David Clarke, CEO of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, talks to Computer Weekly about being awarded an MBE, the future of the IT profession and tackling a membership revolt against his leadership last year.
In the Queen's New Year Honours list, David Clarke received an MBE for his services to the IT industry. He believes the award was for his work with the BCS over the last eight years. However, he says the award is as much an acknowledgement of the body's achievements as his. "I would like to think that the award was a recognition of the importance of the industry, but no-one knows why they pick certain industries or professions."
For Clarke, changing the perception of the profession is critical to its future. "My biggest concern is that when kids are choosing a profession, there's a feeling that IT is not as good as others, like law or medicine. As such, the industry is missing out on the best talent."
Another area Clarke has sought to redress is the under-representation of certain groups within the industry. "When I first joined, the percentage of female membership was around 14% - broadly in line with that of the industry - now it's 20%. We've also decreased the average membership age by ten years to 35. But obviously, there's still a lot more we want to do."
However, last year members revolted over the BCS' £5m transformation programme and the direction that Clarke was taking it. An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) was called, which included a proposed no-confidence motion in Clarke.
"An EGM is never an easy thing to manage, it takes up a lot of time. But in the end we had a strong vote in favour [of the transformation project], so it didn't change our strategy. However, we realised that we needed to communicate a lot more with our membership," said Clarke.
The turmoil lasted for around four to five months, but most of the issues have now been resolved, he says. "When you have 70,000 members you are always going to disappoint someone. The alternative is to do nothing. Some people joined a long time ago and didn't all agree on the direction we were taking."
The BCS has previously been accused of being an out-of-touch "old boys club". Clark believes the EGM was in part a resistance to modernising that image. "You need to modernise to survive to be relevant to the profession, employers and the public. Of course, you can't stand still in any industry - but especially not in IT."
So what lies ahead for 2011? "More of the same. In the long term we want to see more in achieving our goals, making us as highly regarded as any other profession," he says.