How Watching Dateline Real-Life Mysteries Helped My IT Career

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How Watching Dateline Real-Life Mysteries Helped My IT Career

It turns out that solving crimes and solving tech challenges are very similar in how they're approached and resolved.

· Agile Zone ·
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While not the most avid television watchers, I have recently become hooked on Dateline Real-Life Mysteries.  Of course, to maximize our watching experience, I setup the DVR to capture the episodes (most of which are new to us) from a few different channels on our cable provider.

As we have watched the episodes, I can't help but draw some parallels between the world of Dateline Real-Life Mysteries and my career in Information Technology (IT).  With a goal of keeping this article light, I will make some broad-stroke comparisons.

It's Almost Always the Spouse

Image titleRegardless of the situation, if the victim of the episode has a spouse, they are always considered a primary suspect.  The detectives and their team of specialists place the spouse under the microscope early on to validate or eliminate the individual as a suspect in the case.

Sometimes, the spouse has a rock-solid alibi, they have been very good at covering their tracks, or the State's case against them is circumstantial at best.  But, deep down the prosecutor is 99% certain the spouse is the suspect they want to put on trial.  So, that is when the trial often begins.

At the end of one episode where the spouse was found guilty, Dateline interviewed the jury members.  I remember one jury saying, "If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, at some point we have to admit ... it MUST BE a duck." 

That insight brought me to the world of IT.  When faced with a challenge, our mind is very good at helping narrow down the source of the problem we need to solve.  Like the detectives on the case, we may not have full proof of our suspicions, but we have enough to proceed forward.  Most of the time, our suspicions are correct and we are able to resolve the challenge

Don't Be Too Quick to Judgment

Image titleThere are times when Dateline delivers an unexpected curveball too.  One episode I recall proceeded down the expected path where the primary suspect had a mountain of evidence against him.  The suspect maintained the classic symbols of someone who had committed the crime — from his mannerisms to the way questions were answered.  The trial was presented and, as expected, the jury found the suspect guilty on all counts.  

Then came the curve ball.  Years after the suspect was sentenced, new evidence came to light to exonerate the individual from the crime.  As a result, the individual was released from prison with all of the charges dropped.

In the world of IT, it is important to avoid rushing to judgment when making decisions.  Of course, this is easier said than done - believing we made the best decision with the information available to us.  The challenge comes into play when realizing the decision wasn't the right decision.  The key here is to react quickly to rectify the situation - just like how the suspect was released when the new evidence proved the original charges were not legitimate.

Avoid Falling Victim to the Hype

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The final example was centered on an evangelical motivational speaker.  His business had gained a huge following, which led to the creation of his getaway camp.  As a part of this (very expensive) camp, the final challenge focused on a sweathouse.  In order to achieve their goal, the participants had to endure 13 waves of intense heat in the sweathouse - without the option to leave.

As a result of this challenge and the words of the enthusiastic motivational speaker, a few of the participants ended up passing away.  The actions of the motivational speaker and multiple aspects surrounding the getaway camp led prosecutors to arrest and bring charges against him.  While he was not found guilty of murder, the motivational speaker spent some time in prison for his actions as a result of the camp.

The takeaway that came to mind in the world of IT is to avoid falling victim to the hype.  The software industry is in a constant hype cycle, with new frameworks, design patterns and technologies appearing before us.  Just looking back 18 - 24 months, it is easy to see just how many of these hyped items fail to have a lasting impact on our industry.  For me, I am a big fan of Gartner's Hype Cycle - since they tend to do a good job presenting what is in the early stages of "hype."


I hope you've enjoyed my light-hearted comparison of Dateline Real-Life Mysteries to a career in IT.  While I don't expect you to walk away with feeling like you've gained a wealth of knowledge, I do find it interesting how there are parallels with a show like Dateline Real-Life Mysteries.  With so many episodes available, I wonder what parallels you may have seen.  As always, I am looking forward to your thoughts. 

Have a really great day!


Published at DZone with permission of John Vester , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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