The Locker from a Previous Life

And a walk down memory lane

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

She opened the locker. Three years had gone by. So much had happened since the last time the locker was locked, so much had changed in the world. In her world too. She did not remember the lock code anymore and had to have it broken. She would come to remember later that it was the birth date of someone dear to her heart. 0804.

You could write a book about the locker and its content. It was a microcosm of her life before the pandemic, before the illness. But first stood out the names. Dozens of names, some old, Germaine, Pierre, Eugénie, some younger, Nicolas, Aurélie, Chloé, and some from elsewhere, Farida, Evgueny, Mauro. They came from all over the world and from all walks of life. They did not share much, except having been really ill, at the doorsteps of the world after.

She would stick their names on the back of the locker, praying for those undergoing surgery, remembering those who did not make it and cheering for those who did. Many of the names were testaments to the miracles that modern medicine and its practitioners were able to achieve, especially when all hope seemed to be lost.

Those she cared for were here on a last chance. They came to undergo the stuff of magic, which are procedures closer to science fiction if you fancy a less irrational description, but all the same if you asked her, because magic is what it really took to save these lives in dire situations.

People on whom medicine would have given up a few years ago, or even a few kilometers away, had a chance here. A reasonable chance. And I like to think her touch contributed greatly. She was the last face they saw before the great ordeal, a great responsibility which she did not take lightly.

She did everything she could to get them smiling and fearless to the stuff of magic which was supposed to mend them, and most made it through because a smile, a pinch of hope and a prayer are powerful spells too, maybe the most powerful of all.

She stood there, in front of the locker, memories rushing through her. She remembered her colleagues, most of whom had retired or moved on to other endeavors. She remembered the pandemic, her illness, and felt the toll that these three years had taken on her.

She remembered the old days, some happy, some sad, and all the hard times that had shaped her into the sharp professional she once was and never stopped to be, even with the past three years weighting on her shoulders.

All she needed to do now was to enter into the cold white light and take her place in the magic procedure of wizards bringing life back to those who had no other alternative than their magic.

She closed the locker, scrubbed up, donned the gown, and with her magic wand in hand, she went on saving lives, in honor of the names in the locker from a previous life.

To my lovely Rita, and to all the wizards, Elie, Stephan, Saïd, Emre, Joy, Olaf, Dominique, Philippe, Julien, Ramzi, Sacha, Régine, Sebastien, Bechara, Iolanda, Pierre, and the many others doing miracles at the edge of science and magic, to save lives which are otherwise doomed.

Let the board sound

Rabih

On that moment when you start walking on water

One of the major traps in fintech is implementing the requirements of a financial institution without questioning the value it is expecting from them. Many times, the client would be describing how he or she operates a given business process in the system being replaced rather than the functional value expected from that process regardless of the platform. Many times, what the client does in a system is actually a workaround for a gap in functionality and you don’t want to be implementing workarounds and accumulating technical debt in the platform you are delivering to him.

Many years ago, I found myself in a meeting room somewhere in the UK, surrounded by representatives of the treasury, operations and finance departments of a humongous financial institution, trying to come up with a proper design for their treasury business processes to implement and automate in our platform. At some point, we stumbled on a concept we had never encountered before, the FTP, or Fund Transfer Pricing, which only started gathering interest by the end of the 2000s, after the sub-prime crisis had washed international finance ashore, a very recent topic back then. It felt like the client was speaking a different language and the meeting was reaching a dead-end when the senior architect suddenly rose to the challenge. He asked a simple question with his typical French accent.

“Why do you do it?”

Sometimes the most basic question can yield the most effective answers and this one proved it right. The client ended up explaining what he actually wanted to do rather than how he wanted it to be done. For the less experienced consultant that I was back then, it felt like magic. A very complex business requirement was unraveling, bit by bit, with every question the senior architect was asking. The guy was walking on water that day, and even the client was amazed by his magic: He went into the meeting not knowing a thing about FTP but still managed to save the day and get out of it with a clearly described business requirement which we could design into the platform. And all he did was ask questions. The right questions. That was my first true lesson into requirement gathering and design, my Fintech 101 moment if you will. It was very humbling, and I remembered thinking I could never pull off something like that.

I would however get a shot at it, some years later, when I found myself in a meeting room somewhere in northern Europe, in the middle of winter, surrounded by half the treasury department of one of my clients, trying to come up with an elegant design for their banking book accrual P&L reports. Fintech 101 was far away in time and I had done enough mistakes by then to have learnt a few tricks of the craft. It felt like walking on water to me and I like to think the client felt the same magic. But nothing is less sure…

Let the board sound

Rabih