Alumni ProfileDorothy Hoekema Graham '67
High-tech bug catcher

Dorothy GrahamIf you've ever been billed for merchandise you didn't purchase or been gridlocked at a traffic light gone inexplicably haywire, you can understand why increasingly computerized societies need the work of Dorothy Hoekema Graham '67.

Graham trains software developers how to catch the bugs in their products before they're loosed on the world. “There is no way to test all the combinations of ways a computer program can go wrong,” she said. “But there are techniques to find the most likely and most important errors.”

It's those techniques that Graham teaches software developers, testers and managers.

After she'd earned a master's degree from Purdue in the teaching of mathematics, Graham wanted “to see what the real world was like.” She took a job at Bell Labs in New Jersey testing software designed to recognize types of submarines by their underwater signals. When she married an Englishman and moved with him to Manchester in 1973, Graham stayed in the new field of software development. She said, “I realized I found testing more interesting than other people who weren't paying much attention to it at the time.”

Graham continued to pay attention to it. By the time others realized that to neglect the testing of software was to invite havoc, she had developed courses in testing for Britain's National Computing Centre and the Micro Computing Unit. She worked on a committee in the United Kingdom that developed standards for software testing; she program chaired the first EuroSTAR (Software Testing, Analysis and Review) Conference in 1993; and she helped write qualification standards and course materials for those who wanted to earn certification as testers. She's co-authored three books in the field, too. In 1999 she was awarded the IBM European Excellence Award in Software Testing.

Graham looks back on her accomplishments with some surprise. “I know who planned my career, and it wasn't me,” she said. “It's been much more exciting than if I'd planned it myself.”

Today, Grove Consultants, the company Graham founded, offers training courses and advice on all dimensions of software testing to companies around the world, from Scandinavia to South Africa, China and New Zealand.

In November, Graham was on Calvin's campus for the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference. There, Calvin's computer science department released the premier issue of Dynamic Link: Christian Perspectives on Software Development, for which Graham wrote the lead article.

In it she details for readers Grove's “Ethos,” specific principles and practices she set out when her first partner joined the business. Now five, the Grove consultants, all equal partners, all Christians, commit themselves not only to high-quality service. They also promise to extend kindness, generosity, forgiveness and humility to clients and to each other. There is even a “Grove Prime Email Directive” in which they remind each other how a Christian reads a charged e-mail message.

“Because we're a distributed organization—meaning we all work from home—misunderstandings arise easily,” Graham said. “But when we're all face-to-face we have a wonderful time and realize how privileged we are, as Christians in a secular society like the U.K.'s, to be working together.”

Married to Roger Graham for 38 years, mother to a daughter and son, Graham reckons she's achieved both the aspirations she expressed, as a child of five, to her mother: “I can't decide whether to be selfish and get married or to stay single and be of service to all mankind.”

 

To read the Grove “Ethos” in Dynamic Link, see www.cs.calvin.edu/sestudy. Discussion groups that would like hard copies of the journal may contact Patrick Bailey: pmb4@calvin.edu or (616) 526-7543.