Katalyst DI

Cats & Ontology

Ontologies are uncommon in construction. If you aren't familiar with the term, I’ll explain the basics & how it's relevant to construction while narrating the story of our first data ontology along with my love of cats.

Looking back at 2021: Mixing Work and Cats

It feels redundant to talk about how the pandemic changed the way we work. Offices now feel dated and most companies are have implemented a remote methodology. If you ask me, there’s little to no chance I’ll ever step into an office again, and it’s mostly due to the nature of my job, and cats. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve worked from home, allowing me the pleasure of spending more time with my cat. The unpredictability fueled by the pandemic was mitigated by my feline companion: Nina. 


The pandemic was complicated for all of us. Spending so much time cooped up during lockdown fueled an idea that had been on my mind for some time: to take an extended trip to Europe. After thinking about the idea for a while, I booked a one-way ticket to bounce around Spain, Denmark, and Sweden. Working nomadically taught me a lot about myself and reinforced the fact that I value quiet places, with fast wifi, plenty of outlets, and of course feline companionship.

A journey to a new place

My travel was about to end when my colleague Mike invited me to visit him in Split, Croatia. Even though he told me in advance that the place was incredible, little did I know what I was in for when I arrived. As soon as I stepped out I found myself in a fantastic atmosphere: massive white marble walls, a city straight out of Game of Thrones (If you have watched GOT, Split is the city of Meeren), and most importantly: filled with cats. Aside from cats and seclusion, there was another thing that occupied my mental framework during my time in Croatia: Data Ontologies.

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From Philosophy to Technology

One of the first concepts that caught my attention when I started studying computer science was ontologies.  My first application of the concept was a paper that explained how to program the ontology of a pizza, but we did not go much further. It was a pleasant surprise to reencounter this concept at work when I started at KatalystDI.

Ontology is a concept that has its roots in ancient philosophy and focuses on the study of being. I believe we have two realities that grow and develop in parallel: technology and humanity. Ontologies are the intersection of these two concepts. This has led me to approach my work from an ontological perspective. If you aren’t familiar with ontology applied to technology, here’s a good definition I found on Tom Gruber’s website:

“In the context of computer and information sciences, an ontology defines a set of representational primitives with which to model a domain of knowledge or discourse.  The representational primitives are typically classes (or sets), attributes (or properties), and relationships (or relations among class members). The definitions of the representational primitives include information about their meaning and constraints on their logically consistent application.  In the context of database systems, ontology can be viewed as a level of abstraction of data models, analogous to hierarchical and relational models, but intended for modeling knowledge about individuals, their attributes, and their relationships to other individuals”.

Ontology & Construction

My colleague Jeff wrote a blog post about the importance of Ontologies in Construction, so I won't go into much detail there. Instead I want to talk about the challenge of doing something new and being the first one there. If you're a leader or innovator in the built space what I say won't surprise you: the study of ontology is almost unheard of in construction. When I started, my first project at Katalyst was literally to create this ontology from scratch. The main challenge my team and I faced: no one had done it before. How do you map out something so broad and build the proper context between construction stakeholders, associated supply chains, while factoring in multiple labor pools as well as disparate transportation and logistics tools?

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Our Culture | Do what you love & challenge yourself every day. 

This challenge couldn’t have been a better starting point for me. The comforts of a beautiful new space with plenty of cats fueled my inspiration. I can't give away too much about our ever-evolving ontologies, but I can tell you my recipe to success: The ability to share your passion with your colleagues at work, and loving what you do when you solve little issues during day-to-day activities. This allows me to grow as a person which I link to professional growth. 

At the end of the day, if we focus on the philosophical definition of ontology, we must answer the questions of who we really are, why we are, and how are we defined. In my particular case, the answer to those questions involves the not-so-common combination of data, cats, and the curiosity to learn while visiting new places.  What would your answer be?



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