Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, Associate Professor, University of Washington, United States.
The University of Washington in Seattle is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. More than 54,000 students are enrolled annually in 18 schools and colleges offering 1,800 undergraduate courses each quarter.
Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Aziz teaches Construction Management to students from the College of Built Environments and the College of Engineering. His classes cover project planning, scheduling, management, estimating, scheduling of software applications, life-cycle cost modeling, and quantitative risk analysis.
He is highly ranked in teaching construction management with nominations from his students, and received an Excellence in Teaching award. He earned a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and is a P.D. Koon Endowed Professor of Construction Management.
Oracle Academy: How did you come to teach Primavera?
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz: I first knew Primavera during my studies in Egypt. Later I used it professionally in various jobs. When I took up teaching, for me Primavera was the best tool for construction engineering and management. I finished my doctorate in 2000 and joined The University of Washington in 2003.
On being hired to create courses on planning and control and construction computer applications, I discovered that Oracle Academy offers to academia such a great support with curriculum and industry-leading software applications such as Primavera. I was over the moon, and right away got the University of Washington to become an Oracle Academy member.
Oracle Academy: How many students take your courses?
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz: University of Washington is on the quarter system, meaning that I oversee multiple classes each year with roughly 150 bachelor students, 50 masters students, and around 60 construction management certificate students. The courses are Project Planning and Control, Construction Computer Applications, Construction Project Management, Capstone Projects, and Project Economics and Risk Analysis.
I’m privileged to have more than 80 licenses of Primavera P6 Professional Project Management for the students.
Oracle Academy: What is the role of Primavera in your courses?
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz: Primavera is the essential ingredient for hands-on practice and preparation for work in the industry. Before introducing students to the software, I give them a solid foundation of project planning and control using the critical path method. Over the quarters, I introduce them week by week to the entire lifecycle of construction planning, scheduling, monitoring, and control. By the time they graduate, they are fully job ready, and in fact, most of them will have been hired by the companies in which they do their internships.
With Primavera, students put what they have learned into practice by working with a number of real-life, commercial projects that change every year ― a healthcare facility, a school, or other construction. Their task is to understand how to use Primavera for each step of the process. It’s not about learning the technicalities of the software, but about applying planning and control to specific case studies.
The way I teach is to mimic the work of a construction company. I use the P6 enterprise project structure to create work areas (like company divisions or offices), and I use the P6 organization breakdown structures to create project manager positions. Similarly, I create resource areas. I associate each project manager position to one or more of the work areas and one or more resource areas. After this design, I assign each student to a project manager position; in turn, he or she becomes responsible for their associated work area(s) and resources. Each student carries out tasks related to their work area and resource area, and nobody can see what’s going on outside of their areas. This keeps them focused and prevents copying! And it also mimics real life, where specified company personnel would have access to a particular project, e.g., classified projects that no one else is permitted to see. This also greatly helps in exam situations, where each student would not know what the other students are doing and could not copy their work.
With such great functionality in Primavera, I could associate multiple project managers to a single work area so that multiple students could work on the same project concurrently, e.g. in a capstone project.
Further, with the help of our IT managers in the college, I loaded Primavera P6 onto a web server so that students would have no trouble in accessing the software to do their homework from anywhere or to do their exams online. This saved us a lot in reserving lab times and cancelled any need for booking.
Over the weeks and quarters, we build up knowledge of the deliverables that are common to construction management worldwide. Before students graduate, they have the skills most companies require.
Oracle Academy: How is the job market?
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz: We have 100% placement. Most students have full employment before finishing the courses, usually hired by the companies at which they do internships over the final two years of their university program. Primavera enjoys excellent market share and companies are happy when graduates arrive with practical experience in control and scheduling, which are some of the most important pieces that employers are looking for.
Apart from that, the university enjoys good relationships with industry, and we have career fairs, mentoring, external speakers from industry, and a host of opportunities that usually end up in job offers.
Oracle Academy: Clearly Primavera is a leader in construction management technology…
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz: I was thrilled when I discovered that Oracle Academy offers free of charge the full version of Primavera for classroom use, which is the cutting-edge software used worldwide in the construction industry. It is critical in my teaching and I’m grateful to be a recipient of this generous investment on the part of Oracle.
For Oracle, I’m sure it’s win-win because we are teaching the future managers of the construction business. Whatever Oracle Academy spends on education must come back later on because 50-70 Primavera skilled graduates a year here will continue the trend of using the best project management software in the world.
Oracle Academy: Thanks! And lastly, what are your interests outside of the university?
Ahmed Abdel-Aziz: Well, though not totally divorced from my day to day, I am writing a ‘tips and tricks’ book on how to use Primavera to plan and to schedule. Most books on project management software emphasize the software itself, the functionality. My idea is to simply show how to manage real life projects with P6. It will be published soon.
Otherwise, I am a family man and love to spend time with my wife and kids. We all enjoy the Pacific Northwest ocean shores, the beaches, the wildlife, and being together. It’s a joy to live up here in Washington State.
I have bachelors, a masters and doctorate in civil engineering, and that allows me to enjoy anything to do with strategy and planning. I am a soccer fan, Liverpool being my team. Soccer is also about planning. In football, players constantly have to plan the next move, look ahead to reach the goal. It fascinates me.
Thank you, Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.