Jun 2, 2015

Carpe Technology

I recently gave a keynote address at an event focused on inspiring middle school and high school students to pursue careers in technology.

In my talk, I focused on three things: 1) Getting the students excited about the number of technology — driven opportunities available to them today, 2) Encouraging them to vigorously pursue these opportunities and 3) Providing them with tangible examples and strategies to succeed in their pursuit.

I’m going to share some of these thoughts in this post.

The Opportunity Space


There are two incontrovertible truths about technology: 1) It always progresses and 2) Today’s students generally have more access to technology than any generation before them.

As a result, the barrier to innovation is probably the lowest it has ever been and with sufficient will, most people can likely see their ideas and innovations through to fruition (although scale of success certainly varies)

For students then, the opportunity space is huge (and not just in software development but also in robotics, engineering, materials science, etc.). All they have to do is pick up their computer and use the world of resources available to them to get started.

To be sure, high school and college students are responsible for some of the most exciting business and technology innovations in the world today.

Long story short, the opportunity space for students is hot and growing.


The Case to Seize


Students sometimes get trapped in a false monotony, by which I mean they think their main job is to go to school, do their homework and get decent grades. There are very few students who go outside the bounds of traditional education to enrich their learning experience.

Why?

Most of the time it is because seizing opportunities ends up being the path ofgreatest resistance. Other times it’s because spotting an opportunity is challenging, and in some cases it’s because students have been told to follow a particular path that doesn’t include non — traditional learning.

Regardless, I think this is a problem. If students have ideas that they want to pursue, I think they should do so without fear of breaking traditional expectations.

To be sure, I think it’s okay to trade the Yearbook Club for a Hackathon or to join the Robotics team instead of the tennis team. With today’s pace of technological innovation and size of the opportunity space, these tradeoffs may likely be better for the student in the long run.

In a nutshell, if today’s students are going to create the next Google, they have to be comfortable with non-traditional.


How to do it


Fundamentally, taking advantage of the promise of technology is about learning how to spot the right opportunities at the right time. Students must identify the domains that have real problems (sometimes their own frustrations may be the best inspiration).

They must then consider how technology can be used to solve these problems. Students should be prudent in this effort though, as they can't simply apply technology for the sake of applying technology.

The Google guys are a great example. They were looking for a better way to access information because at the time searching for information was challenging. In their pursuit, they stumbled onto something ground-breaking and designed the foundations of what we have come to expect as the standard in modern day information retrieval.

Once they identify the problem, students need to acquire the skills and resources to capitalize on the opportunity. These include everything from a people network and knowledge resources to capital and technology.

Co—op programs, mentor networks, YouTube, Code Academy and other such places are all great to attain these resources.

With the addition of some hard work then, today's students may help create the innovations we will likely rely upon in the future.

It’s an exciting time to be a student. The resources available are better than ever and only our imaginations set the limits for what is possible.

So…“Carpe Technology”.

-Zain

If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter @thezainpasha.

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