Girish Venkatachalam is a UNIX hacker with more than a decade of
networking and crypto programming experience.
His hobbies include yoga,cycling, cooking and he runs his own
business. Details here:
There is a certain commonality to be found amongst geeks, nerds or hackers. I know people like to differentiate between these different words but we are talking about really smart programmers and technologists. It could also mean scientists, engineers or individuals who can create great technology.
Basically individuals who convert knowledge and industry into something of real palpable value to society are what we are interested in. People with a lot of knowledge and those who teach in academic institutions are also praiseworthy of course but we shall leave them aside for the moment.
We are talking about people who do real work. People who convert knowledge into something useful which a large section of humanity use and benefit in day to day lives. Such people can be termed as geeks or nerds or hackers. If you prefer some other term by all means use it. But I am going to try to analyze some commonalities and key characteristics that make them stand out and come out on top of others in technical endeavors.
Long ago, Eric Schmidt, the present CEO of Google, former CEO of Novell Inc. wrote an article on geek attitude. I remember reading it in Novell but I think it was published elsewhere also. He wrote a remarkably insightful and interesting article and I am obviously taking a cue from there and trying to go deeper in what defines hacker attitudes.
I read this article a very long time ago and I don't remember much but I do remember certain highlights of his analysis. He was repeating mostly one theme which he was painting throughout the article in various colors and shades. He was talking about the commitment of geeks towards truth. He was saying that geeks are very straight forward honest people.
Not only that; he was also saying that this often upset and irritated other normal people because a geek when asked a question was always to the point and curt. Sending two line e-mails and short messages to top management may not be polite but a geek does not know this.
A geek always wants to save time and live a useful life. He does not wish to waste time on unnecessary socializing and sugar coating in communications. He/she when confronted with a question answers in the most sincere fashion in few words. He does not have to use many words because he is not lying or explaining. He is truthful and sometimes much more than other people can imagine.
Obviously by now you would have guessed that I am trying to help you with salient features of top class performers. People who can be as much as 3 order of magnitude more efficient in programming that the rest of your team members. If you are not of that type, then you may wish to know how to identify such smart minds. If you can spot one such person and create the right atmosphere for him/her, you can benefit immensely provided you are good at converting his/her creation into business.
So we see that geeks have a predisposition with truth and honesty. They feel that acquiring knowledge is nothing but seeking the truth and consequently they do not wish to lie and torture and twist facts for their benefit or for the benefit of others.
This attitude can sometimes be very hurtful for most people and in certain times geeks suffer a lot due to lack of understanding on the part of others. It is not any fundamental defect of geeks. It is just the way the world works. That is all.
In the real world, everything does not work on honesty and straight forwardness . Business is not done without sugar coating and we cannot have a bare all candid attitude in most situations. Consequently geeks find it hard to relate to real life. They are happy in their own world with computers and engineering.
And I tell you, managing geeks is the real fun part. You don't have to do anything. Just don't poke your nose. Keep away! Stay well away from his influence and clearly tell him what you want. He will do the rest for you. He will often do it in such a fashion that can surprise you. And you may also wonder why he holds such impractical values. It is not your concern actually. Just leave it. Let him go his own way.
Geeks have other likes and dislikes which also bear some analysis. But I am not getting into all that. There are some distinguishing features in them that you can very easily spot and benefit. I am only interested in bringing that out in this article.
After all, in today's world geeks are the real rulers. It is just that their importance is not readily apparent.
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More Articles by Girish Venkatachalam © 2011-05-09 Girish Venkatachalam
Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you're as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it? (Brian Kernighan)