An Oral History of Bank Python

Disregarding the fact that this is a written history, I found Cal Paterson’s essay fascinating.

It could be that the biggest disadvantage is professional. Every year you spend in the Minerva monoculture the skills you need interact with normal software atrophy. By the time I left I had pretty much forgotten how to wrestle pip and virtualenv into shape (essential skills for normal Python).

I’ve known people that worked in COBOL for the baking industry but I had no idea that a private Python branch was replacing it. After reading this I’m guessing that this happens in a lot of fields.

This paragraph also caught my attention:

Minerva is obviously heavily influenced by the technological path dependency of the financial sector, which is another way of saying: there is a lot of MS Excel. Any new software solution is going to be compared with MS Excel and if the result is unfavourable people will often just use continue to use Excel instead. Many, many technologists have taken one look at an existing workflow of spreadsheets, reacted with performative disgust, and proposed the trifecta of microservices, Kubernetes and something called a “service mesh”.

I’ve heard that same casual disgust of Excel for my entire career and it’s wrong-headed. Excel is a powerful programming environment and it might be the most popular language on the planet. As a technology lead I’ve been wrong-headed many times and thought that Excel was ruining our data. But I came around when I realized what an enabling tool it is. People that have never written a line of Java or Python can make Excel sing. It might be the greatest low-code tool in history.