I don’t often write blog posts here discussing works of fiction. But, my recent vacation was an opportunity to get through some non-business-related books for a change. For this audience, I’d like to pass along a recommendation, “The Martian,” by Andy Weir. There is a movie out (as of October 2nd), based on the book, but you should read the book first. Why? And why mention it here?
To start, it’s a well-written book. I enjoyed it so much that I read it in 48 hours (fast for me). Afterwards, I discussed it with my daughter, a mechanical engineer, who bought it for me, and she mentioned that some of her friends had complained that there was too much math in it.
My first reaction was incredulity – what math? There really wasn’t any! But I realized that, as an engineer, I had just processed the numbers automatically without thinking about the pain that others might feel.
A lot of the main character’s (who is also a mechanical engineer) story is about developing hypotheses, working out ways to test those hypotheses, making estimates, measuring actuals and working out how to change plans based on the differences (negative or positive) between the estimates and actuals.
So, this is why I’m recommending this book to all of you. In the software industry, we rely on estimates to set realistic expectations regarding delivery costs and to appropriately allocate time and resources to the work. It’s interesting to see this type of situation play out in a different atmosphere – especially in space!
While it is a work of fiction, it was interesting to see business-related concepts collide with a compelling, fictional story.
If you read it, I hope you enjoy it! If you enjoy it and are having trouble getting your boss to understand the value of estimating and measuring actuals, have them read it too.