I’m always in awe when I read about the ingenuity of ancient civilizations with respect to engineering and architecture. The Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Aztecs and, Inca have all built amazing structures that are still standing. One that I find fascinating is the Aqueduct of Segovia (Spain) built during the Roman Empire around the 1st century A.D.

The aqueduct brought water into the town until the end of the 19th century. No kind of mortar was used to hold it together. Stones are simply laid next to each other. Each stone is held in place by the others. They support each other to maintain equilibrium within the arch.

 

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With that in mind, one summer the ho-hum lot adjacent from my job suddenly buzzed with activity. Men and powerful cranes joined forces and operated in unison—no stones were left unturned (mortar was definitely used though). There were women in hard hats analyzing various data. The pulleys (block and tackle) in midair, defied gravity while revealing the laws of physics inherent in the system. Sophisticated software, for sure, was used to re-evaluate the many stresses acting on the building, which, in a few months, would overlook the Palm Beach Ocean. Where a dilapidated structure once stood, an opulent building followed.

I was enrolled in calculus and physics classes, and now right across from work, I had a front row seat to an evolving structural engineering project; I was hooked!

Web developers/software engineers grapple with similar concerns as structural engineers. There are obvious comparisons where safety and performance are paramount. Web developers conduct performance, load and stress tests to evaluate the reliability of websites to avoid ‘crashes’, when a loss of revenue could ensue. In addition, they conduct strenuous tests to safeguard the integrity of data. Both professionals use blueprints to analyze and build the structure.
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A website’s blueprint is a wireframe coded in HTML language. Whereas cranes and pulleys do the heavy lifting on the ground, powerful programming tools such as CSS and JavaScript add style and dynamism, respectively.

With CSS (cascading style sheet), a programmer can pick just one ‘brick’ (i.e. element) in the structure and style it! JavaScript, on the other hand, adds complexity that renders a website highly functional. The highly responsive websites are meticulously engineered and often come with all the bells and whistles that are eye candy for potential customers—you feel right at home. A physical structure has wiring and other hidden processes that give it purpose. Just the same, databases which store large amounts of data are especially intrinsic to businesses both physical (e.g. hospitals, banks) and in the “cloud” for their day-to-day operations and to make informed decisions.

For example, when you request to view a recent online purchase, you’re merely sending structured query language or SQL (pronounced SeQuel) codes to a server database. There’s a lot of history regarding databases, but thanks to Dr. Edgar Codd (PhD) we’ve made great strides in storing and retrieving data quickly.

The following was an assignment in database management. It shows what goes behind the scene when a query is executed:

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A typical database

Suppose you are preparing a chart that lists the sales rep #  and name for every sales rep that represents at least one customer with a credit limit of at least $10,000. You’d like to  avoid listing the rep multiple times (i.e. duplicates) and list the result into numeric order by rep number:

*This is what’s stored in the customer table (abbreviated for space and emphasis):

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Below is the coding and query result:

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Isn’t technology amazing?

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There are challenging concepts in database management, software programming, and web development which make technology, especially programming, intriguing. Web development, itself, is extremely dynamic and there is a plethora of free programming tools and resources online for continued professional growth. Note that web developer use programming to solve problems, whereas a web designer use tools like “Photoshop to create visual elements of the website.” However, both terms are used interchangeably.

Much like a structural engineering design, there’s architecture in web design. Software engineering/web development can be challenging and the barrier to entry can be daunting. However, the rewards and flexibility compel one to stay the course. And, to be a part of a truly special group of professionals is incredibly humbling.


Photo Credit (inset) to be updated

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