[lpi-discuss] Major tangent: why network/software
engineering/technology is a
real discipline -- WAS: Work experience as a recertification option
Bryan J. Smith
b.j.smith at ieee.org
Sat Dec 9 00:20:26 EST 2006
On Fri, 2006-12-08 at 17:01 -0500, G. Matthew Rice wrote:
> Not quite accurate. In 2001, MS agreed to advise their MCSEs in Canada not
> to use the full wording nor to call themselvese 'engineers'. In 2002, they
> changed their mind.
> I'm not certain where this matter stands right now.
> Googling hasn't proved to be very helpful.
I'm sure part of the problem was the same as it was for the NSPE in New
"We don't tell you how to build bridges so don't tell us
how to build networks."
Now to the common lay person, that seems accurate.
And even I, myself, complain the NSPE and state BoPEs are sometimes too
"civil engineering" focused, and even many "electrical engineers" scoff
as software engineering as a discipline.
But stepping back and recognizing the obvious of the truth helps. There
is a _huge_ difference between "designing a bridge" and merely
"installing it." The engineer has to derive countless engineering
mechanics, guarantee the bridge won't collapse under certain conditions.
Engineering technologists then oversee its installation by technicians,
as well a provide feedback to and work with the designing engineers.
Same deal in networking. There is a _huge_ difference between "design a
network" and "installing" it. The engineers have to design network
ASICs and equipment which requires extensive understanding of EMF,
signals and FCC regulations to guarantee performance as well as against
interference. Engineering technologists then oversee actual network
installation by technicians, as well as provide feedback to and work
with the designing engineers.
There are various analogies to software as well.
The *KEY* is to recognize the _distinct_ differences between engineers
(who are _not_ practical for most day-to-day operations), engineering
technologists (almost a designing engineer on one hand, and really a
super-technician on another) and then technicians. CNEs and MCSEs are
clearly _technicians_ and, maybe, engineering technologists at best.
They do *NOT* have the first understanding of networking electronics,
software engineering principles and they are utterly devoid of questions
on statues and other considerations "of and for the public trust."
And that's what it's about, "of and for the public trust."
"Civil engineers" used to snub the same of "environmental engineers" for
the longest time. They didn't consider it a "real engineering" either,
just like many do of "software engineering." But thank God the '70s
happened, and that's when everything started to change.
Because instead of just "whistle blowing," which is what happened, the
NSPEs and BoPEs starting realizing that once you start not only A) start
licensing Environmental Engineers, but B) put them in the middle of
business and technical decisions, you get C) people directly in the
process at companies who can say, "no, if I allow you to do this, I will
be _criminally_negligent_." Let me repeat that, _criminally_ negligent
-- not just "civilly." The engineer -- _separate_ from whatever his
employer did -- would be held _accountable_ "to and for the public
It was no longer about "oh, I better do what my companies says or I'll
lose my job." It was about _peers_ standing up against corporate
decisions that were _bad_ about the environment. Companies couldn't
just "fire" that engineer and bring in another, because the next
engineer was _also_ bound by the same laws and statues. All of the
sudden, you had a _swift_ change in the environmental practices of US
corporations _overnight_. Instead of "hiding" and "whistle blowing" of
environmental disasters "after the fact" (making them rather pointless),
you now had licensed engineers -- accountable "to and for the public
trust" -- involved in the process, as it was happening, ensuring that
boards and other decisions makers _knew_ what statues were in effect,
and they would enforce _regardless_ of their job, and they'd run into
the same attitude with the next engineer they brought in.
Now what does this have to do with Software Engineering? Everything!
I have been in banking environments for the majority of my last 5.5
years. And I can tell you we very much _need_ this type of "authority."
I have brought up countless, federal legislation in order to _prevent_
great violations of the public trust, to protect the security of our
financial systems, and many times, I was commended. And guess what?
They still went back and went utterly _against_ the federal laws. Why?
Because of "cost" or "support" or some other non-sense.
Save a few thousand bucks by putting ATMs and financial backends on the
regular PC network. Save a few tens of thousands by hiring developers
who don't know the first thing about object modeling and privilege
separation in code. Code audit after network audit after countless
other audit, I was right, told I was right, said they'd change, and then
they'd utterly ignore it.
We need network and software engineering and technology statues. Now!
We need licensed software engineers and software engineering
technologists. We need to _stop_ the gross violations of countless
federal laws in the industry, and that begins by _empowering_ and
_involving_ not just "traditional engineers" like myself, but _engaging_
the IT industry of clearly "engineering technologists" and
If the NSPE and state BoPEs want to "serve the public trust," they need
to get their "heads out of the sand" and realize they could help _lead_
and help _meet_ the "real needs" of the public trust in the IT industry.
I've had this discussion with older environmental engineers who were
around for the '70s and their arguments back then were the _exact_same_
We don't need more "federal IT legislation." That did _nothing_ for
environmental engineering in the '70s, just like it's doing _nothing_
for the IT industry in the 21st century. That only gives you "whistle
blowing" often "after the fact" and does _nothing_ to change the
unscrupulous actions of the industry. What we need are _licensed_
software engineers, software engineering technologists and, via industry
alliances with more technical organizations, NSPE/BoPE recognized
technical certification programs.
People "on-the-ground," infiltrated into organizations and peers writing
statues that far better represent the _real_needs_ "of and for the
public trust" than what legislators in Congress -- most utterly ignorant
of technology and network security -- can do with yet more laws.
-- Bryan J. Smith
P.S. By "state BoPEs," I'm referring to the US state agencies. Replace
with your locale's equivalent, governing or overseeing agency.
Bryan J. Smith Professional, Technical Annoyance
mailto:b.j.smith at ieee.org http://thebs413.blogspot.com
Fission Power: An Inconvenient Solution
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