Systems Design Expert: Richard Longworth
|This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P.,
has an exclusive interview with Richard Longworth, a
world-level leading expert on systems design and
senior faculty for a BC-based college.
Richard recently received notification that his
paper has been accepted for CIPS's World Computer
Congress to be held in Montreal in August. This is
quite an honour which prompted this interview where
Stephen asks about his paper and his views on IT.
Q: Richard, thank you for agreeing to this
A: I am delighted and thank you for the opportunity
Q: Richard, you are a widely respected educator and
a noted systems analyst. How did you get into the
computing field and what made you decide to enter
A: I had a number of jobs when I left high school in
Montreal but realized the importance of further
education. I completed both my undergraduate and
postgraduate degrees while working full-time. I
tried high school teaching for a while, which I
didn’t enjoy, then joined Pratt & Whitney Aircraft
for many enjoyable years programming in Fortran on a
CDC mainframe. In 1980 I was offered a job with B.C.
Tel (Telus today) as a systems analyst. If you
recall, the early ‘80s were the years of high
mortgage rates. I took a part-time teaching job at a
North Vancouver college, initially to make ends
meet. It turned out to be the best decision of my
life. At the college I was a part-time instructor of
Math and structured systems. Eventually I was
offered a full-time position; regrettably I left
behind many friends and wonderful memories of B.C.
Tel. My ambition though had come true, teaching and
working in the computer field. I still look forward
to every new day and I can’t envision the day when I
will tire of teaching.
Q: Due to your widely acknowledged expertise, I
understand you were asked to do two worldwide
broadcasts on UML. Can you tell us more about UML?
A: I have spent a number of years working with the
latest modeling tool UML. In my opinion it is by far
the most comprehensive software engineering tool
available, particularly for object-oriented systems.
As an instructor I have given workshops, wrote
articles and researched the UML. As a director of a
company working with .NET I have designed systems
using the UML. In every case with resounding
success. I believe future analysts need to include
UML into their repertoire. I am such a strong
advocator that I have written a number of articles
on the UML, including one that was released in a
CIPS Newsletter; applied the modeling diagrams in a
system life cycle project; adopted a hybrid
methodology that I apply to all projects; and just
recently been asked to do two world webcasts on the
“Essential of the UML,” and “Putting the UML into
Q: Richard, I would like to make use of your
internationally recognized knowledge and long
history working in IT. For those contemplating new
IT technologies, which areas would you recommend for
them to pursue? What do you consider hot?
A: Stephen I really believe with vision, new IT
entries can be their own master of the future. I
believe the difficulties that IT encountered over
the last few years are behind us. There is no limit
if we use our creativity and imagination – each one
of us has the possibility of becoming another Bill
I would be remiss though if I avoided specifics. I
will characterize the answer based on my own field
since I firmly believe every area of interest has
“hot spots.” As you realize, I thoroughly enjoy
database processing whether it is in a multi-user
environment or a web application, I see it as the
future trend. I believe new entries in IT should
seriously consider all aspects of database
processing from the backend, the middle and
presentation tier in materializing the data. There
is so much excitement in my field: [Microsoft’s
.NET] My Services, data warehousing, XML, OLAP
cubes, web services, data migration. And any
spin-offs including security, outsourcing of the
management of data etc.
Q: CIPS is hosting the 2002 IFIP World Computer
Congress. It’s quite an honour, and a highly
selective process to be asked to present at the
congress. Can you describe your involvement?
A: I am thrilled to be involved with the World
Computer Congress in Montreal. The paper I submitted
was “Harnessing the Internet into a Knowledge
Framework.” It encompasses my instructional
methodology, and my work with systems. In systems we
are given problems to resolve. The pedagogical
problem we face is using the Internet as an
effective tool for learning. What the paper proposes
is a means to create an on-line knowledge framework.
This involves the learner selecting keywords based
on his/her level of knowledge and prior experiences
– a personalized learning tool. The effect is to
open the possibility of constructing a hierarchy of
learning that links new knowledge to existing
Q: What 10 tips can you provide to others that
helped you in your path to success? What would you
do different looking back in hindsight?
A: Interesting question Stephen. I am at a point of
life when I do reflect back and have a keen desire
to help young people. So here you might say is my
- Education is key, go as far as your
potential will allow you
- Experience life to the full, don’t be a
“workaholic”; life is short
- Choose your vocation carefully. Love your
work, otherwise you will spend a good portion of
your time wastefully
- If you find what you want “stick with it”. I
remember at one part of my career being told I
would never be a competent systems analyst. The
old story is that perseverance always wins the
- Read, read, read and enjoy what you read
- If you don’t understand drill-up or
drill-down till you comprehend. I have often
read half-a-dozen complementary books after not
understanding the first one
- Choose your partner, relationships wisely.
I’ll leave this one to the counselors but it has
been probably the most important aspect in my
life – the support, the friendship, the wisdom I
- Be positive about the things you believe,
and associate with those people who have similar
beliefs and thoughts. The power of
- Be a good corporate citizen. Corporations,
institutions are fertile grounds for
politicking. One technique I apply is when I am
speaking about someone I pretend that person is
standing with me listening
- Summarize your day by identifying your
accomplishments. Be proud of your daily
Q: I can see that you’re an active professional and
that your work occupies much of your time. What are
your five ways you can relax?
A: Probably the most important treasure I own is my
family. Through them I find many forms of relaxation
- Trips to Whistler and skiing
- Going to Vancouver Canuck hockey games
(believe it or not I was formerly a Toronto
Maple Leaf fan!)
- Going for a jog with my daughter
- Family games including Trivial Pursuit
- Watching the history channel
Q: If you were doing the interview, what two
interview questions would you ask of someone in your
position and what would be your answers?
A: In your interview Stephen, you have captured most
of what I would ask.
Taking the role of a systems analyst, a couple of
questions that I might add are, “Do you consider the
role of the systems analyst an important one?” and
“What is the skill set of the analyst?”
My answer to the first question would be an analogy.
Would you want to build a skyscraper without any
building plans? And yet in building complex software
we build applications usually on an ad-hoc basis.
The second question, I will answer as follows.
Systems analysts need not only a general background
in technology skills, but also strong interpersonal
and communication skills. I suggest a general
knowledge in technology because you will have to be
a quick learner; there are many technologies you
need to understand. Above all though, the ability to
communicate effectively is imperative.
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you
like to give?
A: One last point Stephen. I believe the era of the
systems analyst and designer is upon us. This
position can take many forms, for example, business
analyst, program analyst, data administrator, data
analyst, data designer, data modeler, architect,
information officer. Much like the functions you
perform as an analyst are endless, the job
descriptions are infinite.
Thank you for this most informative interview and
congratulations on having your paper selected for
the World Computer Congress.
For more about the World Computer Congress, visit