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Beating a Mainframe at Chess and Sharing Remarkable Experiences

Beating a Mainframe at Chess and Sharing Remarkable Experiences

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Opening Comment: : Fiorenza, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in and do this interview. You have a long and remarkable history of success with deep insights that provide value to our audience. Thank you!

A: I want to thank you for the invitation, even if I do not think of myself an individual who's history can keep people interested for a long time.

Q1: Your history is just so remarkable and varied. How did you beat the mainframe in Chess?

A: I was 14 years old and the only kid at the International Fiera di Milano, trying to entertain myself while my father was working for his company. I discovered the IBM section where the latest computer was playing chess with the spectators - and winning most of the time. I do not play chess, but I started noticing the way the computer was responding to the moves made by the human players, and after a while I figured out what moves it did not like, but were sure winners for the human. So the last day I sat in front of it and, using the computer moves against itself, I managed to beat it. That is how I received an offer from IBM to study with them and became one of their first Italian experts.

Q2: Which three experiences most shaped your life and work?

A: There cannot be only three as life is a continuous experience. Possibly I can recollect that I come from a family of achieving women. My great-grand mother was founder of the Italian nurses group for the Red Cross, for the WW1, and went to the university to take a degree at 74. My grandmother was a published and well known writer in the mid 1900. My mother, an architect, was supportive of my desire to become an engineer and a scientist. And my first manager, also a woman, became the top expert in her field, (even in Italy), especially in those times when women had a tough time in advancing in a men's world.

Certainly what also brought me to where I am today, has been the decision to leave Italy, come to the USA, where I was sure I could find a job even though I did not speak English and was only able to read IBM manuals. I found a job in less than a month as an expert of computer performance analysis and improvement. I then started to learn to speak English, completing cross-word puzzles in the newspapers, and going back to the university to listen to classes I had already taken in Italian.

Still most of all, I can say, the experiences that most shaped my life and work are not tangible experiences, but the examples of women around me, who supported me and urged me to be the best I could be. "Nothing is impossible," I kept telling myself, when first I tried and then I surprised myself when I succeeded.

Q3: What are your favorite pastimes outside of work and why?

A: Reading - my mother taught me to read when I was three and by five I was admitted to second grade, and in that same year I read "Gone with the Wind" (at that age I found it boring). Still, reading is my main pleasure.

Then travel, which I have done extensively, where I like to explore other civilizations, their history, museums, art, traditions, and to meet people.

Naturally with travel I enjoy taking photographs, (probably too many), as a reminder of my travels and the places and people I have met. This I owe to my father who when I was born, as a first gift to the newborn, gave me a camera and taught me how to use it. I still have the camera and it is in working order.

Music - when I was young I played the piano, for my own pleasure, but now music is a continuous background to my life (classical mostly), on my computer, on the radio, TV, etc.

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