The ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is a professional organization with the goal of "Advancing Computing as a Science and a Profession". As befits the goal of advancing computing as a science, they have a heavy educational and academic focus. As someone whose computing background was, until recently, primarily practical, I was initially nervous about my ability to keep up in an organization that is full of the top level PhD scientists in the field. However, my fears were not grounded in reality and I wish I had joined years earlier because ACM membership is one of the most useful tools I've found for professional success.
ACM membership comes with a multitude of benefits which help my career. A career in computing means a lifetime of continuing education on various levels, and the ACM provides services that meet most of my continuing education needs. Their monthly magazine The Communications of the ACM regularly has articles that cover practical implementation of research. For instance, a recent article covered whether the latest technology affects heuristics used to determine how much hardware you need to run an application. It is also a good way to keep up about research and what are potential future issues. They also provide several very useful e-newsletters. TechNews comes out three times a week and contains a summary of interesting and important technology news with links to the original articles. TechNews makes me look smart. I often read about an article in TechNews and then a couple days later it comes up in discussion among colleagues. The other two e-newsletters are MemberNet, which provides a quick update on ACM members and activities, and CareerNews, which contains useful career related information. They come out monthly and bimonthly respectively.
Membership includes free access to two large commercial e-book services – Safari Books Online and Books24x7. You don't get access to the entire catalogs of these services, only a specially picked selection of computer and business books aimed at the needs of members. I personally have found that I can find almost any book I need for professional reasons. Finally, members get free access to thousands of online courses and virtual labs (Some of which are eligible for CEU's if you need them.) When I need to learn a new skill for work, this is priceless. For instance, when my employer switched from MySQL to MS SQL Server, I used Safari to find a reference book to give me a quick overview to get me up and running and then followed up with a couple of online courses to tune my skills.
Membership includes many other benefits all aimed at helping you in your career both by improving your knowledge and skills and by connecting you with career building and networking resources. In many areas, there are also local ACM groups. I don't participate in the meetings in my area because they are Special Interest Groups focused on areas outside of my professional focus, but I understand from friends in other areas that this is an excellent resource as well. ACM also runs a mentoring program and has a very good job board. If you are a computer professional or a student planning on a computer career, in my opinion ACM membership is the best investment you can make in your career.
ACM Professional Membership is open to professionals with either a bachelor's degree or two years of experience in IT and costs $99 a year. Student Membership is available for full-time students at the amazing rate of only $19 a year. (Student membership doesn't include all of the benefits discussed in this article and adds some student specific benefits.) New members referred by members get a discount on their first year of membership. You can take advantage of this by using one of the membership applications below:
ACM Professional Membership application
ACM Student Membership application
If you prefer, you can contact me using the contact form on this page with your full name, email address and whether you are interested in student or professional membership and I'll have them send you an invitation.
You can find out more about the ACM, their programs and the benefits of membership on their website at www.acm.org