Turning problems into opportunities is what engineers do, so it made perfect sense that Dr. Carol Wellington’s software engineering students seamlessly pivoted online while working with Deloitte this semester.

The class was in the midst of developing software features for Deloitte when the remainder of the spring semester went to distance learning. Fortunately, Deloitte wanted to continue the work and has coordinated meetings via Zoom.

“This class in itself is teaching us a lot about what it is to work as a developer,” said Michael Permyashkin, a junior software engineering major. “Knowing Deloitte values what we’re building and values what we are learning, too—even with the setbacks—is awesome as they’re willing to let us continue to work and build a system they like.”

Every two weeks this spring, a 9-member team of developers met with a Deloitte representative to plan customer visible features to existing software. During the meetings, students discussed projects and setbacks with the rep, then broke into smaller groups to code. Moving the project to Zoom initially presented some challenges, but Permyashkin, a graduate of Lewisburg Area High School, said the transition proved beneficial.

“I am finding that our progress is surpassing that which we made when meeting in person. We are forced to communicate and make intentional efforts to ask questions and help each other when roadblocks arise,” he said.

Wellington said it’s a shift in thinking about how students work as a team. When coding, students don’t need to be face-to-face in the same space—but they do need to work together. The rule is that students never code alone. Through paired programming, students work in pairs or small teams, share their screens, or jump into another person’s project. “Our students are particularly comfortable with this way of communication,” she said. “We’re giving the students experience that’s becoming all too common in our field.”

“They are treating us like an actual company that is working for them, and they are treating us like professionals. We are able to work remotely so they expect us to continue to work, which is realistic,” Ian Leiby, junior software engineering major.

As remote developing becomes more common, Leiby, a graduate of Danville Area High School, said this experience with Deloitte further prepares him for the future. “This helps us develop remote working skills because some of us will get jobs that allow us to do that,” he said. “I may be in that position one day.”