Blog It Forward – Thorsten Søbirk
Thanks to Morten Wittrock for passing the baton to me in his Blog It Forward post! If you are unware, as I was, of what this whole Blog It Forward thing is about, please see Blog It Forward – the Sequel! by Susan Keohan.
A brief history of me
I am Danish by birth but have spent a fair portion of my life abroad. My primary school years were spent in the USA, and a few years after graduating university in Denmark, my wife (then girlfriend) and I moved to Scotland, where we stayed for nearly 5 years. I won’t age myself directly, but I will say that over the past several years I have gradually become aware that I have quietly transitioned into the “experienced” part of the workforce and of the population in general. Also, my two daughters are suddenly grown up. In any case, I am lucky enough to get to spend time both with actually older people and with much younger people on a regular basis.
I sometimes channel 10-year-old me, getting my first real experience of computers when my 6th grade science teacher managed to procure 4 Commodore VIC-20s for the classroom. It didn’t take long before I was hooked and had convinced my parents to get one for home. A few years later, the VIC-20 was replaced by a Commodore 64, and the rest, as they say, is history. I majored in Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen and was involved with my first SAP project before I graduated. That project went live with R/3 version 3.1h, if I recall correctly. Since then I have been in and out of the “SAP world” and worked with system integration, software development, architecture, agile methodology, cloud, and much more. Lately, I am primarily focussing on AI/ML and Digital Humans – I’ll be writing more about this in the future.
Music has always been a big part of my life. My sister and I took piano lessons from the age of 7 or 8, and when I was 10 I started playing trombone in the school band. I have been playing the trombone ever since. These days I play regularly in two ensembles: one playing early jazz from the 1920s and 30s and where I am the second oldest member with a few guys only around half my age; the other playing cool jazz from the 50s and 60s and where I am the youngest member.
Other activities include amateur dramatics and musical theatre as well as flying r/c helicopters.
If you were not in your current position, what/where would you be and why?
Before going to university, I considered pursuing music professionally. I am quite happy I decided against that path. I take music seriously, and I have the privilege of playing with musicians who are far more accomplished than myself. But I prefer playing music by choice rather than chasing the next gig in order to make a living. So if I weren’t in IT, I wouldn’t be in professional music, either.
If I hadn’t gone into IT, I think I would have chosen to become a craftsman of some sort, because I enjoy working with my hands and I enjoy making things (physical as well as virtual). Joinery and clockmaking are the two crafts that come to mind when I consider this, because they both involve making beautiful and intricate objects. Clocks have the additional alure of being much like computers in some respects – think of the Antikythera mechanism.
What are some of your favourite podcasts?
I listen to many different podcasts. My three favourites right now are – in no particular order:
- The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe – great show about science and critical thinking, very informative and entertaining
- Sean Carroll’s Mindscape Podcast – sometimes mind-blowing, always fantastic conversations with really interesting thinkers
- Lex Fridman’s Artificial Intelligence podcast – thoughtful interviews with people from all kinds of fields about tech, AI, and society in general
I highly recommend these!
If you were 20 again, what would you study?
Why change a good thing? I would study computer science again, but I would add some philosophy. Especially with the advent of AI and the ethical considerations it brings, philosophy is becoming ever more important to computer scientists.