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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

I've known Kirstin pretty much since she came to Magenic, and she's one of the smartest (and most energetic) people I know. Shortly after joining our team, she was off and running and hasn't slowed down yet. Through dogged persistence (and a few emails), I was able to keep up with her long enough to ask her these NINE Questions:

image 1. Where are you from?
St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN. I had a brief stint in Silicon Valley right at the beginning of the tech bubble – that was cool! Got home-sick though.

2. Who do you work for / What do you do / What is your product?  Give me the 10 second pitch...
I am a consultant for Magenic Technologies. I write code. I don’t specialize, but I tend to focus on the middle tier and database design/development  because that’s where the fun problems are. And I push processes like Continuous Integration pretty hard.

3. How did you end up doing what you do now?
During my gig in Silicon Valley mentioned above, I was a Chemical Engineer at a fab. At this time Statistical Process Control and Demming were just starting to come into vogue, and I was tasked to implement these concepts on my processes. In order to collect the quantity and frequency of the data I wanted, I soon realized that an automated data collection system was called for. Being in the valley and palling around with other engineers and developers, and remembering how much fun I had at computer camp when I was ten, I decided to roll my own. I purchased VB 3.0 and an Access Database, ordered up several PC cards that I could connect to thermometers, pressure gauges, etc, and away I went. I soon discovered that this way more fun than my day job, so I went back to school in a Masters program, and slowly transitioned from engineer to full time software developer. Now here I am!! And loving every minute.

4. Ok, so you have an engineering background, how does that play into your software development work?
I still have that engineering brain… you can take the girl out of the factory, but you can't take the engineer out of the girl! So I tend to have a laser-like focus on whatever is currently capturing my attention. (As those of you who follow me on twitter know!) I am very detail-oriented, and am a natural problem solver. This makes me a perfect fit for heads-down coding and debugging. I have trouble seeing the larger picture. (I will never be a Project Manager!) I don't only not see the forest for the trees, I pretty much only see the chlorophyll molecules on the leaves on the trees. I also see everything as a process,  and therefore I am known as a “Process person”. But only to the point where process adds value. When the process becomes the focus of the effort and solving the business problem a by-product, something’s gone terribly wrong. It drives me nuts when things could be done a better way, and it's not.

5. As a consultant, you've had your share of good and bad projects, what's the most interesting (project / environment / client / whatever) you've run into so far?
I was on a project where the application was a web application that was going to be deployed to sites that lacked a high speed connection. Therefore, some of the most critical requirements were performance-related. Performance was not tested nor addressed until almost 3 years into the project, when it was in user-acceptance testing. The application could not come near to the performance requirements, and furthermore, it was way too late to fix it. Some unfortunate architecture decisions made early on in the project rendered the application “un-fixable” without starting over. The project ended up being canceled. As an engineer, I think that application performance (or any other quality metric) should be treated in the same manner as the metrics in my factory processes were. Following a performance strategy from the beginning of the project could have averted this disaster. Problems could have been found early-on when there was still time to change the application.

6. So what are some of your nontechnical interests? What do you do when you aren't geeking out?
Mostly I am a Mom. I run daily as my mental health plan, and I love to mountain bike. Single-track only though, so because of the time commitments involved in driving to a trail and riding, I don’t get to do it very much.

7. Any thoughts on Twitter? Facebook? Social Networks in general?
I like being able to keep up with people from whom I am separated geographically.  The “Twitterverse” as we call it, is an awesome network, social, and technical support group. Whenever I am stuck on something I put it out there, and within minutes will have knowledgeable people anxious to help. This field is so broad that there is no way to keep on even a fraction of what’s new. Having a network of people a click away is a huge asset. Then there is the social aspect. In my everyday “real world” life I don’t have much contact with “my kind”, and Twitter allows me to the ability to “converse” with people who share my experiences, interests, frustrations, and humor is at anytime – day or night.

8. A lot of folks probably know you as the TFS Chick, but what's something most people don't know about Kirstin Juhl?
Umm.. that’s TFS Princess to you! I am a hard-core coder more than a TFS person. I push process because it allows me more time to write better code under less stress. I love data, and therefore I like to focus on application/database performance analysis and tuning as well. I am most interested in looking at the raw data collected in the TFS data store over the life of the project and seeing if there is anything we are missing with our current metrics reports. I am looking for new ways to measure/monitor/control software projects and applications. Why? Because process improvement was my entire first career and I guess I drank the kool-aid, as they say. But before I could generate/analyze the data, I had to learn how to use TFS.

9. Any tattoos?
No. But I do have two piercings…

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 10:22 AM NINE Questions | Back to top

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