For many of us, software development started as a hobby, but now that we're doing it full time, we need to look at what it means to be a professional software developer. To do this, we'll examine some key areas that have parallels in other professions. We'll look to improve our industry with lessons learned in other industries. In the end, the goal of the course is to show how development can be done in a professional manner, and why it's important to do so.
Importance of Ethics In 1954 a doctor by the name of Sam Sheppard was convicted of the murder of his wife. The details of that account would be familiar to many people, as it was the basis for the TV show, The Fugitive, as well as the movie by the same name in the 1990s. After being convicted, Dr. Sheppard was sentenced to life in prison. However, until his death he maintained his innocence. As a result, throughout the 1960s he appealed the decision. Helping him appeal his decision was a young lawyer by the name of F. Lee Bailey. Bailey argued before the US Supreme Court that the original trial, including the judge and jury, were biased against Sheppard. The Supreme Court agreed and overturned the guilty verdict. This meant that there needed to be a new trial. Bailey represented Sheppard in the retrial, which ultimately resulted in a not guilty verdict. This decision was the first in a long line of notable cases in which Bailey represented the defense, perhaps none more notable than the OJ Simpson case of 1994. That case brought Bailey into the public eye as they were able to see video of him performing cross examination. In most of these cases Bailey was successfully at his defense of his clients. Additionally, he was known as a very skilled cross examiner and has published several books about legal proceedings. All of this is to say that F. Lee Bailey is a very skilled lawyer. His skill and ability is what lead him to be involved in the high profile cases. People sought him out to be on their defense team. However, in 2001 F. Lee Bailey was disbarred in the state of Florida with a reciprocal disbarring in 2003 from the state of Massachusetts. He was disbarred for how he handled shares owned by a former client. Keep in mind that being disbarred is how the legal profession polices its members. Anyone that the state determines is unfit to practice law will be disbarred. What is interesting to note here is that Bailey was not disbarred for any kind of gross incompetence or malpractice. It wasn't even because he lost a case. It was not for lack of skill. Quite simply, being a professional is more than just being good at what you do.
Protect Your Reputation In 2014 research was being performed by Haruku Obokata on a new method of generating stem cells. The research promised the ability to produce patient specific stem cells in a cheaper and quicker way than was previously possible. The results of this research were published in Nature magazine. Within weeks of the papers being published all the scientists who tried to reproduce the results were unable to. The inability to reproduce prompted RIKEN, the Research Institute where the research was being done, to launch an investigation into the results and the research. In addition to the inability to reproduce the results, some scientists claim that some of the images used in the published research were very similar to pictures from the doctoral thesis of Ms. Obokata. This was despite the fact that her doctoral research was a different project entirely than what was published in Nature. After the investigation was started, the timeline moves very quickly. It took very little time before RIKEN found Obokata guilty of scientific misconduct, for altering images, and using data from two different experiments. A couple months after that Ms. Obokata retracted her papers, the next month RIKEN allowed here to offer her assistance as they tried to reproduce the results, and eventually they halted their attempts to reproduce the results and essentially they admitted that the results were fabricated. By the end of the year, Ms. Obokata had resigned her position and is no longer conducting research. She went from high to low in 1 year. From publishing ground breaking research that would have transformed here field to leaving the industry altogether. This came about because she falsified her results. In short, her reputation was damaged, if not ruined, by going against the standard for research and ethical conduct.
Recap We covered a lot of ground in this course about what it means to be professional software developer. But we didn't do it by ourselves. We were able to look at other disciplines and see how they handle professionalism. This meant that we were able to see more real world examples of professionalism, instead of trying to define it in a vacuum. We placed ourselves in the middle of a group of other disciplines and it was done deliberately. While there are obviously differences between software and law or medicine or even engineers, there are still lessons to be learned from those fields. For one, they're much older than the software field and this means that they've had more time to figure out what it means to be professional. Additionally, by looking at other professions it gives us a chance to realize that even while we've got unique struggles, ultimately we're not alone. It's often very tempting to think that software development is a unique snowflake, that we're the only ones that have to deal with the pressure to release or that we're the only field that's changing so rapidly, but by looking at the history of medicine and engineering, we were able to see that we're not alone. We can learn from their errors, as well as their successes. Finally, by examining the history and seeing the struggles that other disciplines have gone through and where they're at today, we can be assured that there's hope for software development as well. We're going through some growing pains right now and because of that, professionalism is even more important. Now is the time to shape the course of software development and it comes down to each one of us. In this final segment we're going to recap the highlights of what we've learned.