Inspiration

by Luke 12. October 2009 06:29

An "Aha!" moment is simply the last in a long series of steps that prepare you for when inspiration strikes. I want to share my "Aha!" moment with you - the one that led me down the automating engineering path that we're on today. Here is the spark:

Make software that performs work.

I was doing some research on expert systems and listening to a talk given by Larry Smith, an Economics Professor at the University of Waterloo, when I heard that message. To paraphrase his take on software opportunities, "We don't need more software to let us talk to each other. Make software that performs work." And I was struck by how true, yet unappreciated, that sentiment is.

The story of the internet billionaire warped the expectations of software developers everywhere. Google, Facebook, and now Twitter are all about communication and those are the imagination-grabbing examples that ambitious developers want to emulate. The job market for a software developer looks like a choice between the "glamorous" examples above and all of the "boring" line-of-business work going on within companies all over the world.

I agree that we have more than enough people working on communication tools. We've also spent the last two decades on the "boring" work of automating business processes (e.g., order processing, payroll, inventory management). But the third choice, the often overlooked choice, is to automate any of the other work that people do.

We can do amazing things by making computers perform engineering work. That was the realization I had when that final message clicked into place. That was my "Aha!" moment.

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