***Editor’s Note: The “I Became an Engineer” blog runs every Friday. To share your story email firstname.lastname@example.org***
This week’s story comes from ECN reader Suzanne Hansel.
I thought I should be able to talk to my (then) boyfriend about programming. So I took a Fortran course and aced it (Spring 1976). I graduated with a BA in Psychology in 1979.
I went on to work on a master’s degree in Health Care Administration (HCA) in 1981—and was required to take another Fortran class (which I again aced, and wrote a game and tutored the other students in my year). The department chair handed me VisiCalc and said “Learn this,” and create a course to teach your class. I then created a course-management system in VisiCalc, for the HCA side group that ran seminars external to the university, using what I later discovered were fundamental relational principles (keep like with like, have primary keys, etc.) because “that just made sense.” Codd, Date, and Paschal were not yet common names.
Four years later, my undergraduate advisor hired me to develop an internal chargeback system for the City of Wilmington’s Office of Management and Budget—this was 1986—you could not buy this stuff “off the shelf” and it was quite some years before Microsoft had MS Access “wizards” to do the obvious for anyone. In 1994, I came to work for a large public transit system, and developed a customized work-scheduling process for subway track-access management, an integral part of how most city-dwellers get around every day.
It’s been fun—we started with a one-workgroup shack (say 10 tables, three reports, and 20 users), now we’re an interdepartmental mansion (300+ tables, 150+ reports, 600+ users). The product has been cheap (<$25 M in 25 years), small (intensely codified, will fit on a DVD, even with 24 years of data), relatively crash-proof (neither 9/11 nor Superstorm Sandy took us down, and in fact, we helped rebuild the city), and have somewhat standardized the complexities of time vs. location vs. resources, with a smattering of AI thrown in to keep it all moving along. We’re currently working on our fourth major software upgrade, which will bring us to employees’ tablet devices.
Read other stories, here:
- A Note From The Editor: An Engineer’s Story
- I Became An Engineer: Despite Being Bad At Math
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Sci-Fi Novels
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of A Watch
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of A 1930s Vintage Radio
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Kept Asking “Why?”
- I Became An Engineer: By Studying The Fundamentals
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Microscope Modifications
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Drew A Flower
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of A Paperback Book On Electricity
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Wanted To Travel
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Tinkered With A Radio
- I Became An Engineer: Because Of Math, Science, And Serendipity
- I Became An Engineer: Because I Loved Discovery And Fixing Things
- I Became an Engineer: Because It Was Hot That Day
- I Became an Engineer: Because of Viktor Frankl and Existentialism
- I Became an Engineer: By Turning Curiosity into a Career
- I Became an Engineer: Because of the Air Force Technical Applications Center
- I Became an Engineer: Because I Went to Work with My Dad
- I Became an Engineer: Because I Always Knew I Would Be One
- I Became an Engineer: Because I Was Always Trying to Fix Things
- I Became an Engineer: Because My Teacher Scared Me into It