The Joy of Teaching at MIU – interview with MSD Professor Unubold Tumenbayar
Professor Unubold Tumenbayar graduated from MIU’s Master’s in Computer Science Professionals program (ComPro) in 2019 and landed a great job as a Java developer where he advanced his skills by working on multi-regional global applications in the Cloud. He returned to MIU in 2021 to teach students attending the MSD (Masters in Software development) program and ComPro. “The main thing I brought to MSD and Compro was Cloud-computing, and I also teach React and Database,” he says. But it’s the joy of living and teaching at MIU that inspired Unubold to return. Let’s learn more about Unubold and why he loves teaching aspiring computer professionals.
Interview by Christine Albers
CA: Can you tell us about your academic and computer science background?
Professor Unubold: I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 2017 from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. It’s the biggest university in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital city.
In Mongolia, university students can choose their subjects so I took most of my classes in the first three years. In my senior year, I had lots of free time so I worked at Axis-Systems as a Java Developer, so I was already working with Java while I was at the university in Mongolia.
CA: What inspired you to become a student at MIU?
Professor Unubold: In my last year at the university, in 2017, since I already had experience in Java, I thought, what’s next? Then in June, Professor Greg Guthrie came to the university and spoke to the students. He was the reason I came to MIU’s Computer Science program. I had applied to other universities, but after meeting Professor Guthrie and his wife in Mongolia, I was ready to go to MIU and I submitted my application immediately.
I joined Compro in October 2017 and everything started from there. I had lots of experience in software development, but this was different. I took MIU’s first Data Science Track because I wanted to learn something new.
CA: Did you find a good job when you finished ComPro?
Professor Unubold: I finished ComPro in 2019 and worked as a Java Developer at Sterling, which is headquartered in NY, but I worked in the Seattle branch. During the interview for that job, I told them about MIU and the Big Data I learned here and that made them want to hire me because that technology was new. It was a great company to work in. They have an architecture team that does research and initiates technology improvement because new technologies give them an advantage.
I was at Sterling for 2 ½ years and it was there that I learned Cloud technologies, which provides a lot of opportunities for businesses and can make a big difference in our industry. If we look at job descriptions in the US, most of them will say it’s nice to have cloud experience. I knew this, but many developers didn’t know how cloud technologies make their jobs easier, so my goal was to help them learn these high-demand skills. At first, I was only helping Mongolian developers, but then I realized that the MIU computer science students need to learn Cloud computing as well and I wanted to help them.
CA: How did you get the opportunity to join MIU Faculty?
Professor Unubold: Last April 2021, Professor Peter Vonderheide sent all the ComPro graduates an email announcing positions for professors for MSD (MIU’s Masters in Software Development program) and ComPro, and by May I was working here. One of the main reasons I joined MIU faculty is because I looked at the curriculum and the subjects that are taught, and I saw that they are practical. They are the kind of subjects anyone would want to learn in order to be a proficient software developer. And the environment at MIU is so peaceful and friendly.
CA: Transitioning from working a full-time job in Seattle to teaching computer science at MIU is a big change. How are you enjoying your teaching career?
Professor Unubold: Teaching is completely different from working in the field. I’ve been teaching for 6 or 7 months now, but when I think about the way I was teaching in the beginning, I realize how naïve I was. We taught Cloud computing for the first time, and everything was brand new technologies, so the first students felt overwhelmed. Then, on the last day of the course, I was able to pull it all together for them, and they told me, “Now it all makes sense.”
CA: What have you learned that makes you a better teacher?
Professor Unubold: I learned that when it comes to teaching it is vitally important to understand the audience, (the students). I need to be aware of how much experience they have and how much they don’t have and teach accordingly. You can’t prepare one course syllabus for all classes, because every class is different with students who vary in how much knowledge they have. I am always updating my courses based on my experience with the students.
CA: When you talk about teaching at MIU, you express a lot of joy. What is it about teaching that gives you so much happiness?
Professor Unubold: Many things make me happy here. First of all, I enjoy the interaction with the students. I love teaching in person, in class, because I feel the atmosphere. I explain the concept and look at the students and I look at their eyes. You feel it if they understand or if they are confused, even if they don’t speak up, and I can see clearly by the look in their eyes whether they understand or not.
Another joy is when the students come to me and say how interesting the course was and they are thankful for all they learned.
I also enjoy the freedom I have here because there’s enough time to look into other new technologies that I want to teach. I was in the industry a year ago which means I can help the students more because I know what works and what doesn’t, but there’s always new knowledge coming out. Learning the latest technologies allows me to keep the students up to date so that when they go out into the field they perform better.
CA: What do you like best about teaching MSD students?
Professor Unubold: I notice the determination in MSD students. They put everything into their studies. They are really serious about the program and being successful, and they work very hard. Software engineering requires more hard work than other careers and after my classes, I know my students will do well in the industry.
CA: Can you comment on why you are confident that your students will be ready for good jobs when they graduate?
Professor Unubold: I am super confident that they will be ready to handle a software development position when they graduate. I am running their final projects and when I see the results, it’s very impressive, as they develop a whole application from scratch, from A to Z, frontend to backend. Plus, during this final project, they research a new technology, and they integrate the project with new technology and Cloud services.
My first class already graduated, and one of my students contacted me on LinkedIn and said his technical interview was easy because he had already learned it in class.
CA: How do you feel about TM in your life and for the students?
Professor Unubold: I encourage students to practice TM because it helped me when I was a student. Meditation helped me stay focused and retain the knowledge. When I do TM, I feel more energized, it feels like I have more power.
CA: Do you have any advice for students who are applying for MSD?
Professor Unubold: I would tell them that they will learn lots of new knowledge, every day of the course. They can expect to get overwhelmed, but on graduation day they will feel like they are born again. To me, the results of the final project demonstrate that they are software engineers because it pulls together everything they learned during the whole 12 to 18 months. They made it!