Promoting IT as a ‘Profession’

I recently posted a blog at work on Promoting IT as ‘Profession’ asking what my colleagues views were and what they thought could be done. This was all in aid of some research I’ve been doing into the topic to try and find out where I stand on this. Anyway it sparked a huge amount of interest and had people posting large bodies of text saturated with contrasting views and opinions. So I thought I’d blog about it here and pose all the questions I had after reading my colleagues posts and see what you had to say about it.

It looks like a main factor to the hindrance of ‘professional’ status is the age of our sector. We are still learning at a constant rapid rate, certain technologies and practices that were seen as a ‘must know’ 10 years ago have been virtually put down.

It was a colleagues comment about dynamism that got me thinking, So how do you impose standards and structure to a constantly evolving and dynamic industry without slowing the process down and thus hindering the advancement of technology? What form do these standards take and -as a colleague pointed out- who decides on what’s in and what’s not in the ‘IT Bible’?

I like the idea of an organised, definitive and quantified way of doing things but I still have to ask myself the following questions:

  1. Had we had standards imposed early on would we be where we are now, further ahead or stuck behind? I realise this is a divergent question and there is no real way of knowing, however posing the question could impact how we progress forward.
  2. Could we have a very basic underlying criteria? Or would this just defy the point in a structure all together?
  3. Do we need to have accredited qualifications that are acknowledged by all that are not necessarily entirely academic but vocational as well? How do you get everyone to accept these qualifications? And as another colleague pointed out will having to have these qualifications alienate and discourage some potentially innovative people from entering the sector?

In reply to this comment:

“If you came up with a course which spanned the full three years, and required the student to take the first line of code they write on day one, and carry it all the way through to the last day; making them take a small piece of software and evolve it gradually over the years to a finished project then you’d have a really good opportunity to teach the lessons of unit testing, refactoring and code-standards; and if you placed stringent performance characteristics on the final product then you’d also teach the lessons of how to write efficient and fast code.”

I’m not sure having a course evolving one piece of code for three years would work, I like the concept and the idea of what could be achieved but I think you’d be cutting out a lot of important material. I think it is important to look at old programming techniques and languages to get a firm understanding of how we got to where we are now, that said in some courses there is a little too much emphasis placed on abstract theories that do not apply to the real world very well and after all are we not studying so we can progress with technology in the working environment as well as feeding a hunger for knowledge?

I do think we need to have structure and standards to be a profession but I’m not sure in what forms those standards come. Can we encourage something like work ethic standards, communications standards and knowledge banding? I think IT is exciting, innovative and future defining, it will change the world and how it operates – so why should it not be viewed as a professional vocation?

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