Do You Speak the Geek?

Posted: October 16, 2011 in employment

Geek or nerd?

To most of us, the terms geek and nerd are interchangeable. All I remember about geeks in high school was that they were nerdy and way uncool. And “cool” in high school was not a commodity that you could buy or trade. You either had it or you wanted it. And if you lost it – it was virtually impossible to get it back. Merely associating with a geek, unless he was helping you with a final exam (and even then it was still dangerous) required explanation to your friends. People talk in high school. Are you kidding? I had a modest reputation to uphold so I kept a safe distance from geeks. And if you’re being honest with yourself as you read this, you probably kept yours as well.

We thought geeks were weak. They couldn’t defend themselves. Their only “crime”? They excelled in math and science. Of course they made an easy target. Back in the day, geeks wore nerdy broken glasses taped up at the nose bridge, kept a pocket protector,  knew how to use a slide rule and probably subscribed to Popular Mechanics when they weren’t watching Star Trek re-runs. And because they were picked on by the cool kids – geeks kept to themselves and spoke their own language.

Well it’s time to go 12-step with my sins against the geeks. It’s time to ask forgiveness and repent. I’m a former TV reporter now working for an international relief and development organization. It’s a rewarding and demanding job. But because I work in the fast-moving, tech-crazy communications field I’m now required to be multi-lingual. In other words I need to speak the Geek on the job.

And it’s become essential in life. Whether it’s navigating through the dozens of apps on my i-phone, texting reporters story ideas, programming English football on my DVR or coordinating on-line banking through my home computer … it’s remarkable how nimble I need to be with technology in all facets of life. No matter where you go – tech is ubiquitous – like rain in Seattle or Big Hair in Dallas.

Of course Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have changed the perception of what it is to be a geek. We all remember “The Social Network” , the Oscar-nominated movie about Zuckerberg’s nerdy rise to power. Being uber-rich can change a lot of perceptions. But it goes beyond that. Big box electronics retailers like Best Buy provide a mobile tech help service called “Geek Squad” helping millions of consumers each year. Someone from that store will help come to your house, de-bug your computer or set up your modem for a price.

Of course if you think you’re up to the task of trying to install that Actiontec – M1000 DSL modem all by yourself, you’ll probably still need at some point in the installation process – to call tech support. And guess what?  That’s when you’ll wish you’d gone easier on that nerdy geek in Mr Roberts’ 5th period Science class. That’s when you’ll regret being so hard on geeks. By the way – the Indian kid on the phone from tech support is a geek too. And even though he’s half a world away, he’s laughing at how uncool you are.

  1. John Larson says:

    Thanks for the long walk among trees. I can think of at least a thousand worse things to do. John

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