My name is Shalis and I hail from the charming city of Huntsville, Alabama. For my undergraduate degree I studied studio art and art history at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, a college that specializes in engineering, and I work in the Extension and Outreach department of the Huntsville Madison County Public Library System. I am as adept as any person who utilizes computers frequently in their daily life. I love my devices: iPhone, iPad and Kindle. I use computers all day at work and assist patrons with them as well. If I don’t know how to use a program I can usually figure it out quickly.
Huntsville is a town that is teeming with engineers and computer scientists. The techies who populate this area are enough to make the average computer user seem like the biggest of amateurs. While I learn new computer programs and devices as easily as any millennial, being surrounded by computer geniuses my whole life has given me an acute awareness of my lack of knowledge regarding the subject of computers and technology. That having been said, I am excited to acquire new skills in this area and bravely attempt to apply them to my career.
I chose to interview my brother, Jon, who is a software engineer and system’s analyst (one of those aforementioned Huntsville techies) and far more adept with computers than I! He described the company that he works for as, “A contractor that supports the government in the area of IV&V (or Independent Verification and Validation).” Jon’s team tracks and manages the software development process from a government perspective for a software product that is developed by another company. His main tasks consist of programming the software tools used to analyze data, setting up code for a specialized development environment, using scripting tools to format data in order to be able to read it, technical writing, understanding the software engineering process and seeing how it applies to a real world software program, making use of interpersonal skills, and having an understanding of government processes.
I asked Jon how he uses computers in his daily life that might be different from the way the average person does. He pointed out that he thinks a lot of people use their smart phones or tablets to conduct the majority of their business whereas he uses a laptop. Also, he has configured his various computers in a way that makes it easier for him to do what he needs to do with them. An example is in order to access media from all of his computers he has a Linux computer that is a media server that networks all of his devices. Rather than having to go to a specific computer for an album or movie he can access it from any device. He also builds spreadsheets to manage the data of his day to day life (i.e. his finances or exercise routines).
His first encounter with computers was with a Nintendo in 1987 (when he was 7). From this encounter spawned a desire to pursue a career creating video games. As we talked about this Jon rattled off the name and model of the computers we used to play Oregon Trail on in elementary school and then the name and model of the first computer my mother purchased for us in the 90’s. I certainly couldn’t have recalled that information and likely never absorbed it in the first place.
I asked Jon if he thought he had a good understanding of how a computer works. He said he does (and proceeded to explain to me how they work, at which point my eyes glazed over and I zoned out) but not as thoroughly as a mechanical engineer would.