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.