Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Meeting Fred Brooks

Last night I met Fred Brooks.
I was moderating a panel discussion of our local chapter of the IEEE Computer Society. It was about "Practical Software Development".
Afterwards, an older gentleman walked up to sign our registration sheet and apologized for joining late. I glanced down and the name was "Fred Brooks".
I had this flashback to 1977 when I was a young software developer. Two years out of school with a shiny new Masters in Computer Science. I was just starting to call myself a Software Engineer and I was in this meeting with about ten older, wiser, non-programming, engineers who did not understand why my software was on the critical path and why I had just announced a slip in schedule. The Project Manager ( a terrifyingly gruff Sargent type as I remember) suggested that we add a couple of other programmers to the team to help get me out of the ditch. I can remember holding up my copy of The Mythical Man Month and saying "I think that adding more people to a late project will only make it latter. Let me tell you why".
This was one of those pivotal moments in my career. The ideas in that book helped me earn the respect of the Electrical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Industrial Engineers, etc who surrounded me but did not understand my profession. Along with books like "Software Engineering Economics", and "Structured Analysis and System Specification", the "Mythical Man Month", became the core of my Software Engineering.

So, thanks Dr. Brooks.