Loved seeing my friend Kirk McDonald's provocative advice to the class of 2013 this week in The Wall Street Journal ("Sorry College Grads: I Probably Won't Hire You." ) Not since Baz Luhrmann told the class of '99 to wear sunscreen has anybody delivered such an important, "good for you" message with such clarity and grace. You can and should read the entire article yourself, and - as I've already done - pass it on to several of the talented young people in your life. My purpose in this post, though, is to elaborate on one particular passage.
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Kirk implores recent and soon-to-be college grads to get assertively curious about the computer code that runs so much of the world today. He uses an incisively brilliant phrase to challenge the young: "code empathetic." You don't have to be a brilliant hacker who can reboot Citibank in the middle of the night, but neither can you afford to be code-ignorant...which most of us are. One of the today's great ironies is that the brilliant simplicity of computing interfaces (thank you Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive) has spawned an entire generation who feel technically powerful without ever having to understand the technology that's making them feel that way. We are all karaoke technologists.
In our little corner of the world - digital advertising and marketing - I see this played out every day in the growing gap between "the coding class" - the people who actually make digital things happen -- and "the others" -- those who buy and sell the ads, technology and data services, write the business plans and more. To those who've been blithely empowered by easy technology for most of their lives, everything is simple, instantaneous; there are no tradeoffs, no delays, no sweat. But for those who have to then technically fulfill the promises made to advertisers, investors and consumers it's another story.
I see exactly why Kirk wrote this article and I hope it's a wakeup call not just to students, but to so many of today's digital executives. Code is the core staple of today's digital food supply. It's time we all got a lot closer to what we're eating every day. Certainly it will make us all stronger. It will also make the world we're building that much more sustainable.