Honor Your Blind Spots

What I wished I’d known when I started my career – #7

By Marketplace Designers via Canva.com

Oh, the hubris of youth! How wise I felt at the ripe age of 22 embarking upon my career. How little I knew of unconscious bias, the importance of belonging, and all these other modern concepts. And I thought we’d be zooming around in flying cars! Where is my silver suit and implanted communication device?

It’s hard to imagine how much I didn’t know when I started my career. Cell phones were large but did little compared to today. My first post-college job was to redo my college’s website; all I had to know was HTML and JavaScript. Facebook didn’t exist. Cameras were still large and expensive. Cars were not driving themselves. Politics wasn’t influenced by murky Internet tactics, and businesses didn’t know how to sell online. Movies were only in theaters, and cable was king. There were no food delivery apps, and I had to drive to the mall for gifts!

And it’s hard to imagine how much I still don’t know, but I know I’m limited in even what I’ll guess will happen. I never would have started a social media company. I’m an introvert; social media sounds terrible to me. Ditto for a gaming company; it’s never been my thing. I’m also not motivated by the Internet of Things; I’m sorry smart refrigerator! And I don’t even like cruise control, let alone the Tesla autopilot. I never saw these opportunities because they were in my personal blind spot.

My perspective is shaped by how I grew up, what my parents cared about, what I care about, what I’ve experienced, and who I know. That I’m a parent, that I’m a nerd, that I don’t like horror movies. That my parents divorced when I was a child, that they happily remarried great partners, that I love my husband and I re-choose to be with him every day. That I grew up without much money, but I’m now considered successful. Every little bit goes into making me who I am.

We all have blind spots because the world is large, and we’re just one person. Why is it so hard to admit we might not know everything? That we might need other people to form a full team? That we need lots of different people to solve the world’s problems? Why do we demean what we don’t find important? Why do we reduce the things that we aren’t? These are aspects of human nature probably wrapped up in our instincts for survival, but that doesn’t make them right. Tech won’t meet its lofty aspirations to change the world if we don’t accept the true diversity of the world — all of our different needs, motivations, and backgrounds.

Now I practice curiosity. I’ll never know everything, and I don’t need to. I can meet new people, hire diverse talent from all walks of life, foster bringing people to tech from all over the world (and vice versa). They will see what I can’t see, and together we’ll be better.

TL;DR: Honor your blind spots, and you’ll never be surprised by why people want smart watches.

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