I live in Rochester, Minnesota also known as Med City because it is home to the world famous Mayo Clinic and other research institutions, biotech organizations, and companies that build high-tech medical instruments. Over 10 years ago, I was assigned to a life sciences project, working with an IBM team of software developers and scientists and a client team, all of them scientists, with either PhD degrees or MDs. It was a very different project from my previous assignment. I spent most of my career in IBM as a Systems Engineer, IT Specialist, and IT Architect helping business clients to size, set up, manage, and run their IT infrastructures.
This time, the client was in a very different business: human life. Maybe that is the reason why the lessons learned in this project hit me so hard. As humans, we all can relate to the importance of events that affect our quality of life.
I remember my first meeting with the team; what an aha! moment it was!
…First, understanding the customer’s problem. The researchers told us that they thought they could make break-through discoveries if they were able to query and analyze all the data they had in a variety of data sources and locations.
Then, they explained why they had arrived at this chaotic data situation: the scientific problem and requirements were very difficult to explain to the IT people. It was easier and faster for the scientists to learn and write Perl scripts in support of their research work than explaining the problem to the IT guys and hope for their help. The IT department seemed to be always consumed by the traditional applications.
This project had a huge impact on some of the software developers in the team. A few of them went back to school to pursue degrees in bioinformatics. They are now using their computer science, biology, and medicine skills in life sciences projects that most likely will affect all our lives.
This is only Part I of my story, next week I will explain more in depth the aspect of integrated expertise. On April 11 at a special launch event, IBM will unveil a new family of “expert integrated systems” built on the patterns of expertise I first became aware of over 10 years ago.
Marcela Adan is a consultant currently assigned to expert systems projects in the IBM International Technical Support Organization (ITSO). During her 33 years in the IT industry, Marcela has held several positions in development, consulting, technical support, skills transfer, and product management. She writes extensively and teaches classes around the world. You can reach Marcela at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @marcela_adan.