Sunday, September 16, 2012

Initial Confusion – Part Two

Before I joined the IEEE, I belonged to the ACM. That’s the Association for Computing Machinery, another “old fashioned” name.

The Association for Computing Machinery was founded as the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery at a meeting at Columbia University in New York on September 15, 1947. Its creation was the logical outgrowth of increasing interest in computers as evidenced by several events, including a January 1947 symposium at Harvard University on large-scale digital calculating machinery; the six-meeting series in 1946-47 on digital and analog computing machinery conducted by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers; and the six-meeting series in March and April 1947, on electronic computing machinery conducted by the Department of Electrical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In January 1948, the word "Eastern" was dropped from the name of the Association. In September 1949, a constitution was instituted by membership approval.

Using the term "computing machinery" rather than "computer" was consistent with the state of the art in the late forties. This was when the IBM punch card machines were the most prevalent method of doing data processing, and it wasn't until the sixties that digital computers became the main processing machines. However, it was the development of digital computers that sparked the creation of the ACM. IBM punch card machines had been around since the turn of the twentieth century. But in the intense scientific and industrial revolutions that occurred after the end of World War Two, many professional organizations were forming to further advance these various areas of science and technology.

As of 2006, some 2,000 universities and companies had become institutional, consortia, or, corporate members of the ACM. Professional Membership is 62,000, and Student Membership totals 20,000, for a total of more than 84,000 members. I am a Professional Member and also a Senior Member of the ACM. The ACM Senior Member program, initiated in 2006, includes members with at least 10 years of professional experience who have demonstrated performance that sets them apart from their peers through technical leadership, and technical or professional contributions. To obtain this level of membership you have to be nominated by three other senior members and gain approval from the governing committee. It is a great honor for me to be selected.

When I first joined the ACM in 1992, I also joined the IEEE Computer Society. With nearly 85,000 members, the 64-year-old IEEE Computer Society is the world's premier organization of computing professionals, with rich offerings in publications, standards, certifications, conferences, and more. But then, of course, the ACM also claims to be the premier organization of computing professionals. I wasn’t taking any chances, and so I joined both.

The ACM has several internal groups focused on specific areas of interest. These are called Special Interest Groups, or SIGs. There are 37 SIGs and members can join as many of them as he or she desires. Each SIG typically has its own publications and also sponsors annual conferences. I joined the Software Engineering SIG because that focused on the development of software and, particularly of interest to me, software testing.

After several years of membership in the IEEE Computer Society, I took advantage of an offer to join the larger, main IEEE organization and I’ve maintained membership in both the ACM and the SE SIG as well as the IEEE Computer Society and the broader, more general IEEE organization ever since. The result of that membership is several hundred dollars in dues and fees every year and seven different publications received monthly — although, these days, most of those are electronic subscriptions. In the basement I have a vast library of these magazines and journals, although I have donated box after box of older publications to college libraries and even to IBM. I'm glad that, after twenty years of membership, most of the publications are now available as e-documents. I was thinking I was going to have to build a library in the back yard just for my magazines and journals!

My first experience with any professional organization happened back in the late sixties when I was in the Navy and working as a Calibration Lab Technician. A fellow Electronics Technician was a member of an organization and we talked about it. I don’t remember the name of that organization, but it may be what is now called the ASQ or American Society for Quality. This organization was previously called the American Society for Quality Control or ASQC, but the concept of “quality control” has fallen into disfavor because it implies that quality can be controlled at the conclusion of a process, so the organization updated their name. The modern view is that quality must be built in from the very beginning.

I was never a member of the ASQ, although I’ve spoken at several of their conferences, usually on the topic of testing at IBM or Orthogonal Defect Classification, a methodology in which I’m an expert.

Linda’s dad was a member of the ASQ when he worked in that field at Coors. He has presented papers in the past at that organization where he described his work, both in packaging and in the development of light beer and the required quality methods for that new type of beer. It was through Bob’s association with the ASQ that I received several requests to present at their technical conferences.

Early in my career at IBM, when I worked for Education and Training, I joined the ASTD or American Society for Training and Development. Another organization originally formed in the late 40’s, I was a member for several years and benefited from the information on course development and adult learning offered by that organization.

Much later in my career at IBM, I became a Project Manager. I soon became involved with PMI, the Project Management Institute. I joined that organization as part of my path to becoming a Certified IBM Project Manager. Through the study of PMI’s PMBOK or "Project Management Body of Knowledge," I learned about the PM role and I eventually passed a very rigorous, six hour exam, and became PMI Certified. Following that I created what was called an IBM Certification Package, a sort of resume of my PM background and experience and then was interviewed by a board of IBM Project Managers and, after approval, I was certified as an IBM Project Manger.

This rigorous and objective process was part of IBM’s endeavor to improve their internal and external project management skills and knowledge and to assure that only the most experienced and competent employees took on the role of PM.

I spent about five years working as an IBM Project Manger and eventually became an instructor at the IBM Global Services Institute, the premier training organization for all IBM professional project managers. That was my last assignment before leaving IBM education and joining IBM Printing Systems as a Project Manager.

I returned to PM assignments several times after that and was often assigned to assist on projects that were not meeting their goals. I became sort of a PM troubleshooter.

After about ten years, I had moved into technical management and I dropped my membership in PMI. You had to re-certify every five years, and I quit performing that time consuming process.

So that leads me back to where I am today. I am currently a member of just the IEEE (including the Computer Society) and ACM. My current goal is to become a senior member of the IEEE, but I will need nomination by three other senior members. Back when I worked for IBM, I fairly regularly rubbed elbows with such people. Now I’m going to have to reach out a bit to some old colleagues to request their approval. So, if you are currently a senior member of the IEEE, and would like to put my name forward for that honor, have I got a resumé for you.

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