Chat: Charlene Walrad, VP of Standards Activities, Board of Governors IEEE-CS
Charlene (Chuck) Walrad
I very much appreciate the honor of being nominated as First Vice President of the Computer Society. As a long-time participant in a very wide range of CS boards and committees, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a volunteer has been the opportunity to work with volunteers in other countries. We truly are a global organization!
We are uniquely positioned to form a common international voice for computing professionals, and to help them advance in professional development and in their professions, wherever they are. As Vice President of Standards, I have seen up close how valuable our international standards are in the global community. I will continue to work for increased international representation in our standards development efforts.
As Chair of the Professional Activities Board's IT Committee, I've also seen how much it can benefit IT professionals across the globe to enjoy a common language of IT. As part of my duties, I am overseeing the development of a Guide to the IT Body of Knowledge and the development of an IT competency model. Our goal is to create a transnational framework for IT excellence. In doing this, we will serve not only our individual members, but we will also foster greater contact and collaboration with industry in such key areas as Smart Grid, Cloud Computing, Green Technologies, Cybersecurity, and Technology Management. This in turn leads to closer collaboration with academia, as we share with them society's needs for the next generation's education.
Charlene (Chuck) Walrad has more than 30 years of experience in the software and IT industries, leading the development of more than two dozen commercial software products across a variety of applications, ranging from the widely used Systran natural language translation systems to CA's Ingres RDBMS system. In 1987, she founded Davenport Consulting (www.daven.com), whose clients include companies like Adobe, IBM, Microsoft, AAA, and Ford. She has spoken at numerous industry conferences and written several publications in the field.
Walrad is a Senior Member of IEEE, a member of the Board of Governors, VP of the Standards Activities Board and chairs the IT Committee of Professional Activities Board. She is a past member of the Computer Society's Constitution and Bylaws Committee, Nomination Committee, Digital Library Operations Committee, the Executive Committees of IEEE's Software and Systems Engineering Standards Committee (S2ESC) and of the Technical and Conference Activities Board and was the working group Chair for the development of a new software configuration management standard, IEEE Std 828-2012.
Walrad received her first two degrees from Arizona State University and the third from the University of California, San Diego.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
You are a long-time leader within the IEEE-CS. Can you share with us your leadership lessons?
"....I don't concentrate on leadership so much as the missions and the task at hand, the purpose and its importance. When you are able to communicate to other people the importance of what it is that you are trying to accomplish then surprisingly you get a whole lot of people following the line and doing whatever they can to help...."
Tell us more about the IEEE-CS organization and why IT professionals should get involved?
"....The IEEE has in the past often been thought of as electronics and electrical engineers, but quite a few years ago we changed the designation to strictly IEEE and that's because so many of our members are computing professionals....Altogether there are 36 technical societies ours makes up almost a quarter of the entire global IEEE, and IT people are an important part of the computing profession. ..."
Can you share some of the roles that you have within the IEEE organization and overview some of your work?
"....I first got involved with software standards and did that for several years. We have in the computer society six program Boards, and my next move was from the Standards Board to the Technical and Conference Activities....I was then drafted back into Standards Activities and in the meantime was elected to the Board of Governors. I've been involved in other Boards, but those are the two that have really occupied my time and my interest...."
In each of your business roles (past and present), can you describe some major challenges you faced and your solutions to the challenges that would be of value to businesses today?
"....Starting out as a technical person I expected that people would always, in technical environments, behave rationally and logically and that emotions wouldn't be involved. I was young and I was evolving and it turns out that so many of the problems that we have in getting projects done and projects successful have to do with interactions between people. A tool that I discovered in the early or mid-80s was the Myers-Briggs type indicators....The other thing goes back to standards which is if you can involve people who are going to be using group processes in defining those group processes, then you are more likely to get acceptance and enthusiasm about any new processes...."
What future disruptive innovations should business executives be watching?
"....One is the shift to mobile. I think it's going to have a tremendous impact on us and that's also what makes the whole security issue so big and so iffy....We have thousands of variables, many of which we haven't even begun to understand and that of course relates directly to the emergence of the Cloud as the platform of choice...."
In your current consulting role, what are some best practices that you are sharing with your clients?
"....The primary things that we have to deal with are the interpersonal communications, communications down through the organization, and also the communication up which often doesn't happen very well. Not to mention the communication that needs to happen across the enterprise. All of these are essential to IT, but IT does not include in its education programs how to do this kind of communication...."
I know you are part of this work on an international Body of Knowledge (BOK) for ICT or for computing and technology. Are you incorporating some of what you just mentioned, the communication and personal elements as part of that?
"....I'm leading an effort within the IEEE to put together a Body of Knowledge for IT. We started back in 1998 with a Body of Knowledge; actually it was a Guide to the Body of Knowledge for software engineering....We are also working on developing an IT Competency model that will accommodate the fact that people in IT can move across from one area to another rather than it be a strictly vertical path....Between the BOK and the competency model we want to give people a better idea (both for those already in IT and those who want to go into IT) that there is a very wide range of opportunities...."
You are based out of the US and the US is a dominant force worldwide. What are some of the international aspects? Are you reaching out to international communities to get their ideas as you do this work on the Body of Knowledge?
"....The IEEE is a global organization and it's important for us that we reach out and include people in all other parts of the world too....We bring people together, provide a platform and we can end up taking longer because we have to accommodate the time and language differences, but it makes a really good product that way...."
You are also involved with the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO). Can you tell us more about FEAPO and why businesses and organizations should get involved?
"....We know from studies that have been done that successfully applied Enterprise Architecture does wonders for an enterprise, but the problem is there has not been congruence on the definition of Enterprise Architecture whether it resides within IT only or whether it belongs outside of IT but includes IT and that's what FEAPO is addressing. We need a common definition of what Enterprise Architecture is and its scope in order to define the applicable methods and techniques...."
What are some of the top barriers to Enterprise Architecture adoption in enterprises and how can they be overcome?
"....There's a really good paper that Dr. James Lapalme wrote about 18 months ago and it shows that there's a distinction in the current thinking basically between three different camps. What we want to do is to try to show that there is a range and people can choose for their organization and enterprises where in that range they fall so they can be clear about what it is that they are trying to achieve. The other challenge there (directly related) is again Body of Knowledge — depending on the scope of the enterprise architecture endeavor you need varying scopes of the knowledge that you apply...."
Can you describe some areas of controversy in the areas of ICT or IT?
"....The key here is can you be an effective IT professional without a degree in Computer Science and many of us feel the answer is yes....To make a long answer short, one of the things we wonder about are certifications. There are tons of certifications that come from vendors (you can get certified in language, you can get certified in tools), but are there more meaningful certifications that would be universal that would address fundamental principles of IT rather than how to use a specific tool? I think that's a big issue...."
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"....Yes, I definitely do. I think there are several organizations outside of the IEEE that feel the same way. I know the IP3 and GITCA are also concerned with these things. One of the things that we've done as we reach out to these other organizations that have the same concerns that we do, is put together a model of a profession and we use that to address for an IT profession what elements are needed and really figure this out...."
From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share some stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....She tugged on my shirt and asked, 'Are those your legs, your real legs?'. She couldn't believe that anybody could have legs that long...."
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask, and then what would be your answer?
"....What has it been like being a woman in the engineering field?...."
I know there’s been a lot of overt bias against women over the years and a transition to unconscious bias. Do you still see some of that (unconscious bias) today?
"....Yes, definitely do, though it really is changing. The younger generation is a lot better about this so I'm pleased to see that. But you do see some subtle distinctions...."
You are particularly famous both in the non-profit world and trade organizations because you work with IEEE-CS and of course in your business work as well. Do you see ways that you can make additional contributions as your life continues to evolve?
"....There are always new opportunities within the IEEE because as I said we are global and we are so large and we are really interested in seeing how we can help in developing nations, so that might be something after the current Standards work and the current IT BOK work and the IT Conferencing model is well on its way...."
Chuck, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.