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Communications of the ACM

Editor's letter

Two Sides of the Software Engineering Coin

Letters to the Editor, illustration

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My observations relate to two columns from the January 2021 issue of Communications: Michael A. Cusumano's "Technology Strategy and Management" and Thomas Haigh's "Historical Reflections." Reading one column right after the other, I could not help but notice the stark contrast between Haigh's and Cusumano's accounts with respect to the engineering profession. Whereas, on one side, there is a glorification of the "pure and noble" ethos, on the other side there is perhaps the saddest statement, when engineers brag in email about how they "'tricked' the FAA regulators."

While there are certainly human idiosyncrasies involved, this discrepancy shows to me that engineers adapt their belief system to the frame in which they operate: if you cannot get recognition from management for classical engineering skills, like safety and longevity, engineers—in desperation?—will adapt their ethos accordingly.


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