Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mahlberg Interview

As promised, here's the rest of Michael Mahlberg's interview:

Michael: One of your books that comes to mind after experiencing the learnings of the AYE is titled The Psychology of Computer Programming.  How do you see the role of psychology in todays software industry?

Jerry: Quite simple, software is an industry based on mental processes, not physical ones. Our products are not made of metal or plastic, but are entirely mental constructs. Psychology is the study of our "production facility"--our brains. How we think and feel form the only true "software science."

Michael: You have written non-fiction books for decades and in this century you have started to write more fiction than non-fiction - what is the appeal of writing fiction for you?

Jerry: I see fiction as a natural extension of all my work. Stories allow me to create appealing and memorable lessons about life in general, but software thinking in particular. For many readers, stories are the best way to learn, other than through expensive personal life lessons (which often don't teach anything because they're too entangled with personal life issues. Fiction stories give some readers the "distance" they need to see the lessons, while offering the "closeness" to make the reading simulate true life. 

Also, for me personally, fiction writing is a new challenge, the kind of challenge I've always sought to further my lifelong learning.

Michael: In the early days of your career computers and software were used only on very few, very special projects - the Mercury Project, where you played a vital role, comes to mind - whereas nowadays computers are everywhere and even for the most mundane tasks software gets written. How would you say that this has changed the way our profession is conducted?

Jerry: First of all, nowadays, 99% of software developers are not "professionals." Still, the remaining 1% constitue a far larger population of professionals than we had when I started, more than 50 years ago. Those days, I basically knew every software pro in the USA, if not the world. So, the larger group of professionals gives us the opportunity to create a much more powerful community for learning and sharing (as long as we are able to distinguish the professionals from the amateurs).

Michael: Between writing novels, preparing conferences, conducting workshops - do you still find time to do consulting work? And if so, could you tell us a bit about current trends in software development as you perceive them in your consulting work?

Jerry: Consulting is the essential third leg of my business. From consulting, I learn what is really going on among the best organizations (the worst would never voluntarily hire a consultant, though I've met a few who were involved in non-performance lawsuits). From my consulting, I learn what I should be teaching (the second leg). And, through my teaching, I learn how to offer the significant lessons in the most effective way, and these ways are what leads to my books.

As far as current trends are concerned, I'm not too interested. Why? Because "current trends" have almost always turned into fads. What I seek is clients who are actually using some of the important things we've learned in the past 50 years. There aren't many of those, but the organizations who do them (rather than talk about the latest fads), are consistently the best.

Michael: Thank you very much for this interview!

Jerry: And thanks for the great questions. You've done a great job, Michael.
------------------- end of interview ----------------------------------

No comments: