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Partners in Innovation – ICTI: Information & Communication Technologies Institute – Carnegie Mellon University

Partners in Innovation Six young Novabase trainees visits Carnegie Mellon Campus
From April 18 to April 23, Novabase Partner Pedro Chagas and six young Novabase trainees visited the Carnegie Mellon campus to tour facilities, meet students and faculty, and sit in on classes.

Pedro Chagas of Novabase

Novabase, a corporate sponsor for the Carnegie Mellon|Portugal Program, is the largest IT company in Portugal. Founded in 1989, it currently employs about 1700 people. Chagas is responsible for the Novabase Advanced Custom Development, a company in Novabase’s consulting branch. He also serves on the board that helps co-manage the other companies in that branch.

The trainees, Francisco José Silva, Gil Pontes, Gonçalo Teixeira, Maria Grave, Nuno Miranda, and Tiago Moreiras, come from the Novabase Academy, a training program for recent college graduates that offers a two week intensive training program prior to becoming full time employees at the company.

While on the Carnegie Mellon campus, the trainees visitied several classes to get a feel for the different programs. Classes included Distributed Systems, Analysis of Software Artifacts, Network Security, Management of Software Development for Technology Executives, and Basic Interaction Design. They also toured a number of facilities, including the Entertainment Technology Center, Google Lab, and the Robotics Lab.

Monday night of their stay saw the Novabase visitors at a Welcome Reception and Overview of ICTI in Roberts Hall. Program coordinators from each of the CMU|Portugal Masters programs talked about their respective programs, and the trainees had a chance to meet students and faculty members. During the reception, Chagas also spoke about purpose of bringing trainees to Carnegie Mellon, how they were selected, and process they had to go through during their Novabase training. In a special moment, Chagas surprised the trainees by presenting them with their Novabase Academy Awards, which he had hidden in his luggage on the trip over.

The trip, which served as a special honor for the top six trainees, was a welcome break from the rigors of the Novabase Academy. From the initial 500-600 applicants to the program, Novabase invites about 300 for interviews, of which 90 are selected to enter the program. These six students were deemed the top of their class by both instructor and peer evaluations. Included in the program are instructional courses, like Intro to Consultancy, client projects, and team-building exercises like scavenger hunts. Virtually every second of the student’s stay is programmed. Coordinators and instructors even plan “unexpected events,” just to keep the trainees on their toes.

“We want them to face some challenges,” says Chagas. “When things are going too well, we flip the tables and they are in panic again.”

For example, trainees may have to deal with misinformation, coping with conflicting personalities, or a sudden change of management—all things that could feasibly happen in the real work place. The goal is not just to build skills, but also a sense of community among the trainees.

“Strong group spirit is very important to us. We want them to put down the barriers that are built between different locations”

This philosophy speaks well to the Carnegie Mellon|Portugal partnership, which fosters a sense of academic and cultural community between the Carnegie campus and Portugal affiliates. Chagas made a special effort to close the culture gap by ensuring that his six trainees were ready to go and on time for every meeting and event. About two to three minutes before the group had to be at the door to leave, Chages would play a Tina Turner song, signaling that it was nearly time to go. If by the end of the song someone wasn’t ready, Chagas would then dole out a silly punishment.
“Maybe they will get out of here with the will to come back and do the Masters program,” says Chagas, “or maybe some new ideas of how to do things better.”