Weigh in on Future of Computer Science

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 5 March, 2010Computer magazine column authors Nicholas Bowen and Jim Spohrer have a question on their minds: What critical skill gaps do employers see that are caused or exacerbated by the rapid changes in information technology? And they are looking for answers in an online discussion.

In “Viewpoint: The Future of Computing Practice and Education,” Bowen, a vice president of technology for IBM Research, and Spohrer, director of services research at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, outline a changing future for computer science graduates—one in which a computer science degree will open doors to many highly skilled, high-paying job opportunities. In their Industry Perspective column, Bowen and Spohrer theorize that future computer science grads will work at modeling, analytics, and design jobs across all areas of business and society as engineers, managers, and scientists.

To view the article in its entirety, visit http://www.computer.org/portal/web/computer/computingpractice. Readers are encouraged to use the message board at http://www.computer.org/industry_perspective to post comments, offer feedback, or ask questions.

The purpose of the online discussion is to develop a point of view regarding the problems outlined in the column and to help the IEEE Computer Society develop solutions. A question that can initiate this discussion is, “What are the critical skill gaps that employers observe that the rapid changes in information technology induce or exacerbate?”

The authors envision three trends directly impacting computer science skills:

• How IT is delivered and managed: It has been debated for some time that computer science students can “move up the stack.” However, students should continue to have strong foundational skills in all elements of the technology stack.
• Computation as a basic tool for other fields: This will clearly force the computer scientist to get a broader education as there are applications in modeling, analytics, and engineering system design beyond the IT industry.
• Expanding business value in an instrumented world: This will require a skill called “systems thinking.” Many of these new applications are extremely complex business and societal systems—diverse service systems that benefit both customers and providers.

Communication skills that use advanced IT will take on even more importance as work teams become global, distributed, open, and multidisciplinary. “The nerd with the pocket protector who works alone is an image of the past,” Bowen and Spohrer write. “Today, computing professionals must work in teams and understand the big picture of their projects. In many cases, science and engineering graduates must collaborate globally across time zones, languages, and cultures with other business professionals on a seemingly never-ending stream of innovative projects. Clearly, this will require a solid foundation of communication skills and business fundamentals.”

Furthermore, the authors say that the responsibility for dealing with the required changes in computer science must be shared equally among academia, industry, and professional organizations, as well as the individuals who desire to become lifelong learners and adaptive innovators.

The Industry Perspective Column is part of an effort by the volunteer-led Industry Advisory Board to broaden Computer magazine’s coverage to include non-academic contributions. Computer magazine is the flagship publication of the IEEE Computer Society.

About the IEEE Computer Society

With nearly 85,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading organization of computing professionals. Founded in 1946, and the largest of the 39 IEEE societies, the Computer Society is dedicated to advancing the theory and application of computer and information-processing technology. The Society serves the information and career-development needs of today’s computing researchers and practitioners with technical journals, magazines, conferences, books, conference publications, certifications and online courses.

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