Technologists are Human Too

It’s fun Hollywood fodder to think of technology as being analogous with our intellect and humanity as being analogous with our heart.  Think of shows like the Big Bang Theory or any number of robot uprising films… there’s always the genius scientist who doesn’t quite understand compassion and emotion, paired with the (usually female) less intellectual counterpart who has to continually remind them of the people they’re affecting.

I would like to stand up and call bullshit on that whole precept. And here’s my evidence…

Somewhere along the way, I’ve somehow managed to find myself surrounded by some of the most brilliant innovative people in the world. Not only have I worked with some of the best known people in the technology industry but I’ve also shared the conference stage and the bar tab with some of them as well. I am always impressed by their brains and bravery but it’s their heart that makes me feel honored to be part of them.

Take this year’s Defrag 2015, an innovation conference held annually in Broomfield Colorado. This past year I was introduced to a woman named Janice Lathen, who is single-handedly transforming Tanzania through a non-profit she founded called Powering Potential. When I heard her story, I knew she had to tell it on stage and I knew just the right stage. I introduced her to Eric Norlin who runs the conference and suggested he hear her story and add her to the agenda.

Why Defrag? Why Eric? Because here were the smartest people on the planet, inventors of drone technology and underwater robots and IoT sensoring devices and and and… These were people who could relate to a woman sitting in her small NY apartment with a big idea and no money. These were people who could understand what she was trying to do and why. And there were people like Mike Maney, who would help bring her there by paying her travel expenses.

What I didn’t expect was the immediate allegiance to her cause, the visceral emotional shift in the conference during and after her talk. She told her story then someone asked “How can we help?” She bluntly answered that they needed money – to get the next stage rolled out, they needed $10,000.

And a movement began on the conference floor. We passed around the link to donate in Twitter and in the conference Slack channel (in fact, we created a separate Slack channel just for this conversation). People gave what they could afford and somewhere along the line, a fantastic gentleman named Charlie Wood picked up the charge and offered to match every dollar donated. We wanted to raise the whole $10,000 during the two-day conference – a pretty audacious goal for a small conference in Broomfield, CO. And we came pretty close – we raised a little over $8700 to bring solar power and computers to the schools in Tanzania.

I feel proud to have been the catalyst that brought Janice in front of these people but I feel even prouder that I belong to an industry replete with compassionate, giving, energetic brainiacs.

Sometimes you all just bring me to my knees. Thank you for letting me be part of your tribe.

If you want to donate to help Powering Potential bring the world to the fingertips of children in Tanzania, please give here: http://poweringpotential.org/donate. You’ll be glad you did.