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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

The Whole Professional

cover of A Whole New Engineer

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

A new book invites deep reflection about what it means to be a whole engineer. That is, an engineer who is not only competent at the analytics and technologies of engineering, but can bring value to clients, team well, design well, foster adoptions of new technologies, position for innovations, cope with accelerating change, and mentor other engineers. The book is A Whole New Engineer, by David Goldberg and Mark Somerville.4 The authors summarize their principles in "The Big Beacon Manifesto."5 What they say applies equally well to computing professionals. The book's invitation could not be more timely given the building forces of disruption to education (see my June 2014 Communications column).

Michelle Wiese and Clayton Christensen released a report about how private organizations are developing new education offers with online, competency-based modules.7 They see a bigger wave of innovation after MOOCs, threatening an even greater disruption. Whereas MOOCs automate traditional classrooms, OCBMs automate skill testing by employers that hire based on performance rather than credentials. A Whole New Engineer portends a third disruptive wave, where students disenchanted with automated classes and tests seek education that cultivates their mastery as designers and innovators.


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