want to offer our thanks to the Faculty of IT, and especially to Gail Bourne for the invite and the students for being open to lessons learnt advice. After all the festivities were done Gail said that ‘your advice, mentorship and guidance was invaluable not only to project content but also to best practices.’  We are really looking forward to being involved next year and bringing our diverse skillset to the students.

Being involved in these projects gives us an opportunity to give back, an opportunity for our team to learn and to have some fun along the way.


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