The seventh guy interviewed in Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming is Simon Peyton Jones, one of the fathers of Haskell. Here is a small reflection on this chapter.
I think it’s always interesting to hear from famous and intelligent people about their weaknesses. Peyton Jones said that math was too hard for him at the university so he decided not to graduate in it. It’s at least as interesting to hear how he didn’t want to finish so easy. He felt like doing CS would have been cheating as he was already involved in a lot of CS related work, so he decided to finish university in electrical sciences - that would be electrical engineering in the US.
For those who aspire for start-up/entrepreneurial life, but hasn’t tried it yet it’s also interesting to read his opinion. He used to work in a small company and unless you are patronized by some rich investors, money is always a question. Sometimes there is enough, sometimes there is none. Some people are motivated, energized by this constant fight for money, but some others are just distracted. He is from the latter group. If you are also like that, don’t work as an entrepreneur.
I’ve realized that I cannot really make a story out of this chapter, but there are thought pills that really stuck in my head - thanks, Yann Girard, for this expression by the way.
The next one is what he was told by John Washbrook at the university where was doing his Ph.D. “Just start something, no matter how humble”. That’s what I say, that’s what every motivational speaker/author/etc says. Go out and do something. That’s the only way to achieve something and that’s the only way to really learn. Learning from the book without applying what you read is not real knowledge.
Speaking about Ph.D. He would only consider doing a Ph.D. for being a professor or a researcher, otherwise not. That’s the same thing I’ve heard from some other people I know who did Ph.D. Including people who ended up in business instead of research.
Regarding all the discussion about Haskell, I think I would call this guy the Type Guy. He truly believes and uses the static type system. For him, that’s the only way to make sure something works. You cannot expect anything else from one the creating father of GHC.