VSJ – September 2000 – Sounding Board

In this introductory issue, Mike Ryan, the IAP’s Director General, writes about the Institution’s history and philosophy:

Welcome to the IAP

Struggling with the rapidly increasing demands of airframe mathematics, Bob Charles, an eminent aeronautical engineer, was one of the first to appreciate the commercial potential of computers.  He also though computing would become a profession in its own right, so when the engineering institutions didn’t seem very interested, Bob decided to start his own!  This happened 30 years ago, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When I became Director General in 1990, I soon realised that what other professional bodies did in the past was not a useful guide to what the IAP should be doing today.  Many of the older bodies are struggling in a world that no longer fits dated ideals.  The IAP, not being burdened with baggage from the past, can focus on the future.  So what should the IAP be doing, and indeed are professional institutions relevant at all in the modern IT industry?

Prestige and credibility

I believe those working in this demanding and rapidly moving industry can benefit more than ever from the support that only a professional body can provide.  Whether you are seen as a professional or a cowboy is a matter of credibility.  The letters MIAP after your name show employers and clients that you are a person with a range of professional skills. Not just degrees and certificates, but much more importantly the practical ability and appreciation of business that make you a useful all-round professional person.  Thus for prestige and credibility alone, IAP membership must be worth the money.  But there is a lot more to it than that.

Practical support

Needless to say, the IAP membership includes experts in every aspect of software development.  There is always someone to help out when you get stuck.  The Institution itself provides a number of practical services to help with jobs and careers.  Some of these, our legal and accounting advice lines for example, are free.  Others, like the Professional Indemnity scheme or the new Stakeholder Pensions with Equitable, are just super value, thanks to group purchasing power.  People are very keen to do business with the IAP’s high earners!

Of course not everyone needs to buy a pension or sort out a dodgy contract.  Not everyone can save his or her annual IAP subscription several times over.  But some people do, and when you suddenly need one of these services, or hit some unfamiliar technical problem, it is nice to know you can pick up the phone and get sensible advice without it costing an arm and a leg.

Maintaining standards

The Institution uses a unique scoring system to individually measure each one of the factors that contribute to a person’s professional competence.  When you apply to join we evaluate your qualifications, training, work experience and everything else that is relevant. So, though most people joining the IAP today have computing degrees, a degree is not necessary because we measure how good you are at actually doing the job.

It would be easy to increase IAP numbers by relaxing standards.  But the IAP’s standards are not arbitrary; they are set at the level our existing members say is necessary, if you are to build a sustainable career in software development.  Our profession may be highly rewarded, but it demands abilities that are not quickly or easily acquired.

Looking ahead

It is all too easy for professional bodies to become detached from their ordinary members, drifting up into a stratosphere peopled exclusively by the great and the good.  That is not going to happen to the IAP.  But it is important that we are known to the industry and to the relevant government and public sector bodies as a serious institution whose membership letters count for something.  Each member is an ambassador, of course, but an increasing number of educational establishments are keen to offer courses that have been evaluated by the IAP, and which contribute towards professional membership.

We look to expand further our links with the education providers, and in the publishing world, over the coming months.

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