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Are you a member of a professional organization related to computing or software development? Why or why not?

tomowens profile image Thomas J Owens ・1 min read

I've been a member of the IEEE since 2007 and the ACM since 2008, joining around my second year of undergraduate education. Every few years, I evaluate whether or not the membership continues to be worth it to me. For me, that time is now as my memberships expire at the end of February.

As I consider what I do for 2018, I'd like to hear from other professionals:

  • If you have never joined a professional society, why have you never joined, what is keeping you from joining, or what would need to happen to encourage you to join?
  • If you have have joined a professional society and canceled or opted to not renew your membership, what drove you to cancel or not renew your membership?
  • If you are currently a member of one or more professional societies, what keeps you renewing your membership?

Since there were comments asking about professional organizations and professional societies, I'm primarily thinking about the ACM and the IEEE (and even more specifically, the IEEE Computer Society. But this could also be any number of smaller organizations focused on a particular demographic or with a smaller geographic footprint as well.

Discussion (16)

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Ben Halpern

Like some others in the thread, it never really occurred to me. Anyone care to give an overview of some of the organizations out there and the benefits to me or the greater profession/society that go along with it?

Just to be clear as well: I've been a part of cause-based non-profits in our industry but a "professional organization" is different, right?

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Thomas J Owens Author • Edited

The major international professional organizations for people in the computing or software fields are probably the ACM and IEEE Computer Society.

Other players include the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Association for Information Science and Technology, and others.

There are also a handful of groups specifically dedicated to various underrepresented groups in computing, and several country-specific organizations as well.

I'd rather not address my opinions on the benefits of joining (at least right now) - I'd like to give others the chance to weigh in. But maybe some of these can help you see what they claim as benefits.

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Kasey Speakman • Edited

For one year I was a member of the ACM. It amounted to the boss's PA asking me if I wanted to be a member and I said yes. Then the next year she asked and I said no. During the previous year, my interaction with the organization basically amounted to receiving a magazine (which was way over my head at the time) and a mug. So I didn't want to waste the money. I still have the Alan Turing mug, but it has faded a bit over time. :(

I would be interesting in having access to some of the ACM papers. I have hit their paywall many times before when doing research. And I could probably make sense of the magazine now. But I've managed so far.

I'm not inclined to join organizations lightly, and especially not when they charge for membership. I think it would take personally knowing a member and seeing the org making real progress in helping society (or I would settle for helping the profession) in order to consider it.

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Fabian

My employer is a corporate member of the german Oracle user group and therefore I could join free of charge (at least for me) as a member there also. My main benefit is a bi-monthly Java magazine that is included with the membership and I could get a discount on several conferences they organize. But since you can subscribe to their Java magazine indepently, I would not continue to be registered as their member if I changed my employer.

When it comes to more general professional organizations, I don't see any benefits that would justify the membership fee. Access to some content would be nice to have, but I'm lucky enough to have access to a university library, so why would I let them charge me an arm and a leg for occasionally reading an academic paper?

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Weston Wedding

I didn't even really know you could be a member until now. And I'm saying this as someone who advocates adoption of and often refers people to ACM's ethics guidelines and who has used ACM's publications as research material.

Up until today if someone had asked me if I was a member of ACM I'd have assumed they were asking if I had any research published.

$99 for a membership that doesn't include access to the digital library, though? Yeesh. $200 to include it!? YEEESH.

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Weston Wedding • Edited

That said, it sounds like a good blog series maybe me or someone else could do if it hasn't been done yet. Comparisons of the benefits and access to resources you get via membership and the freely available (and free) online resources and educational tools over the course of a year.

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Leighton Darkins

I was a member of the ACS (Australia Computer Society) and Engineers Australia for a couple of years (one year for free, because I was studying, and the others I paid my own way).

I found the value proposition of the organisations to be lacking. Overall I ended up paying a lot (both membership dues, and significant amounts on professional development required to keep my membership) and receiving nothing* in return.

In my experience Employers weren't super fussed by whether or not I was a member of such a society. The events run by the organisations were sub par, especially when compared to what the independent Meetup and conference scene was doing for free or a fraction of the price.

Overall my feeling was that if I wanted free beer, as well as learning and networking opportunities then the local Meetup scene was 100% free, and had a large crossover with the professional societies in both people, content and opportunities.

Having said that, I've not reviewed my thoughts on these organisations in some time, so I could very well be convinced that it's worthwhile. Particularly organisations with tighter focus and a smaller demographic.

*well, not nothing, be certainly not enough.

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edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

I think I was a member of the IEEE at work once... that vague memory should give an indication of how much value it was to me.

I have no inclination to join such a society now as I'm not sure what value they'd have for me.

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Aaroh Mankad

I'm a member of ACM, but only because ACM National makes membership a requirement to be on the board of an ACM Chapter.

I don't know of anything that membership offers other than access to papers and conferences? I'd love to hear any other pros to ACM membership.

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Frank Carr

3 reasons why I don't join...

  1. I'm a cheapskate and so are most of the employers I've worked for.
  2. I don't see it as having any value.
  3. I'm an introvert and don't like big conferences and such.
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Thomas J Owens Author

I'm curious about 3. I've been a member of two organizations for over 10 years, yet I've never gone to a conference. It's not that I haven't wanted to, of course. When I was a student, I really didn't have the money to travel for one (especially internationally). When I was working (especially when I had limited vacation time in a year), it was hard to justify not only the cost but using the vacation time, since my company wouldn't pay for the trip.

Do you associate membership in a professional organization (like the ACM or IEEE) mostly with conferences?

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Jeremy

I've been a member of ACM since high school, as our high school's "Computer Club" was a chapter of the ACM. While I don't necessarily take advantage of the benefits of the membership (like the ebooks, e-magazines, and newsletters), I do like supporting to organization for the work they do, especially with the ICPC (International Collegiate Programming Contest). It's something my university does very well in, but I also like how they advocate the support of computer science education. I'm also privileged enough that $99/year is not too big a burden.

That said, if my job requested me to join or if I needed research, I would expect the company to pay because the digital library is quite valuable and expensive, relative to the membership cost. Same with IEEE, although there are conferences that offer discounts for IEEE members, so it's certainly something I would expect the company to support.

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Douglas McKechie

Can't say I've ever thought about this before, I suppose in order to consider joining I would

1) have to know what organisations are out there, and
2) see some benefit either personally or to the IT industry in joining

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Thomas J Owens Author • Edited

The major international professional organizations for people in the computing or software field globally as well as in the United States are probably the ACM and IEEE Computer Society.

Other players include the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Association for Information Science and Technology, and others.

There are also a handful of groups specifically dedicated to various underrepresented groups in computing, and several country-specific organizations as well.

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Charlie Collins

Often considered joining The Institute and Programmer and Analyst, Britain’s leading professional organisation, but never got round to it for one reason or another.

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scottshipp

I let my IEEE membership lapse. Not sure what I got out of it.