Humans of Computer Systems: Arcot

I had sent out a call for this yesterday. The idea is to share stories from people working on computer systems (including distributed, security, databases, webservices, OS, hardware, enterprise, cloud etc).

Today one response arrived. Here it is. I enjoyed reading this. I learned about the nature of software work in manufacturing companies. I learned about an interesting blog to follow. 

If you enjoy reading this response, and like to read more like that, please take 10 minutes and submit a response. All questions are optional. (Yesterday I messed up about this due to the bad UI in Google forms. It wasn't clear which direction of "Required" was turning it on vs off. Sorry about it.) You can skip most, and tell a lot more on some questions you choose.


How did you learn to program? 

Reading manuals, and practice. 

Tell us about the most interesting/significant piece of code you wrote. 

Code downloader for Comcast Cable card. 

Who did you learn most from about computer systems? 

Usenet discussions

Who is the greatest programmer you met, and what is impressive about them?

X: very smart, open to discussion, wrote clear code

What do you believe are the most important skills to be successful in your field? 

Attention to detail, logical thinking, creativity, at least minimal social skills. 

What quality or ability do you value most in a computer systems person?

Being smart. Not being an asshole is a close second. 


Which of your work/code/accomplishments are you most proud of?

Projects that I help to get working that get used. 

What do you feel most grateful for?

Health; loving family; secure, interesting work; peaceful residence. 

What does your perfect day look like?

Programming: coding, design, getting the hardware to work. 

What made you most happy in the last year?

Work from home 


What was your biggest mess up? What was the aftermath?

Took far longer to get something working than I estimated. Project got canceled. 

What was your most interesting/surprising or disappointing interaction at work?

Very occasional instances of patronizing condescension. 

What do you like most about your job/profession?

Solving puzzles. 

What do you dislike most about your job/profession?


What would be the single change that would improve your work environment most?

Work from home. 


What do you think are the hardest questions in your field?

How to get projects to work correctly, on time, and on budget. 

What are you most disappointed about the state-of-the-art in your field?

I generally work for manufacturing companies, which tend to be conservative in their tech. The software tech in the places I've worked is far behind the state of the art in other fields. 

What are the topics that you wish received more attention? What do you think is a promising future direction in your field?

The software development process in industry, informed by academic research. 

What is your favorite computer systems paper? Why?

Not much of a paper reader. 

What are the most interesting blogs/twitter accounts you follow?


Arcot said…
Thanks for fixing the required/optional settings on the questions. Next time I'll wait until I get to a keyboard to fill out questions...

The companies I've worked for have generally been manufacturing and not software companies. They make their money from selling hardware, with the software being either problematic or expensive-if-it-goes-wrong to update. This leads to being very conservative in the software development process. The software schedule needs to match up with the hardware schedule, which also dampens enthusiasm for experimentation.

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