Profile

Personal and professional observations
by John W Lewis

As you read my observations on life, the universe and everything, you might be interested to know the following information about my personal and professional activities and interests.

Professional

As founder and director of Holosoft, publisher of learning material, my professional activities specialise in providing business and IT professionals with knowledge about the benefits of applying new services, products and  technologies.

With over 16 years experience of delivering commercial training on software development, I have spent many thousands of hours training many hundreds of people, particularly in object-oriented software design for implementation in C++ and Java. This has primarily been on behalf of one of the leading IT training providers, QA.

Personal

This blog is mainly for information about my personal observations and non-commercial contributions.

I am interested in innovation and how innovation can be managed by people as individuals and in organisations. Innovation means many things to many people. To me, innovation is about novelty, that is “newness”; and the core issues in understanding innovation, and therefore being able to manage innovation, is how people experience novelty and how they behave due to that experience.

Interests

For as long as I can remember, I have been motivated by an interest in what things are, how they work and how they are used.

If you are driven by a similar motivation or are operating in a similar subject area, then maybe we have some things to share.

In recent times, much of this interest has been directed at the application of software technology. Many people are motivated by the pursuit of a detailed knowledge of the mechanisms of software technology; I am not really one of them. Other people work on understanding everything about a subject area, whether in the domains of business, technology, science, or any other; I am somewhat closer to them. Closer yet to my interests is the pursuit of an understanding of the relationship between subject domains and representations of them, including representing them in software; this is primarily, I feel, about “modelling” in some general sense or, more formally, about the engineering design of software.

On the one hand, I see little point in pursuing a detailed understanding of a subject domain unless it is likely to result, eventually, in something which can be modelled and, therefore, applied. On the other hand, I also see little benefit in delving into the details of an implementation technology, if the resulting understanding does not contribute to its use in the implementations of models; that is, again, that it can be applied. Much more interesting, to me, is the relationship between the two: how can be map the characteristics of a subject domain, via models, onto the characteristics of an implementation technology. There are elements of a variety of fields involved: possibly this is about “design”, maybe this is about “simulation”. Overall, I find the term “modelling” remains the most apt.

Software models, mathematical models, mental models, analogies … all of these fall into this area of interest. Some models are helpful in providing explanations, some actually execute.

Many believe that we are the sum of our experiences, so who am I and what have I been doing?

Who am I?

For those for who are interested, I am British and live in the UK. Occasionally, it might help you to know this, but generally I think that this has little relevance to most of this blog.

What have I been doing?

I founded Holosoft in 1990 as a vehicle for whatever activities I might undertake in the fields information and software.

Since late 1991, I have spent approximately half of the available working time as an instructor delivering training courses lasting one to five days to software engineers working for banks, telecom companies, airlines, oil companies, retailers and companies in many other sectors. The training courses are all related to the application of object-oriented software technology; this includes requirements analysis, design and programming.

Delivering commercial training to up to a dozen software developers at a time on courses lasting several days is among the hardest work that I have done. When it works well, it is very rewarding; when it does not, it can be extremely “challenging”. As someone who previously had had no significant experience of presentation or training, I also found it to be a skill which takes time to acquire.

In retrospect, I can now see a variety of earlier career activities led me to this area of training activity. However, for a long time, this area seemed to be a significant departure from my previous path, and a somewhat retrograde one!

Previously

My previous career, up to mid 1990, had been in technical research and involved a mix of academic and commercial roles.

My bachelor degree is in Applied Physics, after which I worked in industrial research into a variety of topics relating broadly to thermal and optical effects in polymers. Much of this work was somewhat theoretical in nature and, already, involved modelling: modelling of the polarisation of optical beams; modelling of the polarisability of materials; modelling of thermal propagation during industrial processes; and similar areas. My use of software during this time was, to say the least, rudimentary.

This was followed by a short spell in Europe in a more commercial, but still technical, role.

My doctorate is in “Fourier approaches to the theory of volume holography”, which involved some detailed mathematical modelling, software implementation and numerical simulation of the propagation of complex optical beams in inhomogeneous structures of the type generated by the recording of holograms. It was the work of this period, that established my interest in and understanding of the cyclic relationship between: a subject domain; models of the domain (mathematical, in this case); software implementations of the model; and the simulations generated by execution of the implementations.

Commercial work followed with some time in technical consulting during which I did yet more modelling; mainly of optical effects used for data recording, for communication, and other applications; as well as of some geometric problems in mechanical engineering.

The academic world drew me back to a Research Fellowship during which I applied some of my previous work to the field of optical signal processing devices. Significant time was also spent in applying similar techniques to the modelling of neural networks, including using more sophisticated software technologies for the purpose. This period was the real origins of my interest in the characteristics of software technologies.

Learning

During all this time, I have also been on the learning side of the fence a few times.

In a general sense: I learnt from training others; I have also learnt a great deal from children about many things including, not least, about how they learn.

Specifically: I have learnt to play a couple of musical instruments, to ski, to swing a golf club (and, even, hit the ball!), to row a (racing) boat, to sail a yacht and to fly an aircraft. Each of these provides experiences which are, at  various times: interesting, exciting, exhausting, humbling, frustrating and mind-broadening.

Mostly, I hope that I have learnt that it does us no harm and, frequently, a great deal of good to be a complete novice at something for a while; so … I must remember to do that again!

About my name

Finding me by name is sometimes difficult, because it is so common. My parents and I have made this more difficult than necessary, by shortening a much less common name, as I will try to explain.

Almost everyone knows me as “John Lewis”, but my full name is “Johnathan Wilson Lewis”. My parents chose the unusual spelling, “Johnathan”, specifically so that I could shorten it to the common spelling of “John”; and they used the shortened form. This seemed like quite a good idea … at the time! … before the Internet!

As you know, the name of this blog is “johnwlewis”; this is because, as you might have guessed, the name “johnlewis” was taken. Similarly, there are many people by the name of “John Lewis” in the world; so, for now, I have settled on the use of “John W Lewis” in a attempt to provide, at least, some differentiation.

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