Diversifying and embracing geekness

With the boom of the tech industry and its need for a diverse workforce, is the impression of geeks too narrow?

This Friday marks “Embrace your Geekness” day. For many, the concept of “geek” invokes ideas of Lord of the Rings cos-players and young adult males in basements playing computer games. However, with the boom of the tech industry and its need for a diverse workforce, is the impression of geeks too narrow? We talked to experts from the IT industry on the modern interpretation of what it means to be a geek, and whether, in the industry’s eyes, geekness may just be cool.

For Derek Lin, Chief Data Scientist at security intelligence platform Exabeam, the role of “geek” has already begun evolving – he commented: “Geeks are often thought of as eccentric types who become generally obsessed in a particular subject matter.” However, for Lin, this was no bad thing. He continued that geeks were “eager to learn about the newest or coolest thing that their favourite subject has to offer.” This eagerness can clearly be a benefit to the modern workplace.

Encouraging more people to embrace their geekness

Anyone can have a passionate and curious mind, offering a lot in terms of technology innovation. So, it’s essential that as many people as possible feel empowered to “embrace their geekness” to drive the greatest net benefit for the tech industry. Marianne Calder, VP EMEA of software company Puppet, told us why now is the time to redefine geekness:

“Redefining geekness is critical for getting more diverse talent into the technology recruitment pipeline, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is the best starting place for developing the talent of students, particularly female students. However, it can be hard to get them interested. It’s important to make the subjects relatable off the pages and outside the classroom – so the responsibility falls as much to parents and role models in the industry as it does to teachers. That means showing the bridge between technology skills, innovation and the apps children use every day – for example Snapchat, Instagram or Depop – and showing that geekness is more than just a subculture, it’s actually cool.”

Why geekness is so important for technology success

For Gary Watson, CTO and founder of IT storage company Nexsan, “geekness” is quite a broad term. For him, as for Lin and Calder, it is clear that being a “geek” is a positive thing that people of all backgrounds can embody.

Watson commented: “What does it mean to be a geek? Some might say, going against the norm – and working in technology is all about being disruptive. When it comes to the storage industry in particular, it’s so important to celebrate those who pioneer the important transitions and milestones that are right around the corner. Choosing a solution that is founded on the obsessional interests of its creators means that any organization that chooses to adopt it will be working with a team that is dedicated and always looking to innovate – not only based on business objectives, but an intrinsic passion for the product.”

It’s clear that those who exhibit “geekness” can offer significant business value – especially in tech. Whether it’s innovating new products or exploring new ways of doing things, so-called “geeks” have a lot to offer. However, it’s critical that as many people as possible feel able to “embrace their geekness”, to ensure organisations have the widest possible talent base for innovation. With that in mind, it’s never been more important to encourage geekness through STEM initiatives, even from a young age, to show that anyone, from any background, has the potential to be the next Alan Turing or Bill Gates.

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