Lessons Learned on Professional Master are Useful in Industry

António Damasceno Alumni 

The Professional Masters of Software Engineering was the reason that ISA hired me in the first place,” says António Damasceno. António is a 2009 graduate from the dual degree Professional Masters in Software Engineering (MSE) offered by the Universidade de Coimbra and Carnegie Mellon University, in the scope of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program.


When António Damasceno joined the MSE program, he had more than 20 years of experience in software development and was the project manager of MyNet at the Associacão de Informática of the Center Region of Portugal. Married with two children, the current technological partnerships manager at ISA - Intelligent Sensing Anywhere embraced the opportunity to engage on “the most intense working period of my life at a rate that could not scale in industry,” he reveals.

From his past as a student in the dual degree MSE program, António Damasceno retains that “although we were in an academic environment most of the lessons learned are useful in industry although the root cause of the pressure is different, but the impact in team’s performance is similar.”

CMU Portugal: What memory do you keep from the time you were a MSE student?
António Damasceno (AD): The most intense and important memory from the MSE program is the contact with different cultures and professional environments. In academic terms the courses taught in Portugal comply with CMU standards and are very different to equivalent courses for Portuguese degrees, this is by itself a positive experience. However what makes this dual degree program really different is the immersion in CMU culture and contact with persons, students and staff, from around the world. It was my first experience living abroad for more than a few weeks and gave me the opportunity to get a glimpse on how different cultures learn and see the world. I made some friends and I am sure that some of those relations will last for a long time.

CMU Portugal: Can you describe your experience as a dual degree MSE student?
AD: The MSE experience was intense in multiple dimensions, workload and emotions are probably the two that are most demanding. In terms of workload the first three semesters were, by far, the most intense working period of my life at a rate that could not scale in industry. It challenged all of our limits and made us establish clear goals and prioritize work according to them. The emotional dimension is motivated by the program and by the lack of time for family and friends. The MSE program was designed by James Tomayko from CMU using the concept of “reflective practitioner” proposed by Donald Schon, from MIT. In this concept students are requested to build their knowledge and are often lead by mentors to face their incompetence. This process is extremely demanding in personal terms and, as the work is organized in teams, places huge pressure in all team members.

CMU Portugal: What skills and competences were you able to develop?
AD: Software Engineering pillars are people, process and technology, which is the only one covered in depth in most software engineering degrees. People and process are often mentioned, but without professional experience the full value of those pillars cannot be understood. Programs like MSE that are built on-top of professional experience gain from the accumulated experience of all participants that are forced to look back to career and company, value successes and identify improvement opportunities. As I had to leave the company I was working with to join the MSE, the benefits for my previous employer were null. As this was an important dimension, I volunteered to be involved with ISA during the MSE program to be able to know the company, the persons and the processes. From very early, I was able to contribute to the revision of the conception and development process that, after a few interactions, is compliant to CMMI-DEV maturity level 2. As to the people dimension software engineering teams have very specific challenges that need to be addressed with adequate techniques, especially when team members are brilliant technicians with different concepts of socially accepted behaviors. Professional programs forces practitioners to value this dimension again by reflecting on the persons and interactions they had.

CMU Portugal: In what way did your studies in the MSE program contribute to the position that you have today at ISA - Intelligent Sensing Anywhere?
AD: MSE was the reason that ISA hired me in the first place so it was the entry point. The position I currently have, technological partnership manager, is mapped to the core courses and core competences acquired in the MSE program including: Requirements Engineering, Software Architecture, and Software Process Management. Over the two and a half years I have put into practice all these concepts in small and large projects. Especially relevant is the experience in architecture development and evaluation for a €3 million European project, GiraffPlus, where we were able to detect and solve hidden issues in the system architecture. ISA invited me to manage this new business that is going to be based on system and software engineering best practices to identify and manage projects developed by technological partners.

July 2013