Professionalism denotes a higher degree of knowledge and behavior that promotes a well being amongst similar people performing similar jobs. Adopting and fostering a spirit of professionalism portends a greater materialization of success and fulfillment. The purpose of this essay is to explore the idea of professionalism within the Information Technology profession itself. To assist in this effort, the use of professional codes of conduct will be explored and applied directly to the unique circumstances that involve the IT professional. Ethics and responsibility will also be addressed in this essay to help contextualize some of these challenges that deal specifically with privacy, trust and reason. The essay will conclude with recommendations on how IT professionals may become more aware of the importance and practical application of a professional attitude.
While people involved in the IT career field have specific and unique experiences within the scope of their duties, it is first important to understand what professionalism is and how it can be applied in general terms. Norton (2010) suggested that first and foremost a level of expertise is needed to become a professional in any industry. This idea included " becoming an expert in the skills and tools necessary to do your job. Always perform to the best of your abilities and keeping your knowledge up-to-date. Professionals know their trade."
Inherent within this understanding is an idea of self-motivation. Unlike non-professionals, those intent on making themselves better will do so on their own accord with little or no encouragement from others. Professionals have essentially transcended the master-slave relationship and work for a greater purpose that revolves around advancing the specific trade or industry the person is involved within.
The fidelity of the ability to communicate also denotes a strong professional presence. Professionals in any and every field know how to convey a message in a variety of ways. Verbal, written or otherwise, professionals my understand different languages, customs and traditions that can all greatly contribute to overall ability to communicate. Professionals who know how to effectively communicate, understand the entire system of operations from the customer or end user all the way to the top of the leadership pyramids. Regardless, professionals must be able to express their knowledge base in a well received manner in order to be proficient and attain goals and objectives.
Both information and technology have made great impacts on the entire global culture and the demand of IT professionals has been quite remarkable during this time. Every year, new and more sophisticated technology arrives with many more applications creating a very technology-dependent society. The need for professionalism within this career field becomes more and more evident as this trend continues and technology grows into further importance and relevance.
In past years IT professionals may have been more of a unique profession with more unique personalities and skill sets. Today much of that culture has turned to the mainstream. McGarahan & Mims (2012) agreed with this social transformation in the field and suggested that this new view point has placed more importance on the professional approach of its members. They wrote " as IT leaders, we have the responsibility to always act in a professional manner; we must lead by example for the next generation of IT professionals. We can start by examining and continuously improving our attire, attitude, communication, relationship-building, networking, business/financial skills, and our desire to continuously educate ourselves.We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard in the way we relate to one another and to our customers. If we are to bridge the gap of respect and credibility with the business, let us start by building meaningful relationships based on professionalism and a common pursuit of doing what's best for the business to create value."
In this evolution of this profession, an association has been created. The Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) was launched in 1996 to offer guidance and direction for the group of professionals within this industry. Essentially this groups mission is to serve the member by offering professional guidance and assistance when needed. Their website claims "To serve our members by delivering relevant technology and leadership education, research and information on current business and technology issues, and forums for networking and collaboration. Adopted December, 2008."
Additionally this source provides a set of guiding principles that help to bring the profession up to a higher standard of operation. This is a code of ethics that is used to foster cooperation and a sense of betterment amongst the group. The code is as follows:
Our Guiding Principles reflect AITP's beliefs about your role as a member and the impact we want AITP to have in the IT profession.
We aspire to be better leaders, better people.
We excel through honesty.
We treat others with respect.
We demand ethical behavior of ourselves.
We encourage out of the box thinking.
We lead with confidence and inspire team members to achieve success.
We don't let fear of change paralyze us in reaching our goals.
We are fiscally responsible.
We take ownership in everything we do.
We have fun.
Ethical Considerations Specific To The IT Profession
The uniqueness of the IT profession once again emerges as a driving force behind the special circumstances concerning the ethics of the industry. Technology has proven to be a useful or harmful tool depending on the purposes of its employment. The difficulties in determining what is ethical and what is not is very challenging in this day and age, making the ethical approach that much more relevant in the equation.
Privacy is the first and foremost idea related to information ethics. The principles of this country and the way of life that western culture promotes is one of individualism and freedom from intrusive government. The current state of affairs has shown that there is little control, oversight and cooperation to help come to some consensus about the threats to privacy that are being felt by many these days.
Harbert (2007) revealed some interesting ideas when he discussed the misuse of power that can accompany such technological advances within the IT industry. He wrote " in theory, ethical behavior is governed by laws, corporate policy, professional ethics and personal judgment. But as IT pros discover all the time, finding a way through that thorny thicket can be one of the most daunting challenges in their careers." This is mostly due to a lack of leadership, guidance and ignorance. Shinder (2005) echoed many of these sentiments when he wrote "The education and training of IT professionals, including security specialists, usually focuses on technical knowledge and skills. You learn how to perform tasks, but with little consideration of how those abilities can be misused. In fact, many IT professionals approach their work with a hacker's perspective: whatever you can do, you're entitled to do."
The challenge is real and present. The benefits that IT have must be distributed fairly and honestly. Legal aspects are indeed helpful but not always. Professionalism in ethics is extremely important to help make up for the dearth in knowledge about the subject and provide a guiding path to help suggest practical solutions to oftentimes difficult circumstances. By understanding the situation as a challenge a new way of approaching the problem can surely develop and flourish into a reasonable outcome.
Capurro (2008) agreed with this analysis as he discussed the ethical issues of information technology as they relate to society. He wrote "the technological shaping of society, taking the character of power, oppression, verbosity and dogmatic belief, should be at the same time reconsidered under the viewpoint of a plurality of living forms, i.e., within a framework of deliberation and dissent. How can we ensure that the benefits of information technology are not only distributed equitably, but that they can also be used by people to shape their own lives? I think that the technologies of the self are an essential part of the answer to this question." This idea returns the onus of responsibility back on to the IT professional as a source of guidance. Confidence in one's own abilities and skills and experiences are valuable tools in deciphering the ethical solution to problems that may have many differing answers.
The Need for Codes
The need for ethical guidance and a code of operations becomes quite obvious when the problem is viewed in this manner. In many instances the skills that are valuable to an IT professional are also extremely valuable to organizations with nefarious purposes. The size and scope of the NSA should point to the importance of leadership as a guiding light in a very turbulent sea of confusion.
A strong code of ethics within the IT or any other profession can be used to safeguard against abuses of power. A code is useless unless it is followed and if top brass or leadership is willing to ignore the tenets of any agreed upon professional code, the code will have little power or value. Strong codes can allow for the…