Scott Hartley Interview

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Having lived in Silicon Valley for the past five years, I was shocked at how much power those who forge new technologies have over our lives…

To wrap my head around this, I reached out to author and VC, Scott Hartley, to explain how he sees the situation.

Three Things I Learned

  1. Why being number two might be more valuable than being number one.
  2. Why it’s important to have a diversity of thought in the tech industry.
  3. Why we should be taking a more interdisciplinary approach to learning.

Let’s jump in and analyze the lessons.

We Need More Number Twos

Scott believes that entrepreneurs have been lionized to an extreme. Too many people want to start their own thing, even if their ideas aren’t good. Right now there is a greater need and opportunity to be more like Sheryl Sandberg instead of Mark Zuckerberg.  Arguably, Sheryl was the pivotal component to Facebook’s success.

It’s a shame more people don’t want to be like her.

The number two role is especially ripe for those with liberal arts backgrounds. Most companies are realizing that technology without inputs from philosophy, humanities, and maybe even underwater basket weaving (just kidding) are critical to developing valuable tools for society.

We Need More Diversity

Lately there has been a strong push towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in schools over the liberal arts. Being an engineer, I can attest that reading and writing wasn’t high on my priority list.

Scott calls non-STEM focused fields, “fuzzy” fields in his book. Looking back at my education, I wish I made more time for these fuzzy classes because they would have helped expand my field of vision to how the world works outside of the engineering thought bubble.

I realized it’s impossible to be competent in all areas of knowledge. Even though I’m no longer in school, I find it’s important to surround ourselves with a wide variety of thoughtfully diverse people and informational inputs (news, podcasts, books, etc).

Scott mentioned to me that as a VC, he has seen thousands of companies and finds that the most successful teams have a diversity of thought stemming from diverse backgrounds and educations.

Don’t Be a Ballistic Learner

Scott’s best piece of advice for learning came from the provost at Stanford who explained that lifelong learning should be viewed as a passport rather than a bullet.

Most students enter college with a specific goal trajectory (bullet): get a degree, get a job, make a lot of money, get a certain position, retire, die.

If you already know your track entering school, you’ll potentially miss on all of the mind expanding courses that could improve make you a better human. Just think, what if Steve Jobs didn’t take calligraphy?

Instead, it’s better to view your education as a passport where your home country might be Computer Science, but you’re interested in traveling to other places such as a literature or philosophy just to see what’s out there.  

This advice isn’t just for students. Even if you finished school and where a ballistic learner, you have plenty of time now to expand your viewpoints through online courses, books, podcasts, and good old fashioned talking to people.

Actionable Nugget

If you’re a techie:

  • What can you do to learn something from the fuzzies world?
  • Are there books you can read that are outside of your comfort zone?
  • Maybe volunteer somewhere not in tech to plug back into society a bit.

If you’re a fuzzy:

  • What new skill can you learn?
  • Maybe it’s simply creating a Twitter account and sharing your thoughts daily and amassing a following to influence people with your unique perspective.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Also if you want to see what Scott considered the “Greatest Sand Hill Prank of All-Time” check out how he became the Sand Hill True Belieber.

Check out his book: The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World

Say hi to Scott at: @fuzzytechie and @scottehartley.