Penn State, IBM team up to boost data engineering skills

May 17, 2022

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The digital transformation and proliferation of “big data” has revolutionized how businesses and organizations operate today. Data can provide a window into growth opportunities, consumer behavior and other important insights. To tap into this potential, companies must organize and maintain data strategically, which is a core focus of the field of data engineering. A new partnership between Penn State and IBM will prepare students for careers in data engineering while also helping organizations make the most of their data.

Through their partnership with Penn State, IBM has established a Data Engineering Center of Excellence that will be located at Innovation Park on the University Park campus. Up to 20 students per year will be hired as interns with IBM Consulting, a division of IBM focused on business support that provides data engineering solutions to thousands of clients worldwide. Penn State interns in IBM’s Center of Excellence program will work with IBM Consulting clients, giving the students real-world experience that can boost their career potential.

“Data engineering is becoming a fundamental necessity for business operations. This partnership will provide the opportunity for Penn State students to learn crucial skills from IBM, a world technology leader,” said Lora Weiss, Penn State senior vice president for research. “IBM and Penn State have a rich history of partnership, from supporting our Nittany AI Alliance student competition to donating cutting-edge hardware for our researchers to use, and we are excited to continue growing our partnership through this initiative.”

Tony Giordano, senior partner with IBM Global Business Services, has worked with IBM Consulting for nearly 20 years and has helped grow the division from 50 employees to more than 7,000 data engineering professionals that are part of the group today.

“More data is being generated in business today than ever before, which creates opportunities for businesses as well as data management challenges. There’s a huge demand for data engineers who can develop solutions to help organizations all over the globe better manage their data, which is what we do in IBM Consulting. This partnership with Penn State is going to create opportunities for many students to both preview data engineering careers and improve their career potential,” said Giordano.

The IBM Data Engineering Center of Excellence program will include "micro-credentialing," which will allow students to show specific skills they have learned through the internship. In addition to working with clients, interns will be required to complete extracurricular workshops on topics including big data, cloud-based architecture and core banking concepts.

The program also will emphasize communication and problem-solving skills, which are integral for data engineering. Data engineers routinely consult with clients to identify data needs, then develop solutions for automating the movement and manipulation of data across various databases and platforms. For example, a business may need to take data from an eCommerce website, reformat it, and move it to a different database where it can be analyzed. Students will learn strategies to ensure that the solutions they propose are in line with customers’ needs.

Students who successfully complete the program can continue, becoming mentors for future cohorts of students, which will provide leadership opportunities. What’s more, students who excel in the program will have a robust portfolio that will help them when looking for jobs after graduation.

Penn State's Corporate Engagement Center spearheaded the initiative for Penn State. Operating under the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research and the Office of University Development, the Corporate Engagement Center supports companies as they navigate the vast resources of Penn State. The Corporate Engagement Center helped IBM find industry-friendly office space at Innovation Park on the University Park campus and connected it with other Penn State units partnering on the initiative, including the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences and Career Services.

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