After all kinds of handwringing over social and political attitudes in Russia – and handwringing, too, about the state of the billions of dollars in new facilities at Sochi, the Winter Olympics are finally underway.

I’m hoping that the more dire concerns related to facilities and security prove unfounded and, as a bit of a ski-nut myself, I’m thrilled; looking forward to watching some great action on the slopes and in other winter sports too.

Like most viewers, I’ll be watching for the amazing and spectacular – athletic accomplishments that usually boil down to demonstrations of remarkable speed while doing something inherently difficult.

The topic of speed, which is central not just to the Olympics but to so many things in business and in life, got me thinking about Grace Hopper, the feisty computer pioneer who was responsible for the first high-level computer language – Cobol. In her later years, Grace was famous for two thought-provoking habits. One of them was the bundle of short pieces of wire that she often took to her lectures; each cut to a length of 30 cm, approximating the distance light can travel in a billionth of a second. They were often handed out to students and fellow computer professionals, as a reminder of the underlying reality behind CPU cycles and processing speeds and, I suppose, a reminder of the need to write economical code.

Her second habit was equipping her office areas with custom made clocks that operated “counter clockwise” – a habit intended purely to tweak conventionality and remind visitors of the need to “think outside the box.”

Like the Olympics, the IT industry is highly competitive.  Often, there are only a few winners and a lot of “also-rans”...Here, too, the key is speed -- speed to market and speed in terms of application performance.  Like Grace Hopper, we all need to continually learn to think outside the box – even as “the box” gets redefined by rapidly shifting technologies. And that 30 cm nanosecond is still there too.

In short, application development is no sport for the faint-of-heart. It takes great tools, technique and fresh thinking to continue to deliver winning products and solutions. In the IT Olympics – that’s what it takes to be in the winner’s circle.

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Karen Tegan Padir

Karen Tegan Padir is the president of the Application Development and Deployment Business Unit at Progress, reporting to President and Chief Executive Officer Phil Pead. Padir, a 20-year software industry veteran, is responsible for the strategy and growth of Progress application development assets including Telerik, Modulus, Rollbase and the Pacific Platform.


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