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What I do for a living

Posted in Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on October 25, 2006

FastCompany has a piece by Mark Tucker about the On Board Shuttle Group of Lockheed Martin Space Mission Systems Division. They are one of only four teams who have achieved the Level 5 ranking of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). This is a very well written piece that could serve as an introduction to what I do as a career. I work in hardware verification, not software testing but much like software for space it is an industry with a much higher focus on quality and much lower tolerance for bugs.

The major difference between hardware and software testing is that if there’s a critical bug that I miss in software simulations before the chip is developed it costs $1 million to re-spin. Sometimes a software workaround is possible, but if there isn’t it becomes much more costly to fix than a simple patch.

But how much work the software does is not what makes it remarkable. What makes it remarkable is how well the software works. This software never crashes. It never needs to be re-booted. This software is bug-free. It is perfect, as perfect as human beings have achieved. Consider these stats : the last three versions of the program — each 420,000 lines long-had just one error each. The last 11 versions of this software had a total of 17 errors. Commercial programs of equivalent complexity would have 5,000 errors.

>> They Write the Right Stuff
>> Capability Maturity Model Integration process from SEI
Making a mountain out of a molehill (of bugs)

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  1. [...] where ISM’s Predictive 3 comes in place. Do you remember the Fast Company article about the Lockheed Martin Space Mission Systems Division and there ridiculously low tolerance for bugs? ISM’s clients include Nasa, Lockheed Martion, [...]


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