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From BASIC to BSc: the nameless enthusiast who rewrote my future

Posted by Louise Barnfield on November 18, 2010

The Beatles on iTunes! Now, that takes me back a bit!

I grew up with the fab four oh-so-many years ago…collecting their black vinyl 45s, EPs, and LPs! Now, it’s all about the digital age with iPods, iPads, iEverything…and thankfully I’m still taking it in my stride.

I’m so grateful I didn’t get left behind by the great technological explosion, which could so easily have been the case had I not met an odd little chap by sheer chance…

1983: I and my husband (first, not current) had returned to England after living in West Africa for two years. I had almost finished renovating our first home in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, and was working as a realtor in that small market town, when I happened to take an adult education class in basic computing, and by basic I mean BASIC! 🙂 To further date me, I’ll admit to practising my new found programming skills on my very own Sinclair ZX Spectrum, yes really!

The instructor was…um, how can I say this nicely?…really really weird, and quite frankly didn’t know much about the subject himself. The evenings were somewhat frustrating but, to give him his due, he was madly passionate and enthusiastic. After only four weekly night classes and despite his noticeable lack of knowledge (or maybe because of it), he lit a fire in me. I saw a need to learn more just for my own personal understanding, because it was evident that computers would increasingly impact my daily life.

Intending to enroll in just one or two classes, I interviewed at a local college (Oxford Polytechnic, as it was then) and ended up signing up, not for a couple of modules but for a three-year degree course…which led to a B.Sc. first class hons…which led to a job in IT as an Analyst/Programmer for Surrey University…which led to a technical Training Consultant role at Oracle Corporation.

2010: I recently clocked up 21 years with Oracle, in a variety of interesting, challenging roles – too many to mention, but including traveling and working in countless countries, relocating to the San Francisco bay area, managing a global team of curriculum developers, and, for the past few years, the privilege of contributing to the development of our latest Fusion applications. I owe all those experiences to a weird, passionate, enthusiastic night-class instructor whose name I can’t remember.

Wouldn’t we all like to be remembered (even if not by name!) for inspiring and enthusing a fellow human-being so much that it completely and positively changed the course of their life?

4 Responses to “From BASIC to BSc: the nameless enthusiast who rewrote my future”

  1. Loved your memory lane walk. I have one like that too (as well as one about “failing to be able to write a Basic program by just reading manuals.” Oh well…. My memorable, passionate person was Claire Giannini Hoffman, the daughter of AP Gianinni, the founder of the Bank of America where I first worked as a programmer. I was actually the 5th woman to be hired by the BofA as a programmer back in 1967 when they had less than 100 people doing anything with computers. Yes, I am quite old! Because programmers were paid as much as bank officers, I was indicted into the circle of bank officers in a luncheon hosted by Claire. She asked each of us what we did and I said I was a programmer. She said to me: “I know computers are the wave of the future, but its important to remember that we serve people with computers.” That’s always stuck and while I’m passionate about adopting new technologies, I’m equally fervent about the fact that we have to thoughtfully manage change. We have to be sure to let people know WIIFM – what’s in it for me to adopt change. The technology may be easy but sometimes the processes change and the way technology gets integrated into the organization will change — that needs to be attended to too.

    • Louise Barnfield said

      Thanks Lexy, that’s a great story and a great lesson for us all.
      Thanks for sharing…and for making me feel just a little less old! 🙂

  2. Amy Wilson said

    What a wonderful story, Louise! And, how lucky are we that you didn’t stick with real estate!

  3. Great Post. It is amazing what an influence a passionate and enthusiatic person can have on us.

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