ITMO: It’s Your Call- 100+ Young Talents Join Fifth Annual Forum at ITMO

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At this year’s annual event, experts from such top Russian companies as Sberbank, Yandex, and VK shared their insights into career-building in IT and the future of technologies with some of the country’s brightest students, participants of the I Am a Professional contest. The event was supported by Sberbank. Over the week-long forum, students attended interactive lectures, workshops, and games on programming, robotics, cybersecurity, soft skills, and other topics. Read on for the highlights of It’s Your Call!

This year, the organizers of It’s Your Call!, supported by Sberbank, treated the 120 talented participants to a wide variety of activities, including workshops, business games, and case analysis. Students could choose out of many topics such as machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, soft skills, and others to get the skills they needed most.

“It is crucial to understand who you want to be in three or five years. You can always go with the flow, but this is not the most efficient option. You are now at one of the country’s best universities, so you should use every opportunity this forum offers and ask yourself every day, “What do I want to do? Who will I be in five years? How can my community help me?” I would love for the forum to bring you closer to answering these questions,” says ITMO’s First Vice Rector Daria Kozlova.

Alexander Shekhovtsov, who represented Sberbank at the forum, shared that the company is currently developing several fields open for young specialists. According to the expert, now is the best time to look for opportunities and join a team of professionals.

“Now is your time to discover yourself and unleash your potential. I wish you the courage to use the resources you have and those available on the market to make the transition from studentship to professional work. At Sberbank, we have many fields where you can grow your skills, as well as a trainee program that takes good care of all incoming fledgling specialists. I believe that by working on interesting tasks within a team of professionals, we can grow the most. When you think you found something you want to do, stop and think for a second: this job has to feed not only your body, but your imagination. If you enjoy doing your work, success and growth won’t hesitate to come,” adds Alexander Shekhovtsov.

The four pillars of IT: neural networks, cybersecurity, blockchain, and business
At the event, invited experts talked about the technologies used by their companies for various tasks. For instance, graph neural networks can predict properties of objects faster and more precisely. According to Alexander Shekhovtsov, this versatile technology can be used anywhere, from analyzing molecules for drugs to developing microchips.

The speaker also gave a few tips on working with neural networks. Instead of using complex algorithms, you should try using simpler ideas and architectures.

In the future, the data will change quickly, it will be heterogeneous and dynamic. This will make graph structures more complex, changing the way we work with graph neural networks, but will also open new opportunities for predicting objects’ properties.

Alexey Kravchenko, the head of regional sales at Rostelekom-Solar, talked about cyberattacks and the methods used to prevent them. According to him, the most common data theft methods in 2022 are phishing, DDoS attacks, and system exploits. These can be countered with email security gateways, DDoS protection services, and vulnerability detection tools. According to the speaker, however, in the future the nature of cyber crimes will change with the growing number of devices online, the ever-present AI, and the advance of quantum computers. For these future times, we will need more data protection methods, such as equal access to quantum technologies, coordinated work of information security experts, as well as the development of AI-based protection systems and a universal standard for quantum tech and cybersecurity.

Additionally, students could learn about blockchain from Alexander Kapitonov, the dean of ITMO’s Faculty of Infocommunication Technologies, and discover the ways to launch their own startups at a talk by Andrey Anfinogenov, the dean of the Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations.

Experts and topics galore
At special interactive lectures, workshops, business games, and tutorials, the participants could learn about the applications of contemporary technologies and master the hard skills needed for working with them.

Alexander Krainov, director for Development of Artificial Intelligence Technologies at Yandex, explained how the company uses AI for nearly any task, from finding information among dozens of Yandex services or managing driverless cars and delivery services to providing real-time dubbed translations of videos, conversations with Alisa the voice assistant, and weather forecasts.

“I really liked the atmosphere at the forum. I’m thinking about studying at ITMO and this event is a great opportunity to explore the university and meet its lecturers. I found Andrey Anfinogenov’s lecture particularly memorable – it was interesting to hear all about startups from someone with experience in the matter. I also liked Alexander Krainov’s talk, where he briefly presented Yandex’s big team and explained their applications of AI. This helped me understand more details about machine learning and it might come in handy when I am looking for a job,” shares Polina Kokina, a fourth-year student at the Higher School of Economics.

However, technologies can turn harmful in the wrong hands. For instance, deepfakes can be used to discredit someone or bypass a facial recognition system. It is often hard to tell the original from a fake, but Vitaly Rogovoy, an engineer at ITMO’s Faculty of Secure Information Technologies, presented several ways to do it, including looking for defects or artifacts to pinpoint mismatching pixels or unfinished elements. Moreover, spectral analysis can reveal discrete noise, which is caused by the image’s convolution during the training of a neural network that creates a deepfake.

Other trending fields were also presented at the forum. For example, Lidia Perovskaya from VK’s Developer Relations explained the importance of collaboration between the company’s product and technology teams. Artem Smolin, head of ITMO’s Center for Usability and Mixed Reality, discussed the development of VR, AR, and mixed reality technologies, while head of the Game Development Technologies Master’s program Andrey Karsakov went into detail about the game dev industry and the competencies needed to excel in it.

Participants also had the chance to learn about the projects developed by ITMO University students right from the projects’ developers. For instance, Daniil Kazantsev, a third-year student at the Information Technologies and Programming Faculty, is working on prosthetic hands. Unlike the existing solutions, Daniil’s design will enable users to freely move each of their fingers separately, without limiting the movement by pre-installed algorithms.

“I learned a lot at this presentation of neural prosthetics – I hadn’t really known how this field is growing before. I was also curious to learn more about machine learning and natural language processing, as I am currently studying this topic with the view to use this knowledge in my thesis. Apart from technical lectures, I really liked the storytelling intensive, because I rely on soft skills at my job to convey my ideas to clients. In the future, I am planning to engage with machine learning on a deeper level to then build a career in big data management,” says Danil Krivoruchko, a second-year Master’s student at the Higher School of Economics.

Any job prospects?
Whatever you choose to do – be that a career in research or your own startup, you will need soft skills to succeed. Experts from ITMO’s Career Center explained all about making a CV, preparing for an interview, and leaving a good impression. Here is a checklist with their handy tips:

If you don’t have any work experience yet, list your student projects and additional courses in your CV. This way, your employer will see that you are an active participant in your education, which will speak in your favor.
Analyze similar job openings and CVs of your competitors to understand the kind of soft and hard skills needed for a position and evaluate your chances.
Don’t send out identical CVs, but create a unique story about yourself tailored to each position you apply for.
Do prepare for an interview. Learn as much as possible about the company (its activities, projects, and corporate structure) and write down answers to the questions you might be asked. It can be good to have several answers for the question “Why do you want to work with us?” – for a short phone call and for a longer in-person interview.
Don’t disregard non-verbal communication. A smile and an open face will help you make a good impression.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. This way, you will not only learn more about the offered position, but also display your interest in it.
Request feedback from the HR specialist to analyze how your interview went. This will help you avoid making mistakes in the future.

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