Blending Arts and Commerce to enhance IT career prospects

28 Sep 2016 - 09:30

Four Honours students from UCT’s Information Systems (IS)  have just returned from participating in an intensive global entrepreneurship seminar at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NNMU) aimed at encouraging and developing young leaders and entrepreneurs. They say they've learnt valuable skills while studying IS. They're confident this will stand them in good stead when they head into the working world. From left: Faith Ndala, Jeronisha Chetty, Sestina Haripershad and Success Mhlanga (seated).

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is taking another step in bridging the traditional divide between arts and commerce by introducing Information Systems as a major subject in the Faculty of Humanities. Information Systems is currently offered as a major in the institution’s Faculty of Commerce but will now also be offered to Humanities students studying subjects as diverse as linguistics, classical studies and history. 

The Information Systems (IS) course could lead to careers in everything from e-commerce and integrating social media into businesses to the development of applications, project management and gaming. Many entrepreneurs are also tapping into the IS field.  Companies such as Uber, AirBnB and retail e-commerce company, Alibaba, have been recent trailblazers.  Information Systems is also used in a wide range of sectors, such as market analysis, educational reform, economics, film and media and graphics and design.

Recruitment portals, such as Career Junction, show that more professional jobs are offered in the Information Technology (IT) sector in South Africa, than in any other. “Information Technology (IT) is very much in demand. Our IS graduates are sought after and hold many important and challenging positions nationally and internationally,” says Head of the Information Systems Department, Associate Professor Kevin Johnston. He said every single UCT IS student who graduated last year was offered a job in the IS sector in South Africa.  Most IS jobs are competitive and well paid as there’s a shortage of graduates and professionals are in high demand.

Former UCT Information Systems student, Katlego Maphai, who is making waves on South Africa’s entrepreneurial scene, sees information technology as one of the hottest careers of the future, with IS at UCT as a great springboard. Maphai has developed and rolled out Yoco, a low-cost card reader and point of sale app which can be used with a mobile phone or tablet, to process card payments quickly and easily. He said he learnt valuable lessons at UCT, particularly during the third and fourth year of the IS course when students develop an end-to-end software solution for an external business. “I learnt my greatest lessons about teamwork, planning, execution, problem-solving stakeholder management and being thorough during this part of the course,” says Maphai.

Shifting global trends are also cracking open the field of Information Systems.

“Companies are constantly confronted with new trends, such as cloud computing, and the use of social media, such as YouTube and Twitter.  There’s this continuous newness, new technologies and challenges,” said Professor Irwin Brown, who lectures in the IS department.

IS students connect with companies and entrepreneurs while studying at UCT, learning from real world experience.

UCT IS Honours student, Jeronisha Chetty, says she considers the crossover between Humanities and Commerce as a natural fit. “It’s all about integration in the workplace these days. Companies want people who are dynamic and have a wide skills set. You could combine the two very effectively.”

The IS Department, which is part of the Faculty of Commerce at UCT, offers a range of qualifications and courses accommodating students from first year to PhD levels. The undergraduate programme ties in with an internationally recognized IS curriculum, while postgraduate courses cater for both part-time and full-time students.

Students wanting to study at the University of Cape Town in 2017 need to apply online to by 30 September 2016. The last date for undergraduate programme changes is 31 October 2016. Additional information on IS courses and qualifications is available on the Department of Information Systems website

Article compiled by Kim Cloete on behalf of the Department of Information Systems at UCT.