trust it

I liken the IT industry to the Wild West,” says Professor Richard Lucas, Head of the information systems discipline at the University of Canberra and an adjunct professor in ethics.

Professor Lucas attributes corrupt activity in the industry to failures in education and accreditation processes.

[…] membership to professional societies that might otherwise promote ethical practice – organisations such as the Australian Computer Society or SAGE-AU, are frighteningly low.

Employers thus often hire staff that appear technically confident “without measuring any other competency,” he said.

[…]

While the “small number of individuals at CenITex should not reflect upon the vast majority of its staff or upon the broader industry… it highlights the value of a strongly enforced code of ethics that is overseen by a professional organisation.”

If such a standard was adhered to en masse and “actively policed”, he said, organisations could confidently restrict hiring of IT professionals to those certified by a professional body.

Unfortunately, many employers have no real mechanism to measure competency at its root: many recruiters, interviwers, and the like have no way to gauge a potential recruit’s real technical ability, being fundamentally unfamiliar with the job for which they’re recruiting. And – unlike other professional fields which require some form of benchmark to determine skill – there simply isn’t one to speak of for the vast majority of IT specialities. Vendor certifications, I’m afraid to say, don’t count for anything much.

This in turn leads to a problem: if you are relying on how someone comes across in an interview to determine their ability to do the job, without really understanding what that job actually is, what’s to stop that person lying their way through the interview? And if they’re going to lie in an interview context, what other ethical challenges will they pose?

To that end, I’d argue that it’s not just the need for a robust, enforceable, code of ethics (although that is no doubt critical): the need for a common set of benchmarks, on a sector-by-sector basis, has to follow suit. While a degree programme arguably offers this, there are plenty of cases where the need for a specialised degree simply isn’t there.

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