Saturday, August 22, 2009

On Professionalism: Welcome to the Family

I've always maintained the necessity of creating a true, organized profession out of software development/engineering and computer science. One aspect of making that a reality is creating a unified "family". Sadly, the lack of professionalism and unified identity is keeping some from joining our profession and encouraging those already in it to leave. David Alan Grier in his article "Welcome to the Family" [1] writes:
Computer science has generally felt more comfortable with families of technology than with families of professionals.

professional life ... [involves] discipline, loyalty, competition, common knowledge. It [is not] something that [can] be turned into a desirable activity with some fun and games.  Becoming a professional means joining the family, with all the rights, responsibilities, and discipline that come with membership.

The field of computer science is defined not only by technical accomplishments but also by those who take the name of computer scientist.  As has happened in the past, and as will likely happen in the future, we are seeing both researchers and practical innovators question the value of identifying themselves with our discipline.  Their answers will largely depend on whether they think we have anything to offer them.

We might see a rise in membership if we offered vengeance for a child wronged, but we are more likely to be successful if we can offer an identity that promises a better and exciting future.

If we want to encourage others to join our profession, or those in it to remain, we most make sure he/she "finds value in our companionship."

[1] Grier, David Alan, "Welcome to the Family" in IEEE Computer, Volume 42, Issue 8, 2009