Professor Spotlight: Dr. Alexandru Moucha

Building a career in IT management requires a solid understanding of technology as well as a high level of business management skills. The UNYP Bachelor of Information Technology degree offers students a wide variety of core and elective courses to prepare them to successfully join the global workforce as IT managers in the business and public sectors. Our professors and instructors are experts in their fields who can connect theory with real-world examples, and teach from their own professional experience. For this month’s Professor Spotlight feature, we interviewed Dr. Alexandru Moucha, Professor of Computers and Applications,  Basic Networking and Networking Security at the University of New York in Prague.  

Receive a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from the State University of New York, Empire State College, without leaving the Czech Republic. 

Could you please introduce our readers to your career path? What attracted you to your subject? What keeps you interested in it? 

My career took me to the area of engineering because I like to build; during the lockdown, I repaired and improved a lot of things in my house. As an engineer, I always try to find solutions to problems. Around 1994-1995, I was introduced to the world of computing and fell in love with its predictability. I studied hardware at university because I was not keen on programming, and from that I became interested in networks. In 2004, I relocated to Prague from Romania to do a Ph.D. in the area of networking systems. Overall, in my career I have focused entirely on networking and security: networks must be designed to resist cyber-attacks, to be monitored, and to react automatically to attacks, and all of this falls into my area of expertise. I apply existing security technologies, design rules, and best practices to the design, implementation and operation of networks. 

During my time in Prague, I have worked on cybercrime projects for the Czech Police Forces, the Air Traffic Control of the Czech Republic and the Czech Telecommunications Office. I became involved with the state authorities by pure chance – they needed a networking expert and someone recommended me. I didn’t actively seek out these particular projects, but amazingly, some of them have lasted for years. This makes me very happy, because I am not a fan of bureaucracy or managing outside my area. I am also thankful to my former students for spreading the word about me in the institutions and companies that they joined after graduating, in the Czech Republic and worldwide.  

How did you become an educator? 

For me, teaching is more of a vocation than work, and it is something I have enjoyed doing since I was very young. In 1995, when I was in my last year of high school, I was invited to teach astronomy to the second-year university students – which meant that the youngest students were four years older than me! I was self-taught in astronomy, but I taught well, and that is what they needed – although I didn’t have a diploma in that field at the time, I passed all the tests showing that I know the content. I taught astronomy for ten years until I moved to the Czech Republic, so teaching was already a big part of my life when I became an engineer. When you build something on a large scale, the downsides are enormous stress, strict deadlines, and a lot of responsibility. Teaching is the same thing at an intellectual level, but you do it in the comfort of the classroom, and without the risk of breaking anything. This is why I prefer to teach people who will go on to do things themselves; outsourcing the responsibility is far less stressful for me, but at the exact level of challenge where it gets interesting. 

As an engineer, when you build and optimize networks, you mostly do more or less the same things each time, which I find incredibly dull. I am always tempted to study and apply new things. How do I learn? By building my own network. I have my personal systems, which you might call the Home Network, although it is more than the usual domestic setup of an access point with a WiFi connection to a router. My network has the same structure as a large enterprise network: Windows server, Windows domain, DNS services, VoIP systems, videoconferencing systems. I currently have 10 points of service, serving not only myself but my friends, and my network behaves as a single integrated network. To implement my network, I had to learn enterprise procedures; for example, I have to open a ticket to do something in my friend’s house network. Every time I get hired by a company to build or fix their network, or when I teach students about networks, I simply have to repeat the processes that I have learned from my own network. This can be extremely useful, because it is impossible to remember everything you know without practicing. By teaching, you refresh your memory, and you can find out the answers to questions you probably wouldn’t ask yourself. Education is interesting because it reinforces the way that information is retained in my memory, refreshes it, and makes me find new solutions. My home network, job network, and teaching network are all integrated, which is what I do and love. 

What courses do you teach at UNYP? 

I started teaching Computers and Applications, which is an essential subject including Word and Excel. People find it boring, but it shouldn’t be – students deserve to know the basic principle of computer operation, very thoroughly in simple words. Today’s technology can be very complicated, so computers and networks seem magical when they are not. They are predictable and run by algorithms, and if you continue thinking that they are magical, you can shoot yourself in the foot because you will expect a lot more services than the technology is capable of. 

In the Computers and Applications class, I also introduced a new pillar – the important topic of security. Nowadays, in addition to standard office applications, everyone should know how to secure their data to at least a basic level (i.e. with pre-built programs that are simple to use). Of course, governmental agencies may be able to break these programs, but they will automatically protect you from 99% of data leakage. Also, students must understand that when they cannot do something themselves, they should find an expert who will do it for them. For example, when they build their own companies, they don’t have to set up a VPN by themselves, but they should hire a networking or security expert who will do these things for them, and they shouldn’t avoid things that they do not understand. I teach these topics in greater depth in my Basic Networking and Networking Security course.

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