Computing Applications

Developing Tools and Resources For Those in Practice

Stephen Bourne, George Neville-Neil
Stephen Bourne is chair and George-Neville-Neil is co-chair of ACM's Practitioner Board.

The next time you are talking with a software practitioner in his or her twenties or thirties, try asking what he or she thinks of ACM. To the extent these young practitioners recognize ACM at all, it is likely from dim memories of their undergraduate days. To many of this generation, ACM remains incorrectly stereotyped as an organization for lab-coated researchers or elbow-patched professors but not targeted to individuals like themselves who design, implement, deliver, and deploy software for a living.

The ACM Practitioner Board aims to change that: first, by growing and broadening ACM’s offerings to better serve practitioners’ needs better; second, by informing practitioners about what ACM already offers that can help them.

Consisting of 10 volunteers led by Stephen Bourne, chair, and George Neville-Neil, co-chair, the Practitioner Board was chartered to help ACM develop products and services to support and enhance the professional and technical development of practicing computing professionals.

In particular, the board aims to:

  • Oversee ACM’s professional development resources;
  • Contribute to and direct the development of ACM-specific products and services for computing professionals;
  • Establish programs to increase professional recognition for practicing computing professionals and managers;
  • Provide resources and support for managing a computing career;
  • Develop and maintain foundational models that identify and frame skill sets, jobs, and career paths in computing;
  • Actively promote and advocate for the computing profession; and
  • Evaluate the level of certification appropriate for ACM to award and oversee any ACM certification program.

Perhaps the Practitioner Board’s best-known project is acmqueue, which first appeared in 2003 as a collection of specially developed technical articles delivered via a print magazine. Today, acmqueue is a website delivering practitioner-oriented technical content with a goal of bridging the gap between research and practice. For many practitioners who are not ACM members, the articles in acmqueue are the primary gateway to ACM. In 2012 the acmqueue website had a half-million unique visitors; a number that has grown every year over the past decade. The ACM Queue editorial board also develops content for the practitioner-specific section of Communications, aptly called Practice; and acmqueue content is a primary source of practitioner-oriented content in the ACM Digital Library.

The Professional Development Committee, chaired by Stephen Ibaraki, operates as an arm of the Practitioner Board and developes new products—most recently a series of moderated webinars. In 2012 these webinars covered subjects ranging from the marriage of cloud computing with smart devices, to security, big data, and recommender systems. The Professional Development Committee also oversees the popular Tech Packs, annotated bibliographies from trusted experts who point users to the most relevant materials for each subject covered.

The Practitioner Board regularly publishes interviews and case studies and more recently has produced video profiles as a way of highlighting work done by impressive up-and-coming practitioners, researchers, developers, and architects. This year the board’s efforts are focused on reaching a more global audience. Board member Karin Breitman, of EMC and the Brazilian Computer Society, has begun work on a pilot project to translate acmqueue content into Portuguese to reach the thriving practitioner community in Brazil. Efforts are also under way to work more closely with the Indian and Chinese practitioner communities in partnerships with the professional societies that already exist in those countries.

We also realize that many engineers in industry are not ACM members, and we encourage those who seek a career in software to try an ACM membership and become part of the community.

Our goal is to broaden ACM’s appeal to everyone working in the computer sciences.

The ACM Practitioner Board hopes all ACM members become more familiar with our offerings—if you are not already. Consider discussing our products with or distributing them to colleagues; and if you are an educator, introduce our offerings to your students.

If you think of something that ACM could or should be doing for practitioners, please let us know. Our goal is to broaden ACM’s appeal to everyone working in the computer sciences—from those in the classroom and lab to those shipping software and deploying systems.

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