Nicholas Bowen, Ph.D., a 1992 alumnus of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, published an article in the Harvard Business Review this September. In the article, Bowen observes that software-enabled disasters are often caused by software defects that go ignored.
Bowen's career includes 31 years at IBM, where he worked in a variety of positions in research, product development, corporate strategy, and general management. One of his favorite roles was leading IBM’s 5,000 developers working on all of IBM’s operating systems, where he says he was the “throat to choke” for any bugs in IBM server products.
As Bowen writes in the article, “Software platforms permeate the fabric of our lives, yet only 27% of CEOs in the Fortune 100 have degrees in engineering and science. Join a quarterly earnings call, and you’ll hear plenty of discussion about revenue, expenses, and geographic trends, but little (if anything) about the quality of the company’s software. The results are obvious: For nearly every major disaster caused by software defects, the postmortem usually determines that the defect had been around for some time.”
According to Bowen, “The problem is not that company leaders need to have engineering backgrounds and don’t, but that few outside of engineering silos know how to discuss critical software systems. As a result, software bugs generally stay below the radar of the CEO unless a cataclysmic event occurs.” (November 2019)