Issue No. 05 - September/October (2008 vol. 10)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MITP.2008.108
Sorel Reisman , MERLOT
Many people view the IEEE Computer Society's membership as if it were bifurcated—split between practitioners and academics. Yet, from the standpoint of our profession, there's really no such division. In truth, these are merely labels on a continuum. Viewing the profession in this way lets us more readily understand the products and services the Society might offer in order to help computing professionals around the world self-actualize in their careers.
The Computer Society has a long, established tradition of providing the academic side of our membership with tools and services to generate and share high-quality intellectual property in forums and formats that are useful for growing their careers in research and teaching. From a practical standpoint, this has meant that the CS has focused on encouraging the creation of peer-reviewed material for publication in our magazines and transactions, on improving the Computer Society Digital Library (CSDL) content, and on growing our technical committees and conference activities.
Given the computing profession's dramatic evolution over the past decade, however, the CS will continue to be relevant only if it does more to serve the practitioner end of the spectrum. To date, some efforts to accomplish this have included creating IT Professional magazine, as well as enabling member and nonmember practitioners to easily and cost-effectively access the intellectual property generated by the academic side—through our other magazines, transactions, and CSDL content, for example. Although it began to actively address practitioners' career needs only recently, the CS now provides tools such as the Computer Society's jobs board ( http://careers.computer.org) and the e-Learning Campus ( www.computer.org/e-learning). Both are essential services that a professional society must offer its members to provide meaningful assistance as they seek to improve their career opportunities.
Another service that can help practitioners in our profession is the provision of guidelines for employers who need reassurance that potential hires are properly qualified for the jobs they offer. Through a partnership between the CS and the ACM, the IEEE published the Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK; www.swebok.org) in 2004. Soon after, and predicated on the SWEBOK, the CS began offering the Certified Software Development Professional program (CSDP; http://www2.computer.org/portal/web/certification)—"certification for software development professionals, intended for experienced software developers and software engineering professionals."
Recognizing ubiquitous computing's growth in college and university curricula, as well as employers' increasing demand for certification standards to provide them with more confidence about candidates' stated qualifications, the CS recently announced the Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) program. CSDA is intended for beginning software development and software engineering associates. It's the first step toward becoming a CSDP. The development of the CSDA and plans for extending the software developer certification programs reflect the CS's recognition that our profession is broader than the academic pursuit of computer science.
IT Pro and the Profession
Although certification in software engineering is clearly a significant and worthwhile effort, we must also pursue other initiatives that serve practicing computing professionals. In fact, IT Pro's introduction 10 years ago seemed like a true moment of understanding about the need for such initiatives. Now that the magazine is popular and well-established, it could become the foundation of the practitioner-centric intellectual property that the CS needs to grow its practitioner membership base.
To accomplish this, we must take lessons learned and apply them to new opportunities such as practitioner member development. In the same way that the CSDL has become the primary portal to the intellectual property in our traditionally published magazines and transactions, IT Pro can and should become the primary "portal" for new practitioner products and services, including certification programs such as CSDA and CSDP. With the recent introduction of the CS's Computing Now Web site ( http://computingnow.computer.org), IT Pro is well positioned to participate, through readership and contributership, to a real online portal. Computing Now is the CS's most up-to-date source for news and information about the computing profession. Most items posted on it aren't subject to the degree of academic scrutiny so necessary for peer-reviewed articles in our traditional publications. Consequently, Computing Now can provide readers with the kinds of immediately practical information required daily by computing practitioners. As Computing Now evolves into an online community, IT Pro readers will have the opportunity to contribute content in the form of online submissions, comments, commentaries, and discussion forums to the practitioner body of knowledge that our readers need for career development.
By consolidating and integrating practitioneroriented services, the CS will be in a solid position to begin mining the growing international community of computing professionals for new members. Under the auspices of the CS's Professional Practices committee—or perhaps even elevated to a "board" level—this kind of consolidation will help us identify and develop new tools and services that can benefit all members and help ensure the viability of our global community of professionals. Examples of new products and services might include online community-building tools, mobile computing applications, "i-Apple" applications, and certification in other computing areas.
At day's end, whether we're practitioners or academics, and whether we focus on computer science or information technology, we're all partners in the same profession, and we can all benefit from the products and services provided for the others.
Sorel Reisman is the managing director of the higher-education, nonprofit consortium MERLOT (merlot.org) at the California State University Office of the Chancellor, and professor of information systems at California State University, Fullerton. He has a BS in electrical engineering and an MA and a PhD in computer applications from the University of Toronto. Reisman is currently the vice president of publications and a candidate for president elect of the IEEE Computer Society. Contact him via www.sorelreisman.com.