You have no fear of the underdog. That’s why you will not survive.

Subtitle: How I learned to love geeks.

It didn't happen immediately when I joined Microsoft. I think I was fully primed to appreciate geek-hood but I was not totally there yet. "Accept" and "appreciate" are two different things. I have a natural tendency to route for the underdog which started in my childhood. And if you don't think geeks are the underdogs in high school, well, then you probably went to a high school for the gifted and technically, that makes you....well, never mind. I'm about to prove my love for you.

I have mentioned that I went to a number of schools when I was a kid. One for K-4. One for part of fifth. One for the other part of fifth and part of sixth. Another one for sixth and another one for sixth and part of seventh (I think I got that right: CA, CA, PA, OH,OH, IL). Then settling in for the rest of 7-12. I was "The New Kid." Not the new kid on the block, because that would make me a middle age boy bander grasping for a last shot at relevance (or maybe to make a quick hit on selling merch to moms wanting a quick flashback to their own childhoods). Just a shy kid. Oh, how I hated starting a new school. Much of the time I could settle in somewhat, though I always felt new. A few times I got picked on. There's a circle of hell reserved for a couple of mean girl wannabees in Holland, PA. At the very least I hope they have big butts. And now I am going to let it go.

So I know what it's like to be picked on. I know, I know, hard to believe. I wasn't always as cool as I am now. Just take my word for it. Being picked on sucks. Now it's easy to look back and see that there was something very damaged about the picker (See? All that psych reading is paying off). I can even feel sorry for them at this point (well, mostly because of their HUGE butts). But when you are a kid, all you experience is the supreme suckage.I could never pick on other kids, even when I was feeling most secure. I couldn't be that mean. The only time I really gave anyone a hard time in high school was when they were picking on someone else. Then, they had it coming.

I guess I just noticed that in the scenario where someone is getting picked on, there's no winner. One person is an incredible asshat and the other is embarrassed. I knew enough to find the asshat distasteful. And of course, in high school especially, it was the geeks that got picked on a lot. I had a diverse set of friends and some of them even were geeks (I know!). I was kind of a floater. I'd never win on Big Brother. So on some level, I felt a secret kinship with the geeks because they knew what it was like to feel socially uncomfortable. Oh gawd, I still feel that way sometimes.

In all honesty, much of the kinship played out in my head. I wasn't really a geek. We didn't high five each other in the hallways. It's just that I was nice to them. I was the student who got picked to dance with the special ed kid in gym class and work in class with the new girl from China. There was no reason to say no. OK, this is taking too long to explain.

I wouldn't say that my high school experience produced an affinity for geeks. It's just that I didn't notice the geekiness as much as other people. And I appreciated the intellect that sometimes accompanies an odd style of dress and an ignorance of whatever "cool" trend is sweeping the teenage population.

Then in college, I adopted the concept of "our geeks". You know when your university has the best marching band in the history of the universe, you get comfortable with the idea. They may be band geeks, but they're our band geeks and they are Trojans. They are part of "us". One step closer to loving those geeks. Still love those Trojan band geeks.

I can't really say that my relationship with geeks underwent any kind of transformation in my early working years. I recruited accountants but I never really had to get to know them. I worked for an insurance company and the geeks hung out on another floor.

OK, so now Microsoft. Microsoft! What a shock to my system that was. I mean, I tried to prepare myself but nothing can prepare you for that. Packs of geeks. Geeky software geniuses that tell stupid technical jokes that I can't understand; that are afraid to talk to you in the hallway; that play foosball outside your office (someday I am going to let that one go), that go to technology fairs. Holy cow! Hey, one thing I can say that most of them had going for them: they didn't wear my fashion nemesis, pleated khakis (please don't do that to yourself....there's nothing good that can come of pleated pants, I promise). Mostly that happens in marketing (haha). What I found out is that usually, when you can get them talking, they are really interesting. And they will gladly help you fix your computer as long as you pretend to know about all the technical stuff they say while they are doing it (hint: ask lots of questions). And they are freaking brilliant. So they don't give a rip about fashion and talk about Battlestar Gallactica. Being "popular" doesn't really matter any more because the geeks are the ones that have had the successful careers while the people that picked on them have had less stellar professional outcomes. As a non-technical person, working at a technical company, I have SO come to appreciate geeky computer dudes (and gals). Because without them, I wouldn't be here. And I love that they have taken back the name "geek" and made it their own. Rock on!

Plus, I have come to embrace my inner geek. It's a ton of work trying to impress people and I've gotta tell you, it's just not worth it. Any interesting person geeks out over something. For me: fashion, handbags, home decor, books and healthy living (as I am mentally calculating my carb to protein ratio today). Hell, I even geek out over my job (I still think I have the best job). When we all acknowledge the little bit of geek inside of us and appreciate people who have the depth to get geeky about stuff that's really important (software changes peoples lives, people; it helps people who needs people; we are the world, we are the people....wait, that's not right), it kind of pulls us all into this middle ground of humanity. I'll admit that I've always enjoyed having people in my life that are very different than me. And at work, I can totally get that. Every once in a while, I admit I complain about he fact that the more technical you are at Microsoft, the better cafeteria you get (she says, explaining why her building has no cafeteria). But otherwise, I can honestly say to the geeks at Microsoft (and around the world....haha), I've got nothing but love for ya.


Comments (12)

  1. RB says:

    Asshat? You have a mouth like a drunken sailor!

  2. Joe Enos says:

    It’s always nice to be appreciated.

  3. RJD says:

    And geek hearts are pounding for you throughout the blogosphere.  Isn’t it nice to be the cool hot girl who talks to the geeks?  You can sit at my lunch table any time, and I’ll try to understand how colored shoes with minimal foot coverage and high heels are doing you any good when it comes to the real purpose of a shoe, which is protecting your feet.

    Ponder this–dot only do your Holland, PA witches have fat butts, their computers are probably broken, too.

  4. Andrew says:

    The taking back of the name "geek" has been an interesting thing to watch. It’s slowly dawned on society that not only do some geeks become hugely rich (like Bill, Larry, Sergey etc.) but that even regular engineers earn enough to live a very comfortable existence and most get at least the opportunity for wealth creation over the course of a career.

    Studies of dating sites have shown that men typically inflate their salaries by 10% when posting personal ads [see Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner]. As the majority of current engineers are male I think the visibility of what a typical engineer’s earning power is has at least contributed to the improved perception of the geek label.

    The improving lives aspect to engineering has also had a positive impact on the connotations associated with the word geek but I suspect it’s not as big as you might think as engineering is typically seen as a productivity enhancer rather than a fundamental life changer. Engineers make aircraft fly, they create cell phones and the networks they communicate with, they make cars safer and more efficient etc. but rarely do they get much public credit for all that work and neither do they seek it. That glamor tends to go to the scientists who discover basic principles and whose professional standing is directly related to publishing their work. How many engineers do you see on Nova? How many public interviews has Dave Cutler given over his career? Engineers are content with the knowledge that they have added things to the world that have made other people more productive, like creating the test equipment used by scientists to explore new theories.

    I’ll bet that there have been geeks throughout history. I’m sure in the 1800s there were railroad geeks who lived and breathed the minutiae of railroad ties and the tools used to create them as well as the superstars who designed the bridges and steam engines. Going back further I’m sure there were geeks who obsessed over how to care for the soil used for growing crops and geeks who knew where to find the best berries. Did those people command more respect than the hunter who occasionally brought home a dead tiger? Probably not, but without those ancient geeks we wouldn’t have the standard of living that we have today.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    RB – you have no idea. First, drunken sailors can come up with something better than "asshat" (it’s so cable TV) and I tone it all down for the blog. My mom is so proud.

    Joe Enos – like I said "my geeks" and nothing but love 🙂

    RJD – A few things:

    1) Am I really the cool hot girl? Really? And, like, still at my age? Sweet.

    2) you have totally misunderstood footwear. We are no longer required to march through the jungle tracking our prey. Shoes are meant for hotness.

    3) As for Holland PA, I hope they are lactose intolerant and only have access to acid wash jeans. OK, this is too fun.

    Andrew – totally. They are just focused on something more important than the superficial. I think the lack of widespread appreciation is changing now that communications have moved online. Many of us wouldn’t know who those wonderful geeks are if it weren’t for the internet.

  6. RJD says:

    1) Totally!  And at any age–no need to grade on a curve with you.  BTW–your age is my age.

    2) Jungle or not, peek-toe pumps do nothing for you if you drop a hot-swap power supply on your foot.  But, always willing to discuss my misunderstandings.

    3) Acid washed jeans and mullets never left Holland, so they wouldn’t know any better.

  7. R(M)N says:

    Everyone’s a geek some or the other way but for some reason society has branded the technical guys to be geeks.. never understood that. If you are crazfy about football .. u are a geek too.


    Another Geek

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    RJD – 1) thanks again. That was a nice ego boost! 2) I may have a thing or 2 to learn about hotswap whatever. I believe the key to making it work is to not drop something on your foot. It will mess up you pedicure, anyway. 3) they must not have magazines there either.

    R(M)N – agreed. Although there’s an implication, I believe, that true geeks are focused to the exclusion of some social opportunities. I think many of the geeks in the sciences are similar and though I could see some football folks as fanatics, I definitely think it’s a different brand of geek. I’m a college football nut. Do I fit your image of geeks? I don’t think so but you can correct me if I am wrong. I’m sure someone very cool thinks I am a geek. Frankly, I don’t think I am smart enough.

  9. RJD says:

    Nonsense!  I know your IQ, and you’re plenty smart enough.  I’m a total college football geek–I stretched my MS out to 2.5 years so I could get a third season of student tickets.  Roll Tide!



  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    I suppose that you could be both a geek and a college football fan 🙂

    Re: the pedi…you’re not interested. Just wear socks. But not with sandals.

  11. oi says:

    yeah, i was an art/tech geek. tho the term was not applied… but since has become stylish enough that any strong interest (ie, futboll) makes one a "(futboll) geek"…

    but *how* old is hl? … looks under 35:

    re:dating sites. OK, yet how does one become aware of dating sites? (hint: out of interest. yet, why the interest? well… there’s you’re disconsoling (disconsolating?) answer)

    women’s shoes do nothing for most guys (tho some guys have weird fetishes, apparently). The least quantity of clothing (as measured in mm² or µm²) is best.

    "fat" buttz iz relative… 45" circumference† is too fat, tho… :-/ 28" is rather thin, unless she’s a lot shorter than I am…


    † Pls refer to ANSI method of measuring butt circumference.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    oi- that’s sweet. I turn 40 this year. I know! 40! Woohoo! I’ll try to make it look good 🙂

    I am not sure I understand the "disconsolating" thing. I guess one becomes aware of dating sites from advertisements and word of mouth?

    Lots of men like women who wear nice shoes. Trust me on that one. It might be weird for you to ask your guy friends because they can assume the answer you are looking for. As someone who dates men, I can tell you that a lot of them are into nice footwear; not necessarily in a fetish-y way. I’m pretty sure that my collection of Converse Chuck Taylors isn’t doing anything for anybody.

    I don’t care about butt circumference. Obviously, I am joking about the mean girls but as long as their butts are significantly bigger than mine, I am OK.

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