Executive seminar series to keep students abreast of tech developments and the job market
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, cloud computing and e-commerce has caused many companies to put immense resources into innovative technology in order to upgrade their operating systems and services.
To keep students up to date with all these developments - and to enhance their competitiveness in the job market - Lingnan University has launched an Executive Seminar on Career Development series, in which business leaders and industry representatives are invited to share their insights on new technology and where things are heading.
The first seminar, held in April, focused on the essentials of AI and big data and the competences needed for future job hunting as “smart city” concepts, digital marketing, big data analytics and cloud computing become ever more important.
Dr Toby Lam, chief data scientist for DataTech Global, along with Angus Tong, who is AI and big data technology strategist for Microsoft, spoke about the latest developments and their likely impact.
Students attending the seminar could earn ILP (Integrated Learning Programme) units and receive a certificate.
In his opening remarks, Lingnan’s vice-president Professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho said the university wanted to ensure students are well informed about developments in technology development and what different industry players are doing. He also revealed that, in response to the government’s smart city initiative, Lingnan would focus on creating an environment which promotes smart learning and a smart campus.
To this end, the university intends to set up a data science laboratory, a general technology laboratory and a digital arts laboratory in the near future.
“We are doing more on technology, including through these seminars and with service-learning courses which have a digital dimension,” Professor Mok said. “Our mission is to provide an environment which is conducive for student learning. Students from arts, social sciences and even business disciplines are not always familiar with core technology, but they must not be afraid about working with it.”
The curator of the seminar series is Dr Rosiah Ho Wing, associate director of Lingnan University’s Information Technology Services Centre. He hopes it will help to integrate innovative technology into a liberal arts education, enabling students to fully grasp the significance of technology in today’s world and inspiring them to learn more.
In his presentation, Dr Lam spoke about the impact of digital marketing on e-commerce, as well as new research on “social learning and listening”. Using a number of real-life examples, he also explained how big data analytics can be used to get a clearer understanding of buying patterns and customer preferences, which can have a major impact on revenues.
“In the past, when doing online shopping, customers needed a desktop computer,” he said. “But now, most of the time, people just use their mobile devices and various apps to purchase things like air tickets or movie tickets.”
He also noted that popular digital marketing tools such as SEO (search engine optimisation), KOL (key opinion leader) marketing, chatbots and social listening are becoming more important. In addition, data analytics is making it possible to develop more effective marketing strategies and get a better picture of their impact.
“Today’s marketing teams can learn about customer preferences through tracking, and that makes it easier to provide them with relevant information and products,” he said.
For instance, by using chatbots, companies can now send marketing messages directly to customers and obtain their Facebook ID and preferences through the same channel. When a customer’s Facebook ID and member ID are linked, it is then possible to send them more precise marketing messages, which helps to reduce overall marketing costs.
In other respects, through social listening, companies can collect data and customer comments from social media platforms and forums. An AI engine then analyses the information to help gain new insights.
Cloud computing expert Angus Tong then spoke about some of the current developments in AI, big data analytics and cloud technology and how they are affecting different industries.
He noted that many sectors, including retail, education and finance, are currently undergoing digital transformation. In addition, the Hong Kong government’s Smart City Blueprint, which was released in 2017, has highlighted the need for change in areas like mobility, day-to-day living, and the economy. This will all be driven by advancing information technology (IT), while individuals will have to acquire relevant skills in order to keep up with the pace of change.
“According to statistical analysis by the US Department of Labor, 50 per cent of jobs require IT skills today,” Tong said. “Ten years from now, the number will be 70 to 80 per cent.”
Developments in four areas - AI, blockchain, the cloud platform, and data analytics – are already having an influence on all industries at differing levels. Tong noted that cloud technology had been the hottest topic recently as it effectively helped companies manage computing systems and data storage at a much lower cost.
In offering general career advice, Tong suggested that students could take some tech-related courses online, based on their own interests, and obtain related certificates. That would give them a head start in the job market.