Peer Reviewed

Issue of professionalism of IT practitioners

Modern societies are highly dependent on information technology (IT) and therefore on IT professionals. The fact is that a large number of practitioners in the IT field have not passed a formal engineering education, and many have other (or no) college degrees. Unfortunately, even a large number of those who completed their engineering studies are not familiar with the issue of professionalism and ethics. IT professionals produce many business systems in today's digital economy, but also they produce, implement and maintain some critical systems – a system whose failure to operate correctly could result in physical injury or loss of life, or catastrophic economic damage. The public has entrusted in these IT professionals a level of responsibility because the systems they design, implement and maintain affect the public directly and indirectly. Therefore, IT professionals must exercise the utmost conscientiousness in their designs, implementations and maintenance of IT systems. As such, IT professionals should have an understanding of the responsibilities associated with IT professionals practice.

Go to the profile of Haris Hamidovic
Dec 07, 2016

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Go to the profile of Karen Jude (CEng)
Karen Jude (CEng) 11 months ago

Hi Haris,  Interesting piece of writing. I believe there is a lack of professionalism in the IT industry too, which was my personal reason for joining the IET and  gaining CEng certification.

I would go further here and say that the ship has already sailed on this one, given the global issues with cyber security which now cannot be ignored. This is escalating  as commercial pressures drive the connection of more and more systems to the internet, most notably industrial control systems. 

I dislike this trend, but also find as an IT and cyber sec professional it is indeed difficult to stand up in this kind of situation without a universally accepted code of ethics to point at. It is very common to be put under levels of pressure approaching abusive (i.e. you will lose your job if you dont do what I want) by project managers who want technical designs approved in order to meet schedules, even when you as TDA have raised serious issues with them.

I have found this to be particularly common on goverment contracts. Is it my imagination or is it generally considered that I should be an easier touch in these situation because I am a female IT professional? That's a seperate discussion topic...

Anyway, I believe there are few IT professionals over the last 50 years who have come into work satisfied to do a poor job. Circumstances many decades into the future such as those you highlight often cannot reasonably be foreseen. It is also debateable whether codes of practice and codes of ethics would prevent IT disasters. Such codes in traditional architecture and construction did not prevent Grenfell Tower, amongst other avoidable major disasters. Will it be possible to bring individuals to legal account in that situation? Remains to be seen...

It could also be inferred at the start of your article that IT lacks professionalism because there are people in it who do not have formal university qualifications. As most of my career development has been informal, I do not appreciate this argument. I don't believe my educational background makes me less well qualified for my job than someone with an equivalent formal qualification. IT is not a profession equivalent to medicine or law where a formal degree is of course absolutely essential. It is perfectly possible to become more than adequately qualified through work experience. This is a route becoming more attractive as the cost of higher education rises.

This attitude is one of the key things wrong with the IT industry in my view. A code of ethics for it should include one or two points to combat discrimination and bias of various forms (esp education-ism as above and sexism) and general workplace bullying. Esp of those working on a contractor or consultancy basis who often have no recourse to HR teams when they are subjected to this by customers.