IEEE Computer Society Executive Urges Professionalism for Software Engineering

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Software engineering needs to be developed into a bona-fide engineering profession, and certifications are an important means of achieving this, IEEE Computer Society Executive Director Angela Burgess told attendees at a session of the NASSCOM HR Summit. The IEEE Computer Society's Software Engineering Body of Knowledge, which the ISO/IEC ratified last fall as the reference for all software engineering certifications, provides an important foundational step in achieving this goal. The Computer Society's Certified Software Development Associate and Certified Software Development Professional credentials also provide entry- and mid-level software developers with a concrete means of measuring their knowledge.

And so if a disconnect exists between what academia delivers and what industry needs, then we ought to step up and take some responsibility for that and try to address the problem

Software engineering needs to be developed into a bona fide engineering profession, and certifications are an important means of achieving this, IEEE Computer Society Executive Director Angela Burgess told attendees at a session of the NASSCOM HR Summit.

Burgess' presentation during the 28-29 July meeting at Le Royal Meridian in Chennai, India, drew about 450 CEOs, senior human relations professionals, and training, industry, and academic executives. NASSCOM, the trade body and chamber of commerce of the IT-BPO industries, serves about 1,200 members from Indian companies and multinationals operating in India.

Burgess noted that membership organizations like the IEEE Computer Society serve both academia and industry, helping create educational curricula as well as interoperable standards. "And so if a disconnect exists between what academia delivers and what industry needs, then we ought to step up and take some responsibility for that and try to address the problem," she said.

Industry is currently struggling to fill the educational gap in helping fresh software engineering graduates attain professional status. Process improvement methodologies like the Capability Maturity Model help, however don't necessarily foster professionalism, spell out clear career paths, or enable organizations to evaluate new hires, Burgess said. Consequently, career paths develop on an ad-hoc basis and what it means to be a software architect varies from organization to organization.

Since computer engineering is at least a century younger than electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, Burgess said it's not surprising that the five computing disciplines--computer science, information systems, software engineering, computer engineering, and information technology--all still have a skills focus.

"The problem happens if we stop here, and we don't all enable further progression," she said. "We are concerned that if programmers don't know the context of the profession they are entering, they will be set up for an unhappy and unnecessarily short career spent chasing the latest skill but not really learning how to progress in their life and their work."

Burgess said this approach won't foster development of the huge numbers of creative, innovative, synergistic, systems thinkers the world will need in the future. Developing a new approach can't be achieved with just new teaching techniques or exhortations to innovate. Rather, a new approach rests on software engineering becoming a bona-fide engineering profession. "We strongly believe software is being deployed into too many mission-critical and safety-critical, and societal-critical applications to treat it any other way," she said.

The IEEE Computer Society's Software Engineering Body of Knowledge, which the ISO/IEC ratified last fall as the reference for all software engineering certifications, provides an important foundational step in achieving this goal. The Computer Society's Certified Software Development Associate and Certified Software Development Professional credentials also provide entry- and mid-level software developers with a concrete means of measuring their knowledge. Burgess said the next step will be creating similar efforts in the IT profession.

"The benefit to you is that you will now be able to rely on an international professional standard when you hire around the globe," she told the NASSCOM members in attendance. "The benefit to humanity is that the highly skilled software engineering workforce we need will be there when we need it."

For more information on the Society's certifications, go to http://www2.computer.org/getcertified

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 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 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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