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Dr. Will Tracz, Lockheed Martin Fellow Emeritus, Top Global Technology Authority

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Dr. Will Tracz.

Dr. Will TraczDr. Will Tracz is a Lockheed Martin Fellow Emeritus (retired). Since 2007 he was a principal software engineer/application architect for the Global Combat Support System - AF (GCSS-AF) where he was responsible for evaluating new technology and investigating its application. He also has served as Tech Volume Lead on several Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), infrastructure modernization, virtualization and ITIL-oriented new business proposals.

Dr. Tracz is a member of the RIT Software Engineering Advisory Board, a charter member of the Software Engineering Institute Technical Advisory Group on Engineering and Method (2006-2010), an IEEE TCSE Executive Committee Member at Large (2004-2008) and is currently their vice-chair for Awards. In addition, he is the editor of the ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes, member of the ACM Professional Development Committee, past chairman of the International Conference on Software Engineering sponsored by IEEE and ACM, chairman of the ACM Foundations of Software Engineering in 2012 and the author of over 100 technical reports and books on software engineering, software architectures and software reuse.

For more information, see Dr. Will Tracz profile

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:48: As a DARPA PI in the 90's, what is the impact you see of your research and your patent?
"....Our research advanced the state of the art of: Software Architecture....Architecture Description Languages and Module Composition Languages....Domain Analysis....My patent: System for Identifying and Linking Domain Information using a Parsing Process to Identity Keywords and Phrases, demonstrated how, using statistical methods, commonality in multiple documents could be automatically identified and cross-referenced by adding hyperlinks...."

:02:30: Will, what are additional top areas of your research that have had lasting impact, and can you share some lessons from these areas?
"....My most significant research contributions were in the areas of what was then called Software Reuse....Lessons: Software reuse not only saves development costs, but it saves maintenance costs....Patterns are a form of design reuse...."

:05:37: Will overviews his past industry roles and explains how he succeeded in each role.
"....If I understand the question, I can talk about some of the challenges or opportunities in my 38 year career that spanned 4 technology areas: Real time embedded software, micro programming, micro architecture, software architecture and enterprise architecture...."

:10:10: You talked about your work with the ACM and the ACM Professional Development Committee and you helped establish the webinar series. How are you going to further contribute on the webinar side?
"....I would point out to our listeners that those webinars are currently open to the entire community. You don't have to be a member of ACM to listen to them and they are a valuable resource and of interest to keep your finger on the pulse of technology...."

:11:57: What best practices can you share from your experiences with enterprise architecture?
"....I would say while having a robust enterprise architecture and realistic IT portfolio management plan is important, delivering more capability is not as important as delivering it well, and that one needs to focus on the other "ilities": usability, scalability, security, maintainability. etc...."

:14:03: What best practices can you share from your experiences with software engineering?
"....Test driven development....Design patterns and anti-patterns (form of design reuse)....Design for change (software sustainability)...."

:16:58: How has your background in microprogramming and microarchitecture influenced your thinking into the future?
"....I believe it has been an advantage for me to have a deep understanding of computers and information technology from the silicon level on up to SOAP and Enterprise Services....The second benefit was my involvement in professional society activities and realizing the importance of networking at conferences...."

:19:22: What have we missed from your extensive background?
"....Probably my warped sense of humor, you have to have a sense of humor to survive....An example of humor? In my book "Confessions of a Used Program Salesman" I state the reason I named my daughter Meg was that she is worth a million...."

:22:43: You have been the editor of ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes for 18 years — what have you seen that has changed?
"....On the positive side, the production process has changed a lot....On the negative side, there has been an increase in plagiarism...."

:25:51: What notable software engineering best practices can you highlight from ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes?
"....The best place to look for best practices in Software Engineering Notes would be in the 'Surfing the Net' column....The next best place to get advice is from our Front Line columnist, Mike Wing....If you want to learn about Security and Safety best practices, read Peter Neumann's Risk column...."

:27:53: Your book "Confessions of a Used Program Salesmen" contains some rather humorous perspectives on Software Engineering — what has changed in the 15 years since it was published?
"....Software reuse lives on, reincarnated as Component-based Software development, augmented by Aspect-oriented programming, and aided by Service Oriented Architecture and Open Source Software components and frameworks....In my not so humble opinion, the biggest advance to making reuse a reality was SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), which relies on XML, of course...."

:30:18: Let's focus on your role as General Chair ACM SIGSOFT FSE 2012. How will you measure success and what is the value to participants?
"....My personal goal is to encourage student participation, especially from the students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke, and North Carolina State which are all located close by. Also, I am reducing the registration fee for students significantly to assure that they can reap the benefits of witnessing the future directions of Software Engineering Research....The keynote speaker is going to be one of the Software Architects from the IBM Watson project...."

:32:17: Can you overview your other non-profit contribution roles and some lessons you can share from each of these roles?
"....Rochester Institute of Technology Software Engineering Department Industry Advisory Board....Software Engineering Institute's Technical Advisory Board....Member of the ACM Professional Development Committee...."

:34:54: Why should computing professionals utilize the ACM Learning Center: ACM Tech Packs, ACM Learning Paths and attend ACM Webinars?
"....In order to be competitive and innovative, you need to do a personal technology refresh yearly, free of the marketing hype, and one of the best ways to do it is to take advantage of the resources in the ACM Learning Center...."

:36:10: Can you differentiate what Tech Packs are versus Learning Paths and Webinars?
"....Tech Packs are an annotated bibliography. It provides the user with a set of resources to self-familiarize yourself or self learn on a particular topic....The Learning Paths are more focused on a programming language. They are a resource that shows you where (on the web) to pick up courses or self learn....Webinars provide the professional with the opportunity to subscribe for realtime (where you actually listen to the speaker) and have the opportunity to interact by asking questions...."

:38:28: You have 4 degrees: Math, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. How has that helped you in your career and what would you have added?
"....Investing as much time as I did in these disciplines has helped me understand the big picture and better prepared me to communicate, to define and express requirements, do technology trade-offs, perform analysis, and provide solutions to some challenging, multi-dimensional/multi-faceted system and software engineering problems...."

:39:39: Which one of those degrees do you think provided the greatest challenges and which one provided the greatest opportunities for you?
"....If I had to do it over again I would have put the Electrical Engineering earlier in the process; that was the most challenging....As far as rewarding, when you spend so much time in the classroom there were programs and classes in each of those universities that I really liked and had longstanding payback. What comes to mind is a course that had to do with communications protocol and networking...."

:41:53: In all of your past roles, what were the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
"....Biggest challenge: balancing personal life with work responsibilities....Non-technical: organizational change management....Technical: separating reality from marketing hype in evaluating vendor products...."

:45:59: You were responsible for evaluating new technology and its applications. From this experience, provide your predictions of some future IT trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....Computation in the Cloud....Heuristic Analysis Techniques for Big Data....Open Source Software....Self-Adaptive — Self-Aware — Self-Healing Systems of Systems....Progress, better tools for Automated Program Analysis...."

:50:33: Do you foresee particularly disruptive innovations?
"....I will speculate for IT....Complex Event-Driven Computing....The introduction of new innovative Software Services that can be used to provide new capabilities in virtual reality....Quantum Computing...."

:53:00: What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized non-licensing based credentials? [See and the Global Industry Council,]
"....I commend the goals of the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3) and the ACM and IEEE-Computer Society on their code of ethics and what they are trying to do to raise the standards for professionalism....The bottom line is that having a legal system and public opinion that demands quality is the only way things are going to change...."

:55:50: Will shares his deep insights and provides his candid thoughts on emerging technologies from the perspective of a CIO versus a CTO. (The perspectives are in 5 areas: Technology to grow revenue versus technology to increase efficiencies - The impact of business driving the technology decision - Technology perspectives from the customer's point of view - Are CIO's becoming the chief innovation officers? - What are some other hot topics?)

:01:00:28: You are a professional musician. In your opinion, how does music and technology complement each other?
"....When it comes to creating an enterprise architecture, one needs to understand how to create harmony across all components in order to integrate them smoothly (just like an orchestra is made up of many instruments and the conductor must keep the musicians working in harmony)...."

:01:04:40: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share three stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....In the middle of a lecture I noticed people ducking under tables and the chandelier swinging back and forth. I was oblivious to the fact that we were experiencing an earthquake, but obviously the attendees noticed...."

:01:07:38: If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....What advice do you have for managers?....What advice do you have for software vendors?.....What advice do you have for software developers?...."


Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O'Leary