When I was younger, I did a lot of camping, scuba diving, and windsurfing. I loved flying over the surface of the water, with the sound of the skeg humming through the water. Now I enjoy more sedate things like the cottage and going for walks. I have always enjoyed photography. Thank goodness for digital cameras. I occasionally do volunteer work through company-sponsored events.
When I was in high school, there was no computer science class offered during the day. One of my teachers offered an after school computer class for any interested students. I took this class and immediately knew that it was what I wanted to learn more about. The University of Waterloo ran the computers that we used. When it came time to decide which school to go to, that helped me make up my mind. When I graduated, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Mathematics and Computer Science program. I completed this program and went on to do some additional post-graduate study.
In my first year at university, I worked as a researcher for my computer science professor. I continued doing this job for the remaining years of my program. Sometimes I think it was just luck that got me to where I am today. My advice, though, is to seek out influential people at your university and to volunteer your time to them. That gets you noticed. I had some failures over the years. Some of the projects I worked on eventually failed or were successful for only a short period. However, each one of them was a learning opportunity!
I suggest studying mathematics, languages, and joining in extra-curricular activities related to areas of interest. Never take the easy road and don't bow out when things become challenging. I know many people who did and regretted it later in life.
Many things get me excited at work. One is seeing how our customers are applying the software that I work on to make the lives of other people better. Worldwide recognition of your software is extremely satisfying. I still remember seeing a posting by some Ukrainian students (at the time, I thought it was written in Russian which I cannot read). They were writing about our compiler software and were puzzled by some computer code that I immediately recognized. I replied to them in English. They were surprised to hear from me, apologized for their English, and then explained that they were poor university students from Kiev who had pirated the software. It amazed me to know that people on the other side of the globe were using something that I helped create.
During my workday at SAP Canada, I create new software or revise/correct existing software. I also support customers in the use of our software. This can include problems they might encounter. Most of the time, I am either looking at how to improve software to make it simpler to maintain and understand. I also try to make software run faster, and be easier to use. Sometimes I work on problems brought to me by a customer. In these cases, I have to try to figure out how to reproduce the problem, find out the cause, and then fix it.
To do my work, I have to have be familiar with a wide range of computer languages and tools to develop software. I also find that Algebra is something I use almost daily when thinking about problems. I use a powerful computer laptop with two additional monitors, separate keyboard and mouse, and network connection.
When I am analyzing a problem, I use my experience with writing and debugging computer software. Part of the process involves learning (reading, researching) and part of it involves intuition or experience with similar situations. My STEM background helps me develop clear, well-thought out processes. I have always thought that Algebra was the most important math skill that I learned.
I work as part of a team, but also on my own. As part of a team, we divide the workload based on experience with a particular area of the software. Then, we pretty much work alone on a particular problem. Once we think we are done, our work is then subject to peer review which can help improve the solution. I have worked with the documentation team, and I think that my familiarity with other languages like French and Latin were extremely useful. Then there is familiarity with a range of computer languages. That certainly helps when developing a solution to a problem.
- Foreign Languages
- Computer Science (offered after school)
- Enjoyed doing things on my own
- Was motivated by success
- Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
- Liked reading
- Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
- Liked to take things apart to see how they worked