Tonight, I had the honor to speak at the Sacramento Stride Center graduation. Stride empowers economic self-sufficiency for individuals through technology training, and this year Highlands Community Charter School formed a partnership with them. Here is what I said:
Stride graduates: today is a milestone on your road to nerdom. I know some of you never thought you would have that term used to describe you, but I hope you take the word “nerd” with pride, because as Charles J Sykes wrote “Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them.”
For better or worse, technology is profoundly changing our world, including the economics. In fact, it can be argued that the biggest force that is leading to the greater disparity between the rich and the poor is the fact that productivity gains no longer lead to higher paying jobs for most people, but only leads to higher paying jobs for the few who have the knowledge and skills to work integrally with the technology.
As you know, Highlands Community Charter School, has a partnership with Stride, and at our charter school we have other career programs, including truck driving. I believe truck driving is a valuable job skill, as it is the truckers who currently keep the economy moving. There would be no Amazon, at this time without trucks. And I know that my driving skills are not at a place where I should be trusted behind the wheel of a big rig. But, I also see the danger in the future for the truck driving profession. While autonomous cars from Google are getting the headlines, with less fanfare autonomous trucks are being developed right now.
This is why your path to nerdom is valuable. You have now gone beyond being a user of technology to being a technician. You have the skills to solve basic hardware and software problems. And this may be enough for many of you, as technicians can make good money. But I want you to dream higher, I want you to know that you can do more. There are jobs that pay $90,000 a year that you can obtain. But it will require you to continue to learn, both formally and informally. And all of these jobs, require you to become more than a technician.
This starts with learning a programming language. Many of you know I am a fan of Python, but Ruby, PHP, Java, C, VB, and others are all valuable. This also means you must learn deeper not only about what to do when a problem happens, but to truly have an accurate mental model about why the problem is happening. And this means that you need to understand computer security at a deep level. Our nation is literally under cyberattack from Russia, North Korea, and China, and it will literally be the nerds that have the only chance of saving us.
So please, embrace being a nerd. As geek is chic. And strive to become an uber nerd, otherwise known as a “nerd of nerds”.
Thank you, and congratulations!