University of Minnesota
Software Engineering Center

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Certification Debate

Date of Event: 
Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 6:00pm

The April Twin-SPIN program was on the "Certification Debate".

A certification exam administered by the IEEE will be administered shortly. This exam will provide software professionals with a "seal of  approval" from the IEEE. There is also discussion of licensing of  professional software engineers, a license that may be legally required to tackle certain projects (for example, government contracts).

The interested TWIN-Spin member can find additional information on certification at:
and the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge:
In April's SPIN meeting we will provide an overview and debate the pros and cons of this development. Dr. Mats Heimdahl of the University of Minnesota will provide a short overview of the certification/licensing issues, and briefly describe how it is done in engineering and in the UK/Canada (about 15-20 minutes). He will then moderate a debate between four opinionated TWIN-Spin members. The motion we will debate is:
"Certification and licensing of software engineers is essential to establish SE as a reputable profession"
Marshall Meier and Chuck LeCount will argue in support of the motion side while Paul Selway and Steven Levy will argue against the motion.

The two teams will debate according to the following format.

Team 1. Motion proposed 10 minutes. State and defend the motion.
Team 2. Motion opposed 10 minutes. Oppose the motion.
Team 1. Second the motion 5 minutes. Elaborate on case for.
Team 2. Second the opposition 5 minutes. Elaborate on case against.

Open debate to the floor--audience argues either for or against the motion. Statements limited to 5 minutes.

Team 1. Case for summarized 5 minutes. Summarize case for.
Team 2. Case against summarized 5 minutes. Summarize case against.


Mats' colleagues with roots in the UK (who like to discuss things in an orderly manner) inspired this debate style.  The idea is that the debaters will "stir the pot" a little and then let the audience do the rest. The debaters basically state their point and then get out of the way until it is time to summarize and vote. The goal is to sway the audience in their favor so they win the vote.

These debates are a lot of fun-come and voice your opinion on this topic-a topic that may have a huge impact on your organization and professional career.

About the Panel:

Speakers: Mats Heimdahl, Marshall Meier, Paul Selway, Chuck LeCount, and Steven Levy

Marshall Meier
Third Wave Partnership
Partner/Software Engineer
Interest: I believe in licensing software engineers so that our profession can attain the same professional responsibilities and stature as medicine and law.

Paul Selway
Interest: I am originally from the UK. I am also a Chartered Engineer (British Computer Society). I am an advocate of the idea of an IT "Professional" and I hoped that certification would be the mechanism to drive up professional standards.  Whilst I feel that certification is a great marketing tool for consultants and job hunters, I am less convinced that certification, by itself, is significantly raising industry-wide professional standards. So the idea of being a devils advocate in this debate appealed to me.

Chuck LeCount, CQA
Senior Software QA Consultant
I have a passion for quality software. I believe that investigate technical certification should be considered as one means to improve an individual's (and an organization's) contribution to quality software. If we (the software industry) are to ever achieve the respect of a profession,  we have to recognize some body of knowledge and practitioners who understand and utilize that body of knowledge.

Steven M. Levy
Configuration Management
This issue has been debated numerous times as long as I have been in this industry (over 25 years). Although the licensing of engineers may appear to be a good idea on the surface, the undercurrents surrounding this issue are considerable. I am a strong proponent of professionalism, however, "licensing" IT Professionals could be the best way to shoot ourselves in the foot.