The Music Maker
IBMer Barbara Morris creates harmony with strings and code
Photo courtesy of Barbara Morris
Playing cello in a string quartet and working as part of a programming team may not seem related, but both require close interaction among the participants. In the music world, that’s known as ensemble playing. In business, we just call it teamwork. For Barbara Morris, there’s something magical about being part of a team—at work or on the concert stage.
Morris’ day job is lead developer for the RPG compiler at IBM’s Toronto lab. After hours, she can be found playing cello as part of a string quartet. In both milieus, teamwork is vital. “It produces something we couldn’t do by ourselves,” she says.
Thanks to her family, Morris adopted music at an early age. “Everyone in my family started on piano and then moved to string instruments when we reached junior high,” she says. At 11, she focused her musical ambitions on the cello. Music and the cello shaped her life for the next couple of decades. Morris received a performance degree from the University of Alberta and spent the next 10 years freelancing as a musician and teacher as she sought a permanent position with an orchestra.
Pursuing her dreams didn’t mean Morris forgot about the practicality of earning a living. In the late 1980s, she returned to school to earn a degree in physics, an academic path that lasted just one day. Rejecting physics, she turned to math, which required a computer course. The course was in Fortran, “which was just too cool,” Morris says. Intrigued by computer science, she switched her major again. Eventually, her part-time work in school led to a degree in computer science from the University of Alberta. Earning that degree proved fortuitous.
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