Learn from we lawyers: new ACS boss

Australian technology workers could learn a lot about professionalism from legal practitioners, according to the lawyer named the new president of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) on Friday. Philip Argy, a senior partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques in Sydney, was elected to the top job for two years on an ACS council vote after presentations from four candidates.

Australian technology workers could learn a lot about professionalism from legal practitioners, according to the lawyer named the new president of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) on Friday.

Philip Argy, a senior partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques in Sydney, was elected to the top job for two years on an ACS council vote after presentations from four candidates. Argy -- who specialises in intellectual property, science and technology law -- succeeds outgoing ACS president Edward Mandla on 1 January next year, after Mandla's two year term expires.

Argy said his legal background gave him "a lot to contribute" on improving the professional standing and qualifications of the information technology worker, a key focus of the ACS.

"Thirty years in law teaches you something about professionalism," he told ZDNet Australia, summarising the challenge in front of him as "Can I imbue [into] IT the professionalism lawyers have been brought up with?".

He said he would work to alert businesses to the fact that their risk management processes were being compromised if people without formal training and qualifications were running IT projects.

Argy said he did not expect any criticism over his profession in taking on the role of head of one of Australia's most prominent bodies representing IT workers -- "Not when they realise I've been a programmer longer than a lawyer".

Argy -- who specialises in patent litigation, commercial negotiation and dispute resolution strategies, as well as outsourcing, e-commerce and digital signatures -- had a stint as chief information officer at the law firm among an impressive list of posts on law and IT bodies.

"I've got my hands dirty in IT," he said.

As president, Argy will lead 14,000 ACS members into the association's 40th year. However it will also mark the first full year of competition between the ACS and the recently-established IT Pro Australia.

Run by the global Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), IT Pro has won the support of key industry figures such as Senator Helen Coonan.

Much like the ACS, IT Pro Australia touts itself as a member-based body for IT professionals focused on skills development.

However, Argy said he didn't feel that the arrival of IT Pro meant the ACS was suddenly in a fight for its turf, preferring not to consider IT Pro as a competitor.

"The challenge is to better articulate what we do," he said.

"[IT Pro] are not really head-to-head competitors. We'd only touch the CompTIA at the top of their program."

"We put more effort into the social implications and ethical issues," the new president said, adding that just having the required skills was often enough to gain IT Pro/CompTIA membership.

In line with this, Argy said one of his first priorities as president would be to change the ACS code of ethics.

"We say the mark of difference is that the one that puts [ethics] into their programming is the true professional."

The old saying of 'you get what you pay for' had almost become inappropriate for the technology industry, according to Argy.

"In IT, you sometimes pay dearly for what you get," he said.

Argy described the tenure of Mandla, who will remain on the ACS management committee as immediate past president, as "outstanding".

"He's probably spent half his life in Canberra," he said.

"He's definitely lifted the profile of the ACS."

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