“We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better… and those people that are crazy enough to think that they CAN change the world, are the ones that actually do.” – Steve Jobs
Road work ahead! For the past two weeks we have had road construction in our neighborhood. Like a marching band, the big equipment moved in with all the familiar drumming, scraping, cutting, dumping and rolling sounds. In the past, I doubt I would have given it much thought as I commuted to and from the train to get to work. But this time I have the pleasure of soaking it all in. On our morning walks I get to see it all up close, greeting the workers moving about in some sort of construction choreography, adorned with branded masks and new coronavirus safety rules. Watching this work, I’m reminded of the incredible value of building and maintaining this vital infrastructure for our society. Roads, bridges, utilities, vehicles and buildings all create a platform for our communities, country and world to live, connect, conduct business and shape new ideas into reality. Infrastructure propels us forward.
I love technology. Right out of college, my dad convinced me to join his civil engineering firm to help him, as he called it, “computerize the business.” I didn’t know anything about civil engineering, but leaned into my science background and learned the complexities of land surveying, hydrology, material science, logistics and structural engineering. I was amazed at the work that was done manually calculating, planning, drawing, erasing and drafting again. I introduced the staff to AutoCAD and the coordinate geometry tools I had built to help accelerate their work. But I was about to learn a big lesson in change management.
“You’re crazy!” The engineers were adamant that they didn’t want those “darn computers” (and other colorful adjectives) anywhere near their projects. I couldn’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want to embrace new technology. Instead of giving up, I pivoted and took on a housing development project myself. Working with a skeptical but supportive colleague, we loaded all the elevation data to build contour maps and went to work planning streets, utilities, houses and storm systems. The client loved the initial plans but after a review by the city, a major rework was required to expand the housing lots and add a park. This is where the magic happened. In the past, that would have been a start over scenario, but by having the entire project in the computer we only needed to make a few modifications to the model and the entire set of plans were ready to be released for construction. The skeptics were blown away with the turnaround. All the initial resistance gave way to aggressive adoption as they all saw how the computer had chewed away the toil, tedium and time to deliver plans.
Technology amplifies human ability. We leverage information technology to connect, to accelerate and displace manual steps, to elevate our capabilities and extend our horizon. As technologists, we have an incredible opportunity to build a better world. Through our trade, we can construct next generation digital infrastructure, better connect people to people, people to ideas, and ideas to reality.
Technology builds upon technology. Prior generations of tools stack to scaffold us up to the next level, which becomes the platform for the next. Despite the entire world being in time out for COVID-19, people are still working, business is still being conducted, things are still moving forward, because of technology put into place by people like you.
As technologists, we can make a difference. Our human family is counting on us to help keep the information roadways maintained and improved. Our companies are counting on us to use our expertise to power our businesses, to ship value better, faster, safer and happier.
What crazy ambitious ideas do you have to help change the world? What can we do to better help each other through technology? I challenge you this week to give that some thought. Let’s be some of the crazy ones who want to change the world. Who knows, we might actually do it!