Hans Pongratz is TUM’s new CIO (Chief Information Officer). Aged 32, he is the youngest Senior Vice President the University has ever elected. He studied here and has a diploma in Informatics. What exactly does a CIO do? What does he want to achieve for TUM’s students? And what advice can he give them as regards their studies? Verena Meinecke interviewed Hans Pongratz.
What does TUM’s CIO actually do?
Hans Pongratz: The CIO is responsible for everything connected to the information and communication technology at TUM. The Jack of all trades, so to speak, in the field of IT – from upholding the vision for the future to introducing new services and general trouble-shooting.
What requirements are currently on the agenda, for example?
Hans Pongratz: One thing that is often called for at the moment is plagiarism detection software, although current implementations fail to come up to expectations. Recordings of lectures, which can be viewed live or at a later time, are another popular topic. Students want it but there are a number of professors who are very sceptical. Green IT – the environmentally friendly, resource-saving use of computers – is another exciting field. I’m particularly interested in IT security.
How to become the CIO at TUM?
Hans Pongratz: The CIO is elected by the University Advisory Council, based on the President’s nomination. The position is advertised officially beforehand. I was encouraged to apply and found it a tremendous challenge. I have known the TUM ever since I was a student of Informatics, when I also played an active part in the Students Council. I have been a research associate since 2005 and had a role in developing and rollout of the eLearning platform, a new IT infrastructure and the campus management system.
What improvements should there be to students’ personal IT in future?
Hans Pongratz: The status quo isn‘t bad – we are doing very well compared to other universities. My aim is for students to be able to use the central TUM systems at any time from all over the world – even from mobile devices. There are also plans to extend the functionality of the student’s ID card.
TUMonline is slightly antiquated from the point of view of graphics. Are there any plans to smarten up its optical appearance?
Hans Pongratz: We have to set priorities according to what makes sense. Functionality is of prime importance in the case of the campus management system. Visuals also play an important role, of course, and they are due to be upgraded soon. The students are closely involved at every stage; our “Campus management quality circle” meets up regularly.
Are you planning any smart-phone applications for TUMonline or any other university portals?
Hans Pongratz: A wide range of different apps are currently undergoing simultaneous development but there is hardly any coordination, unfortunately. Some have already been launched, such as the app for the menus in the Mensa, for instance. Some are designed for Android, some for Apple; none is suitable for all types of smart phone so far. We are in the process of drawing up an overview and definitely will become more active in this area!
You are 32, so it was not so long ago that you were a student yourself. What advice would you give students today?
Hans Pongratz: I studied on a diploma degree – that was more self-organized and less scheduled. Bachelor’s and Master’s students are under much more pressure nowadays. It is advisable to practise coping with this pressure. It’s a good idea to adopt appropriate skills and find out quickly what learning type one is. I myself always learned visually. ProLehre here at TUM, offers fantastic courses revolving around learning. And another vital aspect is good time management. That is something one can learn. Partying is part of it, too!
In other words, there should be some kind of balance?
Hans Pongratz: Of course, - it’s quite right and important to party. A good approach is to learn and work purposefully and to consciously take breaks in between. And students shouldn’t try to get through university on their own. They should definitely look for a study partners: that makes lots of things easier.
How can one prepare for the time that follows on from one’s studies?
Hans Pongratz: It is important to keep one’s eyes open throughout the university years and to adopt a mature approach to oneself and the environment right from the start. One should remain critical and repeatedly ask oneself: What am I doing and what is important to me? In my case, for example, my stay in the USA helped me tremendously – from both a professional and a personal point of view. And you really have to engage and get into things. I learned that from my wife.