Message from the Director

Spring/Summer 2019

ISR Director Prof. Sam MalekWe have had many exciting accomplishments and activities at ISR in the past few months that you will read about in this edition of the ISR Connector. Notably, ISR organized and sponsored the first Southern California Software Engineering Symposium (SuCSES), which was held on June 7. This symposium replaces the ISR Research Forum which was held annually for almost 20 years. SuCSES caters to researchers and practitioners with an interest in software from all over Southern California. This is not our first edition of a regional forum as such. In the 1990s, ISR’s predecessor IRUS organized an annual software engineering symposium, which was held jointly with USC in its later years. Since then, both the software industry and academic community in the area have grown significantly, making it even more important to have an event to foster relationships, stimulate collaborative research, and facilitate technology transition.

The first instance of SuCSES was a huge success! We had seven distinguished speakers from a variety of universities in Southern California presenting the latest research results from software architecture and design, to testing and analysis, to games, and more. Attendees came from all over California and even from a few other states. The event benefited from two great industry keynotes, delivered by Hans-Martin Will from SAP and Emerson Murphy-Hill from Google.

Will talked about the emerging models of software development in industry, particularly how many software decisions that were previously made offline have now moved into the runtime, forcing companies to embrace what he called “software experimentation.” In the age of big data, software development is treated as a data-driven problem as well. In a nutshell, leveraging continuous integration and deployment technologies, companies experimentally add features to a small sample of users, monitor their behavior, and adjust the availability of such features in real-time to optimize the system’s objectives. In turn, the evolution of software has turned into a series of “live” experiments, where hypotheses as to the utility of features are tested in controlled settings. The sheer speed and scale of change in this emerging paradigm challenge the conventional models of software engineering and force us to reconceptualize our understanding of software development in the age of big data.

The second keynote by Murphy-Hill focused on software developer diversity and inclusion. Tech companies need to build software that works for a variety of users. Studies involving real developers in industry indicates that doing so requires a diverse set of developers to construct that software. The tech industry, however, has a way to go when it comes to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. Murphy-Hill gave an interesting overview of what companies such as Google are doing to promote diversity and inclusion. But there is only so much that can be achieved through isolated efforts at such companies. Many of the challenges facing the industry in terms of improving developer diversity and inclusion stem from the lack of a diverse graduating student population from universities. Fundamentally addressing the diversity and inclusion issues in the tech industry requires a more concerted collaboration between industry and academia.

The first edition of SuCSES gave the audience a lot to contemplate. ISR will continue to hold SuCSES annually going forward. However, to better facilitate industry-university collaboration through internship opportunities for students, it will be moved to an earlier date in winter. I look forward to seeing many of you in the future iterations of this event.

For more about ISR Director Sam Malek, visit his website.

This article appeared in ISR Connector issue: