This week, I have an exclusive interview with Adrian Schofield.
Born in the south of England, Adrian began his career in the petroleum industry and later moved into casino administration. Adrian emigrated to Southern Africa in 1981 (acquiring South African citizenship in the new democracy), where he worked in casino management, financial computer systems, payroll processing and software development and sales before moving into recruitment and contracting of IT skills. He then moved on to management of technical training before joining CompTIA in January 2000 as the regional International Sales & Marketing Director.
From 2003 to 2005 he carried out various consulting contracts. He joined ForgeAhead in 2005, where he was Head of Consulting (specialising in the use of ICT in Government) until moving to his current post at the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University in 2008 as Manager: Applied Research Unit.
He occasionally lectures about the Management of Technology and Systems Thinking and is a regular speaker at conferences. Adrian has spent more than 25 years being involved in activities to promote standards and growth in the ICT sector. He received the 2012 Distinguished Service in ICT Award from Computer Society South Africa (now Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa). He currently serves in these voluntary capacities:
- Vice President and Board member of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), formerly Computer Society South Africa
- Vice Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance
- Vice Chairman (Standards & Accreditation) of IP3 (International Professional Practice Partnership)
- Member of the Regional Academic Network for IT Policy
- Vice Chairman of the Wanderers Club
In the past, Adrian has also served as President of Computer Society of South Africa (now IITPSA), President of the Information Technology Association of South Africa, Vice-Chairman for Africa of the World Information Technology & Services Alliance and Chairman of the African Federation of ICT Associations. He has represented South Africa at conferences in Taiwan, Australia, Greece, Holland and USA and supported industry development initiatives in East and West Africa. He was a member of the Steering Committee and initial Board Member of the Sector Education & Training Authority, chaired the initial IT Standards Generating Body and was a member of the Task Team for the ICT Black Economic Empowerment Charter Working Group. Adrian was also the business sector representative in the National Economic Development & Labour Council ICT Sector Committee for many years and an Advisory Board member of two academic institutes. He is a Fellow and Professional grade member of IITPSA.
Adrian, thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
A: "Thank you for inviting me."
Can you profile your current roles and the value of your work to business, governments, academia, executives and professionals?
A: "My "day job" at the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at the University of Witwatersrand is to carry out research into trends in the ICT sector, with a particular focus on skills relevant to software development and the effects that technology changes have, following their application in the community. The JCSE develops skills, coaches graduates, hosts software development and promotes enterprise development and is at the core of a project to create a technology hub in the city's CBD.
My research adds value to the activities of the JCSE and for its stakeholders and informs decision makers across the ICT sector. Some of the research is commissioned for a specific topic, such as the value of cloud computing or the history of the Internet.
Beyond my day job I am active (as a Board and ExCo member) in the affairs of the IITPSA, which serves the interests of IT practitioners in South Africa and in the Africa ICT Alliance, which is a group of business-led associations across the African continent. In 2013, I joined the IP3 Standards & Accreditation Council and became the Vice Chair of IP3, responsible for the SAC in mid-2014."
What did you hope to accomplish?
A: "I have a simple philosophy – life gives you "stuff" (rewards, challenges, enjoyment and opportunities), so it is only fair that you give something back. I cannot criticize how others contribute if I am not willing to stand in the front line with them. I have achieved a reputation as a good "source" of informed comment and relevant information, but I regard it as unfinished business as there is still much for the South African ICT sector to accomplish to reach its potential as a contributor to the economy and to society at large."
Let's talk specifically about your role with IP3 in more detail. What are the specifics of your role?
A: "IP3 promotes the value of professionalism in the practice of the "arts" of ICT. The Standards & Accreditation Council sets measurable criteria by which member organisations can ensure that their recognition of professional grades of membership is accredited to a global standard. It is the early days yet, but I hope to assist all ICT societies and institutes to reach our collective goals in this important arena. My job is to guide each institution in the preparation for accreditation, lead the assessments, encourage follow-up and spread the word."
How can new societies become engaged with IP3?
A: "When IP3 attracts their attention, they should check us out on the website (http://www.ipthree.org) and engage us in conversation about the contribution we can make to their value proposition. All the Board members of IP3 are happy to welcome enquiries and add to the network of connected and interested parties."
What is the path to accreditation?
A: "Aspiration, dedication and implementation.
Aspire to the highest standards. Dedicate resources to compliance. Implement the processes to sustain performance. It can take two years to achieve all the criteria and the accreditation lasts for five years before being reassessed."
What is the value of accreditation?
A: "Global recognition of the value of shared knowledge and shared beliefs. Practitioner members of accredited organisations achieve better individual and collective performance in creating and maintaining the tools that support our communities. That improvement in performance is reflected in better earnings."
Where do you see your work evolving?
A: "As more member societies buy into the sustainable contribution that IP3 makes to their relevance, we will support a wider range of certified grades, we will accredit more institutions (such as colleges and universities) and we will refine the Body or Bodies of Knowledge across the globe. This is an essential ingredient for the connected, borderless world of converged technology in the future."
What are your views on the ISO 24773 updates involving conformance?
A: "I have to confess to not having taken the time to study this issue in sufficient depth as of yet. The work done so far on software engineering competencies provides a great foundation for the broader range of competencies demonstrated by professional practitioners in the ICT arena. IP3 needs to be engaged with the other global stakeholders to ensure that conformance assessment is successfully implemented in our accreditation and certification programmes. We also need to engage with our colleagues in the more traditional engineering professions to ensure a smooth interface between the converging roles."
Describe five areas of controversy in the areas that you work.
A: "I am tempted to say government, government, government. I would add subsets of ignorance, interference and apathy. Ill-advised and ill-informed policies and legislation are holding back the growth of economies and societies in an increasingly digital world. On the other side of the table, there are too many associations claiming a slice of the industry representation, speaking with different voices and drowning out the real messages they should be conveying. Affordable access to networks, security of data and privacy of information are key issues that require combined resources."
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 http://www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
A: "Short answer, yes. Around the world, we have made some progress towards this in some aspects of what we do as practitioners. Although we have not had the centuries of tradition that doctors, lawyers and accountants can look back on, after the 60 or 70 years we have been around, the computing profession should be able to insist on recognition of the risks that bad practice presents to the world and the need for professionalism to mitigate those risks."
What do you wish to accomplish in the next three years?
A: "Accreditation of two societies per year, Seoul Accord signatory and handover of my various roles to younger successors. I also want to visit South America (the only continent I have yet to set foot on)."
What five improvements in policy should happen in the next two years and what would you like to see internationally?
- "Better education in schools and (Further Education & Training) colleges in ICT as a subject and in the use of ICTs to enable learning.
- Active rollout of affordable broadband access to all and appropriate allocation of spectrum.
- Implementation of a national ICT policy that improves government service delivery, creates work and enterprise opportunities and fosters harmony within an informed society.
- Global commitment to the integrity of the Internet (or any similar network).
- Four is enough for two years."
Can you share your top ten lessons from your prior roles and how the audience can make use of your shared lessons?
A: I don't know if life teaches us as many as ten lessons. Sometimes one light bulb moment is enough to set your life on the right track. However, in no particular order:
- "Take the opportunities that come your way. If you are asked if you can do something, say yes and then find out how to do it, if you don't already know.
- Communicate effectively. It's not what you say or write; it's what the other person hears or reads. Make sure your message is understood. Use language the other person can comprehend, not terminology that means nothing to them.
- All communities reflect their leadership. Be careful about who you follow, who you allow to lead you. If you are the leader, behave as you would like to be led.
- Your title means nothing. Earn respect - you are not entitled to it.
- Blame nobody except yourself.
- Build a good team and empower them to succeed.
- Beware of putting all your eggs in one basket. Have a backup plan.
- Travel. Learn what makes us the same and what makes us different. Embrace diversity."
Which accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
A: "Launching the Dealer Outlet Reporting & Information System for Esso Petroleum in the UK in 1968/69. My first "project" for which I carried full responsibility and the first online end-user system in Esso UK.
Converting the Rennies Group accounting systems from ICL to IBM in 1986/87. A major multi-stakeholder project that brought me into the world of associations and alliances that are such an important part of the ICT environment.
Bringing South Africa into the World IT & Services Alliance in 1998/2000 (highlighting that this country has achieved much and has much to offer the ICT industry).
Leading the rebranding of CSSA as IITPSA in 2013, to move it away from the image of an "old white men's club" into a dynamic contributor to the growth and development of the sector locally and abroad.
Turning the Wanderers Club into a sustainable enterprise in 2006-10 (having changed the business model that had suffered ongoing losses for several years prior to my Chairmanship).
Receiving the Distinguished Service to ICT Award from CSSA/IITPSA in 2012. A humbling experience that had me lost for words."
From your extensive speaking, travels and work, please share three stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
A: "Being asked to keynote the CUASA AGM without notice. I was sitting in the audience as a guest, when the chairman announced the keynote speaker had failed to show, but he was sure that Adrian Schofield would be able to take his place and asked me to stand up there and then.
Being screwed by an airline that flew me from Athens to Gatwick instead of Heathrow, missing the connection to Johannesburg because their car got caught in traffic and then being denied the limo service that was part of the deal to take me to a place to sleep "because you've already had the service".
Eating frog legs in Hanoi - all chillis and no flavour. I enjoy cuisine around the world, but that was a great disappointment, in sharp contrast to the excellent and friendly service from the Vietnamese people.
Arriving as a surprise guest at my mother's 90th birthday celebrations in England."
If you were conducting this interview, what 5 questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
A: "Why did you move to South Africa? To make room in the “nest” for our daughter and her husband, who still live in the house we vacated in England.
How do you balance work and the rest of your life?With the skills of a juggler – mainly by getting up very early and having firm dividing lines between work, volunteer time and home life – and not stressing over deadlines.
What is your favourite place? I have several, but if I had to pick one, probably Adelaide in South Australia.
When will you retire? Retirement is for people who stop enjoying work. I love being engaged with people in achieving results. As long as they don’t mind having this old guy on the team, I want to be there.
What do you still want to accomplish? A South African government that understands why they must embrace technology and not use it as a blunt weapon to limit the opportunities for their citizens."
Adrian, 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.
A: "It has been my honour and pleasure to be with you."