Interview Series
 
An Interview with Donald Reifer
Reifer is a leading figure in software engineering and software management, with more than 40 years of experience in industry, government, and academia.
 
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Don Reifer

Donald J. Reifer is a seasoned software executive with more than forty years of progressive experience in the industry, academia, and government. Starting at Hughes Aircraft, Don worked his work up from developing software from airborne radars to management.  With the Aerospace Corporation, Reifer next managed the software efforts related to their Space Shuttle efforts.  Next, Reifer acted as Program Manager for the Global Positioning Satellite program while with TRW and managed their R&D efforts.  In 1980, Don founded a software consulting firm which focused on software metrics, management, and technology issues. Over the next decade, he grew and expanded this business to over $4 million in sales annually. From 1993 to 1995, Mr. Reifer moved to government to manage the Department of Defense Software (DOD) Initiatives Office.  In this capacity, he led the DOD’s major software initiatives while serving as a Senior Executive Service official. After leaving government, Don reentered the consulting world and built a second successful business.

 

What inspired you to pursue computing as a career?

Donald Reifer  Like many of my era, I went to college before schools offered degrees in Computer Science, After getting my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, I traveled west for graduate work on a work/study fellowship with Hughes Aircraft Company.  At Hughes, I was assigned to a software shop where I was trained in assembly language programming.  I was then put to work developing code for airborne radars.  I loved developing algorithms and code and exceled.  After getting my Masters degree at USC, I took advanced courses in operating systems and other topic and pursued my career in software engineering.  Getting into the software field just sort of happened and I am glad it did.  The field is exciting because it never stands still.  There is always something to learn and something to do.

How did you first learn about the IEEE Computer Society?

Donald Reifer  I joined the IEEE Computer Society as I embarked upon my career after college.  I read the publications and attended conferences and seminars to broaden my knowledge, skills, and abilities thereafter because they were one of the primary sources of information in the field at that time.   As my career progressed, I taught seminars and authored several popular tutorials on the topic of software management for them.  It has always been one of my primary go-to sources for information on topics of interest in the field.

What's your favorite memory from the Computer Society (chapter event, conference, meeting, etc.)?

Donald Reifer My most favorite memory occurred when I was asked to represent the field as a member of a delegation to the People’s Republic of China in 1977.  As one of the first software engineers to visit China, I was able to lecture and influence their course action as they entered the field.  In China, I will never forget my lecture in Beijing which was attended by several hundred all dressed in Mao outfits.  Pretty awesome.

What advice do you have for people just getting started in their career?

Donald Reifer  The Society offers you many opportunities for growth, learning and networking with others in the field.  Take advantage of them.  Realize that the people you will meet can more than friends.  They will influence your thoughts and become your enablers.

What is the most lasting piece of advice/information you've learned directly because of the Computer Society?

Donald Reifer  You can never stop learning and growing professionally.  There is so much to learn and never enough time to learn it all.  Therefore, focus on that which will help you do your job well.  Knowledge for knowledge sake is wasted.  Put it to work.


Don Reifer
About Donald Reifer 

Donald J. Reifer is a seasoned software executive with more than forty years of progressive experience in the industry, academia, and government. Starting at Hughes Aircraft, Don worked his work up from developing software from airborne radars to management.  With the Aerospace Corporation, Reifer next managed the software efforts related to their Space Shuttle efforts.  Next, Reifer acted as Program Manager for the Global Positioning Satellite program while with TRW and managed their R&D efforts.  In 1980, Don founded a software consulting firm which focused on software metrics, management, and technology issues. Over the next decade, he grew and expanded this business to over $4 million in sales annually. From 1993 to 1995, Mr. Reifer moved to government to manage the Department of Defense Software (DOD) Initiatives Office.  In this capacity, he led the DOD’s major software initiatives while serving as a Senior Executive Service official. After leaving government, Don reentered the consulting world and built a second successful business.

Reifer has been a member of the IEEE for over forty years.  Besides actively participating in conferences, he authored software management tutorials and conducted seminars for them.  From 2004 to 2006, Don served as the Associate Editor in Chief for Management for IEEE Software magazine.  During that period, he also wrote a software management column for the same publication and served on its editorial board.  From 1996 to 2010, he also served as a member of the Editorial Board for the Elsevier Journal of Systems and Software.  

Reifer received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology, his M.S. in Operations Research from the University of Southern California, and the Certificate in Business Management for Technical Personnel from University of California at Los Angeles.  

Reifer has published eleven books and over two hundred software engineering and management papers.  Reifer’s many awards include the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the DISA Distinguished Service Award, the AIAA Software Engineering Award, the ICEAA Freiman Award, membership in Who’s Who in the West, and the Hughes Aircraft Company Masters Fellowship.

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