News from National -- Current
5/10/2002 8:31:17 AM
Design Expert: Richard Longworth
Interview by S.
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with Richard Longworth, a world-level leading expert on
systems design and senior faculty for a BC-based college.
Richard recently received notification that his paper has been accepted for CIPS's
World Computer Congress to be held in Montreal in August. This is quite an
honour which prompted this interview where Stephen asks about his paper and
his views on IT.
Q: Richard, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
A: I am delighted and thank you for the opportunity Stephen
Q: Richard, you are a widely respected educator and a noted systems analyst.
How did you get into the computing field and what made you decide to enter
A: I had a number of jobs when I left high school in Montreal but realized
the importance of further education. I completed both my undergraduate and
postgraduate degrees while working full-time. I tried high school teaching
for a while, which I didn’t enjoy, then joined Pratt & Whitney Aircraft
for many enjoyable years programming in Fortran on a CDC mainframe. In 1980 I
was offered a job with B.C. Tel (Telus today) as a systems analyst. If you
recall, the early ‘80s were the years of high mortgage rates. I took a
part-time teaching job at a North Vancouver college, initially to make ends
meet. It turned out to be the best decision of my life. At the college I was
a part-time instructor of Math and structured systems. Eventually I was
offered a full-time position; regrettably I left behind many friends and
wonderful memories of B.C. Tel. My ambition though had come true, teaching
and working in the computer field. I still look forward to every new day and
I can’t envision the day when I will tire of teaching.
Q: Due to your widely acknowledged expertise, I understand you were asked to
do two worldwide broadcasts on UML. Can you tell us more about UML?
A: I have spent a number of years working with the latest modeling tool UML.
In my opinion it is by far the most comprehensive software engineering tool
available, particularly for object-oriented systems. As an instructor I have
given workshops, wrote articles and researched the UML. As a director of a
company working with .NET I have designed systems using the UML. In every
case with resounding success. I believe future analysts need to include UML
into their repertoire. I am such a strong advocator that I have written a
number of articles on the UML, including one that was released in a CIPS
Newsletter; applied the modeling diagrams in a system life cycle project;
adopted a hybrid methodology that I apply to all projects; and just recently
been asked to do two world webcasts on the “Essential of the UML,” and
“Putting the UML into Practise.”
Q: Richard, I would like to make use of your internationally recognized
knowledge and long history working in IT. For those contemplating new IT
technologies, which areas would you recommend for them to pursue? What do you
A: Stephen I really believe with vision, new IT entries can be their own
master of the future. I believe the difficulties that IT encountered over the
last few years are behind us. There is no limit if we use our creativity and
imagination – each one of us has the possibility of becoming another Bill
I would be remiss though if I avoided specifics. I will characterize the
answer based on my own field since I firmly believe every area of interest
has “hot spots.” As you realize, I thoroughly enjoy database processing
whether it is in a multi-user environment or a web application, I see it as
the future trend. I believe new entries in IT should seriously consider all
aspects of database processing from the backend, the middle and presentation
tier in materializing the data. There is so much excitement in my field:
[Microsoft’s .NET] My Services, data warehousing, XML, OLAP cubes, web
services, data migration. And any spin-offs including security, outsourcing
of the management of data etc.
Q: CIPS is hosting the 2002 IFIP World Computer Congress. It’s quite an
honour, and a highly selective process to be asked to present at the
congress. Can you describe your involvement?
A: I am thrilled to be involved with the World Computer Congress in Montreal.
The paper I submitted was “Harnessing the Internet into a Knowledge
Framework.” It encompasses my instructional methodology, and my work with
systems. In systems we are given problems to resolve. The pedagogical problem
we face is using the Internet as an effective tool for learning. What the
paper proposes is a means to create an on-line knowledge framework. This
involves the learner selecting keywords based on his/her level of knowledge
and prior experiences – a personalized learning tool. The effect is to open
the possibility of constructing a hierarchy of learning that links new knowledge
to existing patterns.
Q: What 10 tips can you provide to others that helped you in your path to
success? What would you do different looking back in hindsight?
A: Interesting question Stephen. I am at a point of life when I do reflect
back and have a keen desire to help young people. So here you might say is my
- Education is key, go as far as your potential
will allow you
- Experience life to the full, don’t be a
“workaholic”; life is short
- Choose your vocation carefully. Love your work,
otherwise you will spend a good portion of your time wastefully
- If you find what you want “stick with it”. I
remember at one part of my career being told I would never be a
competent systems analyst. The old story is that perseverance always
wins the day
- Read, read, read and enjoy what you read
- If you don’t understand drill-up or drill-down
till you comprehend. I have often read half-a-dozen complementary books
after not understanding the first one
- Choose your partner, relationships wisely.
I’ll leave this one to the counselors but it has been probably the most
important aspect in my life – the support, the friendship, the wisdom I
- Be positive about the things you believe, and
associate with those people who have similar beliefs and thoughts. The
power of self-actualization!
- Be a good corporate citizen. Corporations,
institutions are fertile grounds for politicking. One technique I apply
is when I am speaking about someone I pretend that person is standing
with me listening
- Summarize your day by identifying your
accomplishments. Be proud of your daily successes
Q: I can see that you’re an active professional and that your work occupies
much of your time. What are your five ways you can relax?
A: Probably the most important treasure I own is my family. Through them I
find many forms of relaxation including
- Trips to Whistler and skiing
- Going to Vancouver Canuck hockey games
(believe it or not I was formerly a Toronto Maple Leaf fan!)
- Going for a jog with my daughter
- Family games including Trivial Pursuit
- Watching the history channel
Q: If you were doing the interview, what two interview questions would you
ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: In your interview Stephen, you have captured most of what I would ask.
Taking the role of a systems analyst, a couple of questions that I might add
are, “Do you consider the role of the systems analyst an important one?” and
“What is the skill set of the analyst?”
My answer to the first question would be an analogy. Would you want to build
a skyscraper without any building plans? And yet in building complex software
we build applications usually on an ad-hoc basis.
The second question, I will answer as follows. Systems analysts need not only
a general background in technology skills, but also strong interpersonal and
communication skills. I suggest a general knowledge in technology because you
will have to be a quick learner; there are many technologies you need to
understand. Above all though, the ability to communicate effectively is
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give?
A: One last point Stephen. I believe the era of the systems analyst and
designer is upon us. This position can take many forms, for example, business
analyst, program analyst, data administrator, data analyst, data designer,
data modeler, architect, information officer. Much like the functions you
perform as an analyst are endless, the job descriptions are infinite.
Thank you for this most informative interview and congratulations on having
your paper selected for the World Computer Congress.
For more about the World Computer Congress, visit http://www.wcc2002.org