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Talk to Go: Dual studies program as a mathematical and technical software developer

Kevin Schmengler talks about his dual studies as a mathematical-technical software developer and how he was able to master two degrees in three years working together with Riege.

Kevin Schmengler, MATSE trainee

Kevin Schmengler is completing a dual study program as a Mathematical Technical Software Developer (MATSE) with a Bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science and has chosen Riege Software as his training company. In his last year of apprenticeship, we talked to him about the special features of the dual study program at the FH Aachen, his decision for the MATSE training and his experiences with Riege as an employer.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us a little about your experience as a MATSE at Riege Software. How did you find out about the training as a Mathematical Technical Software Developer?

“I caught up on my high school diploma by taking the alternative route to education. At that time, there was a call for applications from the further education colleges of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for a student academy at the research center in Jülich. My biology teacher at the time recommended me for it, and I applied. For one whole week, we were allowed to visit various institutions of the research facility. I mainly visited the Supercomputing Centre, the main location of the MATSE training. It was during this orientation week that I first heard about MATSE training and immediately became interested in it.”

Were you already interested in computer science or coding before you started your apprenticeship?

“During the trial week in Jülich, I got involved with coding for the first time. We had computer science as a subject in our A-levels, but the lessons were rather theoretical. So at the beginning of the training, I only had a basic understanding of programming, but I was still very interested. However, a basic affinity for mathematics and solution-oriented thinking are equally important for studying at the FH Aachen.”

What other requirements should one fulfill in order to study MATSE?

“A sound knowledge of mathematics is fundamental for the dual study program, but above all you should enjoy solving mathematical exercises and issues. In the first semester, there is a lecture on the basics of mathematics in higher education. There is also an admission exam for the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science program, which prospective students must take and pass before beginning their studies. The exam covers many mathematical topics already covered in high school. To prepare, you can take a sample test on the FH Aachen website. As far as computer science skills are concerned, it is certainly helpful if you already have experience in coding. In the first semester there is an introductory course in Java as a programming language. In the further course of the studies, other programming languages such as C++, JavaScript, PHP or Python are introduced.”

That brings us to the next point. Dual studies, does that also mean a double load?

“It's all a question of how you organize it. Dual studies can be daunting at first because a lot of people only see the double burden and, of course, dual studies mean a greater time commitment than a mere degree course or a purely company-based training program, but it also has many advantages. Especially by being integrated into the company, you gain practical experience and have the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge from your studies practically. The individual modules are divided into weekly blocks, which means that one week I'm at the company and the next week I'm at the university. Since you end up with both a bachelor's degree and a Chamber of Industry and Commerce qualification, I think it's definitely worth the effort. In addition, you receive a regular monthly salary from the training company and can cover your living expenses much more easily. The tuition fees and the semester ticket, which is valid for the entire state of North Rhine-Westphalia, are also covered by the company.”

After you had decided to train as a mathematical-technical software developer, it was a matter of finding a suitable training company. How did you find Riege?

“After the trial week at the research center in Jülich, I searched the Internet for a suitable training company. On the MATSE training website, there was a list of participating training companies. There are now around 30 companies offering apprenticeships in the Cologne area; in 2018, there were significantly less. I chose a few of them and sent my application documents there, Riege Software was among those. The special aspect about Riege was in the job advertisement itself. No specific previous knowledge was required for the training, only a description of yourself and the reasons for applying in e-mail format was enough to be invited to the interview. After the interview, I completed a three-week internship at Riege. This was a very good introduction and taught me a lot about the training and the future work area.”

How did the familiarization with the company work?

“In the beginning, I joined the customs team and felt very comfortable there. I was considered a part of the team right from the start and was included in the daily work routines. Even at the beginning of my training, I was allowed to take part in internal meetings and was assigned small tasks that I was allowed to work on independently. If I had any questions, someone would always be there to take the time and explain everything to me in detail. In the last two years, I was able to switch into other teams, so I was able to take something from all departments of the company and have a good overview of what the individual teams do exactly.”

What do you think makes Riege Software so special as a company for computer scientists and software developers?

“What I really appreciate about Riege, there is no real hierarchy in the company structure. In addition, there is always the possibility to openly communicate and discuss all concerns within the team. The open, cross-departmental communication and agile teams continuously work together to create a good product and constantly develop it further. The feeling of being a part of this family has left a very positive impression on me. In addition, there is always the opportunity to ask questions or have certain processes explained to you. The colleagues are happy to spare the time for this, even after work.”

What advice would you give to future MATSE trainees?

“One advice I can give to future trainees is to never give up, no matter how difficult the task seems. I have also had the experience that someone always takes the time to answer questions. So you are never left alone during your training at Riege and always have a contact person. Asking questions and not being afraid to approach people, I think that's a valuable piece of advice for all trainees.”

MATSE: Mathematical Technical Software Developers

Mathematical Technical Software Developers work in companies of different sizes and types, such as commercial enterprises, research institutions, computer centers and universities. Their main task is the design, implementation and maintenance of software systems based on mathematical models.

For more information on the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science program, visit: https://www.fh-aachen.de/en/course-of-study/natural-sciences-mathematics-computer-science

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