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Re: Professional or Not (was Database Design)

From: Joel Garry <>
Date: 7 Jan 2004 15:07:41 -0800
Message-ID: <>

"Niall Litchfield" <> wrote in message news:<3ffaae9c$0$9391$>...
> "Galen Boyer" <> wrote in message
> > It is clear that you, and others, think that our profession needs
> > to be elevated to the level on par with medicine. That is a
> > thought that screams self-importance. Our profession and work
> > isn't dealing with life-threatening issues.
> I think a better comparison is with Accountants or Lawyers, with rare
> exceptions in the case of lawyers these two professions do not deal with
> life threatening issues. Never the less there is a clear public need for
> accountancy and law to be practised to a high standard of both ability and
> ethics. Enron and Ambulance chasers notwithstanding the professional setup
> for both Accountancy and Law works reasonably well. I'd suggest that there
> is a clear public and business need for IT to be practised to a similarly
> high standard of both ability and ethics.

I think even better would be architects and builders. Anyone can go build a shack in the woods (well, you might need a permit), but if you are going to charge for an edifice, you better be qualified. And the examples of incompetance abound regardless. I think the requirement locally is if you are going to do more than $500 of work, you _must_ be licensed. All of these laws come from someone screwing up somewhere. It may be a reflection of the virtuality of cyberspace that such things haven't led to similar laws for software, but as spamming, identity theft, crashing public transport and other modern risks enter the public consciousness, we are seeing such laws arise. And I think there should be laws against boilerplate software licenses that disavow fitness for any particular purpose.

I'm think the self-importance issue is a red herring. Certainly the large successful software companies have their share or more (Oracle in particular has a top-down culture issue there), but think of how many good, quiet-in-the-corner technical people you know. They are the cornerstone of our industry. Some of them may only be loud online :-)

> I work in the public sector, which partly because of its organisation and
> funding and partly because of its accountability is often used as an example
> of the serious impact that poorly run and practised IT can have. Most large
> organisations should also be able to point to the effect IT can have on both
> their private business interests and the wider public interest. A few
> examples
> Is there public interest in having reliable, stable and available banking
> systems?

Can you say "black hole" in Italian? (For those who don't get the obscure reference, IIRC citibank had an investment group by that name, who had a big investment in Parmalat, which is a big-time banking scandal now). And there have been some notable abuses in the commercial credit-rating area, including the amazing idea of _not_ reporting someones loan data so that competitors won't know they are a good credit risk...

> Is there public interest in having reliable,stable and available telephony?

Don't know about where you are, but in the US, we have this deregulation thingy and these cell-phone thingies, and reliable, stable and available telephony seems to have fallen by the wayside. "Can you hear me now?" is an ad line that everyone can relate to. And half the people that leave a message on my answering machine are completely unintelligible, I believe due to incompatible sampling rates going back and forth between analog and digital somewhere "out there..."

> Is there public interest in having reliable,stable and available taxation
> systems?

I might have liked it better when the data wasn't so tight... :-) (US tax authorities a few years ago figured out they could make a judgement about whether people were paying their taxes by computer matching their declared income with their "lifestyle assets" - and wound up embarrassing themselves big-time by raiding normal people who had retired and were indeed living off of tax-exempt government securities income).

> etc etc.
> Unfortunately most 'professional' education in the IT world is concerned
> primarily with highly narrowly focussed skills acquisition, rather than
> application of principles to business situations.

Principles are for university educations, aren't they? We should get that, then get skills, since the skills change so rapidly.

> A better professional education would teach not only things like 9i new
> features, or XSLT v2.0 or whatever but also
> Legislative environment (eg relevant data protection, intellectual property
> etc acts)
> Ethics
> Theory (for example codd/date, hashing algoithmns, shannon etc)
> Project Management and implementation
> Accountancy Basics (like how to account for costs of a 3 year project
> properly).

I took it in high school, I took it in college, I took it again to get a broker's license, I've spent years on accounting systems software, and you know, I still don't get it. It's that dang design stuff, accountancy would never have been designed like this from scratch for computers.

> as well as a minimum period of work experience

Most types of licensure that have been discussed in this thread require years of slave-labor. I don't know that I agree with that. My wife, the Clinical Psychologist, had to run up $100,000 in student loans for a doctorate, then put in 3000 hours of minimum wage (and lucky to get that!) scutwork just to get licensed. Where we live, jobs are scarce and low paying, because nobody wants to pay for mental health, and the cost of living is extremely high. So you have homeless mentally ill drunks in doorways and unemployed mental health workers (not my wife, fortunately, but she's noticeably more competent than most). Even MD's are quitting because of insurance costs and declining working conditions. It's a political/social problem of allocating resources, and I don't know that there is a rational answer. But it is certainly more difficult in a maturing field such as ours.

> etc etc.
> This wouldn't set us up as self-important and arrogant, but rather would
> help gain and give public assurance as to the quality, integrity and
> performance of the profession. If I hire a Chartered Accountant or Barrister
> in the UK I have a comfort level as to what I will get. If I hire an MCSE or
> an OCP my only comfort is that they have at least read some introductory
> material to some specific software. It is worlds apart, and until this
> changes i'm afraid that at least to me IT Professional is a marketing term
> rather than a reflection of reality.

The industry needs more maturation to get to that world. I'm just glad they knighted Tim Bernards-Lee, the physicist, and not bg, the Evil One.

> Um does this have anything to do with database design any more?
> Cheers

Is there a difference between systems design and designing licensure? Should there be?


-- is bogus.
Received on Wed Jan 07 2004 - 17:07:41 CST

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