On Tuesday, I had a blast mentoring a bunch of fantastic students at Reverse Interview day at Carroll Community College. The kids were participating in IT CareerPaths, an intensive program for high school students interested in Information Technology careers.
The format was pretty cool. I sat at a table and the kids came to talk to me two at a time, asking smart questions about how I started my company, what my day is like, and what excites and frustrates me about my business.
Most of the kids also asked me what advice I would offer to someone looking to enter an IT field. I said this: “Stay geeky.”
Staying geeky is easy. All you have to do is keeping doing what you love, whether that’s gaming, playing music or making art.
Why should you stay geeky? Because creativity is all about making connections no one has made before, and that’s impossible to do if you’ve got your nose stuck in your own field all the time. No matter how much you study the latest breakthroughs and developments, if that’s all you do, the best you can hope for is incremental improvement.
On the other hand, the kind of quantum breaks that signify real progress in any field require thinkers who are both highly knowledgeable in their areas of expertise and curious about one or more completely unrelated fields. This allows you to bring observations and other insights from your “real life” and apply them to your work problem. You’ll almost always come up with more thoughtful, innovative solutions this way.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug science fiction as a way to stay ahead of the technology curve. So many devices we take for granted today were imagined well before their times by science fiction writers.
Prove it, you say? Ever own a flip phone? Beam me up, Scotty, it’s a communicator. And your iPod? It wouldn’t exist without one developer watching one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That guy went on to invent Quicktime, the original compression and streaming engine for media. The principles that drive Quicktime also power your iPod (and YouTube as well).
So hug a geek today. They’ve earned it. And if you count yourself among us, by all means, stay geeky!
Humongous shout outs to Matt Day for organizing and to Jeannine Morber (@morbermarketing) for making sure I got invited. I’m already making plans for next year.