Tony Hoare: managing Elliott programmers

Tony Hoare recalls the delicate task of managing computer programmers at Elliott Brothers in the 1960s.

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I did do a lot of progress meetings, getting people to predict how long things would take and then learning how to estimate better, gradually. And the second thing was really almost part of the company philosophy, that I put the programmers in direct contact with our customers. So they would find out what needed doing, what the customers really wanted, and they would report back and I would moderate or prioritise, shall we say, what they were asking for and make sure that our programmes didn’t make too many promises to too many different customers. That was the management style that I adopted. It was really varied, of course. There was a lot of administrative duties, project proposals to request development funds. Recruitment took a fair amount of time. There was customer support, sales support, talking to the troops. I actually had quite wide responsibilities. I used to walk around the factory every day to see what was going on, not because I had to do anything about it, but I just felt I ought to know what was going on. I think managing programmers is – you have to be really quite gentle because they – it’s so easy to get another job. So you have to make sure that life is – the programmers are all doing what they want to do and understand how they’re contributing to – to the company and sort of keep – keep the morale up. Well, the most important thing is to talk to them and find out what they want, so … you do a lot of comforting. People feel a lack of confidence and worry about things and you just have to be comforting. That’s – I think every manager knows that that’s part of the job.

  • Interviewee Tony Hoare
  • Duration 00:02:27
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 9/8/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/52

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