A (female?) ICT disaster I made, and what it said to me

Mauri Favaron
Posted April 26, 2019 from Italy

This happened really. Just as a testimony sometimes female-specific energy can do useful ICT things... :)

When disasters occurs, if they're big enough, then a commission will form and investigate. And, most often than not, it will find a complex net of con-causes occurred all lumped together in ways you would be hard to believe.

The concomitant incidents in this disaster were:

A) Ready availability of already-written and more-or-less-tested code

B) Strong pressure to be the first delivering a new thing to market

C) My mid-cycle :)

D) Some overestimation of our - and the market's - capacity.

But, let's proceed more or less in order...

My company decided it was in desperate need of a "meteorological processor", the kind of computer program you craft for transforming numbers coming from a meteorological station into useful information (maybe, the met input of a pollutant dispersion model, just as an example).

Of course, different met stations, different processors.

Which made the process of crafting them deadly boring. And, you may imagine, error prone. And ...

So let me say: a real joy.

So much, that building them was my task, being then the younger one.

But, I have a lazy side, as a computer programmer. Unlike many nerds who love programming just for the sheer thrill of doing something stimulating intellectually, I love to solve practical problems (with a computer, if necessary). And, the virtues of that programming language instead of that other leave me completely indifferent. If I can, instead of some programming manual I'd read some fiction, or walk, or chat with friends...

Hence laziness.

Being lazy, for a programmer, is not necessarily a bad thing, as it will almost inevitably lead her to reuse code, write comments clear and concise enough to be useful years later, and the like.

In that case, my own laziness led me to imagine what today would be named (with a lot of pomp, I see) a "domain specific language", possibly interpreted, allowing me to assemble in one minute or two a met processor that FORTRAN and the PBL_MET library would have required at least half the day to write. Plus, then, test time (another half a day, if you were lucky).

Little detail: my background is in applied math, physics of the atmosphere and process automation: nothing having to do with interpreters, domain specific languages, and stuff like that.

But, when my dangerous thought occurred, I was right in the beginning of my mid-cycle phase... You know, I imagine. Your senses of smell, hearing, touch, heightened. Your IQ soaring (mine gained a 10 points just within half an hour since the beginning). And, verbal fluency, ability to understand, general empathy... It was like the operation to HAL 9000 in reverse, activating module after module.

All modules, but two: safe inhibitions, and realistic assessment of the State of Things. Which, in these moments, were apparently switched off completely, leaving me totally, and unknowingly, reckless.

In three days I then wrote something similar to the interpreted, and spent the remaining two (it was an unusually long mid-cycle, maybe unfortunately) refining the Thing and finding it a name ("PROMET", which seemed me incredibly funny).

I have to add, the Thing surprisingly worked.

And in fact I used it, to build a couple of met processors on the fly.

I felt elated. So much, I decided to present the Thing to my senior colleagues, imagining their absolute happiness, after they see the vast gain of time allowed by it.

But when I did...

The initial glances from them were of sincere surprise. It were years we discussed (on lunch time, which is a good indication of the real seriousness of these "I'd like a Thing which..."), but no one did find the courage of doing it.

Then, the senior partner coughed a bit, to attract our attention, and asked a tiny question:

"Would we sell this, will someone ask us to write a met processor for them?"

Ops...

OK, I admit it could be a bit difficult preventing them... But, we may craft met procs for them and run on our side so that, as a relieving service...

I remember he made me shut up before concluding the phrase. He was right, after all. The Thing was technically brilliant (well, maybe... in Italy we use a beautiful Neapolitan proverb, "Ogni scarrafone è bbello a mamma soja." You may look for the translation online :) ), but, actually, useless, if not harmful.

This interesting incident taught me some things, anyway. I try to summarise for you, would you like to test yourself... :)

  1. (Oh, my! I'm numbering, as an engineer!) One, I've said. Whatever you may have heard of periods, it almost aways emphasises its negative aspects. There are many positives, however. :)
  2. The preceding point raises an interesting question: do we women know really what a "woman" is? (My personal guess is, of course, "No". There is still much much much to discover. The good news is men are not in the ideal position to explain us what we are...)
  3. You may be totally surprising to your male colleagues. Maybe, you will discover the real revolutionary is you, despite the common tenet about women conservativism.
  4. Being female demands a lot of self-discipline.
  5. At least a bit of the sheer terror some men feel towards women "uncontrollable productivity" is perfectly true...
  6. And last, at least some self-irony may be very, very useful in your professional life.

 

This story was submitted in response to Girls in ICT Day.

Comments 11

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Corine Milano
Apr 26
Apr 26

Mauri this is amazing - thank you for sharing!

Mauri Favaron
Apr 26
Apr 26

Just one professional life episode. I still smile thinking at it... And, meanwhile, reflect. Thank you for appreciation!

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 27
Apr 27

Hi Mauri,
I love your story! I read it as if reading a language I can personally barely grasp, so happy to know that women like you are deep in the IT World, applying your special mid cycle brilliance, your "uncontrollable productivity" to meetings with male colleagues. Blaze on, sister! We are riding the waves of your trail.

Mauri Favaron
Apr 27
Apr 27

Thank you, sister dear! And, oh, I happened to find myself into IT by chance, more than out of sheer determination. I agree with you anyway: there I found a language with a lot of strangeness, and, yet, a language. We all have immensely much in common than what makes identities or differences... :)

Jill Langhus
Apr 27
Apr 27

Wow, Mauri. That's so impressive. Was this recently, as in did they sell your met processors, then? Thanks for sharing:-)

Mauri Favaron
Apr 27
Apr 27

Well, recent, but not extremely so. Since then, many things happened, menopause included... :) (So, in theory, the World is now less exposed to damages from my stupidity special moments :) :) )

Jill Langhus
Apr 27
Apr 27

I see:-) I hear you. I'm in that peri-menopause boat, too... ha!

It sounded pretty good to me, dear, and not stupid at all:-)

Hope you're having a great day, and weekend, dear.

Lisbeth
May 06
May 06

Splendid experience Maurice thanks for sharing it.

Mauri Favaron
May 07
May 07

:)

Hello, Mauri,

I'm so proud to call you a World Pulse sister! I'm bothered that your male workmates seemed insecure with your brilliance. But I'm smiling how you are just so cool about it, and humorous, too, in your writing style. Thank you for making light on a heavy topic that my nose is about to bleed. Ha. I enjoyed reading your story. Thank you for giving a glimpse to your deep ICT world.

Mauri Favaron
May 07
May 07

Thank you, sister dear! Really, a breadcrumb of life... And yes, that *was* an amusing experience... :)