The following speech was delivered on behalf of Professor Paulo Bianchi Franca, PhD at a naming ceremony on the campus of the Computing Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. TheUniversity of Rio de Janeiro is largest federal university in Brazil. The university named an amphitheater in his honor to recognize the contributions he made to his alma mater and, specifically to the school’s Computer Lab. The speech recounts an episode of his early career and compares the teamwork he experienced during the project with the team approach to problem solving that is the hallmark of DataCare Corporation.
by Paulo Bianchi Franca, PhD
President, CTO and co-founder of DataCare Corporation
CTO of EK Health Services®, Inc.
Victory of One, Victory of All.
It was about seven in the evening. The punched cards were ready. It was the first time that our University was in charge of processing its own undergraduate admissions exam. There were 4,776 candidates competing for the few opportunities in the medical school.
The small IBM 1130 computer with 32K (Yes, Kilos, not Megas or Gigas) started reading the cards, and everything seemed fine. Each four cards read meant one more exam that was graded. In a few hours, we had all exams processed and all that was left was to sort the totals in descending order to determine which students would be admitted to school.
It was then that it happened.
During the sorting process, the computer stopped with the red light “Parity Check” on. Memory Error! Well, power off, power on, reboot and restart, but to no avail. Okay, let us call IBM. Another disappointment: There would be no service until the next day.
We could have simply closed the doors and continued the next day. There would be no blame on us. After all, the goal of turning the results in the day after the exam was set by ourselves, and had never been achieved by anyone else before. No tradition would be broken. Nevertheless, the thought of continuing tomorrow didn’t even cross our minds.
Each and every one of us started thinking of what could be done to solve this problem.One of our colleagues diligently determined that the error was occurring consistently in the same memory location 18382. Someone else suggested that, if we could make the program fit into the first half of memory, this failed memory would not be used.
Now the challenge became to rewrite an existing program to occupy half the space and have it working before dawn.
I don’t think there is a need to further the details, but at just about dawn the printer started to spit out the list. Just in time, because the press was already waiting for it.
What makes a whole team cohesive and committed to goals like this? The computer was to blame, IBM was to blame, those things happen. Why not leave it at that? Besides, no serious harm would result, just of one additional day to come out with the results. This was already better than was ever done before.
However, this was not good enough for us. We took pride in our work and to be a part of this team. Solving problems was our life and, since this was a young group with no traditions established, why not start the tradition in the best possible way?
Why do I tell you this story?
Because this way of thinking and coping with adversities was the reason for the success of what later became the Computer Laboratory: Commitment to quality and extreme cooperation within the team. We were all heroes that night. It does not matter who did more or who did less. Victory belonged to the team.
Many episodes like this were repeated throughout the years. I am sure that each one of you may also tell more than one story where someone went beyond the call of duty so that the team could grow stronger and more respected.
For this reason, I ask of you, please do not think of this recognition as personal. Think of it as an honor to the spirit of cooperation and will to solve problems that result in the success of this team. This spirit was not invented by me. Nobody invented it. It was a collective creation of the team.
After leaving this group, I searched for other places that worked in a similar way, and did not find it. But, since I cannot work or live in any other way, I insist in my quest to propagate this spirit of commitment and camaraderie wherever I go.
About Paulo Franca, PhD
Dr. Franca has a long and successful track record of developing innovative information technology and services. Prior to co-founding DataCare, Dr. Franca held various management and development roles including university department chair. He received his doctorate in computer science from UC Berkeley and did undergraduate work in computer science at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Dr. Franca is the author of a C++ book that has been translated into 5 languages.
He brings more than 40 years of technology expertise to DataCare including 11 years in Workers’ Compensation and 35 years as a professor for a leading University of California institution.