Sergey Tokarev Explains about STEM, female scientists, and computer science university
08/23/2021, Kyiv, Ukraine // PRODIGY: Feature Story //
The demand for IT specialists from Ukraine keeps on increasing all over the world. Therefore, the idea of establishing a modern educational institution with a qualitatively new system for training IT specialists is becoming more and more outlined. Sergey Tokarev, the founder of the technology company Roosh, told us about the prospects for establishing the first university of computer science and educational projects in the field of IT, STEM, AI, and ML in Ukraine. He also shared his thoughts on how an IT education should be arranged to obtain both good specialists and successful startup founders.
This summer, IT businessman and investor Sergey Tokarev signed a memorandum on the establishment of a computer science university with Tymofiy Mylovanov, the President of the Kyiv School of Economics. It will be the first of its kind educational institution that will function according to innovative principles. According to the businessman, the university will implement brand new approaches to IT education.
“We do not aim to start another programming course or another computer academy—there are already enough of them. Our overarching goal is to change the very approach to IT education and the processes within it. We take the American model as an example where lecturers get a cut of startups created on an educational institution basis. This, firstly, increases their motivation, and, secondly, the university becomes an accelerator for startups,” Tokarev says.
The educational institution of the new type will have its own R&D laboratories and venture studios. The project authors also note that the university will have international accreditation, a campus in Kyiv, and leading specialists from all over the world as teachers.
Sergey Tokarev has nearly 20 years of experience in IT. He is a co-founder of several dozen companies around the world, the founder of the venture studio Pawa, and an investor in the high-profile startup Reface. Tokarev was one of the first to see and assess the prospects for Reface when the project was still in the early stages of development. Now, millions of people use it all over the world.
Recently, he founded Pawa, a venture studio that creates and develops projects based on AI and ML. According to Tokarev, Pawa team plans to create the largest canter in Europe for developing business projects based on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Another large project of Tokarev is the technology company Roosh which includes several IT startups, a venture fund, and educational projects that have occupied an important place in the activities of a businessman for many years. Last May, he supported a hackathon initiated by the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine involving the participation of 899 teams. The competition for young IT projects was dedicated to dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and was named HackCorona.
The project STEM is FEM, co-initiated by Sergey Tokarev, is intended to challenge gender stereotypes in the technology areas. This year, STEM is FEM has launched the art project SHE is SCIENCE. Its aims at spreading information about the achievements of Ukrainian female scientists. 561 works from all over Ukraine were submitted to the essay competition about 12 female scientists as part of an art project: the charitable prize fund for the winners was more than $40,000.
Sergey Tokarev believes that Ukraine has a huge potential for developing the STEM education system. In his opinion, this is a promising country for creating startups and investing in IT business.
“The greatest asset of Ukrainian IT is personnel. More than 200,000 great specialists of different levels, positions, and areas. They are distinguished by high work capacities and diligence. Universities, computer academies, programming schools, and a variety of courses graduate thousands of specialists every year. They replenish the market, find jobs, including in large international companies,” Tokarev says.
In addition, according to the entrepreneur, the high potential of Ukrainian IT specialists attracts investors and makes the country attractive for European and American companies. Such giants as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have opened their research centers here, and foreign investment funds are investing in projects developed in Ukraine.
“In 2020, 450 startups were registered in Ukraine. Even in Cyprus, which is recognized as one of the most attractive places for IT on the world map, this figure is smaller,” Tokarev notes.
However, the founder of Roosh emphasizes that the Ukrainian IT sphere is only in the development phase.
When will Ukraine have its own Stanford?
Tokarev explains that at Stanford University, STEM students have an opportunity not only to present their theoretical ideas but also to bring them to life—the educational institution provides a powerful practical base. Teachers participate in the development of their students, getting their profit share if the startup succeeds. There is no such thing in Ukraine yet.
“Ukrainian STEM school is strong. It provides a good foundation. Alas, the rest of our universities and institutes, shackled by the state apparatus, bureaucracy, and old outdated approaches, simply cannot keep up with trends and the newest technologies from the IT world,” Tokarev believes.
Another problem is the personnel gap. The highest demand for IT specialists not only intensifies competition among them but also leads to a brain drain: the best ones leave Ukraine, find more comfortable working conditions and financial motivation abroad.
Sergey Tokarev also sees gender stereotypes as a significant disadvantage of realization within STEM. According to him, there are only 25% of girls in this field in Ukraine so far. Gender balance is highly important for productivity and a healthy team atmosphere in companies.
Еstablishing a computer science university, according to Sergey Tokarev, will fundamentally change the approach to STEM education in Ukraine. Subsequently, it will transform the entire industry so that Ukraine becomes famous not only for the high level and quality of its specialists but also for high-profile projects with a billion-dollar capitalization.
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