Friday, June 24, 2011

Making the same mistakes

I hear it over and over again from technology execs – I know we should spend the time writing specs or working on our process or on architecture or designing a good UI or testing or documenting or - fill in the blank.

Yet, time and time again, I see companies making the same mistakes. It kills me! I asked myself “why do they do it?” After all, it’s so easy to improve your delivery time and quality a little bit at a time. I know it’s hard to find a place to start, but for some companies I see, anything would help them. When in doubt, remember that good requirements make everything else easier!

Then I remembered something I’ve heard repeatedly “The pain of the change must be less than the pain of the status quo”. I get that change is tough, but some of these changes (i.e. good requirements definition) are not that painful. I think a more accurate assessment would be “The fear of the unknown must be less than the pain of the status quo”

Do any of you have less than optimal practices in your product development? We all do, in one way or another. Things can always be better. Why do you stay where you are?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Innovation - Simple Is Best

As I recover from minor foot surgery I discovered an important fact. The use of crutches is exhausting. The only thing required of me to heal properly was not to put any weight on the foot. Sounds easy but after a few days I found the use of crutches to be limiting and exhausting. Facing six to eight weeks on crutches I began looking for alternatives.

A friend of mine recommended a Knee Walker. At first the scooter, as I prefer to call it, did seem laughable. But when I tried one I could see how such a simple device could be so helpful. After using one for the past 6 weeks I am a huge fan.

So what did I learn from this experience? Some of the most innovative products are the simplest. Entrepreneurs, inventors and engineers thinking of the next great breakthrough product need to ask themselves two simple questions.

What problem am I trying to solve?
What is the simplest way to solve it?

That is a good start for any new endeavor.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Driving Students to Tech Careers

I recently read an interesting interview with three senior executives at Google. The article was about women in technology, but one of their points intrigued me. They hypothesized that the prevalence of technology in our lives (smart phones, Facebook, etc.) will drive more young people to technology careers. They will use it and some will be curious about how you create a smart phone or an application like Facebook.

This sounds likely to me. Recently, I was speaking to a group of girls and shared that I had no idea what Engineering was when I went into college. All I knew was that it used math and science and I could get a good job when I was done. That was enough for me at the time. Fortunately, I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of solving problems and the satisfaction of creating something from scratch.

Now a days, when I describe what Advanced Decisions does, I have plenty of commonly known examples to point to. My typical “definition” of embedded systems programming is “writing software for an electronic device like your phone or your car, or your microwave, or medical equipment.” People usually understand that.

Do you think the prevalence of technology in our lives will generate interest in careers in tech? If not that, then what might? One of the points the women made in this article was that it’s not really about just women in tech. We have a shortage of programmers and engineers and need more regardless of gender.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Girls in Technology

A few weeks ago I spoke at Housatonic Community College’s Girls in Tech program. See this article in the CT Post for more.

Kudos to HCC for putting this on. It’s such an important issue. These were 7th and 8th grade girls, mostly from Bridgeport that had the opportunity to attend the expo and learn more about what kinds of careers are possible with a good solid STEM education. The possibilities excited them, and fortunately, this is the time to do something about it.

At this stage in their schooling they still have the opportunity to take advanced math and science classes and get the grades required to get into top schools and get scholarship money. This is the age where girls lose interest in math and science, but seeing what they can do with a strong STEM education, many of the girls were inspired.

Choices like nanotechnology and crime scene investigation are not obvious, but really inspired the girls. Many of them said they would devote themselves to their studies, with the goal of entering one of the intellectually stimulating and high paying careers presented at the Expo. I’d call that a success!