College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Software foul-ups, bleeps and blunders

Prof Bhekie Mamba (Executive Dean, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, Unisa), Prof Ernest Mnkandla, Prof Barry Dwolatzky (School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Wits) and Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation, Unisa)

The inaugural lecture of Prof Ernest Mnkandla, Computer Science, entitled Software foul-ups, bleeps and blunders, took place on 8 November 2018.

Today software that is found in all technologies we use has improved our quality of life. With the rise of the Internet over the past few decades, software engineering research focused on determining the quality of engineered software as opposed to hacking. Mnkandla said in his lecture that this focus gave rise to successful contemporary software development methodologies such as Agile Development and Lean Development. Despite such a focus, software disasters increased.

Software development training, therefore, grew to emphasise software quality management (SQM), teaching a medley of craft and science to build programming skills, soft skills, teamwork and self-management skills. Poor training in some of these skills will lead to software defects that, as history proves, have resulted in humans dying in hospital accidents, war accidents and plane crashes.

"My inaugural lecture presents an overview of software failures and possible SQM-based solutions. As we enter the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and big data, a focus on SQM is inevitable to avoid software disasters."

You can read the lecture here.

Prof Ernest Mnkandla

The man behind the professor

You are a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?

I would be the blue colour because it is rare to find a crayon image that has no blue colour. I think it is the most useful or most popular colour and I consider myself to be a useful academic.

Are you a spender or a saver? Why?

I would not call myself a saver because I have nothing in my savings. I also would not call myself a spender, because I only spend as needed.

What is the first thing you do when you start your day?

I pray to the living God and ask him to bless, guide and protect my family
throughout the day.

What is the most annoying piece of academic jargon in your field?

Code ninja: there is even training for kids to be code ninjas and job adverts for code ninjas. This is just annoying jargon that sets wrong expectations as people imagine a person dressed in ninja gear crunching code on some fancy laptop, when in fact programmers are ordinary people who spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer writing code.

Best advice anyone has given you to become a full professor?

Full professorship is not about meeting bean counting of accredited publications and M&D supervision requirements. It is not about research output units only, but about creating a full academic profile where the professor is an obvious source of deep expert knowledge in a specific area and wise enough to offer advice in a wide range of closely related concepts within their field.

You must feel like a professor, think like a professor and act like one before applying for promotion. Do not just apply because you somehow meet the requirements in the promotion policy. That is why some people get scared of presenting their inaugural lectures, when they should be excited about it. Professorship should not be just a title but a way of life in which the professor positively changes people’s lives.

* Compiled by Sharon Farrell, Editor: Internal Communication, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/04/01