I watched a ‘Seconds from Disaster’ episode last night on the 1986 Hotel New World collapse in Singapore. Disaster to say the least – an entire 6 story building collapsed in less than a minute, 33 people tragically lost their lives and it’s surprising it wasn’t a lot more.
So, skipping to the punchline, (spoiler alert), it was caused by the engineer/draftsman calculating the live load (load of people, furniture fixtures, air conditioners etc) but not adding it to the dead load calculation (the weight of the building itself).
So, the building when constructed wasn’t even designed to support its own weight. It was only a matter of time before it collapsed. Engineers of any flavour often have what we call in recruiting terms a Technical Profile.
What’s a Technical Profile?
This means they deal in universal truths, facts, logical consistency and accuracy. For them the devil is in the detail and if they don’t have good attention to detail then evil things can happen. Very evil things, if you are designing a 6 story hotel building.
While lives are not always at stake for IT engineers who design solutions or fix problems, data is.
How important is data?
Well, they protect data centres with fire suppression systems that effectively replace the oxygen with inert gas when smoke is detected, and you don’t want to be in there when that happens.
Attention to detail in IT setting
Perhaps the best example of the need for attention to detail in an IT setting is setting up backup systems.
You set up the backup job, select all folders or complete virtual servers that are to be backed up and select the schedule to back up every night and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that after tonight your systems will be safe. True, except for the all to common situation where you forget to set or don’t test the email notification option. You don’t get alerted when backups fail. At some point the backup system stops backing up (destination out of space or shadow copy fails etc) and the first you know of it is when the server itself has a RAID controller failure or someone needs to recover a critical document that they accidentally deleted. You’re wiping the egg of your face while chatting to the client/user explaining how that could happen.
Yes, it’s a mistake and yes it can happen to anyone but if you don’t naturally have a technical profile with strong attention to detail, IT engineering or Systems Administration may not be the IT role for you. So, if you are considering a move into the IT industry or your next career move within IT, consider your personality type and particularly your propensity to be naturally attentive to details.