Unlocking data to innovate for the future
How are universities providing data-savvy students to help businesses innovate? We take a look at UTS’ partnership with JobGetter, which involved trawling through two million job postings to come up with new ways for the organisation to reach customers.
“The first day we came into class, we had a non-disclosure agreement to sign,” recalls UTS Bachelor of Technology and Innovation (BTi) student Sophie Hawkins. “When we saw that, we thought, “This is real – this project can’t be done overnight’.”
The challenge for Sophie and her classmates in the Data-Driven Design Challenges subject was to comb through JobGetter’s data to find insights into new ways to engage users. Australian scale-up JobGetter is one of the country’s leading recruitment and job-finding services, with more than 1.5 million users and two million job postings.
Working in groups to pitch, develop and deliver these changes made up the entirety of the teaching session’s content, with other subjects covering the tech skills and theory needed to complete the work.
Sophie says, “The whole purpose of this course is that you develop soft skills, rather than just your hard, technical skills. So, you'll develop skills with teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
“The subjects we do are teaching us different methodologies like design thinking, but then we also learn about data, coding and emerging technologies, like in the biotech space or robotics.”
- Sophie Hawkins
The lack of formal lectures in Data-Driven Design Challenges was a revelation, she adds. "It’s not until you start doing that real-world work that you see how much you’ve changed. You find yourself knowing how to do interviews and presentations, knowing about human-centred design methodologies and even basic coding.”
Using data for good
The BTi students came up with six pitches for JobGetter which focused on improving the user experience and the company’s data management. Sophie’s group used the data to enhance the sign-up phase so people with a disability or special requirements were better supported.
Her ultimate aim is to work in human-centred design or health and data science “to actually help people and improve upon things, rather than just be creating for the sake of it. I have an Indigenous background and I see how people can be stereotyped.”
Rethinking the status quo
Another group’s solution actually landed them internships with JobGetter. Lachlan Gregory and fellow BTi students Aaron Bland, Charlie Schacher, Monty Martin-Weber and Vincent Anthony were in a team who rethought the JobGetter app.
Lachlan says the company’s previous app had a “clunky sign-up process”, so the team aimed to make it more appealing to jobseekers, increasing the number of users and how often they visited.
“We set ourselves the target of users accessing personalised jobs within three clicks, but we actually achieved this in two,” enthuses Lachlan.
“We wanted to go a level deeper than a job seeker’s physical qualifications though. Our app considers jobs and companies you wouldn’t have originally thought of, but for which you suit the company culture and have the skills to make an impact. Most job sites ask for the jobs you want, but not for the jobs you don’t want. We’ve made an effort to incorporate this.”
Fresh eyes for a new direction
For JobGetter co-founder and director Fiona Anson, the opportunity to open up the business to a room of BTi students was “simply irresistible”.
“Having the students look at our app from a user's perspective was invaluable,” she affirms. “We ended up with something incredibly user-centric and visually appealing to our target demographic.”
Working with tech-savvy, entrepreneurially-minded students was also a refreshing change to working with the “same old” consultants, Fiona adds.
The students were really granular and applied not only new and critical thinking, but also their individual areas of expertise – UX, Internet of Things, design, research. The BTi is developing exactly the skills we see employers clamouring for – critical thinking, creativity, enthusiasm, innovation, communication and collaboration skills. I think this course is something really special and is certainly grooming the next generation of thinkers, innovators and game changers.
- Fiona Anson
Senior lecturer Natalia Nikolova, subject coordinator for Data-driven Design Challenges, emphasises that the BTi prepares students for the future of work by focusing on digital and technological literacy, as well as enterprise skills.
“Normally, such experiences are offered in capstone subjects, at the end of degrees,” explains Natalia. “BTi is different - we want students to have the opportunity to work with real clients and problems early on. I’m a great believer in the need for industry to collaborate more closely with universities; not just in research, but also in teaching and learning. As this collaboration has shown, the transdisciplinarity of the BTi has been instrumental to the outcomes achieved.”
Students like Sophie and Lachlan are certainly now a step ahead of your average graduate, with not just a suite of invaluable tech skills up their sleeves, but an adaptable, resilient mindset that make them real industry assets.
As Sophie reflects: “It’s not about the work at the end of the degree, it’s about learning and experimenting. This course has taught me that even when technology experiments don’t work, if I can express what I've learned and how I might improve it next time, that's enough.”
By Sophie Phillips, UTS Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation, and Hannah Jenkins, UTS Marketing and Communication Unit.