Interview Series

An Interview with John Walz

52 year member, the 2nd Longest Tenured Member in the IEEE Computer Society
IEEE Computer Society
Published 04/13/2021
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John Walz is a 52-year IEEE member with a long history of volunteering and engagement. He was the 2012 IEEE Computer Society President, having previously served on the Executive Committee as 2007-2008 Vice President for Standards Activities and 2009-2010 Vice President for Technical & Conference Activities. As the 2015-2016 IEEE Division VIII Director and the 2018-2019 IEEE Division V Director, he represented the IEEE CS on the IEEE Board of Directors. Walz is currently serving as the Vice Chair, Special Technical Communities on the IEEE CS Member and Geographic Activities Board. He is also the 2019 recipient of the IEEE CS’ highest level volunteer award, the Richard E. Merwin Award for Distinguished Service, “For service to the Computer Society with dedication and strong leadership aligned with a visionary strategic plan.”

What inspired you to pursue computing as a career?

John Walz Part of my Masters in Electrical Engineering included taking Fortran programming language course.  When I excelled in the classwork I was offered technical assistant job to help students with their programming and debugging. Later my Thesis topic included to use of computer and programing. Hired as an EE, my employer announced on day one, they had hired enough EEs and noticed my Thesis included a computer program; so their offer was to hire me as software engineer and provide me university summer school courses.  My five years of piano lessons and reading sheet music helped me with “programming”

How did you first learn about the IEEE Computer Society?

John Walz Computer Society sponsored the COMPSAC conference, whose venue was in Chicago, near Bell Labs location in the suburbs. I volunteered to “help” and was appointed the Local Arrangement Chair by the General Chair Steven Yau, whom was elected Computer Society President. My COMPSAC partner at Bell Labs was Carl Chang, who also was elected as President.

What value do you get from membership?

John Walz Discovery of experts in my fields, whom had approaches based on their research which were not used by my employer. This discovery occurred at author’s presentations at Conferences and following Q&A. Their references to articles in Computer Society periodicals, support me in convincing managers to change the work place methods and tools. Every committee I volunteered with, introduced me to more experts to add to my network. The diverse experiences enlarged my view of the [Computing] profession and the reason for rapid growth.  The value received exceeded the membership cost. This value was enhanced by my reading and engagement. This cost is a very small investment to stay current with a field that is growing so quickly.  

How was your experience of working with the COMPSAC committee?

John Walz I learned the magic of attracting novel and relevant research submissions, filtered by the unbiased rigorous peer-review system, providing authors the international audience, where they found feedback, unanswered questions, and future collaborators. I also met many authors and conference organizers around the globe and some became my supporters and others my life long friends.  

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

John Walz 1.) Work with your university teachers and advisors on what’s next, where to go, what is new and relevant. Ask them about their professional affiliation and its value. My advisor pointed to me IEEE and  Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN). Starting at work, I learned of Computer Society within IEEE.  2) Your career will go though several phases and your professional society will have guidance to help you make choices that will influence your career trajectory.  3) While getting a degree is exhausting, keep on learning throughout your career. This includes reading peer-reviewed papers. 

The world (and your management) have many persuasive opinions and offers for you. Make your decisions based on your career goals and peer-reviewed relevant facts such as those in CSDL.  Get out of your “comfort zone” to meet and learn from others, especially at Conferences and Chapter Technical Meetings. 

About John Walz

John Walz is a 52-year IEEE CS member and has served the IEEE Computer Society since 1980, most as the IEEE Division Director, supporting the Computer Society.

A Senior Consultant at Shreya Business Solutions, Walz retired from Lucent Technologies as a Senior Manager, Quality Strategy. During his more than three-decade-long career in information technology, he gained in-depth experience with software development, managing software, and hardware development. Walz also has extensive experience in implementing process improvement techniques such as Baldrige, ISO 9001, TL 9000, and SEI Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI).

An IEEE Senior Member, Walz was appointed to the IEEE-CS Standards Activities Board and served as Secretary and Chair. He served on the IEEE Conference Publications Committee in 2009-2010. He was a member of the IEEE-CS Awards Committee and served as the Hans Karlsson Award Chair from 2003-2006. He was Planning Chair and Quality Management Study Group Chair for the IEEE-CS Software and Systems Engineering Standard Committee (S2ESC) in 2004, and was part of the IEEE-CS Distinguished Visitor Program. As President, he co-chaired the Industry Practitioners ad hoc of IEEE TAB, and has been appointed to the IEEE Conference Committee in 2013.

Walz is a Golden Core member and recipient of the Distinguished Service and Meritorious Service Award. Previously, he was Local Arrangements Chair for Computer Software Applications Conference (COMPSAC) under Dr. Steven Yau’s leadership.

Walz published the “TL 9000 Quality Management Standard for Telecommunications” chapter of The ISO 9000 Handbook (4th ed., McGraw-Hill). He is the co-author with S. Kathy Land on Practical CMMI Software Process Documentation- Using IEEE Software Engineering Standards (CS Press/Wiley, 2005), Practical Support for ISO 9001 Software Project Documentation: Using IEEE Software Engineering Standards (2006), and IEEE Software Engineering Standards Support for ISO 9001: Getting Your Organization Started (2007). He co-authored Practical Support for Lean Six Sigma Software Process Definition Using IEEE Software Engineering Standards (2008) with Land and Douglas B. Smith. He co-authored “Time to Push the Cloud,” IT Professional 2010 with D. A. Grier.

Walz earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Ohio State University.


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