What's This?Some truthy things to say to nerds.
Who Am "I"?
[See also: Who Roger is Not]
Jeez, who let this guy in?
What qualifies me to give advice? To anyone? This is a fair question, and it deserves a fair (though mercifully brief) answer. I'm a cranky, middle-aged nerd who came of age in the mid-1980s. I went to a very small and disproportionately intelligent high school, where I was mostly sequestered in AP and TAG programs that kept me away from the intellectual proletariat. But I lived in a haven for jocks, bullies, and assorted assholes of both the redneck and blueblood varieties, who would sometimes beat the snot out of me just for being alive. And I believed at the time that fighting back was a weakness—something I quickly unlearned. Raw primate hierarchy is not fun, but it is an excellent teacher of both self-defense and conflict avoidance.
In later life I've been employed in some very geeky environments, surrounded by people much like myself or even working solo from a home office with no coworkers at all. But I've also worked in places filled with bean counters and blue-collar technicians with whom I had to communicate and coexist. Perhaps most importantly, for the past 10 years I've been a founding partner in a technology company whose Original Nerds have gradually fallen away, replaced with business people, technicians, and no-nonsense mechanical engineers. I am the last nerd standing, and like Temple Grandin's "Anthropologist on Mars" I've had to learn—sometimes painfully—how to comport myself in an environment where I'm somehow the odd man out. At times it's been a daily struggle, to avoid feeling like an outsider at my own damn company! Lately we've started adding some mildly geeky types back into the mix, which helps, but they too are adept at "passing" in polite society.
I also have (as always) a few side projects going on, including a very tiny minority membership in a venture capital firm that gives me a chance to see a tiny sliver of the inner workings of that industry. Basically, I give free technical advice on the merits of prospective investments, and consult with member companies about their technology and IP. More chances to be the token nerd in a room full of financeers.
Also, I am (or have been) a professional journalist in nerdy outlets like Wired and the SciFi Channel, which either makes me uniquely qualified or uniquely unqualified to preach what I practice (and often fall short of practicing) in my daily business life.
And like any human being, I've been through my share of personal trials and tribulations as well—almost always colored by my nerdish habits and viewpoints. Not all of these ended successfully, but in any case, I think these experiences have made me both a nicer person and a broader, more interesting one, and at the very least they have taught me how better to communicate with charmers, bizholes, and even my fellow nerds.
I trust that's credential enough?