Episode 43 – From Computer To Analyst with Suzanne Robertson

 In Podcasts

Suzanne Robertson is a principal and founder of the Atlantic Systems Guild. She is co-author of Mastering the Requirements Process, a guide for practitioners on finding requirements and writing them so that all stakeholders understand them. Suzanne is also a member of the IEEE and the British Computer Society as well as a regular speaker at conferences and universities.

In this episode Suzanne Robertson explains why you should not expect people to tell you what they need from a software system. Suzanne also discusses how software engineering can benefit from disciplines outside of the I.T. and technology field and why you should open your mind to a future of possibilities.


Time Stamped Show Notes

(00:56) – Phil introduces Suzanne Robertson

(01:30) – Suzanne tells us that her very first job in I.T. was as a Computer which was Suzanne’s job title

(01:49) – Suzanne was working for rocket scientists and had to do modelling before writing programs

(02:07) – Suzanne’s job was to simulate missile trials by eventually writing programs

(02:22) – The people who worked with Alan Turing during World War 2 also had the role of Computer

(02:46) – The computer that Suzanne worked with at the time was analogue and twice the size of Suzanne’s current office

(02:57) – Suzanne became a programmer, writing in machine language and, eventually, in Fortran

(03:10) – Suzanne then undertook roles as designer, systems analyst and project manager

(03:33) – Phil and Suzanne discuss how I.T. has changed, in particular over the past few years as computing power and capability has progressed

(04:30) – Talking about users and giving value to customers wasn’t such a significant consideration when Suzanne began her career in I.T.


(04:41) – Unique Career Tip: Suzanne says that you should not expect people to tell you what they need

(05:06) – This is because they don’t know what they need which is why we need to develop good communication skills to get feedback from people

(05:51) – Phil and Suzanne discuss the term “Requirements Engineering” as well as “Requirements Analysis” and “Business Analysis”

(06:24) – Suzanne believes that there hasn’t been a complete consensus of what the skills are to be attributed to each of the three


(06:41) – Worst Career Moment: Suzanne describes making an urgent code change to a very old cheque printing program

(07:23) – When the cheques were printed each cheque was for $1,000,000 more than it should have been

(07:40) – Another organisations was called in to help them resolve the issue

(07:57) – Suzanne says that she was awake for forty eight hours without going to bed as a consequence


(08:05) – Career Highlight / Greatest Success: Suzanne talks about a co-author and publishing her first book in 1994, “Complete Systems Analysis”

(08:34) – It had taken Suzanne and her co-author ten years to write it, so there was a lot of celebrating

(08:45) – The reason it took so long was because they didn’t really know who they were writing it for

(09:13) – Suzanne describes how she identified the idea of her ideal reader from a photograph in a flight magazine


(09:48) – What Excites You About The Future of a Career in I.T.? Suzanne talks about the progress that has been made in the past forty to fifty years

(10:03) – People are looking past just I.T. and bringing different disciplines in to help with understanding and building systems

(10:22) – Suzanne talks about anthropology, sociology, linguistics and even gardening and how we can learn from them when building systems

(11:07) – Suzanne believes that in the future, “The Sky’s The Limit” and people’s minds are being opened to possibilities much earlier


(11:23) – The Reveal

(11:30) – What attracted you to an I.T. career in the first place? – “By accident. My father, a guided weapons expert, said ‘You might be interested in these things called computers’ … so I went and did an aptitude test”

(12:13) – What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? – “Stick to the knitting; keep doing what you do well”

(13:52) – If you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? –”I would become a systemologist, combining I.T. with social and cultural systems”

(14:32) – What career objectives are you focusing on right now? – “Producing good glue, connecting ideas”

(15:57) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far? – “Cooking, because it takes me away from work and gives me new ideas”


(16:32) – A Parting Piece of Career Advice: Suzanne says that you need to discover the real problem

(16:52) – Don’t just take what somebody says to you. Step back and take a wider view


3 Key Points:     

  1. Don’t expect people to tell you what they need because they usually don’t know
  2. Consider how different disciplines can be used to help design and build systems
  3. Open your mind to possibilities because the sky’s the limit


Resources Mentioned:

Recent Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.

Start typing and press Enter to search