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Lessons to learn from a pioneer of computing

Let’s hope the reward is a new generation of cooling engineers with a broad outlook on their industry

Let’s get inspired and attract the next generation of talent  into the cooling industry

The other day I listened to an interview with one of the early pioneers of the computing industry, a remarkable lady called Dame Stephanie Shirley.

She came over as a child refugee from Nazi Germany in the early 1940s and built up a hugely successful software business, right from the days when there was no such concept as software.

Her story is full of intriguing highlights, not least the fact that latterly she has effectively become a professional philanthropist, because she felt that she wanted to use her success make a difference.

In the early years Stephanie signed all her business letters ‘Steve’ because that was the only way she could get her foot in the door of the male-dominated world of early computing (what’s changed, you may ask).

But rather than letting that stopping her, she set her company up with a workforce entirely of women.

The practice only came to an end with the equality legislation of the early 1970s, ironically.

This idea that if a conventional process isn’t working, then simply invent something new will have some resonances with the folk behind the Cool Science project (see more on RAC May p34-35).

Cool Science was conceived out of a desire to build a future for the cooling industry by inspiring new generations in a creative way, when conventional/careers educational routes were proving uninspiring.

The way that this has been embraced by industry and by the target audience is impressive and we should find ways to capitalise on the wave of inspiration.

There are at least three in this very magazine alone: we could start by giving more backing to the practical skills focus of World Skills (RAC May p35); we could work out how best to woo the high-calibre graduates (ask Dr Ed Hammond how well the Year in Industry project worked for him, see p8); and we can put forward our brightest students for the National Student of the Year, which RAC runs with the IOR (see May RAC p6).

We have seen a lot of successful trainees from the industrial sector in recent years, but there must be equally impressive commercial cooling apprentices out there too.

The final comment on Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley’s interview I wanted to share is my sheer misty-eyed nostalgia at hearing phrases like ‘punch-cards’ ‘machine code’ and ‘Fortran’ .

It wasn’t that long ago. You can’t help but be amazed by the seemingly unstoppable progress that continues to be made by the computing industry.

And the exponential growth in data of course means work for our industry – data centre cooling is a specialist sector that, let’s not forget, barely existed a decade ago.

Perhaps the most exciting thing, as you will see from our Question Time debate on RAC May p12-17, is that the requirements on cooling – and on heat recovery – seem to be changing as fast as the data industry. A chance for cooling to seize the initiative?

And finally, it’s your last chance this month to get that initiative rewarded in the Cooling Industry Awards! (see p20-21).

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