Internationally-trained computer professionals: join an association!

By Wendy Terry

originally published April/May 2007

In the February/March 2007 issue of Learning Curves, we urged internationally trained professionals to join a professional association using membership-based engineering associations as an example. In this issue of Learning Curves we are urging internationally trained computer professionals to join a professional association.

            The easiest way for newcomers to find Canadian-born professionals who work in their field is to go to the nearest public library and ask for the Associations Canada Directory. You can join the membership-based associations without being certified or having Canadian work experience. Your international credentials and work experience are enough.

            By joining an association, you can network with colleagues in your field and perhaps find job leads through attending events like annual conferences, monthly speakers, dinners etc. and through their on-line job banks. You can showcase your experience by writing articles for their newsletters or giving an after dinner presentation at a monthly meeting. Because your peers are interested in how things are done in your country, just as you are interested in how things are done here, you have the basis for many good conversations.

            The cost is minimal compared to the value in networking. The computer professional associations that we looked at cost $75 to $200 per year to join. Don’t worry about your English. Professionals in a common field find ways of communicating.

            In this article we give you some examples of computer professional associations you could join, all of which are listed in the Associations Canada Directory.

            Computer associations are more diverse than the engineering ones we highlighted last month so it takes more time to do the research. In the Associations Canada Directory computer associations are listed under three subject headings: Data Bases, Graphics and Design and Information Technology. We found additional associations by clicking on the Links section of the associations listed in the Associations Canada Directory.

            Computer associations grew quickly with the development of computer technology. Now as the field matures, many associations are merging. For example SMART Toronto just merged with Canadian Advance Technology Alliance (www.cata.ca) as did the Society for Canadian Office Automation Professionals.           A number of these associations are international but with local chapters in Toronto.

            Don’t research all these web sites. Pick one association relevant to your area of expertise, attend its events and meet other professionals like yourself.

            CIPS, the Canadian Information Processing Society, (www.cips.ca), is a gold mine for networking given that it has over 8,000 members in Canada and an open access job bank. Its Toronto section membership fee is $200 per year, but there is a monthly dinner package plus membership for $ 551.20. You can attend a monthly dinner without being a member, but you pay a higher cost per dinner. The local sections each have special interest groups (SIG’s). The SIG’s listed are Career Management, CIPS-DRIC Business Continuity, IT Law, IT Management, Knowledge Management and SecuritySIG. In addition to the monthly dinner meetings, CIPS holds educational events through the SIG’s, hosts conferences, and publishes a magazine. CIPS facilitates certification through ISP, Information Systems Professionals, but this certification is not mandatory in order to join.

            ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada, has a company-based membership. Though individuals cannot join, ITAC’s website lists the companies who are members (www.itac.ca). This list would be a good cold calling resource. Similarly the Information Communications Technology Council (www.ictc-ctic.ca) is an employment sector council which researches and develops the IT sector. In the Today’s Research section of its website a December 2006 report titled “Outlook for Canadian IT Occupational Employment” gives a good general overview of the IT labour market.

            CanadaIT.com is a web-based gateway to the Canadian IT and Internet Sectors. Membership is company-based, but it has an open access job bank. In addition, it has Resource Links organized by province. For Ontario the following user groups with working links are listed: Java-User Groups in Canada, International Sybase User Groups (includes Powersoft), DB2 User Groups, CATIA Users of Central Ontario, Canadian Linux Users Groups, Canadian Association of Compaq Users, Apple User Groups-Canada.

            A number of member-based associations are intended for computer professionals who work in specific job sectors or specialize in certain applications. These include the COACH Canada’s Health Informatics Association (COACHorg.com) which has a job bank. The membership fee is $ 185.00 per year. Because of Canada’s aging population, the health sector is a growing source of employment.

            The Association of Computer Consultants (www. apcconline.com) does not have a job bank since its members are computer consultants; however, it offers seminars. The Instrumentation, System and Automation Society of America (www.isa.org) has a job bank. Its membership base consists of automation and control professionals. The International Game Developers Association (www.igda.org) is another specialty association. The Municipal Information Systems of Ontario (www.misa.on.ca) does not have individual memberships; however, the Urban Regional Information Systems Associations for GIS systems (www.urisaoc.on.ca) has both individual memberships and an open access job bank.

            Two other specialty associations are Information Systems Audit and Control Association (isaca.Toronto.on.ca) and the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (arma.canda.org). Both have individual memberships and open access job banks. ISACA offers CISA and CISM certification (Information Systems Audit and Information Systems Management).

            More specialty associations include the Toronto Association for Systems and Software Quality (www.tassq.org), the Canadian Association for Information Science (libraries) (www.cais.ca), the Information Systems Security Association (www.issa.org), a very large international group with a Toronto Chapter. There is the Society for Internet Professionals (www.sipgroup.org), the Association for Production and Inventory Control (www.apics.org) another very large international group with a Chapter in Toronto. The graphics field is largely computerized now so you may check out the Society for Graphic Design (www.gdc.net) or the Toronto Animated Image Society (www.tais.ca)

            If your computer specialty is not listed above, phone one of these organizations and ask if there is an association for your field.

            All these computer professional associations have not only local sections and Special Interest Groups but also committees which manage association activities such as Membership, Finance, Education, Annual Meeting, Magazine or Newsletter. By volunteering on these committees you further deepen your professional contacts.

            Participation in a professional association is one of the most effective ways of networking.

 

Toronto, Canada