Tag Archives: interview

My Biggest Software Failure

Dianne fesses up.

Bill Wagner offered “What is your biggest failure” as an appropriate interview question. I like it. I especially liked his answer! But in calling his bluff, I promised that I would confess my biggest failure if he did, so I have to be true to my word … not sure that mine measures up as well as his does!

At my first job out of college, I developed software for laboratory instruments. We controlled hardware with our software, as well as doing measurements and analysis. It was really a fun job! In any case, the fact that I was controlling REAL hardware was driven home one day when I forgot to turn the power off to the furnace before raising the piston. Yowza! The two pieces of metal touched and arched. Luckily, no one was injured, but it was fairly scary. This was a lot different than SIMULATING something. Real people were putting their hands in there. Real machinery was moving and under POWER. I’ve always made sure I understood the components of a system after that incident! And in the nearly 20 years (ouch) since then, there have been several times that I’ve discussed this failure with new grads to impress upon them the importance of a broad understanding of the application.