Is IT a Science/Engineering Discipline? Yes and No…

The following is an excerpt from Thomas LaRock’s FANTASTIC book “DBA Survivor: Become a Rockstar DBA”. It’s thought provoking and the message hits home once you have experience working in the industry.

Consider the standard university approach to training people in our discipline. Many colleges and universities offer a curriculum in “computer science,” encouraging their alumni with lucrative careers in “software engineering.” Yet, anyone who’s spent much time working with computer technology will tell you that these terms are often misleading. After all, any type of science is predicated upon the Scientific Method: characterize your observations and experiences, construct a hypothesis, predict a logical deduction, and test the hypothesis and prediction using one or more experiments. Does that sound like what information technologists and computer programmers do? Not just “no,” but “Heck No!” While it is certainly true that some computer technologists experiment (usually in the fields of processor design, networking technology design, security and encryption algorithms, and certain fundamental software technology platforms) this might represent 0.02 percent of the total information technology workforce around the world and frequently requires a doctoral degree.

Going a step further, let’s look at the term “software engineer.” While a full definition of the term “engineer” could fill a couple of paragraphs, the connoation of the word implies the application of knowledge in science and mathematics to solve a problem with predictable results whose operation and outcome can be reliably forecast. Engineers take their profession seriously and rest their credibility on producing designs that perform as expected without causing unintended harm to the public at large. Does that sound a lot like what you do? Does that sound like the jobs of anyone you know who work with IT?

It doesn’t sound like any IT professionals I know. While the IT profession has made many strides over the years and has greatly improved their ability to produce predictable results and reduce unintended consequences, we’re still subjected to daily hot fixes, software patches, and countless interruptions that disqualify computer programming and IT from consideration as both a science and an engineering discipline.

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