This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Dr. Roger Johnson. Roger has a remarkable career of extensive accomplishment and you can learn a lot from Roger’s insights and experiences.
Roger Johnson FBCS CITP, CEng
Following 4 years spent as a software developer in a major UK software house, Roger moved to a career in academia and retired as Dean of the Faculty which included the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at Birkbeck College, University of London, in September 2010. In March 2010 he was made a Fellow of Birkbeck College.
Roger has been a member of the BCS since 1969 and has served as a member of Council, as a Vice President and as President from 1992/93. He continues to take an active role in the Institute, currently sitting on the Membership Board where he is also a member of the Membership Board Policy Committee. He has represented the professional membership as an elected member of the restructured Council since 2005. Roger is standing for re-election to Council at the AGM in March this year for a further three year term.
Roger was Honorary Secretary of IFIP for 11 years to September 2010 and continues to represent IFIP on the IP3 Board which is the group implementing the IFIP Professionalism in IT Programme. Roger was elected to the role of IP3 Chair in 2011. He is also a past President of CEPIS and was a leading participant in creating of ECDL, "inventor" of EUCIP, BCS representative to Engineering Council UK, co-organiser of an international conference on Global IT Skills, participated in CEN/ISSS workshops on professional skills, and a BCS university accreditation panellist.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Roger, how did you first get into computing? What triggered this passion or interest in computing?
"....While I could do statistics, I discovered I wasn't a pure mathematician. Somehow programming caught my fancy, I enjoyed doing it and it subsequently became the starting point for my career...."
What triggered your interest in pursuing an academic career?
"....After I graduated, I did a doctorate and the advice from my supervisor was: 'Go out into the world young man, and find out what computing is like in the real world and then decide later if you want to come back and do research'....The advice, I found, was actually very good...."
Roger, can you talk about your work in computing science, research, education and key lessons you wish to share?
"....It's too easy for academics presented with a difficult question from a class of students to pretend to know the answer. It's been my experience that in the end the students would find out if you didn't know the whole of the answer to the question....I think the other thing that my many years in academia has taught me is the importance in computing courses of grounding them not in the theory but actually in the practice...."
Please describe your many past, current and future roles with the British Computer Society (BCS) and lessons you wish to share from this long and distinguished history.
"....My involvement has been largely in the Society's special interest groups initially and that continued right up to today. In the late 1980's I was the vice-president in charge of the technical work of the Society which included the special interest group. I then moved onto becoming President...."
How did you first become involved with the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and what contributions are you most proud of?
"....In the IFIP community I became the British representative to IFIP's annual general assembly meetings back in 1993 and I retired from that in 2010. My last 11 years in IFIP I was the honorary secretary....Lastly I've been heavily involved in IP3 (International Professional Practice Program)...."
Describe your work with the Council of European Informatics Societies (CEPIS) and the impact of this work?
"....CEPIS came about at the end of the 1980's....From having 10 societies present at the first meeting, it now covers every country in Europe and has over 30 member societies. The thing that CEPIS is probably best known, not only in Europe, but around the world - in Europe we call it the European Computer Driving license and outside of Europe it is marketed as an International Computer Driving License (ECDL and ICDL)....It continues to have a huge impact...."
You were President of CEPIS during this time. Is there anything else that you wish to discuss?
"....Once the ECDL was successfully launched by the time I was President in the late 90's, our thoughts turned to whether we could repeat the trick and create another certificate...."
You continue to be a remarkable force for furthering global skills, competencies, accreditation, and professionalism. What are your thoughts in this area?
"....I felt from the beginning that it was essential in each country that there had to be a professional workforce in IT. IT is simply too important to be left to a bunch of amateurs no matter how well-meaning those people may be...."
Roger you have been involved with IFIP IP3 since its inception and formally taking on the Chair role in 2011. Can you profile IFIP IP3?
"....It promotes professionalism and encourages computer societies and similar organizations around the world to introduce schemes of certification for professionals in those countries....What IP3 is doing is setting a global standard for those certifcation schemes....The other aspect of IP3 which is essential is telling people why a certification scheme for practitioners of this sort is important...."
Are there any other points you want to add as to the value of IFIP IP3 to the various stakeholders?
"....This can be good for the end users, the industry itself and also for all the orgqanizations that are dependent on IT for their business success...."
When you took on the role as IFIP IP3 Chair earlier in 2011, what were your goals?
"....To increase the membership of IP3 so that we could reach out to a larger proportion of the IT workforce worldwide and also increase the understanding of the importance of the certification of IT professionals...."
What is the future for IFIP IP3?
"....The IT workforce is also mobile and it is important as professionals move from one country to another through their work that their employers know that they are qualified to a global standard...."
Earlier we discussed your roles with IFIP; in addition, you are continuing to serve with the World Computing Congress or WCC. What are your goals for the WCC going forward and especially in 2012?
"....I believe that the Congress in 2012 will be important because it will reflect IFIP looking to the impact of IT in 2020....There is so much more, and we need young people of talent to come into our profession in order to develop those new exciting transforming applications that will make such a huge difference to the world today and in 2020...."
What do you see for the future of IFIP?
"....I think IFIP has potentially a great future....IFIP's challenge is to maintain its relevance going forward and to maintain a network of influence which will ensure that the messages it has to deliver will actually be heard by those who need to hear it...."
You have a tremendous history of ongoing success in senior leadership. What specific qualities and attributes make for success in leadership roles?
"....If I could discern what those characteristics were and put them in a bottle, I could probably retire a very rich man...."
What are the top challenges facing IT today and what are their solutions?
"....We have this transformative technology. The challenge is not only to share the benefits of that technology inside our own country but also to share it around the world so that we will see people benefiting from it not only in advanced countries but also in developing countries...."
What are the top opportunities facing IT today and how can they be actioned?
"....We are just at the beginning of exploiting not only social networking but the ability of people to come together...."
You choose the areas - provide your top predictions of future trends in technology for 2012 and beyond?
"....My interests have always been in the application of technology. I see huge opportunities in the application...."
If you were doing this interview, what question would you ask and then what would be your answer?
"....How can we transform our society (globally) by the use of IT?...."