There was once a time I regretted not attending a school with a more rigorous engineering program. I would tell myself, I should have gone to an institution like Stanford which has a strong CS program and ties to the bay area tech scene. I’d be further ahead in my career hobnobbing with VCs showering me with champagne and hundred dollar bills.
To use the technical term, I was a fool.
When I look back at 2017, I’m particularly grateful for the strong liberal arts education I received at Occidental College, affectionately known as Oxy. Hey, if it was good enough for Obama, it’s good enough for me (Ok, Obama did transfer out, but work with me here.).
2017 shows us the impact of companies run by engineers who perhaps don’t have a strong basis in the lessons of history, sociology, and psychology - whether it be the utter Travisty of Uber’s year, Facebook’s tone deafness, or Twitter’s continued love affair with white supremacy.
This education doesn’t mean I’m somehow immune to these failing. It just provides me a lens to use when I question my own actions.
What gives me hope is the growing interest in these topics. More people realize that to build successful teams and companies, you can’t just focus on business strategy and engineering.
In 2017, I hosted a track at QCon London with the title “Softskills - Essential skills for developers”. I’m quick to note that these are actually the hard skills.
This was the most successful track I’ve hosted. One of the talks by Alex Qin made QCon’s top five presentations of the year. Another talk by Meri Williams was the highest rated of the conference with a perfect score!
It’s clear to me that there’s a strong need and demand for the lessons these wonderful speakers continue to share.
As you start off 2018 with a bright eyed bushy tailed sense of hope, it’s fine to be excited about learning new technology. Everyone’s talking about κυβερνήτης. Why is everyone interested in greek helmsmen all of a sudden? Find out!
At the same time, don’t forget to focus on the human aspect of our work. Focus on empathy, communication, and inclusion. Consider your own unconscious biases and how they seep into the product of your work. Think about the social consequences of your work.
Let’s make 2018 the year we’re more conscious of the impact of our work on others. Happy New Year!