This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Brian Cameron, Awards for Professionalism: Career Achievement Award Recipient, Professor and Executive Director, Center for Enterprise Architecture, Founder FEOPO. Brian is speaking at the World CIO Forum. I will be seeing Brian in Washington DC next week at the meeting of FEAPO (Federation Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations).
The Best Networking Professional – Career Achievement Award is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated the highest levels of integrity, professionalism and ethics throughout their career.
Brian Cameron is Executive Director of the Center for Enterprise Architecture and Professor of Practice in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at the Pennsylvania State University. Within the College of Information Sciences and Technology, he works with a wide portfolio of companies on a variety of consulting engagements, ranging from systems integration projects to enterprise architecture planning and design. Through his academic work, Cameron has consulted with organizations such as Avaya, AT&T Wireless, Raytheon, Accenture, Oracle, EMC Corp., NSA, U.S. Marine Corps, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and many others. His primary research and consulting interests include enterprise architecture, enterprise systems integration, information management and storage, and the use of simulations and gaming in education. The main focus areas for his teaching efforts are on senior-level capstone enterprise integration, enterprise architecture, and information technology consulting & storage architecture courses.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – May, 2011. The Network Professional Association® (NPA), in conjunction with Interop, Microsoft, GITCA, Cisco Press and Agile IT, announce four individuals as winners of the tenth annual Awards for Professionalism. The international contest for the Awards for Professionalism honors individuals working as network computing professionals. Selection is based on meeting the ideals of the Network Professional Association, the advocate for the network computing professional. Read the story at www.AwardsforProfessionalism.org.
Brian, you have a remarkable history of considerable lifetime successes. Congratulations on receiving the Awards for Professionalism, Career Achievement Award. Moreover, thank you for sharing your deep experiences and insights with our audience.
A: Thank you Stephen. It is a great honor to be recognized in this manner.
What do you believe was the catalyst in receiving the Career Achievement Award?
A: This was a surprise. Over the last three years I have been developing the Enterprise Architecture Initiative at Penn State. This initiative consists of new undergraduate and masters programs as well as a new enterprise architecture (EA) research center. We have a large corporate and government advisory group that has provided much of the initial startup capital. This is a very unique initiative nationally, both in terms of the topic area and in the manner in which it was initially formed and developed.
Through involvement with the many EA related industry associations in our group at Penn State, I saw the need for a mechanism for continued communication and collaboration across these groups, and the idea of the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) developed. This is also a very unique initiative that has attracted international interest.
These and other related efforts apparently inspired the nomination for this award.
How did it feel to win this award?
A: I am very honored.
What was the reaction from your friends and family in receiving this award?
A: My family knows how hard that I’ve been working on all of this and felt it was very deserved and was very happy for me.
How will you leverage the recognition?
A: Our EA programs are new and just getting off the ground – recognition such as this is very good for our evolving research center and academic programs.
How would you describe your top innovative achievements in terms of the problems you were trying to solve, your solutions, and the impact they have today and into the future?
A: Building programs in a newer, evolving area like EA in an academic environment is not easy. Every day is a new challenge. We are moving at light speed for academia. The biggest challenges have been internal. Externally, we have great corporate and government support and very enthusiastic advisory group members from around the globe – without the support of this large group, the internal challenges would have likely stifled my progress long ago. I recognized this from the start and created the advisory group as a first step in a longer journey.
I believe that our programs (and they way they were developed) will serve as a model for other institutions, especially in this economically challenged environment. The topic of EA is of increasing importance to organizations of all types as they strive to become more efficient, effective, and agile. In addition, the process by which these ideas and programs were developed and supported by industry is a future model for academia.
Why are computers one of your passions and what ignited this passion?
A: I have always been interested in information technology and its potential impact on the enterprise. My twenty plus years of experience in the field have led me to where I am today with enterprise architecture and a more holistic view of enterprise information technology.
You have this strong background in working with prominent corporations and organizations and in enterprise research. Can you quickly profile this history and notable achievements?
A: I have worked with a number of corporations and organizations in the past such as Oracle, IBM, EMC, NSA, Avaya and others. While the work that I did with these organizations was rewarding, I think the achievement that I’m most proud of is the broad cross-section of organizations that have joined our EA advisory group. Initially, we asked corporations for a one-time $15,000 donation to sit at the table and give us the startup resources to develop the various components of the initiative. I think that the dean thought I was crazy to require $15,000 to be part of this group in the middle of the great recession. I felt that the time was right for EA to mature as a discipline in academia, and the money was needed as much for validation as it was for the actual expenses.
The initiative gained much momentum and has exceeded everyone’s expectations, and we are well validated. Each week, I get new inquiries from somewhere in the world and was recently invited to talk about our work to the Federal Chief Architects Forum at the White House Conference Center.
Can you profile your current job roles and valuable lessons you wish to share from each role that will benefit the audience?
A: Currently, I am the Executive Director of the Center for Enterprise Architecture at Penn State. My role is almost that of someone starting a new business – I raise capital, develop the short-term and long-term plans networking with professionals from around the globe, explore collaboration opportunities, develop and teach courses, develop proposals, and the list goes on but I think you get the idea – no two days are the same.
What are your future career aspirations? What are you most passionate about?
A: I am very passionate about this model for academic/industry/government collaboration that we’ve developed. Right now, I have a lot of work to do over the next few years to get all of this off the ground and moving in the right direction. We currently have decent internal support as well. An opportunity to build something like this on a larger scale would be interesting.
Please share your current volunteer roles, why you serve, what value is being created by these organizations, why you recommend others to serve?
A: I serve on the boards of several EA related professional organizations and also am involved in several working groups. I am also the founder of the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO). FEAPO has been consuming much of my volunteer time over the last year. You can view a list of all of the professional organizations involved with FEAPO at www.feapo.org. I find it very beneficial to keep active with the professional organizations related to enterprise architecture to keep apprised of developments in the field and to help move the field forward.
From your experiences, what tips would you provide to those who want to excel in their careers as IT professionals to help them in their journey?
A: I would encourage IT professionals to think beyond technology and understand complex organizations and the strategic impact that enterprise information technologies can make in these organizations. Become acquainted with fields like enterprise architecture – these positions are more strategic in nature and will allow you to advance further in the organization. Technical IT roles increasingly can be done anywhere in the world and you tend to hit the ceiling faster as a result.
What are your tips, lessons, and best resources for those wanting a career in computing?
A: Similar advice to the last question – become a strategic resource to your organization. Never stop learning and pushing yourself.
Also become a good listener and put yourself in a position to connect dots. That is essentially how I generated the ideas behind the EA Initiative. I had the background and experience to understand what I was hearing and seeing in the marketplace and connect the dots and see the possibilities for academia.
Provide your predictions of future IT trends and their implications/opportunities?
A: In my field, I see enterprise architecture becoming an area of increasing importance in organizations of all types over the next five years. In these economic times with fierce global competition, those organizations that use EA to become more efficient, effective, and agile will develop a major competitive advantage.
Please share 3 stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your studies, work, or time with volunteer organizations?
A: 1. When I first started with this idea, I was totally alone in this – initially people doubted that this initiative would take off – the old wattage that you fail alone and win together is definitely true – as momentum for my ideas gained and money followed, support for and interest in my initiative grew and things have definitely come a long way.
2. Everyone is an Enterprise Architecture and every organization has the secret to EA. Everyone I meet thinks they are an enterprise architect and claims to have been doing EA work for decades. In reality very few really are – most are data architects, software architects, or some other sub-specialty and few actually have the experience or perspective of the entire enterprise. Many also think that their organization has designed a hybrid approach to EA that gives them the secret sauce that no other organization has – the reality is that the vast majority of organizations are not doing EA all that well and nobody has a secret sauce.
3. The third item really isn’t humorous but maybe a bit amazing – the size and diversity of our EA Advisory Group – many have said they have never seen anything like this in academia anywhere. It is a bit amazing and the momentum continues to build.
If you were doing this interview, what 3 questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
Q1: What barriers do you see to Enterprise Architecture becoming a more mainstream academic discipline?
- No academic research community
- Champions at many institutions are adjunct faculty
- The profession is highly fragmented
- No common understanding of what EA is and what competencies are needed
- Shortage of faculty with the right combination of background, skills, and perspective. You also need to be a bit of a risk taker.
Q2: What do you find most rewarding about your work in Enterprise Architecture?
A2: The many interactions that I have with organizations and individuals all over the globe. I have made many good friends through this initiative and get much inspiration and validation from them.
Q3: What advice would you give a colleague considering a similar program?
A3: I really believe that the model of education and research that we’ve started through the EA Initiative is a model for the future for many types of programs, not just enterprise architecture. We’ve already blazed the path. Start with validating steps as we did and you will gain momentum over time. We will be happy to share the many lessons learned along the way.
As a prominent leader, what were your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?
A: This one is easy, most of my challenges stem from one thing – how to be innovative and entrepreneurial in a large bureaucratic organization. Large organizations often inhibit innovation and as a result mediocrity often becomes the norm.
This is not something you will ever fully overcome in my opinion. You learn how to work within the confines of the organization and how to align your goals with the goals of those that can affect your success. Large organizations need to encourage and reward innovation and entrepreneurial risk taking or be doomed to mediocrity.
What do you see as the three top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
- Higher education in the U.S. is losing its lead in the world over time. I see foreign universities working closer with industry and developing more innovative programs than their U.S. counterparts. I think we in the U.S. have enjoyed a leadership position for decades and many institutions are resting on their laurels in my opinion. Over 90 percent of the academic contacts that I receive for collaboration in enterprise architecture come from foreign countries – these institutions seem to have a better pulse on emerging trends, at least in this area. The reward system in U.S. higher education is at least partly to blame for this situation.
- The computing industry in general struggles to achieve the same level of professionalism that we see in other industries and professions. EA is no exception. I see EA at an inflection point in many ways – many organizations are in the process of creating career paths for different types of EA professionals but the profession in general is very fragmented – there are many professional organizations that all claim to serve the profession or parts of the profession but no one single leader like we have in other areas like project management – nobody questions the PMI Institute’s position in the project management field. We don’t have this yet in enterprise architecture but I am leading a group that is trying to solve this fragmentation problem between the many industry groups – the next few years will be crucial to the continued maturation of the profession.
- Many of our students in the U.S. still aren’t fully aware of the competitive world that they are entering. We need to do a better job as a society preparing our children to compete in a global environment. This means instilling a solid work ethic while fostering innovative thinking and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Please provide your views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession. [http://www.IPThree.org]
A: The IP3 is leading the development of the global IT profession by providing a platform that will help shape and implement relevant policies to foster professionalism in IT worldwide.
Our mission is to establish a global partnership that will strengthen the IT profession and contribute to the development of strong international economies by:
- defining international standards of professionalism in IT;
- creating an infrastructure that will encourage and support the development of both IT practitioners and employer organizations, and give recognition to those who meet and maintain the required standards for knowledge, experience, competence and integrity.
We will actively work with IP3 to help increase the stature and professionalism of enterprise architecture
Brian, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your substantial wisdom with our audience.
A: Thank you Stephen.