Maria opened the door and rolled her chair over to her new desk. The large corner office was mostly empty and all the stuff from her old cubicle barely covered half the desk, which was the only thing the former CEO had left in the room.
The desk sat in the middle of the room. She knew that it had been moved into this awkward position as statement of some sort, but she kind of liked it there. She picked up one side of the desk and moved it a bit to give her a clear view out the floor-ceiling windows and Stanley Park.
The entire floor of this building used to be filled with people from her company. Now, she was the only full-time employee left. There were some administrative support staff around, but the Board had purposefully removed everything associated with the prior management, who had simply spent too much money on the wrong things.
"Why did they keep me," she thought to herself. "And what am I going to do now?"
She thought back to the first day she visited the office. She couldn’t remember exactly how she got in touch with the former CEO, but she did remember making a good impression. She had been working as an instructor at a college in an intake program for the mine engineering program at UBC, but wanted to work in the industry.
When they first sat down in this same office, she remembered that he was intrigued by her background. There weren't many people out there with PhDs in mathematics who cared about the mining industry. Let alone ones who were also certified as professional engineers. He had asked her about that, and she remembered seeing this as a great opportunity to shift into her science-advocate persona and talk about the power of applied maths.
What had she said, exactly? Something about going beyond algorithms that produced a single answer, like an optimal pit design, and into things that helped support expert's decision making.
He had not been convinced. She remembered that he said "what-if" scenario analysis was a fine way of addressing these concerns.
"Yes," she was beginning to remember parts of the conversation. "But these scenarios are restricted to the same constraints and objectives of the single optimum." She continued, "I have something broader in mind, which allows for better visualization of more dimensions of the problem."
"Well," he had said "they say that the sign of a first-rate intellect is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in mind at the same time and retain the ability to function. In my experience," he told her "people are better at that than programs." She remembered that the conversation paused at that moment. It felt like an eternity at the time, but she waited quietly. The next thing he said was "I don’t know where you're going with this but I'm intrigued. Let's get you involved with the company somehow and see what you can do."
"See what you can do..." She remembered the words so clearly. And what had happened next? She had organized some funding through the college and had some success shaping up her ideas. The first research was very general, but had done a lot to distinguish her in the company. The second round of research funding helped, too, as it ended up bringing a substantial sum of money into the company. More money than they spent on exploration that year.
Maria laughed a bit to herself and drew her focus back to the empty office. "Well, let's see what I can do!" She said out loud to herself.
Five years later, the office was very much the same. She had added a table on wall with a small plant and coffee machine on top, and some filing space hiding underneath. There was also a large lounge chair close to the windows with a small table that housed some 3D headsets, keyboards, and joysticks. Maria had created a data visualization studio in her own office and, today, she had the President from a major mining company sitting in the chair, exploring the virtual world she had created.
She sat at her desk and talked to the man about what he was seeing. "Right now, you are looking at the historical underground workings and our model of the mineral deposit prior to us restarting the mine. Let me show you how to move through time to see what we did and how it worked out." She said.
He had some controls to move around the model of the mine site and choose how the layers of information were shown, but she had access to everything they knew about the mine at her computer. And they knew quite a lot about the mine because it had been operated several times over the past 100 years and all the records had been carefully stored at a university by one of the former owners. One of the first things Maria did as CEO was to digitize all of the data, and then set about verifying it and expanding on it. The last five years had been busy and she had impressed herself with her accomplishments.
"Wow," the President said, "what a great way to see what is going on there. I loved this video when I first saw it online, but the ability to interact with it is even better.” He paused. “Now, can you please show me more about why you decided to do it this way? The way you did selective mining from these different levels underground makes sense as great way to generate early cash flow with minimal cap-ex, but the schedule that you followed is not obvious. How did you come up with that?"
"Well, thank you," she replied, "I would love to walk you through all of that. To begin with, let me show you what some of the conventional algorithms would have suggested in a case like this."